Valdai International Discussion Club meeting - President of Russia Vladimir Putin

[Valdai International Discussion Club meeting]
President of Russia Vladimir Putin
October 5, 2023
Article from

President of Russia Vladimir Putin

《Valdai International Discussion Club meeting》

Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary session of the 20th anniversary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin:

Participants in the plenary session, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to welcome you all in Sochi at the anniversary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. The moderator has already mentioned that this is the 20th annual meeting.

In keeping with its traditions, our, or should I say your forum, has brought together political leaders and researchers, experts and civil society activists from many countries around the world, once again reaffirming its high status as a relevant intellectual platform. The Valdai discussions invariably reflect the most important global political processes in the 21st century in their entirety and complexity. I am certain that this will also be the case today, as it probably was in the preceding days when you debated with each other. It will also stay this way moving forward because our objective is basically to build a new world. And it is at these decisive stages that you, my colleagues, have an extremely important role to play and bear special responsibility as intellectuals.

Over the years of the club’s work, both Russia and the world have seen drastic, and even dramatic, colossal changes. Twenty years is not a long period by historical standards, but during eras when the entire world order is crumbling, time seems to shrink.

I think you will agree that more events have taken place in the past 20 years than over decades in some historical periods before, and it was major changes that dictated the fundamental transformation of the very principles of international relations.

In the early 21st century, everybody hoped that states and peoples had learned the lessons of the expensive and destructive military and ideological confrontations of the previous century, saw their harmfulness and the fragility and interconnectedness of our planet, and understood that the global problems of humanity call for joint action and the search for collective solutions, while egotism, arrogance and disregard for real challenges would inevitably lead to a dead-end, just like the attempts by more powerful countries to force their opinions and interests onto everyone else. This should have become obvious to everyone. It should have, but it has not. It has not.

When we met for the first time at the club’s meeting nearly 20 years ago, our country was entering a new stage in its development. Russia was emerging from an extremely difficult period of convalescence after the Soviet Union’s dissolution. We launched the process of building a new and what we saw as a more just world order energetically and with good will. It is a boon that our country can make a huge contribution because we have things to offer to our friends, partners and the world as a whole.

Regrettably, our interest in constructive interaction was misunderstood, was seen as obedience, as an agreement that the new world order would be created by those who declared themselves the winners in the Cold War. It was seen as an admission that Russia was ready to follow in others’ wake and not to be guided by our own national interests but by somebody else’s interests.

Over these years, we warned more than once that this approach would not only lead to a dead-end but that it was fraught with the increasing threat of a military conflict. But nobody listened to us or wanted to listen to us. The arrogance of our so-called partners in the West went through the roof. This is the only way I can put it.

The United States and its satellites have taken a steady course towards hegemony in military affairs, politics, the economy, culture and even morals and values. Since the very beginning, it has been clear to us that attempts to establish a monopoly were doomed to fail. The world is too complicated and diverse to be subjected to one system, even if it is backed by the enormous power of the West accumulated over centuries of its colonial policy. Your colleagues as well – many of them are absent today, but they do not deny that to a significant degree, the prosperity of the West has been achieved by robbing colonies for several centuries. This is a fact. Essentially, this level of development has been achieved by robbing the entire planet.

The history of the West is essentially the chronicle of endless expansion. Western influence in the world is an immense military and financial pyramid scheme that constantly needs more “fuel” to support itself, with natural, technological and human resources that belong to others. This is why the West simply cannot and is not going to stop. Our arguments, reasoning, calls for common sense or proposals have simply been ignored.

I have said this publicly to both our allies and partners. There was a moment when I simply suggested: perhaps we should also join NATO? But no, NATO does not need a country like ours. No. I want to know, what else do they need? We thought we became part of the crowd, got a foot in the door. What else were we supposed to do? There was no more ideological confrontation. What was the problem? I guess the problem was their geopolitical interests and arrogance towards others. Their self-aggrandisement was and is the problem.

We are compelled to respond to ever-increasing military and political pressure. I have said many times that it was not us who started the so-called “war in Ukraine.” On the contrary, we are trying to end it. It was not us who orchestrated a coup in Kiev in 2014 – a bloody and anti-constitutional coup. When [similar events] happen in other places, we immediately hear all the international media – mainly those subordinate to the Anglo-Saxon world, of course – this is unacceptable, this is impossible, this is anti-democratic. But the coup in Kiev was acceptable. They even cited the amount of money spent on this coup. Anything was suddenly acceptable.

At that time, Russia tried its best to support the people of Crimea and Sevastopol. We did not try to overthrow the government or intimidate the people in Crimea and Sevastopol, threatening them with ethnic cleansing in the Nazi spirit. It was not us who tried to force Donbass to obey by shelling and bombing. We did not threaten to kill anyone who wanted to speak their native language. Look, everyone here is an informed and educated person. It might be possible – excuse my ‘mauvais ton’ – to brainwash millions of people who perceive reality through the media. But you must know what was really going on: they have been bombing the place for nine years, shooting and using tanks. That was a war, a real war unleashed against Donbass. And no one counted the dead children in Donbass. No one cried for the dead in other countries, especially in the West.

This war, the one that the regime sitting in Kiev started with the vigorous and direct support from the West, has been going on for more than nine years, and Russia’s special military operation is aimed at stopping it. And it reminds us that unilateral steps, no matter who takes them, will inevitably prompt retaliation. As we know, every action has an equal opposite reaction. That is what any responsible state, every sovereign, independent and self-respecting country does.

Everyone realises that in an international system where arbitrariness reigns, where all decision-making is up to those who think they are exceptional, sinless and right, any country can be attacked simply because it is disliked by a hegemon, who has lost any sense of proportion – and I would add, any sense of reality.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that our counterparties in the West have lost their sense of reality and have crossed every line. They really should not have done this.

The Ukraine crisis is not a territorial conflict, and I want to make that clear. Russia is the world’s largest country in terms of land area, and we have no interest in conquering additional territory. We still have much to do to properly develop Siberia, Eastern Siberia, and the Russian Far East. This is not a territorial conflict and not an attempt to establish regional geopolitical balance. The issue is much broader and more fundamental and is about the principles underlying the new international order.

Lasting peace will only be possible when everyone feels safe and secure, understands that their opinions are respected, and that there is a balance in the world where no one can unilaterally force or compel others to live or behave as a hegemon pleases even when it contradicts the sovereignty, genuine interests, traditions, or customs of peoples and countries. In such an arrangement, the very concept of sovereignty is simply denied and, sorry, is thrown in the garbage.

Clearly, commitment to bloc-based approaches and the push to drive the world into a situation of ongoing “us versus them” confrontation is a bad legacy of the 20th century. It is a product of Western political culture, at least of its most aggressive manifestations. To reiterate, the West – at least a certain part of the West, the elite – always need an enemy. They need an enemy to justify the need for military action and expansion. But they also need an enemy to maintain internal control within a certain system of this very hegemon and within blocs like NATO or other military-political blocs. There must be an enemy so everyone can rally around the “leader.”

The way other states run their lives is none of our business. However, we see how the ruling elite in many of them are forcing societies to accept norms and rules that the people – or at least a significant number of people and even the majority in some countries – are unwilling to embrace. But they are still urged to do so, with the authorities continually inventing justifications for their actions, attributing growing internal problems to external causes, and fabricating or exaggerating non-existent threats.

Russia is a favourite subject for these politickers. We have grown used to this over the course of history, of course. But they try to portray those who are not willing to blindly follow these Western elite groups as enemies. They have used this approach with various countries, including the People’s Republic of China, and they tried to do this to India in certain situations. They are flirting with it now, as we can see very clearly. We are aware of and see the scenarios they are using in Asia. I would like to say that the Indian leadership is independent and strongly nationally oriented. I think these attempts are pointless, yet they continue with them. They try to portray the Arab world as an enemy; they do it selectively and try to act accurately, but this is what it comes down to. They even try to present Muslims as a hostile environment, and so on and so forth. In fact, anyone who acts independently and in its own interests is immediately seen by the Western elite as a hindrance that must be removed.

Artificial geopolitical associations are being forced onto the world, and restricted-access blocs are being created. We see this happening in Europe, where an aggressive policy of NATO expansion has been pursued for decades, in the Asia-Pacific region and in South Asia, where they are trying to destroy an open and inclusive cooperation architecture. A bloc-based approach, if we call a spade a spade, limits individual states’ rights and restricts their freedom to develop along their own path, attempting to drive them into a “cage” of obligations. In a way, this obviously amounts to the dispossession of part of their sovereignty, often followed by the enforcement of their own solutions not only in the area of security but also in other areas, primarily the economy, which is happening now in relations between the United States and Europe. There is no need to explain this now. If necessary, we can talk about it in detail during the discussion after my opening remarks.

