Remarks like this strike me as unwise at a time the
Bush administration is trying to get Russia to vote
for sanctions against Iran.
The Kremlin denounced Cheney's criticism Thursday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Cheney's
comments "highly subjective" and said the Kremlin
regarded them as "completely incomprehensible."
Peskov said Cheney was applying a double standard with
regard to Russia's growing international influence as
an energy provider.
"In essence, it seems that when we're talking about
U.S. or British energy companies, it's considered
business, but when he talks about us, it's
'intimidation,'" Peskov said by telephone Thursday.
"The [U.S.] vice president isn't taking into account
that Russian energy resources are the wealth of Russia
itself. They should be used above all to advance the
interests of the Russian people, not the interests of
other countries," Peskov said.
Several Duma deputies joined the anti-Cheney chorus
Ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky said Cheney was "spreading
utterly false accusations," while Leonid Slutsky, the
first deputy chairman of the Duma's International
Affairs Committee, called the speech "ill-prepared and
unprofessional," Interfax reported.
Energy has become a sensitive topic this year, with
Russia serving as president of the G8 and oil prices
at record highs. President Vladimir Putin has made
energy security the centerpiece of his G8 presidency.
During a summit in Tomsk last week with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin responded angrily to
suggestions Russia was using its vast oil and gas
resources as a political weapon.
"We can hardly agree with his assessments," Peskov
said of Cheney. "There has never been, nor will there
ever be, a single standard of democracy for every
Peskov, perhaps unwittingly, echoed Cheney, who said
in his speech: "There is no single model of democracy;
our systems vary according to the unique traditions of
our countries, the languages we speak and the events
and the heroes of our history."
Analysts said Cheney's harsh words were intended
largely to appease domestic critics of U.S. President
George W. Bush, including many from his own party, who
charge that he is ignoring anti-democratic trends in
Vyacheslav Nikonov, a political analyst with Kremlin
ties, said the speech was largely intended for a U.S.
audience. Viktor Kremenyuk, assistant director of the
Institute of the United States and Canada, a Moscow
think tank, added that Russian officials understood
there were different factions within the
administration and that Cheney represented the
hard-line camp. Still, Kremenyuk said, Cheney would
not have been allowed to say what he did unless the
president wanted those opinions aired.
Kremenyuk's assessment was echoed by former Security
Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin, who said Russia was
pursuing a foreign policy dictated by national
interest, Interfax said.
Asked how tensions between Russia and the United
States would be resolved, Nikonov sounded an ominous
note. "Once an escalation like this starts," he said,
"there's no telling where it will end."