Friday, February 25, 2005

Putin loses his smile after lecture from Bush on democracy - Independent UK

News: "An unsmiling, visibly irritated Mr Putin squirmed as he listened to Mr Bush tell a press conference he had been told that Washington had 'concerns about Russia's commitment in fulfilling' the 'universal principles' of democracy. 'Democracies always reflect a country's customs and culture, and I know that,' Mr Bush said. 'Yet democracies have certain things in common; they have a rule of law, and protection of minorities, a free press, and a viable political opposition.'

Mr Putin had wanted to talk about the two countries' joint efforts to combat terrorism but was forced instead to defend his domestic reforms and his commitment to democracy.

For a man who is seldom subjected to such face-to-face criticism and is famously cool under pressure, he looked at times as if he was about to lose his composure. 'I respect some of his [Mr Bush's ideas] a lot and take them into account. Others I won't. [Such issues] should not be pushed to the foreground. New problems should not be created that could jeopardise our relationship. We want to develop the relationship.'

Russian officials tried to play down the tension by suggesting the two men's relationship had matured to a level where they could now tell each other things they did not want to hear."

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