Cold War, coronavirus, climate change Putin’s speech at the annual Valdai Discussion Club, in a nutshell
On Thursday, October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the annual Valdai Discussion Club via video link. He talked for about forty minutes and covered a wide range of topics, including the coronavirus pandemic, the post-Cold War order, and the existential trials and tribulations of our times. Here’s what he said, in brief.
In the fight against the pandemic, we in Russia put human life at the forefront. Because we already suffered colossal demographic losses in the twentieth century. The pandemic showed that a strong government is very important. We were right when we rebuilt state institutions after the decline in the 1990s. Where is this power? It’s not in the power of the police and the armed forces, but in the confidence of citizens and in the ability of the state to hear them. But how do you distinguish the voice of the people from behind-the-scenes whispers? If democracy is imported, people aren’t asked anything and their leaders are vassals of foreign well-wishers. And the master decides everything for the vassals. A mature civil society is sovereign.
A lot of questions have accumulated in the world. After the end of the Cold War and its clear rules (no, I don’t miss it!) everything changed very quickly. What lies ahead for humanity? They’re trying to write Russia off. But I want to say [the following] to those who are waiting for Russia to fade away gradually: we’re worried about catching a cold at your funeral. The UN and the right to veto power on the Security Council must be preserved, these are basics. We must work together to fight terrorism and poverty. And also to give up thoughtless consumption and protect the environment. The temperature is rising, the permafrost is melting, and methane is being released into the atmosphere. And we don’t want the Earth’s climate to approach that of Venus.
An endless digital space is now emerging, where there are no rules. But even during the Cold War we were able to negotiate. And we can now. The times when Moscow and Washington resolved all issues are long gone. But we can start, and then other countries will join. We live in an era of crises. But we’re used to it — we survived the Cold War and World War II. Now humanity is faced with the loss of moral guidelines and the meaning of existence. We need a reassessment of priorities — and the pandemic could be the starting point for that. We need to learn to protect human life and our planet.
Translation by Eilish Hart