Putin’s speech

by Chris Bertram on September 4, 2004

I just read the transcript of Putin’s speech following the murders in Beslan. In it, Putin expresses nostalgia for the old USSR. Obviously it is intended for a domestic audience and plays to their concerns and expectations. What should we make of the following passage? And who are the “they” of the penultimate paragraph below?

Today we are living in conditions which have emerged following the break-up of a vast great state, a state which unfortunately turned out to be unable to survive in the context of a rapidly changing world. But despite all the difficulties, we have managed to preserve the core of the colossus which was the Soviet Union.
And we called the new country the Russian Federation. We all expected changes, changes for the better. But we have turned out to be absolutely unprepared for much that has changed in our lives…
On the whole, we have to admit that we have failed to recognise the complexity and dangerous nature of the processes taking place in our own country and the world in general. In any case, we have failed to respond to them appropriately.
We showed weakness, and the weak are trampled upon. Some want to cut off a juicy morsel from us while others are helping them.
They are helping because they believe that, as one of the world’s major nuclear powers, Russia is still posing a threat to someone, and therefore this threat must be removed.
And terrorism is, of course, only a tool for achieving these goals. But as I have already said many times, we have faced crises, mutinies and acts of terror more than once.

{ 25 comments }

1

bob mcmanus 09.04.04 at 10:54 pm

Not sure what Russia’s relations with Saudi Arabia are like right now, but they may have just gotten worse.

Wahhabist expansion, and oil prices.

The Sauds are far from stupid. They know they will be running out oil, and are not willing to finance internal development at the expense of Monaco money. Yet they want to remain in power. So they will need a lot of Wahhabist friends all around the world.

2

jam 09.04.04 at 11:08 pm

The people wanting to cut off a juicy morsel (antepenultimate paragraph) may be the Georgians, the juicy morsel being South Ossetia. The people who are helping the Georgians in their war with the South Ossetians is the US. Who would be the “they” in the penultimate paragraph, then.

One should point out that Beslan is in North Ossetia, which, unsurprisingly, is next to South Ossetia.

It may be that Putin is thinking like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.

3

Matthew 09.04.04 at 11:13 pm

“They know they will be running out oil”,

Saudi Arabia is running out of oil?

Sell everything!

4

Hektor Bim 09.04.04 at 11:37 pm

This is ridiculous. If anything, Russia is the country that has designs on its neighbors. For example, it occupies Georgian, Moldovan, Finnish, and Japanese territory and has actually annexed some of that land. I don’t see any evidence that the historical appetite of the Russian state for the acquisition of land has waned, especially in the way they treat their neighbors.

The only reason Chechnya is part of Russia is because it was conquered by Russia in the 19th century. It has generally rebelled against Russian control whenever it gets the chance. It only differs from countries like Georgia, Armenia, or Estonia in that it does not have international support for its independence.

5

David Sucher 09.04.04 at 11:39 pm

Yes, Saudi Arabia is running out of oil. And in the long run we are all dead.

SA still has the rest of this century (at least: as oil may very well become more valuable as a material than as a fuel in our life-time) to coast on its luck.

6

David Sucher 09.04.04 at 11:43 pm

I thought Putin’s words rather striking. Rarely does a national leader admit that “we have to admit that we have failed to recognise the complexity and dangerous nature of the processes taking place in our own country and the world in general.”

Frankly, it’s a hopeful sign (at the same time it is a chilling thought) when a man with access to the very best information possible admits that he has been caught unaware.

7

Randy McDonald 09.05.04 at 12:05 am

Not to disagree from the overall worrying tone of Putin’s speech and the dimming prospects for Russia’s future, but Abkhazia and South Ossetia–the former Georgian SSR territories now under independent regimes–don’t want to be Georgian. Russian imperialism, here, perhaps, but also Georgian imperialism.

8

c 09.05.04 at 4:12 am

The 2/3 of Abkhazia-ers that don’t life there anymore do want to be part of Georgia

9

Barry Freed 09.05.04 at 5:29 am

I thought Putin’s words rather striking. Rarely does a national leader admit that “we have to admit that we have failed to recognise the complexity and dangerous nature of the processes taking place in our own country and the world in general.”

How I long to hear those words from Bush. Never happen. I found Putin’s remarks extremely creepy. But then again I have always found Putin extremely creepy. As for his intended meaning. Perhaps we should ask Bush to explain it to us. After all, he looked into the man’s soul.

10

luci phyrr 09.05.04 at 5:29 am

“We showed weakness, and the weak are trampled upon.”

The “Hawk” is universal. Easy and hard to beat. Cracking more heads is *always* the answer.

11

abb1 09.05.04 at 11:41 am

Original text here.

This graf:

They are helping because they believe that, as one of the world’s major nuclear powers, Russia is still posing a threat to someone, and therefore this threat must be removed.

is not translated correctly. He didn’t say “is still posing a threat to someone“, he said “is still posing a threat to them” (“еще представляет для них угрозу”). Check it out: Babel Fish Translation. Note the word still. He’s talking about the US, no question about that.

12

wren 09.05.04 at 12:35 pm

It’s not about N. Ossetia or Transdniestria or the Kuriles, it’s about power. Putin wants to have the same level of control that the Czars and Communistis enjoyed. The Chechen attacks in Russia help him consolidate his power by exploiting the fears of the Russian people. The exact same thing is happening in the US, Israel, Indonesia, Taiwan, Pakistan and on and on. As it becomes increasingly difficult to deliver the “economic” goods, look for more.

13

bob mcmanus 09.05.04 at 4:07 pm

“He’s talking about the US, no question about that.”

Not enough explanation in this thread about the mention of nuclear weapons. Hard for me to see why Putin might think US is behind Chechnya problems, tho it is possible. We are messing in Georgia, I think.

