Russia’s President Putin addressed his nation Feb 21 in his annual Federation Council speech, the equivalent to what our annual State of the Union address is supposed to be here. It is available in English. To read it without bias is to bid goodbye to the fantasy-world of our establishment and its news media.
Putin’s speech was given in time of war, but it was not a war speech in the sense of Churchill’s “Blood, toil, sweat and tears,” or his “This was their finest hour” speeches. Putin’s talk began and ended with considerations of the war, but the greater part concerned the same economic and social problems which have been his concern every year—even though everything was colored by the war.
And even though the issue of the Ukraine war is ultimately existential for Russia, this is not “total war” in the sense we have known it under Bush, Obama and Biden, in which the enemy (Saddam, Assad, and so forth) must simply be crushed. Biden has admitted his objective is the overthrow of Putin, but Russia is not fighting for the overthrow of Zelensky or the surrender of Ukraine, but for limited objectives such as Ukraine’s non-membership in NATO and its recognition of four districts in the East as parts of Russia.
Domestically, Putin said that Russia will not make the Soviets’ mistake of sacrificing “butter” for “guns.” Economic and social progress will continue despite the fighting and the sanctions.
Putin began by summarizing some recent history which is known to every Russian and should be known to every American—we have presented it here. Through neocon Victoria Nuland of the State Department, the Obama Administration spent five billion dollars on a bloody coup, featuring neo-Nazi groups, which overthrew the elected president of Ukraine in 2014. Ever since then, the US and NATO have been training and equipping the Ukrainian army to take on Russia, with the promise of eventual NATO membership. During the same period, Ukraine’s armed forces have ceaselessly shelled its civilian Russian-speaking citizens in the eastern Donbass region, killing about 14,000.
Thus, hostile American and NATO military power confronted Russia on the border through which Hitler had once invaded, with the prospect of emplacement of missiles which could reach Moscow in minutes—a Cuban missile crisis in reverse.
In December 2021, Russia demanded negotiations to bar Ukraine from NATO, warning that it would take military action otherwise. But the Biden administration refused to discuss it. While knowingly inviting the invasion which followed, Biden continued to plan for killer economic sanctions intended to destroy Russian power—preparatory to doing the same thing to China the next day.
“The Western elite make no secret of their goal, which is, I quote, “Russia’s strategic defeat.” What does this mean to us? This means they plan to finish us once and for all. In other words, they plan to grow a local conflict into a global confrontation. This is how we understand it and we will respond accordingly, because this represents an existential threat to our country.”
In February, 2022, Ukraine forces were massing to invade the Donbass, and Russia attacked pre-emptively on February 24.
Western elites appear to have gone crazy, and are undermining the traditional family, Putin said. The Anglican Church has even agreed to discuss the idea of a gender-neutral God. They know not what they do. Here in Russia, adults will always be able to do as they please, but we will protect our children.
“Russians who commit crimes in betrayal of the country will be punished, but not those who simply step aside and turn their backs on it. They will have to answer to their conscience, but we will not conduct witch-hunts as they do in Kiev and the “West.””
Putin thanked the troops and broad groups of Russians who have supported the effort, and led a minute of silence for the dead, both military and civilian.
A new dedicated state fund will contribute to support the veterans and the families of the fallen. All troops will be guaranteed 14 days home leave every six months, excluding time in transit.
The experience of the Ukraine war will be used to upgrade all branches of the armed forces, through upgrading of its veterans in the services and their academies, and applications of new technologies used there. More broadly, we aim at mass production of the most advanced Russian technologies throughout the armed services. “Importantly, this relies on domestic research and the industrial base and involves small- and medium-sized high-tech businesses in implementation of the state defense order.”
Economically, Biden’s sanctions have failed. Rather than a predicted 10, 20 or even 25%, Russian GDP contracted only 2.1% in 2022. The economy contracted in the second quarter but grew in the third and fourth quarters. Western Europe was hit much harder. Russian unemployment was 4.7% before the pandemic, but is now at an all-time low of 3.7%. New housing put into service exceeded 100 million square meters for the first time in 2022. The grain harvest was a record 150 million tons, including 100 million tons of wheat, with exports expected at 55-60 million, exceeding what used to be the entire harvest. State agencies and private actors, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) responded quickly and with agility to overcome the sanctions.
New global markets are taking precedence, including the Asia-Pacific, and Russian exports are shifting from commodities to high-value added finished goods. Transport routes are being built out eastwards, especially the International North-South Corridor (INSTC).
The ruble’s share in foreign transactions has doubled to one-third, making one-half when combined with other friendly currencies. Putin said that a non-dollar international payments system is taking shape, thanks to Biden’s self-sabotage of the dollar with his sanctions regime. I would note that although now Russia has no choice but to bypass the dollar, such a hypothetical non-dollar system would be a step downwards internationally. The world needs a new Trump administration which will reverse Biden’s sabotage of the dollar.
Putin discussed road-improvement, housing and infrastructure programs.
He dwelt on expanded credit facilities and tax credits for industry, especially ones that encourage the production and purchase of domestic high-technology. Putin noted what is little-mentioned here: that Russia does not have or incur foreign debt. As inflation comes down to the 4% target (as against much higher levels in Europe), central bank lending rates should also fall.
Putin proposed a mechanism to direct Russians’ individual retirement savings into industrial investment through guarantees, and another to facilitate stock-market listings of rapidly-growing and high-tech businesses.
"Freedom of enterprise is a vital element of economic sovereignty. I will repeat: against the backdrop of external attempts to contain Russia, private businesses have proven their ability to quickly adapt to the changing environment and ensure economic growth in difficult conditions. So, every business initiative aimed at benefiting the country should receive support."
Addressing the need for de-offshoring Russian industry, Putin gave a lengthy appeal to persuade businessmen who have moved to the West, to come back to Russia with their investments.
He outlined a far-reaching reform of education, similar to some proposals being made here, which would create tracks of secondary, post-secondary and graduate advanced technical education, which would parallel the academic masters’ and doctorate tracks of today.
He proposed increased support for families and children, and further increases in the real minimum wage. He discussed modernization of primary medical care, and repair, renovation and construction of public schools.
He closed by announcing that Russia is suspending its participation in the New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction) Treaty, without leaving that treaty. The Foreign Ministry clarified that this does not mean that Russia will exceed the treaty’s limits for strategic nuclear weapons. The biggest implication is that Russia will refuse US inspections of its nuclear weapons under that treaty, as the US has already refused some Russian inspections; western coverage has overplayed this.
As we said, to read this address and think about it, is to say goodbye to the cartoon caricature of “Putler” alongside the caricatures of Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad. We are dealing not with one man, but with Russia. The international oligarchy which has dictated Biden’s murderous course in Ukraine, intends to extinguish the sovereignty of Russia, China, and the United States—all three, in order to extinguish the very institution of the sovereign nation-state itself. We have many disagreements with both China and with Russia, and we always will. Do we want to follow Biden in a fight to the death with both? Or negotiate with them as President Trump does?
Enough of the lurid fantasy in which Russia, China and America are just three lobsters fighting each other to the death—and for what?—in the glass tank at the supermarket. As Americans, we have a better way, and the world expects and needs it now.