This year the Valdai Discussion Club changed its format — for the first time four acting leaders came to Sochi in order to simultaneously participate in the main plenary session. Thanks to this four presidents and a king sat down in white chairs in Krasnaya Polyana, which in itself sounds like the name of a Dumas novel.
Because of this, prior to the plenary session Vladimir Putin had to work hard. The president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the president of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, and the king of Jordan Abdullah II arrived to Russia on a working visit, and it was necessary to hold negotiations with all of them. Therefore, in the “Granat” hall of the “Glade in 1389” hotel in Krasnaya Polyana there was only enough time to change the flags, as the delegations went one after the other.
And only after this did the main action, which was devoted to the Eastern role in the modern world, begin.
“What we have gotten used to calling a world order has ended, an ordered system of norms, rules, and forms of behaviour will no longer be, the world enters an era that can be called international anarchy – a free will, where everyone acts at their own discretion,” explained the choice moderator of the discussion, the political scientist Fedor Lukyanov. “A balance is possible only if the interests of all participants of the international process, and first and foremost the East, are taken into account.”
“Today Asia, for all its enormous extent, returns to its natural place in global affairs, with its large-scale great heritage,” said Putin in agreement. “Having wisely used the fruits of globalisation and the technological revolution, and having been among the economic leaders, the states of Asia seek to play a more significant role and in global politics.”
He also didn’t dodge the question of a new global order in which the East must play a large role.
“One cannot do without a consistent global order, but both flexibility and non-linearity are needed,” he emphasised. “It is necessary to act together, stepping over stereotypes and geopolitical cliches. Only in this way is it possible to effectively complete tasks at the global, regional, and national level.”
The president gave the Russian operation in Syria as an example.
“Not everyone believed that it can end somehow positively. On the contrary, many were very skeptical about it and questioned if it is necessary, they asked whether or not we understood what hornet’s nest we found ourselves in,” Putin reminded. “We defeated international terrorism, which was already almost winning on the territory of Syria. Over several years most of the Syrian territory was liberated from terrorists, the level of violence cardinally decreased. We managed to come into close working contact with Iran, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, other countries of the Middle East, and with the United States. Admittedly, several years ago it was difficult to even imagine such a complicated diplomatic alignment from very different states, with very different emotions in relation to each other. But we achieved it.”
Comment of Aleksandr Kots:
“I noticed long ago that four years after the beginning of the operation in online comments or on the airwaves it was mockingly asked ‘And why are we there?’, then the person simply isn’t interested in the answer. Well, how many times can you say that from the Russian border to the Syrian border is less than from Moscow to St. Petersburg; that we received two bases in the Eastern Mediterranean free of charge; that almost all flight personnel passed through a unique experience there; that nearly 5000 Russian-speaking terrorists were liquidated; that the funding of the operation came from a reduction in expenses on exercises, and two-thirds of it was paid for thanks to contracts for the sale of arms signed during this time, and this wouldn’t have been possible if their combat opportunities weren’t visually shown; that eventually we returned our influence in the region – confirming the rank of a great power, among countries-civilisations, as the president said.”
The President of Russia said that the Syrian settlement can become a kind of model for resolving regional crises, including the crisis on the Korean peninsula. A careful attitude towards the traditions and culture of each other should help to establish relations in such a huge space as the East, and here, as Putin noted, Russia can also learn.
“Russia is a country-civilisation that absorbed many traditions and cultures organically and preserved their originality, uniqueness, and at the same time preserved, which is very important, the unity of the people living in it. We are very much proud of and cherish this harmony of identity and common fate of the peoples of Russia,” said Putin.
In addition, Putin was asked why Ukraine is shown in a bad light on Russian television?
“We shouldn’t show our neighbour, fraternal people, in a bad light,” agreed Putin. “There can be talk about the policies of the authorities in power, but not about the people in any way. So, something is missing in our programs. Now about the policy of the Ukrainian authorities in relation to a settlement in the Southeast of Ukraine. The request for a settlement is obvious, I think, and it is due to this that Zelensky won so convincingly. If he has enough courage to see things to the end, he will establish himself as a strong politician. Will he be able to do it — I don’t know. He has to keep his election pledges.”
The leaders of other countries spoke in their speeches about their own problems, but almost all were united in one.
“The main factor in the fact that Russia with honour passed through the most difficult tests is the factor of Vladimir Putin,” said Ilham Aliyev.
“Russia is a great state! Nobody will be able to deny that no global or regional problem can be solved in the modern world without the constructive participation of Russia. The global merit of Vladimir Putin lies in this,” echoed Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
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