Russia wants its image abroad to be that of a strong state that defends its interests but maintains good relations with its partners, the president told a TV channel on Sunday, Ria Novosti reported.

Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with Russia's NTV to be broadcast later in the day: "We want our image to be that of a modern and strong state, pragmatic and restrained, but capable of being heard in an international context."

In cases where Russia's interests are threatened it will retaliate, but "in all other cases we must be a predictable, strong and comfortable partner for our neighbors," he said.

Asked about NATO's planned expansion into former Soviet territory, Medvedev said the Western military alliance is showing an increasing unwillingness to admit Georgia and Ukraine.

"As far as Georgia is concerned - this is question for the North Atlantic alliance: why does NATO need a state that has so many problems?"

Recently there has been an increasing awareness that neither Georgia nor Ukraine are ready for NATO membership, and "the alliance itself is not ready to let them in," he said.

On relations with Georgia, with which Russia fought a brief war last year following Georgia's attack on South Ossetia, Medvedev said they can be restored when President Mikheil Saakashvili leaves office.

"Regimes like those of Saakashvili come and go, but the sentiments between the nations remain. I am sure that with time our relations will be restored on a new foundation, taking into account the new realities, and the tragic pages that these relations have passed through in recent times."

On relations with Ukraine, Medvedev said: "Much depends on these relations, because we are very close states - as they say, brother nations - with very closely linked economies. And we count on these relations becoming better than they are now. Much better."


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