Russia is not Against West, but to Make Russia Matter Again, Says Putin at Valdai Club Meeting

Russia is not Against West, but to Make Russia Matter Again, Says Putin at Valdai Club Meeting


Vladimir Putin has accustomed everyone to the fact that his speeches at the Valdai Club are policy ones but it would be wrong to assess his new speech as a declaration of war on the West. In fact, the Russian President proposes to negotiate, but with the understanding that Russia's interests must be respected.

As for the attack on Odessa, the Russian leader deliberately created an intrigue.

Sequel to ‘St. George’ Speech

Vladimir Putin delivered a keynote speech at the Valdai Discussion Club, the theme of which was ‘A world after hegemony: justice and security for all.’ Hence the general attention to the messages the Russian President wished to convey to the public.

From the ideological point of view, Putin's speech is a sequel to his speech in the Kremlin's St. George Hall at the ceremony of admitting new regions to the Russian Federation, which took place on September 30. An attentive observer may note that more than two-thirds of Putin's speech was devoted to a polemic in absentia with the ruling elite of the so called golden billion and a list of complaints against the collective West.

Also, as in his ‘St. George’ speech, Putin touched upon the Ukrainian issue very briefly. Either the time has not come yet, or it is an uncomfortable topic for him, because it produces a number of acute issues for the Kremlin.

Impatient Impatience

As Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs and moderator of the Valdai Club, noted, people were impatiently waiting for Vladimir Putin, “but this year they must have been even more impatient than usual: there are so many questions to discuss.”

On the one hand, Putin listed at great length both the causes of the current situation and the sins of the collective West. On the other hand, at the very beginning he gave an answer to the question of what is going on. In Putin's words, we are facing a “crisis of the neoliberal American model of the world order.”

“All of this is, without exaggeration, not even a systemic, but a doctrinal crisis of the American-style neoliberal model of the world order. They have no ideas of creation and positive development; they simply have nothing to offer the world except the preservation of their dominance,” said the Russian leader.

But when you come to think of it, Putin has built his thesis on a “doctrinal” contradiction because no one in world history has ever offered “their dominance” but imposed it by force. Meanwhile, the Russian elite's attempt to solve the problem of U.S. and NATO dominance in Ukraine by force has been stalled for months, and the root of all troubles is precisely in the fact that whoever has the strength and ability imposes their domination. Whoever does not – does not.

Incidentally, despite all the criticism of the collective West, Putin's speech is that of a typical Western capitalist. He builds his argument by constantly referring to the actions of the collective West and the decisions of “Western partners.” A self-sufficient leader would talk about his vision of the world and project a vision of the future of his country, instead of building his rhetoric based on the Western frame of reference.

“Whatever comes out of Russia is all ‘Kremlin intrigues.’ But look at yourselves! Are we really so all-powerful? Any criticism of our opponents is perceived as ‘intrigues of the Kremlin’ and ‘the hand of the Kremlin.’ This is nonsense. What have we come to? You'd better use your brains, say something more interesting and present your point of view in a more conceptual way. You can't blame everything on the machinations of the Kremlin,” Putin said indignantly.

The Russian President also resented the ability of Western elites to change the rules right in the middle of the game. Although, if you know the old English proverb “Where the rules of the game make it impossible to win, English gentlemen change the rules,” there is nothing to be surprised about.

“As soon as it was not the Western countries that began to benefit from the course of globalization, but the large Asian states, the West immediately changed or cancelled many of the rules,” said the president of the Russian Federation.

‘Let's Just be Friends’

Having devoted more than two thirds of his speech to criticism of the collective West, Vladimir Putin moved on to how he sees the future arrangement of the world. To be more precise, he spoke only about the contours of the future world order. Or to be even more precise, in fact, Putin limited himself to listing the slogans on which the new world order should be based. According to the Russian president, “the new world order must be based on law and law, be free, distinctive and fair.”

The critics might say that Putin's speech has too little specifics to describe the future world order. On the other hand, naming only slogans could be a clever move, because slogans could attract a wide range of different countries, ranging from India, China, Brazil, and so on. At the same time, if specific mechanisms are voiced, this specificity may not be liked or even repulsed.

It should be noted that the term “multipolar world” used by Putin is as much an example of Western rhetoric as globalization and a unipolar world order.

In short, the essence of Putin's claim is that the West has imposed a model of domination that is beneficial to itself, while at the same time denying other countries their subjectivity. Those who try to pursue an independent course, the West calls undermining “the liberal order based on rules, launches economic and trade wars, sanctions, boycotts, color revolutions, prepares and conducts all kinds of coups.”

Putin talked about what the rules of the new world order should be. As an example he cited Russia, where “for a thousand years, there has been a unique culture of interaction between all the world's religions.” According to the head of the state, the recipe is simple: “We just have to treat each other with respect.”

