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Thursday, May 04, 2006

American VEEP, Touring Baltics, Blasts Russia

Here comes Cold War II. You asked for it, Russia. You got it. It seems the Kremlin has even managed to alienate it's very best pal in the world, George Bush. Apres moi le deluge!

Via Reuters, the New York Times reports that, following U.S. Secretary of State's zapping Russia on energy (as previously reported by La Russophobe), now Vice President Dick Cheney has joined the fight, and brought in the democracy issue as well (and right on Russia's doorstep, in Vilnius, in-your-face, if you please):

Vice President Dick Cheney, in one of the Bush administration's sharpest rebukes to Moscow, accused Russia on Thursday of backsliding on democracy and urged it to stop using energy supplies for "blackmail.''

"Russia has a choice to make,'' Cheney told Baltic and Black Sea leaders in Vilnius at a time of increasingly chilly relations between the United States and Russia.

He said opponents of reform in Russia were "seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade'' by restricting democratic rights and warned President Vladimir Putin that some of Moscow's actions could hurt relations with other countries.
But Cheney told leaders of post-communist nations with a history of domination by the former Soviet Union: ``None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy.''

"There is no question that a return to democratic reform in Russian will generate further success for its people and greater respect among fellow nations.''

He said G-8 members planned to make clear at a summit in St. Petersburg in July Moscow had ``nothing to fear and everything to gain from strong stable democracies on its borders.''

But Cheney's harsh remarks could further antagonize Russia, which holds a veto in the U.N. Security Council where Washington intends to push for a resolution demanding that Iran curb its nuclear ambitions. Russia opposes any sanctions.

The address by Cheney, a powerful, independent-minded vice president known for a hard line on Russia within the administration, marked an intensification of U.S. and European Union criticism against Moscow for its record on democracy.

ENERGY ROW

Cheney, in a speech mostly devoted to praising Eastern European countries for democratic reforms, also took aim at Moscow's use of its vast energy supplies for what Washington says is sometimes the bullying of neighbors.
"No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation,'' he said.

Russia, which is trying to harness its position as an energy giant, drew international criticism earlier this year when it briefly turned off its gas taps to Ukraine in a pricing dispute that disrupted supply to Europe.
Moscow, for its part, suspects the U.S. policy of promoting global democracy is really an instrument to establish itself as the dominant power in the post-Soviet states.

In the past two years, peaceful revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia have brought pro-Western governments to power.
Cheney said Russia, meanwhile, had restricted rights.

"In many areas of civil society -- from religion and the news media, to advocacy groups and political parties -- the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of the people,'' he said. Calling Belarus, a key Russian ally, the "last dictatorship in Europe,'' Cheney urged the release of opposition figures jailed by the government.

Cheney was on six-day trip billed as a pro-democracy tour. Lithuania, which regained independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, was the first stop. He also planned to visit oil-rich Kazakhstan and the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia.

Hmmm . . . one day Kazakhstan has a quarter-page ad in the Times calling itself an American ally, next day the Veep is paying a call. How interesting. Seems everybody has got Russia's number except the vestigial class of benighted Russophiles. Not to worry. They are what La Russophobe is for!

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