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Putin Withdraws Russia from Nuclear Treaty - Speech Summary
Sadly, given the emotiveness of this issue I have to start with a disclaimer that I translate Putin’s speeches not out of agreement but out of the desire to communicate to people in the West what his stated motivations are. While I oppose the invasion of Ukraine the summary below is a faithful translation and paraphrasing of the speech, with certain parts omitted to make it more readable. These parts are mostly where he is addressing a domestic audience which is unlikely to be of interest to a Western reader.
I provide limited context where I believe it is particularly relevant.
Vladimir Putin opens by saying that he is speaking at a difficult time for Russia when the world stands on the threshold of radical, sweeping changes. These historic times, he says, will determine the future of our country and our people.
He repeats the claims he made in previous speeches that the invasion of 2022 was to protect people in historically Russian lands, defend Russia, neutralise the “neo-Nazi” threat posed by Ukraine and says that Russia will continue to “carefully” and “persistently” work to achieve its objectives.
He explains that the Donbass “survived” in the face of shelling and a “blockade” since 2014 and wanted Russia’s help. (applause)
We tried to resolve this problem peacefully, he says, but Western leaders lied to us. He lists a number of alleged misdemeanours by Western leaders, including “turning a blind eye to political assasinations”.
The West trained Ukrainian officers and provided weapons. This was part of their plan to use the “enslaved” Ukrainian state to lay the groundwork for their “big war”. And they openly boast of tricking us with Minsk etc.
Over their many decades of colonialism, imperialism and hegemony they have become accustomed to doing whatever they want and spitting the world in the face. They lie to their own populations just as they lie to us.
Western elites have become a symbol for wholesale, unashamed dishonesty.
We remain firmly of the view that the modern world must not be split into “civilised” countries and the rest. We believe in honest partnerships that cannot be based on any, especially aggressive, exceptionalism.
For years, we argued that Europe and the world as a whole need an indisivible international security system based on the equality of all parties. The response was mumbling or outright dishonesty, and in the practical realm we got NATO expansion towards our borders and new anti-missile sites in Europe and Asia - they think they can protect themselves from us with this “umbrella”.
No other nation has hundreds of military bases around the world like the US. Just look at the map. They unilaterally withdrew from missile treaties that were designed to maintain peace on our planet. Why did they do this? As we know, there is always a reason behind their actions.
In December 2021, we formally sent draft security treaties to the US and NATO. They openly rejected virtually every point that was important to us. That’s when it became clear that they’re got the green light to follow an aggressive path and have no intention of stopping. By February 2022, it was clear that plans were in place for another bloody punitive expedition into the Donbass.
In 2014, Ukraine attacked the Donbass with artillery, tanks and aircraft. We saw the pictures. In 2015, they again tried to directly attacked the Donbass in direct violation of UN Resolutions on this issue. Everyone turned a blind eye.
Let me say it again: They started this war. And we’re using force to stop it. (applause)
The people who wanted to attack the Donbass intended their next step to be an assault on the Crimea and Sevastopol (major strategic military port occupied and annexed by Russia in 2014). WE KNEW ABOUT THIS!
People in Kiev were talking openly about it…well, they showed us their hand, not that we didn’t know their plans anyway.
We are defending our people and our home, whereas what the West wants is unbridled power. They’ve already spent $150 billion to prop up the regime in Kiev. This is nearly 3 times what they gave to the poorest countries according to the OECD.
They’re also happy to splash out on creating instability and funding revolutions in countries around the world. According to the Americans’ own figures, the wars they’ve started since 2001 have killed over 900,000 people and caused 38 million people to become refugees. And now they want to pretend none of this ever happened.
They paint us as the enemy to distract from their own economic and social problems as they supress the resulting dissent.
Let me remind you that in the 1930s, the West opened the door to power for the Nazis. And now, they’re turning Ukraine into “anti-Russia”. This isn’t new - if you study history, you know that this project goes back to the 19th century when the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland and other countries kept fanning these flames. For one reason and one reason alone: to rip these historically Russian lands, which are currently called “Ukraine”, away from our country.
The West forced this to a head by supporting the “bloody” overthrow of the Government in 2014. They even announced how much they spent on it.
They laid Russophobia and an aggressive nationalism as the foundation of this new project, even naming one of their military brigades “Edelweiss” like the Nazi unit which committed numerous atrocities during WW2.
