Russia 'indeed a superpower', says diplomat

A top Russian diplomat has ruled out his country was seeking to revive the Cold War era, as the war of words between Moscow and the West intensified over a nation devastated by war with Russia.

"We were left with no other option but to repulse Saakashvili's military aggression against South Ossetia. Russia does not want any confrontation with the US or the West. We prefer to continue dialogue and cooperation. But it depends upon the goodwill of both sides. It takes two to tango," said Andrey Zakharov, ambassador of the Russian Federation in the UAE.

But in the meantime, he said, Moscow rejects any attempts to put pressure on Russia to force it to give up its legitimate national interests.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, the Russian ambassador addressed reemergence of Russia, the Cold War, and what Russia would expect from the Gulf in the new era, among other issues.

Gulf News: Is Russia, by its Georgian military action, trying to reassert itself as superpower on the regional and world scenes? Or is it merely an expression of frustration with US policies?

Andrey Zakharov: Russia is objectively a superpower. So we don't need to reassert ourselves as such, because we are indeed a superpower and this is recognised by the whole world. The only reason for our actions was the military aggression of Georgia against the fraternal people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and against our Russian peace-keeping forces.

We were mindful to our responsibility for ensuring the survival of these two fraternal people.

Has Russia finally decided to make a comeback to the "enemy" role?

Russia, for centuries, has always been a superpower, so our role in the world's affairs has always been significant.

Of course, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, our country had different political and economic problems.

But step by step, we managed to overcome many of these problems and during the past years, and the role of Russia in the international arena is steadily growing. This growing role is positively influencing the international climate and contributes to the settlement of different problems. This fact is also widely recognised.

Does Russia feel besieged and encircled militarily by Nato and US military bases, missiles and alliances?

Of course, we are concerned and disturbed by the plans and concrete steps by Nato to come nearer to our borders to set up new military bases directed against our country. There are a lot of such activities in spite of the peaceful declaration of Nato and US leaders. The last example is the deployment of American missiles in Poland and the intention to deploy a radar station in the Czech Republic.

Would Russia take similar action if its interests require that?

We are not going to take any military actions in other regions anywhere. We prefer to use political and diplomatic means to settle different problems. The only reason which forced us to take such action in South Ossetia was the brutal aggression of Georgia in this region.

Does Russia have the capabilities and the will to pursue the same route in its relations with the US and the West?

I repeat that we do not want any confrontation with the US or the West. We prefer to continue dialogue and cooperation. But it depends upon the goodwill of both sides. But we reject any attempts to put pressures on Russia to force us to neglect our legitimate national interests.

What does Russia expect from the Gulf and UAE in particular?

We would like that the GCC member countries and the UAE in particular consider our position and our action in an objective way, because there are some attempts in the international arena to distort Russia's position.

I did not see any criticism of Russia in the Arab mass media, but of course some Western countries are instigating anti-Russian sentiments.

What kind of impact do you think this war will have on Russia-US relations?

Our intention is to exclude the deterioration of US-Russian relations. We are not seeking for a revival of the Cold War, we are not seeking for any new confrontations between Moscow and Washington. But the development of these relations depends on both sides. It takes two to tango.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said "(Russia) wants to strike back at the West, they want to have their Kosovo in Georgia." How do you respond?

As I explained before, we did not mean any kind of strike on the West. We defended the two people from genocide, for the sake of their survival. We were forced to repulse this brutal aggression of Tbilisi.

Do you know of how much this war cost Russia?

Of course, the main costs of this war are the human losses and the human tragedies. It is the most dreadful price of this military conflict, which was initiated and provoked by the Georgian leadership.

But in addition to the significant human losses, this conflict led to huge material damages. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave instructions to allocate 50 billion ruble (Dh7.47 billion) for restoration of South Ossetia.

[Source: Gulf News, Abu Dhabi, 30Aug08]

Tienda de Libros Radio Nizkor On-Line Donations

The Question of South Ossetia
small logoThis document has been published on 02Sep08 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.