Nobody ever thought that Putin could outdo his performance at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, where he lambasted the US and West for being the source of everything bad in the world. However, at the 22-24 October 11th version of his ridiculous annual PR event, the Valdai Club, held in (where else) Sochi, he gave a masterful performance virtually devoid of the slightest elements of truth. Goebbels would feel shamed by the master.
Naturally his monologues and Q&A by an all-too-friendly audience (maybe thinking they might just get the Polonium-210 tea) had a lot to do with Ukraine. However, he launched first into spouting off against mainly the US (he just said the US forces all its allies to do its bidding), saying it has invaded countries with impunity in the post-Soviet era, imposing its will and creating chaos wherever it went. Some slight truth in the case of Iraq, but he raised other cases like Afghanistan (from which the US and later others were attacked), though he also mentioned Libya and Egypt (where the governments had taken to machinegunning peaceful demonstrators, leading to popular uprisings). Point he seems to have deliberately missed is that while the US and its allies have done these interventions, we strive to get out as soon as possible and do not annex an inch of territory. Not to mention that the governments left in place can hardly be called pawns of US or NATO foreign policies. But such is his warped reality.
He continued saying the US wants and needs an enemy, which Russia now has filled the role as. “Today, we are seeing new efforts to fragment the world, draw new dividing lines, put together coalitions not built for something but directed against someone, anyone, create the image of an enemy as was the case during the Cold War years, and obtain the right to this leadership, or diktat if you wish.” This is pure BS, since as usual Russia routinely accuses others of precisely the things it is doing itself. Frankly, most people in the US don’t care anything about Russia or Ukraine and know virtually nothing about them. Same goes for many in government I can authoritatively say. The US does not need an enemy. However, watch just an hour or Russian state TV channels and you will hear nothing but how the US is evil, the EU is horrible, America is spreading or even created Ebola. On US TV it is virtually impossible to see any mentions of Ukraine or Russia on a news programme for more than 15 seconds.
He said the sanctions against Russia are undermining WTO trade rules. Give me a break. This is the guy who has used Rostrebnadzor, his “consumer protection” organization, for ages to
On Ukraine put bogus restrictions on any products from a country that rubs Russia the wrong way, starting with the 2006 bans on Georgian wine and Borjomi water and on Moldovan wine when both countries did some actions (Georgia arrested a few GRU agents in Tbilisi) Russia found objectionable. It does the same to this day. Georgia made a grave mistake when it gave into US pressures to allow Russia to join the WTO (even as Russia was already flagrantly violating many WTO standards), throwing away a trump card, and getting nothing but more Russian hatred in return.
A typically contradictory statement was this one on respecting others. “The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, are groundless. Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world – I want to emphasise this. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected.” So, you respect others like Georgia and Ukraine who you have invaded and annexed territory from. But it makes sense, sort of, with your qualifier that everyone has to take your interests into account. So as you said before, Ukraine was free to sign an EU Association Agreement, but your perception that this was bad to you in your tiny zero-sum world meant that it would have to face the consequences for its actions (like that little invasion thing). Right.
On Ukraine, which he called a result of a “misbalance in international relations” (the new term for invading a neighbor apparently), he mentioned Crimean secession as being fully legal in line with Article I of the UN Charter which says peoples have the right to national self-determination (though didn’t mention the same Charter’s prohibitions about invading others). He said as usual that if it was OK for Kosovo, why not for Crimea. Difference is that Kosovo had been next in line for a Serb cleansing of the majority locals, which was indeed underway as it previously was in Croatia and Bosnia, and it had been a UN protectorate for over a decade before being given gradual independence. Putin invaded Crimea, held a bogus referendum, and annexed it in a space of three weeks, with no UN mandate. Big difference. Naturally he mentions the need to protect the Russians and Russian-speaking population of Crimea. From what, he doesn’t say, since there is no credible evidence whatsoever that the “post-coup” interim government in Kyiv or Ukrainian ethnics in general did anything whatsoever against ethnic Russians in Crimea or elsewhere.
On the current situation in the east and the not-so-ceasefire he said ” The most important thing is to immediately stop the war and move the troops away. If Ukraine wants to keep its territorial integrity, and this is something we want as well, they need to understand that there is no sense in holding on to some village or other – this is pointless. The idea is to stop the bloodshed and to start normal dialogue, to build relations based on this dialogue and restore at least some communication, primarily in the economy, and gradually other things will follow.” Really? You want Ukraine’s territorial integrity? Calling bullshit on this one as well. Why did you then send in Spetsnaz groups, train Russian government mercenaries (many right out of the military and signed on contract) in Rostov and send them into Ukraine with T-64Bs, MRLs, BMPs, BTRs, and the latest antitank missiles and a variety of air defence systems, and then about a dozen Russian military battalion tactical groups when you mercs and some local wannabes were getting their asses handed to them by the Ukrainian military? You started this where there were no problems to begin with, your state media publish and broadcast endless disinformation about the situation while calling the region “Novorossiya,” and you are holding a Ukrainian woman hostage whom you kidnapped and brought across the state border to hold as a trophy. Bold-faced liar.
