Preamble by The Saker: Normally the meetings of the Russian Security Council are held behind closed doors. This time, however, the press was allowed in just to record the beginning of the opening remarks of Vladimir Putin. Then the press was asked to leave. Clearly, this is intended as a message to the Russian people. I have bolded out the part which appear the most important to me.
Transcript of President Vladimir Putin’s Opening Remarks
Good afternoon, colleagues.
Today we will consider the fundamental issues of maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. We all understand how many political, ethnic, legal, social, economic and other aspects this topic encompasses.
Sovereignty and territorial integrity are fundamental values, as I have already said. We are referring to the maintenance of the independence and unity of our state, to the reliable protection of our territory, our constitutional system and to the timely neutralization of internal and external threats, of which there are quite a few in the world today. I should make it clear from the start that, obviously, there is no direct military threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. Primarily, the strategic balance of forces in the world guarantees this.
We, on our part, strictly comply with the norms of international law and with our commitments to our partners, and we expect other countries, unions of states and military-political alliances to do the same, while Russia is fortunately not a member of any alliance. This is also a guarantee of our sovereignty.
Any nation that is part of an alliance gives up part of its sovereignty. This does not always meet the national interests of a given country, but this is their sovereign decision. We expect our national legal interests to be respected, while any controversies that always exist, to be resolved only through diplomatic efforts, by means of negotiations. Nobody should interfere in our internal affairs.
However, ever more frequently today we hear of ultimatums and sanctions. The very notion of state sovereignty is being washed out. Undesirable regimes, countries that conduct an independent policy or that simply stand in the way of somebody’s interests get destabilized. Tools used for this purpose are the so-called color revolutions, or, in simple terms – takeovers instigated and financed from the outside.
The focus is of course on internal problems. Any country always has plenty of problems, especially the more unstable states, or states with a complicated regime. Problems do exist, still it is not clear why they should be used to destabilize and break down a country – something we see rather frequently in various parts of the world.
Frequently the forces used here are radical, nationalist, often even neo-fascist, fundamentalist forces, as was the case, unfortunately, in many post-Soviet states, and as is the case with Ukraine now. What we see is practically the same thing.
People came to power through the use of armed force and by unconstitutional means. True, they held elections after the takeover, however, for some strange reason, power ended up again in the hands of those who either funded or carried out this takeover. Meanwhile, without any attempt at negotiations, they are trying to suppress by force that part of the population that does not agree with such a turn of events.
At the same time, they present Russia with an ultimatum: either you let us destroy the part of the population that is ethnically, culturally and historically close to Russia, or we introduce sanctions against you. This is a strange logic, and absolutely unacceptable, of course.
As for the terrible tragedy that occurred in the sky above Donetsk – we would like once again to express our condolences to the families of the victims; it is a terrible tragedy. Russia will do everything within its power to ensure a proper comprehensive and transparent investigation. We are asked to influence the militia in the southeast. As I have said, we will do everything in our power, but this is absolutely insufficient.
Yesterday when the militia forces were handing over the so-called black boxes, the armed forces of Ukraine launched a tank attack at the city of Donetsk. The tanks battled through to the railway station and opened fire at it. International experts who came to investigate the disaster site could not stick their heads out. It was clearly not the militia forces shooting at themselves.
We should finally call on the Kiev authorities to comply with elementary norms of human decency and introduce a cease-fire for at least some short period of time to make the investigation possible. We will of course do everything in our power to make sure the investigation is thorough.
This is exactly why Russia supported the [UN] Security Council Resolution proposed by Australia. We will continue working together with all our partners to ensure a complete and comprehensive investigation. However, if we get back to such scenarios in general, as I have said, they are absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive. They destabilize the existing world order.
Undoubtedly, such methods will not work with Russia. The recipes used regarding weaker states fraught with internal conflict will not work with us. Our people, the citizens of Russia will not let this happen and will never accept this.
However, attempts are clearly being made to destabilize the social and economic situation, to weaken Russia in one way or another or to strike at our weaker spots, and they will continue primarily to make us more agreeable in resolving international issues.
