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Russia's Putin slams US, makes deals in China

By Christopher Bodeen
Associated Press / October 12, 2011

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BEIJING—Russia and China talked up their burgeoning but still fraught ties Wednesday, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin taking a swipe at U.S. monetary policy as parasitic.

On a two-day visit to Beijing, Putin and Chinese leaders pledged to resolve disputes over pricing that are stalling plans for Russian deliveries of natural gas by two pipelines. Chinese state-backed firms also promised to invest $1.5 billion in a Siberian aluminum smelter and to put $1 billion into a joint investment fund, among agreements officials said were worth $7 billion.

Calling Putin "an old friend of China," President Hu Jintao said the Russian leader's visit "moved forward the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic relationship."

In an interview with Chinese state media late Tuesday and released Wednesday, Putin praised cooperation with China and lashed out at the U.S., describing the dominance of the American dollar as parasitic.

"The U.S. is not a parasite for the world economy, but the U.S. dollar's monopoly is a parasite," Putin said, according to a report on the interview from Xinhua, the Chinese government news agency. Putin said he offered the criticism constructively in a search for common solutions to ease a roiling world economy.

Putin's visit commemorated the 10th anniversary of a treaty of "Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation" between the two former communist allies, who later came to the brink of war over ideological differences and territorial disputes.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin called the visit a "great success" that charted the way ahead for relations.

Putin has frequently tried to use Russia's burgeoning ties with Beijing as a counterbalance to U.S. global predominance. And Chinese leaders have reciprocated the gestures.

The Beijing trip follows Putin's recent announcement that he plans to swap jobs next year with President Dmitry Medvedev, returning him to the top position he held for eight years. Analysts have said that the change could see Russia tilt further toward China.

Last week, the two countries squelched a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown on pro-reform protesters that has killed nearly 3,000 people since March. Their vetoes drew heavy criticism from Washington.

After meeting Putin on Tuesday Premier Wen Jiabao told reporters that China wanted to push ahead a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Russia that would safeguard world stability and development.

But even as they reach out to each other, strains are evident between Moscow and Beijing in the trade and security issues that have bolstered relations over the past decade. Moscow is unhappy with China's copying of Russian fighter jets and other military hardware and recently announced the arrest of a Chinese man accused of seeking to buy military secrets.

While trade is booming -- rising, by China's count, to more than 39 percent to $35.9 billion in the first half of the year from the same period last year -- it's heavily geared toward Chinese purchases of Russian resources. Moscow wants more Chinese investment in Russia itself.

Wrangling over the price of gas to be delivered by two Siberian pipelines has gone on for two years and come to symbolize the difficulties the former Cold War rivals still have in cooperating. Russia prefers to link gas prices to oil prices, as it does in Europe, while China wants a lower price. If Russia's OAO Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp. can reach a deal, deliveries are to start by 2015.

"Those who sell always want to sell at a higher price, while those who buy want to buy at a lower price. We need to reach a compromise which will satisfy both sides," Putin told reporters Tuesday.