And Mr. Putin doesn’t seem too happy to hear it:
President George Bush subjected Russia’s Vladimir Putin to a public lecture on the fundamentals of democracy yesterday, injecting a chill into a relationship that has – until now – been characterised by bonhomie.
Meeting in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, Mr Bush emerged from a three-hour meeting with the Russian President joking and smiling and full of warm words. But his frequent references to “Vladimir” and the “fella” were peppered with targeted criticism of the state of democracy in Russia with which the more hawkish members of his administration are said to have lost patience.
An unsmiling, visibly irritated Mr Putin squirmed as he listened to Mr Bush tell a press conference he had been told that Washington had “concerns about Russia’s commitment in fulfilling” the “universal principles” of democracy. “Democracies always reflect a country’s customs and culture, and I know that,” Mr Bush said. “Yet democracies have certain things in common; they have a rule of law, and protection of minorities, a free press, and a viable political opposition.”
Mr Putin had wanted to talk about the two countries’ joint efforts to combat terrorism but was forced instead to defend his domestic reforms and his commitment to democracy.
For a man who is seldom subjected to such face-to-face criticism and is famously cool under pressure, he looked at times as if he was about to lose his composure. “I respect some of his [Mr Bush’s ideas] a lot and take them into account. Others I won’t. [Such issues] should not be pushed to the foreground. New problems should not be created that could jeopardise our relationship. We want to develop the relationship.”
Overall, though, Putin was “satisfied” with the results of the US Summit.
In the meantime, the President causes a stir elsewhere as well.