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Russia: 'Putin's Will' Includes Praise For Accomplishments, Harsh Words For West

Putin addressing the State Council (ITAR-TASS) Three weeks ahead of a presidential election to elect his successor, Russian President Vladimir Putin has addressed the country's top officials to outline his vision for Russia through the year 2020.

Speaking at a State Council meeting at the Kremlin, Putin said Russia has achieved stability at home and greater influence abroad during his presidency, but called for social and economic reforms to bring the country into the ranks of the world's leading powers.

The Russian media dubbed the nationally televised speech to the State Council, which comprises the country's political elite, as "Putin's Will," saying it would lay out the plan he will pass on to his handpicked successor, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin lauded the country's macroeconomic stability, the defeat of separatists in Chechnya, and Moscow's new strength on the world stage.

"Russia has returned to the world scene as a strong state, a state that is taken into consideration, and a state that can stand for itself," Putin said. "We have built serious political capital that works in favor of the development of the country, for the protection of the interests of the citizens and the national economy."

But with Medvedev sitting in the front row, Putin said the government must do better in addressing bread-and-butter issues and pressing social concerns like salaries, pensions, health care, and education.

"Russia must become the most attractive country in the world to live in," he said. "I am convinced we can achieve that, without sacrificing the actual future for the so-called 'brighter future.' On the contrary, [we can accomplish this] day by day, by improving the well-being of people today."

Medvedev is expected to easily win the presidency in March 2 election that the opposition alleges have been rigged in advance to favor the Kremlin's chosen candidate. Putin, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive tern, has said he will serve as Medvedev's prime minister -- and thus maintain a large degree of influence.

Complicated Tasks

Despite Russia's resurgence under Putin, analysts have pointed out that the health-care system remains decrepit, the country's infrastructure is crumbling, mortality rates remain high, the education system is badly in need of reform, and corruption continues to be endemic.

Putin said Russia faces "complicated tasks in economic policy," adding that the economy, which is dominated by the energy sector, is marred by "extreme inefficiency" and "unacceptably low" productivity.

"Despite the singular achievements of the last years, we could still not escape the inertial scenario of development," Putin said. "Of course, there is nothing wrong in the revival of the energy sector or in the production of raw materials. On the contrary, the formation of a modern energy sector -- the best in the world -- the establishment of high-technology enterprises, and extracting and processing raw materials are, without a doubt, a priority."

Putin also briefly spoke about foreign policy, criticizing the United States and NATO for what he called military expansion toward Russia's borders.

"We have closed our [military] bases in Cuba, and in Vietnam, and what did we get? New U.S. bases in Romania, Bulgaria; new positioning of the missiles-defense system will evidently be created in Poland; elements of it will be deployed in the Czech Republic," Putin said.

Putin said he believed that a new arms race had begun, adding that Moscow would respond by modernizing its military and weapons systems.

RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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