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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December 2004, 17:00 GMT
Analysis: Russia's mixed signals
By Steven Eke
BBC Russia analyst

The harsh, anti-western tone of some public statements by Russian officials over recent weeks has caught attention of many commentators.

Sergey Lavrov
Mr Lavrov says Russia's aims will not be solved by isolationism
So far, it does not seem to have damaged the personal warmth Vladimir Putin enjoys in his relations with western leaders, as witnessed by the on-going, distinctly up-beat summit of the Russian and German leaders.

But away from the cameras, diplomats in both Russia and the West are signalling real differences of opinion, and doubts over the consistency of their partners.

Some of the western media have recently written of a sharp chill in Russia's relations with the West. Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, dismisses this as fiction, and says Moscow's foreign policy aims are unambiguous.

They include full integration with the world economy; membership of the World Trade Organisation; active partnership with Europe and the United States.

Mr Lavrov says none of these aims will be achieved if Russia turns towards isolationism. But there are harsh words when it comes to Western institutions.

Inconsistent rhetoric

Russia criticises the top European security organisation, the OSCE, for paying too much attention to human rights, at the expense of economic co-operation.

Mr Lavrov recently said that "capitals east of Vienna need no lessons in democracy".

Both Russia and the West downplay their differences with each other. Moscow says its approach is pragmatic, but the sometimes bellicose, sometimes inconsistent rhetoric does set alarm bells ringing in the West.

Take Mr Putin himself. Addressing domestic audiences over recent weeks, he has accused the West, varyingly, of interference in Ukraine, of "staggering hypocrisy" and of being soft on Chechen rebels.

Yet, during his summit with the German leadership, during which the two sides have set their sights on ever deeper economic co-0peration, Mr Putin's tone has been very different. Ukraine can elect a pro-western leader if it wants, he said.

Russia would welcome western co-operation in restoring Chechnya. Russian analysts acknowledge this duality, but they stress the importance of something often overlooked in the West.

Namely, that Mr Putin is far more open to the outside world than many of his compatriots and certainly the political establishment over which he presides.

Bush wants stronger Russia ties
20 Dec 04 |  Europe

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