MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev declared Saturday that "Russia is a nation to be reckoned with" following its war with Georgia, again putting the West on notice that Moscow is prepared to use its military and economic might.
With a U.S. Navy ship unloading aid off Georgia's Black Sea coast within shooting distance of Russian troops, Medvedev's comments were another reminder that the Kremlin views last month's war as the start of a new era in Russian assertiveness.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said "the truth is on our side" and likened the situation in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia with Srebrenica — the Bosnian town that was the site of Europe's worst mass carnage since World War II.
In France, the European Union's 27 foreign ministers were reluctant to provoke Moscow, with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner saying the EU did not plan to impose sanctions against Russia.
"Russia must remain a partner, it's our neighbor, it's a large country and there is no question to go back to a Cold War situation, that would be a big mistake," Kouchner said.
At a meeting Saturday of the State Council, Medvedev said the world had changed since the beginning of fighting in Georgia last month.
"We have reached a moment of truth. It became a different world after Aug. 8," he said.
"Russia will never allow anyone to infringe upon the lives and dignity of its citizens. Russia is a nation to be reckoned with from now on," Medvedev told the council, a government consultative body of largely regional governors.
Medvedev criticized the United States and other Western nations, though not by name, for challenging Russia's intervention.
Putin insisted in an interview broadcast late Saturday that Russia was justified in its intervention in South Ossetia. He said there would be no cooling of ties with the West because the West is dependent on Russia's oil, gas and mineral wealth.
"We are convinced that the truth is on our side," he said in the interview with state-run TV.
He also drew parallels between South Ossetia and Srebrenica, the town where Serb troops in 1995 killed about 8,000 Muslim men and boys. He said the European peacekeepers there at the time — mainly Dutch soldiers, operating under a U.N. mandate — stood aside as the massacre took place.