Putin made multiple major speeches today, with some relatively strong accusations.

Lately these seem to be pretty popular on Lesswrong, due to the whole nuclear war thing. It definitely makes sense, since these are pretty hard to come by; they're usually impossible to find on any news site and google searches take ~10 minutes of tries and have a large probability of never finding it.

Bear in mind that foreign authoritarian presidents are generally not considered reliable sources of information. However, it's always a great opportunity to see what kinds of omissions, charisma techniques, persuasion objectives, and appeal priorities are of these sorts of senior officials, who are highly influential in global affairs. Getting a feel for/noticing their true strategies and priorities is like riding a bike, it's something that must be intuitive and can't be put into words; for example, in this instance I learned that Russia needs to develop a foreign enemy that's loathsome enough to trigger stronger in-group responses among mission-critical audiences such as military officers, which is difficult because the Russian government isn't very well known for inspiring patriotic sentiment.

I also noticed this particular quote:

For many years, Western ideologists and politicians have been telling the world there was no alternative to democracy. Admittedly, they meant the Western-style, the so-called liberal model of democracy. They arrogantly rejected all other variants and forms of government by the people

This is very notable, this has been increasingly becoming a major propaganda point in China, but with Russia joining in (this is not Putin's first time mentioning it in a speech) it's increasingly becoming a key uniting state ideology among the authoritarian side of the contemporary world. Diametrically opposed state ideologies were one of the most defining characteristics of the 1947-1991 Cold War. 

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The first speech was retrieved from http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/69695 and was given at the Valdai Discussion Club, a think tank and discussion event believed to have strong ties to Putin's inner regime. It was widely reported among international media outlets, although none of them shared the translated transcript.

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We have used the Valdai Club platform to discuss, more than once, the major and serious shifts that have already taken place and are taking place around the world, the risks posed by the degradation of global institutions, the erosion of collective security principles and the substitution of “rules” for international law. I was tempted to say “we are clear about who came up with these rules,” but, perhaps, that would not be an accurate statement. We have no idea whatsoever who made these rules up, what these rules are based on, or what is contained inside these rules.

It looks like we are witnessing an attempt to enforce just one rule whereby those in power – we were talking about power, and I am now talking about global power – could live without following any rules at all and could get away with anything. These are the rules that we hear them constantly, as people say, harping on, that is, talking about them incessantly

The Valdai discussions are important because a variety of assessments and forecasts can be heard here. Life always shows how accurate they were, since life is the sternest and the most objective teacher. So, life shows how accurate our previous years’ projections were.

Alas, events continue to follow a negative scenario, which we have discussed more than once during our previous meetings. Moreover, they have morphed into a major system-wide crisis that impacted, in addition to the military-political sphere, the economic and humanitarian spheres as well.

The so-called West which is, of course, a theoretical construct since it is not united and clearly is a highly complex conglomerate, but I will still say that the West has taken a number of steps in recent years and especially in recent months that are designed to escalate the situation. As a matter of fact, they always seek to aggravate matters, which is nothing new, either. This includes the stoking of war in Ukraine, the provocations around Taiwan, and the destabilisation of the global food and energy markets. To be sure, the latter was, of course, not done on purpose, there is no doubt about it. The destabilisation of the energy market resulted from a number of systemic missteps made by the Western authorities that I mentioned above. As we can see now, the situation was further aggravated by the destruction of the pan-European gas pipelines. This is something otherworldly altogether, but we are nevertheless witnessing these sad developments.

Global power is exactly what the so-called West has at stake in its game. But this game is certainly dangerous, bloody and, I would say, dirty. It denies the sovereignty of countries and peoples, their identity and uniqueness, and tramples upon other states’ interests. In any case, even if denial is the not the word used, they are doing it in real life. No one, except those who create these rules I have mentioned is entitled to retain their identity: everyone else must comply with these rules.

In this regard, let me remind you of Russia's proposals to our Western partners to build confidence and a collective security system. They were once again tossed in December 2021.

However, sitting things out can hardly work in the modern world. He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind, as the saying goes. The crisis has indeed taken on a global dimension and has impacted everyone. There can be no illusions about this.

Humankind is at a fork in the road: either keep accumulating problems and eventually get crushed under their weight, or work together to find solutions – even imperfect ones, as long as they work – that can make our world a more stable and safer place.

You know, I have always believed in the power of common sense. Therefore, I am convinced that sooner or later both the new centres of the multipolar international order and the West will have to start a dialogue on an equal footing about a common future for us all, and the sooner the better, of course. In this regard, I will highlight some of the most important aspects for all of us.

