Russia foresees new problems with the West

MOSCOW Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:31pm EDT

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice listen to a translation as their Russian counterparts Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2nd R) and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov (R) talk during a joint press availability after their meeting in Moscow March 18, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice listen to a translation as their Russian counterparts Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2nd R) and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov (R) talk during a joint press availability after their meeting in Moscow March 18, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The West may face new diplomatic problems with resurgent Russia because of European and U.S. efforts to stifle Moscow's influence, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in an annual review on Tuesday.

"The events of 2007 show that one cannot exclude problems in global politics in the period to come," said the document posted on the ministry Web site (www.mid.ru). "This primarily refers to Europe where the inertia of bloc approaches...is most visible."

Last year saw tough anti-Western rhetoric coming from the Kremlin as it prepared for a transfer of power from President Vladimir Putin to his handpicked successor Dmitry Medvedev, who takes office on May 7 after winning this month's election.

Russia has clashed with the United States over Washington's plans to deploy elements of its missile defense system in Europe, over Iran and Western recognition of independence for Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo.

Echoing earlier statements by Putin, the review criticized U.S. policy as "destructive ... aimed at breaking strategic stability, imposing its military superiority in the world".

It also criticized the European Union for what is viewed in Moscow as an attempt to restrict Russia's influence.

Efforts aimed at containing Russia were "strongest in Europe and in the Commonwealth of Independent States," it added referring to the ex-Soviet states which Russia sees as part of its natural sphere of influence.

Russian officials have complained that attempts by its booming companies, including gas export giant Gazprom, to approach regional markets face artificial obstacles erected by both national governments and the European Union.

"It is clear that the main problem hampering our relations is that some EU members are sticking to a principle of 'Eurosolidarity' as an instrument of pressurizing Russia in bilateral ties," it said.

The report said Russia was also increasingly concerned about the future of NATO -- a Western bloc originally set up to confront the Soviet Union.

Russia is watching with concern NATO plans to integrate ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine, seeing the move as hostile.

"The slowing down of NATO's adaptation to new realities, a lack of clarity about its further transformation and attempts to assume global functions by NATO affected the dynamics of the dialogue," the review said.

(Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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