In 2007, Vladimir Putin spoke at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy. Far from being a diatribe, Mister Putin spoke eloquently and without the bluster that we tend to expect from political leaders.
He began by stressing the need for all countries to benefit within the global economy, overcoming poverty, maintaining economic security and developing an ongoing dialogue. He then addressed the increasing threat of warfare in the world, quoting American President Franklin Roosevelt as having said, “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.”
He warned against a “unipolar” world and aspirations of world supremacy by a single uber-government, saying,
However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to…one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making… And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within. And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.
Incidentally, Russia—we—are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves. I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today's…world...the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation… Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished…even more are dying than before.
He goes on to describe the growing US disdain for the basic principles of international law, stating pointedly that,
One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?
Of course, it’s true that, worldwide, there’s growing concern that the US sees itself as the world’s policeman—providing largesse to those governments that kowtow to US interests, whilst attacking those that don’t. It claims that it does so to make the world “safe for democracy” yet, in recent years, it has invaded more countries than ever before in its history, destroying well-functioning governments and replacing duly-elected leaders with puppet governments or, worse, with nothing at all.
Mister Putin goes on to state that,
of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe… Moreover, significantly new threats…have appeared, and today threats such as terrorism have taken on a global character. I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue. Especially since the international landscape is so varied and changes so quickly—changes in light of the dynamic development in a whole number of countries and regions…
The need for principles such as openness, transparency and predictability in politics is uncontested and the use of force should be a really exceptional measure, comparable to using the death penalty in the judicial systems of certain states. However, today we are witnessing the opposite tendency, namely a situation in which countries that forbid the death penalty even for murderers and other dangerous criminals are airily participating in military operations that are difficult to consider legitimate. And as a matter of fact, these conflicts are killing people—hundreds and thousands of civilians!…
[I]t represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made?
Mister Putin also describes the opportunism by the US to profit from aggression, saying,
one hand distributes charitable help and the other hand not only preserves economic backwardness but also reaps the profits thereof. The increasing social tension in depressed regions inevitably results in the growth of radicalism, extremism, feeds terrorism and local conflicts. And if all this happens in, shall we say, a region such as the Middle East where there is increasingly the sense that the world at large is unfair, then there is the risk of global destabilisation.
It is obvious that the world's leading countries should see this threat. And that they should therefore build a more democratic, fairer system of global economic relations, a system that would give everyone the chance and the possibility to develop… But this does not mean interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and especially not imposing a regime that determines how these states should live and develop. It is obvious that such interference does not promote the development of democratic states at all. On the contrary, it makes them dependent and, as a consequence, politically and economically unstable…
Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy. We are not going to change this tradition today. At the same time, we are well aware of how the world has changed and we have a realistic sense of our own opportunities and potential. And of course we would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.
Mister Putin’s words in 2007 were those of the leader of one of the world’s greatest powers, yet his tone (as the reader can attest after reading his words) was that of a leader seeking mutual respect, partnership and cooperation. His message rings true today, yet the US government has consistently sought to present him to the American people as a tyrant—one who seeks dominance over other jurisdictions, when, in fact, it is the US that has been the world’s foremost aggressor.
Since this speech was made, the US has annually either continued or increased its aggression against sovereign nations and duly-elected leaders. There can be little doubt that the danger that the US government is placing the American people in is reckless in the extreme. Were the American people to view Mister Putin’s speeches nightly on their televisions, in place of endless rants from neocons with ties to the military–industrial complex, it’s altogether likely that they’d favour backing off rather than pursuing more mischief abroad.
Unfortunately, Mister Putin’s speeches are never heard by the vast majority of Americans, which ensures that they’ll be left in the dark. Just as Americans have been tricked into endorsing past military adventures from the Spanish–American War onward, we can expect that, given enough prodding, they will once again concede that, although they do not seek further aggression, the media and the government have demonstrated that it’s “necessary.”
Although Mister Putin’s speeches are not heard in America, it’s important to note that they are heard by the rest of the world. Those of us who are not American and live outside the US have greater access to balanced reporting on world events and, like Mister Putin, we fear the unparalleled interference by the US government.
To us, he seems at present to be a voice in the wilderness—countering the US when necessary, but repeatedly seeking peaceful solutions, only to be rebuffed by the US government time and time again—presented as an evil warmonger.
History is replete with the tales of empires that sought to gobble up the world—to subject all people to the whims and dictates of one central government. Never has this been truer than today, when so many American leaders have touted the supposed necessity of a “One World Government” or “New World Order” in which the US reigns supreme.
Historically, each of these empires has gone through a period when its power base spread dramatically, yet each one, in turn, collapsed through excessive warfare on numerous fronts, coupled with increasing debt at home. In each case, the empires have collapsed under their own weight and, in so doing, found themselves without allies, as the world breathed a sigh of relief at the downfall of the latest Goliath.
When this comes to pass with regard to the US empire, Mister Putin’s pleas for each country to have had the freedom to decide its own fate will be remembered. He will cease to be a voice in the wilderness and will be remembered as a statesman.
It is eternally true that our loyalty and patriotism should not be bestowed upon any particular government simply because we were born there.
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