Vladimir Putin’s Valdai Speech (2022): what is behind the West’s drive to dominate the world?

Vladimir Putin’s Valdai Speech at the XIX Meeting (Final Plenary Session) of the Valdai International Discussion Club (Moscow, 27 October 2022)

As is his usual custom, each year at the annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in the club’s final session by giving a speech and taking questions in the Q&A session that follows immediately after. At the 2022 club meetings, the theme was “A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone” in which participants ranging from politicians, diplomats and economists to journalists, businesspeople, academics and students from around the world either in person or online discussed and debated topics and issues related to how a multi-polar world might appear and operate. Inevitably, current events and trends around the world such as Russia’s Special Military Operation in parts of Ukraine and the response of NATO, led by the United States, to this operation and the consequences the response has generated across the European Union and other parts of the global economy came up for discussion.

In his speech, Putin addressed the current situation and trends the world now faces: the deterioration of major global institutions such as the United Nations and its agencies in tackling serious world problems; the erosion of collective security; and the flouting of “international law” by the United States and other Western states in various regions (among them Ukraine, Taiwan and the waters surrounding that nation, parts of western Africa, Iran and Venezuela). Putin noted that these trends have assumed importance over other, perhaps more important issues such as global climate change. He clearly identifies the underlying cause of the current global political, economic and societal instability across the world as the determination of the West (in particular, of its elites) in maintaining its overarching domination of the rest of the world in order to steal non-Western people’s lands and resources. This is due in no small part to the West’s own exhaustion of its resources, especially its energy resources, and of its peoples’ creativity and energy. Across most Western nations, peoples’ living standards are falling, life expectancies are beginning to decrease, and middle classes are shrinking as the social services that supported them are being privatised by governments with neoliberal capitalist agendas. Serious political, economic and social issues are being trivialised by their reduction into an agenda and ideology that replaces class consciousness and dealing with social inequalities brought about by class hierarchy with an obsession with identity politics and so-called “cancel culture” for want of more appropriate descriptions and terms. Behind the lip service given to identity politics and extolling “diversity” lie a deliberate levelling and degradation of global civilisation in all its complex and messy glories into a flat one-dimensional society dominated by elite monopolies over technology and media, politics, economics and culture. Different societies’ history, cultures, religions and traditions count for nothing in this brave new world where history and progress cease to exist, and everyone lives in an eternal present. Such a world is easier to control by a small, privileged elite than one characterised by societies that treasure their history, traditions, cultures and belief systems, because these bind their peoples and give them collective identity and purpose.

Putin’s speech asserts that the Western, specifically US drive to extend “freedom” and “democracy” to just about every corner of the planet is increasing chaos and instability as this drive does not tolerate anything opposed to the neoliberal capitalist vision of monotone human society. Nations such as Russia and China and their allies that stand in the way of the West’s dystopian vision are painted as enemies and villains rather than as partners. Putin emphasises how the Russian Federation is working towards creating an alternative world in which nations co-operate to tackle and overcome global or regional problems and issues, and share or exchange knowledge, experiences and technologies. Towards this end, the Russian Federation is building new alternative institutions such as the Eurasian Economic Union and partnering with other nations in building new global networks such as China’s Belt Road Initiative. Putin closes his speech by observing how a new era is being born, in which all nations must listen to one another and work together without imposing their own beliefs on others.

Putin’s speech is remarkable for having identified and nailed the problem behind the West’s flouting of international law and its claimed pursuit of “freedom” and “democracy” and other “human rights” across the world: the actions of the West are a cover for its neo-colonial drive to usurp other nations’ lands and resources, reducing their populations to poverty, to benefit its elite minorities. It is a class war that the West has been continuing and spreading across the world since the 1500s. By naming and describing the problem and the tactics the West uses to beguile its publics and to weaken targeted nations, Putin has made himself – and the nation he represents – a serious enemy indeed.