Friday, May 05, 2006

From Moscow with diplomatic rebuke

The New York Times:
"In many areas of civil society — from religion and the news media, to advocacy groups and political parties — the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people," Mr. Cheney said in a speech to European leaders in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius. "Other actions by the Russian government have been counterproductive, and could begin to affect relations with other countries."

Mr. Cheney's remarks, which officials in Washington said had been heavily vetted and therefore reflected the administration's current thinking on Russia, appeared to lay down new markers for a relationship that has become strained and could become significantly more so in the months ahead.
The Times of London:
The speech caused outrage in Russia, with some senior figures accusing Mr Cheney of trying to undermine Mr Putin before the G8 summit in St Petersburg in July. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s deputy spokesman, said that the speech was incomprehensible and “full of a subjective evaluation of us and of the processes that are going on in Russia”.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, said: “Cheney’s speech looks like a provocation and interference in Russia’s internal affairs in terms of its content, form and place.”
In unrelated but related news, the A.P.:
ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to Kazakhstan on Friday for talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, seeking to maximize access to the vast oil and gas reserves in the central Asian nation with a troubled human-rights record.

Cheney became the fourth top administration official to visit the former Soviet republic in recent months, underscoring the importance placed on a country that is strategically located and an ally in the war on terror, as well as rich in energy resources.
Russia has drifted far beyond the orbit of Western democracies. In fact, the Guardian noted that in late April:
Russia has shown in recent months that western condemnation will not shake its resolve to play on the world stage as it likes.

Welcoming a Hamas delegation to Moscow last month - described by a minister in Jerusalem as "stabbing Israel in the back" - was one example. A second was the decision a few weeks later to give financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, against the wishes of the US and the EU.

In another robust move, the Russians have refused to back down on a recent $700m (£380m) deal to sell 29 Tor M1 mobile surface-to-air missile defence systems to Iran despite pressure from Washington.
It seems that the White House is caught playing catch-up.


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