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Medvedev talks of ties with US, missiles in Europe

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-05

The Russian president said Wednesday that he hoped for "fully-fledged" ties with the US after the election of Barack Obama. At the same time, he announced plans to place a missile system on a European base.

President Dmitry Medvedev blamed the United States on Wednesday for world turmoil and proposed domestic reforms including extension of presidential terms that he said would secure Russia's development.
   
Delivering his first state of the nation address since taking office last May, Medvedev said the blame for ills ranging from the global financial crisis to the recent war in Georgia lay squarely with the US and also announced plans to base a missile system in a Russian enclave in central Europe.
   
"The economy of the United States dragged down with it into recession the financial markets of the whole planet," Medvedev said.
   
"This crisis took on a global character."
   
The new Russian president failed to make any reference to the historic victory in Tuesday's US presidential election by Barack Obama, focusing the bulk of his address instead on domestic political and social issues.
   
But in an apparent warning shot to the new US president, Medvedev said that Russia planned to deploy a short-range missile system in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave within Poland and Lithuania.
   
"Iskander missile systems will be deployed in Kaliningrad region to neutralise the missile defence system," Medvedev said, adding that electronic neutralising devices would also be deployed.
   
Russia has been infuriated by US plans to intercepter missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.
   
Medvedev, 43, proposed in particular that the presidential term be extended from four to six years and that a range of other tweaks be made to the executive and legislative branches of authority at all leves in Russia.
   
He hit out a "presumptuous" US administration he said had stoked the August war in Georgia and reiterated earlier claims that the United States was to blame for recent turmoil that has hit Russia's economy hard.
   
In tone, the new Russian leader's speech contrasted sharply with the upbeat mood of Western governments, which rushed on Wednesday to congratulate US Democratic candidate Barack Obama on his presidential election win.
   
The war in Georgia, in which Russia launched major military operations over the separatist South Ossetia region, was "a consequence of the presumptuous policies of the US administration," Medvedev.
   
"We will not back down in the Caucasus," he said, repeating Russian accusations that Washington under President George W. Bush has encroached on Moscow's sphere of influence by supporting the pro-Western leadership of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
   
Shortly before Medvedev spoke, Russia's foreign ministry said it was looking to the United States for "fresh approaches" in responding to the "new challenges and threats of the 21st century" following Obama's election victory, Interfax news agency said.
   
In addition to calling for an extension in the presidential term, Medvedev said that parliament's mandate should be extended from four to five years.
   
Medvedev's speech in the grand surroundings of the Kremlin's Saint George's Hall was his first formal state-of-the-nation address since he succeeded Vladimir Putin in May.
   
Putin, who now holds the prime minister's post and heads the main political party, is widely seen as still wielding large powers over both foreign and domestic policy.
   
Russia's relations with the United States have severely deteriorated in the era of Putin and Bush, putting in doubt cooperation on issues such as Iran's nuclear programme and reduction of US and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles.
   
Analyst Maria Lipman, of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said a pause in the current hostility between the Bush administration and the Kremlin would be welcome under Obama but there was a long-term risk that Russia would remain a second-tier priority for the White House.
   
This meant a risk of further flare-ups like the war in Georgia, as well as a dangerous weakening of arms control mechanisms, already undermined during the Bush presidency, she said.
   
For the Russian leadership, "relations between Russia and the United States are so low at this point and the problems so deep there are hardly expectations that relations can improve," said Lipman, summing up her cautious approach.
   
"There are deep problems dividing the two countries and they will not disappear because there is a new president," she added.
   

Date created : 2008-11-05

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