Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blamed George W. Bush for the dispute with Ukraine that left much of Europe without gas this month, saying the former U.S. president fostered political chaos in the region.

Putin, in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that relations with the U.S. will improve with Barack Obama in the White House. The new president spoke by phone today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington.

The Bush administration supported NATO membership applications from Ukraine and Georgia, which Russia opposes, and planned to site a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. under Bush also signed a “strategic partnership” with Ukraine.

“What happened in recent years in Ukraine is the result, to a significant extent, of the activities of the previous U.S. administration and the European Union, which supported it,” Putin said.

On another issue of importance to Russia, NATO expansion, there are also “positive signals,” Putin said in the interview. “They are saying that it is possible to provide security for Ukraine and Georgia in various ways and it is not essential to accept them into NATO now,” he said. “We welcome that and are ready to take part in any discussion on working out the best options to ensure international security.”


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