Speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club on October 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on his lower-class origins, the “golden billion” conspiracy theory, Russia's relations with the West and the threat of nuclear weapons. The speech, which began over an hour later than originally scheduled, was broadcast nationwide via multiple media outlets.
On relations with the West and NATO
In his speech, Putin quoted the Soviet philosopher Alexander Zinoviev, saying that the West needed all of humanity's resources to survive.
“The task was clear – to consolidate the unconditional dominance of the West in the world economy and politics. To do this, to put at their service the natural and financial resources, the intellectual, human and economic capabilities of the entire planet, to do it under the guise of the so-called new ‘global interdependence.’ I would like to mention another philosopher, Alexander Alexandrovich Zinoviev, whose hundredth birthday we’ll be celebrating on October 29. More than 20 years ago, he said that in order for Western civilization to survive at the level it had reached, all of the planet as the medium of existence, all of humanity's resources, are necessary. That’s what they aspire to. That’s the way it is.”
Putin also claimed that Russia had offered to improve relations with Western countries several times:
“The message was the same: let's stop being enemies, let's live amicably – but on all major fronts the answer was no.”
He spoke again on NATO's desire to expand the alliance at the expense of Ukraine, stressing that this was “unacceptable” to Russia. Putin cited the 2014 “coup d'état” in Ukraine as one of the reasons for the current war.
Putin claims that Russia was «simply told to sod off» last year during another attempt to negotiate the non-expansion of NATO.
The West has in recent months, according to Putin, taken a number of steps to escalate the situation: “It is inciting war in Ukraine, it is provoking the situation around Taiwan, destabilizing global food and energy markets.”
Speaking of the West, Putin could not avoid the topic of «traditional values.”
“Traditional values differ from Western values in that they are unique. Traditional values cannot be imposed. They must be respected.”
He added that there may be “dozens of genders and gay pride parades” in the West, but this should not be the case in all countries.
On the war in Ukraine
Putin claims he keeps thinking about the casualties of the “special military operation.”
Despite the declaration of martial law in the occupied regions of Ukraine and Russia’s “partial” mobilization, as well as the shelling of Russian border regions, Putin continues to call the war a “special military operation.” Putin also didn’t escape the phrase used by Russian propaganda – “eight years.”
“People have been living under fire for eight years, what could we have done – recognize their independence? This is unacceptable. They won't survive on their own.”
According to him, there was no need to hold a “bloody anti-state coup” in Ukraine in 2014. Putin claimed that the people in Crimea and Donbas “did not want to recognize” the results of that coup, unraveling the situation into its current form.
On the economy
Putin said that Russia has faced economic losses related to the «special operation,» but there are «huge gains.» Ultimately, it benefits Russia and its future, and has to do with strengthening sovereignty on all fronts, he said.
«Not long ago we were turning into a semi-colony economically. It seemed that if the West clicked [its fingers], everything would fall apart. It didn't. Russia's economic capabilities turned out to be stronger than we expected.”
At the same time, Putin was confident that the “apex of hardships” in the economy related to the sanctions had passed. The goal of the sanctions was to “bring down the Russian economy,” but it turned out to be more flexible and adaptive, the president noted. Among other things, he promised that the authorities will extend the cancellation of government inspections to 2023. According to him, all that’s left in the economy is creating supply chains and reducing costs.
He again mentioned the expression «scratch-scratch», which has already become a meme, claiming that the West has “pocketed” Russia's foreign exchange reserves. In 2019, however, he used the expression in a different context.
“I associate myself with the common people”
In addition, Putin spoke out about his background, saying that he associates himself with the “common people.”
«Of course I associate myself with the common people, I am of humble parentage. My family was working class – my father was a foreman, he had graduated from a technical college. My mother didn't even have a secondary education, she was just a worker, she worked as a nurse in a hospital and worked other jobs as a janitor and a night watchman. She didn't want to leave me in kindergarten. That is why, of course, I am always very sensitive. Thank God, until recently it was and is, hopefully, will remain, I very subtly feel the pulse of what the average person feels and lives by.”
On the future
“We're standing at a historic juncture. Ahead is probably the most dangerous, unpredictable and yet important decade since the end of World War II.”
Putin said that the future world order is “taking shape before our eyes,” and mentioned the West again.
«The West is incapable of single-handedly ruling humanity, but is desperately trying [to do so] – and most of the peoples of the world no longer want to put up with this, this is the main contradiction... The situation is revolutionary – the upper classes are unable to rule in the old way, and the lower classes don’t want it, in the words of the classic [Vladimir Lenin].”
«The Golden Billion»
This is not the first time Putin has voiced the idea of a “golden billion” – a conspiracy theory popular in post-Soviet countries. In July, at the forum “Strong Ideas for a New Time,” he claimed that the West allegedly follows an unfair “model of total domination by the so-called golden billion.”
“Well, why should this 'golden billion' of the entire population of the planet dominate everyone, imposing its rules based on the illusion of exclusivity? It divides people into first- and second-class, and therefore is racist and neocolonial in nature, and the underlying globalist, supposedly liberal ideology is increasingly acquiring features of totalitarianism, inhibiting creative search, free historical creation.”
“The impression is that the West simply can not offer the world its model of the future. Yes, of course, this «golden billion» did not become «golden» by chance, they have achieved a lot, but they’ve assumed their position not only due to implemented ideas – to a large extent, they’ve taken that place at the expense of the robbery of other peoples in Asia and Africa.”
The Insider has previously drawn attention to the fact that the idea is not known in the West or anywhere else but the post-Soviet space. The term most likely first appeared in 1990, when an article by Soviet economist Anatoly Tsikunov (pseudonym: A. Kuzmich) was published in Voskresenye, a little-known publication. The piece was titled: “What is the 'golden billion' of people on Earth and why are the Soviet people getting poor?”
On nuclear weapons
Putin spoke about nuclear weapons in the Q&A after his speech. When asked about the possibility of nuclear war, Putin said that Russia knows “approximately where the Ukrainians are preparing a 'dirty bomb’”. He also said that he had personally requested Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to call Western leaders and warn them about “Ukraine's plans”
The Russian president said the US was the first in the world to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state, with some textbooks now writing that the weapons were used by the allies, he said.
“Well done, Americans, we should probably learn from them in some respects.”
Putin himself stresses that Russia has never openly talked about the use of nuclear weapons, but only «responded with hints.»
«The diktat of Western countries, their attempt to put pressure [on Russia] ends in nothing. And they are trying to convince [everyone] that it is necessary to confront Russia together. The pressure around the thesis of the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia itself has one goal – to sway neutral states. We’ve never proactively said anything about the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons, we have only hinted at it. Liz Truss blurted it out there (the girl is a little out of her mind), and Washington could have disassociated itself [from the comment]. What are we supposed to do, pretend we didn't hear anything?»
Earlier, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin's speech, which he will deliver at the Valdai, will have to be «studied and reread.»
“This is the main event of the day, which will be studied, read and reread.”
The Valdai International Discussion Club event took place in Moscow from October 24 to 27. This year's theme was “A World After Hegemony: Justice and Security for All.” Putin has been meeting with meeting participants since the forum’s founding in 2004. The event is usually attended by experts, politicians, diplomats and economists from around the world. State-owned media outlet RIA Novosti wrote that the list of participants in 2022 was influenced by “the changed geopolitical situation and the revamping of Russia's partnership system.” According to the propaganda agency, the Valdai meeting was attended by many more participants from the Middle East and the Maghreb, Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the CIS.