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‘Russia rejecting Western ways to follow its own’

Russia wants to have power to protect is values, but is not seeking to dominate the world, author and Russian affairs analyst Martin McCauley told RT as he analyzed President Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation address.

RT:What do you make of President Putin's talk of preserving traditional values for his country?

Martin McCauley: One commentator said that Russia has no ideology under President Putin and now there is a new one called ‘conservatism’. Basically Russian traditional values, the values of the family, Russian Orthodox Church and so on, and really rejecting what people in the West would say are normal human rights like gay rights and all of those things.

Russia is in fact saying it has its own culture, its own traditions and so on. It will not go the way of the West, it rejects the way the West is going and they want to keep their traditional values and that is very important for Russians.

RT:What about foreign policy? Putin also talked about moving Russia forward and yet he stressed he doesn't want to rule the world, what does he exactly mean by that?

MM: There have been very considerable diplomatic successes such as Syria, Iran. And you have Gulf States and other states in the Middle East saying that if the US is leaving the Middle East, then they’ve got to look to Russia, perhaps, for protection and so on. So that is very good news for Russia.

Russia is a hegemon, or Russia would like to be a great power. Nobody rules the world anymore. There is one center of power in China, one in US and so on. And in Europe, Germany is the strongest power. So Russia is up among the leaders and Russia is saying that ‘we have to be listened to.’ Obviously Russia is a member of the Security Council and has a veto. It is a very important member of the G8 and the G20. Russia from a foreign policy point of view is doing very well and saying ‘we are here and nobody can threaten us and you shouldn’t try.’

RT:Lets’ talk about that military threat, in terms of the anti-missile defines system for Europe, saying that of course Iranian threat is now subsided in light of recent success of those talks and yet the US is still pushing forward with that missile shield in Europe. Putin sees this as a threat but should he?

MM: He has always said and the Russians have never believed that the shield was really against Iran. They see it as really a shield against themselves; they’ve been saying for the last 10 years that NATO is a threat. If you look at from the military point of view, Russia sees NATO as a greatest threat, but if you talk to Russians and think about the geopolitical position of Russia, the looming power on the horizon is China. In other words it’s sotto voce – you don’t talk about things like that.

And perhaps the economic incentives for small businesses to go to the Russian Far East, Siberia and so on - that is an indicator that there is a problem in the Far East and that more Russians should go there because if they don’t, it is possible that China will expand its influence there.

RT:How do you think Putin will react to the latest pressure we are seeing from the US and EU on Yanukovich, he is now seeing he might look into starting negotiations and joining the agreement. So where does Putin stand there?

MM: He, in the speech, made a very strong case for Ukraine to joining the Customs Union. But of course Yanukovich is in a very weak economic position. Russia can give Ukraine incentives such as lower price for its gas and so on. But Yanukovich as a diplomat will say - to take some of the teeth and fangs out of the protesters - say “OK, we’ll start negotiating again with the EU. Not by giving in, we can drag out those negotiations.” But from his point of you he can say “OK then, we’ll go along with some of these demands and so on and Ukraine will make up its own mind.”

The trouble with Ukraine is the split between the West which wants to go towards the EU and the East and the South towards Russia. So it is a country divided. And Yanukovich has to bring the two sides together. He may in fact in the end say that the East and the South have the majority and we are going to go with Russia in the short term. But, as a diplomat he will say “No, we can negotiate with the European Union and drag out these negotiations.”