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Russia

Vladimir Putin: Enough With The West’s Imaginary Threats

In Italian daily La Stampa, the Russian president writes that it's time for the U.S. and Europe to trust Moscow as a partner in confronting the world's problems.

Putin at a Russian military training exercise in the Orenburg region
Putin at a Russian military training exercise in the Orenburg region
Vladimir Putin

-Exclusive-

MOSCOW — The redistribution of economic power and political influence in the world is increasing the contradictions between Russia and the West. This mutual mistrust is limiting our opportunities to find effective responses to the common challenges and concrete threats facing the world today.

However, many of our partners seemingly have no intention to resolve the most salient international issues. In several power structures, including relics of the Cold War era like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), there have been limited efforts to adapt to our new reality despite many claims to the contrary. Instead, these countries are pursuing efforts to transform the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) — a crucial mechanism that guarantees European and Transatlantic stability — into an instrument of foreign policy. By doing this, they have effectively rendered OSCE running in idle.

There are perpetuating clichés about a number of imaginary threats in the West, including the infamous "threat" of Russian military aggression. This is fundamentally profitable for many countries, because they can increase military spending, bend their allies to follow superpower interests, expand NATO, and bring the alliance's forces and weaponry to Russia's borders. They conveniently portray themselves as defenders of civilization against a new wave of barbarians, but the truth of the matter is that Russia has no intention of attacking anyone. Europe alone has 300 million inhabitants, and including the United States and other NATO member countries this rises to 600 million. Russia, on the other hand, is home to only 146 million people. It's simply ridiculous to even contemplate a Russian invasion of NATO countries, yet this idea continues to be exploited for political purposes.

Another imaginary problem is the manufactured hysteria in the United States over supposed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. It seems the United States faces real and urgent issues, from its enormous public debt to the soaring number of gun deaths and police shootings.

But it is easier to distract attention by accusing Russian hackers and spies than to identify the root causes and find solutions to these issues. Let's be honest: Does anyone truly believe that Russia could in any way influence American elections? The United States is a great power, not a banana republic.

Sovereignty above all

As we witness what is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and many other countries, I ask myself what results were achieved by the global war on terror. There have been successes at the regional level or in specific areas, but at the global level it has been a failure and the terrorist threat continues to grow. We all remember the enthusiasm in certain capitals for the so-called "Arab Spring" — where are those brave protesters now? Russia's calls for a united front against terrorism continue to go unanswered. All the while terrorist groups are being armed, resupplied, supported, and trained by other players using them to advance their own political interests. The West is playing a very dangerous game.

The United Nations remains the only institution unparalleled in the world in its representativeness and universality. It is a unique platform for equal multilateral dialogue. Its universal rules make it necessary to foster economic and humanitarian integration in the highest number of member states possible, and guarantee political responsibility while respecting their sovereignty and respective development models.

Sovereignty is undoubtedly the principle that lies at the foundation of the system of international relations. Respect for and the consolidation of sovereignty are the key to peace and stability at the domestic and international levels. There are many countries that, like Russia, have a millenary history and have learned to appreciate their identity, liberty, and independence. But we do not seek global domination, expansion, or a clash with anyone. In our vision of leadership, leading does not mean inventing false threats and exploiting them to subjugate others. Leadership is identifying the real problems facing the world and collaborating to unite our efforts to resolve them. This is how Russia conceives its role in the global arena today.

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