“There is no need to abolish anything: neither Christian values, nor Islamic, nor Jewish values. Other world religions are present in our country. We just need to treat each other with respect,” Putin said.

At the same time, the President of the Russian Federation announced that in his perception there are two Wests today: the genuine, traditional West and the neoliberal West. While he cannot come to an agreement with neoliberals, Putin is counting on the traditional Western elites.

“We expect that pragmatism will prevail and that Russia's dialogue with the genuine, traditional West, as well as with other equal centers of development, will become an important contribution to the construction of a multipolar world order,” siad Putin.

“One just needs to clearly understand that there are, as I said before, two Wests, at least two, and maybe more, but at least two: the West of traditional, primarily Christian values, freedom, patriotism, rich culture, now also Islamic values as a significant part of the population of many Western countries professes Islam. This West is close to us in some way, in many respects we have common, even antique roots. But there is another West, aggressive, cosmopolitan, neo-colonial, acting as a tool of neoliberal elites. Of course, Russia will never put up with the dictate of this West,” Putin said.

A call to abandon the dollar as a reserve currency is a truly revolutionary statement in Putin's speech. That is, in fact, to limit as much as possible the ability of the U.S. through the mass of the dollar to dump on the whole world its inflation and other “charms” of the economic crisis.

“The transition to settlements in national currencies will actively – and inevitably – gain momentum. This, of course, depends on the condition of the issuers of these currencies and the state of their economies, but they will strengthen, and such settlements will certainly gradually become dominant. This is the logic of sovereign economic and financial policies of a multipolar world,” said Putin.

That might be logical, but Putin's construct is based on a contradiction. Rich countries will dominate, and it can't be any other way. The different status in the economic sphere will program the inequality in international relations. The world players, if they will, can only mitigate the most egregious cases of inequality with the help of international law, assigning each state a basic set of rights.

A new Roaring Twenties?

Putin said that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the collective West considered itself the winner and “proclaimed a unipolar world order in which only its will, its culture and its interests had the right to exist.” Now, according to Putin, “this historical period of undivided dominance of the West in world affairs is coming to an end, the unipolar world is a thing of the past.”

Many media outlets have picked up on Putin's words that we are on the verge of the most unpredictable decade since World War II.

“We stand at a historic crossroads, with probably the most dangerous, unpredictable and yet important decade since the end of World War II ahead. The West is incapable of single-handedly ruling humanity, but it is desperately trying to do so, and most of the world's peoples are no longer willing to put up with it. This is the main contradiction of the new era. The situation is somewhat revolutionary: elites can't and people don't want to,” he said.

Feel Free to ask

Vladimir Putin made several more important points when answering questions from the moderator, Fyodor Lukyanov, and the club participants.

Putin returned to the issue of the changing world order in response to Fyodor Lukyanov's question about what has changed for the president over the past year at both the level of his own perception and that of the leader of his country.

The president turned to Ukraine, making it clear that the Ukrainian crisis is an example of the tectonic changes in the world order.

“What has happened and is happening now, including, say, in the same Ukrainian direction, is not a change that is happening right now or after the start of Russia's special military operation, no. All these changes have been going on for years, for a long time, it's just that some people pay attention to it one way or another, and some don't, but these are tectonic changes in the entire world order,” Putin said.

But the Russian president did not delve into the topic of the special military operation in Ukraine because the question will inevitably arise what has the Kremlin done in the 8 years since Maidan to counteract the “military development” of the territory of Ukraine by NATO and to avoid the Ukrainian crisis? And why has so little been done?

Many media spread Putin's joke in response to the question of Hungarian journalist Gábor Sztir of the Magyar Nemzet newspaper, which visa he should get to travel to Odessa – Ukrainian or Russian. Putin said a few words about Odessa (“Don't waste your time and go as soon as possible. Just kidding.”) after which he immediately switched to the issue of negotiations with Ukraine.

Putin stressed that the Kremlin was ready to negotiate, and that the entire problem was caused by the fact that “the leaders of the Kiev regime decided not to continue negotiations with the Russian Federation. However, he immediately clarified that Washington had the last word. But then do we have to negotiate with Washington too, realizing that appeals to negotiate with Kiev will not and cannot lead to anything?

Answering the following questions, Putin underlined that the Kremlin is also ready for negotiations with Washington. He recalled how, “Last December, we offered the United States to continue the dialogue on strategic stability and they did not answer us.” In general, Putin publicly demonstrated his readiness to negotiate with both Kiev and Washington, but he himself said that there was nothing to talk about and no one to talk to.

So, in his speech at the Valdai Club, Vladimir Putin continued the ideological framework of his previous articles and speeches aimed at criticizing the policies of the collective West led by the United States. At the same time, the President is not calling for a “crusade” against the West, but proposes an agreement – taking into account Russia's interests.

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