21 Feb 2022
On 21 February 2022 President Putin addresses his nation on the situation in Ukraine, the position of NATO, and the recognition of the Donbass. The speech is highly significant because it is the precurser of Putin’s Declaration of War Speech, held three days later on 24 february 2022
Dear citizens of Russia! Dear friends!
The topic of my speech is the events in Ukraine and why this is so important for us, for Russia. Of course, my speech is also addressed to our fellow citizens in Ukraine.
I will have to speak at length and in detail. The problem is very serious.
The situation in the Donbass has once again become critical and acute. And today I am addressing you directly, not only to assess what is happening but also to inform you about the decisions that are being taken and possible further steps in this direction.
I would like to emphasize once again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an integral part of our own history, culture and spiritual space. It is our friends, our relatives, not only colleagues, friends and former work colleagues, but also our relatives and close family members.
Since the oldest times the inhabitants of the south-western historical territories of ancient Russia have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians. It was the same in the 17th century, when a part of these territories was reunited with the Russian state, and even after that.
It seems to us that in principle we all know this, that we are talking about known facts. However, in order to understand what is happening today, to explain the motives of Russian actions and the goals we have set, it is necessary to say at least a few words about the history of the issue.
So let me start with the fact that modern Ukraine was created entirely by Russia, more precisely, by Bolshevik communist Russia. This process began almost immediately after the 1917 Revolution, and Lenin and his comrades-in-arms did it in a very crude way with Russia itself – by secession, cutting off parts of its own historical territories. Of course, no one asked the millions of people who lived there for anything.
Then, before and after the Great Patriotic War, Stalin already annexed some territories that had previously belonged to Poland, Romania and Hungary to the USSR and transferred them to Ukraine. As a kind of compensation, Stalin gave Poland some of the ancestral German territories, and in 1954, for some reason, Khrushchev took Crimea away from Russia and gave it to Ukraine. In this way, the territory of Soviet Ukraine was created.
But now I would like to talk especially about the initial period of the creation of the USSR. I think this is very important for us. We will have to start, as they say, from a distance.
I would like to recall that after the October coup of 1917 and the subsequent civil war, the Bolsheviks began to build a new state system, and there were quite sharp disagreements between them. Stalin, who in 1922 held the posts of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the RKP and People’s Commissar for Nationalities in personal union, proposed to build the country according to the principles of autonomization, that is, to give the republics – the future administrative-territorial units – far-reaching powers when they joined the unitary state.
Lenin criticized this plan and suggested making concessions to the nationalists, as he called them at the time – the “independents.” These were precisely Lenin’s ideas of an essentially confederative state structure and the right of peoples to self-determination up to and including secession, which formed the basis of Soviet statehood: first in 1922 in the Declaration on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and then, after Lenin’s death, in the 1924 Constitution of the USSR.
Many questions immediately arise here. And the first of them is actually the most important: why was it necessary to satisfy any boundlessly growing nationalist ambitions on the edges of the former empire? The transfer of huge, often arbitrarily formed administrative units, the Union Republics, which often had no relation to the territory. I repeat: they were transferred together with the population of historical Russia.
Moreover, these administrative units were in fact given the status and form of national state entities. Once again I ask myself: why was it necessary to make such generous gifts, which the most ardent nationalists did not even dare to dream of before, and, moreover, to grant the republics the right to secede from the unitary state without any conditions?
At first glance, this is completely incomprehensible, it is madness. But it is so only at first sight. There is an explanation for it. After the revolution, the main task of the Bolsheviks was to maintain power, at any cost. For this they did everything: they accepted the humiliating conditions of the Brest Treaty at a time when Imperial Germany and its allies were in the most difficult military and economic situation and the outcome of the First World War was actually already predetermined, and they complied with all the demands, all the wishes of the nationalists inside the country.
In view of the historical destiny of Russia and its peoples, the Leninist principles of state-building were not only a mistake, but far worse than a mistake. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 this became absolutely obvious.
