Excerpts from Vladimir Putin’s speech during the Valdai club forum
What is called the West – conventionally, of course, there is no unity in that – it is clearly a very complex conglomeration, nevertheless let us say that this West has made a certain number of step towards worsening in recent years and especially in recent months. In fact, they are still playing to make the situation worse, there is nothing new here either.
Power over the world is precisely what the aforementioned West has bet on. But this game is definitely a dangerous, bloody and, I would say, dirty game. It denies the sovereignty of countries and peoples, their identity and uniqueness, and places no value on the interests of other states. At least if it is not explicitly stated as a denial, it is nevertheless what is done in practice. No one, except those who formulate the rules I have mentioned, has the right to develop their own identity: all others must be “scrutinized” according to these same rules.
But in today’s world, sitting still is not an option. Those who sow the wind will reap, as they say, the storm. The crisis has truly become global, it affects everyone. There should be no illusions.
Current events have overshadowed environmental issues – oddly enough, that’s where I’d like to start. Climate change issues are no longer high on the agenda. But these fundamental challenges have not gone away, they are not going anywhere, they are only growing.
One of the most dangerous consequences of ecological disruption is the reduction of biodiversity in nature. And now I come to the main subject for which we are all gathered: is the other diversity – cultural, social, political, civilizational – less important?
At the same time, the reduction, the erasure of all differences has become almost the essence of the modern West. What is behind this reduction? It is first of all the disappearance of the creative potential of the West itself and the desire to slow down, to block the free development of other civilizations.
It is no coincidence that the West claims that its culture and worldview should be universal. If they don’t say it outright – although they often say it outright too – but if they don’t say it outright, they behave and insist that, through the game of life, their politicians insist on the fact that these same values must be accepted unconditionally by all other participants in international interactions.
Here is a quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s famous speech at Harvard. In 1978, he noted that the West was characterized by a “persistent superiority blindness” – which persists even today – which “supports the idea that all the vast regions of our planet should develop and be dominated by the systems modern Westerners…”. 1978. Nothing has changed.
Over the past half-century, this blindness that Solzhenitsyn spoke of – openly racist and neocolonial in nature – has become downright hideous, especially since the so-called unipolar world came into existence.
Even at the peak of the Cold War, at the peak of the confrontation of military systems, ideologies and rivalries, it never occurred to anyone to deny the very existence of culture, art and the science of his adversaries. It didn’t bother anyone! Yes, certain restrictions have been imposed on educational, scientific, cultural relations and, unfortunately, also on sports relations. Nevertheless, the Soviet and American leaders of the time understood that the humanitarian sphere had to be handled delicately, studying and respecting the adversary and sometimes borrowing something from him in order to preserve, at least for the future, a basis of reasonable and fruitful relations.
And what happens now? The Nazis had come to burn books in their time, and now Western “liberals and progressives” have come to ban Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky. The so-called cancel culture, but which is in fact – we have already spoken about it several times – a real suppression of culture, deprives of all life and all creativity and does not allow free thought to develop in any field: neither in economics, nor in politics, nor in culture.
They have now reached the point of absurdity where any alternative views are declared subversive propaganda and a threat to democracy.
Everything that comes out of Russia is a “Kremlin plot”. But look at yourself! Are we really so almighty? Any criticism of our opponents – any! – is perceived as a “Kremlin plot”, “the hand of the Kremlin”. It’s absurd. What has happened to you ? Use your brain, express something more interesting, present your point of view in a more conceptual way. You can’t blame everything on Kremlin intrigues.
All of this was prophetically predicted by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky in the 19th century. One of the characters in his novel The Possessed, the nihilist Chigaliov, described the bright future he imagined: “I leave limitless freedom to end up in limitless despotism“, which, by the way, is what our Western adversaries have come to buy into. The other character of the novel, Piotr Verkhovenski, echoes him by declaring that treason, denunciation and espionage are necessary everywhere, that society does not need superior talents and abilities: “Cicero has his tongue cut out , Copernicus has his eyes gouged out, Shakespeare is stoned to death”. This is where our Western adversaries stand. What is it if not a modern Western culture of erasure?
The vanity of such characters is off the charts, as they say, but in a few years no one will remember their names. And Dostoyevsky will survive, just like Tchaikovsky and Pushkin, no offense to some.
