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Russia Needs To Decide On Relations With West

Analysts have assessed that Anglo-Russian relations are at a post-Cold War low.

Tackle Putin head on, British press urges G8
London (AFP) Jun 04 - Western leaders should take Russian President Vladimir Putin to task at the G8 summit this week, British newspapers said Monday. Looking ahead to the gathering of leaders from the Group of Eight industrial powerhouse nations, Britain's quality newspapers said Russia's increasingly strained relations with its counterparts needed to be tackled head on. The Daily Telegraph called for Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States to kick Russia out of the group.

The Times wants Putin to be told directly where he is going wrong in instigating not so much a Cold War but a "big chill" in ties with the West. Meanwhile the Financial Times said the G8 had to make serious headway in tackling climate change and aid levels in order to justify its existence. The three-day summit in Heiligendamm on the German Baltic coast kicks off Wednesday.

"Putin neither acknowledges nor regrets anything he has done" in worsening relations with the rest of the G8, The Times said in its editorial, saying he has "not forgotten his KGB training or the mindset of the old Soviet Union." The Russian president has gone "further than mere rebuttal" of the West: "his tone was as coldly menacing as some of his responses," it said. "Western leaders, to their credit, will not be intimidated, and the Russian leader's host, Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been commendably forthright in telling him so.

"It is in no one's interest to expel an angry Russia from G8. His partners should listen to Mr Putin's well-marshalled arguments but tell him bluntly where he is wrong." However, The Daily Telegraph headlined its editorial "Kick the Russians out," citing what it saw as Putin's revocation of freedoms introduced under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. "Russia's membership of G8 is becoming awkward," said the broadsheet.

"If it were not for Vladimir Putin's presence at the table at the annual summit, the principal topic of conversation would be him. Relations between Russia and the West are at their worst since the end of the Cold War. "It is worth asking why Russia is in the G8 at all. It certainly doesn't qualify on the basis of the size of its economy. "Russia is showing all the signs of incipient dictatorship.

"Membership of the G8 bestows a credibility on the Putin regime which its actions no longer merit. It is time to go back to G7." The Financial Times argued in its editorial that climate change, aid and the G8's own future must dominate the agenda in Heiligendamm. "Nobody expects much from this increasingly outmoded talking shop of the complacent rich," the business daily said.

Agreement between Europe and the United States on how to tackle global warming is still some distance away, said the FT. "It may be necessary to record strong disagreements instead. If so, so be it. Future historians may still say that this summit marked a turning point on climate."

The FT said the 50 billion dollars promised annually in aid by 2010 -- and the missing of targets to provide it -- was "disgraceful." "Should the G8 members achieve substantial progress on a replacement for the Kyoto treaty and also meet their promises on aid, the body will have justified its existence for another year. But its time is running out. "An informal global steering group is worth having. But one that includes an increasingly recalcitrant Russia, while excluding an ever more important China and India makes less sense each year."

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jun 04, 2007
Russia must decide if it wants positive relations with the West, Britain said Monday after President Vladimir Putin warned of a new Cold War-style arms race. Putin said Sunday that Russia would have to respond if the United States built a planned anti-missile defence shield near Russia's borders and warned it would point its missiles at European targets.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said Europe as a whole had "concerns about Russia's behaviour and will not be shy in expressing those concerns".

"We want to have a constructive relationship but the nature of that relationship is as much up to Russia as to us," he told reporters.

"We want to have a constructive dialogue with Russia. We want to be able to talk about issues such as Kosovo, Iran and other global issues in a constructive way."

Russia had nothing to fear from the anti-missile defence shield, he added, saying: "It's not aimed at Russia. It's aimed at the possibility of rogue states having nuclear weapons."

The shield would not be effective against Russia because it would be too close to her borders to bring down her missiles and Moscow's nuclear arsenal was too large in any case, the spokesman said.

Analysts have assessed that Anglo-Russian relations are at a post-Cold War low following the death from radiation poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko and British attempts to extradite the chief suspect.

The Kremlin is also angered at London's refusal to allow the extradition of exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who has called for the overthrow of Putin's government, and the former Chechnen leader Akhmed Zakayev.

Putin at the weekend described Britain's extradition request for Andrei Lugovoi, suspected of poisoning Litvinenko in London last November, as "foolishness" and politically-motivated.

Blair's spokesman refused to comment on Putin's comments on the Litvinenko case and said the extradition was a matter for state prosecutors alone.

But he said: "We haven't had a formal response from Russia. What we have is a well-argued, well-documented case that the Russians are aware of."

He refused to rule out that Blair and Putin would meet for bilateral talks when the G8 summit in Germany begins Wednesday.

But he said it would not overshadow discussions on other areas such as tackling climate change and aid to Africa.