Of course, the events of the past cannot be changed, but we must at least speak about them directly and honestly, without reservations and without political coloration. I can only add that the considerations of the current political conjuncture, however spectacular and advantageous they may seem at a given moment, should not or cannot under any circumstances form the basis for the fundamental principles of statehood.
I do not want to accuse anyone now, the situation in the country at that time and after the civil war, before the civil war, was incredibly difficult and critical. I just want to say today that it was exactly like that. That is a historical fact. As I have already said, the Bolshevik policy led to the emergence of Soviet Ukraine, which even today can rightly be called “Vladimir Lenin Ukraine”. He was its author and architect. This is fully confirmed by documents in the archives, including Lenin’s strict directives for the Donbass, which was literally squeezed into Ukraine. And now the “grateful descendants” have demolished Lenin monuments in Ukraine. They call this decommunization. (Translator’s note: “Decommunization” means the eradication of everything that reminds of communism, similar to the denazification in Germany after World War II).
You want to decommunize? Well, that’s perfectly fine with us. But you should not, as they say, stop halfway. We are ready to show you what real decommunization means for Ukraine.
Returning to history, I repeat that the USSR was founded in 1922 on the territory of the former Russian Empire. However, life itself immediately showed that it was impossible to maintain such a large and complex territory or to govern it according to the proposed amorphous, quasi-confederal principles. They were completely disconnected from reality and historical tradition.
It is only logical that the Red Terror and the rapid transition to Stalinist dictatorship, the domination of communist ideology and the monopoly of power of the Communist Party, nationalization and the planned economy system in practice made the declared but unimplementable principles of statehood a mere declaration, a formality. In reality, the Union Republics had no rights of sovereignty at all; these rights simply did not exist. In practice, a strictly centralized, completely unitary state was created.
Stalin, in fact, put into practice not Lenin’s, but his very own ideas of statehood. But he did not make any corresponding changes in the systemic documents, in the constitution of the country, did not formally reconsider the proclaimed Leninist principles of building the USSR. Obviously, there was no reason for that – everything worked under the totalitarian regime and it looked very nice, attractive and even super-democratic on the surface.
Nevertheless, it is a great pity that the vile, utopian fantasies inspired by the revolution, but absolutely destructive for a normal country, were not promptly removed from the basic, formally legal foundations on which our entire statehood was built. No one, as was so often the case with us in the past, thought about the future.
The leaders of the Communist Party seemed convinced that they had succeeded in forming a solid system of government and that they had finally solved the national question through their policies. But the distortions, changes of concepts, manipulation of public consciousness and deception were costly. The bacillus of nationalist ambition had not disappeared, and the original mine that had been laid to undermine the immunity of the state to the contagion of nationalism was just waiting to explode. This landmine, I repeat, was the right to secede from the USSR.
In the mid-1980s, against the backdrop of growing socioeconomic problems and an obvious crisis in the planned economy, the national question intensified, the core of which, as always, was not the expectations and unfulfilled aspirations of the peoples of the Union, but first and foremost the growing appetite of local elites.
But instead of thoroughly analyzing the situation and taking appropriate measures, especially in the economy, as well as gradually, thoughtfully and consciously transforming the political system and state structure, the CPSU leadership confined itself to putting into words the Leninist principle of national self-determination.
As the power struggle unfolded within the Communist Party itself, each of the opposing sides, in order to broaden its base of support, began to ruthlessly incite, promote and play on nationalist sentiments by promising its potential supporters whatever they desired. Amid superficial and populist rhetoric about democracy and a bright future built on the basis of a market or planned economy, but in the real conditions of impoverishment and total deficit, no one in power thought of the inevitable tragic consequences for the country.
And then they followed the well-trodden path of satisfying the ambitions of nationalist elites nurtured in their own party ranks, forgetting that the CPSU – thank God – no longer had such instruments as state terror and a Stalin-style dictatorship to maintain power and the country itself. And so even the infamous leadership role of the party itself disappeared like a morning mist without a trace before their eyes.
In September 1989, the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted an essentially fatal document – the so-called national policy of the Party in modern conditions, the CPSU Platform. It contained the following provisions, and I quote, “The Union republics shall have all the rights commensurate with their status as sovereign socialist states.”
