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Putin’s address in the Valdai Discussion: Six takeaways

  Padmashree Anandhan

Putin’s address reflects Russia’s criticisms on growing dominance of the West and how Russia sees Eurasian cooperation for regional integration.

Putin’s address in the Valdai Discussion: Six takeaways

On 27 October, the Valdai International Discussion Club held its regular conclave in Moscow on - A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone. The four-day meeting was attended by representatives from different fields from Russia and 40 countries across the globe, including Afghanistan, China, France, Germany, India, Kazakhstan, China, the US, and Iran. The key highlight was the address of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin; he discussed the changing liberal ideology, the US model of international order, Russia’s stand on the world order, Ukraine’s statehood, nuclear policy, and the energy sector.

Six takeaways
First, focus on dominance as a rule for the West. In the address, Putin highlighted the aggressive nature of the West, which has escalated the Ukraine war, and the situation in Taiwan destabilized the food security and energy markets. He termed the cultural value claimed by the West as “Cancel culture,” and criticized it for showcasing itself as a “guardians of liberalism and progress” but it only removes the other existing cultures, and restricts free thoughts in economics and politics. Putin pointed out how under “new global interdependence” the West role-plays monopoly in setting in the financial and technological sectors to practise the Western model of globalization and dominance in the global economic and political fora. Apart from this, he also brought out the need for new social models and the rights of Asia, Islamic states, and monarchies of the Persian Gulf to have their socio-political system. He criticized the West on the same, stating it suffered from a “doctrinal crisis of the neoliberal American-style model of international order,” which provides no space for progress and contradicts the multipolar world by preserving its dominance.

Second, emphasis on traditional values over liberal ideologies. On the liberal ideology, Putin pointed to the changing nature of liberalism, where classic liberalism, which was once seen as freedom for a person to think and act, is now seeing enemies within the said open society and wanting to restrict the freedom of the enemies. He accused Western ideologists and politicians of making the world believe that there was no alternative to democracy since the colonial period while it rejected all other forms of government. According to Putin, the West’s way of undermining the “liberal rules based order,” has only resulted in trade wars, sanctions, embargoes, colour revolutions, and coups. On the same, he said: “They killed Soleimani, an Iranian general. You can think whatever you want about Soleimani, but he was a foreign state official. They killed him in a third country and assumed responsibility.” Criticizing the western liberal order, he focused on the importance of the emerging neo-liberal ideas and highlighted its unique nature in terms of culture and history. Giving the examples of traditional societies such as East, Latin America, Africa, Eurasia, and minorities within the West, he stressed that the traditional values, and cultural identity they hold must be respected in the interest of the people, and civilization than being overpowered by the neoliberal elites.

Third, Russia’s approach as independent and inclusive. Highlighting Russia’s efforts to build collective security with the West, Putin expressed that the West always stood against cooperation and supported nurturing of terrorists in Russia. He said that Russia’s aim was not to challenge or replace the Western domination or the Western elites, but to uphold its right to exist and develop. The major plan is to broaden the space for other countries, increase interaction with neighbours and pave way for an economic multipolar world order, but he accused the West of being the barrier to its development and pushing it to become a tool to achieve its geopolitical goals. He later brought out how Russia has been successful in strengthening its economy, dealing the internal and external terrorism, and traditionally developing its foreign technology policy to provide a platform by creating an industry by building plants, training personnel in other countries to create competencies rather than the West’s approach to bankrupt the firms and deprive them of any advancement.

Fourth, on Ukraine’s statehood. On the lines of achieving Russia’s geopolitical goals, Putin highlighted how NATO was fortifying the Donbas region in the last eight years and how Ukraine’s statehood was shaped by Bolsheviks giving away “Malorossiya (Little Russia), the entire Black Sea region, and all of Donbas” (Russian historical lands) without the consent of the people to the nationalist-minded Bolsheviks. After the Bolsheviks, former leader Joseph Stalin joined Polish, Hungarian, and Romanian territories into Ukraine which became its sovereignty. With Poland’s influence gaining ground, language change began, ethnic Russians and Russian Orthodox Christians who wanted to join back Russia were put off by the European under the “divide and conquer rule,” which according to Putin became the first step of Europe to divide Russian unity. He said: “It is all part of our history. But it is also a historical fact that Russians and Ukrainians are essentially one ethnicity.”

Fifth, the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons, Putin criticized the US, and the UK for being on the front to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and being provocative in uniting the international countries to form a collective defence. Putin stressed that Russia’s statement was only a hint and not a direct threat to use nuclear weapons. He affirmed Russia’s cooperation for IAEA investigations and accused Ukraine of playing under cover. On the usage of nuclear weapons, Putin highlighted the “Military Doctrine,” which provides the rules for Russia to use WMDs under threat to sovereignty, territorial integrity, and protection of Russians.

Sixth, the future scope of Eurasian cooperation. Russian integration into Europe has been a basis for the conflict in Ukraine. According to Putin, it was due to systemic mistakes of European leaders in the energy, food, and monetary sector that led to inflation, whereas the Eurasian Economic Union operates in the interest of the member countries to fill the gap between the North-South transport corridor to boost growth. He assured to create of a “collective west,” with the population from Eurasia.

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