Medvedev clinches warship deal with France, but looks isolated on G8 issues…

By Paul Ames: DEAUVILLE, France, May 26 (Xinhua) — Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was in the thick of the action early at the G8 on Thursday. He’d met separately with both his American and French counterparts even before the summit proper go underway.

But the bonhomie with Barack Obama and the conclusion of an important military sales deal with Nicolas Sarkozy couldn’t hide the fact that Russia remains very much the odd man out in the group of the eight world economic powers.

While the other seven have been lining up to voice their support for protests in the Arab world, Russia is wary. Moscow has expressed outrage over the NATO bombing raids in Libya and threatens to block a UN resolution that condemns the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria for it’s “violent clampdown” on protesters.

“This is not easiest issue. We have convergent views with Russia on lots of issues … but each of us brings their own history to the Libyan issue,” Sarkozy said. The French president’s suggestion that the G8 discuss tightening sanctions on Syria’s leadership was unlikely to gain support from Moscow.

Then there is missile defense. Among the G8, only Russia has concerns about the planned anti-missile shield which the United States wants to build in Europe.

Washington says the system is needed to protect against an eventual threat. Moscow is demanding cast-iron guarantees that it won’t be targeted against its ballistic arsenal.

After his meeting with Obama on Thursday Medvedev warned that it might take years before a new generation of Russian and American leaders can reach an agreement on the “sensitive” subject.

“I have told my counterpart, Barack Obama,that this issue will be finally solved in the future, like, for example, in the year 2020,” Medvedev told reports. “We, at present, might lay the foundation for other politicians’ activities.”

Obama limited himself to saying that the pair of them are committed to finding a solution that “is consistent with the security needs of both countries, that maintains the strategic balance, and deals with potential threats that we both share.”

Russia is also the only country that sits both in the G8 and the BRICS group of emerging powers that brings together Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

While the other European members of the G8 were throwing their weight behind French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to succeed her disgraced compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund, Russia was joining the BRICS in demanding an end to the “obsolete unwritten convention” in which the IMF top job goes to a European while an American holds the presidency of the World Bank.

The United States, Canada and Japan are still hedging their bets on Strauss-Kahn’s successor.

Some from Moscow see Medvedev’s stand-alone stance on some of the key Deauville dossiers as being in Russia’s advantage, as it seeks to diversity its relationships to reach beyond the G8 while keeping a toe hold in the rich Western club.

“Russia is not giving up on the West, but it wants to diversify … it’s not willing to give up on issues that it judges important for its interests, in order to preserve G8 solidarity,” says Dr. Victoria V. Panova, associated professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

“Russia is not in a worse position at all, it’s in more of the informal groupings that are springing up now, than the geriatric powers are,” she said.

Russia’s economic importance was certainly underscored by the deal sealed by Medvedev and Sarkozy which will see four French Mistral-class assault ships sold to the Russian navy, despite concerns from the United States and others among France’s NATO allies about the transfer of sensitive military technology that may be involved in the deal.

“The Cold War has come to an end, that the Berlin Wall has fallen and that we should treat Russia as a friendly state and involve it in our deliberations about creating an extensive space of security and prosperity,” Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy said the price of the four ships will only be revealed when the contract is signed, sometime in the next two weeks. However, the warships are expected to cost at least 400 million euros (568 million U.S. dollars) each. Two will be build in French shipyards and the other two in Russia.

The Mistral-class ships are capable of carrying 16 attack helicopters and dozens of tanks. Editor: Mu Xuequan

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