October 1, 2008

Russian Leader Plays Down Cold War Fears, Takes a Dig at USA, Hails Ties With EU

Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev has played down the possibility of a new cold war and advised the next US president to concentrate on the national economy, not on arguments with Russia. At a joint news conference in St Petersburg with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, parts of which were shown by several Russian TV channels on 1 October, Medvedev also described the EU as Russia's strategic partner.

When asked whether a new cold war was possible, and whether the outcome of the US presidential election could have any effect on this, Medvedev was shown by state-owned news channel Vesti TV to reply: "I do not believe that there are at present any persistent reasons for the outbreak of a cold war. As we know, the cold war was based above all on ideological differences between the Soviet Union and the countries of the socialist camp on the one hand, and member states of NATO on the other. Today we have no ideological differences over which a cold, let alone any other war could break out."

State-controlled Russian Channel One TV showed Medvedev continuing: "If we speak simply of a general deterioration of the international situation, a deterioration of bilateral relations, it is of course possible; and NATO states gave us a certain signal in this respect by scaling down cooperation in some specific areas. Firstly, I am not inclined to dramatize this. Nothing terrible happened, certainly not for the Russian Federation - NATO states are interested in this cooperation no less - even more - than we are. Secondly, all sorts of restrictive, constraining measures usually end up with everything being restored in its entirety. We'll see. Generally speaking, I would not link this at all with the issue of who eventually comes to power in the United States of America."

"Whoever comes, his number one task will be to sort out his own economy. This is what has to be done. It much easier to argue over international issues than to take necessary economic decisions right on cue," Vesti TV showed Medvedev saying.

Channel One TV also showed the Russian president commenting on his talks with Zapatero earlier in the day. "We have confirmed the importance of Russian-Spanish relations in forming close and mutually beneficial relations between Russia and the European Union. For Russia - and this is only natural - the EU is a strategic partner. We are united by history, by common borders, and most importantly, I hope, we are united by the vision of a new greater Europe."

Russian Defence Ministry controlled Zvezda TV showed Medvedev commenting on economic relations with Spain: "There is an opportunity to optimize trade, to increase it. There is an opportunity to complete a number of major energy projects and start a number of major transport and infrastructure projects," he said.

Sources: Channel One TV, Moscow, in Russian 1700 gmt 1 Oct 08; Vesti TV news channel, Moscow, in Russian 1800 gmt 1 Oct 08; Zvezda TV, Moscow, in Russian 1800 gmt 1 Oct 08

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