President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the US and Europe over his war in Ukraine, heaped praise on Saudi Arabia and reiterated support for China’s claim to Taiwan as he sought to cast Russia as a champion of conservative values against Western liberalism.
He accused the US and its allies of seeking global domination by pouring weapons into Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia’s invasion, in an annual meeting Thursday with the Kremlin’s Valdai discussion club of foreign-policy experts outside Moscow. He denied intending to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
“We don’t need a nuclear strike on Ukraine,” Vladimir Putin said, claiming Russia had only dropped “hints” in response to US and European discussion of a possible atomic conflict. “There is no point, either military or political.”
In fact, Kremlin officials including former President Dmitry Medvedev have warned in recent weeks about the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine as Moscow’s faltering war enters its ninth month with its forces in retreat from territory that President Putin annexed as “forever” part of Russia last month.
US and European defense officials said this week that a claim by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Ukraine may use a so-called “dirty bomb” may be an indication the Kremlin is planning such an operation. President Joe Biden warned Tuesday that Russia would be making an “incredibly serious mistake” if it used a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.
President Putin said he still hasn’t decided whether to go to next month’s Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, as the US and its allies have pushed for him to be excluded over the invasion. “Russia definitely will be represented at a high level,” he told a questioner from Indonesia. “I may still go.”
In a rambling speech and discussion than ran for more than 3.5 hours, Vladimir Putin said Russia stands for “multipolarity” and “traditional values” that he said were shared by most of the world in opposition to liberal attitudes on questions such as same-sex relationships. He claimed American supporters of such conservative values also backed Russia. He accused US and European leaders of high-handedness and claimed the era of American domination is coming to an end, even as he insisted Russia wasn’t an enemy of the West.
Appearing relaxed and confident, the Russian leader praised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “a young man, resolute, with character,” adding that he deserved “respect” for pursuing a balanced position on the oil market in line with his country’s national interests even in the face of US criticism. Russia would support Saudi membership of the BRICS group alongside Brazil, India, China and South Africa, if Riyadh wanted to join, he said.
Vladimir Putin said he didn’t warn Chinese President Xi Jinping in advance about his intention to invade Ukraine when they met in Beijing weeks before the war started in February. He denounced recent visits by US officials to Taiwan as “provocations” and said Russia continued to fully support Beijing’s claim to the democratically governed island amid rising tensions with Washington on the issue.
Even as Russian troops have suffered a series of recent defeats against Ukrainian forces, President Putin said his plan for what he calls his “special military operation” remained to ensure the security of Kremlin-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region. He made no mention of the sweeping goals of “de-Nazification” and “de-militarization” that he’d cited at the start of the invasion, when Russia failed in a lightning attempt to seize Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
President Putin, whose public statements of his goals for the war have shifted in the months since he dispatched troops, didn’t explain the apparent omission. He described the neighboring regions of Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed last month as part of a historic ‘Novorossiya’ territory.
His comments came in response to a question from the host of the Valdai event, foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, who noted that “society doesn’t really understand what the plan is.”
As President Vladimir Putin spoke, the independent Levada Center released a poll showing that for the first time, a majority of Russians now support talks to end the war, rather than continuing the invasion.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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