Another clause read, “The supreme representative organs of power of the Union Republics may challenge and suspend the decrees and orders of the Union Government in their territories.”
And finally, “Each Union Republic shall have its own citizenship, which shall apply to all its inhabitants.”
Was it not obvious, then, what such formulations and decisions would lead to?
This is neither the time nor the place to discuss issues of state or constitutional law and to define the concept of citizenship. Nevertheless, the question arises: why did the country have to be shaken even further under these already difficult circumstances?
Already two years before the collapse of the USSR, its fate was practically sealed. Now the radicals and nationalists, including and especially in Ukraine, are claiming the achievement of independence for themselves. As we can see, this is not the case at all. The collapse of our some country was caused by historical, strategic mistakes of the Bolshevik leaders, the leadership of the CPSU, made at different times in state building, economic and national policy. They have on their conscience the collapse of the historical Russia, which bore the name of USSR.
Despite all these injustices, fraud and open robbery of Russia, our people recognized the new geopolitical realities that emerged after the collapse of the USSR, recognized the new independent states. And not only that – Russia itself, which was in a very difficult situation at the time, helped its CIS partners, including its Ukrainian counterparts, from whom numerous requests for material support were already received at the time of the declaration of independence. And our country provided this support while respecting the dignity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
According to expert estimates, confirmed by a simple calculation of the prices of energy carriers, the volume of preferential credits and economic and trade preferences granted by Russia to Ukraine amounted to about $250 billion for the Ukrainian budget from 1991 to 2013.
But this is far from all. At the end of 1991, the USSR’s debt obligations to foreign countries and international funds amounted to about $100 billion. Originally, it was assumed that these loans would be repaid in solidarity by all former Soviet republics in proportion to their economic potential. However, Russia assumed the entire Soviet debt and repaid it in full. It completed this process in 2017.
In return, the newly independent states were to renounce their share of Soviet foreign assets, and agreements to this effect were reached with Ukraine in December 1994. However, Kiev did not ratify these agreements and later simply refused to implement it. It laid claim to the Diamond Fund, the Gold Reserve, and property and other assets of the former USSR abroad.
However, despite the well-known problems, Russia has always cooperated with Ukraine openly, honestly, and, I repeat, while safeguarding its interests, and our relations have developed in a wide range of areas. For example, bilateral trade turnover in 2011 amounted to more than $50 billion. I would like to point out that the volume of Ukraine’s trade with all EU countries in 2019, before the pandemic, was below this figure.
In this regard, it jumps to the eye that Ukrainian governments preferred to act in such a way that in relations with Russia they had all the rights and benefits, but no obligations.
Instead of partnership, dependence prevailed, which the official bodies in Kiev sometimes considered almost a peccadillo. Suffice it to recall the constant extortion in the field of energy transit and the banal theft of gas. (Translator’s note: details of the gas conflicts past, to which Putin alludes here, can be found here).
I should add that Kiev has tried to use dialogue with Russia as a pretext to negotiate with the West, to blackmail it into rapprochement with Moscow, and to gain advantages for itself: on the grounds that otherwise Russian influence in Ukraine would increase.
At the same time, from the very beginning, I would like to emphasize, from the very first steps, Ukrainian governments have started to build their statehood on the denial of everything that unites us, they have tried to distort the consciousness and historical memory of millions of people, whole generations living in Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Ukrainian society was confronted with the rise of extreme nationalism, which quickly took the form of aggressive Russophobia and neo-Nazism. Hence the involvement of Ukrainian nationalists and neo-Nazis in terrorist gangs in the North Caucasus and the increasingly vocal territorial claims against Russia.
Foreign forces, which have used an extensive network of NGOs and intelligence agencies to cultivate their clientele in Ukraine and bring their proxies to power, have also played their part.
It is also important to understand that Ukraine has basically never had a stable tradition of genuine statehood. Since 1991, it has gone the way of mechanical copying of foreign models, detached from its history and Ukrainian reality. The state’s political institutions have been constantly reshaped to serve rapidly rising clans with their own interests, which have nothing in common with the interests of the Ukrainian people.