So-called international competition mechanisms are being used as well (this applies to both politics and the economy); for this purpose the special services’ capabilities are used, along with modern information and communication technologies and dependent, puppet non-governmental organizations – so-called soft force mechanisms. This, obviously, is how some countries understand democracy.
We have to give an adequate response to such challenges, and, most importantly, to continue working in a systematic way to resolve the issues that carry a potential risk for the unity of our country and our society.
In the past few years, we have strengthened our state and public institutions, the basics of Russian federalism, and we have made progress in regional development, in resolving economic and social tasks. Our law enforcement agencies and special services have become more efficient in combating terrorism and extremism; we are forming a modern basis of our ethnic policy, adjusting approaches to education; we are constantly combating corruption – all this guarantees our security and sovereignty.
At the same time, we should keep these issues in mind. If necessary, we have to quickly develop and implement additional measures. We need to have a long-term plan of action in these areas, strategic documents and resolutions.
In this regard, I would like to draw attention to several priority challenges.
The first is working consistently to strengthen inter-ethnic harmony, ensure a competent migration policy, and react rigidly to inactions by officials and crimes that may be triggered by inter-ethnic conflicts.
These are challenges for all levels of government, from the federal to the municipal. And, of course, it is extremely important for our civil society to take an active position and react to infringements on human rights and freedoms, helping to prevent radicalism and extremism.
We are particularly relying on civil society for effective help in improving the system of state governance with regard to ethnic policy and educating young people about the spirit of patriotism and responsibility for the fate of their Fatherland, which is particularly important. We discussed this in great detail recently at a meeting of the Council for Inter-Ethnic Relations.
By the way, I want to clearly state that – with the help of the civil society – we will never entertain the thought of improving our work in these areas solely by cracking down, so to speak. We will not do that under any circumstances; we will rely on civil society, first and foremost.
Our second important challenge is protecting constitutional order. Constitutional supremacy and economic and legal unity must be ensured throughout all of Russia. Federal standards as defined by the Constitution are inviolable and nobody has the right to break the law and infringe on citizens’ rights.
It is important for all Russians, regardless of where they live, to have equal rights and equal opportunities. This is the foundation for a democratic system. We must rigorously observe these Constitutional principles, and to do this, we must build a clear system of state authority, striving to ensure that all its components function as a united whole, precisely and systemically; this should include increasing local authorities’ role as part of Russia’s overall government mechanism. And naturally, reinforcing the efficacy of the work of the judicial system, the prosecutors, and the regulatory and supervisory authorities should strengthen Russia’s statehood.
The third key challenge is sustainable and balanced economic and social development. At the same time, it is fundamentally important to take into account territorial and regional factors. I mean that we must ensure priority development for strategically important regions, including in the Far East and other areas; we must simultaneously reduce drastic gaps between regions in terms of the economic situation and people’s living standards. All this needs to be taken into account when developing federal and sectorial programmes, improving inter-budgetary relations and building plans to develop infrastructure, selecting locations for new plants and creating modern jobs.
I also feel that we must think about additional steps to decrease the dependence of the national economy and financial system on negative external factors. I am not just referring to instability in global markets, but possible political risks as well.
Fourth, our Armed Forces remain the most important guarantor of our sovereignty and Russia’s territorial integrity. We will react appropriately and proportionately to the approach of NATO’s military infrastructure toward our borders, and we will not fail to notice the expansion of global missile defense systems and increases in the reserves of strategic non-nuclear precision weaponry.
We are often told that the ABM system is a defense system. But that’s not the case. This is an offensive system; it is part of the offensive defense system of the United States on the periphery. Regardless of what our foreign colleagues say, we can clearly see what is actually happening: groups of NATO troops are clearly being reinforced in Eastern European states, including in the Black and Baltic seas. And the scale and intensity of operational and combat training is growing. In this regard, it is imperative to implement all planned measures to strength our nation’s defence capacity fully and on schedule, including, of course, in Crimea and Sevastopol, where essentially we need to fully recreate the military infrastructure.