Sun, Jun 08, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Russian president slams the US over energy, economy


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday blamed the US for the world’s current economic woes and put forward Russia’s growing energy power as a possible solution.

Speaking at a meeting of high-powered business executives in Saint Petersburg, Medvedev said the US was behind a global credit crunch and that investment in biofuels had helped cause a world food crisis.

“It is precisely the gap between the US’ formal role in the world economy and its real capabilities that was one of the key reasons for the current crisis,” Medvedev said. “Russia is a global player. We understand our responsibility for the fate of the world and want to participate in forming the rules of the game, not because of so-called imperial ambitions, but because ... we have the resources.”

Medvedev also took a swipe at US enthusiasm for biofuels, saying that while Russia offered global energy security, others “emphasized the production of biofuels — and we’ve seen the results of that.”

US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez told reporters at the forum that Medvedev had made “some very powerful statements” but dismissed the president’s comments about a “crisis,” saying there was “a downturn in growth.”

This was Medvedev’s first major economic speech since taking over as Kremlin chief last month after Vladimir Putin’s eight-year presidency and his comments were being closely watched for signs of future economic strategy.

The world’s biggest energy power has been cushioned from the global credit crisis by high oil prices and the conference venue of Saint Petersburg — Russia’s “window on Europe” — allowed Russia to present itself as a pillar of stability.

Medvedev has promised to boost the rule of law, cut down on corruption and ease conditions for small businesses.

The president also said on Saturday he would turn Moscow into a major world financial center and told investors not to be afraid of growing investment by Russian companies abroad, saying it was not “speculative or aggressive.”

Under his predecessor Putin, Russia’s economy expanded steadily on the back of soaring energy export revenues. But international experts say it has recently shown signs of overheating and there is growing concern about risks for foreign investors.

A key issue preoccupying investors at the conference was the future of TNK-BP, a Russian-British oil company riven by infighting between BP and its Russian partners, and also facing tax probes from the authorities.

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