The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, gave no sign Tuesday that he was changing tack in the Kremlin’s bloody war in Ukraine. Instead, he increased tensions with the West by suspending Moscow’s participation in its last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States, and issued several threats about the future of the conflict.
In his long-delayed state of the nation address, Putin portrayed his country – and Ukraine – as victims of the West’s double game, saying it was Russia, not Ukraine, that was fighting for its very existence.
The speech reiterated a litany of grievances that the Russian leader has frequently offered as a justification for the widely condemned military campaign, while vowing not to let up militarily in a conflict that has reignited fears of a new Cold War.
the promise to carry on
“Let’s solve step by step, carefully and systematically, the objectives before us”, he told the military and the country’s political elite.
In his speech, he went on to blame the West for starting the conflict, which started almost a year ago with the invasion. “I want to repeat this: they were the ones who started the war. And we have used force and we are using it to stop it, ”he defended.
Putin said that the rival bloc knows that “it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield”.
But he assured that this is the objective of his enemies. “Western elites make no secret of their goal: to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. It means ending us once and for all,” Putin said, three days before the first anniversary of the military intervention in Ukraine.
Suspension of the nuclear treaty
“They want to inflict a strategic defeat on us and attack our nuclear facilities, so I am compelled to announce that Russia is suspending its participation in the (New) Start Treaty”, declared the Russian president in a strongly hostile speech towards Westerners.
This is the last agreement in force between Washington and Moscow on the atomic arsenal. The Kremlin chief called on the military authorities to be “ready to carry out tests” if the United States does them first.
escalate the conflict
The head of state assured that Russia will be forced to remove the threat from its borders if Ukraine receives more long-range weapons from the West. “One circumstance should be clear to all: the more long-range Western systems reach Ukraine, the more we will be forced to move the threat away from our borders. this is natural”, he stressed.
more modern weapons
Putin advocated the introduction of more modern technologies in the production of weapons and drawing on the experience of the military campaign in Ukraine.
“We will actively introduce the most advanced technologies that will ensure the increase in the qualitative potential of the Army and Navy. We have samples of weapons and equipment in each of the areas”, said the head of the Kremlin during the state of the nation address before the two houses of Parliament.
According to the Russian leader, many of these samples “exceed their foreign analogues.” The challenge now facing Russian arms manufacturers is to ensure their “mass production.” In this regard, he noted that the level of equipment of the Russian nuclear forces with modern weapons is over 91%, and the same high level should be achieved in all sectors of the Russian Armed Forces.
The Russian president stressed that he spoke to the Russian population “a difficult moment, at a historic moment for our country, at a time of cardinal and irreversible changes throughout the world”.
These are, he said, “the most important historical events that determine the future of our country and our people, when each of us has a great responsibility”.
The Kremlin chief pointed out that his rivals launch “aggressive information attacks” against Russia “misrepresenting historical facts”, attacking Russian culture, religion and values.
And, as he explained, “pedophilia” became “the norm” in the West. “Look at what they do to their own people: the destruction of families, of cultural and national identities and the perversion of child abuse. even pedophilia are heralded as the norm… and priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages”, he said in an attempt to defend what he understands to be Russian traditions.
“The Anglican Church, for example, plans to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God. What can you say? ‘Forgive me, Lord, they don’t know what they’re doing,’” he continued.
Persecution and populism
The president also warned that his persecution of dissidents will not cease. “Those who have embarked on the path of betrayal of Russia must answer before the law”, Putin said, although he qualified that the authorities would not unleash a “witch hunt”.
In a populist tone, he also took aim at Russian businessmen for using their profits for “elite yachts, estates and real estate” abroad.
Putin underestimated the scope of the sanctions deployed by the West against Russia, especially against the oligarchs, and assured: “None of the simple citizens of the country, believe me, took pity on those who lost their capital in international banks”.
He even welcomed the resistance of the Russian economy and highlighted the opportunities for companies in his country. “Now everything is changing, and very quickly. It is a time not only of challenges, but also of opportunities,” Putin said, congratulating himself on the country’s growing “independence” from foreign markets.
At the domestic level, Putin left the door open to run for re-election in the 2024 presidential elections. “I want to stress that The elections, both the local and regional ones in September this year and the presidential ones in 2024, will take place in strict accordance with the legislationrespecting all constitutional democratic procedures,” he said, referring to the controversial 2020 constitutional reform, which will allow him to run for re-election in 2024 and 2030.
Putin, 70, came to power in 2000, was re-elected in 2004, served four years as prime minister, returned to the Kremlin in 2012 and was re-elected again in 2018. Some analysts point out that in the event of defeat in the military campaign in Ukraine or declaration of martial law, the presidential elections could be postponed indefinitely.
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