Current developments have overshadowed environmental issues. Strange as it may seem, this is what I would like to speak about first today. Climate change no longer tops the agenda. But that fundamental challenge has not gone away, it is still with us, and it is growing.

The loss of biodiversity is one of the most dangerous consequences of disrupting the environmental balance. This brings me to the key point all of us have gathered here for. Is it not equally important to maintain cultural, social, political and civilisational diversity?

At the same time, the smoothing out and erasure of all and any differences is essentially what the modern West is all about. What stands behind this? First of all, it is the decaying creative potential of the West and a desire to restrain and block the free development of other civilisations.

There is also an openly mercantile interest, of course. By imposing their values, consumption habits and standardisation on others, our opponents – I will be careful with words – are trying to expand markets for their products. The goal on this track is, ultimately, very primitive. It is notable that the West proclaims the universal value of its culture and worldview. Even if they do not say so openly, which they actually often do, they behave as if this is so, that it is a fact of life, and the policy they pursue is designed to show that these values must be unconditionally accepted by all other members of the international community.

I would like to quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s famous Harvard Commencement Address delivered in 1978. He said that typical of the West is “a continuous blindness of superiority”– and it continues to this day – which “upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present-day Western systems.” He said this in 1978. Nothing has changed.

Over the nearly 50 years since then, the blindness about which Solzhenitsyn spoke and which is openly racist and neocolonial, has acquired especially distorted forms, in particular, after the emergence of the so-called unipolar world. What am I referring to? Belief in one’s infallibility is very dangerous; it is only one step away from the desire of the infallible to destroy those they do not like, or as they say, to cancel them. Just think about the meaning of this word.

Even at the very peak of the Cold War, the peak of the confrontation of the two systems, ideologies and military rivalry, it did not occur to anyone to deny the very existence of the culture, art, and science of other peoples, their opponents. It did not even occur to anyone. Yes, certain restrictions were imposed on contacts in education, science, culture, and, unfortunately, sports. But nonetheless, both the Soviet and American leaders understood that it was necessary to treat the humanitarian area tactfully, studying and respecting your rival, and sometimes even borrowing from them in order to retain a foundation for sound, productive relations at least for the future.

And what is happening now? At one time, the Nazis reached the point of burning books, and now the Western “guardians of liberalism and progress” have reached the point of banning Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky. The so-called “cancel culture” and in reality – as we said many times – the real cancellation of culture is eradicating everything that is alive and creative and stifles free thought in all areas, be it economics, politics or culture.

Today, liberal ideology itself has changed beyond recognition. If initially, classic liberalism was understood to mean the freedom of every person to do and say as they pleased, in the 20th century the liberals started saying that the so-called open society had enemies and that the freedom of these enemies could and should be restricted if not cancelled. It has reached the absurd point where any alternative opinion is declared subversive propaganda and a threat to democracy.

Whatever comes from Russia is all branded as “Kremlin intrigues.” But look at yourselves. Are we really so all-powerful? Any criticism of our opponents – any – is perceived as “Kremlin intrigues,” “the hand of the Kremlin.” This is insane. What have you sunk to? Use your brain, at least, say something more interesting, lay out your viewpoint conceptually. You cannot blame everything on the Kremlin’s scheming.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky prophetically foretold all this back in the 19th century. One of the characters of his novel Demons, the nihilist Shigalev, described the bright future he imagined in the following way: “Emerging from boundless freedom, I conclude with boundless despotism.” This is what our Western opponents have come to. Another character of the novel, Pyotr Verkhovensky echoes him, talking about the need for universal treason, reporting and spying, and claiming that society does not need talents or greater abilities: “Cicero’s tongue is cut out, Copernicus has his eyes gouged out and Shakespeare is stoned.” This is what our Western opponents are arriving at. What is this if not Western cancel culture?

These were great thinkers and, frankly, I am grateful to my aides for finding these quotes.

What can one say to this? History will certainly put everything in its place and will know whom to cancel, and it will definitely not be the greatest works of universally recognised geniuses of world culture, but those who have for some reason decided that they have the right to use world culture as they see fit. Their self-regard really knows no bounds. No one will even remember their names in a few years. But Dostoevsky will live on, as will Tchaikovsky, Pushkin, no matter how much they would have liked the opposite.

Standardisation, financial and technological monopoly, the erasure of all differences is what underlies the Western model of globalisation, which is neocolonial in nature. Their goal was clear – to establish the unconditional dominance of the West in the global economy and politics. To do that, the West put at its service the entire planet’s natural and financial resources, as well as all intellectual, human and economic capabilities, while alleging it was a natural feature of the so-called new global interdependence.