The task was clear: to strengthen the unconditional dominance of the West in the world economy and politics and, to do so, to place at its service the natural and financial resources, the intellectual, human and economic capacities of the entire planet, the sauce of the so-called new global interdependence.
But as soon as not Western countries but other states began to benefit from globalization, and we are of course talking in the first place about the large Asian states, the West immediately changed or canceled many rules. And the so-called sacred principles of free trade, economic openness, equal competition, even the right to property, were suddenly and completely forgotten. As soon as something became profitable for them, they changed the rules on the fly, as the game progressed.
For years, Western ideologues and politicians have told the world that there is no alternative to democracy. It is true that they were talking about the Western, so-called liberal, model of democracy. They rejected all other variants and forms of democracy with contempt and – I should note – with lip service, arrogance. This way of doing things has been structured for a long time, since the colonial era: the rest of the world is considered second-class people and only they themselves are exceptional. It has been so for centuries and it continues to this day.
And what is the position of the “civilized” West – in quotes –? If you are a Democrat, you should apparently welcome this natural desire for freedom for billions of people – but no! The West calls it undermining the liberal, rules-based order, launching economic and trade wars, sanctions, boycotts, color revolutions, planning and carrying out all kinds of coups.
Generally speaking, they are just crazy, they are not ashamed of anything. They killed Soleimani, an Iranian general. You can treat Soleimani as you want, but he was an official representative of another country! They killed him on the territory of a third country and said: yes, we did it. What is it about ? Where do we live?
Everything is removed down to the root, and sanctions are imposed on their own allies – shamelessly! And they accept everything, head down.
All this is without exaggeration not even a systemic crisis but a doctrinal crisis of the neo-liberal model of American world order. They have no idea of creation and positive development, they simply have nothing to offer the world except the preservation of their dominance.
The direct threat to the West’s political, economic and ideological monopoly is that alternative social models may emerge in the world – more effective, I would stress, more effective in today’s world, more brilliant, more attractive than what we have.
What do I want to emphasize here? Traditional values are not a fixed set of assumptions that everyone should adhere to. Of course not. They differ from so-called neoliberal values in that they are unique in each case, as they arise from the tradition of a particular society, its culture and its historical experience. Therefore, traditional values cannot be imposed on anyone – they simply have to be respected, cherishing what each nation has chosen for centuries.
In fact, it is also in the interests of the so-called West. Losing its supremacy, it quickly becomes a minority on the world stage.
If Western elites believe that they will be able to introduce into the minds of their peoples, their societies, strange new trends, in my opinion, like dozens of genres and gay pride parades, then so be it Thus. Let them do what they want! But what they are not allowed to do is demand that others follow the same direction.
The arrogant aspiration for world leadership, or indeed for diktat, or for maintaining leadership by diktat, is actually leading to a decline in the international authority of the leaders of the Western world, including the United States, and a growing lack confidence in their ability to negotiate in general. One day they say one thing and the next another; they sign documents and the next day they refuse to sign them; they do what they want. There is no stability in anything. We have absolutely no idea how the documents are signed, what was said, what we can expect.
I am convinced that the peoples of the world will not turn a blind eye to a policy of coercion that has discredited itself, and each time the West tries to maintain its hegemony, it will have to pay an increasingly high price. If I were those Western elites, I would seriously consider such a prospect, just as some political scientists and politicians in the United States themselves are considering, as I have said before.
In the current climate of violent conflict, I will say a few things bluntly. Russia, as an independent and distinct civilization, has never considered and does not consider itself an enemy of the West. Americanophobia, Anglophobia, Francophobia, Germanophobia are forms of racism in the same way as Russophobia and anti-Semitism – as well as all manifestations of xenophobia.
You simply have to understand that there are, as I have already said, two Wests, at least two, or perhaps more, but at least two: the West of traditional values, first of all Christian, of freedom, of patriotism, of cultural richness, and now also of Islamic values, because a significant part of the population of many Western countries professes Islam. This West is close to us in a certain sense, in many respects we have common, even ancestral roots. But there is another West – aggressive, cosmopolitan, neocolonial, acting as a tool for neoliberal elites. Of course, Russia will never put up with the diktats of this West.
