Russian President: Nation Won't Be Pushed Into Isolation

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President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that Russia would not yield to Western pressure or be pushed into isolation over the war in Georgia.

Medvedev's comments appeared to be a response to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who warned Russia on Thursday that its policies have put it on a path to isolation and irrelevance.

Medvedev dismissed a claim that Russia was sliding back to authoritarianism.

"They are, in fact, pushing us onto the development track that is based not on normal and civilized cooperation with other countries, but on autonomous development behind thick walls and an 'iron curtain,"' Medvedev said at a meeting with non-governmental organizations. "This is not our track, and it makes no sense to return to the past."

In addition, he vowed that Russia would set its own course.

"No new outside factors, let alone outside pressure on Russia, will change our strategic course," Medvedev said.

"We will continuously strengthen our national security, modernize the military and increase our defense capability to a sufficient level," he said. "And we will determine what level is sufficient proceeding from the current situation; it can't be measured once and for all."

Medvedev reaffirmed his push for a new pan-European security pact, saying NATO alone can't ensure security on the continent.

"It only has provoked the conflict," he said, in a reference to the war in Georgia.

Medvedev and other Russian officials have previously claimed that the United States and some other NATO nations, by helping modernize the Georgian military, encouraged Georgia to launch military action to regain control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Russia responded by sending in troops who quickly repelled the Aug. 7 Georgian attack on South Ossetia and pushed deep into Georgian territory.

As Medvedev spoke, the Russian Parliament gave tentative approval to next year's budget, including a 25-percent increase in defense spending.

Without mentioning Rice, Medvedev derided her pledge Thursday to continue sponsoring Russian students, teachers, judges, journalists and others who want to visit America.

"I opened the Web this morning and saw our American friends saying they will keep providing assistance to Russian teachers, doctors, scientists, labor leaders and judges," he said. "The last point was really outstanding. What does it mean? Are they going to feed our judges? Will they support corruption? If it goes on like that, they will start selecting presidents here."

Medvedev's remarks reflected a growing strain in Russia's relations with the United States which dipped to the lowest point since the Cold War after the war in Georgia.

On a more conciliatory note, Medvedev added that Russia wants a "full-fledged dialogue" with the West. "We aren't trying to teach anyone, we want our views to be heard," he said.