Russia's integration with the Commonwealth of Independent States was a natural process, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.
At a meeting with electoral officials, Putin dismissed the fears among some Western leaders that Moscow was seeking to restore the Soviet Union through economic integration with former Soviet republics as "rubbish."
"We have common language, common mentality to a certain degree, common infrastructure in transportation and in energy," he said, citing the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement as examples of regional integration.
"This is an absolutely natural process," Putin said, adding the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan was a way to increase the competitiveness of its members.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to prevent Moscow and its allies from turning into something resembling the Soviet Union under the guise of economic integration.
The Kremlin and Russian Foreign Ministry blasted Clinton's remarks, calling them "wrong."
According to Putin, the Western countries' attempts to pressure Russia was an old-fashioned policy. "Our partners look for tools to press Russia in certain places, or to make it more submissive. But all these belong to the past," he said.
Meanwhile, the Russian leader criticized Western governments for underestimating Russia's democracy, slamming its elections and other manifestations of the country's political life.
"They question everything. And (they say), since we are not legitimate, we have no right to put our conditions in international policy. Here is their logic," Putin said.
The world had never been completely mono-polar, even 15 years ago, and it was not so currently, he added.