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Putin: US seeking 'absolute invulnerability'

In a piece published yesterday, a few days ahead of elections, presidential candidate Vladimir Putin took a tough stance on several foreign policy issues that will put Russia at odds with the US.

By Correspondent / February 28, 2012

In this photo, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gesture while speaking as he attends a massive rally in his support at Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, last week. A few days ahead of elections, presidential candidate Putin took a tough stance on several foreign policy issues that will put fresh chill in US-Russia relations.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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Moscow

A more world-weary and mistrustful Vladimir Putin appears set to return to Russia's presidency in polls slated for next Sunday.

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Mr. Putin's hardening suspicions toward the West in general, and the US in particular, are on full display in the latest of the lengthy policy manifestos that have comprised the main substance of his campaign over the past two months.

In this one, a 6,060 word missive published in the state-owned weekly Moskovskiye Novosti yesterday, he lays out a foreign policy vision that suggests a fresh chill in US-Russia relations may follow his return to the Kremlin. Already Moscow is moving to block Western initiatives in the Middle East, drawing a tougher line on US plans to install an anti-missile shield in Europe, and seeking to strengthen ties with the East, especially China.

His main foreign policy concern is that Russia is being encircled by NATO expansion into former Soviet territory and its strategic nuclear deterrent is threatened by US missile defense plans.

"It seems that NATO countries, and especially the United States, have developed a peculiar understanding of security which is fundamentally different from our view," Putin writes. "The Americans are obsessed with the idea of securing absolute invulnerability for themselves, which, incidentally, is a utopia, for both technological and geopolitical reasons. But that is exactly where the root of the problem lies…. Absolute invulnerability for one nation would mean absolute vulnerability for everybody else."

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A domestic crackdown on foreign-funded nongovernment organizations and a politically active civil society could also be in the cards, some experts warn, as Putin reiterates accusations that Western powers are using such groups for "political engineering" in Russia and other countries.

"If we take each of the points in this long article one-by-one, we won't find anything new. But taken together, in combination, this article acquires a straightforward anti-American sense," says Dmitry Suslov, an expert with the Council on Foreign and Defense Policies, a leading Moscow think tank.

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