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Viewing cable 09BISHKEK744, KYRGYZSTAN: DINNER AT MAXIM'S

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BISHKEK744 2009-07-15 10:10 2011-02-18 00:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bishkek
Appears in these articles:
http://rusrep.ru/article/2010/12/07/kirgizia/
VZCZCXRO7767
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHEK #0744/01 1961040
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 151040Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY BISHKEK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2446
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 3168
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1452
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 3503
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2889
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO BRUSSELS BE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BISHKEK 000744 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KG
SUBJECT: KYRGYZSTAN:  DINNER AT MAXIM'S 
 
BISHKEK 00000744  001.2 OF 004 
 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affai...

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BISHKEK 000744 SIPDIS DEPT FOR SCA/CEN E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/2019 TAGS: PREL PGOV KG
1. (C) Summary. Over dinner with Charge, President Bakiyev's youngest son Maxim claimed credit for masterminding the Kyrgyz decision to keep the Manas Air Base operational by calling it a "Transit Center." He claimed Russia is mad at Kyrgyzstan over the Transit Center, and was interested in the U.S. transit agreement with Russia signed at the recent summit. Maxim also discussed the upcoming presidential election, and told Charge that his father planned to announce far-reaching reforms following his re-election. Maxim plans a private trip to the U.S. in August, accompanied by FM Sarbayev, and would like to meet informally with U.S. officials. End Summary.
2. (C) President Bakiyev has two sons by his ethnic Russian wife. The elder, Marat, is Ambassador to Germany. The younger, Maxim, is 32 and a businessman widely believed to have financial stakes in key sectors of the Kyrgyz economy. According to FM Kadyrbek Sarbayev, Maxim, who has no official government position, also played a key role in persuading President Bakiyev to reverse his February decision to close the USAF base at Bishkek's Manas International Airport and instead negotiate a new "Transit Center" agreement to allow the U.S. to continue to use this facility in support of coalition operations in Afghanistan. During the July 11 exchange of diplomatic notes that brought the new Transit Agreements into force, Sarbayev told Charge that, in fact, the whole concept of a new agreement based on changing the name and allowing operations to continue as normal, was Maxim's. He, Sarbayev, had only been the "executor" of the idea.
3. (C) On July 13, after the very successful July 11-12 visit by U/S Burns and a senior interagency delegation to discuss ways to enhance relations following the entry into force of the Transit Center agreements, FM Sarbayev called Charge to invite him to dinner that evening. He indicated that a "third party" would join, and speaking cryptically conveyed the message that the third party would be Maxim. "We'll celebrate with cigars and scotch," he added. Sarbayev called back later in the evening with the time and place: 8:45 p.m. at the Luxor Restaurant. (Note. The Luxor is widely believed to be owned by Maxim, and was the restaurant FM Sarbayev used in April to host the U.S. team under Ambassador McDonald that negotiated the new Transit Center agreements. End Note.)
4. (C) Charge arrived promptly at 8:45 p.m. at the main restaurant. Staff there looked confused, and asked who he was and who he was waiting for. A few hushed phone calls later, and the staff returned and apologized and escorted Charge out of the main restaurant to an annex on the side and up a covered entryway to a second story private dining area, where they left Charge. The room, almost tastefully decorated in black leather and chrome, featured a dining table set for six in the middle, a game table and seating area in the back, a flat screen TV on the wall showing Russian news, and a well-stocked bar. A few minutes later, Sarbayev called, saying he was running late, and asked the Charge where he was. When told, "at the restaurant," Sarbayev said, "Stay in the car; I'll be there soon." When told the Charge was already in the upper dining area, Sarbayev said, "Ok, I'll be right there." Two minutes later, an extremely well-appointed Sarbayev rushed in, relieved to see that Maxim had not yet arrived. "This room is for Maxim only," Sarbayev shared, and then nervously indicated where he BISHKEK 00000744 002.2 OF 004 and Charge should stand to receive Maxim. Minutes later, noise outside indicated the host had arrived. A relaxed, somewhat pudgy and balding Maxim entered, wearing a T-shirt and slacks, and sporting a two-day beard.
5. (C) After pleasantries, Charge thanked Maxim for his support for the new Transit Center arrangements. Sarbayev quickly interjected, "I told him about your role." Maxim claimed that, working through American "friends" in Washington, he had agreed the outlines of the new arrangement ("change the name, keep the operation") even before the U.S. negotiating team arrived in April. At one point, Maxim said, when the U.S. team was resisting the Kyrgyz proposal to replace all references to "military personnel" with the term "Department of Defense personnel," Maxim called his friends in Washington to fix the problem. Maxim claimed Washington instructed the negotiating team to accept the Kyrgyz proposal.
6. (C) In response to Charge's question, Maxim indicated that his support for the turnaround on Manas entailed some risk, but said his background as a futures trader made him comfortable with risk. "I saw that a deal was needed, and stepped in to set it up," he said. He claimed the Russians were mad, and were trying to punish Kyrgyzstan, but they were in a box, given Medvedev's statement in February that the future of Manas was a sovereign decision of Kyrgyzstan. As Russian news on the TV reported on the closing of a Moscow market where many Kyrgyz expatriates are employed, Maxim would point to the screen and say, "See, this is what they are doing." He also said Moscow had also taken steps to shut down the operations of Kyrgyz Asia Universal Bank (AUB) in Russia. "They think I am linked to AUB. I could care less about this bank." (Note. Maxim is widely rumored to have a hidden interest in AUB, which has sought OPIC investments. End Note.) Maxim said that he used to do business in Russia but, two years ago, after seeing how duplicitous and crude the Russians were, he divested all his business interests in Russia. (Comment. Opposition leaders claim then-President Putin complained directly to Bakiyev about Maxim's less than honorable business deals in Russia, and told Bakiyev his son was not welcome in Russia. End Comment.)