(For context, many countries in the region, including Russia itself, have military and other units called Edelweiss after the flower, not the Nazi unit, see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/64718139)
They (the West) fund them with zero interest in who it is they’re supporting. To them, all that matters is that they’re willing to fight Russia. They’ll use terrorists, Nazis, even the Devil, as long as he is willing to serve as a weapon against Russia.
Like in the 1930s, the intention is to direct aggression eastwards and use someone else to eliminate their competitors.
As I’ve said many times, we are not fighting the people of Ukraine, who have themselves become hostage to the Kiev regime and its western paymasters, who have effectively occupied the country politically, military and economically. They spent decades destroying Ukrainian industry and pillaging its natural resources which predictably led to social problems and huge jumps in poverty and inequality.
Responsibility for starting the conflict in Ukraine and its escalation lies solely and squarely at the feet of Western elites, and, of course, the current regime in Kiev to whom the Ukrainian people are not their own. The Kiev regime serves the interests of other countries instead of its own.
They’re using Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia and as a testing ground for their weaponry. I won’t dwell on their attempts to change the course of the conflict other than to say that the longer the range of the weapons they provide Ukraine, the further we will be forced to push this threat away from our borders. (applause)
Western elites do not hide their true intentions - as they say, they want to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia. What does this mean for us? They want to end us and turn a local conflict into a global stand-off. That is our understanding of what is going on and we’ll react accordingly.
They know that Russia cannot be defeated on the field of battle so they’ve increased their attacks in the field of information. They’re particularly targetting young people by misrepresenting history, attacking Russian culture and Orthodox Christianity.
Look at what they’re doing to their own societies: destroying the institution of the family, cultural identity, perversion and abuse of children up to and including paedophilia being described as “normal”.
They force priests to bless homosexual marriages - fine, let them do whatever they want. Our view is and has always been in Russia that adults can live however they want. We do not interfere in their private lives but what I want to say to them is “Look at the Holy Bible or the sacred texts of other religions. They’re clear as day. The family is the union between a man and a woman plus children” (unlike previous applause which seemed somewhat “invited” and unenthusiastic, at this point the audience erupts in spontaneous applause).
The Anglican church is considering, thankfully just considering for now, the idea of a gender neutral God. What can I say? Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do. (applause)
Millions of people in the West see the spiritual catastrophe their societies are being led towards. The elites are going crazy but that is their problem. What we have to do is defend our children from this degradation and degeneracy.
It’s clear that the West will try to destabilise our country by backing domestic traitors who have always had a poisonous contempt for their Fatherland and are willing to get rich by spreading this poison to those who are willing to buy it. These traitors commit acts of terrorism and other crimes to undermine our security and the integrity of our country - they will be held responsible under the law. But we will never lower ourselves to the standards of the Kiev regime and Western elites who engage in witch hunts.
(For reference, calling the invasion of Ukraine a “war” is currently illegal in Russia and punishable by up to 15 years in prison. https://www.npr.org/2022/03/05/1084729579/russian-law-bans-journalists-from-calling-ukraine-conflict-a-war-or-an-invasion)
(He spends a few minutes on thanking the nation and everyone fighting for their courage and support, including supportive conflict reporters and industry. He also thanks the people of the newly annexed regions of Russia to a standing ovation. He spends a few more minutes promising economic development of these regions: “Together we’ve become stronger”)
He spends a good chunk of time responding to the concerns of families of fallen soldiers and veterans by announcing a new fund. (According to numerous media reports and discontent in Russia, widows and veterans themselves have struggled to obtain the payments they’re owed. Numerous critics of the regime, particularly those who demand tougher action on Ukraine and domestically, have raised these issues on high profile Russian social media channels in recent weeks)
(He announces a program to provide discounted rental accomodation for employees of Russia’s military-industrial complex, claiming that it is developing weaponry that is superior to Western equivalents.)
The West has deployed not only informational, military but also economic warfare against us. But they have failed on all fronts and that will continue to be the case.
The countries which sanctioned us have punished themselves, triggering inflation, unemployment and an energy crisis. They tell their citizens it’s our fault.
The sanctions against Russia are the method but their objective, as they have openly said, is to make our citizens suffer. Such humanism. They want to destabilise our society from within but they have failed. Our economy and administrative system are far more resilient than they expected.
Our economy is stable, our citizens are protected, we prevented shortages of goods, particularly essential goods, we supported the financial system and entrepreneurs to help our country develop. We spent over a trillion rubles on this and let me emphasise: we didn’t print this money either. (“unlike the West” is implied here)
We will continue to defend our country but this must not be at the cost of continuing to grow our economy. We will not repeat the mistakes of the past (he’s referring to how the arms race with the US bankrupted the USSR during the Cold War).
