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25 Mar, 2008 18:57

NATO expansion ‘troublesome’: Medvedev

The possible inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine in NATO is ‘extremely troublesome’ for European security, according to Dmitry Medvedev. In his first foreign interview as Russia’s President-elect, he says his country is not happy with NATO developments.

“No state can be pleased about having representatives of a military bloc to which it does not belong coming close to its borders. This is something that is even more difficult to explain when the vast majority of citizens of one of the states, for example of Ukraine, are categorically against joining NATO while the government of this state follows a different policy. So this is real democracy. At the very least in such situations it is usual to hold a referendum,” he told the Financial Times.

Dmitry Medvedev also said Russia must now use economic growth to help citizens.

“The main challenge now is to translate economic successes into social programmes to show that developing the economy improves the lives of every Russian citizen,” Medevev told the Financial Times.

“There are several priorities – to maintain economic stability, to develop economic freedoms, to promote social programmes and to ensure that Russia sustains its position in the world.”

“We have begun to implement some social programmes in the areas of education and healthcare and I believe that it’s very important to maintain and develop these programmes, getting on with the full-scale modernising of work in healthcare and education.”

Medvedev also told the newspaper that Russia is well-prepared for changes in other economies.

“I am certain that we have adequately prepared ourselves against the various problems that have emerged on the world financial markets…Russia has an open economy today and we need to be thinking about this. What can we counter the global financial crisis with? Only a sensible, well thought-out domestic financial policy, which would help mitigate the problems on the world financial markets,” Medvedev said.

Amid western fears of a power split in the Kremlin, Medvedev was crystal clear.

“It is the constitution itself that predetermines the answer to the question of who takes decisions on what issues. It is the president who sets out the main directions of domestic and foreign policy. He’s the commander in chief, he makes key decisions on forming the executive. He’s the guarantor of rights and freedoms of Russian citizens. The government has its own very extensive area of competence,” he said.

He repeated his statement from the Krasnoyarsk forum that freedom for citizens is always preferable to no freedom.

“Speaking about the mass media, I believe that the last eight years have seen our media come a long way. From the rather weak and wilted media that served the interests of individual business groups, or just separate individuals, they turned into a powerful social force.”

To watch Dmitry Medvedev's interview follow the link.

To read the full transcript in the Financial Times go here.