Vladimir Putin’s Address to the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York City (28 September 2015)
Apparently Russian President Vladimir Putin last attended a session of the United Nations General Assembly way back in 2005. He sure wasted no time in making his presence felt the second time with this speech. He began by referring to the historical context in which the UN was born in 1945 and reminded his audience that the decision to create the UN was made in Yalta … in Russian territory at the time. How some diplomats must have squirmed, and how the Ukrainian delegation must have fumed … or not, since its members walked out on Putin at the beginning of his speech. Putin then went on to say that over the decades the UN, and especially the UN Security Council, has not always been unanimous in its decision-making and the permanent members of the Security Council have frequently resorted to the right of veto on various contentious matters. He pointed out that the UN was never expected to act as one, and that its mission was to seek compromises based on a variety of different views and opinions.
The bulk of Putin’s speech is concerned with the state of the world after the end of the Cold War in 1989, and how one nation (which Putin does not name but can be assumed to be the United States) has attempted to reorder the world to suit its hunger for endless power by exporting and initiating social experiments like colour revolutions to those areas of strategic importance: areas such as the Middle East and Ukraine. The result has been chaos, endless violence of an unspeakably brutal and vicious nature, extreme poverty, dislocations of hundreds of thousands of refugees, terrorism spreading around the world and an utter disregard for human rights, diplomacy as part of a solution to problems, and the concept of national sovereignty. Putin refers specifically to the rise of ISIS in power vacuums created in Iraq and Libya after the US / NATO-initiated overthrow of their governments in 2003 and 2011 respectively, and criticises those governments who thought they could manipulate groups like ISIS and others as de facto armies to weaken and overthrow Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his government.
Putin’s speech then turns to a proposal to change the current state of world affairs by adopting a set of common values and interests that emphasise co-operation, stabilisation of the world’s major trouble spots, restoring peace and respect for and obeying international law. This proposal is consistent with other speeches Putin has made , notably at the 2014 Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi, where he has stressed Russia’s interest in co-operating with other countries as partners to deal with issues and his nation’s disinterest in remaking the world according to a particular ideology or set of beliefs that do not consider other countries’ interests. Putin stresses that Libyan government institutions and structures need to be renewed and restored, that Iraq’s new government needs support and that Syria also requires support for reconstruction. From Putin’s viewpoint, the main obstacles to this proposal are the West’s blinkered Cold War mentality in which the West is made up of the good guys and the Communists are all the bad guys – never mind that Communism faded away over 20 years ago, and Russia is now solidly capitalist – and the US presumption that it should remain the sole superpower on planet Earth and can and should stop anyone from challenging its belief that it is unique and exceptional and has been ordained by God to bring freedom, democracy and corporate junk culture to the world.
Putin’s speech also covers the situation in Ukraine and his belief that peace and stability are possible if only all parties to the Mink agreements of 12th February 2015 adhere to them. Putin goes on to discuss the importance of economic co-operation and how what he calls “economic selfishness” – capitalist greed by any other name – will distort global trade, disadvantage nations (especially Third World nations) and cater for the interests of a small number of people through treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Climate change is mentioned as a major challenge requiring international co-operation and sharing of information and skills.
What I take away from Putin’s speech is that he is offering a vision of the world in which all nations co-operate as equal partners in tackling major global problems (such as climate change and the depletion and destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems) that are beyond the capacity of any one nation to deal with, through special forums under UN auspices. In this world, everyone agrees to respect international law and works together to create an environment based on mutual respect and equality for all. Institutions, systems and structures are shaped to benefit everyone and not serve a privileged elite.
If the UN looks antiquated and battered, that is not because the principles it was founded upon are necessarily old-fashioned; the real reason is that the West has used the UN and its institutions to benefit its elites where convenient, and in the last 20+ years has turned its back on the UN, what it represented in the past when it was founded and what it might have been. We have been brainwashed and manipulated by our politicians and media to believe that the UN is an incompetent and bureaucratic organisation that, Nero-like, fiddles about while conflicts initiated by unseen actors rage around the world. As demonstrated by its meddling in Iraq, Libya and Syria, and farther afield in Ukraine and other countries, the West has forgotten its history, forgotten that might never really makes right, and forgotten that the violence and chaos it creates in other countries will one day (as the current flood of Syrian refugees – among whom there may be ISIS operatives – into Europe is demonstrating) come back a hundredfold.
Putin’s address serves as a reprimand and a warning to the West that if it continues the way it has over the past 20+ years, there will be Hell to pay.