To attain these goals, they try to replace international law with a “rules-based order,” whatever that means. It is not clear what rules these are and who invented them. It is just rubbish, but they are trying to plant this idea in the minds of millions of people. “You must live according to the rules.” What rules?

And actually, if I may, our Western “colleagues,” especially those from the United States, don’t just arbitrarily set these rules, they teach others how to follow them, and how others should behave overall. All of this is done and expressed in a blatantly ill-mannered and pushy way. This is another manifestation of colonial mentality. All the time we hear, “you must,” “you are obligated,” “we are seriously warning you.”

Who are you to do that? What right do you have to warn others? This is just amazing. Maybe those who say all this should get rid of their arrogance and stop behaving in such a way towards the global community that perfectly knows its objectives and interests, and should drop this colonial-era thinking? I want to tell them sometimes: wake up, this era has long gone and will never return.

I will say more: for centuries, such behavior led to the replication of one thing – big wars, with various ideological and quasi-moral justifications invented to justify these wars. Today this is especially dangerous. As you know, humankind has the means to easily destroy the whole planet, and ongoing mind manipulation, unbelievable in terms of scale, leads to losing a sense of reality. Clearly, a way out should be sought from this vicious circle. As I understand it, friends and colleagues, this is why you come here to address these vital issues at the Valdai Club venue.

In Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept, our country is characterised as an original civilisation-state. This wording clearly and concisely reflects how we understand not only our own development, but also the main principles of international order, which we hope will prevail.

From our perspective, civilisation is a multifaceted concept subject to various interpretations. There was once an outwardly colonial interpretation whereby there was a “civilised world” serving as a model for the rest, and everyone was supposed to conform to those standards. Those who disagreed were to be coerced into this “civilisation” by the truncheon of the “enlightened” master. These times, as I said, are now in the past, and our understanding of civilisation is quite different.

First, there are many civilisations, and none is superior or inferior to another. They are equal since each civilisation represents a unique expression of its own culture, traditions, and the aspirations of its people. For instance, in my case, it embodies the aspirations of my people, of which I am fortunate to be a part.

Outstanding thinkers from around the world who endorse the concept of a civilisation-based approach have engaged in profound contemplation of the meaning of “civilisation” as a concept. It is a complex phenomenon comprised of many components. Without delving too deeply into philosophy, which may not be appropriate here, let’s try to describe it pragmatically as it applies to current developments.

The essential characteristics of a civilisation-state encompass diversity and self-sufficiency, which, I believe, are two key components. Today’s world rejects uniformity, and each state and society strives to develop its own path of development which is rooted in culture and traditions, and is steeped in geography and historical experiences, both ancient and modern, as well as the values held by its people. This is an intricate synthesis that gives rise to a distinct civilisational community. Its strength and progress depend on its diversity and multifaceted nature.

Russia has been shaped over centuries as a nation of diverse cultures, religions, and ethnicities. The Russian civilisation cannot be reduced to a single common denominator, but it cannot be divided, either, because it thrives as a single spiritually and culturally rich entity. Maintaining the cohesive unity of such a nation is a formidable challenge.

We have faced severe challenges throughout the centuries; we have always pulled through, sometimes at great cost, but each time we learned our lessons for the future, strengthening our national unity and the integrity of the Russian state.

This experience we have gained is truly invaluable today. The world is becoming increasingly diverse, and its complex processes can no longer be handled with simple governance methods, painting everyone with the same brush, as we say, which is something certain states are still trying to do.

There is something important to add to this. A truly effective and strong state system cannot be imposed from the outside. It grows naturally from the civilisational roots of countries and peoples, and in this regard, Russia is an example of how it really happens in life, in practice.

Relying on your civilisation is a necessary condition for success in the modern world, unfortunately a disorderly and dangerous world that has lost its bearings. More and more states are coming to this conclusion, becoming aware of their own interests and needs, opportunities and limitations, their own identity and degree of interconnectedness with the world around them.

I am confident that humanity is not moving towards fragmentation into rivaling segments, a new confrontation of blocs, whatever their motives, or a soulless universalism of a new globalisation. On the contrary, the world is on its way to a synergy of civilisation-states, large spaces, communities identifying as such.

At the same time, civilisation is not a universal construct, one for all – there is no such thing. Each civilisation is different, each is culturally self-sufficient, drawing on its own history and traditions for ideological principles and values. Respecting oneself naturally comes from respecting others, but it also implies respect from others. That is why a civilisation does not impose anything on anyone, but does not allow anything to be imposed on itself either. If everyone lives by this rule, we can live in harmonious coexistence and in creative interaction between everyone in international relations.

Of course, protecting your civilisational choice is a huge responsibility. It’s a response to external infringements, the development of close and constructive relationships with other civilisations and, most importantly, the maintenance of internal stability and harmony. All of us can see that today the international environment is, regrettably, unstable and quite aggressive, as I pointed out.

Here is one more essential thing: nobody should betray their civilisation. This is the path towards universal chaos; it is unnatural and, I would say, disgusting. For our part, we have always tried and continue to try to offer solutions that consider the interests of all sides. But our counterparts in the West seem to have forgotten the notions of reasonable self-restraint, compromise and a willingness to make concessions in the name of attaining a result that will suit all sides. No, they are literally fixated on only one goal: to push through their interests, here and now, and do it at any cost. If this is their choice, we will see what comes of it.

It sounds like a paradox, but the situation could change tomorrow, which is a problem. For example, regular elections can lead to changes on the domestic political stage. Today a country can insist on doing something at any cost, but its domestic political situation could change tomorrow, and they will start pushing through a different and sometimes even the opposite idea.

A standout example is Iran’s nuclear programme. A US administration pushed through a solution, but the succeeding administration turned the matter the other way around. How can one work in these conditions? What are the guidelines? What can we rely on? Where are the guarantees? Are these the “rules” they are telling us about? This is nonsense and absurd.

Why is this happening, and why does everybody seem comfortable with it? The answer is that strategic thinking has been replaced with the short-term mercenary interests of not even countries or nations, but the succeeding groups of influence. This explains the unbelievable, if judged in Cold War terms, irresponsibility of the political elite groups, which have shed all fear and shame and think of themselves as guiltless.

The civilisational approach confronts these trends because it is based on the fundamental, long-term interests of states and peoples, interests that are dictated not by the current ideological situation, but by the entire historical experience and legacy of the past, on which the idea of a harmonious future rests.

If everyone were guided by this, there would be far fewer conflicts in the world, I believe, and the approaches to resolving them would become much more rational, because all civilisations would respect each other, as I said, and would not try to change anyone based on their own notions.

Friends, I read with interest the report prepared by the Valdai Club for today’s meeting. It says that everyone is currently striving to understand and imagine a vision of the future. This is natural and understandable, especially for intellectual circles. In an era of radical change, when the world we’re used to is crumbling, it is very important to understand where we are heading and where we want to be. And, of course, the future is being created now, not only before our eyes, but by our own hands.

Naturally, when such massive, extremely complex processes are underway, it is hard or even impossible to predict the result. Regardless of what we do, life will make adjustments. But, at any rate, we need to realise what we are striving for, what we want to achieve. In Russia, there is such an understanding.

First. We want to live in an open, interconnected world, where no one will ever try to put artificial barriers in the way of people’s communication, their creative fulfilment and prosperity. We need to strive to create an obstacle-free environment.

Second. We want the world’s diversity to be preserved and serve as the foundation for universal development. It should be prohibited to impose on any country or people how they should live and how they should feel. Only true cultural and civilisational diversity will ensure peoples’ wellbeing and a balance of interests.

Third, Russia stands for maximum representation. No one has the right or ability to rule the world for others and on behalf of others. The world of the future is a world of collective decisions made at the levels where they are most effective, and by those who are truly capable of making a significant contribution to resolving a specific problem. It is not that one person decides for everyone, and not even everyone decides everything, but those who are directly affected by this or that issue must agree on what to do and how to do it.

Fourth, Russia stands for universal security and lasting peace built on respect for the interests of everyone: from large countries to small ones. The main thing is to free international relations from the bloc approach and the legacy of the colonial era and the Cold War. We have been saying for decades that security is indivisible, and that it is impossible to ensure the security of some at the expense of the security of others. Indeed, harmony in this area can be achieved. You just need to put aside haughtiness and arrogance and stop looking at others as second-class partners or outcasts or savages.

Fifth, we stand for justice for all. The era of exploitation, as I said twice, is in the past. Countries and peoples are clearly aware of their interests and capabilities and are ready to rely on themselves; and this increases their strength. Everyone should be given access to the benefits of today’s world, and attempts to limit it for any country or people should be considered an act of aggression.

