For første gang tar George Bush opp demokratiunderskuddet i Russland direkte. Det vil neppe bidra til å blidgjøre Vladimir Putin.

Først, under pressekonferansen med Vaclav Klaus i Praha, forsøkte Bush å godsnakke med Putin. Han forsikret at de to land ikke var fiender. Men så, på en demokratikonferanse litt senere på dagen, var han tydligere på hva Russland mangler:

Later Tuesday, in an address to a democracy conference in Prague, Bush risked further aggravating Putin by questioning his government’s democratic credentials. Washington has previously criticised the Russian leader for his authoritarian leadership style.

«In Russia, reforms that once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development,» Bush said.

His remarks were couched in references to the «complex» US friendship with Russia, which he compared to Washington’s often difficult relationship with China.

«Part of a good relationship is the ability to talk openly about our disagreements. So the United States will continue to build our relationships with these countries — we will do it without abandoning our principles or our values,» he stressed.

As Cold War-era relations with both
South Korea and Taiwan proved in the past, «America can maintain a friendship and push a nation toward democracy at the same time,» he added.

His remarks are likely to further rile Putin, who recently condemned US «imperialism» in world affairs and warned that the US missile defense plan would turn Europe into a «powder keg.»

Bush criticises Russia on reform