Ecco. Una schietta discussione tra l'Ambasciatore Usa a Bishkek Tatiana Gfoellere il Principe Andrew, Duca di York. Mica due della bocciofila. Tema l'economia kirghisa e il New Great Game. In mezzo un po' di tutto, compreso le presunte pressioni della Russia su alcune ex repubbliche sovietiche perchè non riconoscano l'Holodomor. Amusing.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BISHKEK 001095 C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDRESSEE) SIPDIS DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (GORKOWSKI) EO 12958 DECL: 10/29/2018 TAGS PREL, ECON, KG
SUBJECT: CANDID DISCUSSION WITH PRINCE ANDREW ON THE KYRGYZ
ECONOMY AND THE вЂњGREAT GAMEвЂќ REF: BISHKEK 1059 BISHKEK 00001095 001.4 OF 004
Classified By: Amb. Tatiana Gfoeller, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d).
В¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On October 28, the Ambassador participated in a two-hour brunch to brief HRH the Duke of York ahead of his meetings with the Kyrgyz Prime Minister and other high-level officials. She was the only non-subject of the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth invited to participate by the British Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic. Other participants included major British investors in Kyrgyzstan and the Canadian operator of XXXXXXXXXXXX. The discussion covered the investment climate for Western firms in the Kyrgyz Republic, the problem of corruption, the revival of the вЂњGreat Game,вЂќ Russian and Chinese influence in the country, and the PrinceвЂ™s personal views on promoting British economic interests. Astonishingly candid, the discussion at times verged on the rude (from the British side). END SUMMARY.
В¶2. (C) British Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic Paul Brummell invited the Ambassador to participate in briefing His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, ahead of his October 28 meetings with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov and other high-level officials. The Prince was in Kyrgyzstan to promote British economic interests. Originally scheduled to last an hour over brunch, the briefing ended up lasting two hours, thanks to the super-engaged PrinceвЂ™s pointed questions. The Ambassador was the only participant who was not a British subject or linked to the Commonwealth. The absence of her French and German colleagues was notable; they were apparently not invited despite being fellow members of the European Union. Others included major British investors in Kyrgyzstan and the Canadian operator of the Kumtor mine.
вЂњYOU HAVE TO TAKE THE ROUGH WITH THE SMOOTHвЂќ
В¶3. (C) The discussion was kicked off by the president of the Canadian-run Kumtor mine, who described at length his companyвЂ™s travails of trying to negotiate a revised mining concession that provides a greater stake in KumtorвЂ™s parent company to the Kyrgyz government in exchange for a simplified tax regime and an expanded concession. He was followed by the representative of the British owner of Kyrgyzneftigas, who explained his companyвЂ™s role in Kyrgyz oil exploration and production, as well as doing his share of complaining of being harassed and hounded by Kyrgyz tax authorities. One example he gave was that a Kyrgyz shareholder was now suing the company, saying that his вЂњhuman rightsвЂќ were being violated by the terms of his shareholdersвЂ™ agreement.
В¶4. (C) The Prince reacted with unmitigated patriotic fervor. To his credit, he diligently tried to understand the Kyrgyz point view. However, when participants explained that some Kyrgyz feel that they were вЂњunfairlyвЂќ led in the 1990s to sign unfavorable contracts with Westerners, he evinced no sympathy. вЂњA contract is a contract,вЂќ he insisted. вЂњYou have to take the rough with the smooth.вЂќ
вЂњALL OF THIS SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE FRANCEвЂќ
В¶5. (C) After having half-heartedly danced around the topic for a bit, only mentioning вЂњpersonal interestsвЂќ in pointed fashion, the business representatives then plunged into describing what they see as the appallingly high state of corruption in the Kyrgyz economy. While claiming that all of them never participated in it and never gave out bribes, one representative of a middle-sized company stated that вЂњIt is sometimes an awful temptation.вЂќ In an astonishing display of candor in a public hotel where the brunch was taking place, all of the businessmen then chorused that nothing gets done in Kyrgyzstan if President BakiyevвЂ™s son Maxim does not get вЂњhis cut.вЂќ Prince Andrew took up the topic with gusto, saying that he keeps hearing MaximвЂ™s name вЂњover and over againвЂќ whenever he discusses doing business in this country. Emboldened, one businessman said that doing business here is вЂњlike doing business in the YukonвЂќ in the nineteenth century, i.e. only those willing to participate in local corrupt practices are able to make any money. His colleagues all heartily agreed, with one pointing out that вЂњnothing ever changes here. Before all you heard was AkayevвЂ™s sonвЂ™s name. Now itвЂ™s BakiyevвЂ™s sonвЂ™s name.вЂќ At this point the Duke of York laughed uproariously, saying that: вЂњAll of this sounds exactly like France.вЂќ
В¶6. (C) The Prince then turned to the Ambassador for an American take on the situation. The Ambassador described American business interests in the country, which range from large investments such as the Hyatt hotel and the Katel telecommunications company to smaller investments in a range of sectors. She stated that part of the problem with business conditions in Kyrgyzstan was the rapid turnover in government positions. Some reacted to their short tenures in a corrupt manner, wanting to вЂњsteal while they canвЂќ until they were turned out of office. While noting the need for greater transparency in doing business, she recounted that she had hosted the American Chamber of CommerceвЂ™s Members Day last week (attended by the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce) which had been widely attended and a resounding success (see reftel). She then described the beneficial impact on the Kyrgyz economy of the Coalition Air Base at Manas Airport.
