From Izvestia, June 10, 2022, p. 1. Condensed text:
During a meeting with young entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers at VDNKh [Exhibition of Economic Achievements] on June 9, Vladimir Putin said that Peter the Great did not take territory from Sweden, but only reclaimed Russian lands. He went on to say that it has fallen to contemporary Russia “to reclaim and strengthen.” Moreover, today’s world is divided into sovereign states and colonies, [the latter of] which have little chance of surviving in a difficult geopolitical struggle. . . .
The parallels that Vladimir Putin drew between the era of Peter the Great and today have apparently lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding the country’s foreign policy course in the near future.
“Almost nothing has changed. It’s stunning. Somehow you come to this awareness, this understanding,” he said, beginning his excursion into the past. “Peter the Great waged the Northern War for 21 years. It would appear that he was fighting against Sweden, that he was seizing something – He wasn’t! He was reclaiming it! That’s the way it was.”
The president also explained what exactly he meant by “reclaiming.”
“All of the Ladoga region – the place where St. Petersburg was founded. When he [Peter the Great] laid the new capital, not one country in Europe recognized this territory as Russia’s; everyone recognized it as Sweden’s,” he recalled. “But Slavs have lived there. along with Finno-Ugric peoples. from time immemorial, and this territory was under the control of the Russian state. The same was true to the west. This applies to Narva and his first campaigns. Why did he get involved there? He was reclaiming and strengthening. That’s what he was doing. It seems it has also fallen to us to reclaim and strengthen.”
Vladimir Putin launched his “policy of reclamation” back in 2014, when the Crimea became part of the Russian Federation [see Vol. 66, No. 12, pp. 3‑11, and pp. 12‑16]. The main issue now being discussed in the world media is the future of the two self-proclaimed republics in the Donetsk Basin, whose independence Russia recognized this year. It’s worth recalling that United Russia General Council secretary Andrei Turchak recently said that not only the DPR/LPR but also, for example, Kherson Province could join Russia. Then there’s South Ossetia, a country that is not recognized by the vast majority of UN member states but whose elites have repeatedly come out in favor of joining Russia [see Vol. 74, No. 22, pp. 14‑15]. Vladimir Putin, however, appears convinced that if the West managed to reconcile itself to the loss of the Ladoga region in the 18th century, then Russia’s policy of “reclaiming and strengthening” will eventually bear fruit.
21st century colonies.
The president’s lecture on history and geopolitics to the entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers did not end there. The head of state went on to explain that today’s world is now divided into two camps: colonies and sovereign states. The first group – which, based on statements made by representatives of the Russian government over the past few years includes Ukraine – is not capable of surviving the harsh struggle in the international arena.
“The world is changing, rapidly changing. And in order to claim some kind of leadership – and I’m not even talking about global leadership, just some kind of leadership – then any country, any people, any ethnicity must naturally ensure its own sovereignty. Because there are no intermediate components, no intermediate states: A country is either sovereign or a colony, or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “I am not going to give examples right now, so as not to offend anyone, but if a country or group of countries is not able to make sovereign decisions, then it is already a colony to a certain extent. And a colony has no historical prospects: no chances of surviving in such a harsh geopolitical struggle.”
Russia is one of the countries that values its sovereignty.
“Yes, there were times in our country’s history when we were forced to retreat, but that was only so that we could gather our strength and move forward – so that we could refocus and move forward,” Putin said.
However, military and political sovereignty is not the only kind of sovereignty that is important for a country, he said. There is also economic and technological independence. He stressed that Russia would never have had hypersonic weapons without the capabilities of Russian science and industry. But there is one more factor that is equally valuable for strengthening statehood.
“This is society’s ability to come together to achieve national objectives. This is respect for one’s history, one’s culture, one’s language and the peoples that live on common territory. And this consolidation of society is one of the basic key conditions for development. Without it, everything will fall apart,” he said.
Russia can’t be fenced in.
After this information-saturated speech, the event moved to an open discussion with participants. During the discussion, Vladimir Putin made assurances that the country’s economy would remain open and that today’s Russia has no intention of repeating the Soviet Union’s mistakes.
“It’s impossible for anyone else to fence in a country like Russia. And we have no intention of erecting such a fence around ourselves,” he said.
According to him, the policy of import substitution should not be taken as a panacea. Russia is ready for open cooperation with other countries, but it needs its own know-how in critically important areas.
Meanwhile, the president said that the government intends to work toward removing bureaucratic barriers within the country and to continue supporting homegrown businesses. In particular, he did not rule out the possibility of introducing new benefits for the employees of pharmaceutical companies. For example, one of these benefits could be deferment of military service. . . .
The state is prepared to support ambitious projects in a wide variety of fields, Putin said.
“It seems to me that if we think like [Soviet aerospace engineer Konstantin] Tsiolkovsky, then we’ll definitely fly to the stars. And we were the first to fly [to outer space] in the history of humankind. Therefore, ideas that look incredible and crazy at first are the ones that move the world forward,” he said.
Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that Russia’s quality of life would improve, and he also raised the demographic problem. He believes the solution to this problem is the main task for the country’s future.