News / Europe

    Putin to Legislators: West Wants to Weaken Russia

    Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly at the Kremlin in Moscow, Dec. 4, 2014.
    Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly at the Kremlin in Moscow, Dec. 4, 2014.
    VOA News

    Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out Thursday at the United States and its European allies, saying Western sanctions for Russia's annexation of Crimea were just an excuse to weaken the country.

    Delivering his annual state of the nation speech to legislators, Kremlin officials and other leaders on Thursday, Putin said the sanctions are not just a reaction of the U.S. and its allies over Russia's response to the events and a coup in Ukraine.

    "I am certain that if all this did not take place ... they would come up with another reason to contain Russia's growing capabilities, to influence it or, even better, use it for its own goals," the Russian leader said.

    Events in Ukraine

    Putin said the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine, that ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovich in February, was an armed coup supported by the West that justified Russian intervention.

    "What we are seeing now in Ukraine, the tragedy in the southeast, fully confirms that our position is right," Putin said.

    Fighting this year between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels has killed more than 4,300 people.

    He also referred to Crimea as Russia's spiritual ground, calling the region "the same as Temple Mount in Jerusalem for those who confess Islam and Judaism."

    Putin spoke after a rare and deadly rebel attack in the Chechen capital, Grozny. He said such acts of separatism are being supported by the West.

    He said although Moscow has been treating its former Cold War enemies as close friends and almost allies, the support for separatism in Russia is coming from abroad, including political and financial help from spy agencies.

    Blame as a distraction

    Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth said Putin is focusing blame on foreigners to distract Russians from problems at home.

    “I think part of Putin's effort to blame the West, to blame others, is an effort to deflect criticism from himself," Roth told VOA.

    "Why is Russia having economic problems today? Well, it has an unaccountable government that has led to the kind of adventurism that we see in Ukraine, which in turn has caused the West to respond," he added. "So, rather than Putin blaming himself, rather than blaming the kind of government that emerges where you suppress criticism, Putin is going to blame everybody else.”

    Russia's economic situation has unraveled since the United States and the European Union imposed a series of increasingly harsh economic sanctions on Moscow over its annexation of Crimea and what they see as support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

    But, as some analysts believe, it's not so much the sanctions that are bringing Russia to its knees.

    "The West makes too much about the sanctions. They are pinching, but [Putin] and colleagues are more concerned about the steep drop in oil prices.  Oil is an essential element of Russia's earnings... there is more hurt here," Thomas Graham, managing director at Kissinger Associates, Inc. and former top National Security Council official in the Bush administration, told VOA.

    Russian finance officials this week revised their economic forecast for 2015 from slight growth to recession. The Russian currency has dropped to its lowest value in a quarter century. Foreign capital is also fleeing the country.

    Open to cooperation

    However, despite the anti-Western rhetoric, Putin said Russia would seek cooperation with Europe and the United States.

    He said Russia will never pursue the path of self-isolation, xenophobia, suspicion or searching for enemies. All this is a manifestation of weakness, he said, while Russia is strong and self-confident.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia had pitched itself into isolation through its own actions in Ukraine and could rebuild international credibility only by ending its support for pro-Russian separatists.

    Speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), Kerry said on Thursday that Moscow had failed to live up to its commitments under September Minsk cease-fire accords to end the conflict in Ukraine.

    "It is not our design or desire that we see a Russia that is isolated through its own actions," he said at the meeting in Basel, Switzerland.

    "In fact we are convinced that Moscow could rebuild trust and relationships if it simply helps to calm turbulent waters, if it takes steps now to implement the Minsk Protocol," Kerry added.

    Weakened ruble

    The ruble saw a gain in the morning when Putin began elaborating pro-business reforms, including an amnesty on capital returning to Russia, a freeze on higher taxes, and an easing of regulations for small businesses. However, investors were unimpressed by the promised reforms and the ruble weakened later in the day.

    The ruble has declined by 60 percent against the dollar since the start of the year, and is down by some 45 percent against the euro. On Monday, it suffered its biggest one-day fall since the 1998 financial meltdown after oil prices sank further.

    In his speech, Putin said the country's National Wealth Fund should be used for supporting domestic banks. “We have a large amount of internal savings, they should become effective investments,” he told members of parliament and other top Kremlin officials on Thursday.

    He also said as of November 1, the fund, which aims to cover future pension shortages, stood at $81.7 billion. He suggested using the reserves "for lending to the most important projects in the real sector of economy.”

