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Putin Dismisses Bush's Call For Russia to Follow Iraqi Model of "Democracy"

StoryJuly 17, 2006
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Leaders of the world’s industrialized nations gathered for the annual G8 meeting in Moscow this weekend. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Bush gave a joint news conference that highlighted their differences over Israel’s actions in Lebanon, the state of Russian democracy and Iraq. [includes rush transcript]

We turn now to the annual G8 summit that ends today. The summit was held in St. Petersburg Russia over the weekend. Leaders of the world’s industrialized nations gathered for their annual meeting where host Russian President Vladimir Putin, had hoped to focus on energy security, fighting infectious disease and education. But much of the talks centered on the Israeli air strikes in Lebanon. In a statement, G-8 leaders called for the return of the kidnapped soldiers and an end to the shelling as well as a halt to Israeli military operations. In addition, the statement also called for an early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the release of detained Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians.

On Saturday, Putin and President Bush gave a joint news conference that highlighted their differences over Israel’s actions in Lebanon, the state of Russian democracy and Iraq.

  • Excerpt of U.S. President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin joint press conference.

For more on the G8 summit we are joined by:

  • Anatol Lieven Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation. He previously covered Central Europe for The Financial Times and the former Soviet Union and Russia for The Times of London. His latest book is "America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism."

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, Putin and President Bush gave a joint news conference that highlighted their differences over Israel’s actions in Lebanon, the state of Russian democracy and Iraq. Here is an excerpt of that news conference.

REPORTER: President Bush, you said that you planned to raise in a respectful way your concerns about Russian democracy with President Putin. How did that conversation go? And I know you’ve already talked a lot about the U.S.-Russian relationship, but I’m wondering if both of you could elaborate on that and how the differences of opinion over the democracy issue are affecting the relationship.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I thought the discussion was a good discussion. It’s not the first time that Vladimir and I discussed our governing philosophies. I have shared with him my desires for our country, and he shared with me his desires for his, and I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq, where there’s a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country, you know, would hope that Russia would do the same thing. I fully understand, however, that there will be a Russian-style democracy.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly.


AMY GOODMAN: Russian President Putin and President Bush in St. Petersburg. We turn now to Anatol Lieven, senior research fellow at New America Foundation. His book is called America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism. Can you talk about the significance of the G8 summit, what came out of it and what didn’t come out of it?

ANATOL LIEVEN: Well, not very much came out of it, to be honest. And what has came out of it chiefly is that Russia and America are still talking on fairly cordial terms in public, as indeed are Russia and Western Europe, and the dialogue continues on energy and other subjects. But there was very little concrete result. The most important element was probably a negative, which is that the U.S. has still not agreed, unlike the rest of the world, to accept Russia into the WTO.

AMY GOODMAN: The comment was quite astounding, this question about, are you putting pressure on Russia for democracy, and President Bush said we want Russia to be more like Iraq, where there’s freedom of press and freedom of religion.

ANATOL LIEVEN: Well, that was indeed, as you say, a truly astonishing comment, given the situation in Iraq, and it simply laid Bush open to Putin’s response and, you know, you heard the response of the audience there, as well. I mean, the fact of the matter is, given its record at present, the U.S. is in a very weak position when it comes to lecturing Russia on a whole range of subjects, and Putin, on the other hand, is in a pretty strong position, above all, because he does have the support of the overwhelming majority of Russians.

AMY GOODMAN: What did Putin want? We only have 30 seconds. And what do you see will come out of this? I also want to say that there were protests outside of the G8 summit, and there were a number of protesters who were arrested even before they got to St. Petersburg.

ANATOL LIEVEN: Well, are you telling me what happened or are you asking my opinion? I think Putin got what he wanted in terms of prestige, in the sense of international leaders coming to St. Petersburg. He didn’t get what he wanted over the WTO or an energy agreement that would serve Russia’s interests. So he got something in terms of face and appearance, but nothing much in terms of content.

AMY GOODMAN: Anatol Lieven, sorry to make it so brief, but we’ve come to the end of our show. His book is called America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism.

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