Putin’s presidential address: Its meaning and ramifications for the World Order | The Financial Express

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For Putin, the criticism of the West is taking a cultural-hegemonic turn when he is targeting their value systems that are contradicting the Russian ones, such as same-sex marriages, etc.

Putin’s presidential address: Its meaning and ramifications for the World OrderPutin’s speech indicates a counter-hegemonic movement emerging, manifesting total abhorrence of the Western order

By Rajoli Siddharth Jayaprakash & Ayushi Saini

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent presidential address has sparked intense analysis and discussion, particularly in light of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the recent visit of US President Joe Biden to Kyiv. It came three days before Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine entered its second year. The speech also came at a time when Biden paid a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to express his support. Biden’s speech came one hour after Putin’s speech, condemning Moscow’s “brutal” assault on a sovereign country Ukraine. Putin highlighted the difficult times the Russian people were living in. Putin targeted the military-industrial complexes of NATO states that are arming the Ukrainians and have allegedly occupied the country. His speech is indicative of being addressed to the Russian military, as the uniformed soldiers were invited directly from the frontiers of Moscow’s “Special military operation” in Ukraine. Invoking a civilizational argument, as highlighted by Samuel P. Huntington in his ‘Clash of Civilizations’, Russia continues to export the historical narrative of Russia and Ukraine being the same entity under the Russian orthodox church. The Russian state considers the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as non-existent, as they declared full independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. Putin’s criticism of the West also includes a strong critique of Christianity. Putin mentioned the abuse of power and the silence of the Vatican for pedophilia and sexual assault. For Putin, the criticism of the West is taking a cultural-hegemonic turn when he is targeting their value systems that are contradicting the Russian ones, such as same-sex marriages, etc.

Putin then went on to highlight the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy. Unlike other speeches, we saw a more robust response to the imposition of sanctions, which Putin terms ‘economic warfare.’ Putin reiterates here the economy has developed an adaptive efficiency, that he protected his citizens from unemployment, and was able to commence import substitution policies. To improve morale, Putin thanked the Russian soldiers for their service in Ukraine and thanked the Russian people for their donations from their modest incomes while dissuading the Russian businesses from relying on western consumers and suppliers; instead, he called for increased investment in Russia. The speech also indicates economic issues, notably mentioning that western sanctions have not affected the Russian economy and have significantly failed. In the social realm of the new territories, a new economic recovery program has begun, restoring production facilities and jobs and building transport infrastructure. The speech is indicative of a counter-hegemonic move, or in other words, information warfare, as conventional options are not bearing much fruit for the Russian forces in Ukraine.

He next emphasized upon conducting local and regional elections in 2023 and Presidential elections in 2024. Seeing a long-drawn war in Ukraine and to limit western military aid to Ukraine, Russia has suspended the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty called New START. New START is a bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia that entered into force on February 5, 2011. The treaty limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to 700. Putin said, “I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty.” It is important to note that it is a suspension, not a withdrawal. Seeing a lack of cooperation in the nuclear realm and non-stop aid reaching Kyiv from the West, suspending Russia’s membership from new START is a posture of nuclear signaling demanding de-escalation or possibly pushing the West to force Ukraine to negotiate table; to make Russia’s salami-slicing operation a de jure one. To legitimize Donbass transfer of sovereignty to Moscow, this indication of escalation also is manifested by a decree signed by Putin in putting new ground-based strategic complexes on combat duty. In addition to stating that he had instructed his military and civilian atomic energy agency to prepare for potential nuclear testing, Putin further noted that such action would be taken in response to any new tests conducted by the United States.

Putin’s speech to be indicating towards invoking historical Russian questions. The address shows the reaffirmation of the Russian holy trinity- Orthodox, Autocracy, and Nationality. Tsar Nicolas adapted these three elements in 1832, which shaped Russia’s national identity, cultural heritage, and political system, making Russia a distinctive and fascinating country that continues to influence global affairs to this day.

Putin’s speech indicates a counter-hegemonic movement emerging, manifesting total abhorrence of the Western order and values since the invasion; we see Putin dialing down on LGBTQ rights and veering away from the Western markets by looking Eastward with increasing sanctions on Russia. As Russia becomes more excluded from the Western order, the Russian state embraces its ontological prior, emphasizing the historical legacies inherited from the USSR and the Russian empire. The legacies include the ‘time of troubles’, where the Russian lands were constantly unstable for 15 years in the 16th century when the Russian crown changed hands six times. And in the case of the Soviet Union, the great patriotic war where roughly 8.6 million died in the war fought against the Nazis. These periods of resilience are profoundly imbibed in the Russian memory and often invoked to attain legitimacy for Russian actions. Therefore, one can observe Russia’s cultural distancing is directly proportional to the West’s marginal increase of involvement in Ukraine.

In the aftermath of one year of Vladimir Putin’s special operation, the trajectory of the conflict remains unclear. However, what remains evident is that this conflict will take time to fissile out, and Putin’s speech indicates Moscow’s ambitions of sustaining the conflict in the hope of attaining regional hegemony in the Eurasian region.

The authors are PhD Scholars in the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.

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