February 28, 2012 – Putin launches tirade against US: It may be more than two decades since the end of the cold war but Vladimir Putin started his last week of campaigning before presidential elections on Sunday with an onslaught on US foreign policy.
Below, Pro-Kremlin supporters carry banners declaring ‘Trust in Putin’ and ‘For Russia, for Putin!’
In an article published on Monday, Mr. Putin first warned Washington against a military strike on Iran, which he said would have “truly catastrophic” consequences. He cautioned against a US-led “Libyan scenario” in Syria, grumbled about inadequate NATO efforts to combat Afghan drug traffickers, accused the US of endangering global stability with plans to deploy a ballistic missile shield in Europe and the expansion of Nato to the east.
Then he got to “the root of the problem.” “The Americans have become obsessed with the idea of becoming absolutely invulnerable. This utopian concept is unfeasible. It is the root of the problem,” he wrote in the latest of a series of policy papers published in Moscow newspapers over the last two months.
Russia has been the target of international criticism for its intransigence on Syrian sanctions, wielding its veto along with China on the UN Security Council. It has also been in the line of fire for its cozy relationship with Iran. But Mr. Putin has been firing back, accusing Washington of hypocrisy and “wielding a cudgel” in foreign policy.
Mr. Putin’s assertive foreign policy continues to play well with Russian voters, many of whom share his slightly conspiratorial vision of international relations.
“While Putin’s domestic policies are frequently criticized by other candidates in the election, no one criticizes his foreign policy” said Alexander Panov, chief analyst at the Institute of the US and Canada in Moscow. “This is significant, it means there is agreement.”
The foreign policy vision published in the newspaper Moskovskie Novosti on Monday looks very similar to his old one and offers a characteristically dystopian world view in which Russia is surrounded by enemies. [Note: Being the largest country in the world doesn’t help the situation.]
“Basically the new Putin is the same as the old Putin” said Fedor Lukyanov, chief editor of the Moscow foreign policy journal Russia in Global Affairs, who likened the article to Mr. Putin’s 2007 speech at the annual Munich security conference. The speech was seen as the height of Mr. Putin’s anti-Americanism, which later softened after oil prices collapsed in 2008, but is now on the rebound as he is seeking re-election.
Mr. Lukyanov said, however, that the tone was slightly changed. “This time the mood is defensive, not offensive. It’s about how to defend Russia from threats coming from all sides.”
The prime minister’s take on world affairs seemed to emanate at least in part from the domestic political situation in Russia, where he faces unprecedented opposition. Street protests broke out in many Russian cities following allegedly rigged parliamentary elections on December 4, and Mr. Putin has repeatedly blamed the turmoil on unseen conspiracies by foreign intelligence services.
Mr. Putin again pointed the finger at Washington on Monday, saying that relations were marred by “regular US attempts to conduct ‘political engineering’, including in regions that are traditionally important to us, and in election campaigns in Russia”.
He also saw hidden hands at work in the Middle East, where Russia has been heavily criticized internationally for vetoing, along with China, the UN resolution seeking sanctions against the regime of Bashar al-Assad [pictured below].
“I very much hope the US and other countries . . . do not try to set a military scenario in motion in Syria without sanction from the UN Security Council,” Mr. Putin said, accusing the US of seeking a pretext for military intervention in the Syrian army’s bloody campaign against the political opposition.
He made clear that Russia would use its UN Security Council veto to block sanctions and other actions as it sees fit.
“Nobody has the right to take for himself the prerogatives and authorities of the United Nations, especially when it comes to using force in relation to sovereign states,” Mr. Putin wrote.
As for Iran, Putin warned the US from supporting a military strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. “The growing threat of a military strike on this country alarms Russia, no doubt,” Putin said
“If this occurs, the consequences will be truly catastrophic.” (Credits: Pictures – EPA, Mapquest, Narrative – Charles Clover in Moscow for the Financial Times).
The Master of Disaster