This article describes and comments on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2018 “State of Nation Speech”.
Nic Robertson, Cable News Network’s (CNN) international diplomatic editor, writes about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two-hour annual State of Nation speech: “It is bombastic talk in the extreme: a waggling of military parts in the faces of other nations, most likely the United States”(CNN, 1 March 2018).
CNN primarily searched for Putin’s “largest boast”, and found Russia’s new nuclear-powered cruise missile capable of defying the US missile-defense shield. Robertson referred to last month’s Munich Security Conference where North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, spoke about an unfolding arms race.
Putin’s actual message is not weapons or military capability of Russia; but the country’s political position, which has been ignored, and at times, humiliated by the chief imperialist power – the US. This phase of humiliation began since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Putin is now trying to remind the US that their chief imperialist power should take into consideration Russia’s position before taking any unilateral aggressive move.
Putin, in his annual presidential address to the Federal Assembly on 28 February 2018, mentioned a number of advanced weapons systems developed by Russia. These weapons, as Putin claimed, make all US capabilities aimed at undermining the Russian nuclear deterrent obsolete.
So, Putin cautioned: “The US should stop trying to diminish Russia’s security and start talking to Moscow as an equal partner, not the dominant military power the US seeks to be” (Putin, 2018).
Part of Putin’s speech sounded like a challenge to the chief imperialist power of the US. He accused the US of arrogance. Putin stated, “The US thought that Russia would not be able to recover anytime soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union and that its interests can simply be ignored” (Putin, 2018)
As evidence, he cited the withdrawal by George W Bush from the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. After the withdrawal, Russia is being increasingly surrounded by the US strategic and tactical moves. The Russian leader said, “Without a nuclear deterrent, Russia would be exposed to US military pressure and would not be able to pursue a sovereign policy” (Putin, 2018).
Putin mentioned a number of weapons including a new intercontinental ballistic missile, a miniaturised nuclear reactor-powered cruise missile with an almost unlimited range and a high-endurance underwater drone capable of traveling between continents at a speed several times higher than that of a submarine and with the capacity of attacking aircraft carrier groups. Putin also mentioned a hypersonic weapons system with a speed of Mach-10, and a combat laser.
Putin highlighted that Russia would not have needed all these new weapons if its legitimate concerns had not been ignored by the US and its allies. Putin stated, “Nobody wanted to talk with us on the core of the problem. Nobody listened to us. Now you listen” (Putin, 2018).
The Russian president suggested that the US abandon its costly and inefficient hostile plans towards Russia and start negotiating a security arrangement, which would take Moscow’s interests into account.
Putin said, “To those who for the last 15 years have been trying to fan an arms race, achieve unilateral advantage against Russia, impose sanctions, which are illegal from the standpoint of international law and are aimed at holding back the development of our country, including in the military area, I have this to say: All the things you were trying to prevent through your policies have already happened. You have failed to hold Russia back” (Putin, 2018).
Putin continued by declaring “You now have to acknowledge this reality, confirm that everything I said is no bluff – which it isn’t – think for some time, send into retirement the people stuck in the past and incapable of looking into the future, and stop rocking the boat that we all ride in and which is called planet Earth” (Putin, 2018).
This part of the speech is more important than the list of the weapons as anyone can assume that information about the newly developed weapons is already known to the US.
The list of weapons is for consumption of the public at home and abroad. Whereas the signals the speech carries are important to the US as well as to allies and lackeys of the US. It is clear that Russia wants an accommodation on the world stage, a reasonable aspiration, which is contrary to the interests of the US and its allies.
Similar moves are already in operation: these include trade relations. In the area of arms trade, a number of Russian moves are interesting, which were unimaginable during the days of the Soviet Union.
These include Turkey’s and Qatar’s efforts to buy Russia’s missile system. Was it imaginable that a Bush-trampled Iraq would be willing to buy Russia’s missile system? These are happening. The imperialist power is threatening countries willing to procure weapons from Russia.
The US has threatened Iraq with imposing sanctions on Baghdad if the country buys Russian missile systems. This would, thus, place into action the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017” (CAATSA), which imposes sanctions on countries purchasing weapons from Russia. The US has already told Iraq that purchasing of Russian missile system could violate the CAATSA.
The prevailing political environment in Iraq is not always friendly to the US. Iraq’s parliament has passed a resolution demanding that the government set a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops stationed in the war-ravaged country.
Qatar is negotiating purchase of a long-range anti-aircraft system from Russia. A military cooperation agreement between the two countries is there.
The weapons-purchase negotiations will not move smoothly and swiftly, however the developments are part of a scene different from the days of a world dominated by the US during the days immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Putin’s suggestion to listen to Russia is part of this scene.
The situation could make the imperialistic nature of the US desperate, reckless, and more aggressive as the part is unwilling to accommodate Russia. It is a question of competition. It has to surrender a part of the market to Russia, which is not possible for imperialism. This will lead to heightened tension, which helps the warmongers to bolster the armament industry as well to gain profit.
In this situation, increase in subversive activities and intervention by imperialism in countries will be norm of the day as the warmongers find those easier to advance its interests in the face of increased competition.
* Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Putin, V. (2018) Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly: Manezh Central Exhibition Hall.
Robertson, N., (2018). Russia’s “invincible” missile is chilling for everyone [CNN Online] Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/01/opinions/russia-us-arms-race-robertson-opinion/index.html Accessed 1 March 2018