Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted the United States today for acting in a unilateral, militaristic fashion that he said “overstepped” its role and made the world a more dangerous place than during the Cold War.
“Nobody feels secure anymore, because nobody can take safety behind the stone wall of international law,” he told an international security conference here
He said Russia would pursue an independent foreign policy, and defended his country’s arms sales to Iran as a way of reaching out to that Middle Eastern power, which is under pressure from the U.S. and Europe to curtail its nuclear program. Russia has supplied some air defense weapons to Tehran, he said, because “we don’t want Iran to feel cornered,” he said.
He also told the West to back off on pushing Russia to be more democratic and more respectful of human rights. “Russia is constantly being taught democracy, and the people who try to teach it don’t want to learn it themselves.” more after the jump
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The Russian leader criticized the expansion of NATO, saying the alliance is placing military forces on Russia’s borders, “reducing the level of mutual trust.”
Putin ended his critique of the post-Cold War world by attacking the West’s view of international relations. Stability and economic justice, he said, should be “not only for the chosen ones, but for everybody.”
After his 32-minute speech, Putin fielded questions from the audience, elaborating on several of his points but backing down from none. Explaining his view that the world is now more dangerous than it was during the Cold War, he said that back then, “It was a fragile peace, a scary peace, but it was fairly reliable, as it turns out. Today it is less reliable.”
His one peace offering was to describe President Bush as “my friend.” He added, “He is a decent man, and one can do business with him.”
The response of the U.S. delegation to the annual security conference was sharply negative. During the speech, several frowned, and Gates, a professional Sovietologist, stared at the notes he was writing. Asked for comment afterward, Gates smiled and shook his head.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he found much of the address to have been “Cold War rhetoric,” and Putin’s comments about Iran “outrageous.”
“If you’re waiting for Russia to be constructive on Iraq, forget it,” commented Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.). He added that he didn’t think the speech was a smart move.
“He did more in a single speech to unite Europe and America than anything we could have done in a decade,” Graham said, referring to tensions between the U.S. and several European nations arising from disagreements primarily over the war in Iraq.