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 M. 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 United States is responsible for those diplomats’ false claims and their smears,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.
The comments showed how the controversy is increasingly touching sensitive domestic politics in foreign countries, and entangling individual U.S. officials. While top U.S. officials continue to play down the cables’ effect on foreign policy, other voices suggest the damage may be widespread, as the more than 250,000 other communiques are gradually released.
“I’ll be very surprised if some people don’t lose their lives,” former President Bill Clinton said in an appearance in North Carolina. “And goodness knows how many will lose their careers.”
The angry reactions came from key governments that had previously sought to play down the significance of the cables released on Sunday by the WikiLeaks website.
The cables emerged at a delicate moment in U.S.-Russian relations, amid tensions over an arms reduction treaty that is in peril, and persistent frictions over missile defense.
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 bank accounts, and demanded that the Obama administration take steps to see that the U.S. diplomats “are held to account.”
“To accept as true the lies and slander that emanate from the personal hatred of one or two former ambassadors, and to accuse the government, is a great wrong,” he said.
One of the WikiLeaks cables, sent out under the name of former U.S. ambassador Eric S. 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.
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