Russia, Turkey angry over leaked diplomatic cables
The leaders of Russia and Turkey blasted the Obama administration on Wednesday over leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, in the most concrete...
Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The leaders of Russia and Turkey blasted the Obama administration on Wednesday over leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, in the most concrete signs yet that the disclosures are rattling America's strategic relationships.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned comments attributed in cables to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying the defense secretary was "deeply misled," while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a U.S. apology for cables alleging financial improprieties was insufficient.
The comments showed how the controversy is increasingly touching sensitive domestic politics in foreign countries, and entangling individual U.S. officials, as the more than 250,000 other communiqués are gradually released.
Putin, in an interview for broadcast Wednesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live Show," rejected criticism attributed in cables to Gates that "Russian democracy has disappeared" and that his government is "an oligarchy run by security services."
"To our [American] colleagues, I would like to advise you not to interfere with the sovereign choice of the Russian people," Putin said. Putin said that a cable's suggestion that he was "Batman" and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev played the role of "Robin" in the Russian government was intended "to slander one of us."
Erdogan's fiery reaction came after the main opposition party in Turkey set up a committee to probe allegations in a cable that he has multiple Swiss bank accounts.
Erdogan said he would resign if the opposition could prove that he had Swiss banks accounts, and demanded that the Obama administration take steps to see that the U.S. diplomats "are held to account."
One of the WikiLeaks cables, sent out under the name of former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman in 2004, said the embassy had heard from two sources that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks. It questioned his statements that his personal wealth had been supplemented by wedding presents friends had given his son, and said that a Turkish businessman is covering the cost of having his four children educated in the United States.
The cable said that Erdogan's explanation that the businessman's motives were altruistic "are lame."
Another cable, dated Feb. 27, 2009, said Erdogan's friends were benefiting from Turkey's business deals with Iran.
The U.S. government has offered an apology for the cables, Erdogan said, "but we do not consider this sufficient."
The cables included a wide-ranging critique of the Turkish government. They questioned the competence and religious motivations of some officials and suggested that the government is increasingly looking eastward, away from its Western connections.
Bulent Aliriza, a Turkey specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the corruption allegations are a more serious issue for Erdogan, particularly with his political party's religious base. The party built its support on its reputation for being free of corruption.