MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow will seek closer ties with the United States but will not tolerate interference in its affairs and wants guarantees a U.S. missile shield will not be used against Russia, under terms of a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday.
Putin set out foreign policy priorities in a wide-ranging document signed hours after his inauguration to a six-year term as president, veering little from an article he wrote on the subject during the election campaign.
Moscow wants to bring cooperation with Washington “to a truly strategic level” but relations must be based on “equality, non-interference in internal affairs and respect for one another’s interests”, the decree said.
Russia will “consistently stand up for its policy in connection with the creation by the United States of a global missile defence system, seeking firm guarantees it is not directed against Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces”.
The decree touched on policy around the world, but it served as a message to the United States ahead of Putin’s expected meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, who hosts a Group of Eight industrial powers summit later this month.
Relations improved during the presidency of Putin’s protege Dmitry Medvedev, who signed a landmark nuclear arms limitation pact with Obama in 2010.
But ties have been strained over U.S. and NATO plans for an anti-missile shield in Europe and deep differences over the bloody upheaval in Libya and Syria.
Washington says the shield, due to be completed in four phases by about 2020, is to counter a potential threat from Iran. But Russia says it could gain the capability to intercept Russian ICBMs by about 2018.
Russia’s military chief of staff said on Thursday that Russia was prepared to carry out pre-emptive strikes against missile defence facilities in Europe to protect its security.
Diplomatic tensions also rose during Putin’s presidential campaign when he accused the United States of backing his domestic opponents, and Washington criticised the treatment of protesters in Russia.
Russia and China in February vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution which condemned Syria’s government for a crackdown in which its forces have killed thousands of people and called for President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.
In a warning that encompassed both Russia and Syria, Putin’s decree said Moscow would “counter attempts to use human rights concepts as an instrument of political pressure and interference in the internal affairs of states”.
In the Middle East and North Africa, it said, Russia would advocate resolving crises through an end to violence by all sides, national dialogue without preconditions and the principle of non-interference - a repeat of Russia’s position on Syria.
Closer to home, Putin made clear that strengthening bonds among former Soviet republics from Belarus to Central Asia, and giving Moscow’s alliances economic and security alliances with those nations more global clout, are top priorities.
The decree called integration among members of the Commonwealth of Independent States a “key foreign policy direction” and reiterated plans for a Eurasian Economic Union, by January 2015, based on ties with Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Michael Roddy