вЂњYOU HAVE TO CURE YOURSELF OF ANOREXIAвЂќ
В¶7. (C) With a mock groan, the Duke of York then exclaimed: вЂњMy God, what am I supposed to tell these people?!вЂќ More seriously, he invited his guests to suggest ways KyrgyzstanвЂ™s economic prospects and attractiveness could be improved. Everyone agreed that in his talks with the Prime Minister and others, he should emphasize the rule of law, and long-term stability.
В¶8. (C) Agreeing with the AmbassadorвЂ™s point about rapid government turnover, they urged him to impress upon his hosts the importance of predictability and the sanctity of contracts in order to attract more Western investment. At the same time, they pointed out that none of this was necessary to attract Russian, Kazakh, or Chinese investments. It appeared to them that the Kyrgyz were satisfied with their level and on the verge of вЂњnot botheringвЂќ with making the necessary improvements to attract Western investments. Returning to what is obviously a favorite theme, Prince Andrew cracked: вЂњThey wonвЂ™t need to make any changes to attract the French either!вЂќ Again turning thoughtful, the Prince mused that outsiders could do little to change the culture of corruption here. вЂњThey themselves have to have a change of heart. Just like you have to cure yourself of anorexia. No one else can do it for you.вЂќ
PLAYING THE GREAT GAME (BY EXTENSION THE AMERICANS TOO)
В¶9. (C) Addressing the Ambassador directly, Prince Andrew then turned to regional politics. He stated baldly that вЂњthe United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans tooвЂќ) were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game. More animated than ever, he stated cockily: вЂњAnd this time we aim to win!вЂќ Without contradicting him, the Ambassador gently reminded him that the United States does not see its presence in the region as a continuation of the Great Game. We support KyrgyzstanвЂ™s independence and sovereignty but also welcome good relations between it and all of its neighbors, including Russia.
В¶10. (C) The Prince pounced at the sound of that name. He told the Ambassador that he was a frequent visitor to Central Asia and the Caucasus and had noticed a marked increase in Russian pressure and concomitant anxiety among the locals post-August events in Georgia. He stated the following story related to him recently by AzerbaijanвЂ™s President Aliyev. Aliyev had received a letter from President Medvedev telling him that if Azerbaijan supported the designation of the Bolshevik artificial famine in Ukraine as вЂњgenocideвЂќ at the United Nations, вЂњthen you can forget about seeing Nagorno-Karabakh ever again.вЂќ Prince Andrew added that every single other regional President had told him of receiving similar вЂњdirectiveвЂќ letters from Medvedev except for Bakiyev. He asked the Ambassador if Bakiyev had received something similar as well. The Ambassador answered that she was not aware of any such letter.
В¶11. (C) The Duke then stated that he was very worried about RussiaвЂ™s resurgence in the region. As an example, he cited the recent Central Asian energy and water-sharing deal (septel), which he claimed to know had been вЂњengineered by Russia, who finally pounded her fist on the table and everyone fell into line.вЂќ (NOTE: Interestingly, the Turkish Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic recently described her analysis of the deal to the Ambassador in strikingly similar language. END NOTE.)
В¶12. (C) Showing that he is an equal-opportunity Great Game player, HRH then turned to the topic of China. He recounted that when he had recently asked the President of Tajikistan what he thought of growing Chinese influence in Central Asia, the President had responded вЂњwith language I wonвЂ™t use in front of ladies.вЂќ His interlocutors told the Prince that while Russians are generally viewed sympathetically throughout the region, the Chinese are not. He nodded, terming Chinese economic and possibly other expansion in the region вЂњprobably inevitable, but a menace.вЂќ
RUDE LANGUAGE A LA BRITISH
В¶13. (C) The brunch had already lasted almost twice its allotted time, but the Prince looked like he was just getting started. Having exhausted the topic of Kyrgyzstan, he turned to the general issue of promoting British economic interests abroad. He railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the вЂњidiocyвЂќ of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia. (NOTE: The Duke was referencing an investigation, subsequently closed, into alleged kickbacks a senior Saudi royal had received in exchange for the multi-year, lucrative BAE Systems contract to provide equipment and training to Saudi security forces. END NOTE.) His motherвЂ™s subjects seated around the table roared their approval. He then went on to вЂњthese (expletive) journalists, especially from the National Guardian, who poke their noses everywhereвЂќ and (presumably) make it harder for British businessmen to do business. The crowd practically clapped. He then capped this off with a zinger: castigating вЂњour stupid (sic) British and American governments which plan at best for ten years whereas people in this part of the world plan for centuries.вЂќ There were calls of вЂњhear, hearвЂќ in the private brunch hall. Unfortunately for the assembled British subjects, their cherished Prince was now late to the Prime MinisterвЂ™s. He regretfully tore himself away from them and they from him. On the way out, one of them confided to the Ambassador: вЂњWhat a wonderful representative for the British people! We could not be prouder of our royal family!вЂќ
В¶14. (C) COMMENT: Prince Andrew reached out to the Ambassador with cordiality and respect, evidently valuing her insights. However, he reacted with almost neuralgic patriotism whenever any comparison between the United States and United Kingdom came up. For example, one British businessman noted that despite the вЂњoverwhelming might of the American economy compared to oursвЂќ the amount of American and British investment in Kyrgyzstan was similar. Snapped the Duke: вЂњNo surprise there. The Americans donвЂ™t understand geography. Never have. In the U.K., we have the best geography teachers in the world!вЂќ END COMMENT. GFOELLER