Russian President Vladimir Putin declared as “blatant lies” and a “provocation” portions of leaked secret minutes of the March 29 meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, according to official Russian sources.
Putin specifically cited an alleged agreement between Bush and Schroeder to stop cash aid to Russia since large amounts of currency is flowing from Russia into overseas accounts. The account of the Bush-Schroeder accord on aid to Russia is, according to Putin, “designed to damage Russian relations with the European Union,” which is Russia’s largest investor and lender. The Russian government also accused Washington and Berlin of “holding … talks behind its [Russia’s] back.”
The statements were carried by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.
Schroeder is also said to have described Putin as a “product of the old Soviet hierarchy,” who, nonetheless, “was making progress.”
In addition to remarks concerning Russia and Putin, Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi is reported to have admitted supporting terrorist activities, including the Pam Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The purported secret minutes are reported in the German newsmagazines Der Spiegel and Focus and have caused anger and embarrassment around the world.
Deutsche Welle, the official broadcasting service of the German government, in a recent broadcast, quoted a member of the Duma — the lower house of the Russian legislature — as claiming that “a strange alliance is taking place behind Russia’s back.”
In Germany, revelation of the secret minutes “threatens to shake the very foundation of Berlin’s international standing and trust in the German government’s ability to guard confidences at the highest level with foreign states,” according to Deutsche Welle.
The former German defense minister, Volker Ruehe, stated that the leaked minutes made Germany “the laughing stock of the world.”
The report of the meeting between Bush and Schroeder was a “routine confidential report of 26 pages transmitted from the German embassy in Washington, D.C., to the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin. German government officials “do not know what went wrong,” according to Deutsche Welle.
Libya is angered over the report of Gadhafi’s involvement in terrorism. According to reports, Schroeder’s chief political aide, Michael Steiner, met with Gadhafi on March 17. During that meeting, Gadhafi allegedly told Steiner that he ordered a number of terrorist attacks, including the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, as well as the attack on the La Belle discotheque in Berlin two years earlier.
The Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people onboard and an additional 11 on the ground. The Libyan government has consistently denied responsibility in the attack. In a recent interview, Gadhafi boasted to the BBC that he was about to reveal evidence proving the innocence of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence agent convicted in connection with the bombing.
Referring to the judges who condemned the Libyan agent, Gadhafi claimed that, “When I speak, there’ll be three choices before the judges: to resign, to tell the truth or commit suicide.”
The bombing of the La Belle discotheque in April 1986 triggered a U.S. air attack on Tripoli, Libya. The La Belle in Berlin was a popular stop for U.S. service men stationed in the then-divided city. The attack on the nightclub killed three, wounded 200 and caused President Ronald Reagan to order an air strike against the Libyan capital.
The German Foreign Ministry has announced that “a task force has begun an urgent investigation” in response to new evidence of Libyan involvement at the highest level.
The report of Gadhafi’s alleged admission comes at a time when the Bush administration is reportedly considering the easing of sanctions against Libya.
The leak of the confidential Bush-Schroeder remarks is the second major embarrassment for the German Foreign Ministry in recent months.
In January, the German magazine Stern shocked Germany with publication of a photograph supposedly showing Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer attacking a police officer with a fire bomb during a violent left-wing demonstration in 1976. Questions were raised concerning Fischer’s fitness for office.
One journalist, Bettina Roehl, daughter of deceased Red Army Faction leader Ulrike Meinhof, openly called for Fischer to be tried for attempted murder for the photographed attack. It was Meinhof’s death in prison that sparked the violent demonstration.
Fischer was later cleared of the attack and stated during the controversy that he long ago renounced violence.
A leader of the Green Party, Fischer has formed a political alliance with Schroeder’s Social Democrat Party. Should Fischer be forced from office, Schroeder’s government could fall, resulting in the need for new elections and political uncertainty in Germany — what was thought to be one of Europe’s most stable nations and the continent’s economic engine.