Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Speech That Every American Should Read

I have already mentioned Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent a speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club’s XI session, as quotes from the speech emerged in the media.

Now the entire speech, plus a question an answer period, has been translated into English and is online.

The speech is quite remarkable in its clarity, humility, and understanding of, and insights into, current world events. Here are key snippets:

What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it to the new realities in the system of international relations.

But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this. Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance.

The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.

Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies.    
The very notion of ‘national sovereignty’ became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world’s sole power centre, the greater this or that ruling regime’s legitimacy.
The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times. They include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of ‘supra-legal’ legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes. Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders. It is not for nothing that ‘big brother’ is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance.
A unilateral diktat and imposing one’s own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over.

They once sponsored Islamic extremist movements to fight the Soviet Union. Those groups got their battle experience in Afghanistan and later gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Where do they [the terrorist fighters] get new recruits? In Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the state’s institutions, including the army, were left in ruins. We said back then, be very, very careful. You are driving people out into the street, and what will they do there? Don’t forget (rightfully or not) that they were in the leadership of a large regional power, and what are you now turning them into?

What was the result? Tens of thousands of soldiers, officers and former Baath Party activists were turned out into the streets and today have joined the rebels’ ranks. Perhaps this is what explains why the Islamic State group has turned out so effective? In military terms, it is acting very effectively and has some very professional people. Russia warned repeatedly about the dangers of unilateral military actions, intervening in sovereign states’ affairs, and flirting with extremists and radicals.
Joint economic projects and mutual investment objectively bring countries closer together and help to smooth out current problems in relations between states. But today, the global business community faces unprecedented pressure from Western governments. What business, economic expediency and pragmatism can we speak of when we hear slogans such as “the homeland is in danger”, “the free world is under threat”, and “democracy is in jeopardy”? And so everyone needs to mobilise.
We already see that more and more countries are looking for ways to become less dependent on the dollar and are setting up alternative financial and payments systems and reserve currencies. I think that our American friends are quite simply cutting the branch they are sitting on. You cannot mix politics and the economy, but this is what is happening now. I have always thought and still think today that politically motivated sanctions were a mistake that will harm everyone...
Apparently, those who constantly throw together new ‘colour revolutions’ consider themselves ‘brilliant artists’ and simply cannot stop.
The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, are groundless. Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world – I want to emphasise this. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected.
The second point has to do with our actions in Crimea. I have spoken about this on numerous occasions, but if necessary, I can repeat it. This is Part 2 of Article 1 of the United Nations’ Charter – the right of nations to self-determination. It has all been written down, and not simply as the right to self-determination, but as the goal of the united nations. Read the article carefully.

I do not understand why people living in Crimea do not have this right, just like the people living in, say, Kosovo. This was also mentioned here. Why is it that in one case white is white, while in another the same is called black? We will never agree with this nonsense.
The other very important thing is something nobody mentions, so I would like to draw attention to it. What happened in Crimea? First, there was this anti-state overthrow in Kiev. Whatever anyone may say, I find this obvious – there was an armed seizure of power.""

In many parts of the world, people welcomed this, not realising what this could lead to, while in some regions people were frightened that power was seized by extremists, by nationalists and right-wingers including neo-Nazis. People feared for their future and for their families and reacted accordingly. In Crimea, people held a referendum.

I would like to draw your attention to this. It was not by chance that we in Russia stated that there was a referendum. The decision to hold the referendum was made by the legitimate authority of Crimea – its Parliament, elected a few years ago under Ukrainian law prior to all these grave events. This legitimate body of authority declared a referendum, and then based on its results, they adopted a declaration of independence, just as Kosovo did, and turned to the Russian Federation with a request to accept Crimea into the Russian state.
Does Russia aim for any leading role? We don’t need to be a superpower; this would only be an extra load for us. I have already mentioned the taiga: it is immense, illimitable, and just to develop our territories we need plenty of time, energy and resources.

We have no need of getting involved in things, of ordering others around, but we want others to stay out of our affairs as well and to stop pretending they rule the world. That is all. If there is an area where Russia could be a leader – it is in asserting the norms of international law.
 First of all, I did not say that we perceive the United States as a threat. President Obama, as you said, views Russia as a threat. I do not think that the United States is a threat to us. I think that, to use a hackneyed term, the ruling establishment’s policies are misguided. I believe that these policies are not in our interests and undermine trust in the United States, and in this sense they damage the United States’ own interests by eroding confidence in the country as a global economic and political leader...

President Obama spoke about the Islamic State as one of the threats. But who helped to arm the people who were fighting Assad in Syria? Who created a favourable political and informational climate for them? Who pushed for arms supplies?

Are you really not aware of who is fighting there? It is mostly mercenaries fighting there. Are you not aware that they get paid to fight? And they go wherever they get paid more.

So they get arms and they get paid for fighting. I have heard how much they get paid. Once they’re armed and paid for their services, you can’t just undo all that. Then they hear that they can get more money elsewhere, and so they go there, and then they capture oil fields in Iraq and Syria say, start producing oil, and others buy this oil, transport it and sell it.

Why are sanctions not imposed on those engaged in such activities? Doesn’t the United States know who is responsible? Isn’t it their own allies who are doing this? Don’t they have the power and opportunity to influence their allies or do they not want to do so?
Incidentally, with regard to mass demonstrations, let’s look at Occupy Wall Street. Where is that movement? It was nipped in the bud. And nobody says that they were treated badly. They were treated well, but they were suppressed. They were embraced so tightly that nobody had time to say a word, and it is unclear where it all dissipated.
What is happening in Europe? I will not name the country here, but I spoke with one of my former colleagues in Eastern Europe. He told me proudly, “Yesterday, I appointed a Chief of Staff.” I was very surprised. “Oh yeah? Why is this an achievement?” “What do you mean? It has been many years since we’ve appointed a Defence Minister or Chief of Staff without approval from the US ambassador.” I was so surprised that I said, “Wow. Why is that?” And he said, “That’s just how it is. They said that if we want to join the EU, we first need to join NATO. And this is what’s necessary to join NATO. We need to have military discipline.” I asked him, “Listen, why have you sold your sovereignty? What is the volume of investments into your nation?” I will not tell you the volume, because it will immediately become evident which nation I am talking about. It is minimal! I said, “Listen, are you crazy? Why did you do this?” He replied, “Well, that’s just how it’s turned out.”

But this cannot continue forever. Everyone must understand that, including our American friends and partners. It is impossible to keep humiliating one’s partners forever in such a way. That kind of relationship breaks down; I know this, I’ve been here a long time. You can draw them in now and force them to do some things, but this cannot continue forever, and certainly not in Asia – especially not in Asia. There are countries there that truly – there are few such nations in the world – that really command their sovereignty. They treasure it and won’t let anybody near it.
Read the entire speech here.


  1. He's a grownup in a world full of children.

  2. That was nice but I'd like the speech even better if he condemned the whole concept of states and their use of force and expose IT as the cause of ALL problems for the people of the world, not just the US state. But no, he still likes the state.

    1. Hey, not bad for the leader of a former communist government.