Monday, April 30, 2007

Putin's 26 April Speech: Gorchakov's October 1870 Circular
or Stalin's 9 February 1946 Speech, Revidivus?

"Yesterday we paid farewell to First President of Russia Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin. I ask you to honour his memory with a minute of silence....

The spiritual unity of the people and the moral values that unite us are just as important a factor for development as political and economic stability. It is my conviction that a society can set and achieve ambitious national goals only if it has a common system of moral guidelines. We will be able to achieve our goals only if we maintain respect for our native language, for our unique cultural values, for the memory of our forebears and for each page of our country’s history.

This national treasure is the foundation for strengthening our country’s unity and sovereignty. It is the foundation for our everyday life and the basis on which we can build our economic and political relations.

One of this year’s most important events is the election to the State Duma. What principle importance and unifying significance does this election have for our society?

Above all, the results of this election will objectively reflect the level of support among the Russian public for the policies we have been following. Essentially, this election will decide whether the current policies will continue or not, for the implementation of our strategic plans depends directly on the composition of the parliament after December 2.

These strategic plans include the formation of an effectively functioning civil society and development of an effective state able to ensure security and a decent life for our people. They also include the development of free and socially responsible enterprise, the fight against corruption and terrorism, modernisation of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies, and finally, a much more influential role for Russia in world affairs....

To be frank, our policy of stable and gradual development is not to everyone’s taste. Some, making skilful use of pseudo-democratic rhetoric, would like to return us to the recent past, some in order to once again plunder the nation’s resources with impunity and rob the people and the state, and others in order to deprive our country of its economic and political independence.

There has been an increasing influx of money from abroad being used to intervene directly in our internal affairs. Looking back at the more distant past, we recall the talk about the civilising role of colonial powers during the colonial era. Today, ‘civilisation’ has been replaced by democratisation, but the aim is the same ­ to ensure unilateral gains and one’s own advantage, and to pursue one’s own interests.

Some are not above using the dirtiest techniques, attempting to ignite inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred in our multiethnic and democratic country. In this respect, I ask you to speed up the adoption of amendments to the law introducing stricter liability for extremist actions....

This brings me to the following matter.

As you know, the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO signed the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in 1990. This treaty would have made sense if the Warsaw Pact had continued to exist.

But today all that this treaty means is that we face restrictions on deploying conventional forces on our own territory. It is difficult to imagine a situation where the United States, for example, would accept restrictions on such a basis on the deployment of troops on its own territory. However, not only did Russia sign and ratify this treaty, but it has also observed its provisions in practice.

We have carried out considerable troop reductions. We no longer have any groups in the northwest of army or corps size. Practically all types of heavy arms have been withdrawn from the European part of the country. We are essentially the only country facing so-called ‘flank restrictions’ in the south and north. Even when the situation flared up in Chechnya, Russia continued to observe its commitments under this treaty and coordinated its action with its partners.

But what about our partners? They have not even ratified the adapted treaty, citing the Istanbul Agreements providing for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and Trans-Dniester.

But our country has been working consistently towards resolving these complex tasks. More importantly, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty is not in any way legally bound to the Istanbul Agreements.

This makes us fully justified in saying that in this particular case, our partners are not displaying correct behaviour, to say the least, in their attempts to gain unilateral advantages. While making use of an invented pretext for not ratifying the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, they are taking advantage of the situation to build up their own system of military bases along our borders. Furthermore, they plan to deploy elements of a missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland.

New NATO members such as Slovenia and the Baltic states, despite the preliminary agreements reached with NATO, have not signed the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty at all. This creates a real threat and an unpredictable situation for Russia.

In this context, I believe that the right course of action is for Russia to declare a moratorium on its observance of this treaty until such time as all NATO members without exception ratify it and start strictly observing its provisions, as Russia has been doing so far on a unilateral basis.

It is time for our partners to also make their contribution to arms reductions, not just in word but in deed. At the moment, they are only increasing arms, but it is time for them to start making cutbacks, if only in Europe.

I propose that we discuss this problem at the Russia-NATO Council. If no progress can be made through negotiations, then I propose that we examine the possibility of suspending our commitments under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (Applause). I was about to say that I call on the Federal Assembly to support this proposal, but I understand from your reaction that you do support it.

I also call your attention to the fact that elements of U.S. strategic weapons systems could be deployed in Europe for the first time. It is clear that the U.S. plans to deploy a missile defence system in Europe is not just an issue for bilateral Russian-American relations.

This issue, in one way or another, affects the interests of all European countries, including those in NATO. In this respect, this subject should be, and I would even say must be, discussed in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe as part of this organisation’s political and military dimension.

It is time for us to give the OSCE real substance and have it address the issues of genuine concern to the peoples of Europe rather than just hunting for fleas in the post-Soviet area.

Incidentally, we support the candidacy of Kazakhstan for the presidency of this organisation and we hope that Kazakhstan’s presidency would help to give the organisation the needed positive boost to its work.


Our foreign policy is aimed at joint, pragmatic, and non-ideological work to resolve the important problems we face.

In broader terms, what I am speaking about is a culture of international relations based on international law ¬ without attempts to impose development models or to force the natural pace of the historical process. This makes the democratisation of international life and a new ethic in relations between states and peoples particularly important. It also calls for the expansion of economic and humanitarian cooperation between countries.

This explains the attention we must pay to building up the common humanitarian space within the CIS, making our work with Russians abroad more effective, and making greater use of cooperation between civil society organisations that has proved its worth. Youth, education, cultural and professional exchanges are all an important part of humanitarian cooperation.

