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Putin Rejects Cold War, Backs Economic Integration


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Russia remains open to foreign investment and any attempt to pull the country back into the Cold War is a direct threat to its modernization program. The statement follows sharp criticism by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who accused Russia of embarking on a path of self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has this report from Moscow.

Speaking at a major investment conference in the Russian resort city of Sochi, Prime Minister Putin said his country should be open to foreign investments just as other nations should be open to Russian capital. Mr. Putin said this would make everyone mutually more dependent and guard against any abrupt actions. He added it would also unite the world's business community.

The prime minister says Russia's basic ideological approaches remain constant, with an emphasis on private initiative, entrepreneurial freedom, as well as openness and rational integration into the global economy. He adds that Moscow sees any attempt to pull Russia back into the Cold War as nothing less than a direct threat to its modernization.

The Russian financial market has suffered precipitous declines this year, with some indexes falling more than 50 percent. The conflict in Georgia compounded the country's financial woes as investors pulled more than $35 billion out of Russia since the onset of hostilities last month.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington Thursday that Russia has paid a steep cost for its aggressive behavior in Georgia.

"Russia's invasion of Georgia has achieved, and will achieve, no enduring strategic objective. And our strategic goal now is to make clear to Russia's leaders that their choices could put Russia on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance," she said.

Secretary Rice added that Kremlin leaders are becoming increasingly authoritarian, intimidating Russia's neighbors, using energy as a political weapon, and persecuting domestic journalists, dissidents and others to the detriment of Russia itself.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev hinted at a rebuttal Friday, telling a Kremlin meeting that his country will not bend to outside pressure. Mr. Medvedev says no external circumstances; much less outside pressure on Russia will change the country's strategic aim to build a free, progressive and democratic state and society. The Russian leader says his country will consistently modernize its national security structure and army and will raise its defense capability to a proper level.

Anton Stroguchevsky, a financial analyst at Russia's Troika Dialogue investment company, told VOA that Russian and American officials are representing the interests of their countries in a political debate. Nonetheless, he says the loss of investment capital is unpleasant, and could change the way Russia develops.

Stroguchevsky says there will inevitably be higher interest rates, which will probably slow growth of the money supply and reduce inflation. This, he says, will lead to slower economic growth, and change the quality of that growth as investors become more measured in the use of their money.

Russian markets reopened Friday following a two-day suspension to stop wholesale loss of stock values. Prices leaped upward Friday following a two-day trading suspension and a multi-billion-dollar government support package to increase investor confidence and market liquidity.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says his nation is seeking full integration into the world economy and will not be dragged into another Cold War era with the West.

Mr. Putin was speaking to Russian officials and business leaders in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Russia is becoming "increasingly authoritarian" and "aggressive." At an event hosted by the German Marshall fund, Rice delivered her strongest comments to date about Russia's invasion of Georgia and other recent actions.

She said the U.S. goal is to make clear to Russia's leaders that their choices are putting Russia "on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance."

She said that for Russia to reach its full potential, it must be fully integrated into the international political and economic order. She said Russia is in the "precarious position of being half in and half out."

In Moscow, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Thursday that relations with the United States remain a priority for Russia. He said it would be politically short-sighted to squander the achievements and potential in relations by reviving stereotypes of the past.

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