Putin: "Bush fostered Political Chaos"
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- Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2009 11:17:16 -0800 (PST)
[Read further that Obama ain't ready to put a missle base in E.U.
because Numero Uno there is not proof that the damned thing even
Putin Blames Bush for Gas War, ‘Optimistic’ on Obama
By Ellen Pinchuk and Bradley Cook
Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blamed
George W. Bush for the dispute with Ukraine that left much of Europe
without gas this month, saying the former U.S. president fostered
political chaos in the region.
Putin, in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday, said he is
“cautiously optimistic” that relations with the U.S. will improve with
Barack Obama in the White House. The new president spoke by phone
today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama spokesman Robert
Gibbs told reporters in Washington.
The Bush administration supported NATO membership applications from
Ukraine and Georgia, which Russia opposes, and planned to site a
missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S.
under Bush also signed a “strategic partnership” with Ukraine.
“What happened in recent years in Ukraine is the result, to a
significant extent, of the activities of the previous U.S.
administration and the European Union, which supported it,” Putin, 56,
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia
Timoshenko have feuded since they were swept to power four years ago
in the so-called Orange Revolution, sparked by the victory of a pro-
Russian candidate in a rigged presidential election. Bush said at the
time the revolution was a “powerful example” of the movement toward
freedom “for people all around the world.”
Russia, which supplies about a fifth of Europe’s natural gas through
Ukrainian pipelines, and the EU “have become hostages of this domestic
political situation,” Putin said near Velikiy Novgorod, the 9th-
century trading hub between Moscow and St. Petersburg. “It was that
domestic political situation in Ukraine that left no chance for us to
reach final agreements on the gas issue.”
While U.S.-Russia ties reached a post-Cold War nadir in Bush’s last
months, Putin said there are “certain signals” that Obama is
reassessing policies that Russia opposes, including the missile-
defense system and fast-track membership for Ukraine and Georgia in
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Bush won approval to locate the planned missile shield in Eastern
Europe after Russia’s five-day war with Georgia in August, saying it
was intended to protect against attacks from Iran or North Korea.
Medvedev, who succeeded Putin in May, said in November he would place
short-range missiles and radio- jamming facilities near Poland to
“neutralize” the system.
Obama has said he has “no commitment” to the shield and wants more
analysis on whether it will actually work before deciding to proceed
or abandon the project.
“In Mr. Obama’s inner circle, they’re saying there is no need to rush
with it and it needs to be further analyzed, and we welcome such
statements,” Putin said.
On another issue of importance to Russia, NATO expansion, there are
also “positive signals,” Putin said in the interview. “They are saying
that it is possible to provide security for Ukraine and Georgia in
various ways and it is not essential to accept them into NATO now,” he
said. “We welcome that and are ready to take part in any discussion on
working out the best options to ensure international security.”
In Washington, Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the White House
National Security Council, declined to comment directly on Putin’s
remarks, while saying the new Obama administration is interested in
“We’re interested in a serious dialogue with Russia on cooperation on
future missile-defense systems,” Chang said in a prepared statement.
“The president has expressed his support for missile defense, if the
system works and if it can be developed and deployed in a fiscally
responsible way,” he said. “If we determine that these two conditions
have not been met, then delaying the development of this system makes
The Obama administration, he said, would “continue to consult” with
Poland and the Czech Republic on future plans for deployment of the
Two U.S.-based Russia analysts said the new administration has yet to
sort out its approach toward Russia and the issues that matter to
Russian leaders, such as missile defense.
“The administration is only getting organized,” said Dimitri Simes,
president of the Washington-based Nixon Center. “All I hear is that
they are still debating these issues. It’s not my impression that the
president has made up his mind.”
Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
in Washington, said Obama’s campaign statements on Russia and missile
defense add up to “principled support for deployment” of the system
“but needing to rethink the timing, deployment and diplomacy.”
Kupchan called Putin’s comments in the interview “certainly much more
welcome” than Medvedev’s threat in November to deploy new Russian
missiles if the U.S. missile- defense system were installed in Eastern
“It’s a sign the Russians are going to remain open-minded about
working with the Obama administration, ” said Kupchan, who also
teaches international relations at Georgetown University.
Simes said Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other
officials must resolve a basic policy question: whether it’s more
important for the U.S. to push back against Russia’s efforts to
reassert its influence among former Soviet republics or secure the
country’s cooperation in dealing with issues such as nuclear
proliferation and the Middle East.
“I don’t think the Obama administration has seriously focused on this
dilemma,” Simes said.
Still it’s likely that Obama will at a minimum move more slowly than
his predecessor on missile defense and NATO expansion, said Andrew
Kuchins, an analyst at Washington’s Center for Strategic and
International Studies. And that by itself would have an impact, he
“It gives the Obama people an opportunity to reverse the negative
trajectory of the relationship,” Kuchins said.
In their telephone call today, Obama and Medvedev expressed an
intention to make “all efforts to recover the potential of Russian-
American relations” and resolve disagreements, the Russian
presidential press service said in an e-mailed statement. It said the
two leaders plan to meet in the near future.
Bush’s attempts to accelerate NATO entry for Ukraine and Georgia have
been rebuffed by Western European countries. In December, the Bush
administration signed a “charter on strategic partnership” with
Ukraine that pledged “to strengthen Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO
membership,” and concluded a similar agreement with Georgia on Jan.
In the accord, which was signed as Ukraine was negotiating gas prices
and transit fees with Russia, the U.S. also vowed “to work closely
together on rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine’s
gas transit infrastructure.”
Talks between Ukraine and OAO Gazprom, Russia’s gas exporter, broke
down at the end of December, prompting Russia to halt fuel supplies to
and then through Ukraine, affecting supplies in more than 20 countries
for almost two weeks. Gazprom said the U.S.-Ukraine accord on
pipelines was “suspicious” and suggested Ukraine was “dancing to
music” played by the U.S.
Putin and Timoshenko, with EU mediation, signed a deal on Jan. 19 to
resume gas flows. The 10-year contracts oblige Ukraine to pay more for
Russian gas and for Gazprom to pay more to Ukraine in transit fees.
Yushchenko, though, is unhappy with the deal and wants new talks “no
later than in the summer,” said Oleksandr Shlapak, first deputy chief
of Yushchenko’s staff, on Jan. 23.
“A new attempt to review these agreements at the presidential level is
the best confirmation” that the political instability in Ukraine is a
threat to Europe’s energy security, Putin said yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bradley Cook in Moscow at
Last Updated: January 26, 2009 17:02 EST
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