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“NATO doesn't need a country like ours”: 7 fakes from Putin's Valdai address

Vladimir Putin spoke at the plenary session of the Valdai Club, delivering yet another speech and addressing questions from the participants. Analyzing all his ostensibly peace-oriented statements, such as “prohibiting the imposition of a particular way of life or self-perception on any nation or people,” seems futile, considering how blatantly they contradict the actual actions of Putin's Russia. Let's focus on just a few of the most vivid falsehoods.

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  • On Russia's NATO Membership

  • On the “intimidation” of Crimean residents

  • On Russia's territorial expansion

  • On the new Russian missiles

  • On the incident during Vladimir Zelensky's visit to the Canadian Parliament

  • On the circumstances of Yevgeny Prigozhin's demise

  • On the Bretton Woods monetary system

On Russia's NATO Membership

“There was a moment when your humble servant simply voiced a conjecture: perhaps we should consider joining NATO? But no, NATO didn't need a country like ours. No. The question arises, what else did they need? We believed that we were already, pardon the expression, a bourgeois state, just like the rest of them. What more? The ideological confrontation is no longer prevalent. What's the issue then? It seems the problem lies in geopolitical interests and the arrogant demeanor towards others. That's the problem, the overly self-assured demeanor.”

The 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, penned a column titled “I Tried to Put Russia on Another Path” in The Atlantic last year, wherein he wrote:

“In 1997, we supported the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which gave Russia a voice but not a veto in NATO affairs, and supported Russia’s entry to the G7, making it the G8. In 1999, at the end of the Kosovo conflict, Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen reached an agreement with the Russian defense minister under which Russian troops could join UN-sanctioned NATO peacekeeping forces. Throughout it all, we left the door open for Russia’s eventual membership in NATO, something I made clear to Yeltsin and later confirmed to his successor, Vladimir Putin.”

Putin himself, in 2017 during an interview with Oliver Stone, reminisced about the conversation with Clinton on this topic:

“I recall one of our final meetings with President Clinton, when Clinton was still in office. He visited Moscow, and during the discussion, I suggested, 'Well, perhaps consider the possibility of Russia joining NATO.' Clinton responded, 'Well, why not, I'm not opposed.' At that moment, the entire American delegation became visibly uneasy.”

And NATO's Secretary-General from 1999 to 2003, George Robertson, recollected the following episode:

“Putin asked, 'When do you plan to invite us to join NATO?' [I replied:] 'We do not extend invitations to join NATO; countries apply for membership.' And he said, 'Well, we aren't queuing up with the numerous countries that hold no significance.'“

Talk about “arrogant demeanor towards others.”

On the “intimidation” of Crimean residents

“We neither orchestrated a coup, nor did we intimidate the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol through ethnic purges resembling those of the Nazi era.”

Putin likely alludes to the “Friendship Train” initiative, a response triggered by the commencement of Russia's occupation of Crimea. This initiative was declared by the nationalist organization “Right Sector,” which holds little sway in Ukraine and is unrelated to Ukrainian authorities. However, a more overt example of intimidation in Crimea was the widespread display before the so-called 2014 referendum of the poster shown below.

The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) is an independent investigative organisation originating from Russia that conducts an open-source investigation of events taking place during armed conflicts, in particular, the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Central African Republic. Together with Bellingcat and InformNapalm, it is one of the largest such groups that emerged during the Russo-Ukrainian War.

It begs the question: if Russia wasn't the mastermind behind this propaganda campaign, then who was?

On Russia's territorial expansion

“Russia is the largest country in the world territorially. We have no aspirations to annex additional territories.”

In 2014 and 2022, following the so-called referendums conducted under Russian occupation, contrary to Ukrainian legislation, Russia officially absorbed Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, and Kherson regions of Ukraine into its territory.

Presumably, Putin intended to convey that after these events, Russia no longer seeks new territorial claims. However, some high-ranking Russian officials have made remarks about the “Russian cities” Kharkiv, Odessa, and Mykolaiv.”

On the new Russian missiles

“The latest successful test of 'Burevestnik'—a long-range cruise missile powered by a nuclear engine—has been carried out. In essence, we've completed the development of 'Sarmat,' an intercontinental ballistic missile. Now, the focus is on administrative and bureaucratic procedures, transitioning to mass production, and deploying them into active service. We're on track to achieve this in the near future.”

Yuri Borisov, the head of Roscosmos, announced that the strategic missile complex “Sarmat” had been placed on combat duty as early as September 1. However, recent information suggests that these missiles have not yet entered production. Anyway, independent military expert Yuri Fedorov, speaking on Alexander Plyushchev's Breakfast Show, suggests that Putin's statement might still be overly optimistic:

“Putin claimed that such a test of 'Burevestnik' did take place. So far, there has been no confirmation or denial of this information from Western official sources or the media <...>. However, it's highly improbable that tests of such missiles can be overlooked, especially considering the test range on Novaya Zemlya is under constant surveillance by space reconnaissance. Let's wait and see, but it appears Putin might be twisting certain facts.
There's no independent information confirming the successful testing of this missile, especially given that all previous tests ended in failure. A total of 13 tests were conducted, all resulting in failures. One of the tests led to a severe accident resulting in the loss of several lives.
As for 'Sarmat,' it's safe to say this is an instance of portraying wishes as reality, as there have been only two tests of this missile—one successful and one unsuccessful, with the latest being a failure. Putting a missile on combat duty with only two tests, one of which was unsuccessful, constitutes a technical gamble of enormous magnitude.”

