What and why of the speeches of the Russian and American presidents
It’s not every day that we hear the speeches of the American and Russian presidents within 24 hours. President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation on September 21, followed by President Joe Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 22. For a student of international relations, it’s an absolute treat to hear first-hand from the leaders of the two locked nations. in a great power struggle and global conflict. Naturally, Biden had to talk about multilateral issues concerning the United States and the world, but it was his response to some of the comments Putin made during his speech the day before that made this phenomenon from time to time very interesting. and counter-speech. within 24 hours by these leaders.
Putin was very focused, determined and precise during his seven-minute speech. He spoke about Ukraine’s positive response to Russian proposals during the Istanbul talks which did not materialize because he considers that these proposals did not suit the West and therefore the West ended up pumping more of arms and mercenaries in the theater of operations to fight against Russia. Putin accused the US of repeating what it did in 1991 – playing a major role in the disintegration of the USSR. He told his people that the plan remained the same: to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy Russia. He accused the West of building for decades an anti-Russian beachhead and of committing genocide against the people of the breakaway Ukrainian republics who refused to accept and recognize the Ukrainian government supported and imposed by the West in 2014.
Putin told his nation that Lugansk has been completely liberated and operations will continue for the liberation of Donetsk, stressing that Russia will not back down to pursue its main goal – the liberation of the entire Donbass region. He also said that the combined population of the Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhe region was 7.5 million, which after the displacement of people was reduced to 5 million people. However, the President said that Russia will do everything to create safe conditions for holding the referendum that the parliaments of these states have decided to hold. He linked the call for military reservists to the fact that Russia was now fighting a 1,000 km long line of contact against the military machine that had absolute support from all of the West. Accusing the West of using nuclear blackmail as some senior NATO officials threatened to use WMD against Russia, he said the West had gone too far in its aggressive anti-Russian policy. Putin said his country had a different type of weaponry than the West and threatened to use all weapon systems if it came to defending Russia’s territorial integrity, insisting: ” It’s not a bluff.”
President Biden was very clear about how he responded to what Putin said during his speech. He called the war in Ukraine brutal and pointless, chosen by one man. He accused Russia of shamelessly violating key upholders of the UN charter, one of them being to take control of your neighbors’ territory by force. He expressed unwavering solidarity with Ukraine and pointed the finger at Russia for its irresponsible nuclear threat and said that if this war was to end, it had to end under just conditions.
Listening to the two speeches, the immediate impression one has is that Russia will not bow down; he will not yield to any economic or military pressure that the West tries to put in place. There is also the impression that with the call-up of Russian military reservists, military commitments will further intensify and may increase in size and proportion.
The United States is a global hegemon and has, under the guise of upholding international law and safeguarding international rules, metaphorically taken over the role of a preacher who thinks his audience is unfamiliar with his own past indulgence. American history is full of examples where it has violated international laws and rules; interfered in the affairs of other countries; waged unnecessary wars; makes arms sales to the enemies of his adversaries; promoted color revolutions; plotted coups; launched attacks against countries without UN authorization; executed special military operations to assassinate targets in violation of the sovereignty of other countries; established military bases and deployed offensive weapons to threaten the security of other countries; maintained illegal detention centers; and pardoned its armed forces personnel and employees of private security companies like Black Water who have committed massacres and war crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States would top the list of countries violating international rules and laws and get away with it without being held responsible; and this is what causes the resentment of the other two great powers – Russia and China – who can challenge American hegemony.
In Biden’s speech, one can find the “what” of the Russian-Ukrainian war, but it is in Putin’s speech that the “why” of this war is described. The pointlessness, the brutality, the one-man choice and the forceful takeover of neighbor’s territory are all the “whats” of President Biden’s speech that the whole world will appreciate, but it is extremely important that the everyone understands “why” Putin does what he does. His motivation stems from the story of how Russia was repeatedly invaded in the past; and although this time it is not the classic attempt by the West to invade Russia, but the current encirclement of Russia by NATO, the reduction of Russia’s buffer zones on its borders and the countries renouncing to their historic wartime neutrality and joining NATO which are considerable geostrategic threats justifying a Russian strategic response. The likely future militarization of the Baltic and the Black Sea with NATO military machinery and the encroachment of the West on the Russian sphere of influence are compelling enough grounds for Russia to take all preventive measures to ensure its safety and security. Would the United States not do the same if it were not a maritime power protected by the Atlantic on one side and the Pacific on the other, rather than a land power like Russia which has vulnerable borders that it must guard?
The United States and the West must understand the geopolitical insecurities of Russia and China. Instead of posing as the global defender and messiah of international laws and rules, what the United States needs to do is find the right impetus to engage with Russia. Both world leaders must see the big picture because it is only through engagement and dialogue that the deterioration of the economic, political and military conditions of this war can be averted.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25e2022.