Putin slams US, says Europe 'natural partner'

AFP , Tuesday 1 Jul 2014

Putin accuses US of containing Russia, says Europe is victim of ' ideology-driven approaches'; lays blame for failure of peace talks on Ukrainian president

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a meeting with Russian ambassadors, envoys and diplomats at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow, Tuesday, July 1, 2014 (Photo: AP)

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday described the conflict in Ukraine as the culmination of Western efforts to contain Russia and sought to play Moscow's "natural partner" Europe against the United States.

In a keynote speech laying out his foreign policy priorities, Putin lambasted the US drive to sideline Moscow and said Europe has become a victim of "short-sighted, ideology-driven approaches".

"We should clearly understand that the events provoked in Ukraine have become the essence of the proverbial politics of containment," Putin said in the biennial address to ambassadors.

"Let me stress that what has happened in Ukraine is the culmination of negative tendencies in global affairs and they have been accumulating for years," he said.

In what political analysts said appeared to be an undisguised attempt to drive a wedge between Brussels and Washington, Putin said Moscow's "natural partner" Europe appeared to be a pawn in international politics.

"More and more European politicians and business people understand that one simply wants to use Europe in someone else's interests, that it is becoming a hostage to short-sighted, ideology-driven approaches," he said without elaborating.

The Russian president singled out US pressure on French banks, saying it was "blackmail" linked to Paris's decision to press ahead with a sensitive deal to supply Moscow with warships.

"We know of the pressure that our American partners are putting on France so that they don't send the Mistrals to Russia," Putin said.

The Kremlin strongman stressed that Russia -- which faces the threat of fresh Western sanctions over Ukraine -- was an unalienable part of Europe.

He tasked his diplomats with putting together a raft of proposals on how avoid future crises and meddling in European affairs.

"All of us in Europe need a safety net of sorts," Putin said. "The task is, to incorporate the traditional principle of non-intervention into modern European realities and initiate serious international talks about this."

Russia is locked in its biggest post-Cold War showdown with the West over Ukraine, where the United States and its allies say the Kremlin is backing pro-Moscow separatists in the east.

The West has slapped sanctions against some of Putin's key allies and warned of a new round of punitive measures if Moscow does not persuade Ukrainian rebels to lay down their arms.

Putin spoke after European diplomats said Brussels was preparing new sanctions against Russia after the latest push to extend the truce in Ukraine failed despite support from the EU and Moscow.

Putin laid the blame for the failure of the peace talks at Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's feet, saying he was now assuming full responsibility for the renewed assault.

The tough-talking Russian leader showed little appetite for compromise and reiterated his criticism of Western efforts to dominate world politics, saying Russia would not tolerate efforts to be pushed aside.

"It is necessary to finally start building ties on the basis of equality, mutual respect and taking mutual interests into account.

"I am hoping that pragmatism will finally prevail, that the West will get rid of ambitions, of a desire to set up a global barracks: to place everyone according to the pecking order, to impose unified rules of behaviour and life," he said in a thinly-veiled reference to Washington.

Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Putin was seeking to exploit internal political differences among EU members.

"Many in Europe eye the United States' role without enthusiasm and he believes that he has got potential allies there," he told AFP.

Pro-Kremlin analyst Sergei Markov said the Kremlin hoped the EU would stop doing what he termed Washington's bidding.

"However, some among the Russian elites -- including me -- are disappointed and no longer believe that the EU will stop languishing in the United States' shadow."

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