Published 02/21/2023 12:14 | Edited 2/22/2023 4:21 PM
On Monday night (20), the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, gave a long speech of 1h45m marking a year of conflict with Ukraine. The State of the Nation speech given in Moscow evaluated the invasion of Ukraine that started on February 24, 2022.
The speech was marked by the announcement of Russia’s break with the nuclear weapons treaty made with the US in 2010.
“I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Strategic Offensive Weapons Treaty.”
The new START treaty was signed in Prague in 2010. It entered into force the following year and was extended in 2021 for another five years after the inauguration of US President Joe Biden.
It limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can deploy and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.
Russia has the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, with around 6,000 warheads, according to experts. Together, Russia and the United States own nearly all of the world’s nuclear warheads (90%).
“I make this speech at a time that we all know is a difficult and watershed moment for our country, a moment of cardinal and irreversible changes around the world, the most important historical events that will shape the future of our country and our people. , when each of us carries a colossal responsibility.”
Putin admits the geopolitical dimension of the conflict, which was expected to be quick and less comprehensive, based on the Russian demand that Ukraine not accept NATO bases (military treaty of rich countries in the North) on its borders. Something that had happened before with Georgia and was resolved in a few days, without the interference of Western countries.
However, the refusal of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to accept the claim, in a climate in which friction with Russia and Russian residents in the country only escalated, ended up taking the Armed Forces of the Russian military power to the neighboring borders. With the help of other countries, raising threats and alerts to Russia, instead of collaborating with the dialogue, the invasion ended up taking place.
Since then, economic, political and cultural sanctions from the West have made Russia even closer to allied countries, such as China, strengthening a hegemonic field in the East. The West, for its part, unified the narrative against Russia.
The discourse of a “watershed” points to an even greater closure of Russia to the West, avoiding operations with the dollar, blocking fuel exports to Europe, rapprochement with Asian allies, an arms race, a complete break with Ukraine and with various multilateral agreements, such as nuclear weapons.
“They just tried to use these principles of democracy and freedom to defend their totalitarian values and tried to divert people’s attention from corruption scandals… from social-economic problems.”
With the West’s closure to any possibility of dialogue with Russia, Putin gains arguments to defend an ideological discourse that increasingly resonates in Eastern and Muslim countries, which have been suspicious of American and European intentions for years.
Countries with centralized, or strong, or authoritarian, or theocratic governments in the East see the discourse in defense of democracy and human rights made by the West, more and more, as a smokescreen to impose by force its control over vulnerable economies.
The disastrous dominance or division imposed on Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan or Syria, for example, led to the dismantling of these countries’ governance, uncontrollable civil conflicts and the appropriation of wealth, under the increasingly less acceptable excuse of democratizing these countries.
“The responsibility lies with the West and the Ukrainian elite and government, which does not serve the national interest, but [ao invés disso, serve ao interesse] from third countries [que] use Ukraine as a military base to fight Russia.
Russia understands the conflict in Ukraine as a proxy war, in which the US uses the European country, and the European Union itself, as a great opportunity to weaken Putin and dominate the plentiful and valuable Russian natural resources.
The NATO that served the purpose of protecting capitalist Europe from the communist Soviet Union was never dismantled, despite empty promises. Agreements for the demilitarization of borders with Russia were systematically breached.
Gradually, Putin saw NATO approach its borders from former Soviet republics, in a move considered unnecessary, since Russia did not pose a threat to its neighbors. In this way, soft coups (springs) replaced nationalist governments allied with Moscow by puppet governments aligned with the US and the European Union. The economic and political elites of these countries, in turn, were being co-opted by promises of inclusion in the European Community.
“The more they send weapons to Ukraine, the more responsibility we have for the security situation on the Russian border. This is a natural response.”
Once again, Putin emphasizes the closure of the country and the arms race that must take place, as of now. Elementary rules of modern conflicts that Putin claims to be respecting, such as the preservation of the civilian population, the opening of humanitarian corridors, the agreement for the disposal of agricultural exports, respect for the human rights of soldiers and surrendered populations, as well as the use only of weapons permitted by the international agreements, can go down the drain.
“We do not fight with the Ukrainian people. They became hostages of the Kiev regime, which occupied Ukraine economically and politically. Over the years, they’ve been doing everything to bring about this degradation… They’re using their people, it’s sad but true.”
This speech has been made since 2014, when the Ukrainian spring demonstrations, which “coincidentally”, took place in various parts of the world (including Brazil), always mobilized by American-controlled social networks, to overthrow governments not aligned with the US. .