The purpose of the so-called pro-Western civilizational decision of the Ukrainian oligarchs was and is not to create better conditions for the welfare of the people, but to subserviently serve Russia’s geopolitical rivals in order to save billions of dollars stolen from Ukrainians and stashed by the oligarchs in Western bank accounts.
Some industrial financial groups that took over parties and politicians initially relied on nationalists and radicals. Others paid lip service to good relations with Russia and cultural and linguistic diversity and came to power with the votes of citizens who wholeheartedly supported such aspirations, including millions from the southeast of the country. But once in office, they immediately betrayed their constituents, abandoned their campaign promises, and implemented policies at the behest of radicals, sometimes persecuting their former allies – those civil society organizations that advocated bilingualism and cooperation with Russia. They took advantage of the fact that the people who supported them were usually law-abiding, moderate in their views, and accustomed to trusting the government.
The radicals, in turn, became more and more brazen, and their demands grew year by year. It was not difficult for them to impose their will again and again on a weak government, itself infected with the virus of nationalism and corruption, and to cleverly replace the true cultural, economic and social interests of the people and the real sovereignty of Ukraine with various kinds of speculations with national justifications and foreign ethnographic features.
There is still no permanent statehood in Ukraine and the political electoral processes serve only as a cover, a projection screen for the redistribution of power and property between different oligarch clans.
Corruption, which is undoubtedly a challenge and a problem for many countries, including Russia, has taken on a special character in Ukraine. It has literally impregnated and corroded Ukrainian statehood, the entire system, all branches of power. Radicals exploited people’s legitimate discontent, saddled on the protest and led the Maidan to a coup d’état in 2014. In the process, they received direct support from abroad. Material support from the U.S. Embassy to the so-called protest camp on the Maidan in Kyiv, according to our information, amounted to one million dollars per day. Other very large amounts were brazenly transferred directly to the bank accounts of opposition leaders. And we talked about tens of millions of dollars. And how much did those who were actually injured, the families of those who died in the clashes in the streets and squares of Kiev and other cities, get in the end? It is better not to ask about that.
The radicals who came to power organized persecution, outright terror against those who spoke out against anti-constitutional measures. Politicians, journalists and public figures were mistreated and publicly humiliated. Ukrainian cities were overtaken by a wave of pogroms and violence, a series of spectacular and unpunished murders. The horrific tragedy in Odessa, where peaceful protesters were brutally murdered and burned alive at the Trade Union House, makes one shudder. The criminals who committed this atrocity have not been punished and no one is looking for them.
But we know their names and we will do everything to punish them, to find them and bring them to justice.
The Maidan did not bring Ukraine closer to democracy and progress. With the coup d’état, the nationalists and the political forces supporting them finally led the situation to a dead end and pushed Ukraine into the abyss of civil war. Eight years after these events, the country is divided. Ukraine is in an acute socioeconomic crisis.
According to international organizations, in 2019, almost six million Ukrainians, I emphasize about 15 percent of the total population, not the working-age population, were forced to go abroad in search of work. As a rule, these are casual jobs. The following fact is also significant: since 2020, more than 60,000 doctors and other health workers have left the country during the pandemic.
Since 2014, water tariffs have increased by nearly a third, electricity prices by several times, and gas prices by ten times. Many people simply don’t have the money to pay utilities; they literally have to survive.
What’s happening? Why is all this happening? The answer is obvious: it is because the dowry, which dates not only from the Soviet era, but also from the Russian Empire, has been squandered and embezzled. Tens and hundreds of thousands of jobs that provided people with a stable income, including through close cooperation with Russia, and brought taxes into the state coffers were lost. Industries such as machine building, instrument making, electronics, shipbuilding, and aircraft construction either lie idle or have been destroyed, whereas they used to be the pride not only of Ukraine, but of the entire Soviet Union.
In 2021, the Chernomorsky shipyard in Mykolaiv, where the first shipyards were built in Catherine II’s time, was closed down. The famous Antonov concern has not produced a single production aircraft since 2016, and the Yuzhmash plant, which specializes in the manufacture of rocket and space equipment, is on the verge of bankruptcy, as is the Kremenchuk steelworks. This sad list could be continued indefinitely.
