President George W. Bush said Thursday he does not know much about Dmitry Medvedev, the handpicked successor to President Vladimir Putin who is coasting to the job. Bush said it will be interesting to see who represents Russia _ presumably either Medvedev or Putin _ at the Group of Eight meeting later this year in Japan.
The president advised his own successor to develop a personal relationship with whomever is in charge in Moscow.
"As you know, Putin's a straightforward, pretty tough character when it comes to his interests _ well so am I," Bush said at a news conference. "We still have got a cordial enough relationship to be able to deal with common threats and opportunities, and that's going to be important for the next president to maintain."
Bush also defended his stance of not talking directly with leaders of adversaries such as Iran and Cuba without setting preconditions. In doing so, he offered some of his strongest criticism yet of Raul Castro, who assumed Cuba's presidency on Sunday after his ailing brother Fidel ruled for decades.
"Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him," Bush said.
Bush said Raul Castro is "nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which is ruin an island."