ST. PETERSBURG - President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday accused the United States of "economic egotism," saying it has fueled global troubles, and portrayed Russia's growing economic might as a force for worldwide stabilization.
Recklessness by big banks and what he called "the aggressive financial policies of the biggest economy in the world" have not just hurt corporations, Medvedev said. "Unfortunately, most people on the planet have become poorer," he said.
Medvedev made his comments to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a gathering of thousands of businessmen, a month after his inauguration.
It was one of the most prominent domestic appearances so far in his presidency, which has been marked mostly by issuing decrees.
Although Medvedev had not shown much of his predecessor Vladimir Putin's penchant for criticizing the United States, his speech showed he shares Putin's views of America as a power-hungry and sometimes irresponsible country intent on dominating world affairs.
Many observers see Medvedev as essentially subsidiary to Putin, who is now prime minister.
That view was underlined at another Medvedev appearance at the forum, when the master of ceremonies introduced "The president of Russia, Vladi - Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev."
In his speech to the forum opening, Medvedev said some countries increasingly strive to help themselves while ignoring the interests of others.
"In fact, this is growing economic egotism," Medvedev said.
He said that while this is natural in some respects, it sometimes amounts to "economic nationalism - when pragmatic interests are replaced with political considerations."
Russia has often been accused of similar nationalism, allegedly using its enormous gas and oil reserves as instruments of political power.
But Medvedev said Russia is only using its resources to become more integrated in the global economy.
"Russia is a global player today. Understanding our responsibility for the fate of the world, we wish to participate in forming new rules of the game, not because of the notorious 'imperial ambitions' but because we have the appropriate opportunities and resources here," he said.
Medvedev wants to develop Russia's hydrocarbons business further through liberalizing the gas market and easing the tax burden on the country's oil sector.
He said such steps would help ensure stability of global energy markets.
He also repeated previously expressed desires to see Russia become an international financial center of the order of New York or London, and proposed holding an international financial conference this year.
US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez sidestepped the criticism of the United States and suggested Medvedev's reference to a global economic crisis was overstated, saying "we have said we are going through a downturn in growth."
"The president's speech, I thought, contained some very powerful statements and some very welcome statements for the business community," including the need for openness, the risk of economic nationalism and "economic egoism," the importance of institutions and of transparency, Gutierrez told reporters.
Recent pressure by tax authorities on the British-Russian joint venture oil company TNK-
Many observers see the pressure as ultimately aimed at forcing BP PLC to turn over its stake to the state-controlled oil company OAO Rosneft or to Russian businessmen.