Friday, May 05, 2006

Cheney: Russia's Bullying Tactics

At the Common Vision for Common Neighborhood Conference in Vilnius on Thursday, US Vice President Dick Cheney talked about Russia (from the Telegraph):
"In Russia today, opponents of reform are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade," Mr Cheney said in a speech to Baltic and Black Sea leaders in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. "The government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people."

He went on to accuse Russia of using its vast energy supplies as "tools of intimidation or blackmail" and of undermining the territorial integrity of its neighbours.

"Actions by the Russian government have been counterproductive and could begin to affect relations with other countries," he warned.

Even by the standards of one of President Bush's foremost hawks, the comments were astonishing in their bluntness.

One western diplomat described it as the most abrasive speech directed at Russia since Ronald Reagan visited the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and called on his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, to "tear down this wall".

Mr Cheney has spearheaded a review of US policy towards the Kremlin in recent months as the White House has become increasingly concerned about Russia's direction under Mr Putin.

His speech provoked fury in the Kremlin, where a spokesman described the remarks as "completely incomprehensible".

A leading Kremlin adviser predicted a "tough reaction" from the Putin administration. "In Moscow this statement is seen as disgusting and will be unanimously condemned by both the ruling and political elites," said Gleb Pavlovsky.

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