- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

MOSCOW — Alexander Solzhenitsyn has accused the United States of launching a military campaign to encircle Russia and turn it into a NATO chattel.

The Nobel laureate also delivered his strongest endorsement yet of President Vladimir Putin, surprising Kremlin critics who argue that the country is growing more authoritarian.

Replying in writing to questions from the weekly Moscow News, the 87-year-old former Soviet dissident said military action by the United States in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan underlined the menace to Russian sovereignty.

“Though it is clear that present-day Russia poses no threat to it whatsoever, NATO is methodically and persistently expanding its military apparatus in the east of Europe and is implementing an encirclement of Russia from the south,” he wrote.

He also attacked Western support for recent revolutions that toppled Moscow-backed regimes in Ukraine and Georgia.

“All this leaves no doubt that they are preparing a complete encirclement of Russia, which will be followed by the deprivation of her sovereignty,” he said.

Russia, he suggested, was all that stood between NATO and the “downfall of Christian civilization.”

He praised the efforts of Mr. Putin “to salvage the state from failure.”

Arrested in 1945, Mr. Solzhenitsyn was a prisoner in both an elite laboratory for captive scientists and a labor camp in Central Asia.

After his release, his “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” was the first work to draw attention to the camps in the Soviet Union. His longer “The Gulag Archipelago” provoked a furor abroad, prompting his deportation to the West in 1974. Mr. Solzhenitsyn returned to post-Soviet Russia in 1994.

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