"That is not our path. For us there is no sense going back to the past. We have made our choice."

Security mechanism

Medvedev said the role of the Nato military alliance in the Georgia conflict showed it was unable to provide security in Europe, underlining the need for a new security mechanism.

"That is understood even by those who in private conversations with me say ... 'Nato will take care of everything'. What did Nato secure, what did Nato ensure? Nato only provoked the conflict, and not more than that," he said.

Without mentioning Rice, Medvedev derided her pledge on Thursday to continue sponsoring Russian students, teachers, judges, journalists and others who
want to visit the US.

Medvedev accused Nato of sparking the conflict in Georgia last month [AFP]

"I opened the web this morning and saw our American friends saying they will keep providing assistance to Russian teachers, doctors, scientists, labour leaders and judges,'' he said.

"The last point was really outstanding. What does it mean? Are they going to feed our judges? Will they support corruption? If it goes on like that, they will start selecting presidents here.''

On a more conciliatory note, Medvedev said that Russia wants a "full-fledged dialogue'' with the West.

"We aren't trying to teach anyone, we want our views to be heard,'' he said.

Responding to Medvedev's remarks, James Appathurai, a Nato spokesman, said: "There is nothing provocative in partnership and there is also nothing provocative in promoting democratic reform, economic reform and supporting a country's aspirations to move closer to the Euro-Atlantic community."

Russiamn forces moved into Georgia last month as Tblisi's military launched a heavy bombardment of the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Many Western states condemned Russia's actions as disproportionate.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president, has subsequently said Russian troops and armour moved into Georgia before his forces attacked, an allegation Moscow has denied.

Market losses

Medvedev's pledge that Russia will not retreat into authoritarianism appeared aimed, in part, at rebuilding battered confidence on financial markets.

Russian stocks this week suffered their worst losses in a decade, though they recovered strongly on Friday after the state made available a $130bn emergency support package.

The fall was caused by a combination of global financial turmoil, falling oil prices and market worries that the rift with the West over Georgia had driven up political risk.

Some analysts have said the diplomatic and market turbulence could play into the hand of Kremlin hawks, who have resisted Medvedev's agenda of liberalising the economy.

Speaking at an economic forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday, Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, echoed Medvedev's message, saying Russia needed to modernise its free-market economy, not roll it back.