    Crackdown on dissent

    Human Rights Watch's Roth, who was on his first trip to Russia in a decade, said the crackdown on dissent is the worst since the Soviet era. He cited suppression of opposition voices, laws limiting protests, and state take-overs of independent media, among other steps to control critics.

    “I think it is political insecurity that lies behind all of this. And, I fear that this is only going to intensity as Russia now encounters some real economic problems as a consequence of Putin's adventurism in Ukraine," Roth said.

    According to former Bush administration official Graham, Putin is in it for the long haul.

    "If you look at what Putin has been saying, he believes he can outlast the West.... His goal is to tough it out in the hope that Europe will crack before things inside Russia crack," said Graham.

    Daniel Schearf contributed to this report from Moscow. Catherine Maddux contributed from Washington. Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 4
    by: Michael from: Montreal
    December 08, 2014 1:55 AM
    To read all this ocean of ignorance madness right here in this comment forum is very painful and shows how your media highly sophisticated propaganda for masses mind control are working very effectively.

    On is own words, Vladimir Poutin:

    What do you think now?

    by: Zach from: Ohio
    December 05, 2014 11:57 PM
    The West: Boo hoo. Boo hoo. Boo hoo.

    by: GoPal from: India
    December 05, 2014 9:10 AM
    Well, this is a dictator!!! congratulations Russians... you have a new Dictator... now the real misery will begin... you know - the secret detentions... the covert extra judicial executions... "reeducation" centers for the "Mentally ill"... food shortages... its all back again... Stalin-ism... this time however, there is one exception - you don't have smart Jews to make you money and keep you above the freezing waters... - LOL
    Russians - well, some people are just plain stupid...
    In Response

    by: Dr. Arbatov from: Russia
    December 05, 2014 5:00 PM
    First, I completely agree with Gopal. Putin is a new brutal dictator of Russian peasants - being peasants is in their DNA.
    Second, it is only a matter of time before Eastern Ukraine will start killing Russian soldiers...
    Third, Muslims inside Russia (like Muslims all over the world) are beginning to destroy Russian infrastructure.
    Fourth, Putin may have marginal control in Western Russia but Eastern Russia and Middle Russia are becoming ungovernable. Crime in Russia is through the roof, AIDS is rampant. no sanitation, water in Russia is undrinkable by chemical pollutants that dissolve flesh and cause cancer. Cancer rates in Russia are unbelievably high... the rates of Russian Kids with rare incurable cancer is the highest in the world... no legitimacy, and the Law is an arbitrary tool of oppression.
    Russia is crumbling before our very eyes.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    December 05, 2014 10:47 AM
    One of the many advantages the USSR had over today's Russia was that it had a political doctrine that gave false hope to hundreds of millions of desperately poor people and others who didn't realize the whole thing was a pack of lies that only leads inevitably to unending poverty and enslavement. Today Russia only has anti-American rhetoric to win followers. Does it work? It does for some but how many people from all over the world want to come to live in the USA any way they can get here? How many people want to go live in Russia? How many people who live in Russia want to get out of Russia?

    by: Bill
    December 05, 2014 8:55 AM
    Let russia have ukraine there right after all the states thinks there the greatest thing that ever lived. They control everyone and should gtfo

    by: ukraine
    December 05, 2014 8:27 AM
    nice joke before sanctions itself Russian economy is down. if US and EU is responsible for the down of Russian economy why he need relation with them.
    In Response

    by: Zach from: Ohio
    December 09, 2014 8:09 PM
    Sorry Russia is not the massive post Communist success story that Ukraine is. Ranked 144 on the corruption index, it has exhausted its gold reserves, sold all of its weapons, and found itself in billions dollars of debt. Do not worry. Ukraine will join the West, 1 billion at a time...

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    December 05, 2014 8:03 AM
    I've heard many say that the US is trying to "contain" Russia as it contained the USSR and is also trying to contain China. I don't know if that's true or not but something has to contain them. International borders don't seem to be doing the trick.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    December 09, 2014 10:28 PM
    Zach from Ohio, the US only entered the war in Serbia and Kosovo at the pleading of much of Europe including most of the EU. Many in the Republican party wanted nothing to do with it because it was not in America's vital interest. The only justification was to prevent Europeans resuming WWI with weapons the US had provided them to fight the USSR in WWIII, notably Greece and Turkey.