Sixth, we stand for equality, for the diverse potential of all countries. This is a completely objective factor. But no less objective is the fact that no one is ready to take orders anymore or make their interests and needs dependent on anyone, above all on the rich and more powerful.

This is not just the natural state of the international community, but the quintessence of all of humankind’s historical experience.

These are the principles that we would like to follow and that we invite all of our friends and colleagues to join.


Russia was, is and will be one of the foundations of this new world system, ready for constructive interaction with everyone who strives for peace and prosperity, but ready for tough opposition against those who profess the principles of dictatorship and violence. We believe that pragmatism and common sense will prevail, and a multipolar world will be established.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the forum’s organisers for your fundamental and qualified preparations, as always, as well as thank everyone at this anniversary meeting for your attention. Thank you very much.


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Fyodor Lukyanov, Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club, moderator: Mr President, thank you very much for such a detailed presentation of these general issues, conceptual issues. Indeed, many – at the Valdai Club and elsewhere – have been trying to comprehend the framework that will replace the one that no longer works, but so far, we have not been very successful. We know what is no longer there, but we don’t know what will come to replace it. I think the points you just made are the first attempt to at least clearly outline the principles.

If I may echo your statement – the part about civilisations and the civilisation-based approach is certainly thought provoking. You once said – it was actually a very long time ago – you used a vivid phrase, you said Russia’s borders “do not end anywhere.” If Russia’s borders don’t end, clearly the Russian civilisation is boundless by definition, fair and square. What does this mean? Where is it?

Vladimir Putin: You know, this was said for the first time in a conversation with one of the former Presidents of the United States, when he was looking at a map of the Russian Federation at my home in Ogaryovo; it certainly was a joke.

We all know this, but I would like to repeat: Russia remains the largest country in the world by area. On a more serious note, this primarily makes sense at the civilisational level. Our compatriots live [around the world] in large numbers; the Russian world is of a global nature; Russian is one of the official languages of the United Nations. In Latin America alone – I recently met with their parliamentarians – there are 300,000 Russians living there. They are everywhere: in Asia, in Africa, in Europe and certainly in North America.

So, again, speaking seriously, as a civilisation, Russia has no borders, just like other civilisations have no borders either. Take India or China; look how many representatives of China, or how many representatives of India live in other countries. Various civilisations overlap and interact with each other. And it would be great if this interaction was natural and friendly, aimed at strengthening this balance.

Fyodor Lukyanov: So, for you, civilisation is not about territory, but about people?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, primarily it is about people. There will probably be many questions about Ukraine now. Our actions in Donbass, first and foremost, are dictated by the need to protect people. That is the underlying purpose of our actions.

Fyodor Lukyanov: In that case, can you characterise the special military operation as a civilisational conflict? You said it is not a territorial conflict.

Vladimir Putin: It is primarily… I am not sure what kind of civilisation those on the other side of the front line are defending, but we are defending our traditions, our culture, and our people.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Okay. Since we have moved on to discuss Ukraine, I believe, a major European event begins in Spain today, and Vladimir Zelensky and several other important figures are there. Continuing support for Ukraine is being discussed. As we know, there has been some delay in the United States due to the crisis in Congress. So, it appears that Europe feels it has to assume this financial support.

Do you think they will cope with it? And what can we expect from this?

Vladimir Putin: We expect to see at least some semblance of common sense. As for whether they are able to cope with it or not, they are in a better position to answer this question. Of course, they will cope with it; I do not see any problem with expanding production and increasing the amount of money directed towards the war to prolong this conflict. But there are, of course, issues that, I believe, this audience is well aware of.

If there is a delay, as you said, in the United States, it is more of a technical, or political and technical nature, so to speak, and is caused by budget issues, heavy debt burden, and the need to balance the budget. The question is how to balance it? Is it by supplying weapons to Ukraine and reducing budget expenditure, or by cutting social spending? No one is willing to cut social spending, since this move would strengthen the opposition party. That’s it.

Eventually, they will probably find the money, and print some more. They printed over $9 trillion during the pandemic and post-pandemic period, so they will not think twice about printing more and spreading it worldwide, thereby exacerbating food inflation. They will most likely do that.

As for Europe, the situation there is more difficult because, if in the US, we still see GDP growth of 2.4 percent in the previous period, in Europe the matters are far worse. In 2021, their economic growth was 4.9 percent, and this year it will be 0.5 percent. And even this growth is mostly due to the southern countries, Italy and Spain, which showed some growth.

Yesterday, we discussed this with our experts; I think the growth in Italy and Spain is related mostly to increasing real estate prices and a certain revival of the tourism sector. The main economies of Europe are currently experiencing stagnation; and most manufacturing sectors are showing negative results. In the Federal Republic of Germany, it is minus 0.1 percent; in the Baltic countries – minus 2, or even minus 3 percent in Estonia, I believe; in the Netherlands and Austria, it is also dropping. This is particularly true of industrial production which is in a critical condition, if not a disaster, especially the chemical, glass and metallurgy sectors.

We know that due to relatively cheap energy prices in the United States and some administrative and financial decisions made there, many European production facilities are simply moving to the United States. They shut down in Europe and relocate to the US. This is a well-known fact, and this is what I hinted at some time earlier, when speaking at this forum. The burden is also growing on the people in the European countries, and this is also a fact, as confirmed by European statistics. The quality of life is getting worse, and was reduced by 1.5 percent over the past month, if I am not mistaken.

Can Europe manage or not? It can. But how? At the expense of the further worsening of its economy and the lives of the people in the European states.

Fyodor Lukyanov: But our budget also cannot cover everything. Will we manage, unlike them?

Vladimir Putin: We are managing so far, and I have reason to believe that we will do so in the future. In the third quarter of this year, we had a budget surplus of over 660 billion rubles. This is the first thing.

Second. By the end of the year, we will see a budget deficit of about 1 percent. Our calculations show that in the next few years (2024 and 2025) the deficit will be about 1 percent. We also have a record-low unemployment rate – it stabilised at 3 percent.

Another important thing – this is a key moment and perhaps we will return to it again, but I believe it’s an important and fundamental phenomenon in our economy – that a natural restructuring of the economy began, because what we previously imported from Europe was cut from us, and like in 2014, when we introduced certain restrictions on the purchase of Western, European, primarily agricultural goods, were forced to invest in the development of agricultural production within the country. Yes, inflation has surged, but we then ensured that our manufacturers increased production of the goods we needed. And today, as you know, we fully cover our needs in all the basic agricultural products and basic types of food.

The same is now taking place in industry, and the main growth is in the manufacturing industries. Oil and gas revenues have dropped, but they are also providing an additional 3 percent, and non-oil and gas revenues, primarily in the processing industries – 43 percent, and this is primarily the steel industry, optics, and electronics. We have a lot to do in the field of microelectronics. We are really still at the beginning of our journey, but it is already growing. All together it gives a 43 percent increase.

We are rebuilding logistics; mechanical engineering is growing, and so on. Overall, we have a stable situation. We have overcome all the problems that arose after the sanctions were imposed on us and we began the next stage of development: on a new foundation, which is extremely important.

It is very important for us to maintain this trend and not miss it. We do have some problems, including a labour shortage, that’s true, followed by some other issues. But our population’s real disposable income is growing. While it is dropping in Europe, in Russia it grew by more than 12 percent.

Here, our own issues include inflation, and it has grown: now it is 5.7 percent, but the Central Bank and the Government are taking concerted measures to neutralise these possible negative consequences.

Fyodor Lukyanov: You mentioned the ongoing structural reorganisation.

Some critics might argue that this is really the militarisation of the economy. Are their claims valid?

Vladimir Putin: Look, our defence spending has indeed increased, but it encompasses more than just defence and also includes security. These expenses have approximately doubled, going from around 3 percent to approximately 6 percent, encompassing both defence and security. However, I would like to emphasise, as I previously mentioned and feel compelled to reiterate: we have achieved a budget surplus of over 660 billion rubles in the third quarter, and we anticipate a mere 1 percent deficit for this fiscal year. This is an overall healthy budget and a robust economy.

So, claiming that we are spending too much on canons while neglecting butter is an inaccurate statement. Importantly, all our earlier announced development plans, fulfilling our strategic objectives, and upholding all the social responsibilities the government has undertaken with regard to the well-being of our citizens are being implemented.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you. That is good news.

Mr President, apart from the Ukraine conflict, which we will undoubtedly discuss more, there have been significant developments in the South Caucasus in recent days and weeks. President of the European Council Charles Michel stated in a recent interview that Russia had betrayed the Armenian people.

Vladimir Putin: Who said that?

