Medvedev Voices Distress Over U.S. Shield

APFrom left, India's Singh, Medvedev, China's Hu and Brazil's Silva putting their hands together for a photo before BRIC talks Wednesday at Toyako's G8 summit.
RUSUTSU, Japan President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia was "distressed" by a U.S. deal to place parts of a missile-defense shield in the Czech Republic and promised to respond with "concrete steps."

Medvedev also balked at a G8 proposal to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, reflecting Russia's reluctance to punish governments for votes that the West describes as not free and unfair a description that it has repeatedly heard about its own elections.

As a three-day Group of Eight summit wrapped up, it appeared that the mild-mannered Medvedev was adhering closely to the course laid out by his tough-talking predecessor, Vladimir Putin. He refused to give an inch in one-on-one talks with other G8 leaders, and his public remarks echoed those made by Putin in the past even if that left Russia at odds with the other G8 countries. Medvedev's three top aides at the summit foreign aide Sergei Prikhodko, economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich and deputy chief of staff Alexei Gromov were formerly aides to Putin.

The U.S. missile-defense deal, signed Tuesday, soured the mood for Russia at the summit's final day, with Medvedev saying Russia was "greatly distressed" with Prague's approval of Washington placing elements of a shield on its territory.

"This does not suit us. And while we, of course, won't whip up any kind of hysteria, we will consider concrete steps," Medvedev said, without elaborating.

Putin had warned that Russia would point nuclear missiles at the Czech Republic and Poland, which is also considering hosting components of the missile-defense shield, if they reached an agreement with the United States.

A senior Polish official said Wednesday that Medvedev's reaction underlined the need for Europe to seek closer security ties with the United States. "It is absolutely unacceptable for one country to threaten another for acts that are not aggressive in character," presidential aide Michal Kaminski told reporters in Warsaw, Reuters reported. "The eventual construction of the shield is not directed against Russia."

On Zimbabwe, Medvedev's stance sharply diverged from the position of the United States and Britain, which back sanctions against what British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called "an illegitimate regime with blood on its hands."

But after much deliberation Medvedev joined a summit declaration calling for "financial and other measures" against President Robert Mugabe's officials responsible for violence. He said the measures would not necessarily be sanctions.

The stance of Russia, which does not have any considerable economic interests in Zimbabwe, reflects its apparent unwillingness to go after governments for elections criticized by the West. The March election that brought Medvedev to power has been described in the West as tightly controlled and stage-managed.

On Tuesday, Russia was of two minds about the Zimbabwe declaration, with the country's G8 envoy, Alexander Pankin, warning that meddling in Zimbabwe's internal affairs might trigger an unpredictable outcome.

It remained unclear Wednesday night why Russia chose to support the strongly worded statement, but Brown's spokesman James Roscoe said graphic images of a Zimbabwean driver tortured to death had been shown to the G8 leaders. Britain's Daily Mail reported on its web site that Medvedev "dramatically caved in" after Brown showed him the horrific pictures of a mutilated and burned corpse of a driver for Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Roscoe, however, said Brown did not specifically show the pictures to Medvedev.


Bullit Marquez / AP
Dmitry Medvedev adjusting his earphone during a news conference at the end of the G8 summit on Wednesday.
Brown called Zimbabwe "a developing tragedy" at the center of the summit's agenda and said Britain and the United States had circulated a draft resolution calling for sanctions in hope of gaining support.

The declaration that was reached "shows that the whole of the international community is now not prepared to accept an illegitimate government," Brown told reporters Wednesday.

Jasuo Fukuda, Japan's prime minister and the summit's host, used more cautious language, saying, "Sanctions would be possible. They would be conceivable as well."

Medvedev, speaking hours later, said, however, that the declaration was meant to express concern but that there was no agreement on concrete measures. Medvedev only addressed the issue when asked by a reporter to comment.

In contrast, Brown started and finished his news conference with his statements on Zimbabwe. It is now up to the United Nations to "make the pressure of the world clear," Brown said.

The UN Security Council is expected to vote in the upcoming days on a draft resolution calling for sanctions over election violence in Zimbabwe.

The G8 gathering, Medvedev's first international outing as president, has become the summit of many firsts.

A summit of BRIC nations took place within the framework of the G8 talks, with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Medvedev agreeing to coordinate economic activities and take steps to tackle a global food crisis.

The 34th summit also was the biggest ever, with leaders of 16 non-G8 states participating in the talks. Seven African heads of state were invited for so-called outreach sessions.

Among the other guests were United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

For the first time, the G8 pledged as a group to halve emissions worldwide by 2050, although it has yet to agree on a midterm timeframe. The G8 nations agreed that major developing economies would need to act as well for the climate change talks to bear fruit, but countries like China refused to endorse that vision.

On energy security, the leaders agreed on the need for "increased production and refining capacities," a better balance between supply and demand and increased transparency of the energy markets.

Medvedev said, however, there would not be any easy solutions in the energy sphere. "New sources of energy are not appearing very quickly, and there are not enough old sources of energy," he said.

The International Energy Agency said it was pleased with the leaders' decisions. "They recognize the need for greater investment to ensure energy supply but are also committed to increasing the level of energy efficiency and promoting new energy technology," IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said in a statement.

Many environmentalists and other activists were skeptical about the gains of the summit. "Several governments championed steps forward, but in the end this summit did not deliver the breakthroughs so urgently needed," said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International. "The consensus reached was at best shallow, especially on climate."

The leaders said they worked around the clock and did their best. U.S. President George Bush, attending his last G8 summit, said it produced "a lot of meetings on important subjects, and we accomplished a lot."

"Day and night we engaged in serious discussions," Fukuda said, and "at times our discussions got heated."

Medvedev said he was pleased to discover the summit was not a "hangout" where leaders read from documents prepared by their aides, but a discussion of complex issues without the help of diplomats.