The news media this past weekend jumped hungrily on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club, a Russian expert forum that included foreign dignitaries, academics, and press.
The media reports flourished in Putin’s scathing criticism of U.S. foreign policy and hegemony, saying Moscow was upping the conflict ante by blaming the White House for most of the world’s conflicts through political intimidation, military force, worldwide control of media communication, and global surveillance. You can see The New York Times’ and London Post’s reports here and here.
Putin’s American critique was acid indeed. But it wasn’t a Kruschev shoe-pounding diatribe. The stabs at the U.S. were a large part — but not all — of a running 6,000-word analysis involving the history of modern international relations, and Russia’s view and place in the current global economic, political and military arena. You can see the transcript, including questions following his talk, here.
He also criticized the European Union for joining in the American effort. He emphasized that Russia has recognized the reality of a global economy, the need for global cooperation, and that Moscow has been willing and is willing to continue efforts at working with its European neighbors and the U.S., when they are willing.
He, of course, criticized the U.S. and EU placing sanctions on Russia, and predicted their negative global effect, adding that Russia would continue moving ahead despite them:
Sanctions are already undermining the foundations of world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property… Some are saying today that Russia is supposedly turning its back on Europe…and is looking for new business partners, above all in Asia. Let me say that this is absolutely not the case. Our active policy in the Asian-Pacific region began not just yesterday and not in response to sanctions, but is a policy that we have been following for a good many years now. Like many other countries, including Western countries, we saw that Asia is playing an ever greater role in the world, in the economy and in politics, and there is simply no way we can afford to overlook these developments.
Let me say again that everyone is doing this, and we will do so to, all the more so as a large part of our country is geographically in Asia. Why should we not make use of our competitive advantages in this area? It would be extremely shortsighted not to do so.
He closed his talk with a determined tone:
Colleagues, Russia made its choice. Our priorities are further improving our democratic and open economy institutions, accelerated internal development, taking into account all the positive modern trends in the world, and consolidating society based on traditional values and patriotism.
We have an integration-oriented, positive, peaceful agenda; we are working actively with our colleagues in the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS and other partners. This agenda is aimed at developing ties between governments, not dissociating. We are not planning to cobble together any blocs or get involved in an exchange of blows.
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.
Who is Putin Really Talking To?
The Big Bear’s leader will find few in Washington who will agree with his long speech. And human rights activists within Russia will also counter his altruistic remarks. But he knows that. So who is he really talking to in his globally covered comments?
First, Europe. He knows his neighbors to the West depend on Russia for oil and natural gas supplies. They’re still concerned that Putin will cut those supplies as winter quickly approaches. So the EU’s been seeking out other sources. Putin also offered a compromise for supplying gas to financially strapped and conflict-torn Ukraine, but the EU appeared to negate that. Winter’s arrival may change that if European citizens’ tempers erupt over no heat.
Ukraine, the source of the Russian sanctions, today has seen election results showing a new Parliament will align with its new president, the pro-Western billionaire Petro Poroshenko. That will see Ukraine hoping to enter the European Union. Russia has said it will accept the election results.
Second, China. The Russia-China growing cooperation looms large in Europe’s and America’s eyes — not only because the giant neighbors together represent a major political and economic bloc — but they are exercising influence through partnerships such as BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Eurasian Economic Union which are looking to vie economically and politically with the West.
China, in fact, may be the determining key of whether a growing new Cold War may lead to a hot war, or some international agreement may arise allowing a fairly peaceful effort at global cooperation and economic competition among the major powers.
China is vying with the U.S. as the global economic leader, many reports say. It also holds a large portion of American debt. And, through BRICS, has begun with its partners Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, to fund a development bank to oppose the West’s World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
So, on the one hand, China, combining itself with its Asian and South American connections, will push more and more to determine its own economic destiny rather than depending on the West. Which it hopes will give it more leverage in global trade, forcing Western cooperation. Also, this week, BRICS has received a boost from the narrow re-election of Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, a mainstay in the BRICS effort and its creation of capital funds.
On the other hand, the global economy appears to be in a continuing decline. The investment analyst and author Jim Rickards said in a TV interview today (Monday) he believed we’re in a global depression, led by China and its growing real-estate bubble. He has spoken in earlier interviews of concern over the U.S. stock market bubble.
Meanwhile, William White, a Canadian economist famous for predicting the 2007 global economic meltdown, in August specifically cited concern over looming debts worldwide:
“In the crisis of 2007, debt was allowed to build up,” he said. “Unfortunately the current debts of the G20, as a proportion of GDP, are 30% higher than 2007.”
Many economists see the EU’s stubbornly clinging to austerity leading to an economic fall. As a sign of that, this weekend 1 million people protested in Rome at the government’s plans for austere cuts.
Falling oil prices are greatly affecting Russia’s economy, along with sanctions. Cheaper gas is having negative effects on other government economies also, while barely helping individual citizens’ pocketbooks.
In the U.S., government and business reports point to a growing economy and employment. Rickards, however, doesn’t buy that, as do some other analysts. He said today the economy’s health is determined by two simple things: the number of people employed and how productive they are. He followed by pointing out that 50 million Americans are on food stamps, and seven million who want full-time employment have only been able to find part-time jobs.
Peculiar Progressive also sees troubles globally, having covered these in columns citing two international banking reports predicting a new global economic meltdown spurred by the growing derivatives industry. And we question the positive economic reports in the U.S. It’s difficult to see how a nation with a college student loan debt of over $1 trillion, a credit card debt of $1 trillion, a national debt (owed by the public) of $12.5 trillion (the government’s figure, with some saying up to $17 trillion) and infrastructure needs of $2.3 trillion, can be in good economic shape.
With all this in mind, consider getting organized, educated and active to help turn the gloomy economic and international-relations picture around. You can start by going to the polls in the November mid-term elections (early voting’s already started). Consider putting into office public servants who oppose endless war and austerity, and prefer to support international open communication and cooperation.