Fyodor Lukyanov: Charles Michel, the President of the European Council.

Vladimir Putin: Well, you know, we have a saying, “it’s rich to hear your horse bellow like that.”

Fyodor Lukyanov: Your cow.

Vladimir Putin: Cow, horse, who cares. An animal.

Is there anything else? I apologise for interrupting.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Please, go ahead.

Vladimir Putin: Do you understand what happened recently? Following the well-known events and the breakup of the Soviet Union, a conflict erupted leading to ethnic clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. It all began in the town of Sumgait and subsequently spilled over into Karabakh. This eventually resulted in Armenia gaining effective control over Karabakh and seven neighbouring Azerbaijani districts which constitute nearly 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory. This lasted for many decades.

I will say – and I am not disclosing any secret here – that in the past 15 years we have repeatedly suggested that our Armenian friends agree to compromises. What compromises? To return five districts to Azerbaijan around Karabakh and retain two of them, thus preserving territorial connectivity between Armenia and Karabakh.

However, our Karabakh friends would always reply: No, it would pose certain threats to us. We responded: Listen, Azerbaijan is growing, its economy is advancing, it is an oil producing country, its population is already over 10 million, let’s compare the potential. This compromise should be reached while there is still an opportunity. For our part, we were confident that we would have the respective decisions taken by the UN Security Council, and would guarantee the security of this naturally emerging Lachin Corridor between Armenia and Karabakh, and guarantee the safety of Armenians who live there.

But we were told that they could not do that. So what will you do? We will fight, they said. Well, okay, it all came down to the armed clashes in 2020, and then I also suggested to our friends and colleagues – by the way, I hope President Aliyev will not take offence at me, but at some point an agreement was reached that Azerbaijan’s troops would stop.

Frankly, I thought the issue had been resolved. I called Yerevan, and all of a sudden I heard: No, they need to leave the tiny area of Karabakh where the Azerbajani troops had entered. That was it. I said: Listen, what are you going to do? The same phrase: We will fight. I say: Listen, they will advance to the rear of your forces near Agdam within a few days, and it all will be over. Do you understand that? Yes. What will you do then? We will fight. Well, all right. So it happened the way it did.

In the end, we agreed with Azerbaijan that after advancing to the Shusha line and the city of Shusha itself, combat activities would be stopped. A respective statement was signed in November 2020 on stopping combat activities and deploying our peacekeepers. And this is another crucial point: the legal status of our peacekeepers was based exclusively on that November 2020 statement. No peacekeeping status ever entailed. I will not talk now about the reasons. Azerbaijan believed there was no need for it, and signing it without Azerbaijan made no sense. So the status was based, I repeat, exclusively on the November 2020 statement, and the only right the peacekeepers had was to monitor the ceasefire – and nothing else. Only to monitor the ceasefire. Nevertheless, this precarious situation lasted for some time.

Now you have mentioned the President of the European Council, Mr Michel, whom I respect. Mr Michel, President of France Macron and Mr Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, oversaw the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan gathering in Prague in the autumn of 2022 and signing a statement, under which Armenia recognised Karabakh as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Moreover, the heads of the delegations and the leaders of Armenia directly stated the territory of Azerbaijan in square kilometres, which, of course, includes Karabakh, and emphasised that they recognise the sovereignty of Azerbaijan within the borders of the Azerbaijan SSR, which was once part of the USSR. And, as you know, Karabakh was also part of the Azerbaijan SSR. That, in fact, solved the main issue, which was absolutely crucial: the status of Karabakh. When Karabakh declared its independence, no one recognised this independence, not even Armenia, which is frankly strange for me, but still the decision was made: they did not recognise the independence of Karabakh. However, there in Prague they recognised that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. And then, at the beginning of 2023, they repeated it a second time at a similar meeting in Brussels.

You know, between us, though probably we can no longer say so, but still, if they came [to an agreement] … By the way, no one told us about this, I personally learned this from the press. Azerbaijan has always believed that Karabakh is part of its territory, but by defining the status of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, Armenia made a qualitative change in its position.

After this, President Aliyev came up to me at a meeting and said: you see, everyone recognised that Karabakh is ours; your peacekeepers are there on our territory. You see, even the status of our peacekeepers immediately underwent a qualitative change after the status of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan was determined. He said: your military is on our territory and let us now agree on their status on bilateral basis. And Prime Minister Pashinyan confirmed: yes, now you have to talk bilaterally. That is, Karabakh is gone. You can say whatever you want about this status, but this was the key issue: the status of Karabakh. Everything revolved around it over the previous decades: how and when, who and where will determine the status. Now Armenia decided: Karabakh officially became part of Azerbaijan. This is the position of the Armenian state today.

What should we have done? Everything that happened in the recent past, a week, two, three weeks ago – the blocking of the Lachin Corridor and other things – all of this was inevitable after the recognition of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh. It was only a matter of time: when and in what way Azerbaijan would establish constitutional order there within the framework of the Constitution of the Azerbaijani state. What could we say? How else could we react? Armenia recognised it, but what should we have done? Should we have said: no, we do not recognise it? This is nonsense, isn’t it? This is some kind of nonsense.

I am not going to talk about all the details of our discussions, as I believe it would be inappropriate, but what happened in recent days or weeks was an inevitable consequence of what was done in Prague and Brussels. Therefore, Mr Michel and his colleagues should have thought back then, when they apparently – I do not know, we should ask them about it – when were they privately, behind the scenes, trying to talk Prime Minister Pashinyan into taking this step. They should have collectively thought back then about the future of Armenians in Karabakh and should have at least outlined what awaits them in this situation. They should have outlined some form of integration of Karabakh into the Azerbaijani state, and a set of actions to ensure their security and rights. There is nothing there. There is just a statement that Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan; that is it. So, what are we supposed to do if Armenia itself has made this decision?

What did we do? We used everything within our legal means to provide humanitarian assistance. As you may be aware, our peacekeepers died protecting Armenians in Karabakh. We provided humanitarian aid and medical assistance, and ensured their safe passage.

Regarding our European “colleagues,” they should at least now send some humanitarian aid to help those unfortunate people – I have no other way of putting it – who left Nagorno-Karabakh. I think they will do it. But overall, we need to think about their long-term future.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Is Russia willing to support these people?

Vladimir Putin: I just said that we supported them.

Fyodor Lukyanov: The ones who left.

Vladimir Putin: Our people died there protecting them, covering them, and providing humanitarian support. After all, all the refugees gathered around our peacekeepers. Thousands of them went there, mostly women and children.

Of course, we are willing to help them. Armenia remains our ally. If there are humanitarian issues, and they are there, we are ready to discuss them and provide support to these people. That goes without saying.

I have just told you briefly how the events unfolded, but I have covered the main points.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, there is another fine point in this regard. Currently, the Azerbaijani leadership is cracking down very harshly on the leaders who served in Karabakh, including individuals who are well-known in Russia, such as Ruben Vardanyan, for example.

Vladimir Putin: He gave up Russian citizenship, as far as I know.

Fyodor Lukyanov: He did, but he was a Russian citizen. Is there a way to urge the Azerbaijani leadership to show some leniency?

Vladimir Putin: We have always done that, and we are doing it now. As you are aware, I spoke with President Aliyev over the telephone, as we have always spoken before no matter what happened, and he assured me all that time that he would ensure the security and rights of the Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh. But now there are no Armenians left there. Do you know that they all have fled the place? There are simply no Armenians left there. Maybe a thousand people or so, no more. There is just no one left there.

As for the former leaders – I am not sure I want to get into the details – but I understand that they are not particularly welcome in Yerevan, either. However, I assume that now that for Azerbaijan has resolved all territorial issues, the Azerbaijani leadership will be willing to consider humanitarian aspects.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Colleagues, please ask your questions.

Professor Feng Shaolei is one of our veteran members.

Feng Shaolei: Thank you very much.

Feng Shaolei, East China Normal University, Shanghai.

Mr President, I am delighted to see you again.

Beijing is going to host the October international conference on the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. At the same time, the initiative to link the Eurasian Partnership with the Belt and Road Initiative, something you and President Xi Jinping have promoted, has also been ongoing for almost ten years.

My question is this: in the new situation, what new ideas and concrete proposals have you already prepared?

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, we are returning to this subject, and indeed some are trying to sow doubts, suggesting that our Eurasian development project – the Eurasian Economic Union’s project, and President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative – might not share the same interests and might start competing with each other. As I have said many times, this is not the case. On the contrary, we believe that one project complements the other harmoniously.