More on the Crimea fairy tale. He said that after the “violent overthrow” of the Yanukovych regime in Kyiv, and people in Crimea saw the blood events that had happened there (presumably he does not mean 100 Maidan protesters being murdered by government snipers, but I am unsure what he refers to since nothing happened from the Maidan side in this regard), “Seeing these developments, people in Crimea almost immediately took to arms and asked us for help in arranging the events they intended to hold. I will be frank; we used our Armed Forces to block Ukrainian units stationed in Crimea, but not to force anyone to take part in the elections. This is impossible, you are all grown people, and you understand it. How could we do it? Lead people to polling stations at gunpoint?
People went to vote as if it were a celebration, everybody knows this, and they all voted, even the Crimean Tatars. There were fewer Crimean Tatars, but the overall vote was high. While the turnout in Crimea in general was about 96 or 94 percent, a smaller number of Crimean Tatars showed up. However 97 percent of them voted ‘yes’. Why? Because those who did not want it did not come to the polling stations, and those who did voted ‘yes’.” No Mr Xuilo, the vast majority of the Tatars did not take part. You know this and are lying as usual. The turnout was not anywhere near 90 percent, though of course the Crimean CEC released figures showing that a full 123% of the population of Sevastopol, of all ages, had voted in the referendum. Not my figures. Theirs. Mass celebrations? Some indeed, but mostly underwhelming. When Crimea was annexed, Russian state TV live feed showed the “massive crowd in Simferopol celebrating with a live concert. I know large crowds very well, and there were perhaps about 2,000. Meanwhile Crimean Tatars who he claims voted overwhelmingly for separatism, continue to disappear weekly and are often found tortured and murdered.
There was a lot of BS in his account of Yanukovych’s ouster and flight to Russia, though finally another admission of Russia having orchestrated this (as he finally did in April admitting his “polite little green men” in Crimea were in fact Russian military–the last person in the world to realize this). On the 21 February agreement between Yanukovych and some Maidan opposition leaders, he said “On February 21, Viktor Yanukovych signed the well-known documents with the opposition. Foreign ministers of three European countries signed their names under this agreement as guarantors of its implementation.” The usual Russian disinfo lie. There were three FMs present but they signed as witnesses–not guarantors of anything. In any case this bad agreement was not agreed to by Maidan itself (who were literally under sniper fire all day and were just a wee bit pissed off as a result), as the agreement only went back to some of the points originally proposed by the movement months earlier which were rejected repeatedly by the government.
“On the same day, President Yanukovych called me to say he signed the agreement, the situation had stabilized and he was going to a conference in Kharkov. I will not conceal the fact that I expressed my concern: how was it possible to leave the capital in this situation. He replied that he found it possible because there was the document signed with the opposition and guaranteed by foreign ministers of European countries.” The same lies. Also, this conversation did not happen as he says because already from 18-21 February, hours of clear video evidence show Yanuk and his girlfriend supervising removal from his Mezhihirye mansion truckloads of art and other items to be shipped to Russia with him. He was finishing the looting and scooting and had no intention of agreeing to anything.
“Yanukovych called me and said he would like us to meet to talk it over. I agreed. Eventually we agreed to meet in Rostov because it was closer and he did not want to go too far. I was ready to fly to Rostov. However, it turned out he could not go even there. They were beginning to use force against him already, holding him at gunpoint. They were not quite sure where to go.” Really? There are no indications that Yanuk went to Kharkiv for a conference–he was on his way to Russia for good. Nobody from the opposition held him at gunpoint. If they had, he would have never made it to Russia. Pure fabrications.
Now the admission: “I will not conceal it; we helped him move to Crimea, where he stayed for a few days. That was when Crimea was still part of Ukraine. However, the situation in Kiev was developing very rapidly and violently, we know what happened, though the broad public may not know – people were killed, they were burned alive there. They came into the office of the Party of Regions, seized the technical workers and killed them, burned them alive in the basement. Under those circumstances, there was no way he could return to Kiev. Everybody forgot about the agreements with the opposition signed by foreign ministers and about our telephone conversations. Yes, I will tell you frankly that he asked us to help him get Russia, which we did. That was all.” More lies as usual. There was an attack on a POR building in Kyiv days earlier but the attackers wee most likely government titushki meant to give more “legitimacy” to mass shootings of protesters in the ensuing days. These damn Russian officials always seem to take great liberties with timelines. But at least it is good to see that Putin has now come clean on interfering in a neighbouring country by moving its murderous leader about and giving him asylum. No details on how they did this or what actions they took there, but he admitted involvement.
There were plenty of other pieces of cerebral barf that he spread at his little Valdai propaganda meeting, but these were just some of the lowlites.