Under the argument of combating government corruption, defending democracy and – in countries like Ukraine -, the demand for entry into the European Union, governments fell, were replaced by others as corrupt and authoritarian as they were, but willing to openly conflict with neighbors.
In this way, the populations of workers who took to the streets full of hope became hostages of neo-Nazi and militaristic governments that only made their people live in an environment much worse than the one they lived in. In several of them, such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine, the scenario is one of devastation with no promise of the prospect of a return to peace.
“Step by step, with care and consistency, we will solve the tasks that lie ahead. Since 2014, the (people of) Donbass have been fighting, defending their right to live in their own land, to speak their native language.
Here, Putin returns to the original justification for the invasion, citing the region bordering Russia, with a majority of people of Russian origin. By announcing that he intended to denazify Ukraine, he was referring to the poisonous environment that the Donbass region has become since neo-Nazi militias began to act freely against Russians, the left and trade unionists.
“They fought and did not give up in the conditions of blockade and constant shelling, undisguised hatred on the part of the Kiev regime. They believed and hoped that Russia would come to the rescue.
Since the rise of far-right forces in 2014, these Russians have been brutally persecuted and prevented from speaking their mother tongue. Massacres and lynchings were daily in the streets of cities like Mariupol. Many claimed that the arrival of the Russian army was a relief from the climate that had settled in the region.
As the conflict progressed, millions of Ukrainian Russians were displaced and sheltered in the country, although millions more were scattered as refugees across Europe.
“In the meantime, we have done our best to resolve this issue by peaceful means. We patiently tried to negotiate a peaceful way out of this very difficult conflict, but a completely different scenario was being prepared behind our backs.”
At this point, Putin places himself as a victim of a Western conspiracy, by suggesting the purity of his intentions, in the face of what the West planned to weaken his government without specifying the objectives.
“We have already started and will continue to build a large-scale program for the recovery and socio-economic development of these new subjects of the federation (annexed territory of Ukraine). We are talking about revitalizing businesses and jobs in the ports of the Sea of Azov, which has once again become an inland sea of Russia, and building new modern roads, as we did in Crimea.”
Here, Putin admits the character of annexation of the valuable territories on the shores of the Black Sea. The defense of Donbass has always been an argument used to justify the “special military operation” for the Russian population. The fact that many had families in the region, aware of the discriminatory problems faced, all trusted the government.
Thus, the legitimate intention to move NATO away from Russian borders ends up being lost with the annexation of parts of Ukraine. Increasingly verbalized, the defense of territorial integrity is becoming the great justification for the intensification of the conflict and the sending of heavier weapons from the West to Zelensky.
“We all understand, I understand how unbearably difficult it is now for the wives, sons, daughters of fallen soldiers, their parents, who raised worthy defenders of the Fatherland.”
Putin said he understood how difficult it is for the relatives of Russian soldiers who died fighting in Ukraine and pledged “targeted support” with a new special fund.
This part of the speech appeals to the understanding of the people, as losses mount and approval for the war wanes. A public that has heard all the time talking about a “special military operation” instead of war, and justifications that seem increasingly distant and forgotten, begins to distrust its government.
The sanctions and withdrawal of Western companies from the country, with an explosion of inflation, unemployment and shortages, add to the lives lost of young people as aggravating factors for the government’s loss of popularity. Russian populations in Donbass are also starting to feel exhausted by the protracted war.
“They distort historical facts and constantly attack our culture, the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional religions of our country,” Putin said of Western nations that support Ukraine.
“Look at what they do to their own people: the destruction of family, cultural and national identity, perversion and abuse of children are declared the norm. And priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages.
“As has become known, the Anglican Church plans to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God… Millions of people in the West understand that they are being led into a veritable spiritual catastrophe.”
“Look at what they do to their own people: the destruction of families, of cultural and national identities and the perversion that is child abuse to pedophilia, are heralded as the norm … and priests are forced to bless people of the same sex weddings”.
Addressing an audience of the military, economic, political and cultural elite, as well as clerical officials, Putin appeals to the religious values of conservative Russia to attack moral liberalism in the West.
His rhetoric here is close to the theocratic eastern governments, but also to the hypocrisy and utilitarianism of the western extreme right. Topics that are normally used as a smokescreen to prevent people from becoming aware of the government’s true actions and the country’s real problems are openly encouraged by the Russian leader.
Read the full speech here.