Let us see where we stand now. Both China and Russia – Russia to a greater extent today, but China long before the events in Ukraine began – have been targeted with various kinds of sanctions by some of our partners; we know by whom exactly. At some point, these steps escalated to a kind of trade war between China and the United States, as the sanctions imposed on your country included restrictions on logistics.

We are interested in establishing new logistics routes, and China is also interested in this. Our trade is growing. We are now talking about the North – South corridor. China is developing supply chains through Central Asian states. We are interested in supporting this project, and we are building roads and railways toward this end. This is on the agenda of our negotiations. That’s the first point.

Secondly, there is a segment called real production and it is being added to the equation. We export goods to China, and China supplies us with goods we need. We are building logistics and production chains that are definitely in line with the goals that President Xi Jinping has set for the Chinese economy and are in line with our goals, which include economic growth and partnerships with other countries, especially in the modern world. These goals are clearly complementary.

I am not going to list specific projects now, but there are plenty of them, including those between China and Russia. We have built a bridge, as you know, and we have other logistical plans. As I said, we are expanding ties in the real economy. All the above will be the subject of our bilateral contacts and negotiations in multilateral formats. This is broad, voluminous, and capital-intensive work.

Once again, I would like to emphasise this: we have never targeted any of these efforts against anyone. This work from the beginning has been creative in nature and is aimed exclusively at achieving positive results for both of us – for Russia and China – and for our partners around the world.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Richard Sakwa.

Richard Sakwa: You talked about changes in international politics; the emergence of sovereign states defending themselves as autonomous actors in world politics. Indeed, this is the case. Players are getting together in the BRICS+ organisation, which took place a few months ago, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

So the world is changing; international politics is changing; the states themselves are changing: they have now matured to the postcolonial states. Many of them, in this conference, have made it absolutely clear that they now want to be active members of the international community.

However, international politics takes shape within the framework of the international system established in 1945: the United Nations system. Now, do you see an emerging contradiction between the changes in international politics and, if you like, the paralysis of the United Nations system, international law, and all of that? And how can Russia help overcome and make the United Nations work better? And for the contradictions in international politics to find a sort of more peaceful and developmental path into the future? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: You are absolutely right. There is a certain discrepancy between the framework created by the countries that won WWII in 1945 and the current situation in the world. The situation in the world in 1945 was completely different from what we see now. And it is clear that legal norms should be changed to suit changes in the world.

Opinions can differ. Some will say that the UN and international law created on the basis of the UN Charter have become obsolete and should be discarded, giving way to something new. However, there is a risk that we will destroy the system of international rules, the real rules, and international law based on the UN Charter without creating anything to replace it, and this will lead to universal chaos. We can already see elements of this, but if we consign the UN Charter to the dustbin of history without replacing it with anything new, the inevitable ensuing chaos will lead to extremely serious consequences.

Therefore, I believe that we should choose the path of changing international law in accordance with modern requirements and changes in the global situation. In this sense, the UN Security Council should have among its members countries with ever-increasing weight in international affairs and potential that allows them to influence decisions on the key international issues, which they are already doing.

What countries are these? One is India, with a population of over 1.5 billion and an economy growing by over 7 percent, or more precisely, 7.4 or 7.6 percent. It is a global giant. It is true that many people there still need support and assistance, but India’s high-tech exports are growing with rapid strides. In short, it is a powerful country that is growing stronger every year under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi.

Or take Brazil in Latin America, with a large population and rapidly growing influence. There is also South Africa. Their global influence should be taken into account, and their weight in decision-making on key international issues must increase.

Certainly, we should do this in such a way so that we achieve a consensus for these changes, so that they would not demolish the existing system of international law. This is a complicated process, but, in my opinion, we need to move precisely in this direction and along this path.

Fyodor Lukyanov: So, you believe that the current system of international law still exists? Has it not yet been demolished?

Vladimir Putin: Certainly, it has not been demolished completely. Do you know the gist of the matter? Let us recall the first years of the United Nations. What did they call Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko? They called him Mr Nyet (No) because there were very many contradictions and disagreements, and the Soviet Union exercised its veto right very frequently. However, this was appropriate, and this carried major significance because this approach prevented conflicts.

In our contemporary history, we have often heard Western leaders say that the UN system has become obsolete, and that it does not meet present-day requirements. Such statements really began being voiced during the Yugoslav crisis when the United States and its allies moved to bomb Belgrade without any sanctions on the part of the UN Security Council. They conducted strikes without fear or remorse, and even struck the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Belgrade.

Where in this is international law? They said that there was no such international law because it had become unnecessary and obsolete. Why? Because they wanted to act without having to pay heed to international law. Later, they were dismayed and outraged when Russia started taking certain actions and noted that it was violating international law and the UN Charter.

Unfortunately, there have always been attempts to tailor international law to one’s own needs. Is this good or bad? This is very bad. However, there is at least something that serves as reference point.

My main concern is that, if all this is completely swept away, then there would not even be any reference points. To my mind, we should move along the road of permanent and gradual changes. However, we should do this unconditionally. The world has changed.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Sergei Karaganov.

Sergei Karaganov: Mr President, I am one of the club’s veterans and founders. I can describe my feelings as almost perfect happiness on the day of the club’s 20th anniversary because … To be honest, old people should say that life was better in their time. No, life was not better in our time; it is better, more exciting, more interesting, brighter and more colourful nowadays. So, thank you for taking part, too. Here is my question …

Vladimir Putin: When you say “more exciting,” it sounds bold to me.

Sergei Karaganov: It is more exciting when it is more interesting.

Vladimir Putin: It is more exciting for you, not for me. (Laughter.)

Sergei Karaganov: Mr President, there is one simple question that is currently being actively discussed outside Russia and at the Valdai Club. I will formulate it in the following way, and this is my wording, of course, I do not speak for everyone. Hasn’t our doctrine on using nuclear weapons become obsolete? I believe that it has certainly grown obsolete, and that it even looks frivolous. It was created in different times and, maybe, in a different situation, and it also follows old theories. Deterrence does not work anymore. Is it high time we modify the doctrine on using nuclear weapons, lowering the nuclear threshold and moving steadily and sufficiently quickly along the staircase of escalation, deterrence and bringing our partners down to earth?

They have become brazen. They are saying that, under our doctrine, we will never use nuclear weapons. Consequently, we unwittingly allow them to escalate and conduct an absolutely monstrous aggression.

This is my first question, and it contains the second one. Even when we somehow win in or around Ukraine, one way or another, in the next few years, the West will continue to experience difficulties: new centres are emerging, and new problems will arise. We have to reinstall the safety catch called nuclear deterrence, which maintained peace for 70 years. Today, the West has forgotten history and fear, and it is trying to eliminate this safety catch. Shouldn’t we change our policy in this sphere?

Vladimir Putin: I know your position, I have read certain documents, your articles and notes, and I understand your feelings.

Let me remind you that there are two reasons stipulated in the Russian Military Doctrine for the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia. The first is the use of nuclear weapons against us, which would entail a so-called retaliatory strike. But what does this mean in practice? The missiles are launched, our early warning system detects them and reports that they are targeting the territory of the Russian Federation –this happens within seconds, just so that everyone understands – and once we know that Russia has been attacked, we respond to this aggression.

I want to assure everyone that as of today, this response will be absolutely unacceptable for any potential aggressor, because seconds after we detect the launch of missiles, wherever they are coming from, from any point in the World Ocean or land, the counter strike in response will involve hundreds – hundreds of our missiles in the air, so that no enemy will have a chance to survive. And [we can respond] in several directions at once.

The second reason for the potential use of these weapons is an existential threat to the Russian state – even if conventional weapons are used against Russia, but the very existence of Russia as a state is threatened.

These are the two possible reasons for the use of the weapons you mentioned.

Do we need to change this? Why would we? Everything can be changed, but I just don't see that we need to. There is no situation imaginable today where something would threaten Russian statehood and the existence of the Russian state. I do not think anyone in their right mind would consider using nuclear weapons against Russia.

Nevertheless, we do respect your point of view and the views of other experts, people with a patriotic attitude who have empathy for what is happening in and around the country and are concerned about the developments along the line of contact with Ukraine. I understand all this and, take my word for it, we do respect your perspectives. That said, I do not see the need to change our conceptual approaches. The potential adversary knows everything and is aware of what we are capable of.

The fact that I am already hearing calls, for example, to start or in fact to resume nuclear tests is a whole different matter. Here is what I can say in this regard. The United States signed an international instrument, a document – the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and so did Russia. Russia signed and ratified it, while the United States signed the treaty without ratifying it.

Our effort to develop new strategic weapons is nearing completion. I have already talked about them and announced their development several years ago.

