Putin, Tusk at odds over liberal values

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN.PHOTO: REUTERS, EPA-EFE
EUROPEAN UNION PRESIDENT DONALD TUSK .
EUROPEAN UNION PRESIDENT DONALD TUSK .PHOTO: REUTERS, EPA-EFE

EU leader blasts Russian President over remarks that liberal democracy is 'obsolete'

MOSCOW/TOKYO • Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn flak for saying in an interview that liberal values were obsolete because they had been rejected by the majority of people in Western nations.

"(Liberals) cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades," Mr Putin said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Thursday, as populist movements gather support across Europe and in the United States.

The comments led EU president Donald Tusk to lash out yesterday at Mr Putin in unusually undiplomatic language, saying he "strongly disagreed" with the Russian President.

The Kremlin strongman had criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow more than one million refugees into Germany as a "cardinal mistake" while praising US President Donald Trump for his efforts to stop the flow of migrants from Mexico.

"The liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants must be protected. What rights are these? Every crime must have its punishment," Mr Putin said.

"So, the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population," the Russian President said.

Mr Tusk, in Osaka for the Group of 20 (G-20) gathering of the world's leading economies, took Mr Putin to task for the comments.

ESSENTIAL VALUES

Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete.

EUROPEAN UNION PRESIDENT DONALD TUSK


IRRELEVANT IDEOLOGY

The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN

"I have to say that I strongly disagree with the main argument that liberalism is obsolete," he said.

"Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete," he added.

These are "essential and vibrant values" for Europeans, said Mr Tusk. "What I find really obsolete are authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs, even if sometimes they may seem effective."

Mr Putin also said in the interview that Russia is not homophobic, but that a Western willingness to embrace homosexuality and gender fluidity seemed excessive to him.

"Traditional values are more stable and more important for millions of people than this liberal idea, which, in my opinion, is really ceasing to exist," he said.

He concluded that liberal ideology had "outlived its purpose".

Mr Putin also said that he believed his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G-20 summit this week could help repair bilateral relations after the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.

He said the incident was an issue between intelligence agencies and should not be allowed to damage relations and economic interests shared by Britain and Russia.

Mr Putin said Mrs May - who will soon step down as British leader - may have more scope to make long-sighted decisions about rehabilitating ties with Moscow.

"All this fuss about spies and counterspies, it is not worth serious interstate relations. This spy story, as we say, it is not worth five kopecks. Or even five pounds, for that matter," Mr Putin said.

"I think that both Russia and the UK are interested in fully restoring our relations. At least I hope that a few preliminary steps will be made," he added.

"I think it would be easier for Mrs May, maybe, because she is leaving and is free to do what she thinks is right, important and necessary, and not to bother about some domestic political consequences."

Russia-Britain ties plunged to post-Cold War lows last year when London blamed Moscow for poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury. Moscow has denied involvement in the attack which prompted the biggest wave of diplomatic expulsions between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

British prosecutors have charged two Russian military intelligence officers in absentia with attempted murder over the attack.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Putin, Tusk at odds over liberal values'. Print Edition | Subscribe