Russia is not concerned that Ukraine could get the status of a European Union candidate “because the EU is not a military organization,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.
Speaking at the plenary meeting of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin questioned whether joining the EU will benefit Ukraine, saying the West is more interested in giving Kyiv some financial grants to maintain its loyalty than to actually support its economic and industrial growth.
On future relations with Ukraine, he said Moscow remains willing to build relations with anyone, but “only our army and navy can be the guarantors of our security.”
“We view it as a fact that sooner or later the situation will normalize. We want to ensure that all our neighbors have prosperity; then it is inevitable, I want it to be clear, the restoration of relations (between Russia and Ukraine),” he said.
Putin reiterated that Russia’s actions in Ukraine were “a forced measure,” as threats were being created that could be compared to Russia creating a military foothold in Mexico.
Russia repeatedly tried to find a common ground but our grievances were never adequately addressed, he said.
He criticized statements by politicians from the West about the possibility of a nuclear war.
“One irresponsible politician blurts out something, then another, and at a very high level … we respond accordingly,” he said.
Russia’s answers are then portrayed as threats, when in reality “we are not threatening anything,” he added.
‘West trying to preserve obsolete geopolitical illusions’
Putin said the global economy is going through a difficult period because of the West’s attempt “to preserve obsolete geopolitical illusions.”
The US, after proclaiming victory in the Cold War, declared itself the “messenger of God on Earth,” with no obligations and just “sacred” interests, he said.
“The flaw is in the concept itself, as the concept says there is one, albeit strong, power with a limited circle of close allies, or, as they say, countries with granted access, and all business practices and international relations, when it is convenient, are interpreted solely in the interests of this power. They essentially work in one direction in a zero-sum game,” he explained.
A world built on such a doctrine is “definitely unstable,” he added.
He criticized Western elites for ignoring the fact that new, powerful and increasingly assertive centers have emerged in past decades, saying they refuse to notice obvious things while “stubbornly clinging to the shadows of the past.”
“For example, they seem to believe that the dominance of the West in global politics and the economy is unchanging and eternal. Nothing lasts forever,” he said.
The West is even trying to reverse the course of history, he added.
“They consider everything a backwater, or their backyard. They still treat them like colonies, and the people living there, like second-class people, because they consider themselves exceptional. If they are exceptional, that means everyone else is second-rate,” he stressed.
The West has an “irrepressible urge” to punish and economically crush anyone who does not fit with the mainstream or refuses to blindly obey, said Putin.
“Moreover, they crudely and shamelessly impose their ethics, their views on culture and ideas about history, sometimes questioning the sovereignty and integrity of states, and threatening their very existence,” he said, pointing to Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya and Iraq as examples.
If some “rebel” state cannot be suppressed or pacified, they try to isolate or “cancel” it in all areas, including sports, culture, and art, he added.
“This is the nature of the current round of Russophobia in the West, and the insane sanctions against Russia. They are crazy and, I would say, thoughtless. They are unprecedented in their number and the pace at which the West is churning them out,” he said.
The intent behind it is clear – a sudden and violent blow to Russia’s industry, finance, forcible recall of Western companies, and freezing its assets was all done to crush our economy, he added.
“Obviously, it did not work out; it did not happen. Russian entrepreneurs and authorities have acted in a collected and professional manner, and Russians have shown solidarity and responsibility,” he said.
‘Sanctions a double-edged weapon’
Putin said sanctions are a “double-edged weapon,” pointing out that in some cases they have impacted the “initiators worse than Russia.”
He warned that the practice of sanctions creates “a dangerous precedent,” saying he knows about informal talks held secretly among European leaders about the possibility of imposing sanctions on any “unwanted” entity, including members of the EU and European companies.
The EU’s direct losses because of sanctions on Russia have reached $400 billion, while inflation in some countries has hit 20%, he added.
The economic problems may lead to social problems, including the growth of populist, radical political forces, he warned.
Today, many politicians try to blame Russia for their economic problems, but the real reason is their flawed economic policies, Putin added.
“Of course, it might be flattering for us to hear that we are so powerful and omnipotent and because of us the inflation in the West, in the US, in Europe is skyrocketing … Maybe it would be nice for us to feel such power, but it does not correspond to reality,” he said.
Putin also admitted that the sanctions have created problems for Moscow and more difficulties lie ahead but asserted that Russia “is ready to face the challenges.”