The latest test launch of Burevestnik was a success. This is a nuclear-powered cruise missile with a basically unlimited range. By and large, Sarmat, the super heavy missile, is also ready. All we have left is to complete all the administrative and bureaucratic procedures and paperwork so that we can move to mass production and deploy it in combat standby mode. We will do this soon.

Specialists tend to argue that these are new kinds of weapons and we need to make sure that their special warheads are fail-free, so we need to test them. I am not ready to tell you right now whether we need or do not need to carry out these tests. What we can do is act just as the United States does. Let me repeat one more time that the United States signed the treaty without ratifying it, while we both signed and ratified it. As a matter of principle, we can offer a tit-for-tat response in our relations with the United States. But this falls within the purview of State Duma MPs. In theory, we can withdraw the ratification, and if we do, this would be enough.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Today, some in the West are openly saying that their commitment to proactively supporting Ukraine resulted from the fact that, when they raised the stakes and escalated the matter over the past year and a half, Russia’s response was not all that convincing.

Vladimir Putin: I do not know whether it was convincing or not, but at this point and since the start of the so-called counteroffensive – and these are the latest data I am sharing with you – the Ukrainian units lost over 90,000 people, including those who were wounded and lost their lives, as well as 557 tanks, and almost 1,900 armoured vehicles of various types, and all this since June 4 alone. How convincing is that?

We hold our own view of the way things are moving, and know what needs to be done and where, and where we must put in some extra effort. We are calmly advancing towards achieving our goals and I am certain that we will get there by delivering on the objectives we have set for ourselves.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Radhika Desai.

Radhika Desai: Thank you very much, President Putin, thank you very much for another really well-informed, and I would say a historically very instructive and thought-provoking talk. So it is, as always, very impressive and a privilege to hear it.

I have a question and also a personal appeal. My question is about the country I come from, Canada. As you know, the Canadian parliament has just made itself a laughing stock of the world by applauding a Ukrainian Nazi, a veteran Nazi, in parliament. There were over 440 members of parliament, none of whom asked: is this the right thing to do?

As you know, Prime Minister Trudeau has apologised, I believe, twice. The speaker of Parliament has resigned. And to me, it really shows the extent to which the Western position of which Canada is a kind of leading edge has become so based on hubristic notions, ignorant hubristic notions, that these people have forgotten how much Russia has done for the defeat of Nazism.

They have forgotten that had it not been for Russian contribution, the Second World War may not have been won, and Russia contributed to that victory with 30 million lives lost. That is a staggering figure that one cannot even imagine. So I wonder if you would please comment on that.

How do you think about this?

And then my personal appeal is about something I feel very strongly about. So, first of all, let me just say, please pardon me if I misspeak anything, but it is about the case of a friend of mine and of several other people here, my husband, Demetrius Konstantakopoulos, and that is the case of Boris Kagarlitsky. We believe that, as you may know, he has been detained, and we are very worried about his personal welfare.

And I just want to say a couple of things about why I am raising this here. There have been plenty of petitions that have been signed in Western countries about this case. We have not signed any of these petitions because we don’t agree with the content of these petitions, which is profoundly anti-Russian. So we have a letter for you, which we hope you will read, and we hope very much that you will see that we have addressed this to you as friends of Russia.

Indeed, we found ourselves also in a bit of a quandary because we do not agree with the position our dear friend has taken. But we also remember how much we have learned from his formidable knowledge of Russia's history and his formidable commitment to Russia. So, we just appeal to you that you take a personal interest in this case.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: You know, to be honest, I do not really know who this Kagarlitsky is – so my colleague here [Fyodor Lukyanov] even had to fill me in on that one. I will take the letter you have signed for me, I will read it and give you a response. I promise. Agreed?

As for your question, God is our witness that we did not arrange for you to ask this question in advance, but I did expect to hear it, to be honest. Moreover, I even brought along some background information on what happened there. For us, this is something that is completely out of the ordinary.

Let me remind you that the Nazi command established the division where this Ukrainian Nazi served on April 28, 1943. It was during the Nuremberg Trials, not yesterday here among us or in the heat of momentary considerations, that the tribunal designated the Galicia SS Division, where this Ukrainian Nazi served, as a criminal entity responsible for the genocide of Jews, Poles and other civilians. This was the verdict of the international Nuremberg Trials.

Let me also remind you that independent prosecutors and judges were the ones who delivered this verdict, and the judges had a final say, of course. They did so based on the information they received from prosecutors representing various countries, and designated SS Galicia as a criminal organisation.

I also brought along some notes with the exact words so that my answer is specific and based on hard facts. The Speaker of the Canadian parliament said: “We have here in chamber today, a Ukrainian Canadian veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians. <…> I am very proud to say [that] <…> he is a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero and we thank him for all his service.”

First, if the Speaker of the Canadian parliament talks about this Ukrainian Canadian or Canadian Ukrainian Nazi fighting against the Russians, he must know that he sided with Hitler instead of the speaker’s homeland, Canada, or that he was a Nazi collaborator. In any case, he fought on the side of the Nazi troops. Maybe he does not know that. Make no mistake, I am not trying to hurt the feelings of the Canadian people or offend them in any way. We respect Canada, especially its people, despite all odds. That said, if he does not know that during the war it was Hitler and his accomplices who fought against Russia, he is an idiot. This means that he simply skipped school and lacks basic knowledge. But if he does know that this person fought on Hitler’s side, while calling him a hero of both Ukraine and Canada, this makes him a rascal. So, there are just these two options here.

This is the sort of people we have to deal with. This is the sort of opponents we have in certain Western countries.

What is also important, in my opinion? The Speaker of the Canadian Parliament says: he fought against the Russians and [in the document] there is a quote saying that he continues to support Ukrainian troops fighting against the Russians. He essentially equates Hitler’s collaborators, the SS troops, and the Ukrainian combat units today – fighting, as he said, against Russia. He put them on the same board. This only supports our statement that one of our goals in Ukraine is denazification. Apparently, Nazification of Ukraine exists and gets recognition. And our shared goal is to denazify.

And finally, of course, everybody applauding that Nazi looked absolutely disgusting, especially the fact that the President of Ukraine, who has Jewish blood in him and who is a Jew in terms of his ethnic background, stood up and applauded this man, who is not just a Nazi runt, not just an ideological follower, but somebody who personally killed Jewish people, with his own hands. He personally killed Jews because German Nazis created that SS 1st Galicia Division primarily to eliminate civilians, and the ruling of the Nuremberg trials says so. The division was charged with responsibility for the genocide of Jews and Poles. Almost 150,000 Poles were killed, along with Russians, of course. Nobody even counted how many Roma people were killed as they were not even considered humans. One and a half million Jews were killed in Ukraine – just imagine this figure. Or didn’t it happen? Or don’t they know that? Everybody knows it. Didn’t the Holocaust happen?

So, when the President of Ukraine applauds a person who personally, with his own hands, killed Jews in Ukraine, does he want to say that the Holocaust never happened? Isn’t it disgusting? Anything goes, as long as these people fought against Russia. All means are fair as long as these means are used to fight against Russia. I can imagine somebody having an overwhelming desire to crush Russia on a battlefield and deliver its strategic defeat. But at this cost? I believe there is nothing more disgusting. And I really hope that not only we here, in this small circle of the Valdai Club, will raise this issue but also civil society organisations and those who care about the future of humankind will formulate their position on this matter clearly, unequivocally and condemn what happened.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

I saw Gabor Stier somewhere earlier, but I have now lost him.

Gabor Stier: I am Gabor Stier from Hungary.

Mr President, this time I will not ask what will happen to Odessa, although many people in Hungary are asking what the neighbouring country will be called.

Vladimir Putin: Did you mean Odessa? You asked about it last time.

Gabor Stier: Yes, I asked this question last time, but now I have another question.

Vladimir Putin: I am sorry.

Gabor Stier: Mr President, we know that you are interested in history, and this is why I would like to address the current reality from precisely this point of view. Speaking of history, we know that Peter the Great’s decision to open a window onto Europe, or to open the European aspect of Russia’s identity, had great importance for Russia’s development.

Of course, Europe has now fallen into decay, and is doing everything possible for Russia to dislike it. However, as a European, I sometimes feel terrified to hear statements that some European cities should be subjected to nuclear strikes.

What does Europe mean for Russia today? This is not a question about our problems. What does Europe mean for Russia today? Will Russia turn its back on Europe completely? Don’t you think that it would be a mistake to seal off this window?

If we are talking about history, I would like to ask one more question. The new Russian history textbooks have given rise to a serious discussion in Hungary. I am talking about passages referring to the 1956 developments as a “colour revolution.” Do you also think that the 1956 developments were not a real revolution? Do you agree with another controversial comment in the textbook that the withdrawal of troops from Central Europe in 1990 and 1991 was a mistake?

