Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has said the Georgian crisis will not derail Russia’s efforts to build a free and democratic society.

Addressing leaders of Russia’s civil organisations in the Kremlin, Mr. Medvedev said the West was trying to provoke Russia into locking itself behind a new “iron curtain.”

“This is not our path, we see no point in going back to the past, we have made our choice,” he said, adding: “Our development priorities remain unchanged despite the tragic events of August. New external circumstances, let alone outside pressure, will not change our strategic course towards building a free, progressive, democratic state and society.”

The tasks he had set earlier — “to expand entrepreneurial, creative and personal freedoms” and develop science-based economy — would be pursued on a priority basis, without making any excuses for the country being “encircled by enemies,” he added. At the same time Mr. Medvedev vowed to boost the country’s defences.

“We will be consistently strengthening our national security, modernising the Army and enhancing the defence capability to a sufficient level,” he said. Russia’s Lower House of Parliament on Friday approved a 25 per cent increase in defence spending next year from $40 billion to $50 billion. Russia’s three-year budget forecast calls for further increases to $54.5 billion in 2010 and to $58 billion by 2011.

Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia showed that the existing global security system has unravelled, said Mr. Medvedev said, adding that NATO had failed to provide an alternative security arrangement.

“What [conflicts] has NATO resolved, what [security] has it ensured? It just provoked the [Georgia] conflict, no more than that,” he said.

Mr. Medvedev reiterated his call for a new pan-European security pact. “The urgency to sign a major European treaty is increasingly growing in the aftermath of the events in the Caucasus,” he said.

He said western countries missed a chance at the G-8 Summit in Japan in July to agree on joint measures to tackle crisis situations, which might have “significantly damped consequences of depression on the American stock and financial markets.”



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