Putin offers Obama swift and positive changes
Thursday, December 4, 2008
By Conor Sweeney
The United States will quickly feel a change in attitude from Moscow
if President-elect Barack Obama transforms Washington's policies
towards Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
"Usually... when there is a change of power in any country, and even
more so in a superpower such as the United States, some changes occur,"
"We very much hope that these changes will be positive. We are now
seeing these positive signals," said Putin during a televised question
and answer session with the Russian public.
In contrast with a long string of past criticisms of Washington's
foreign policy, Putin made no warnings to the United States and steered
clear of his often harsh rhetoric.
Instead, Putin said he perceived a more conciliatory tone towards
Russia from aides to the U.S. President-elect and saw the significance
in NATO's decision this week not to offer a path to membership for
Georgia and Ukraine.
"We hear that one should build relations with Russia, taking into
account its interests. If these are not just words, if they get
transformed into a practical policy, then of course our reaction will
be adequate and our American partners will feel this at once," said
"Already at the expert level, we hear from people close to the
President-elect -- from his circle, his aides -- we hear that there
should be no rush in this matter, that one should not spoil relations
with Russia," Putin said.
That contrasts with the criticism Putin made of Washington's approach to
Russia's war against U.S.-ally Georgia in August.
The war sent ties with Washington to the lowest level since the end
of the Cold War and Putin accused some in the U.S. administration of
provoking the crisis to help the Republicans win the presidency.
As prime minister, Putin is now mostly formally responsible for
economic issues, while his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev has
responsibility for setting foreign policy.
But Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008, regularly
meets foreign heads of state and makes sometimes strong statements
about foreign and defence matters.
The positive tone towards Obama has not been matched by any shift in
Russia's opposition to U.S. plans to locate elements of its missile
shield system in Europe, though Putin said he hoped the new President
would cancel the proposals.
"We already hear that one should yet again rethink the expediency of
deploying the Third Position Region of the missile defence system in
Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic," he said.
Putin has always said he has a good personal relationship with the
outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush, despite frequent policy clashes.
Bush's critics have frequently taunted him for saying that he had
looked into Putin's eyes and got a sense of his soul during one of
their first meetings as leaders.
(Reporting by Conor Sweeney, Maria Kisyelova and Dmitry Solovyov; editing by
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