In a blistering attack on Washington, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday alleged that the United States pursued its interests to the detriment of world security and warned that Russia would continue to oppose this if he returned to the Kremlin in the March 4 Presidential elections.
He, however, said close and trusting relations between Moscow and Washington were of signal importance for the world in turbulent times and made clear Russia wanted such ties if based on mutual respect.
In a lengthy article published in the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper, a week ahead of the Presidential elections, Putin outlined a broad vision of how he saw Russia's place in the world and how he would aim to fortify it.
Directly aiming at the U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Europe near Russia's borders, he expressed exasperation at what he described as Washington's "stubborn refusal" to take Moscow's worries into account on it.
"I would not mention this topic if these games were not taking place right on Russia's borders, if they had not undermined our security, if they did not work against stability in the world," Putin wrote. "Our arguments are well known and I will not rehash them again. But unfortunately, they are not accepted by our Western partners."
Russia has long said that the U.S. missile plans pose a direct threat to its nuclear deterrent. The United States denies this and asserts the proposed missile shield is designed to thwart missiles launched by "rogue" States.
Putin said the U.S.-led NATO alliance had expanded to take in new members close to Russia, had overreached its authority in regulating international affairs and was establishing "facts on the ground" before the post-Cold War relationship between the bloc and Moscow could be worked out.
Putin said he agreed with those who argue that upholding human rights was the top obligation of sovereign states and said crimes against humanity should be punished by international courts. Arguing that the need to protect human rights justified outside military intervention in sovereign states without U.N. approval resulted in deaths, violation of those same human rights and unpredictable consequences, he wrote "then we're not talking about a noble cause but about elementary demagoguery."
The Russian leader expressed particular aversion to what he described as a concept of security among NATO members and particularly the United States which "fundamentally differs from ours."
"The Americans are obsessed with the idea of ensuring their absolute invulnerability - a thing, I would point out, that is Utopian and achievable neither from a technological nor a geopolitical standpoint. And herein lies the problem. Absolute invulnerability for one means absolute vulnerability for all the others. It is impossible to agree with this perspective."
Referring to the unrest in the Arab world, Putin warned that Russia would not permit a "Libyan scenario" to take place in Syria, where he said Moscow wanted to see an immediate halt in violence and a national dialog to resolve the crisis.
He defended the decision by Russia and China to veto a resolution earlier this month pushed by the West and Arab allies that Moscow said would have opened the door to foreign military intervention in Syria. Russia in particular faced blistering criticism that "bordered on hysterical" from Western countries for its decision, Putin said, adding that Moscow strongly hoped the United States and others would not resort to force in Syria without U.N. approval.
Elaborating on the 'Arab Spring,' Putin said efforts backed by the United States and the West to bring about "democracy with the help of violent methods" were unpredictable and often led to precisely the opposite result. "Certain forces, including religious extremists, are emerging who are trying to change the direction of development of these countries and the secular nature of their governments," he said.
Putin noted the importance that social networks and mobile devices had played in uprisings in several Arab states last year and said "soft power" had been used by states to advance their foreign policy goals there without resorting to force. At the same time, he warned "soft power" and new communication methods were used to provoke extremism, separatism, nationalism, to manipulate public opinion and "interfere directly in the internal affairs of sovereign states."
On Iran, Putin said Russia was "alarmed" by reports of possible preparations for a military strike to cripple Tehran's nuclear activities and warned that if such a thing happened "it would have truly catastrophic consequences" on a massive scale. The world should recognize Iran's right to develop a civilian nuclear program, including enrichment of uranium, for energy production under close supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In addition to his direct criticism of U.S. behavior on the world stage, Putin said some policymakers within the United States - notably in the U.S. Congress - were unable to abandon Cold War-era stereotypes and phobias about Russia.
Despite some progress in bilateral Russian-American relations, outdated perceptions in the United States about Russia - along with what he called U.S. "political engineering" in regions close to Russia - still had a negative impact on bilateral relations, he said.
"In relations with the U.S., we would be ready to go really far and to reach a substantial breakthrough provided the Americans conduct themselves according to principles of equal and mutually-respectful partnership," Putin said.
The Russian leader acknowledged that his country had had little success in establishing a more positive image for itself in the world and insisted that while he would defend his country's interests Russia did not want to be isolated. "We are ready to get to work on mutually-profitable cooperation, toward open dialog with all of our foreign partners. We are working to understand and take account of the interests of our partners. We ask them to respect ours."
by RTT Staff Writer
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