TEHRAN – Speaking to reporters at his annual year-end press conference, Russia’s president answered questions on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues that have dominated Russian headlines over the past last 12 months.
High on the agenda are tensions with NATO, which have recently escalated dramatically. Vladimir Poutine underlined that the only meetings (with NATO or the United States) would not be enough in the Kremlin for the tensions to calm down by insisting “we don’t care about negotiations, we want results. not an inch to the East, they told us in the 1990s, and look what happened – they deceived us, vehemently and blatantly.
Last week, Moscow sent documents to the United States and NATO seeking assurances that Western forces and their advanced military hardware will not expand further east towards Russia’s borders in an attempt to reduce friction between the two parties. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also revealed that talks between Russian and US officials will take place in early January next year. Putin pointed out “now they say that [NATO] will also have Ukraine. That means they will deploy their weapons [in Ukraine], even though it is not officially part of NATO. According to the Russian leader, it is now up to the North Atlantic Alliance to “immediately” offer guarantees instead of just “talking about it for decades”.
The Russian leader has long maintained that Western officials have always promised that NATO forces would not seek to fill the vacuum left by the fall of the Warsaw Pact, but instead decided to make the nations of the bloc Is such as Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia and Poland NATO members. Russia fears that NATO will station missiles in a non-member state, Ukraine, which will essentially allow NATO to reduce “their flight time to Moscow to seven to ten minutes, and if hypersonic weapons are deployed, only five”. Russia has warned that it will prevent such threats.
Russia fears that NATO is stationing missiles in a non-member state, Ukraine. The Russian president said it was important to “calculate the risks of such a war, even if it is the result of provocation”. According to Putin, much of Ukraine is historically “Russian land with Russian populations that were cut off from Russia” by the fall of the Soviet Union.
“We accepted that,” he noted. “We have helped new states develop and have worked with all governments, regardless of their foreign policy. Remember our relationship with [President Viktor] Yushchenko and [Prime Minister Yulia] Tymoshenko? Like leaders today, they spoke of pro-Western orientations. We talked with them, we had some arguments and conflicts, about gas and so on, but we managed to engage in dialogue and we worked with them and were ready to go on, and we didn’t even think to do anything about Crimea.”
Among other highlights of the press conference, Putin discussed his country’s ties with Asian superpower China. He predicted that over the next three decades, China will overtake the United States in all aspects of its economy, predicting that Washington will lose its global dominance in both finance and trade. He said that “today China’s economy is already larger than that of the United States in terms of purchasing power parity.” According to Putin, “by 2035-2050 it will have exceeded [the U.S.] and China will become the largest economy in the world by all indicators.”
The Russian president accused the West of working to undermine the world’s most populous nation and trying to stunt its economic growth. He says efforts such as the US-led boycott of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing allegedly over alleged human rights abuses are a bogus attempt to try to ensure that China “cannot lift the head” above its competitors. Putin strongly rebuked the move as “unacceptable and wrong” and an “attempt to restrict the development of the People’s Republic of China.”
This month, Putin and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, held a virtual meeting amid growing tensions between the two nations on the one hand and the West on the other. After the talks, Moscow said the two sides agreed to launch a combined financial mechanism to reduce the independence of US-controlled platforms. Experts say the measure appears to be a response to a series of warnings that the West may continue with plans to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT international financial system as a form of punitive measure.
At the press conference, Putin said that China is Russia’s number one partner, stressing that “we have a relationship of trust and that also helps us to establish good trade ties.”
He says “we cooperate in the field of security. The Chinese military is equipped to a large extent with the most advanced weapons systems in the world. We even develop some high-tech weapons together,” Putin also praised his Chinese counterpart and “friend” Xi Jinping, saying that “we have a relationship of trust and that also helps us establish good trade ties.”
Once again, Putin dismissed claims that Russia is deliberately choking off gas supplies to Western Europe in a bid to pressure the EU not to block the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, arguing by Moscow. The project, which has been completed, awaits certification from German regulators. The president has strongly denied the allegations, which have already been brought to the Kremlin by Washington and a number of mainstream Western media outlets. “Of course it’s not [true]. They lie all the time, Gazprom delivers the volume [of gas] requested by its partners in their entirety, in accordance with existing contracts.
He added that “[Russia] is not the only supplier to the European market. But we are probably the only ones to increase deliveries, there were bad weather conditions last year. A long, cold spring. Not enough gas was pumped into storage. The wind turbines were not working. All of this has created a deficit.
Asked about opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who is currently serving a prison sentence, Putin said it was time to move on. He says the Russian prosecutor’s office has not received any documents to support charges that he was poisoned with Novichok before falling ill on a flight to Moscow. Putin told reporters “There is no need to talk about it” simply telling reporters “Let’s move on.” The Western-backed activist fell ill shortly after his plane took off from the Siberian city of Tomsk. He was taken to hospital and, at the request of his family, was then transported (oddly enough) to Berlin and treated at a clinic there. Doctors in Germany later claimed that Navalny had been infected with the toxic nerve agent, which made headlines in the West, but requests for samples or evidence from Moscow to back up the claims fell through. deaf ear.
Earlier this year, in another twist, Navalny returned to Russia, knowing full well that he would more than likely be jailed for breaching the terms of a suspended sentence given to him in 2014 when he was found guilty. guilty of embezzling $415,000 from two different people. companies. He was later sentenced to two years and eight months for breaking the law.
In front of Russian journalists as well as reporters from all over the world; Putin touched on many other issues such as the coronavirus, the economy and Russia’s declining population, but his comments on NATO and China are likely to make headlines for the foreseeable future.