Here I would like to recall another Russian philosopher, Alexander Zinoviev, whose birth centenary we will celebrate on October 29. More than 20 years ago, he said that Western civilisation needed the entire planet as a medium of existence and all the resources of humanity to survive at the level it had reached. That is what they want, that is exactly how it is.

Moreover, the West initially secured itself a huge head start in that system because it had developed the principles and mechanisms – the same as today’s rules they keep talking about, which remain an incomprehensible black hole because no one really knows what they are. But as soon as non-western countries began to derive some benefits from globalisation, above all, the large nations in Asia, the West immediately changed or fully abolished many of those rules. And the so-called sacred principles of free trade, economic openness, equal competition, even property rights were suddenly forgotten, completely. They change the rules on the go, on the spot wherever they see an opportunity for themselves.

Here is another example of the substitution of concepts and meanings. For many years, Western ideologists and politicians have been telling the world there was no alternative to democracy. Admittedly, they meant the Western-style, the so-called liberal model of democracy. They arrogantly rejected all other variants and forms of government by the people and, I want to emphasise this, did so contemptuously and disdainfully. This manner has been taking shape since colonial times, as if everyone were second-rate, while they were exceptional. It has been going on for centuries and continues to this day.

So currently, an overwhelming majority of the international community is demanding democracy in international affairs and rejecting all forms of authoritarian dictate by individual countries or groups of countries. What is this if not the direct application of democratic principles to international relations?

What stance has the “civilised” West adopted? If you are democrats, you are supposed to welcome the natural desire for freedom expressed by billions of people, but no. The West is calling it undermining the liberal rules-based order. It is resorting to economic and trade wars, sanctions, boycotts and colour revolutions, and preparing and carrying out all sorts of coups.

One of them led to tragic consequences in Ukraine in 2014. They supported it and even specified the amount of money they had spent on this coup. They have the cheek to act as they please and have no scruples about anything they do. They killed Soleimani, an Iranian general. You can think whatever you want about Soleimani, but he was a foreign state official. They killed him in a third country and assumed responsibility. What is that supposed to mean, for crying out loud? What kind of world are we living in?

As is customary, Washington continues to refer to the current international order as liberal American-style, but in fact, this notorious “order” is multiplying chaos every day and, I might even add, is becoming increasingly intolerant even towards the Western countries and their attempts to act independently. Everything is nipped in the bud, and they do not even hesitate to impose sanctions on their allies, who lower their heads in acquiescence.

For example, the Hungarian MPs’ July proposals to codify the commitment to European Christian values and culture in the Treaty on European Union were taken not even as an affront, but as an outright and hostile act of sabotage. What is that? What does it mean? Indeed, some people may like it, some not.

Over a thousand years, Russia has developed a unique culture of interaction between all world religions. There is no need to cancel anything, be it Christian values, Islamic values or Jewish values. We have other world religions as well. All you need to do is respect each other. In a number of our regions – I just know this firsthand – people celebrate Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Jewish holidays together, and they enjoy doing so as they congratulate each other and are happy for each other.

But not here. Why not? At least, they could discuss it. Amazing.

Without exaggeration, this is not even a systemic, but a doctrinal crisis of the neoliberal American-style model of international order. They have no ideas for progress and positive development. They simply have nothing to offer the world, except perpetuating their dominance.

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The second speech was retrieved from http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/69681 and was given by teleconference to the Council of Heads of the CIS Security and Intelligence Agencies (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with  Turkmenistan as an "associated" state and Mongolia as an "observer" state).

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First of all, I would like to say that over the past years the Council has become a highly popular venue for discussing a broad range of professional issues, coordinating strategic decisions on protecting our states and the Commonwealth of Independent States as a whole from internal and external threats.

Our joint efforts are especially important now. The potential for conflict remains very high both in the world as a whole and at the regional level. We see the rise of new risks and challenges to our collective security.

This is caused above all by a dramatic aggravation in global geopolitical confrontation. The world is changing and becoming multipolar before our very eyes. However, some members of the international community are doing everything in their power to preserve their faltering hegemony and to this end, they are using various political, military, economic, information and other methods and means, from destroying the legal framework of strategic stability to adopting unilateral sanctions against those who reject their policy.

They do not even stop short of openly subversive actions. I am referring to the explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines. This actually amounts to the destruction of the common European energy infrastructure. This is being done, although, to put it mildly, these methods are doing colossal damage to the European economy and are seriously impairing the quality of life for millions of people. And besides, they are keeping silent about who has done this and who stands to gain from it.

