The world is entering a new period of change as the pursuit of a more just world order clashes with the arbitrary hegemony of the collective West, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, addressing the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.
Putin’s speech ranged from biodiversity to “cancel culture” to the nature of what the West has to offer and Russia’s response, followed by hours of answering audience questions. Here are the key points from his opening remarks. Remember, he isn’t delivering this speech to the Western masses who watch Fox News and MSNBC, or to the cheerleaders for each political party, but he’s sending this message to those who control the levers of power.
The West stokes conflict to preserve hegemony.
Vladimir Putin said that from inciting conflict in Ukraine and provocations around Taiwan to destabilize the world food and energy markets, the US and its allies have been escalating tensions around the globe in recent years and especially in recent months (think Haiti, Brazil, Syria, Libya, Africa, Taiwan, Venezuela, etc.)
“Ruling the world is what the so-called West has staked in this game, which is certainly dangerous, bloody, and – I would say – dirty. It denies the sovereignty of countries and peoples, their identity and uniqueness, and disregards any interests of other states,” the Russian president explained. In their so-called “rules-based world order,” only those making the “rules” have any agency, while everyone else must obey.
However, the West has “no constructive ideas and positive development, they simply have nothing to offer the world except the preservation of their dominance.”
Hypocrisy rules the West.
The West insists its culture and worldview should be universal, Vladimir Putin said. So, while not saying it outright, they behave like these values must be unconditionally accepted by everyone else.
Yet when some other countries, notably China, began benefiting from globalization, the West “immediately changed or completely canceled” many of the rules it long insisted were set in stone and sacred, Putin said, with free trade, economic openness, fair competition, and even property rights “suddenly forgotten at once, completely.”
“As soon as something becomes profitable for themselves, they change the rules immediately, on the go, in the game.”
American Exceptionalism needs a cancel culture.
Believing themselves infallible, the rulers of the West desire to destroy – or “cancel” – those they dislike. Putin said that where Nazis burned books, the Western “guardians of liberalism and progress” now ban Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky. Liberal democracy has transformed into something unrecognizable, declaring any alternative viewpoint as propaganda or a threat. The so-called “cancel culture” destroys anything alive and creative, preventing any freedom of thought in culture, economics, or politics alike. Both political parties are going down this road together, hand in hand.
Vladimir Putin warned that the US and its allies are hurting themselves by forcing other nations to be more like themselves. “Political and cultural diversity is key in solving problems that If Western Elites believe that they can incorporate into the minds of their people, their societies things that are weird, and which are apparently in fashion, like dozens of genders, and gay pride parades, so be it. Let them do whatever they want.”
But the West has no right to impose its cultural preferences on other societies, adding that Russia does not lecture others on how they should live and does not want to be lectured. “Humanity itself has structured a multi-cultural world.”
“History, of course, will put everything in its place,” Putin said, adding that the self-conceit of those who seek to cancel them is off the charts, “but no one will even remember their names in a few years, while Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky and Pushkin will endure.”
Russia is not looking to compete
Russia is an “independent, original civilization” and “has never considered itself an enemy of the West,” Vladimir Putin said. On the contrary, since antiquity, it has had ties with the West of traditional Christian and Muslim values, freedom, patriotism, and rich culture. There is another West, however – “an aggressive, cosmopolitan, neocolonialist, acting as a tool of neoliberal elites,” Putin said, “whose dictates Russia will never accept.”
Even so, Russia is not throwing a gauntlet to the elites of that West but “defends its right to exist and develop freely. But, at the same time, we are not seeking to become some new hegemon,” Putin said.
“We are standing at a historic milestone, ahead of what is probably the most dangerous, unpredictable, and at the same time important decade since the end of World War II. The West is not able to single-handedly manage humanity but is desperately trying to do it, and most of the peoples of the world no longer want to put up with it,” Putin said.
Conflicts arising from this tumult are threatening the entire humanity, and constructively resolving them is the principal challenge ahead, according to the Russian leader.
Putin said no one could sit out the coming storm, which has acquired a global character. As a result, humanity has two choices, “either to continue to accumulate a burden of problems that will inevitably crush us all, or to try together to find solutions, albeit imperfect, but working, capable of making our world safer and more stable.”
Putin calls for dialogue on equal terms with the West
In a genuinely democratic multipolar world, any society, culture, and civilization should have the right to choose its path and socio-political system. If the US and Europe have that right, so should everyone else. Russia also has it, “and no one will ever be able to dictate to our people what kind of society we should build and on what principles.”
The biggest threat to the West’s political, economic, and ideological monopoly is that alternative social models may arise worldwide – and would be more effective and attractive.
“Above all, we believe that the new world order should be based on law and justice, be free, authentic, and fair,” the Russian president said.
The future world order is being formed before our eyes. And in this world order, we must listen to everyone and take into account every point of view, every nation, society, culture, and every system of worldviews, ideas, and religious beliefs, without imposing a single truth on anyone and only on this basis, understanding our responsibility for the fate of our peoples and the planet, to build a symphony of human civilization.