Russian MP tells paper energy diplomatic weapon, no cold war

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"Russia is not about to transform oil and natural gas into a foreign-policy weapon," Margelov said. "But the country's leadership believes that oil, gas and electric power can well be used as a diplomatic weapon."

MOSCOW, June 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia could use energy as a diplomatic weapon rather than to achieve foreign-policy objectives but rejects the idea that a new cold war has started, a senior parliamentarian told a daily Monday.

Russia has been subjected to increasing criticism of its use of mineral reserves - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney accused it of using energy to blackmail other states in a vitriolic attack in May - but senior officials in Moscow have dismissed the notion.

And Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the upper chamber of parliament's international affairs committee, told Novye Izvestia that Russia was not to use oil and gas to achieve foreign-policy goals, though it could be used in other ways.

"Russia is not about to transform oil and natural gas into a foreign-policy weapon," Margelov said. "But the country's leadership believes that oil, gas and electric power can well be used as a diplomatic weapon."

Energy issues and Russia's reliability as energy supplier to Europe are in the spotlight ahead of Russia's debut summit in St. Petersburg of the Group of Eight club of industrialized nations in July and after a bitter spat with Ukraine earlier this year over price increases for natural gas that led to suspension of gas supplies.

Margelov said Russia sought to establish relations with the former Soviet republic based on international economic rules.

"By selling natural gas to Kiev at preferential prices, Moscow has been using 'double standards' in relation to Germany and the rest of the European Union," he said, using a phrase much-loved by the country's diplomats when it comes to Western approaches to Russia.

Russia has been selling gas to ex-Soviet states for considerably lower prices than Europe for the last 15 years and is now looking to revise gas contracts and introduce market prices.

Elaborating on political relations between Russia and the West in the wake of Cheney's Vilnius speech, which also attacked Russia's alleged lack of democracy, Margelov said the press was exaggerating the issue and there would be no return to "cold war."

"There is no 'cold war' whatsoever but no country can pursue an independent policy without affecting anybody else's interests," Margelov said.

However, the parliamentarian said there was a lack of trust between Russia and the West as they vied for influence in former Soviet republics.

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