Between mockery and dread, the West’s reaction to Putin’s speech
Published 02/21/2023 19:04 | Edited 02/22/2023 09:31
US President Joe Biden rallied NATO allies in Poland, proclaiming “unwavering” support for Kiev, while his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, announced the suspension of Moscow’s role in a nuclear weapons treaty with Washington.
For many in the West, the scariest part of the Russian president’s speech was precisely the suspension of Moscow’s participation in the important nuclear weapons treaty.
The only pact that regulates the world’s largest nuclear arsenals in the United States and Russia, the New START Treaty limited the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles that Moscow and Washington can have.
After Putin’s speech, France and the United Kingdom called on the Kremlin to reverse its decision to suspend participation in the treaty.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had no comment on Putin’s speech but criticized Russia for Tuesday’s bombing of the southern city of Kherson that killed at least six and wounded dozens.
“The world has no right to forget for a minute that Russia’s cruelty and aggression knows no borders. The terrorist state will be held accountable for all its inhumane crimes against our people and Ukraine,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.
But to Ukrainian observers, the threat of a new Cold War is nothing more than a bluff designed to mask Putin’s despair over Russia’s alleged military failures, international ostracism and economic sanctions imposed by the West.
For them, it is easier to blame what they call the “collective West” than to admit that Ukraine resisted aggression, fought back and recovered lost areas. They also point out that the speech to the nation aims to prepare the Russians for the prolonging of the war and its consequences. The speech would have been a long homily so as not to face reality.
The tone of speech among Ukrainian intelligence is to make fun of Russia and put itself in a superior role, as Western support grows. Zelensky’s aide Mykhailo Podolyak mocks what he considers Putin’s “Nazi ravings and conspiracy theories” in the speech.
In fact, Russia does not find declared support for its undertaking, favoring the Ukrainian discourse. However, European countries are clearly reticent to send heavy weapons to Kiev, lest they risk becoming a Russian target.
Today, alongside Zelensky, the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, said that Rome will continue to support Ukraine in resisting Russian attacks, but has no plans to offer fighter jets to Kiev. On her first trip to Ukraine since the invasion, she faces ambiguity from her right-wing coalition on the issue.
However, despite the silence, a large part of the neutral world refuses to enter the conflict by berating Putin. Nobody wants to give carte blanche to Western hegemony, knowing that they may need Russian support, as Bashar El Assad did in Syria.
Even former loyal Putin supporters fighting in Ukraine criticize him for omitting the real losses the Russian army has suffered and the miscalculations of his generals.
“In the army everything is beautiful and it only gets better. Not a word about losses, bad luck, difficulties,” wrote Igor Girkin, former “Minister of Defense” of the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” on Telegram.
“Not a word about mistakes and responsibility for them from someone in the halls of power,” wrote Girkin, who has been criticizing Putin and Russia’s front-line generals for months.
Biden in Poland
Fresh off his surprise visit to Ukraine, Biden used Tuesday’s trip to drum up support for Ukraine as the war enters its second year, with no end in sight.
“A year ago, the world was preparing for the fall of Kiev,” Biden said. “I can report: Kiev is strong, Kiev is proud, it is tall, and most importantly, it is free.”
Biden spoke after meeting NATO ally and Polish President Andrzej Duda, a vocal advocate of stronger Western support for Kiev.
US President Joe Biden has warned Moscow that Western support for Kiev in its fight against a Russian invasion “will not waver”, vowing that the conflict in Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia.
He called the war a “tragedy” that was a choice – not a necessity – by the Russian president, stressing that the conflict would end if Russia ended its invasion of its neighbor. At various times, the American stops looking at the mirror to accuse Putin.
“There should be no doubts: our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided and we will not tire,” Biden told a crowd of thousands in the Polish capital, in a threatening tone that only makes dialogue more difficult.
“He thought he would get the Finnishness of NATO; instead, he got the NATOization of Finland and Sweden,” Biden said, referring to the effort by the two northern European countries to join the US-led alliance.
Biden still dared to accuse Russia of committing crimes against humanity, without noting that its military had repeatedly done so in recent wars, under the eyes of the world. “Nobody can take their eyes off the atrocities that Russia is committing against the Ukrainian people. It is abhorrent,” Biden said.
Addressing the crowd ahead of Biden, Polish President Andrzej Duda praised the US president’s visit to Kiev as a “spectacular gesture” of support for Ukraine.
“He set foot on Ukrainian soil, where the war is going on. He demonstrated that the free world and its leaders are afraid of nothing,” he said of Biden.
“He showed that Ukraine is not alone, that it is supported by the most powerful state in the world and the most powerful armed forces in the world.”
Duda expressed confidence that Kiev “will win” the war and that “Russia will have to leave the Ukrainian lands in shame”.
Earlier on Tuesday, Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers said their countries would continue to impose economic costs on Russia and urged the wider international community to reject what they described as Russia’s “brutal expansionism”. Moscow.
“We will impose further economic costs on Russia and on individuals and entities – inside and outside Russia – who provide political or economic support for these violations of international law,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
Sanctions have been understood as an ineffective mechanism to contain conflicts, especially involving a power like Russia. Countries suffering from sanctions rearrange themselves to their mutual benefit. This is the case of China and governments like the Iranian one, as well as Venezuela.
In his speech, Putin sent messages to the Russian elite about the importance of investing domestically. The future of Russia promises to be one of rupture with current globalization, and the formation of a new economic hegemony, with allied countries. Russians have lived with Western economic sanctions since the Soviet period, so they have always adapted quickly to economic restrictions.
With information from Aljazira.