Moscow (CNSNews.com) - Terrorist attacks in Iraq are aimed at preventing President Bush's re-election next month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.
"International terrorism aims at causing maximum damage to President Bush and to forestall his second term re-election," the RIA news agency quoted Putin as saying.
"If they succeed, they would celebrate a victory against America and the anti-terror coalition, and this could lead to more acts of international terrorism," he cautioned.
Putin added the routine disclaimer of not wishing to interfere in another country's democratic process: "We respect any choice of the American people."
He also reiterated Moscow's difference of opinion with Bush over the Iraq war, which Russia opposed from the start.
Nonetheless, Putin's remarks indicated that Russia would regard Bush's re-election as a blow to Islamist terror and his defeat as a victory for terrorists.
Last June, Putin surprised many people when he announced that Russian intelligence had supplied the U.S. with information indicating that Saddam Hussein was planning to carry out terrorist attacks on American soil.
The remarks were seen as providing additional justification for the U.S.-led war and hence as boosting Bush's re-election campaign.
His latest comments come at a time when Russian media commentators have speculated that a John Kerry presidency could result in the U.S. applying more pressure on Moscow over Putin's recent moves to consolidate power.
Some analysts have gone so far as to suggest Kerry may lump Russia, along with Iran and North Korea, into a new "axis of evil" category.
Putin's remarks come against a backdrop, however, of new moves to assert Russian influence in Asia.
He made the comments on the sidelines of a regional summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where Russia formally joined a body called the Central Asian Co-operation Organization (CACO), also comprising Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The move further boosts Russia's already significant economic clout in the region.
Putin also achieved a foreign policy success over the weekend with the opening of a new Russian military base in Tajikistan -- the largest outside of Russia -- and by securing a 49-year lease on a space surveillance complex in the Tajik mountains.
In return, Moscow agreed to write off more than $200 million in Tajik debt and to invest $2 billion in the former Soviet state.
Putin said Russia's military presence in Tajikistan "will not only guarantee our investment, but will also guarantee stability in the region."
The moves are widely seen here as Moscow's response to the U.S. military presence in Central Asia.
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