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Black Belt Putin Wrongfoots Critics

A protestor (R) accusing President Vladimir Putin of tyranny disrupts a press conference by the Kremlin leader at the Group of Eight summit 08 June 2007 in Heiligendamm, northeastern Germany. "Putin, enemy of freedom! We need another Russia!" the protestor, a Russian citizen named Konstantin Schukman, 20, yelled in German as he hurled dozens of leaflets titled: "Tyranny under mask of democracy.". Photo courtesy AFP.

Put US Anti-Missile Interceptors In Turkey And Iraq Suggests Putin
Heiligendamm, Germany (AFP) Jun 08, 2007. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the United States should think about locating anti-missile interceptors in NATO member Turkey or even in Iraq. "You could put them in the south," Putin told journalists. "I'm talking hypothetically, but this could be allies of the United States in NATO. Let's say Turkey, or even Iraq." Concerning war-torn Iraq, Putin added: "One must ask, what did you fight for? You must get at least something out of it." Russia has long opposed a US plan to put an anti-missile system consisting of a radar and interceptor rockets in Poland and the Czech Republic. On Thursday Putin surprised Washington by proposing the use of a Russian-leased radar in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan as a solution. There had been no detail on where the interceptors, which would shoot down missiles tracked by the radar, might be located under such a plan. The United States says the system is needed to guard against future threats from Iran and North Korea, but Moscow has always said it fears the system is aimed at harming its own nuclear missile force. Washington calls Putin's idea about using the Azerbaijan radar interesting, but has yet to give a detailed reply to the proposal.
by Sebastian Smith
Heiligendamm, Germany (AFP) Jun 10, 2007
It was meant to be the summit where President Vladimir Putin took a drubbing, but in the end the Kremlin leader's critics were the ones counting their bruises. The Russian leader left the Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, leaving Western counterparts wondering how to handle his tough tactics.

Putin was the centre of attention throughout the Group of Eight annual meeting. He rejected a French plan to give another six months to decide the future of Kosovo and startled US President George W. Bush with a proposal to set up a joint anti-missile base.

As one of the eight leaders in the world's most exclusive club, Putin also helped steer through a 60 billion dollar pledge to fight AIDS in Africa, and an important accord on global warming.

While it was a polished performance many western leaders still have their doubts including British Prime Minister Tony Blair who said he told Putin on the final day of the summit that many people were "fearful" of events in Russia.

Many were already worried when they arrived in Heiligendamm. Responding to a US plan to install anti-missile defences in central Europe, Putin had threatened to target Russia's nuclear missiles at Western cities.

US President George W. Bush accused him of "derailing" democracy, while Blair promised a stern talking.

By Friday's close of the summit, Putin, a fitness fanatic and judo black belt, was basking in the international spotlight for his surprise offer to host the US anti-missile system at a Russian base in Azerbaijan. He also suggested other locations for the US shield in Iraq, southern Europe or a floating sea platform.

Bush, who can only dream of Putin's 70-80 percent approval ratings, was left pondering his next step and the subject will come up again when Putin visits the Bush family home in Maine at the end of June.

Blair delivered a tough critique during private talks on Friday, but made little impression.

Controversy over Russia's policy toward foreign investors such as British energy giants, plus Britain's accusation that an ex-KGB man murdered a Putin critic in London last year, meant Blair and Putin had plenty to talk about.

"I obviously set out our view that people were becoming worried and fearful about what was happening in Russia today, about the external policy of Russia," Blair said.

The British prime minister said there were "real issues" between Russia and the West that he did not think would be solved soon.

But Blair is leaving office in three weeks and Putin -- due to step down in 2008, yet promising to retain a major, still undeclared role in Russian politics -- was not overly shaken.

What Blair and Putin really discussed, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, was the need for "mutually taking into account each other's interests."

Putin also gave Blair a full picture of the state of democracy in Russia, Peskov said.

After flooring his international critics, Putin did the same to a protestor who penetrated enormous security at the G8 to interupt the president's farewell press conference.

"Putin, enemy of freedom! We need another Russia!" the protestor, a 20-year-old Russian, Konstantin Schukman, yelled in German.

Schukman hurled dozens of leaflets titled: "Tyranny under mask of democracy."

Putin calmed his bodyguards and asked the protestor, with perfect politeness, whether the press conference could now go on.

"Is that democratic?" Putin asked.

The man accused in the West of dismantling Russia's free media and emasculating parliament then launched into a lengthy defence of his democratic credentials.

In parliamentary elections this December and the presidential contest next March "everyone will have the right to express their opinion, to say everything they think," he vowed.

Analysts praise Putin's public relations skills, but warn that numerous conflicts continue to fester.

"He's always playing a game. The game is about raising tension so that then he can take an unexpected step to reverse this," Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, told AFP.

"This game of nerves strengthens his hand in negotiations."

"Did he manage to neutralise his critics? Overall, no, of course, because nothing has changed," Lukyanov said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Putin's State Of Mind
Washington DC (UPI) June 06, 2007
The reasons behind Vladimir Putin's increasingly hostile attitude toward the Bush administration are becoming clearer. To understand them in their proper context, imagine the United States and its allies had lost the Cold War. NATO has collapsed.

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