Russia’s economy has overcome recent challenges. We had to adapt rapidly to a changing situation but we have succeeded.
(He lists various achievements, including road-building, new industrial facilities and improved logistics + other economic achievements and goals. After this long section on the country’s future economic plans, he elicits, for the first time, a genuinely excited reaction:
I warned our major business leaders (read: oligarchs) that they could not trust the West. I told them their assets would be seized from them and that’s how it happened. They even took money that was earned lawfully (this is a direct swipe at the oligarchs whom he cut down to size in the early 2000s). With a grin, he says “no ordinary Russian feels sorry for people who lost money they held in foreign accounts”. (satisfied smiles and genuinely enthusiastic applause)
(He continues attacking oligarchs at length, including by arguing that since they own and run Russia’s major businesses while being “dependent” on the foreign countries in which they live, this is a strategic vulnerability for Russia that must be addressed. This is a direct message to the oligarchs - comply or your business won’t be your business much longer, a message he fleshes out below:).
Everyone has a choice. You can live out your days in your seized mansion with your frozen bank accounts in your pleasant Western capital or some warm weather resort. That is your right and we won’t even interfere. But you should know that to the West you’re a second class citizen who can be mistreated with impunity and your money, connections and purchased titles will not help you. You’re second class citizens over there, understand this.
But there is another choice: stand with your Motherland. You can work for your fellow Russians. You can work not only for your own benefit but for the people in cities and villages around you. We have many such fighters in our business community and they are the future.
Everyone should understand: the source of your wealth and your future must be in your country, in this country, in Russia. That’s how we’ll create a truly competitive economy. Money made in Russia must be put to use in Russia.
Now that you’ve seen how they treat you, stop begging and humiliating yourselves. Stop looking to the past and trying to take them to court. You are strong and capable people - I have known many of you personally for many years. Create new projects and earn money and invest money in Russia. That is how you’ll grow your wealth and earn the respect of your fellow citizens. And the people of Russia and its Government will, of course, support you. (enthusiastic standing ovation)
Russia is an open country but it’s also an independent civilisation. This is no claim to exceptionalism or superiority. But it is *our* civilisation. That’s what matters. We have inherited it from our ancestors and we must pass it on to our children.
I want to speak about our national character: generosity, open-heartedness, compassion and mercy. Russia as a country truly reflects these values. We know how to be friends, keep our word and not let others down. We support others when they fall into difficulties. We all remember how during the pandemic we were the first to support certain European countries, including Italy and others, during their toughest weeks in battling COVID. We remember the help we provided to Turkey after the recent earthquake.
The people of Russia are the guarantors of its sovereignty and the source of its Government. The rights and freedoms of our people are inalienable. They are guaranteed by our Constitution and despite external threats we will not waver from them.
All local elections and the 2024 Presidential Election will be held in strict adherence to the law and all democratic and constitutional norms. Elections are always a choice but our political forces are all united behind the mission of ensuring the security of our country. I thank you for this support.
He quotes Pyotr Stolypin (a great reformer under Tsar Nicholas II, a prominent monarchist who prioritised modernising Russia over democratising it and responded to the revolutionary unrest his reforms created by introducing martial law):
“In the cause of defending Russia, we have to bring together and join our efforts, our duties and our rights, to support a single, historic supreme right: the right of Russia to be STRONG”. (Emphasis Putin’s) (standing ovation)
(He spends a few minutes describing how important it is to take charge of education to instill patriotism and the proper understanding of Russia’s proud history. He also promises to invest more in science and support young scientists, as well as higher education. He talks at length about domestic economic policy.)
I would like to address one final thing. In February of this year, NATO effectively demanded that we “return” to complying with New START, including allowing inspectors to visit our nuclear defence facilities. I am almost speechless at these absurd demands.
We know the West is directly involved in Ukrainian attempts to attack our strategic aircraft bases. Drones used in these attempts were equipped and upgraded with the assistance of NATO specialists. And now they want to visit our defence facilities?
Given the current stand-off, this is ridiculous. I should note as well that under this Treaty, we are not given the opportunity to conduct full inspections ourselves. Our repeated requests to inspect specific facilities are either ignored or declined on the grounds of various formalities. We cannot conduct a proper inspection on their end.