    I knew a war against Serbia was inevitable from one single image, the photo of the Kosovars being forced to board trains to be deported. That brought back the nightmare of Nazi death camps in Europe's face it had been trying to forget for 50 years. The US was the ONLY force capable of putting an end to it. Funny, all these nations want to break up and yet come back together in an EU superstate. I've resigned myself a long time ago that Europe is not a rational place. Having lived there for a few years I saw it first hand for myself. Europe knows it. That's why one justification often given for the EU's existence by Europeans themselves is to prevent another war. Is economic self interest the only thing that can keep them from killing each other again?
    In Response

    by: Zach from: Ohio
    December 09, 2014 8:12 PM
    Fair enough. I suppose you respect Serbias territorial integrity as well and you are an advocate of Resolution 1244, ensuring Kosovo as an autonomous region of Serbia. Or, sir, i suppose you also are vehemently against the US acquisition of every state from Texas to the Pacific? Double. Standards.

    by: john petrino from: italy
    December 05, 2014 2:39 AM
    make us laugh,russia will crumble? you fat american pigs will crumble long before russia.europe? just a bunch of zionist lackeys who shoot themselves in the ass because super pig amerca told them to do so. wake up europe and get away from that ugly nation america and deal with russia.that is what you should be doing.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    December 05, 2014 8:37 AM
    I love it when people who disagree with me resort to name calling and other insults or simply try to change the subject. It means they've futilely exhausted all of their reasonable arguments and have nothing left to say that is rational. It's a sure sign they acknowledge their own defeat. It's also a sure sign of weakness and extreme jealousy. Italy has many problems that seem unsolvable, problems they'd swap for America's in a heartbeat. What other nation wouldn't also do the same given the chance?
    In Response

    by: cataldi from: USA
    December 05, 2014 6:38 AM
    To: john petrino
    Your comments sound like an old fashion, obsolete and boring recorded announcement. Clean your mind first and refresh your soul then think logically. Maybe you will be able to see the evil coming from both sides and talk more balance and maybe somebody will say you are an intelligent human being.Wake up fanatic.

    by: Shiv Giri from: everywhere
    December 04, 2014 11:56 PM
    US, Europe, and kiev installed a neonazi government and mercenary army to exterminate the ethnic russians in east Ukraine. They accomplished this takeover using a blackops sniper operation. Ukraine mercs clusterbomb areas with high Russian populations using illegal weapons. Ukraine was run by nazis durring ww2, us intelligence rescued all of the high level nazis through operation paperclip and has been paying them pensions until December 2014. US, Europe and Ukraine have made clear their support for Nazism by voting against outlawing it's glorification.

    Nazism was never defeated now Russia wants to put an end to this evil since it has once again risen out of the shadows to slay the innocent.

    In Response

    by: mr nobody from: usa
    December 06, 2014 2:35 AM
    What happened to the Russian Nazis?

    One million Ukrainians died in 1946, how many were Nazis?

    I think that they are still there.. perhaps even wearing the swastika tattoo.


    by: Durban Poison from: The Middle Of Nowhere
    December 04, 2014 7:37 PM
    Another one of Putin's temper tantrums and blame shifting tirades. He blames the west because he sure as hell won't put the blame on who's really responsible (hint: it rhymes with Hootin)! The west would love a strong, stable, and trustworthy partner in Russia. Russian people are good people, and its a shame they've allowed Putin to isolate them from the world. If he'd swallow his pride & back out of the Ukraine, the sanctions would go away, and the world could get back to business as usual. TOGETHER, the US, Russia, and Europe should stomp out the radical jihadi idiots & put an end to that nonsense once and for all. Putin keeps bringing up how strong the Russian military is, but honestly, no one wants to go to war Mr. Putin. It's your extracurricular adventures into Ukraine that have created this mess. He needs to stop blaming the world for his miscalculations.
    In Response

    by: Zach from: Ohio
    December 09, 2014 8:13 PM
    The West wants puppets

    by: jim from: canada
    December 04, 2014 6:01 PM
    Putin is the target,not Russia.He needs to be de-throned and stop the primitive mentality.
    In Response

    by: Zach from: Ohio
    December 05, 2014 11:17 PM
    The primitive mentality lol. Here we see the double standard, folks. Condemn Russia for not respecting sovereignty and destabilizing a country lol. Grand. Just grand hearing the cock calling the chicken plucky.
    Comments page of 4

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