VILNIUS (Reuters) – Vice President Dick Cheney accused Russia on Thursday of backsliding on democracy and urged it to stop using energy supplies for “blackmail” in one of Washington’s sharpest rebukes to Moscow.
“Russia has a choice to make,” Cheney told Baltic and Black Sea leaders at a summit in Vilnius, calling on Moscow to return to democratic reform at a time of increasingly chilly relations between the United States and Russia.
“No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation,” he said.
He said opponents of reform in Russia were “seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade” by restricting democratic rights and warned President Vladimir Putin some of Moscow’s actions could hurt relations with other countries.
But Cheney told leaders of post-communist nations with a history of domination by the former Soviet Union: “None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy.”
And just like the old days, the Kremlin hit back with this:
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin on Thursday rejected as “completely incomprehensible” remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney that Russia was backsliding on democracy and using its vast energy supplies to bully its neighbors.
“The speech of Mr. Cheney in our opinion is full of a subjective evaluation of us and of the processes that are going on in Russia. The remarks … are completely incomprehensible for us,” said Kremlin deputy spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Cheney, in remarks that could cause tense moments when Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts his first summit of the G8 industrialized nations in July, earlier told Baltic and Black Sea leaders in Vilnius that Moscow should return to the path of democratic reform.
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