Some countries have long been using the tactics of blackmail, pressure and intimidation throughout the CIS space. In particular, attempts continue to be made to implement ‘colour revolution’ scenarios, methods involving nationalism and extremism are employed, and armed conflicts, which directly threaten the security of all CIS members, are being stoked.

We can see the goals of those who are doing this in Ukraine, which has been made an instrument of US foreign policy. The country has actually lost its sovereignty and is being directly governed by the United States, which is using it as a battering ram against Russia, Belarus, which is a member of our Union State, and the CSTO and the CIS in general.

At the same time, we can see the United States’ real attitude to its client states. Ukraine was almost immediately turned into a testing site for military biological experiments and is being flooded with weapons, including heavy weaponry, without any heed to the Kiev regime’s statements about its desire to obtain nuclear weapons. The Kiev authorities have declared this desire publicly, but everyone keeps silent. We also know about their plans to use a so-called “dirty bomb” as a provocation.

As for threats in the CIS space, I would like to say that the level of threat coming from ISIL, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations has not decreased. They are trying to infiltrate CIS countries and are creating undercover cells, while the concentration of terrorist groups in Afghanistan, especially on the borders of Central Asian states, certainly carries the potential risk of invasion in the region.

It is obvious that the CIS as a whole and its individual states have never faced such comprehensive threats before. It is therefore our common task to protect our nations from them as much as possible, to strengthen stability and peace in the CIS space and to continue to promote mutually beneficial integration processes, which have provided an example of truly partner relations over the past decades.

We must make use of all the forces and means available to us to fulfil these tasks. Of course, we must also make the fullest possible use of our experience and contacts, which, as we have seen more than once, are noticeably increasing the potential and efficiency of each of our agencies.

One of the priority tasks is to jointly counter any attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the CIS countries. We know what this is. To resist it, we must more actively reveal and curb the work of foreign secret services, aimed at destabilising the situation in each individual CIS member-state.

It is also important to continue our coordinated systemic struggle against terrorism. Recently, there has been positive dynamics in this respect. Thus, terrorist crimes, including acts of terror have gone down in practically all CIS states.

It is necessary to continue developing counterterrorism cooperation. In particular, we must continue to exchange information on persons taking part in or suspected of terrorist and extremist activities. We must focus on revealing and blocking terrorist infiltration channels under the cover of migration flows, including the spread of foreign mercenaries with combat experience, which poses a serious threat to us.

The black market in arms operating in Ukraine is creating serious challenges. Cross-border criminal groups are actively involved in smuggling these arms to other regions. These are not just small arms. There is a persistent risk of criminals getting hold of more powerful weapons, including portable air defence systems and precision weapons.

Furthermore, the act of terror on the Crimean Bridge and sabotage attempts at the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant – after all, such attacks have already been carried out around it – and many other incidents show the need to take enhanced security measures at critical transport and energy facilities. These facilities and crowded places must be protected as reliably as possible in the first place.

Some tasks remain as urgent as before. This applies to countering cybercrime and drug trafficking, eliminating cross-border criminal groups and, of course, developing cooperation in protecting state frontiers.

I am confident that the current meeting will help us implement our common mission on enhancing the security of our countries and the CIS in general. It will certainly improve the joint activity of our secret services aimed at neutralising common threats.

Colleagues and friends,

I wish you success in your very important work that is complicated but very much in demand.

I am grateful for your attention.

Thank you.

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Some tasks remain as urgent as before. This applies to countering cybercrime and drug trafficking, eliminating cross-border criminal groups and, of course, developing cooperation in protecting state frontiers.

This is an interesting statement. I would expect that most of the cross-border groups that operate on the Russian border are Russian Mafia. 

Is Putin making moves against the Russian Mafia?

Reading a dictator's text without a commentary feels like looking at a Rorschach picture; everyone will make a different conclusion, based on what they already believed. ("Yes, he is obviously right about X, why don't people listen to him more?" "Lol, he keeps repeating his transparent lies about X.") So, here is my commentary:

The West is accused of escalating the situation by invading Ukraine and destabilizing global food markets. Uhm, is perhaps this the thing they call projection?

I agree with the part about destabilizing energy markets. Technically, any major change is destabilizing, and some countries are trying to change their current dependence on Russia's oil.

The West "denies the sovereignty of countries and peoples, their identity and uniqueness, and tramples upon other states’ interests." Uhm, projection again? Unless he only refers to Russia and its interest in expansion; that unique part of Russian identity has indeed been recently trampled upon very insensitively.

"He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind, as the saying goes." Upvoted. The problem is, Putin does not seem to realize how the recent popularity of kicking Russia might be related to Russia's own behavior during the last hundred years. The most belligerent attitudes do not come from USA but from Poland. One might wonder why.

