A document dated 1 February 2008, sent by then US ambassador to Moscow William J. Burns, and posted on Wikileaks under code 08MOSCOW265_a shows that the US was fully aware of what a pro-western pull on the Ukraine would mean.
The message was sent by the US ambassador, as confidential, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO – European Union Cooperative, the National Security Council, Russia Moscow Political Collective, the US Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State.
In the message ambassador Burns highlights that the situation has been spelled out by Russian FM Sergei Lavrov of what it would mean for the Ukraine to be drawn further into a western sphere of influence.
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NYET MEANS NYET: RUSSIA’S NATO ENLARGEMENT REDLINES
Following a muted first reaction to Ukraine's intent to seek a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the Bucharest summit (ref A), Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat.
NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains "an emotional and neuralgic" issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.
Additionally, the GOR and experts continue to claim that Ukrainian NATO membership would have a major impact on Russia's defense industry, Russian-Ukrainian family connections, and bilateral relations generally. In Georgia, the GOR fears continued instability and "provocative acts" in the separatist regions.
Russian Opposition Neuralgic and Concrete
5. (C) Ukraine and Georgia's NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia's influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.