Russia's Putin says West is failing, the future is in Asia

Russian President Vladimir Putin said sanctions had replaced the pandemic as the main threat to the global economy. PHOTO: REUTERS

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia had not lost anything in a global confrontation with the United States over the conflict in Ukraine, but had actually gained by setting a new sovereign course that would restore its global clout.

The Russian president is increasingly casting the Ukraine conflict as a turning point in history when Russia finally threw off the humiliations which accompanied the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

In an attempt to underscore Russia’s tilt towards Asia, Mr Putin, speaking to the Eastern Economic Forum in the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, said that the West was failing while Asia was the future.

In his main speech, Mr Putin hardly mentioned Ukraine beyond a reference to grain exports. But when asked by a moderator if anything had been lost from the conflict, Mr Putin said Russia had gained and would emerge renewed and purged of hindrances.

“We have not lost anything and will not lose anything,” the Russian leader said. “Everything that is unnecessary, harmful and everything that prevents us from moving forward will be rejected.”

“In terms of what we have gained, I can say that the main gain has been the strengthening of our sovereignty, and this is the inevitable result of what is happening now,” Mr Putin said. “This will ultimately strengthen our country from within.”

He did, though, acknowledge that the conflict had unleashed “a certain polarisation” in both the world and in Russia.

The confrontation with the West over Ukraine has prompted Russia to embark on a hurried tilt towards Asia, and particularly China, once a junior partner of the Soviet Union and now the world’s second largest economy.

Mr Putin said that the West was failing because a futile and aggressive attempt to isolate Russia with sanctions was destroying the global economy just as Asia was rising to claim the future.

The US and its allies imposed the most severe sanctions in modern history on Russia for what Mr Putin casts as a special military operation in Ukraine, a response the Kremlin says is akin to a declaration of war.

He said the sanctions had replaced the Covid-19 pandemic as the main threat to the global economy.

"I am speaking of the West's sanctions fever, with its brazen, aggressive attempt to impose models of behaviour on other countries, to deprive them of their sovereignty and subordinate them to their will," Putin said.

"In an attempt to resist the course of history, Western countries are undermining the key pillars of the world economic system built over centuries," he said, adding that confidence in the dollar, euro and sterling was falling.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance. Neither side has disclosed how many soldiers have been killed.

Mr Putin, who turns 70 in October, told the West in July he was just getting started in Ukraine and dared the US - which enjoys economic and conventional military superiority over Russia – to try to defeat Moscow. It would, he said, fail.

The West’s attempt to economically isolate Russia – one of the world’s biggest producers of natural resources – has propelled the global economy into uncharted waters with soaring prices for food and energy. 

Mr Putin said the West was trying to impose its will on the world, but that their power was in decline as the crucible of global growth was now in Asia.

"Irreversible and even tectonic changes have taken place throughout international relations," he said. "The role of dynamic, promising countries and regions of the world, primarily the Asia-Pacific region, has significantly increased."

China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu and the prime ministers of Mongolia and Armenia also joined Mr Putin at the annual forum that is intended to showcase investment opportunities in Russia’s far east. 

The leaders of India, Malaysia and Vietnam spoke at the event by video address. 

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the world was moving towards multipolarity that brings with it not only threats, but also opportunities that should be optimised by all.

He also said that Malaysia, as an Asean founding country, will continue to play its vital role in building the Asean community and regional integration, Bernama reported.

Mr Li said China is determined to cooperate with Russia in various areas and is pleased that the Russian economy was not destroyed by Western sanctions.

Mr Putin is expected to hold an in-person meeting next week with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who has not left China since 2020 due to the pandemic. The two leaders will meet at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to be held in Uzbekistan next Thursday and Friday, a Russian diplomat said on Wednesday.

At the forum, Mr Putin also met Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, whose government is facing diplomatic isolation as well. Mr Putin hailed Myanmar as a “long-standing and reliable partner”, while Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called the Russian President “a leader of the world”. 

Mr Putin said that China would pay Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy company, for its gas in national currencies, based on a 50-50 split between the Russian rouble and Chinese yuan. 

“No matter how much someone would like to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do this,” Mr Putin said in his speech.

Mr Putin’s participation in the forum comes a day after he oversaw large-scale military drills there. The week-long manoeuvres, called Vostok-2022, were concluding on Wednesday and involved several Kremlin-friendly countries, including China. REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG

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