U.S. Is in No Shape to Give Advice, Medvedev Says
Russia’s new president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, less swaggering than his predecessor but as touchy about criticism from abroad, said in an interview that an America in “essentially a depression” was in no position to lecture other countries on how to conduct their affairs. With soaring oil revenues bolstering the Russian economy and Kremlin confidence, Mr. Medvedev brushed aside American criticism of his country’s record on democracy and human rights. He also said that a revived Russia had a right to assume a larger role in a world economic system that he suggested should no longer be dominated by the United States. Mr. Medvedev made his comments on Tuesday in a meeting with a small group of foreign journalists a day after the American treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., appealed in Moscow for Russian investment in the United States. The symbolism of the visit resonated here, in that only a decade had passed since the Russian economy was in shambles and the country was desperate for Western aid.
Mr. Medvedev seemed to be seeking in the interview to raise his profile before attending the Group of 8 meeting of industrialized nations next week in Japan. Mr. Medvedev leads Russia in tandem with his predecessor and mentor, Vladimir V. Putin, who is now prime minister and is still widely considered Russia’s pre-eminent leader. In the interview, Mr. Medvedev was asked about a call by Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, to bar Russia from the Group of 8 because of its record on democracy. Mr. Medvedev, who easily won Russia’s presidential election in March after the Kremlin hobbled the opposition, responded that the question of democracy was irrelevant to the Group of 8 and, besides, the United States had more pressing matters to attend to. “The Group of 8 exists not because someone likes or dislikes it, but because objectively, they are the biggest world economies and the most serious players from the foreign policy point of view,” Mr. Medvedev said. “Any attempts to put restrictions on anyone in this capacity will damage the entire world order.”
He added, “I am sure that any administration of the United States of America, if it wishes to succeed, among other things, in overcoming essentially a depression that exists in the American economic market, must conduct a pragmatic policy inside the country and abroad.” Mr. Medvedev said world leaders should realize that the credit crunch and a gathering global recession signaled that the worldwide economic architecture needed to be overhauled. He did not specify how this should be done, but indicated it should entail a reduction in the influence of the United States. “It has to be improved, it has to be more up-to-date, better protected from risks, and it must not suffer from national egoism, financial and economic egoism, but must be more fair toward other countries; this is absolutely evident,” he said. “This system cannot be oriented toward only one country and only one currency.”
A former law professor who has spent much of his career as a behind-the-scenes bureaucrat, Mr. Medvedev showed a wide-ranging knowledge of foreign and domestic issues, confidently answering questions for 90 minutes without notes and speaking at length without stumbling. The president, who is 42, spoke only in Russian but did not need an interpreter to understand questions posed in English. Mr. Medvedev provided no glimpses of disagreements with Mr. Putin on policies or strategy, though their stylistic differences were readily apparent. Whereas Mr. Putin occasionally responds to questions with blunt retorts or salty language, Mr. Medvedev tends to offer demurrals and then to engage in a kind of academic discussion of issues. As he has many times in recent weeks, Mr. Medvedev championed his proposals to reduce corruption, which he acknowledges is endemic in Russia. He was then asked whether he believed that corruption could be beaten back, considering that the country’s political system is dominated by a single party, Mr. Putin’s United Russia.
“A system that was built on the idea that one party holds all the truths demonstrated its weakness 20 years ago,” Mr. Medvedev said. “It failed to cope with new challenges and ceased to exist. That’s why, to ensure the competitive ability of our country on a global scale, we must make use of political competition, among other things. But it must be sensible. This is to say, competition, correctly built.” Mr. Medvedev indicated that he would not get involved in the case of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former oil oligarch and Putin opponent convicted of financial crimes and sent to a Siberian prison. The authorities have recently brought new charges against Mr. Khodorkovsky, while his lawyers have mounted a campaign for his release. Some political analysts have described Mr. Medvedev as more liberal than Mr. Putin and others in the Kremlin, in part because Mr. Medvedev did not serve in the security services. (Mr. Putin is a former K.G.B. agent who was head of its successor agency, the F.S.B.)
Mr. Medvedev often says his background as a lawyer plays a crucial role in his worldview, and when he was asked about his reputation, he returned to that theme. He said that when he was a student, he learned of the importance of the law, and of the right to private property. He said he also realized that there needed to be a struggle in Russia against what he has termed “legal nihilism.” “For me, these are the ideas that I absorbed when I studied at university, as well as the value of human rights,” he said. “And in our country, they are based on the Constitution. Human rights and freedoms also must be defended unconditionally, and should be the priority of any government. It’s up to you as to how this set of values should be described.” Asked about his political enemies, Mr. Medvedev conceded that some prominent people were disgruntled about his ascent, though he would not name them. “I am positive that a certain number of politicians and a certain part of the population is not quite happy with the current configuration of power,” he said. “But this is what is called democracy.” He added: “It would be ridiculous to name the destructive forces one by one. I am not an adherent of conspiracy theories. In real life, everything is so much simpler, if not banal.”
Medvedev Calls U.S. Dollar Intl. Problem
The U.S. dollar has fallen so much that it has now become an international problem, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told journalists from Reuters. According to Medvedev, the United States has to solve the problems of its currency, but other countries should strive to make the international financial system multicurrency. That would allow the risks associated with the fall in the exchange rate of a single currency to be avoided. The Russian president earlier expressed his opinion about the financial crisis that has engulfed the developed countries and served as one of the causes of the fall of the dollar. Medvedev stated at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg that the U.S. itself is largely responsible for the crisis, since the real abilities of the country do not correspond with the position it occupies in the international financial system. In the interview, Medvedev answered a series of questions on the Russian economy. In particular, he repeated that the conflict between the shareholders of TNK-BP should be decided on the legal arena without the participation of the state. In addition, the Russian president noted that the state will gradually take measures to reduce its participation in the economy and continue the policy of privatization of a number of assets.
Medvedev dismisses McCain's call for Russia to be ousted from G8
Russia's president has said that United States presidential candidate John McCain's pledge to seek Russia's expulsion from the G8 if elected was not a serious statement. Russia joined the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations in 1997, resulting in the G8. Medvedev will represent Russia for the first time at the forum's summit in Hokkiado, Japan, on July 7-9. "As far as I know, recently no one has been saying this. It is perfectly clear that any calls to expel Russia or to pressure Russia are simply not serious," Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with G8 media on Thursday, in response to a reporter's question on McCain's comments. In October last year, Republican candidate McCain said the G8 should become "a club of leading market democracies: It should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia." He cited "diminishing political freedoms, a leadership dominated by a clique of former intelligence officers, [and] efforts to bully democratic neighbors" in Russia. Medvedev said the G8 exists "not because anyone likes or dislikes it, but because it has objectively the largest economies and the most important players in terms of foreign policy." Attempts to restrict the group would damage the world order, he said.