Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for several hours on the final day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. He confronted head-on the realities of the present strategic crises which are being thrown at the new paradigm being created by Russia and the other BRICS nations.
In an interview after the summit, with Fareed Zakaria, he also deftly disposed of statements that he supported Donald Trump, by pointing out that he was misquoted by journalists such as Zakaria, who are not analysts, stressing that we “are ready to work with the United States,” no matter who is elected its next leader. He pointed out that “Trump has stated that he is ready to restore full format Russia-U.S. relations…. We all welcome it.”
In his statement on the final day of the summit, Putin said that the United States could be of benefit to the world, including Russia, so long as the U.S. would not interfere in the affairs of other countries:
“We need [the United States]. But we don’t need them constantly interfering in our affairs, telling us how to live, and hindering Europe in building relations with us.”
Putin pointed out that the Obama Administration told its European partners to endure sanctions against Russia, which had devastating consequences for Europe, but not the United States.
Putin said that European business circles in France, Germany, and elsewhere have expressed a willingness to cooperate with Russian and now it is up to politicians “to show wisdom, foresight and flexibility.”
“We do not hold a grudge and are ready to meet our European partners halfway,” Putin said to the forum. He pointed out that Russia had not initiated the present “breakdown” in relations between Europe and Russia caused by the sanctions. “All our actions have been and remain solely retaliatory.”
Putin continued, “Our recent meetings with representatives of German and French business circles have proven that European business is willing and ready to cooperate with our country. Politicians need to meet the business people halfway, and show wisdom, foresight, and flexibility. We need to regain trust in Russian-European relations and to restore the level of interaction.”
Putin also took head-on NATO’s expansionist policy, saying it makes no sense: “The Soviet Union is no more, the Warsaw Treaty [between the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries] has ceased to exist, so why does NATO need to constantly broaden its infrastructure and move towards Russia’s borders. Now they’re taking in Montenegro. Who has threatened Montenegro?” Putin asked, laughing at the absurdity.
He charged that NATO had “an absolutely slapdash attitude to our position on anything,” noting that it was the United States that had unilaterally quit the missile defense treaty, which was initially signed to “provide strategic balance in the world.” Putin went on to reassure the world community that he does not want to proceed to a new Cold War, as “no one wants it.” “However dramatic the logic of the development of international relations might seem on the outside, it’s not the logic of global confrontation.”
Putin stated that the U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe constitutes a threat to the balance of power. “We will perfect our missile strike capability, to preserve balance, only because of that.”
Putin pointed out that problems in the world could be dealt with as is happening now in Syria. In that case, he said that nations in the world, including Russia and the United States, are working together to help solve the crisis in Syria. He confronted the regime-change policy, insisting that Syria’s integrity must be maintained, as the top priority. Putin said bluntly that the disintegration of Syria would be a “destabilizing factor not only for the region, but for the whole world.”
He stated that peace can only be reached in Syria by a political process: “If we want to promote the principle of democracy, let’s do so with democratic instruments,” he told the forum.
He stated that the Ukraine crisis was deliberately created by the Obama Administration to provide a reason for NATO to exist, and that is not how situations in the international arena should be handled: “After the Arab Spring, [the United States] sneaked up to our borders. Why did they need to support a coup in Ukraine? … Chances are, the opposition that is currently in power could have reached it through democratic elections, and we would have been working with them, just the way we worked with those who were in power before President Yanukovych. … But no,” Putin continued, “they had to lead it to a bloody coup with victims, to cause civil war.”
Putin said that these developments “scarred” Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population in the southeast and Crimea, giving Russia no alternative but to take measures “to protect certain groups of people.”
The reason, he said: NATO “needs a foreign enemy, otherwise what would be the reason for the existence of such an organization.” Putin said that the whole conflict was forced on Ukraine “to substantiate the very existence of the North Atlantic alliance.”