Interview With Medvedev: Russian President Reflects On Fall of the Wall

Medvedev: Yes, I do. If the Western alliance cannot help Afghanistan to establish a functioning state, there will never be stability, no matter how many foreign troops are dispatched there. The fact that Hamid Karzai has now been recognized as the elected president creates additional stability. I am not talking about the course of events during the election, partly because, following the discussion of our electoral system, I don't want to criticize any other country. But I cannot let this pass without one comment. Our American colleagues have hailed elections in Afghanistan and Iraq as a triumph of democracy. If that is the case, then I ask that they acknowledge the elections in Russia accordingly.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, at the beginning of this interview you said that, since the fall of the Wall, many of your hopes and those of your fellow countrymen have been fulfilled, others have not. Which ones were you referring to?

Medvedev: I have already mentioned the positive things. But it has not been possible to redefine Russia's place in Europe. After the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, we were hoping for a higher degree of integration. But what have we received? None of the things that we were assured, namely that NATO would not expand endlessly eastwards and our interests would be continuously taken into consideration. NATO remains a military bloc whose missiles are pointed towards Russian territory. By contrast, we would like to see a new European security order.

SPIEGEL: Although no one really knows exactly what you mean by this.

Medvedev: It is about creating a new platform where NATO and non-NATO members can debate their most pressing problems. I don't want this to be a counterweight to NATO. But we need a universal mechanism to resolve differences of opinion within Europe. The conflict with Georgia showed how fragile our security is. This was a European conflict.

SPIEGEL: Today Europe is first and foremost a community of values, with democracy and human rights at the top of the list. Russia's future role in Europe also depends on how important these values are in your country.

Medvedev: Our values are the same as yours. I don't see any major differences in terms of freedom and human rights, especially in comparison to the new EU member states. When it comes to political culture and economic development, they are not one iota better -- but they are small, and they talk about how many threats they have to live with …

SPIEGEL: ... you are referring now to Poland and the Baltic republics.

Medvedev: The difference between them and Russia is that we are big, very big, and that we possess nuclear weapons. It is totally wrong to say: "Here is the united Europe, where democracy has already been achieved, and there is the ominous, uneducated Russia, which we cannot yet allow into Europe."

SPIEGEL: That sounds very bitter.

Medvedev: Is Russia the only country asking for investments? You are the ones who wanted -- or want -- to work with us on Opel, the Wadan shipyards and other projects. This means that our business agendas are actually the same, and our economies are highly intertwined. So what separates us? Practically nothing, I hope.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Georg Mascolo, Christian Neef and Matthias Schepp.

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