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12 Sep, 2008 15:14

Georgia’s attack was Russia’s 9/11 - Medvedev

Foreign political experts continue traveling across Russia – talking with the country's top officials. From Chechnya to Rostov-on-Don, then to Sochi – now the Valdai Discussion club has shifted to Moscow to meet President Dmitry Medv

“To us, August 8 is what 9/11 was to the U.S. This analogy has become popular; I think some of you have referred to it,” Medvedev said. “I think it is absolutely correct – at least, as far as the situation in Russia is concerned. Because of 9/11, the U.S. and the mankind in general learned a number of important lessons. I’d like the world to learn the lessons of August 8 as well.”

This year the members of the club have met amid the rift in Russia's relations with the west, and one of the key questions for the gathering has been whether it is temporary or it will turn into something more permanent.

After the crisis in South Ossetia many western officials have called for punishing Russia.

And Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has certainly chilled diplomatic ties.

“Relations are not ruined. I think the west has partly accepted the independence of Abkhazia and south Ossetia, though not officially, but they will not risk a WW3 because of these territories,” said Aleksandr Rahr from the German Council on Foreign Relations.

But Dmitry Medvedev seems to be under no illusions. As someone once said there are no permanent enemies or friends, but there are permanent interests. 

“Russia does have zones where it has certain interests. It makes no sense to deny this. Sometimes it is even harmful. Our partners in the international community say the same thing about their interests. Naturally, we will protect our interests, but most importantly, we will protect our citizens,” Medvedev said.

Dmitry Medvedev’s message was that a unipolar world system has proved inefficient, and the bipolar system has no prospects as well – so the system has to be changed.

“The recent events in the Caucasus have displayed what illusions people have from the post-Soviet period – illusions about the world being just, the current security system based on the existing distribution of the political resources being optimal and preserving balance among the main players on the international arena. There is nothing of the kind. Unfortunately, the security of the world today requires a serious intervention by all constructive forces,” Medvedev said.

Meanwhile, not isolation but a financial crisis is the threat that is named by experts. Russian stock markets underwent a sharp decline after the crisis.

“What’s been revealed about Russian economy in the last three or four months is that it is more risky and vulnerable than people have thought four or five months ago,” said Andrew Kuchins, Director of the Russia and Eurasia Programme of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

The Russian President has asked for the situation not to be dramatised.

“Russia’s position in the world, its role in the world distribution of labour, its geographical characteristics and its intellectual potential are such that Russia will always have a high investment capacity. It will take an iron curtain to destroy this potential. But even in the Soviet times people invested in Russia,” Medvedev said.

U.S. officials urged for ways to be found to bypass Russian energy routes, forgetting one main thing – if you’ve got energy for sale, you need somebody to buy it, says Jonathan Steele, columnist from the Guardian.

And while in Europe they’re looking to diversify energy suppliers, Russia is looking to diversify consumers.

“Sometimes, I find it funny to read that Russians have not enough gas, even to supply it to Europeans. We know that it’s not true. We understand that Russia is the biggest gas power. If we realise that there’s a big market in the east, we’ll introduce new deposits. You shouldn’t have doubts about that,” the Russian President said.

The discussions lasted for more than two hours. But the sensations were left off-camera.

To read more on Medvedev’s close to public discussion with the members of the Valdai Discussion club, please follow the link