Russia dismisses United States criticism of its democracy record

Russia on Monday accused the United States of trying to enforce its vision of democracy on others, angrily rejecting President George W. Bush's criticism of the Kremlin's rollback on freedoms.

"No one has ... a monopoly on interpreting what democracy is," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement in response to Bush's National Security Strategy report released last week.

Bush said in the report that recent trends in Russia "regrettably point toward a diminishing commitment" to democratic freedoms and institutions. "We will work to try to persuade the Russian Government to move forward, not backward, along freedom's path," Bush said in the document, his first major foreign policy review since 2002.

The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized what it called an "increasing emphasis on ideology" in the U.S. security strategy and indicated that Moscow will not accept lectures from Washington .

"Every country is walking its own path to democracy, taking into consideration specific historic and political conditions, as the United States itself has been doing," the ministry said in a statement released to the media. "Attempts at artificial and moreover, forceful enforcement of democracy in other nations not only cannot bring success, but are fraught with discrediting the idea."

U.S.-Russian ties, which were given a boost by President Vladimir Putin's support for the U.S. war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, soured later over Russian criticism of the U.S. military action in Iraq and U.S. concerns about an increasingly authoritarian streak in Russia 's domestic policy.

Critics say that Russia has seen a steady rollback on democracy under Putin, pointing at the emergence of a tame parliament packed with Kremlin loyalists, the abolition of elections of provincial governors, effective state takeover of nationwide television and, most recently, the approval of a new law tightening restrictions on non-governmental organizations.

Putin has defended the moves as necessary stages in Russia 's gradual movement toward a stronger democracy. Russia , in turn, has accused the United States and other Western nations of encouraging regime change in the former Soviet republics of Georgia , Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan .

The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the reviewed U.S. national security strategy for "claiming an active democracy-building role in the countries neighboring Russia ."

"The warning that Russia 's attempts to "hamper" such democracy-building would worsen its relations not only with the United States but with Europe sounds rather pretentious," it said.

In a note of rebuke, the ministry said the U.S. document contained "no single word about ... cooperation between our nations ... mutual respect and consideration of each other's legitimate interests in practical policy, predictability of behavior and transparency of action."

It warned that without respecting these principles, "U.S.-Russian relations would become hostage to subjective assessments", reports the AP.


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