May 7, 2006

Cheney takes Russia to task over democracy again

SHANNON (Reuters) -- U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney took
Russia to task again on Sunday as he ended a tour of
ex-communist states making the transition to democracy.

Heading home from visits to Lithuania, Kazakhstan and
Croatia, Cheney said he heard repeated concerns about Russia's
"internal developments" as well as its use of energy resources
to "obtain leverage" over its neighbors.

He insisted, however, that Russia had nothing to fear from
NATO, which has expanded eastwards since the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991, and should welcome the establishment of
stable democracies on its borders.

The vice-president's plane touched down briefly at Shannon
airport in Ireland on its way back to Washington.

Amid concern about the repercussions of the U.S. criticism,
Cheney dismissed the notion that Russia would retaliate by
hardening its position at the United Nations against a U.S.-led
push for new measures against Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Russia responded angrily on Thursday after Cheney told
Baltic and Black Sea leaders in Vilnius that Russian President
Vladimir Putin was backsliding on democracy and using energy
reserves to "blackmail" Moscow's neighbors."