In 2000, after my election to the presidency, which I faced, I will always remember – remember the price we paid to destroy the nest of terrorists in the North Caucasus, which the Occident was almost openly supportive at the time. All of the adults here, most of you in this room understand what I’m talking about. We know that is exactly what has happened in practice: financial, political and informational support. We have all experienced it.
Furthermore, [the West] has not only actively supported terrorists on Russian territory, but has also in many ways fueled this threat. We know it. Nevertheless, once the situation has stabilized and the main terrorist gangs have been defeated, thanks in particular to the courage of the Chechen people, we have decided not to go back, not to play the offended, to go from forward, to build relationships even with those who actually worked against us, to establish and develop relationships with all who wished, based on mutual benefit and respect for one another.
Thus, the global economy and trade must become fairer and more open. Russia sees the formation of new international financial platforms as inevitable, including for international payments. These platforms should be located outside national jurisdictions, be secure, depoliticized, automated and not dependent on any single control centre. Is it possible or not? Of course it is possible. It will take a lot of effort, the combined efforts of many countries, but it is possible.
The switch to national currencies will actively gain ground – inevitably. It depends, of course, on the state of the issuers of these currencies, the state of their economies, but they will strengthen, and these transactions will certainly gradually become dominant. This is the logic of sovereign economic and financial policy in a multipolar world.
How is it going today? If the West sells drugs or seeds of food crops to other countries, it orders the killing of domestic pharmaceuticals and breeding, in fact, in practice, it all comes down to this; if he provides machinery and equipment, he destroys the local mechanical industry. When I was Prime Minister, I understood it: as soon as you open the market for a certain group of products, it’s over, the local producer “sinks”, and it is almost impossible to raise your head. This is how relationships are built. This is how markets and resources are monopolized, how countries are deprived of their technological and scientific potential. This is not progress, but enslavement, the reduction of economies to a primitive level.
Let me stress it once again: sovereignty, self-sustaining development does not in any way mean isolation, autarky, but on the contrary, it implies active and mutually beneficial cooperation on fair and equitable principles.
In this context, Russia considers it important to actively launch mechanisms for creating large spaces based on the interaction of neighboring countries whose economy, social system, resource base and infrastructure complement each other. These vast spaces, in essence, are the basis of a multipolar world order – an economic basis. From their dialogue comes the true unity of humanity, which is much more complex, diverse and multidimensional than in the simplistic ideas of some Western ideologues.
In this regard, we should perhaps also reflect on how the structure of the United Nations, including its Security Council, could better reflect the diversity of the regions of the world. After all, the world of tomorrow will depend much more on Asia, Africa and Latin America than is believed today, and such an increase in their influence is undoubtedly positive.
The successful activities of the Eurasian Economic Union, the rapid growth of the authority and influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the large-scale initiatives under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative , multilateral cooperation plans for the implementation of the North-South transport corridor and many other projects in this part of the world, I am sure, mark the beginning of a new era, a new stage in the development of Eurasia. Integration projects do not contradict each other, but complement each other, of course, if they are carried out by neighboring countries in their own interest, rather than being introduced by external forces to divide the Eurasian space and transform it into a confrontation zone between blocks.
An integral part of Greater Eurasia could be its western end, Europe. However, many of its leaders are hampered by the belief that Europeans are better than others, that they should not participate in enterprises on an equal footing with others. They don’t even notice that they themselves have become peripheral and have essentially become vassals, often without voting rights.
The historical period of unchallenged Western domination of world affairs is coming to an end, the unipolar world is a thing of the past. We are at a historic turning point. The decade before us is perhaps the most dangerous, the most unpredictable and the most important since the end of the Second World War. The West is incapable of leading humanity on its own, but it is desperately trying to do so, and most of the nations of the world are no longer willing to support it. This is the major contradiction of the new era. The situation is somewhat revolutionary: the upper classes can no longer and the lower classes no longer want to live like this, according to these terms.
A course change is a painful but natural and inevitable process. The future world order is taking shape before our eyes. And in this world order, we must listen to everyone, consider all points of view, all nations, all societies, all cultures, all systems of worldviews, ideas and of religious beliefs, without imposing a single truth on anyone, and only on that basis, understanding our responsibility to fate – the fate of peoples, of the planet – to build a symphony of human civilization.