The gas transportation system, which was built by the entire Soviet Union, is so dilapidated that its operation is fraught with great risks and environmental hazards.
And this raises the question: are poverty, hopelessness, loss of industrial and technological potential the choice of the pro-Western civilization that deceived millions of people for years and promised them paradise?
In pracis, it has come down to the fact that the collapse of the Ukrainian economy is accompanied by outright plundering of its citizens, while Ukraine itself is simply placed under foreign administration. This is happening not only on the instructions of Western capitals, but also on the ground through a whole network of foreign consultants, NGOs, and other institutions that have spread themselves throughout Ukraine. They have direct influence on all major personnel decisions, on all branches and levels of government, from the central government to the municipalities, on the main state enterprises and corporations, including Naftogaz, Ukrenergo, Ukrainian Railways, Ukroboronprom (the defense industry), Ukrposhta (the postal service), and the Ukrainian Seaport Administration.
There are simply no independent courts in Ukraine. At the request of the West, the Kyiv government granted representatives of international organizations the priority right to select the members of the highest judicial bodies – the Judicial Council and the Judicial Qualification Commission.
In addition, the U.S. Embassy directly controls the National Agency for Corruption Prevention, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau NABU, the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, and the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court. All of this is done under the plausible pretext of making the fight against corruption more effective. Fine, fine, but where are the results? Corruption is in full bloom and thriving better than ever.
Are Ukrainians themselves aware of all these methods of their administration? Do they realize that their country is not simply under a political and economic protectorate, but has been reduced to the level of a colony with a puppet regime? The privatization of the state has led the government that calls itself the “power of patriots” to lose its national character and consistently pursue the complete de-sovereignization of the country.
De-Russification and forced assimilation continue. The Verkhovna Rada ceaselessly enacts more and more discriminatory laws, and a law on so-called indigenous peoples is already in force. People who consider themselves Russians and want to preserve their identity, language and culture have received a clear message that they are strangers in Ukraine.
According to the laws on education and functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state language, Russian is banned from schools, from all public areas to ordinary stores. The law on so-called lustration, the “purge” of power, made it possible to dismiss disagreeable officials.
Laws giving Ukrainian law enforcement agencies grounds for rigorous suppression of freedom of expression and dissent, as well as persecution of the opposition, are being bred. The sad practice of unilateral illegitimate sanctions against other states, foreign individuals and legal entities is known worldwide. Ukraine has outdone its Western curators and invented such an instrument as sanctions against its own citizens, companies, TV channels, other media and even members of parliament.
Kiev also continues to massacre the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. And this is not an emotional assessment, but concrete decisions and documents prove it. The Ukrainian government has cynically turned the tragedy of the church split into an instrument of state policy. The current leadership of the country does not respond to the requests of the citizens of Ukraine to repeal the laws that violate the rights of believers. Moreover, new draft laws against the clergy and millions of parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate were registered in the Rada.
I would like to speak separately about Crimea. The people on the peninsula have freely chosen to belong to Russia. The government in Kyiv has nothing to counter this clear and unequivocal will of the people and therefore relies on aggressive actions, on activating extremist cells, including radical Islamic organizations, on sending subversive groups to carry out terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure and to kidnap Russian citizens. We have direct evidence that such aggressive actions are carried out with the support of foreign intelligence services.
In March 2021, Ukraine adopted a new military strategy. This document is almost exclusively dedicated to confrontation with Russia and is aimed at drawing foreign states into conflict with our country. The strategy envisions building a kind of terrorist underground in Crimea and the Donbass. It also outlines the contours of the expected war, which, according to today’s strategists in Kiev, should end – and I quote from here – “with the help of the international community on terms favorable to Ukraine.” And also, as Kiev expresses itself today, and I quote here as well, please listen more carefully, “with the military support of the international community in a geopolitical confrontation with the Russian Federation.” Basically, this is nothing but preparation for military action against our country-against Russia.
