President Putin called on the West yesterday to drop its “silly Atlantic solidarity” if it wanted improved relations with Russia.
He accused America and some of the countries of the EU of harbouring outdated Cold War attitudes that led to distrust, particularly on issues such as energy security and trade. Such stereotypical positions were “absolutely inappropriate” in the economic arena, he said, insisting that one source of friction – Russia’s decision to build a pipeline bypassing Poland – was not infringing anybody’s rights.
He also warned the West to stop giving Russia blanket lectures on democracy. “We will participate in any debate with our partners, but, if they want us to do something, they must be specific. If they want us to resolve Kosovo, let’s talk Kosovo. If they are worried about nuclear programmes in Iran, let’s talk about Iran, rather than talking about democracy in Russia.”
Neither would he take lectures over Russia imposing higher gas charges on Ukraine after years of Western preaching about the need for market prices. “If the West wants to support the Orange movement, let them pay for it. Do you think we are idiots?”
At the same time, he sounded a more conciliatory note, sayinmg: “We in Russia and you in Europe and the United States should be more patient. We should not be faultfinding in our relations and we should look for positive things. We should engage in friendly relations and support each other.”
He made his comments in a long and forthright session with Western reporters at his holiday residence overlooking the Black Sea in Sochi and gave the first inkling of his thinking about his successor and what role he saw for himself after he leaves office in March next year. “I have no interest in a weak president after me,” he said. His successor had to be “a self-sustainable and efficient individual who will serve the people”.