On the incident during Vladimir Zelensky's visit to the Canadian Parliament

“When the Speaker of the Canadian Parliament suggests that during World War II this Canadian-Ukrainian or Ukrainian-Canadian Nazi fought against Russians, he cannot avoid understanding that he was fighting on Hitler's side, not for the Speaker's homeland—Canada. He was either a Nazi collaborator or, in any case, sided with the Nazi forces. Let's give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt, assuming he was unaware of this. I by no means intend to offend the sentiments of the Canadian people. We hold Canada in respect, particularly its people, despite all circumstances. However, if he is unaware that this individual fought alongside Hitler during the war against Russia, then he is ignorant. It implies he missed basic education. On the other hand, if he is aware that this person fought on Hitler's side and refers to him as a hero of Ukraine and a hero of Canada, then he is morally corrupt. It's either ignorance or moral compromise. <...> Doesn't this incident point to Ukraine harboring a system that can rightfully be labeled pro-Nazi? The head of state stands and applauds a Nazi—not just an ideological follower of Nazism but an actual ex-SS soldier. Is this not evidence of Ukraine's embrace of Nazi ideology? Doesn't this give us the right to discuss its denazification?”

The incident involving the invitation of former SS division soldier Yaroslav Hunka to the Canadian Parliament was undeniably a grave error, for which the Parliament Speaker not only offered apologies but also promptly resigned. However, Putin's comments regarding who received an education and who didn't, to put it mildly, raise doubts.

In reality, not everyone who fought against Soviet troops in Ukraine during World War II were Nazis or collaborators. In February 1943, the 3rd conference of the OUN(b) (the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) took place in the village of Terebezhi in the Lviv region. During this conference, the decision was made to conduct guerrilla warfare simultaneously against the Nazis, Poles, and Soviet partisans. At that time, Stepan Bandera himself was imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The objective was to incite a widespread anti-German uprising before the arrival of Soviet troops and to establish a multi-party government for the future independent Ukraine. This information was reported, among others, in intelligence briefings by Abwehr. From that point, partisan units of Ukrainian nationalists began to take action against the German occupiers.

Yaroslav Hunka, specifically, was indeed a soldier of an SS division, not a member of the Bandera movement. However, Speaker Anthony Rota and especially Vladimir Zelensky, for whom Hunka's appearance in parliament was a surprise, might not have been aware of this.

On the circumstances of Yevgeny Prigozhin's demise

“We are aware of the plane crash; the head of the Investigative Committee briefed me just a few days ago: fragments of hand grenades were discovered in the bodies of those who tragically perished. The incident did not involve any external impact—this has been conclusively determined through an examination conducted by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. However, the investigative process is ongoing. Unfortunately, there have been no tests to ascertain the presence of alcohol or narcotics in the deceased individuals' blood. <...> In my view, such tests should have been conducted, but regrettably, they were not.”

Ruslan Leviyev, the leader of CIT, provided his insights on this statement:

“Firstly, in scenarios like airplane crashes, where autopsies are performed on the deceased to determine the cause of an individual's demise, <...> blood tests are always undertaken. When Putin stated that no blood tests were conducted, it sounded somewhat peculiar. Perhaps the protocols have changed, and this requires clarification from judicial experts. <...>
I wouldn't be surprised if grenades were present [on the plane], although I find it hard to believe there was careless handling. Undoubtedly, Prigozhin's security personnel possessed the necessary documentation to transport a small quantity of munitions, including grenades, through Sheremetyevo's security checks. Fragments of grenades could have lodged in the bodies of the deceased due to the plane catching fire, crashing to the ground; the ensuing blaze could have triggered these grenades to detonate, with the fragments piercing the already dead bodies.
However, if indeed everything transpired as the Investigative Committee and Vladimir Putin portray it—that they were handling grenades and one exploded inside the cabin, not near the wing or landing gear, but directly inside the cabin—then, in theory, the plane's fuselage should be pockmarked with small holes from grenade fragments, leading to depressurization. Yet, if you recall the footage of the descending plane, it's evident that it's already partially disintegrated, with one wing detached. I find it hard to comprehend how this could be possible. <...> To me, this seems highly improbable.”

On the Bretton Woods monetary system

“I have previously stated, a viewpoint shared by many, that the Bretton Woods system is outdated. This sentiment is not exclusive to me; it is voiced by Western experts. It necessitates an overhaul.”

In this regard, Putin is finally partially correct. The Bretton Woods system, hinging on a fixed gold-to-dollar rate and upholding steady exchange rates of member nations' currencies against the US dollar through currency interventions, has indeed outlived its utility. To such an extent that it was shelved as far back as 1976, making way for the Jamaica system, predicated on free currency trading.

The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) is an independent investigative organisation originating from Russia that conducts an open-source investigation of events taking place during armed conflicts, in particular, the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Central African Republic. Together with Bellingcat and InformNapalm, it is one of the largest such groups that emerged during the Russo-Ukrainian War.

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