7. (C) Maxim, clearly pleased with his role in outfoxing Moscow, relayed a joke to Charge. Putin and Medvedev are sitting around. Medvedev says, "Volodya, what have these Kyrgyz done to us?" Putin replies, "I know, I know, Dima, it's unbelievable. But it has me thinking, and I have an idea. Why don't we call our naval base in Sevastopol a "Water Park?"
8. (C) Maxim claimed to have met recently with his American "friends" in Istanbul, where he claimed the Americans reacted positively to his suggestion that the U.S. should build a Special Forces training camp in Kyrgyzstan. Troops heading to Afghanistan, he said, could come to the camp "for a month of training and acclimatization to the region." Maxim indicated training could be joint, with Kyrgyz special forces, or U.S.-only. Charge indicated that cooperation in this area could be greatly enhanced if the Kyrgyz side could resolve the issue of U.S. special forces weapons that were seized in August, 2008. Maxim took the point, but did not respond.
9. (C) Maxim and Sarbayev were also very interested in the BISHKEK 00000744 003.2 OF 004 U.S. agreement with Russia for the transit of lethal goods over and through Russia. Maxim asked if this meant the next step was for the U.S. to negotiate overflight and transit rights with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, so that planes flying over Russia could continue to Manas. Charge demurred, saying he was not aware of the details of the various transit arrangements already in place or being negotiated, but that the agreement with Russia was an important step forward.
10. (C) Both Sarbayev and Maxim asked for Charge's help in arranging a visit for President Bakiyev to Washington. Charge indicated such things required careful preparation, and much work remained to be done -- including seeing how the July 23 election proceeds. Charge reviewed concerns such as the harassment of opposition leaders, attacks on journalists, and concerns about government efforts to control internet use and access, that together raised questions about the fairness of the election process. Maxim said that the elections will be calm, and there will be no unrest afterwards, despite the claims of opposition leaders. He added, "You won't believe the broad reform program we will announce after the election. It will go way beyond what you could imagine. It will put Kyrgyzstan far ahead of any of its neighbors," but declined to elaborate further.
11. (C) Sarbayev had earlier indicated to Charge that Sarbayev wanted to bring his ten year old son to see the U.S. in August, and that Maxim might accompany them. At dinner, Maxim confirmed this, saying he planned to travel to California and Washington. He asked if Charge could help arrange informal meetings with officials of the State Department and the NSC while he was in Washington. Charge said he would pass the information to Washington, but said August was a vacation period and many people would be away. Maxim did not provide specific dates for his travel, but he and Sarbayev asked for assistance in obtaining visas for the trip. At the end of the three hour dinner, Maxim said he hoped to stay in touch with the Embassy, and would welcome meeting the Ambassador. He said he knew that Charge had undoubtedly heard "all kinds of things" about him, and extended the dinner invitation to show the Embassy "that I don't eat people."
12. (C) Maxim was calm throughout, including when Charge raised sensitive issues such as concerns about the election and the seizure of U.S. special forces weapons. His actions indicated he is slightly spoiled: he was impatient whenever a waiter appeared to serve or clear dishes, because in each instance he stopped talking to wait until the room was clear. Prior to sitting down to the table, Maxim and Sarbayev switched off their cell phones (the latter taking out his battery and SIM card, which is his usual practice.) Maxim exhibited relatively refined tastes -- he said his favorite wine was Opus 1, his favorite single malt scotch was Macallen (followed closely by Japanese Suntori), and he enjoys cigars. He offered Charge a Dominican Republic cigar carrying a label that said, "Maksim Bakiyev -- Kyrgyzstan" and a Kyrgyz Flag on it. Maxim said his American friends sent him the vanity cigars; he also boasted a humidor filled with Cuban and other cigars. Sarbayev was extremely deferential to Maxim, as were the waiters. The sushi dinner was served on a personal plate for Maxim, with a shared plate for the FM and Charge. When the plates arrived, Maxim looked displeased, and said, "You could have brought one plate for us all." At one point in the evening, when Maxim offered to re-light Charge's cigar, Sarbayev's eyes popped out at seeing Maxim defer to Charge with this gesture. BISHKEK 00000744 004.2 OF 004
13. (C) Maxim was clearly reaching out to the Embassy, and wants to present himself as a backchannel to the President and a sounding board to discuss developments in the country. He was extremely pleased with himself for his alleged (though likely exaggerated) behind-the-scenes role in masterminding the Transit Center agreements, and outmaneuvering both Moscow and the many domestic advisors to President Bakiyev who support closer ties to Russia. One of those advisors, Bakiyev's brother Janysh, is often rumored to be Maxim's main nemesis in what many interlocutors describe as a struggle for succession.
14. (C) The Embassy has not had contact with Maxim in recent years, due to his unofficial status and the many rumors about his questionable efforts to obtain financial control over many sectors of business. Nevertheless, in the wake of the new Transit Center agreements, Maxim's favorable disposition towards the United States could be of benefit to our interests.
LITZENBERGER