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Politics/Current Affairs

Putin Denies Using Gas And Oil As Big Stick In Foreign Policy

Sunday, February 4th, 2007 at 12:54 by Ellen Phillips

At his annual press conference, speaking to more than 1,200 foreign journalists, President Vladimir Putin denied that he was using his country’s vast reserves of gas and oil to get his own way in foreign relations.

For those of you who missed it, the outcome of Russia’s arguments with former satellite states, the Ukraine and Belarus, led to Russia pretty much getting its own way, albeit after turning off supplies for a few days.

Russia has made a spectacular economic turnaround in recent years, with inflation dropping from 36.5% in 1999 to only 9% last year and growth apparently expected to reach between 6.7 and 6.9% this year.

Confidence doesn’t seem to have been dented by the rumours surrounding President Putin’s plans to step down at the end of his second term in 2008. Mr Putin firmly denies that he wants to promote First Deputy Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev as his favoured candidate in the way that he was promoted by Boris Yeltsin, saying it will be strictly democratic.

It must be said, Russia doesn’t have such a good record with democracy, and the murder of 13 journalists, killed for their reporting during Mr Putin’s presidency, doesn’t bode well for free speech.

What Russia does have, in huge quantities, are natural resources. And it must be said, if Russia can use those to its advantage, why shouldn’t it? For the rest of Europe, if global warming isn’t enough to make us go green, maybe the more imminent threat of Russia pulling the plug will help people turn off those lights, turn down the heating, and stop driving gas-guzzlers.

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