"I am convinced that sooner or later both the new centres of the multipolar international order and the West will have to start a dialogue on an equal footing about a common future for us all, and the sooner the better, of course."

This is a fascinating framing, not just in this speech, but when listening to Russia's apologists in general. The world where countries get rid of Russia's yoke (such as the former Warsaw Pact members) is described as a dark totalitarian world with no choice and no freedom. On the other hand, stronger Russia is a good thing, because it makes the world more diverse, pluralistic, multipolar, which is inherently a good thing. (I am almost imagining Putin waving a giant rainbow flag when he says this.)

"Over a thousand years, Russia has developed a unique culture of interaction between all world religions. There is no need to cancel anything, be it Christian values, Islamic values or Jewish values. We have other world religions as well. All you need to do is respect each other."

Note that this was said about a culture that produced The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, had a military pact with Nazi Germany; where the patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church is a former KGB agent who supports Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, blaming the conflict on Catholics and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; where 250000 Chechens were killed recently, officially as a response for a staged terrorist attack. I can hardly imagine a more respectful behavior towards Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

"At one time, the Nazis reached the point of burning books, and now the Western “guardians of liberalism and progress” have reached the point of banning Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky." Projection again? Russian armies currently destroying museums and monuments in Ukraine. (It is also weird that Putin chose Tchaikovsky as an example of Russian culture, considering Tchaikovsky's Ukrainian ancestry.)

"I am referring to the explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines. This actually amounts to the destruction of the common European energy infrastructure. This is being done, although, to put it mildly, these methods are doing colossal damage to the European economy and are seriously impairing the quality of life for millions of people." Greetings from Europe! Thank you for your concern, we are doing fine.

"Ukraine was almost immediately turned into a testing site for military biological experiments". Wow.

"We also know about their plans to use a so-called “dirty bomb” as a provocation." According to the recent news, Putin was strongly advised to drop this "Ukraine, stop hitting yourself with dirty bombs" line, and he obeyed. Now sure if all his fans got the memo.

It is also weird that Putin chose Tchaikovsky as an example of Russian culture, considering Tchaikovsky's Ukrainian ancestry.

I would expect that the elite Russian audience that Putin speaks to knows that. I don't think ancestsry is a problem for Putin, it fits into his idea that Ukraine is really Russian. 

The background seems to be https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/mar/09/cardiff-philharmonic-orchestra-removes-tchaikovsky-over-ukraine-conflict and https://www.mic.com/culture/dostoevsky-banned-russia-ukraine

had a military pact with Nazi Germany

This particular statement is extremely low-epistemics, but it's also a broader problem throughout this comment and throughout modern civilization as a whole. I definitely owe you this explanation (since you taught me the dark truth of math a couple months ago): the human race is even worse at teaching human history than teaching math, 

Classrooms can't teach fake math, certainly not for 10 consecutive years. Sure, they can't torture young children with history the way they do with math, but if someone can't perform basic calculations then that gets noticed and solved pretty quick. With history, nobody ever learns any of the basic calculations unless from an outside source.

The nice thing about history education is that, unlike math education. you can actually undo most of the losses with a couple hours of reading interesting books. These are the books that are most recommended, they are only two chapters each.

  • The first two chapters of Schelling's Arms and Influence (1966), which is on JSTOR. It explains the strategic logic of why being willing to escalate makes your side stronger, even if the aggression is ramped up to a deranged extent.
  • The first two chapters of Mearshimer's Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2014), which is not on JSTOR. It explains the strategic logic of why countries choose aggressive and violent foreign policies in the first place, and how much they value strength relative to risking self-destruction.

Would you be willing to summarize the point you're making at the object level? Is it something like "the Soviets had to make the Molotov Ribbentrop pact, and that doesn't say anything meaningful about their cultural approach to the interaction of world religions"? I don't want to put words in your mouth or anything,  I just want to understand the "extremely low-epistemics" bit.

It's something I'm not really comfortable talking about with anonymous people on the internet. I'm really sorry for the inefficiency, but I've done as much as I can to share as much as I can.

I think it's understandable not wanting to talk about present conflicts openly. I'm more surprised about your feeling that you can't openly talk about what happened more than 50 years ago.

Can you say more about why you believe it's hard to talk about history?

Both of the books are on lib gen. I would expect that this matters for more people than JSTOR.

If you think there are some reasonable points mixed in there and are curious for a more academic take I would recommend The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell

Bear in mind that foreign authoritarian presidents are generally not considered reliable sources of information

I don't think the "foreign authoritarian" qualifier is necessary here...

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