I recall and I know that, in Vladivostok, you said that the deployment of tanks in 1968 and 1956 was a mistake. If it was a mistake, why do you think that the withdrawal of troops was also a mistake?

Vladimir Putin: Do you think that this is a question? This is more of a reason for writing a thesis. You said that you will not mention Odessa, although you mentioned it. Last time I abstained, but I can say that, of course, Odessa is a Russian city. It is slightly Jewish, as we now say. Slightly. However, let us not discuss this issue, if you are inclined to talk about another one.

First, this “window onto Europe.” You know, our colleagues just said that the world is changing, getting in and out through a window ripping your pants is not the best choice. Why would anyone want to use the window when there are doors? This is the first point.

Second. There is no doubt that Russia’s civilisational code is based on Christianity, and so is Europe’s. We certainly have this in common. But we are not going to impose ourselves on Europe if Europe does not want us. We are not rejecting them, nor are we slamming [this window] shut. You asked if we regret this. Why would we? It is not us who are slamming the door on communication; it is Europe fencing itself off and creating a new Iron Curtain. We are not the ones creating it, but the Europeans are creating it at the cost of their own losses and to their own detriment.

I have already said this, but I can repeat: the US economy is growing at 2.4 percent, while the European economy is sliding into recession; it is already in recession. Some European figures, who are definitely not amenable or friendly towards our country, have given an accurate diagnosis: Europe’s prosperity was achieved with cheap energy resources from Russia and expansion into the Chinese market. These are the factors of Europe's prosperity. Of course, there was high technology, a hard-working and disciplined working class, talented people – all of this is certainly true. But these were fundamental factors that Europe is rejecting now.

In my opening remarks, I mentioned sovereignty. Here's the thing: sovereignty is a multidimensional concept. Why do we keep saying, and I keep saying that Russia cannot exist as a non-sovereign state? It would simply cease to exist. Because sovereignty is not just about military or other security issues; it is about other components as well.

Do you see what happened to Europe? Many European leaders – I hope they do not accuse me of bad-mouthing or mud-throwing – many Europeans say that Europe has lost its sovereignty. For example, in Germany, Europe's economic locomotive, leading politicians have repeatedly stressed that Germany has not been a sovereign state in the full sense of the word since 1945.

What implications does this have, including in economic terms? The United States – I think, I have no doubt that it was the United States that provoked the Ukraine crisis by supporting the coup in Ukraine in 2014. They could not fail to understand that this was a red line, we have said this a thousand times. They never listened. Now we have today's situation.

And I suspect this was not accidental. They needed that conflict. As a result, Europe, which had lost part of its sovereignty – not all of it, but a considerable part – had to form a tailback behind their sovereign and follow its policies by transitioning to a policy of sanctions and restrictions against Russia. Europe had to do it, knowing that this was going to harm it, and now all energy, much of the energy, is bought from the United States at a price that is 30 percent higher.

They have imposed restrictions on Russian oil. What is the result? This is not as obvious as with gas, but the result is the same. They have reduced the number of suppliers and begun buying more expensive oil from this limited group of suppliers, while we sell our oil to other countries at a discount.

Do you understand what has resulted from this? The competitiveness of the European economy has plummeted, while that of their chief rival in terms of the economic component – the United States – has surged, as has the competitiveness of other countries, including those in Asia. So, following the loss of part of their sovereignty, they had to take, of their own will, those self-defeating decisions.

Do we need a partner of this sort? Of course, it is not absolutely useless. But I want you to take note of the fact that we are leaving the waning European market and boosting our presence on the growing markets in other parts of the world, including in Asia.

At the same time, we are linked with Europe by numerous centuries-old ties in culture, education, etc. To reiterate: all of this is based on the Christian culture. But in this regard, the Europeans are not making us happy either. They are destroying their roots that grow from the Christian culture; they are pulling those roots out without mercy.

Therefore, we are not going to shut anything – either windows, or doors – but neither are we going to force our way to Europe, if Europe does not want this. If it wants to – all right, we will work together. I think one could talk ad infinitum, but I think I have outlined the main points.

Now regarding the textbook and the colour revolutions, the year 1956. I will not hide that I did not read that part of the textbook. And regarding the withdrawal of troops, of course, these are also historical facts, and back then, in 1956, many Western countries stirred up existing problems, including the mistakes of the then Hungarian leadership, and militants were trained abroad and sent to Hungary. But I think it is still difficult to call this a colour revolution in its pure form, because after all there was an internal foundation for serious protest within the country. I think this is an obvious thing. And then, there is hardly any need to transfer today’s terms to the middle of the last century.

As for the withdrawal of troops, I am deeply convinced that there is no point in using troops to suppress internal tendencies in some country or among the people to achieve the goals they consider to be their priorities. This goes for European countries, including Eastern European ones. There was no point in keeping troops there if the people of these countries did not want to see them on their territory.

But the way and under what conditions this happened raises, of course, many questions. Our troops withdrew straight into an open field. How many people know about this? In an open field, with families. Is this acceptable? At the same time, no obligations, no legal consequences for the withdrawal of these troops were formulated, neither by Soviet nor Russian leadership.

Our Western partners did not undertake any obligations at all. At least we returned to the issue of NATO expansion or non-expansion to the east. Yes, we were promised everything verbally, and our American partners do not deny this, and then they ask: where is this documented? There is no document. And that was it, goodbye. Did we promise? It looks like we did, but it was worth nothing. We know that even a written document is worth nothing to them. They are ready to throw away any paper. But at least something would be recorded on paper and something could be agreed upon during the withdrawal of troops.

Something like coordinating issues of ensuring security in Europe or achieving some kind of new design in Europe. After all, the German Social Democracy and Mr Egon Bahr, had proposals ready, as I have already said once, to create a new security system in Europe, which would include Russia, and the United States, and Canada; but not NATO, but together with everyone else: for Eastern and Central Europe. I think this would solve many of today’s problems.

And back then he said, he was a smart old man, he definitely said: otherwise, you will see that all this will be repeated, only this time closer to Russia. He was a German politician, and an experienced, competent, and intelligent person. Nobody listened to him: not Soviet leadership; much less in the West and the United States. Now we are witnessing what he was talking about.

As for the withdrawal of troops, it was pointless to hold on. But the conditions for the withdrawal, this was what we had to talk about, achieving the creation of a situation that, perhaps, would not lead to today’s tragedies and today’s crisis. Perhaps that’s all.

Have I answered your question? If I forgot something, please.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Since we started talking about Germany, Stefan Huth, please take the floor.

Stefan Huth: My name is Stefan Huth. I am from Germany, from the newspaper Junge Welt. I would like to connect to what you just said.

The special military operation in Ukraine is often justified with anti-fascist motives. You said: We have to free the Ukrainian people from the Nazis, we have to drive them out, we have to liberate the country.

Against this background, it must seem somewhat confusing that you on a high governmental level, are in contact with such right-wing parties as the Rassemblement National [National Rally] or the AfD – Alternative for Germany – parties which are deeply rooted in a racist environment. They do not have any sympathy for the Russian people, one can assume. They do not have any sympathy for Russia as being a multi-ethnic people, which you just stressed in your speech.

I would like to know, what do you hope for? What does your Government hope for from such contacts, and what are the criteria for having contacts with parties like that? Can you understand that anti-fascists in Western Europe see this as a contradiction to your politics?

Vladimir Putin: Excuse me, please, I would ask you to be more specific: what do you mean when talking about fascist forces and pro-fascist parties, about their attitude towards Russia and so on? Please be direct and specific, otherwise we will speak in undertones, but it is best that we speak directly.

Stefan Huth: The head of the AfD Tino Chrupalla had a contact, an official meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2020. This was a sort of an official meeting. Part of AfD, Björn Höcke for instance, is deeply rooted in the fascist movement in Germany. He went to demonstrations with Nazis.

So this is really confusing to anti-fascists in Germany. It is a contradiction to your policy. We sort of recognise that, at least partly.

Vladimir Putin: What do you see and what can you provide to confirm what you said, that their activities are based on some kind of fascist, pro-fascist national socialist ideas? Can you tell me specifically what exactly is this about?

Stefan Huth: Björn Höcke, for example, he is linked up with fascists. He demonstrates in Dresden regularly during the anniversary of the Allied bombing, together with fascists, and he is linked up with them. This is one of the reasons why Germany’s interior secret service observes this party, saying they are right-wing.

Vladimir Putin: I see. Look, you started with Ukraine and asked me whether it is fair that we publicly declare that we are striving for the denazification of the Ukrainian political system. But we just discussed the situation in the Canadian parliament, when the President of Ukraine stood and applauded a Nazi who killed Jews, Russians, and Poles.