As it rebuilds its economic potential and becomes more aware of its possibilities, today’s Russia seeks to develop equal relations with all countries avoiding any attitude of arrogance. We will do no more than defend our economic interests and make use of our competitive advantages in the way that all countries around the world do.

We support the development of institutions and mechanisms that give equal consideration to the interests of all partners. This is true for projects in all fields ¬ in the energy sector, in industry, and in the area of international transit. These projects exist and are being implemented.

Russia will continue to show initiative in pursuing economic integration in the CIS area and, more broadly, throughout the Eurasian region. We need to bolster the integration processes taking place in the Eurasian Economic Community and in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. This, I stress, is precisely a case where economic development is synonymous with security, including the security of our borders.

I would like to reiterate our approach to building the Union State between Russia and Belarus.

Russia is open to all forms and models of integration. We are prepared to go as far in this respect as our Belarusian friends are ready to go. The pace at which we build the Union State depends only on the substance and the real depth of the integration processes underway.

We are not hurrying anyone. We are ready to hold frank discussions with our partners on any of the problems that arise on the way. But we remain unswervingly committed to our policy of comprehensive development of relations with Belarus in vital areas such as the economy, transport, social protection, healthcare and humanitarian cooperation.

Whatever the case, we will act in keeping with the interests of the peoples of both Russia and Belarus.

I note also that we are developing an increasingly constructive partnership with the European Union. We believe that all of these positive elements in our relations should now be cemented and developed in the new basic strategic partnership agreement between Russia and the EU.

Overall, we need to conduct a serious discussion involving the politicians and members of the business and academic communities on ways to facilitate the free movement of capital, goods, services and labour on the European and Asian continents. Russia, with its geopolitical position, can and will play an important part in this respect and will do all it can to encourage these processes.

I propose that we begin this discussion at the International Economic Forum in June 2007 in St Petersburg."

Vladimir Putin, Annual Speech to the Federal Assembly, Marble Hall, Kremlin, Moskva 26 April 2007, in

The reaction to Grazhdanin Putin's speech to the Russian Federal Assembly has been a mixture of bewilderment and alarm. With the official American reaction one of disbelief that Russia would carry out its threat to put on hold, Russia's adherence to the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. As the State Department's official spokesman put it, the United States: "certainly wouldn't see the placement of ten interceptors and a radar anything that can conceivably be seen as altering the strategic balance of power" (see: & the articles in the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune on the day after the Putin Speech in: & Of course strictly speaking, the American State Department's reaction is accurate enough. Per se, there is nothing remotely threatening to the European balance of power, in the proposed American set-up of the anti-ballastic missile placements in Poland and the Cech Republic. However, in this instance, the diplomatic pas de deux, has nothing to do with what is and is not true. It is much more a case of perceptions, and, in this instance Russian perceptions. Au fond, Russia's rulers at the moment, feel and display a heady mixture of fear and aggressiveness. Not mind you the aggressiveness of a Great Power which is embarked upon adventures abroad (AKA the USA prior the the invasion of Iraq...), rather it is the aggressiveness of a power which feels that it has the bit between its teeth, and that it can push its points without much fear of the negative consequences of doing so. In that respect it somewhat resembles current Persian foreign policy. Russian outbursts over the removal of the World War II statute in Tallin, a contretemps of almost childish proportions (by both sides mind you: both Estonian and Russian), is part and parcel of this current mood.

The 'fear' element in Russian behavior is based upon the residual concern that the USA, and some of its 'New Europe' allies, are still interested in overturning the status quo ante, in Russia in favor of some specifically Russian variant of the so-called Colored Revolution, `a la Georgia, and Ukraine. At this late date, with Georgia somewhat marginalized and President Yuschenko of Ukraine neutralized, it would appear on the surface that such fears have little substance. And, no doubt there is an element of bogus zealousness in Putin's talk of "influx of money from abroad", painting a portrait of the likes of Mr. George Soros, attempting to replicate the role of Aleksandr Parvus-Helphand in 1916-1917. However absurd such talk may sound to many outside of Matushka Roissya, it is probably the case that Putin and his circle do in fact believe to a small degree, that Washington et. al., would indeed like to engineer a situation in which the current regime is replaced, tutte quanti, by some Russian equivalent of Saakashvili (Kasparov or Kasyanov anyone?). And, of course it is the case, that there are elements within both the current American and Polish governments (I cannot speak for the government in Prague who would like to see such a result. The only caveat that I would add to such fears is that such elements are at the moment somewhat marginal, at the moment. Due not so much to any liking for Putin and his regime but due to the American preoccupation and indeed obsession with Iraq.

So to sum up, I strongly suggest that the proper response to Putin's threat, is not to respond in kind with counter-charges, but to attempt to remove as much as possible irritants and annoyances from the Russian-American-European policy menu. While no doubt these can seem to be aiding and abetting a semi-dictatorial regime (a not entirely accurate characterization of Putin's regime), which has lessend political pluralism at home, and, attempted to do so abroad, that cannot gainsay the fact that in the current International situation, to needlessly alienate Russia, over what appears to be a quite inefficient, missile defence system, is a policy of reductio ad absurdum. And, best be avoided at all costs. And to answer the question posed by the title of this posting, Putin's speech tends much more towards Gorchakov's Circular of 31st of October 1870, rather than Iosif Vissarionovich's 9th of February 1946 speech. In the nature of things, just as Kyniaz Gorchakov, took skillful advantage of Europe's pre-occupation with the ongoing Franco-Prussian war to denounce the neutralization clauses of the Treat of Paris, so Putin has similarly used the weakness of the United States, both diplomatically and otherwise to force the pace on the ballistic missile defence and other issues. This after a long period in which Russia was on the defensive. Obviously no longer...


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