*Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
Deputy Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev speaks about Putin’s national address and its meaning for the West and Ukraine.
The Russian president’s address to the 2023 Federal Assembly has inevitably become extremely important for global politics. It was delivered a year after the Kremlin launched its special military operation in Ukraine. However, it was also timed to coincide with major and, even more important, irreversible changes happening all over the world.
Western and Russian politicians see and portray the Ukrainian crisis in very different ways. The West says that Russia finally feels strong enough to attack Ukraine for its choice in favor of freedom and democracy. Therefore, the West’s mission is to bring about Russia’s strategic defeat. Only then will no country attack the other, except the West itself, which seems to have a monopoly in this matter.
Moreover, the West mistakenly believes that Feb. 24, 2022, was a watershed event that dramatically changed the course of history. Western powers do not see their earlier military campaigns as major milestones in global history.
In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address clearly proves that the Russian special military operation is a consequence, not a cause, of various negative trends taking place in Ukraine and throughout the world. Unfortunately, this military operation was inevitable, even though Russia did everything in its power to avoid it a year ago.
Western countries have been deliberately misleading the international community for many years, long before the Ukrainian conflict broke out. One cannot help but notice that Washington has done it before many times. For example, Secretary of State Colin Powell fabricated evidence when making the case for the invasion of Iraq, thus lying to the U.N. Furthermore, Western countries made many false promises to Kyiv when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and three main opposition leaders signed a deal to end the violence in 2014. It was followed by the Minsk agreements, which turned out to be nothing more than a front to arm Kyiv. Finally, it was the West that derailed the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations last spring. It is clear that Putin’s criticism of Western politicians testifies to the fact that the Kremlin doesn’t trust Western leaders any longer. The trust may be restored by future generations of leaders under different circumstances.
It has also become evident that Russia didn’t want to start the hostilities a year ago. In fact, only after NATO rejected Russia’s security guarantee proposals was it finally clear that Kyiv had already made the decision to launch an attack in the Donbas. Then Russia became convinced that there would be no dialogue anymore and the goal of rearming Kyiv had finally been accomplished, as Angela Merkel and François Hollande have recently admitted. In August 2008, Moscow was defending Tskhinvali from the Georgian regime of Mikheil Saakashvili, whereas in 2022, Russia began its special military operation to deter Ukrainian’s aggression against the Donbas region.
The Ukrainian conflict and growing anti-Russian sentiment cannot be viewed in the context of a few Russian-Ukrainian contradictions or merely seen as a dispute among Slavs. Western powers turn a blind eye to Kyiv’s anti-Russian and sometimes outright neo-Nazi sentiments because it’s a useful tool that the West has been implementing for decades and even centuries in the post-Soviet region to achieve its goal of deterring Russia.
At the same time, the post-Soviet region is not the only territory in which the West is currently trying to assert its global dominance. As Putin noted, entire regions have been plunged into chaos as a result of American wars over the past few decades. More than 900,000 people have died and more than 38 million have become refugees since 2001.
Today, Washington sees Russia as the main threat to its dominance in a unipolar world. In many ways, this became evident at the recent Munich Security Conference where numerous Western politicians spoke quite frankly about their key goal of defeating Russia. Western leaders were serious when discussing what to do with Russia after its inevitable defeat. Some graciously agreed to let Russia retain some of its rights, naturally after taking away its weapons, resources, a U.N. Security Council seat and other attributes of global power.
These politicians must have gone mad if they really believe that they can defeat a nuclear-armed power on the battlefield or by making insignificant attempts to deter Russia, i.e., by imposing all kinds of sanctions, issuing various pseudo-judicial decisions and passing resolutions of Western-run assemblies. Even such fierce critics of Russia as John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were wise enough to realize that getting involved in a conflict with a nuclear-armed country was a potentially bad idea. However, Eastern European politicians think otherwise. They have become irrationally Russophobic as a result of NATO’s mindless expansion. Moreover, they don’t need NATO to protect them from Russia; on the contrary, they use the alliance as a shield to settle an old score with Russia.
Putin announced that Russia is suspending its participation in the U.S.-Russia Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, which made these politicians cool down. Under the current circumstances, this was a completely justified measure. This decision was made not only because Washington demanded that Russia allow NATO countries to inspect its nuclear arsenal, but also due to the fact that the U.S. is helping Ukraine conduct drone strikes on Russian air bases that host strategic bombers that are part of Russian nuclear forces.
It is rather symbolic that the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Lynne Tracy, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry minutes after the Russian president finished delivering his state-of-the-nation address. Russia issued a formal protest, known as a demarche, in connection with “the expanding U.S. involvement in hostilities on the side of the Kyiv regime.” Additionally, the Kremlin stressed that the U.S. is “pumping the Ukrainian military with arms and providing it with targeting information for strikes on Russian military and civilian infrastructure,” adding that such policies prove that Washington’s assertions of not being a party to the conflict are “inadequate and false.”
The 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties refers to a “fundamental change of circumstances” as a ground for withdrawing from a treaty. To be more specific, Article 62, Subarticle 3 says that “if a party may invoke a fundamental change of circumstances as a ground for terminating or withdrawing from a treaty, it may also invoke the change as a ground for suspending the operation of the treaty.”
In their joint statement of June 24, 2010, Presidents Barack Obama and Daniil Medvedev expressed their commitment “to continuing the development of a new strategic relationship based on mutual trust, openness, predictability and cooperation,” guided by the principle of “indivisible security.” Needless to say, given the U.S. proxy war against Russia, fought at the hands of Ukraine, and the proclaimed goals to defeat Russia, there is no point in talking about trust and cooperation anymore. As for indivisible security, this concept was completely destroyed by NATO’s eastward expansion and its promise to incorporate Ukraine back in 2008.
In any case, the fact that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START agreement is also a grave warning to all the warmongers in the West and Ukraine who are now getting carried away with their ideas of partitioning Russia, international tribunals and reparations. After all, Russia is still a nuclear-armed country. One of the world’s leading nuclear-armed powers will not be strategically defeated on the battlefield. It is time to stop deceiving Ukrainians, who have to pay for this illusion with their own lives.
Hopefully, the countries that are still supplying Ukraine with weapons, thus prolonging the bloodshed there, will heed the Russian president’s message. However, Western politicians’ cowardly stance to reject any dialogue with Russia, which was perfectly demonstrated at the recent Munich Security Conference, makes the chances of pacifying the warmongers even slimmer.
The author is a deputy speaker of the Russian Federation Council.