Europe and the US cannot be divided, Rice tells Putin
Panama (AFP) Jun 04 - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Washington and its allies cannot be divided on their mutual defense, amid a row over a proposed US missile defence shield in eastern Europe. "The security of the United States and the security of European allies is indivisible," Rice said on the margins of the Organization of American States gathering here. "It doesn't really help anybody to start threatening Europeans," said Rice.

Rice said that US officials "don't consider Russia adversary and I hope they don't consider the United States an adversary." She noted that Washington and Moscow "are cooperating in whole range of things," including nuclear proliferation, Iran, North Korea and terrorism. "This is 2007 and not 1987," Rice continued.

"This isn't the Soviet Union and we need to drop the rhetoric that sounds like what the United States and the Soviet Union used to say about each other, and realize that the United States and Russia are in a very different period." Rice said that US officials "have been very active in talking to the Russian about this, not just explaining, but exploring it. We are prepared to do more of that," she said. The White House on Monday described Putin's latest comments in a missile defense feud with the United States were "not helpful." Putin recently talked openly of a "new arms race" and warned that Russia would have new targets in Europe if Washington went ahead with plans to place elements of a missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland, countries once under Moscow's rule but now members of NATO.

earlier related report
Putin defiant ahead of G8 summit
Moscow (AFP) Jun 04 - Russian President Vladimir Putin's defiant stance on issues ranging from missile defence to the killing of a former Russian agent in London threatens to overshadow this week's G8 summit.

Putin will find his stock of friends has dwindled when he travels to the meeting of the world's most powerful leaders in Heiligendamm, Germany, which kicks off on Wednesday.

His long-time ally the former French president Jacques Chirac has been replaced by a man considered more critical of Moscow, Nicolas Sarkozy, while US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair bring with them uncomfortable memories of run-ins with Putin at last year's summit.

Yet Putin appears in uncompromising mood, above all towards Washington, which he accused earlier this year of "overstepping" its bounds in all areas and particularly over Iraq.

With a hint of chutzpah, Kremlin official Igor Shuvalov pointed out that Putin is "more experienced than many" of the other leaders and would "understand some questions better than some people around that table."

Putin recently talked openly of a "new arms race" and warned that Russia would have new targets in Europe if Washington went ahead with plans to place elements of a missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland, countries once under Moscow's rule but now members of NATO.

Also lurking are tensions over allegations that Russia is willing to use its dominance in the energy sphere as a political weapon and Moscow's refusal to extradite to Britain a former Kremlin bodyguard accused of the fatal poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

The bodyguard, Andrei Lugovoi, is accused of using radioactive polonium-210 to murder the Russian political refugee in London last year.

Added to that, Russia is accused of increasing authoritarianism in the run-up to next year's March presidential election, after which Putin is due to stand down.

Against this background newspapers in Britain on Monday called for other Group of Eight leaders to take a tough line.

The Daily Telegraph said it was time to "kick the Russians out" of the club, while The Times accused Putin of taking a "coldly menacing tone."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said Europe as a whole had "concerns about Russia's behaviour and will not be shy in expressing those concerns".

Nonetheless analysts here predicted that Putin would do his best to turn on the charm he has honed over two terms in office for his last G8 summit before his expected departure.

Last week, he insisted that Russia is no "monster that just left the forest."

Analyst Masha Lipman, of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, predicted that "Putin won't have to shake his fists and bare his teeth. He will rather show that his country is on an equal footing with the others."

Indeed on issues like global warming and African poverty, Putin is likely to portray Russia as working arm-in-arm with the rest of the G8 -- in pointed contrast to Washington's independent stance on the climate change issue.

Despite the deterioration in Russia's relations with the West since it hosted the last G8 summit in Saint Petersburg, Putin has a strong interest in repairing his credentials as a world statesman.

Ahead of the summit, the White House announced that Putin is to have the honour of a reception next month at the seaside home of former US president George Bush.

Putin's "main goal" in Germany will be "to underline Russia's position on the top issues, to show that Russia will not buckle to Western pressure on any questions, and it will hold an independent line," said Yevgeny Volk, an analyst for the US-based Heritage Foundation.

"Putin is interested in countering his critics," Volk added, "but on the other hand Russia is stronger now, so he is less dependent on their opinions."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Bush Seeks To Soothe Russia And China Over Missile Tensions
Washington (AFP) June 01, 2007
US President George W. Bush reached out to Russia Friday to soothe concerns over a planned US missile defense program that has cranked tension between the allies and fears of a Cold War-style arms race. "The Cold War is over. We're now into the 21st century, where we need to deal with the true threats, which are threats of radical extremists ... and the threats of proliferation," Bush said in an interview with several European newspapers.

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