Putin insists U.S. respect ‘multipolar’ world and tell Kyiv to seek peace

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Russian President Vladimir Putin recited familiar grievances and criticisms of the hegemonic “Western elite” in a major foreign policy speech on Thursday, offering an ideological pitch to Asian leaders and conservative groups in the United States and Europe.

Putin also blamed the West for the war in Ukraine, which he launched with a full-scale invasion in February, and argued that Washington could end the conflict by telling the Ukrainian government to seek peace.

In a speech at the annual meeting of the Valdai Debating Club in Moscow, Putin portrayed Russia as a champion of emerging nations in a new multipolar world, which he demanded the United States and other Western nations respect as equals. And while looking for a common language with the right-wing in the West, he described Russia as a defender of traditional Christian values, because society has lost its way.

“I am convinced that sooner or later both the new centers of the multipolar world order and the West will have to start an equal conversation about our common future and, of course, the sooner the better,” Putin said. He added that he believes the West is losing its dominance and is “fast becoming a minority on the world stage.”

In reality, Russia has become very isolated due to Putin’s brutal invasion and his attempt to illegally annex four regions of Ukraine in violation of international law. Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly not to recognize Putin’s annexations and urged him to reverse course. The score was 143 for 5 with 35 abstentions. The four countries on Russia’s side were Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria.

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The Kremlin has boasted that future generations will “read and read” the speech, but on Thursday Putin spoke to a large crowd of guests from India, Pakistan, China and Indonesia, as well as partisan pro-Kremlin politicians from Moldova, who asked him pointed questions. about his vision after the conflict, after American hegemony. There were few Westerners in the audience.

Despite making competition with the West a cornerstone of his foreign policy and everyday conversation, Putin has insisted that Russia does not fundamentally see itself as an enemy of the West, but opposes Western attempts to instill the “weird” and “neoliberal”. values ​​in other world societies.

These foreign values, according to Putin, include the “cancellation of culture”, “dozens of gay parades” and the right to express one’s gender identity.

On Thursday, Russia’s lower house of parliament unanimously passed a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among Russian citizens and imposing heavy fines for mentioning the LGBTQ+ community in public.

“There are at least two Wests,” Putin said. One of them is the West of “traditional, primarily Christian values, freedom, patriotism, the richest culture”, which Russia is close to. “But there is another West – aggressive, cosmopolitan, neo-colonial, acting as a tool of the neoliberal elite,” he continued. “And Russia, of course, will never come to terms with the dictates of this West.”

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During a nearly three-hour speech and question-and-answer session, Putin made a number of far-fetched claims, including that the West was fomenting war in Ukraine.

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“Unlike the West, we do not step into someone else’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, interceded militarily in Syria and spent millions seeking political favor in Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and other countries.

Putin has again condemned US President Donald Trump’s order to kill Qasem Soleimani, the top general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, whom the Pentagon has accused of carrying out attacks on US citizens. “They killed Soleimani on the territory of another state and said, ‘yes, we killed him,'” Putin said. “What is this? What kind of world do we live in?”

Russia has been accused of orchestrating attacks on several Kremlin critics abroad, from the killing of Chechens in Germany to the poisoning of former secret service agents and defectors in London. Alexei Navalny, Putin’s top critic, is jailed in Russia after surviving a poisoning attack.

“Everything that comes from Russia is always labeled as ‘Kremlin intrigues,'” Putin said. “But look at yourself!” Are we that powerful? Any criticism of our opponents is perceived as the “hand of the Kremlin”, but not everything can be blamed [us.]”

In recent years, Putin’s government has increasingly repressed and cracked down on political opposition figures, journalists, activists and academics, labeling hundreds as “foreign agents”.

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The panel’s moderator, political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, pressed Putin on whether Moscow had underestimated its opponents in Ukraine, hinting at the battlefield setbacks the Russian military has suffered in recent weeks and the overall pace of the war, which is now entering its ninth month despite what the Kremlin initially hoped would be he will soon take Kiev.

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“The public does not understand – what is the plan of this operation?” Lukyanov continued, alluding to growing discontent with Moscow’s military strategy and an unpopular mobilization that saw 300,000 or more conscripted but nearly hundreds of thousands more fleeing the country to avoid being sent to war.

Putin dismissed the criticism. He said the balance on the battlefield would have worsened for Russia in the future, given the West’s supply of weapons to Ukraine and the “building of entrenched zones”.

Putin also repeated Russia’s baseless claims that Ukraine was preparing to use a “dirty bomb” containing radioactive material. Western leaders dismissed the allegation as false and a possible pretext for Russia to escalate the war by using such a weapon itself.

In past remarks, Putin has often said he is prepared to use “all available means,” referring to Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal, but insisted on Thursday that Russia had never openly threatened to use nuclear weapons and should not have done so in Ukraine.

Putin repeated his false accusations of state-sponsored “Nazism” in Kiev and claimed the US could end the war. “Those who implement policy in Washington can solve the Ukraine problem very quickly through diplomacy,” he said. “All they need to do is send a signal to Kiev to change its attitude and seek peace talks.”

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