I still think this is about oil and SA. I think SA really wants Russia to lower its production.

14

bob mcmanus 09.05.04 at 4:17 pm

From a review of Sen Bob Graham’s new book:

“He oversaw the Sept. 11 investigation on Capitol Hill with Rep. Porter Goss, nominated last month to be the next CIA director. According to Graham, the FBI and the White House blocked efforts to investigate the extent of official Saudi connections to two hijackers.

Graham wrote that the staff of the congressional inquiry concluded that two Saudis in the San Diego area, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassan, who gave significant financial support to two hijackers, were working for the Saudi government.”

If they Chechnya terrorist are financed by SA, and Putin wanted to threatened SA in order to stop the funding, who is going to stop him? Well, George Bush, protector of terrorist regimes that make him money. So Putin mentions, just casually, that he still has some nukes.

Unless Putin mentioned nukes to frighten Ossetia.

15

Tom P. 09.06.04 at 12:18 am

In 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated and 14 former Soviet republics declared independence. Chechnya tried to but Russia would not allow it. Why not? Check it out on my blog that I wrote Thursday (9-2)

Tom P.

16

soul 09.06.04 at 2:41 pm

“Some want to cut off a juicy morsel from us while others are helping them.
They are helping because they believe that, as one of the world’s major nuclear powers, Russia is still posing a threat to someone, and therefore this threat must be removed.”__ Putin

Is it just me, or is he accusing us of supporting the chechnyan rebels?

17

Doctor Memory 09.06.04 at 4:58 pm

This is ridiculous. If anything, Russia is the country that has designs on its neighbors. For example, it occupies Georgian, Moldovan, Finnish, and Japanese territory and has actually annexed some of that land. I don’t see any evidence that the historical appetite of the Russian state for the acquisition of land has waned, especially in the way they treat their neighbors.

True, and yet not really relevant. The Russian political psyche is rather noted for managing the amusing trick of pursuing aggressive expansionist imperialism while simultaneously adopting a pose of beseiged, betrayed and bedeviled victimhood.

(Whether this is better or worse than the American trick of pursuing aggressive expansionist imperialism while adopting the unlikely pose of reluctant technocrat is mostly a matter of personal taste: in either case, woe betide the country who tweaks the giant’s sense of pride.)

18

KJ 09.06.04 at 7:26 pm

Putin’s words were encouraging because he was being frank about the extent to which the terrorist threat from Muslims is threatening Russia.

Mention of nuclear weapons should give particularly Arab Muslim regimes pause. See numerous posts at the Belmont Club on how it is only successes in the war on terror and the wide range of responses available to GWB which stand between us and a nuclear reponse escalating rapidly to the obliterateration of Islam from the planet.

Putin does not have the alternatives available to GWB, because his non-nuclear military is close to useless. Nor does he have successes in the war on terror. If I was an intelligent Mullah my blood would run cold listening to him.

19

jcrohn 09.06.04 at 7:47 pm

Don’t you folks think perhaps Putin was accusing the EU of supporting Chechen terror, somewhat in response to its spectacularly ill-timed demand that Russia account for its failure to end the Beslan siege less bloodily?

20

anon 09.06.04 at 11:48 pm

Hard for me to see why Putin might think US is behind Chechnya problems, tho it is possible.

Milosevic accused the US (and Europe, esp. Britain and Germany) of being behind the ‘problems’ with the Kosovars. (Which insofar as relations with the KLA was not so far fetched.) Anyway, seen that Putin was so close to Milosevic and still defends him, it’s hardly surprising he’d echo similar sentiments.

As to reasons why it is possible for him to refer to a US interest in weakening Russia… if there are reasons, it’s not the kind non-Russians would like to hear.

21

Robin Green 09.07.04 at 12:06 am

So, so far we have the EU, the US and Saudi Arabia as possible candidates.

How about the most obvious answer – Al Quaeda? Al Quaeda has (quite insane) designs on a world caliphate, after all, or so we are told.

22

anon 09.07.04 at 12:31 am

Would Putin say “Al Qaeda are helping us…”?

Is al Qaeda a competing nuclear power?

No, he is obviously referring to the US, and it is clearly not the first time, he knows his audience will be familiar with that reference.

23

Anar 09.07.04 at 4:25 pm

Most of russians are chauvinist natured and Russia itself is very imperialistic.Slavic russians treat their minorities as second class people.
Chechens are very strong and proud nation.They just won`t stop fighting until they gain indepence or die.

from a real caucusian!

24

J Thomas 09.08.04 at 6:54 pm

” Is it just me, or is he accusing us of supporting the chechnyan rebels?”

Is it so? How to know….

25

Falconer 09.10.04 at 7:35 am

Hey, hector bim, what is ridiculous is that people speak of russian present state without any significant knowlege of its past. When you talk of “occupied” Georgian, Moldovan, Finnish and Japanese lands please have in mind that Karelia (let’s forget that it was a part of russian empire since 18c) passed to USSR after the war with Finland when 126 875 soviet solgers were killed.
The situation with Japan is much more obvious – most of lands that USSR took from Japan after the WWII were annexed by Japan after Russia-Japan War, 1905.
To Moldova… Russian solgiers are now in territory called “Left side of Dnepr river@ – there live mostly russian speaking people who (including their government) do not want to stay with Moldova.
And about Georgia… I haven’t heard of any occupied Georgian land. The russian soldiers present there are peacemakers. And definitely they are much more effective than NATO soldiers in Afganistan or Iraq.
And as far as I know neither Estonia nor Armenia have any problem with Russian state. Let’s better look on newborn nazi-cult in baltic countries and authoritarian political regime in Armenia.

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