Geopolitics

And The Oscar Goes To ... Vladimir Putin

In a recent government meeting, the Russian strongman once again showed off his trademark flare for political theater, promising, among other things, to leave his foreign foes toothless.

Activists wear masks to look like Russian President Vladimir Putin during a protest for the INF treaty in Germany, in 2019.
Andrey Kolesnikov

MOSCOW — In a conference call last week with government officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped things up on a characteristic note: with a promise to "knock out the teeth" of the country's foreign enemies.

But that was toward the end. Earlier, he was far more restrained — notably calm, in fact — as he discussed what he sees as attempts to distort the military history of the Soviet people.

"All sorts of Russophobes and unscrupulous politicians are trying to bash our history, to push through ideas of revising the outcome of World War II, to justify Nazi criminals," he said.

Ukraine has chosen a perverse version of the struggle with its own past.

"We cannot allow such actions to occur without a worthy response," the Russian leader added. "As I said before, we will certainly base our efforts on facts and do everything we can to ensure the continuity of historical memory in our society, so that future generations, decades and centuries from now, will preserve the truth about the war and a holy, grateful attitude to its heroes and to their ancestors!"

Also in the meeting was Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who keep mostly quiet but did, eventually, lament what he called "a sharp deterioration of the international situation, the erosion of international law, open Russophobia, and the information war against Russia have complicated military memorial activities abroad."

"We believe that the discovery of more and more evidence of the liberation mission and the feats of the Soviet people largely prevents attempts to rewrite the results of the war," he added diplomatically.

That's when a far more fired up Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, stepped in.

"It's difficult to imagine that in a state governed by the rule of law the destruction of monuments can be approved at the official level and even be considered a kind of patriotism," he said. "The most vivid example of this approach is Poland, where the authorities invented the concept of so-called symbolic monuments, subject to decommunization!"

It turns out that some 449 Soviet memorials have already been destroyed in Poland, and all intergovernmental agreements in this regard have been rudely violated. On this issue, one could see how pensive Vladimir Putin had become — and that was Bogdanov turned his attention to Ukraine.

Putin_strategic_defense_meeting_Russia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of top Russian Defence Ministry officials and the heads of Russia's military industrial sector enterprises, in May 2021. — Photo: Sergei Ilyin/TASS/ZUMA

"Ukraine has chosen a perverse version of the struggle with its own past," the deputy foreign minister said. "There, everything connected in one way or another with our country, namely with Russia, and not only with the Soviet Union, becomes a victim of the anti-Soviet inquisition! Thus, within the framework of decommunization borrowed from the Poles, the monument to Generalissimo Alexander Suvorov was dismantled in Kyiv!"

Finally, Elena Tsunaeva, executive secretary for the organization Search Movement for Russia, asked for a word. "As soon as the country gets stronger, there are attempts to restrain its development," she said. "It's the fear of a strengthening Russia..."

That, as it turned out, what just the cue needed for Vladimir Putin to break his silence.

"As one of our emperors said, everyone is afraid of our enormity," he said. "Even after the Soviet Union ceased to exist... And this is nothing else than historical Russia, only it was called differently, and the ideological content of the state was, of course, different, but from a geopolitical point of view, it is historical Russia... Indeed, the potential is enormous, the territory remains the largest in the world."

From there his remarks built up toward a crescendo. "We have 146 million people — not much compared to those countries where there are hundreds of millions of citizens, or even more than a billion, but it is still considered a lot," the Russian leader added. "And someone even dares to say publicly that it is allegedly unfair that only one country owns the wealth of such a region as Siberia! It is strange to hear such things, especially in public, but they are sometimes heard!"

And then, finally, the kicker (so to speak): "Everyone wants to bite us or bite something off us, but those who would like to do so should know that we would knock their teeth out so that they couldn't bite," Putin said.

Well, there you have it. With those remarks, all was again as it should be: the Putin we know — not the one who began the meeting with conciliatory remarks, but the fired up, tough talking version — was back!

We have new aviation systems that have no equal in the world.

So too were his reassurances about Russia's military might — despite being outspent by not only the United States, but also Saudi Arabia and Japan. "We're more than all right," he said, taking obvious pleasure in the words. "We have the most modern of all the nuclear arsenals, the most modern nuclear deterrent! We can firmly assert that, the most modern!"

Next up was his favorite topic of all.

"We have a new type of strategic weapon: the Avangard, a hypersonic intercontinental-range surface-to-air missile," Putin boasted. "We, and we alone have it. A hypersonic weapon! We have new aviation systems that have no equal in the world, combat surface and submarine ships, the most modern unmanned aerial vehicles... Thanks to what? Through prudent use of funds earmarked by the state for defense..."

And then, just as quickly as he'd raised the stakes, the president again brought the tone down, speaking calmly, his performance just about finished:

"No matter what we've done. No matter how hard we try to satisfy the appetites of those who are trying to restrain us, restraint will continue, because many of our opponents, so to speak, do not need such a country as Russia. But you and I need it, and our people, the citizens of the Russian Federation, need it," Putin concluded.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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