The US and NATO have clearly stated they want to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia. And they expect to just stroll into our defence facilities? Including the latest ones?
A week ago I put our new strategic ground-based forces on alert - they want to stick their noses in these locations too? And they think we’ll just let them?
By making this joint statement, NATO effectively requested to be part of New START. We agree, no problem. Moreover, we believe this is long overdue since the US is not the only nuclear country in NATO. Britain and France also have nuclear weapons which are being improved and modernised. And they are also aimed at us.
The latest statements by their leaders confirm this - listen to them. We cannot ignore this. We have no right to ignore this, especially now. As we cannot ignore the fact that START I was agreed between the Soviet Union and the US in 1991, in a totally different situation where tensions were reduced and mutual trust improved. Subsequently, our relations improved so much that the US and Russia stated that they no longer considered each other to be adversaries. That was a good thing.
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The existing Treaty contains provisions that affirm the indivisibility of security and the direct connection between offensive and defensive arms. This has been thrown out of the window - as you know, the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
(A simple way to understand what Putin is saying is this: think about Russia and the US as two people. Each one has a gun and neither wants to shoot and kill the other but neither wants to be blackmailed by the other having a gun either. Currently both Russia and the US have their guns trained on each other to ensure mutually assured destruction, i.e. “if you pull the trigger, I’ll shoot and we both die so let’s not do anything stupid”. Now imagine the American guy has a button which can disable the Russian’s gun (anti-missile systems capable of disabling Russia’s nuclear weapons) or is seeking to create one. If the US can shoot without being shot back, it can use this to put pressure on Russia. This is why, from Putin’s perspective, withdrawing from the ABMT is an act of aggression - you’re withdrawing from a treaty in which you promised not to develop such a button.)
Our relationship has worsened and the US is solely responsible for this. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they started trying to re-do the outcome of the Second World War. They wanted to build an American world, a world in which there is only one sovereign.
To achieve this they set out to carelessly destroy the foundations of the world created after WW2 by undoing the agreements reached at Yalta and Potsdam. Step by step they tried to reshape the world by demolishing the security system and arms controls. They planned and executed a number of wars around the world with one aim: to break the international relations architecture created after WW2.
This is not a figure of speech. This is what is happening. Following the collapse of the USSR they are attempting to establish permanent global dominance, ignoring the interests of modern Russia and those of other countries.
Obviously, the world has changed since 1945. There are new and rapidly expanding centres of power and influence. This is a natural process that cannot be ignored. What we cannot accept, however, is the US attempting to reshape the world to cater solely to their own selfish interests.
Now NATO leaders are sending us messages and giving us ultimatums. “You, Russia, must do everything you agreed to including New START. But we’ll do whatever we want”.
As if there is no connection between New START and the conflict in Ukraine or other hostile actions against our country. This is either extremely cynical or extremely stupid behaviour. And they’re no idiots - they are not stupid people. They say they want to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia and also want to sniff around our nuclear facilities.
In view of this, I am forced to announce that Russia is suspending its participation in New START! (applause, 3 people at the back attempted to start a standing ovation which didn’t happen).
Let me repeat: we are not withdrawing from the treaty, we are suspending our participation. And before we return to this issue, we need to understand: what do NATO countries like Britain and France want? And how do we account for their strategic arsenals? In other words, NATO’s *combined* offensive capability.
With their statement, they’ve effectively applied to join this process. Fine, let’s do it. But please don’t lie again and pretend to be peacemakers who want to defuse tensions. We know that some American nuclear weapons are approaching their expiry dates and some people in Washington, and we know this, are considering conducting real world tests of their nuclear weapons. Especially, given that they are developing new types of nuclear weapons.
In view of this, our Ministry of Defence and Rosatom must prepare to test our nuclear weapons. Of course, we would never be first to do this but if the US conducts tests, we will too.
No one should be under the dangerous illussion that they can break the existing strategic balance.
(He spends the next section praising the diversity of Russia’s armed forces fighting in Ukraine, coming from all the nations of Russia and fighting side by side, and the contribution of civil society)
Russia will answer any challenge because we are one country, one large and united people and we have confidence in ourselves. The truth is with us.
(The speech concludes with a functional signing of the national anthem. )
P.S. Some people will likely take issue with the title of this piece in that Putin claims he hasn't withdraw Russia from the treaty, merely suspended Russia's participation. I personally view this as the same linguistic obfuscation as the term "Special Military Operation".