Russia claims its sphere of influence in the world

Posted in Europe , Russia , United States | 01-Sep-08 | Author: Andrew E. Kramer| Source: International Herald Tribune

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Unity and Revival monument in Dushanbe

MOSCOW: President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia on Sunday laid out what he said would become his government's guiding principles of foreign policy after its landmark conflict with Georgia ? notably including a claim to a "privileged" sphere of influence in the world.

Speaking to Russian television in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a day before a summit meeting in Brussels where European leaders were to reassess their relations with Russia, Medvedev said his government would adhere to five principles.

Russia, he said, would observe international law. It would reject what he called United States dominance of world affairs in a "unipolar" world. It would seek friendly relations with other nations. It would defend Russian citizens and business interests abroad. And it would claim a sphere of influence in the world.

In part, Medvedev reiterated long-held Russian positions, like his country's rejection of American aspirations to an exceptional role in world affairs after the end of the cold war. The Russian authorities have also said previously that their foreign policy would include a defense of commercial interests, sometimes citing American practice as justification.

In his unabashed claim to a renewed Russian sphere of influence, Medvedev said: "Russia, like other countries in the world, has regions where it has privileged interests. These are regions where countries with which we have friendly relations are located."

Asked whether this sphere of influence would be the border states around Russia, he answered, "It is the border region, but not only."

Last week, Medvedev used vehement language in announcing Russia's recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Though he alluded in passing to respecting Georgia's territorial integrity, he defended Russia's intervention as necessary to prevent a genocide.

Medvedev, inaugurated in May, was an aide to Vladimir Putin, the former president and now prime minister.

Putin appeared on Russian television on Sunday from the nation's far east, where he was inspecting progress on a trans-Siberian oil pipeline to China and the Pacific Ocean, a clear warning to Europe that Russia could find alternative customers for its energy exports. He was later shown in a forest, dressed in camouflage and hunting a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun.

Leaders of the 27 members of the European Union, who will meet in an emergency session on Monday, were considered highly unlikely to impose sanctions or go beyond diplomatic measures in expressing disapproval of Russia's conflict with Georgia.

The members in Eastern Europe have tended to be more wary and more confrontational toward Russia, while Western European countries have tended to be more concerned with not jeopardizing energy imports from Russia.