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Russia outlines its 'sphere of influence'

MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia laid out Sunday what he said would become his government's guiding principles of foreign policy after its landmark conflict with Georgia — notably including a claim to a "privileged" sphere of influence in the world.

Speaking to Russian television in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a day before a summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, where European leaders were to reassess their relations with Russia, Medvedev said his government would adhere to five principles:

• Russia will observe international law.

• It will reject what he called the United States' dominance of world affairs in a "unipolar" world.

• It will seek friendly relations with other nations.

• It will defend Russian citizens and business interests abroad.

• It will claim a sphere of influence in the world.

In part, Medvedev reiterated long-held Russian positions, like his country's rejection of U.S. aspirations to an exceptional role in world affairs after the end of the Cold War.

The Russians have also said previously that their foreign policy would include a defense of commercial interests, sometimes citing U.S. practices as justification.

In his unabashed claim to a renewed Russian sphere of influence, Medvedev said: "Russia, like other countries in the world, has regions where it has privileged interests. These are regions where countries with which we have friendly relations are located."

Asked whether this sphere of influence would be the border states around Russia, he answered, "It is the border region, but not only."

Last week, Medvedev used vehement language in announcing Russia's recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the autonomous regions within the republic of Georgia in the Caucasus.

Though he alluded in passing to respecting Georgia's territorial integrity, he defended Russia's intervention as necessary to prevent genocide.

Medvedev, inaugurated in May, was an aide to Vladimir Putin, the former president and now prime minister.

Putin appeared on Russian television Sunday from the nation's far east, where he was inspecting progress on a trans-Siberian oil pipeline to China and the Pacific Ocean, a clear warning to Europe that Russia could find alternative customers for its energy exports.

He was later shown in a forest, dressed in camouflage and hunting a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun.

Leaders of the 27 members of the European Union, who will meet in an emergency session today, were considered highly unlikely to impose sanctions or go beyond diplomatic measures in expressing disapproval of Russia's conflict with Georgia last month.

>>fast facts

EU summit

European Union leaders are likely to choose diplomatic pressure to isolate Moscow at their summit today. Sanctions appear remote — not least because western Europe depends on Russia's energy supplies. The 27 European leaders are expected to offer more humanitarian, economic and moral support for Georgia and signal that normal relations with Moscow are impossible with Russian troops violating a cease-fire agreement.

Associated Press

Russia outlines its 'sphere of influence' 08/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 3:27pm]
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