Cheney Defends Criticism of Russia
Monday, May 8, 2006
SHANNON, Ireland, May 7 -- Vice President Cheney, wrapping up an overseas trip that produced sparks in Moscow, defended his criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying Sunday that it was "more important that you have open, honest, frank discussions about your views."
"None of us wants to see Russia as an enemy," Cheney said to reporters aboard Air Force Two on his way home after stops in Lithuania, Kazakhstan and Croatia.
The vice president praised what he called progress toward democracy across Eastern Europe and stressed the importance of Kazakhstan's energy reserves. The former Soviet republic in Central Asia is "one of the few places where we're going to see an increase in oil production from a non-OPEC state over the next few years," he said.
Cheney also said he thought it was a mistake for countries to nationalize their energy industries, as Bolivia is doing with its natural gas resources.
Cheney drew criticism from Russia for saying at a conference in Lithuania last week that Putin is reversing democratic reforms and using energy reserves as blackmail to gain political leverage.
In Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lauded Cheney's comments.
"They're right on the mark," McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Putin wants all of the benefits of being part of the West and part of the G-8 and none of the responsibilities of democracy."
Russia is hosting the Group of Eight summit of industrial nations in St. Petersburg in July.
Cheney noted that he had met with nearly all the leaders who were in Lithuania for a European democracy conference. He said they told him in private conversations that they were concerned, "that the Russians are trying to use their control of the production and transportation of gas, natural gas in particular, to obtain leverage on a lot of governments."
Cheney headed home after attending a meeting with the leaders of Albania, Macedonia and Croatia. All three countries are seeking membership in NATO and the European Union.