Does not this show that we rightfully call Ukraine’s current system a pro-Nazi one? The leader of the state stands and applauds a Nazi, not just an ideological follower of Nazism, but a real Nazi, a former SS soldier. Is this not a sign of the Nazification of Ukraine? Does not this give us the right to talk about its denazification?

But you may answer: yes, this is the head of state, but this is not the whole country. And I would reply: you spoke about those who go to rallies together with pro-fascists. Is this the whole party that comes to these rallies? Probably not.

We certainly condemn everything pro-fascist, pro-Nazi. We support everything that has no such signs, but on the contrary, that is aimed at establishing contacts.

As far as I know, an assassination attempt was made on one of the leaders of the Alternative for Germany, recently, during the election campaign. What does this point to? That representatives of this party either use Nazi methods or these Nazi methods are used against them? This is a question for a painstaking researcher, including in your person and in the person of the general public of the Federal Republic itself.

As for the anti-fascist forces, we have always been with them, we know their attitude towards Russia. We are grateful to them for this attitude and certainly support it.

I think that everything that is aimed at reviving, at maintaining relations between us, should be supported, and this can be the light at the end of the tunnel of our current relations.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Alexei Grivach.

Alexei Grivach: Thank you for the opportunity to ask a question. My question is also related to research. We are working on issues related to the latest developments in the gas industry.

Just over a year ago, we all witnessed an unbelievable and unprecedented act of international terrorism against Europe’s trans-border critical infrastructure. I am talking about the Nord Stream explosions.

You have commented on this incident many times, including the defiant negligence of European investigators and political figures in their assessments. We witnessed a glaring lack of any clear response – condemnation of the incident by leaders such as Chancellor Scholz and President Macron. Although companies in these countries were directly affected by this act as they were and continue to be shareholders and co-owners of the assets involved, and co-investors of the projects.

At the same time, multiple leaks have occurred recently that directly or indirectly attempt to attribute blame: allegedly, investigators have concluded that Ukrainians were behind the incident. So, I have two questions for you.

First: did these political leaders, your European counterparts, offer any reaction in direct contacts beyond the official statements that, I believe, were not given? Was there a reaction via diplomatic channels?

My second question is, what consequences are possible if the so-called European investigation, the investigative bodies of the European countries eventually indict Ukraine over this incident in any form?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to point out that, long before these bombings, the US President publicly stated that the United States would do anything it could to make sure that exports of Russian energy sources to Europe via these pipelines would stop. With a meaningful smile, he said: I will not say how this might be achieved, but we will do it. This is my first point.

Second, the destruction of these infrastructure facilities, without doubt, is an act of international terrorism.

Third, we have not been included in the investigation, despite our proposals and multiple calls to allow us to be involved.

And, no results have been and, obviously, will be announced.

And finally, when looking for answers for who is to blame, you always need to ask – who benefits? In this case, US energy companies that export products to the European market would certainly be interested in this. The Americans have wanted this for a long time, and now they have achieved it, even if by getting someone else to do it for them.

There is one more side to this. If the criminals are ever found, they must be held accountable. This was an act of international terrorism. At the same time, one line of Nord Stream 2 has survived. It is not damaged and can be used to supply 27.5 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe. It is solely up to the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany to decide. Nothing else is needed. They make a decision today – tomorrow we open the valve, and that’s that; the gas is on its way. But they will not do this, to the detriment of their own interests, because, as we say, “their bosses in Washington” will not allow them to.

We continue to supply gas to Europe through the TurkStream pipelines, and judging by everything, Ukrainian terrorist groups are plotting to do damage there as well. Our ships are guarding the pipelines that run along the bottom of the Black Sea, but they are constantly being attacked by unmanned vehicles, with English-speaking specialists and advisers clearly involved, among others, in planning those attacks. We have intercepted them on the radio: we always hear English speech wherever those unmanned semi-submersible boats are being prepared. This is an obvious fact for us – but draw your own conclusions.

But we continue to supply gas – including via the territory of Ukraine. We ship gas to customers via Ukraine and we pay the country for this transit. I have already talked about this. We always hear that we are the aggressor, that we are the dirty so-and-so, that we are the bad guys. But apparently, money doesn’t stink. They get paid for this transit. They are happy to collect the coin: snap, and that’s that.

We are acting in an open and transparent manner; and we are ready to cooperate. If they don’t want to, that’s fine. We will boost our LNG production and sales. We will send our gas to other markets. We will build new pipeline systems to places where they want our product, where it remains competitive and helps the consumer economies become more competitive, as I have said before.

As for the investigation, we will see. In the end, you cannot hide an awl in a sack, as we say: it will be clear who did this in the end. The truth will out.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, you mentioned gas shipments via Ukraine. Part of our public is perplexed: why are we doing this? Why are we paying them this money?

Vladimir Putin: We are paying them because it is a transit country, and we have to ship our gas via Ukraine under our contractual obligations to our counterparts in Europe.

Fyodor Lukyanov: But this also strengthens our enemy’s defence capability.

Vladimir Putin: But it also strengthens our finances – we get paid for the product.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Understood. Thank you.

Mohammed Ihsan has had his hand raised for quite some time now.

Mohammed Ihsan: Thank you so much.

Really, I am honoured. It is a great opportunity for us to hear from you directly, Mr Putin.

I am going to draw attention to the Middle East a little bit instead of Ukraine and international justice and international system. I come from Iraq and shortly, there will be a visit by the Iraqi Prime Minister to Moscow. Thank you again for meeting him personally.

You know now that there are lot of problems between Erbil and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). At the same time, you have Rosneft and Gazprom, which invested huge amounts of money in Iraq in general and in Kurdistan.

Do you think there is a chance you could help our side negotiate more peacefully to settle the dispute between the sides and help more? Because the other parties in the area want to pour more oil on the conflict to make it more complicated, I think.

Another issue I want to highlight for you is that we are approaching the end of 2023. Do you think it is the right time for your personal help to all the parties in Syria, including the government side, the Kurdish side and all regional powers to end that conflict?

Because thousands of Syrians have been away and humiliated in other parts of the world and there is no peaceful solution and no vision. I think there is no one except you, because most parties in this conflict respect Russia and President Putin and you have a very good relationship with them. I think it is the right time not to intervene but to mediate between all of them.

Thank you so much again.

Vladimir Putin: You mentioned that even the parties to the conflicts in certain Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, hold us in high regard and respect us. This is because we, in turn, treat everyone with respect.

With regard to Syria, we advocate a peaceful process, which includes support from the United Nations. However, we are unable to act as substitutes for the negotiating parties. We can create favourable conditions and, to some extent, if everyone finds it acceptable, we can act as guarantors of agreements with the involvement of our immediate partners in this process, namely Iran and Turkiye, within the Astana process framework.

We were successful in contributing to these efforts. Notably, a ceasefire has been achieved, which has paved the way for the peace process. All of that was done by us and our partners with cooperation from Syrian leadership. Nevertheless, there remains much to be done.

I believe that outside interference and attempts to establish quasi-state entities within Syria have failed to yield any positive outcome. Pushing out the Arab tribes that have historically inhabited specific regions with the aim of creating these quasi-state entities is a complex issue that could prolong the conflict.

Nonetheless, we are fully committed to fostering trust, including between Syria’s central authorities and the Kurds residing in eastern Syria. This is a challenging process, and I would proceed with great caution, because every word matters. This is my first point.

Second, with regard to Iraq, we enjoy a strong relationship with this country, and we welcome the visit of the Prime Minister of Iraq to Russia. There are numerous issues of mutual interest, primarily within the energy sector. There is also a critical economic matter – logistics. I will not delve into the specifics, but there are several courses of action we can take if we want to develop logistics transport routes in Iraq. In general, they all look good, and all we need to do is choose the best alternatives. We stand ready to be part of the effort to implement them.

During the Prime Minister’s visit, we will discuss these matters, including regional security and Iraq’s internal security. We have maintained tight and trusting relations with Iraq for many decades. We have many friends there, and we are dedicated to promoting stability in this country and fostering economic and social growth on the basis of that stability.

We look forward to the Prime Minister’s visit, and I am confident that it will be highly productive and well-timed.

To be continued.
주인으로 삽시다 !
우리 스스로와 사랑하는 후세대를 위하여 !
사람(人) 민족 조국을 위하여 !!

《조로공동선언 : 2000년 7월 19일 평양》
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민족자주 승리에 대한 굳건한 믿음으로, 한미동맹파기! 미군철거!!

주권主權을 제 손에 틀어쥐고, 주인主人으로서 당당하고 재미나게 사는 땅을 만들어, 우리 후세대에게 물려줍시다.