In a speech at the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow, Putin presented Russia as a champion of emerging nations in the new multipolar world, and he demanded that the United States and other Western powers begin to respect equal states. And in agreement with the right-wing parties in the West, he characterized Russia as a defender of traditional Christian values, which society has lost.
“I believe that sooner or later both the new centers of the multipolar world order and the West should start the same conversation about a common future for us, of course, the sooner the better,” Putin said. He added that he believes the West is losing its hegemony and is “rapidly becoming a minority on the world stage.”
In reality, Russia has become deeply isolated as a result of Putin’s brutal invasion and attempted illegal annexation of four Ukrainian territories in violation of international law. Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly not to recognize Putin’s annexations, calling on him to reverse course. The result of voting was 143 against, 5 against, 35 abstentions. Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria were four countries on Russia’s side.
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The Kremlin has boasted that the speech will be “read and re-read” by future generations, but on Thursday, Putin was peppered with pointed questions as he spoke to guests from India, Pakistan, China and Indonesia, as well as pro-Kremlin politicians from Moldova. about his vision of a post-conflict, post-American hegemony world. There were few Westerners in the audience.
Despite the rivalry with the West at the core of his foreign policy and daily talks, Putin emphasized that Russia does not see itself as an enemy of the West, but rather opposes the “strange” and “neoliberal” actions of the West. values in other societies around the world.
According to Putin, these alien values include the “cancellation of culture”, “dozens of gay parades” and the right to express one’s gender identity.
On Thursday, the lower house of the Russian parliament unanimously passed a law banning the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among Russian citizens and heavily fines the LGBTQ+ community for speaking out in public.
“There are at least two Wests,” Putin said. One is the West of “traditional, first of all Christian values, freedom, patriotism, the richest culture” to which Russia is close. “But there is another West – one that acts as a tool for aggressive, cosmopolitan, neo-colonial, neo-liberal elites,” he continued. “And Russia, of course, will never tolerate this exact order from the West.”
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During a nearly three-hour speech and question-and-answer session, Putin made a series of fabricated claims, including that the West had instigated the war in Ukraine.
“Unlike the West, we do not enter someone’s backyard,” Putin said, asserting that Moscow does not interfere in the affairs of other countries.
Over the past 15 years, Russia has invaded two of its neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia, intervened militarily in Syria, and spent millions on political support in Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and other countries.
Putin again condemned the Pentagon’s accusation that the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Qasem Soleimani by order of US President Donald Trump was an attack on US citizens. “They killed Suleimani on the territory of another state and said: ‘Yes, we killed him,'” Putin said. “What is it? What world are we living in?”
Russia has been accused of orchestrating attacks on several Kremlin critics abroad, ranging from the killing of Chechens in Germany to the poisoning of former secret service agents and refugees in London. Alexei Navalny, Putin’s main critic, is in prison in Russia after surviving a poison attack.
“Things from Russia are always called ‘Kremlin intrigues,'” Putin said. “But look at yourself! Are we that strong? Any criticism of our opponents is perceived as “Kremlin’s hand”, but not everyone can be blamed. [us.]”
In recent years, Putin’s government has intensified repression, persecuting political opposition representatives, journalists, activists and scientists, calling hundreds of people “foreign agents”.
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The panel’s moderator, political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, stressed to Putin that Moscow is underestimating its opponents in Ukraine, an indirect reference to the Russian military’s failures on the battlefield in recent weeks and the overall pace of the war, now entering its ninth month. At first, the Kremlin expected to capture Kiev quickly.
“The public does not understand – what is the plan in this operation?” Lukyanov went on to point to growing discontent with Moscow’s military strategy and the unpopular mobilization that has drafted 300,000 or more men into the army, but another hundred thousand have fled the country to avoid being sent to war.
Putin rejected this criticism. According to him, the balance on the battlefield would be even worse for Russia in the future, with the West supplying weapons to Ukraine and “building fortified areas”.
Putin also repeated Russia’s unsupported claims that Ukraine was preparing to use a “dirty bomb” containing radioactive material. Western leaders have dismissed the allegation as false and a potential pretext for Russia to escalate the war by using such weapons.
In previous speeches, Putin has often hinted at Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal and his willingness to use “all available means,” but he stressed Thursday that Russia has never openly threatened to use nuclear weapons and that Ukraine does not need to.
In Kiev, Putin repeated his false accusations of state-sponsored “Nazism” and insisted that the United States could end the war. “Those who implement the policy in Washington can quickly solve the Ukraine issue through diplomacy,” he said. They should only send a signal to Kiev to change their attitude and pursue peace talks.