We also know that there have already been statements that Ukraine will develop its own nuclear weapons, and this is not empty boasting. Ukraine has Soviet nuclear technology and the means to use such weapons, including aircraft and Tochka U missiles, also of Soviet design, with a range of more than 100 kilometers. But they will increase that, it’s just a matter of time. There is Soviet-era know-how.
So it will be much easier for Ukraine to get hold of tactical nuclear weapons than for some other states-I won’t name them now-that actually do such developments, especially if it gets technological support from abroad. And we must not rule that out either.
If Ukraine comes into possession of weapons of mass destruction, the situation in the world, in Europe, especially for us, for Russia, will change dramatically. We cannot but react to this real danger, especially to the fact that the Western patrons could facilitate the appearance of such weapons in Ukraine to create another threat to our country. We can see how persistently the Kiev regime is pumped full of weapons. The United States alone has provided billions of dollars since 2014 for this purpose, including weapons, equipment, and specialized training. In recent months, Western arms have flowed steadily into Ukraine, ostentatiously and in full view of the world. The Ukrainian armed forces and intelligence services are run by foreign advisors, we are well aware.
In recent years, military contingents from NATO countries have been almost constantly on Ukrainian territory under the pretext of exercises. The command and control system of Ukrainian troops has already been integrated into NATO forces. This means that command over Ukrainian forces, including individual units and subunits, can be exercised directly from NATO headquarters.
The U.S. and NATO have begun shamelessly opening up Ukrainian territory as a theater for potential war. The regular joint exercises are clearly anti-Russian. Last year alone, they involved more than 23,000 troops and more than a thousand pieces of military equipment.
A law has already been passed on allowing armed forces from other countries on the territory of Ukraine in 2022 to participate in multinational exercises. It is clear that we are talking about NATO forces in the first place. At least ten such joint maneuvers are planned for this year.
It is obvious that such events serve as a cover for the rapid buildup of the NATO military force in Ukraine. This is all the more true since the network of airfields developed with the help of the Americans – Boryspil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chuguev, Odessa and so on – can ensure the transfer of military units in the shortest possible time. Ukrainian airspace is open to flights of American strategic bombers and reconnaissance aircraft and drones used to monitor Russian territory.
I would like to add that the American-built Maritime Operations Center in Ochakov makes it possible to support the actions of NATO ships, including their use of precision weapons against the Russian Black Sea Fleet and our infrastructure along the entire Black Sea coast.
At one time, the U.S. wanted to build similar facilities in Crimea, but the Crimeans and the residents of Sevastopol thwarted those plans. We will always remember this.
I repeat, today such a center is being established, it has already been established in Ochakov. Let me remind you that in the 18th century soldiers of Alexander Suvorov fought for this city. It is thanks to their courage that it became a part of Russia. At the same time, in the 18th century, the Black Sea lands, annexed to Russia as a result of the wars with the Ottoman Empire, were called Novorossiya. Today, these milestones of history are forgotten, as are the names of statesmen of the Russian Empire, without whose actions many large cities and even access to the Black Sea in modern Ukraine would not exist.
Recently the monument to Alexander Suvorov in Poltava was demolished. What to say about it? You deny your own past? From the so-called colonial heritage of the Russian Empire? Well, then be consistent here.
Further. I would like to point out that Article 17 of the Ukrainian Constitution does not allow the establishment of foreign military bases on the territory of Ukraine. However, it turned out that this is just a convention that can be easily circumvented.
NATO countries have sent training missions to Ukraine. In fact, they are already foreign military bases. They just call the bases “missions,” and it’s bagged.
Kiev has long proclaimed a strategic course toward NATO membership. Yes, of course, every country has the right to choose its own security system and enter into military alliances. And that would all be so if there were not a “but.” International documents explicitly enshrine the principle of equal and indivisible security, which, as you know, includes the obligation not to strengthen one’s own security at the expense of the security of other states. I can refer here to the OSCE Charter for European Security adopted in Istanbul in 1999 and the OSCE Declaration of Astana in 2010.
In other words, the choice of security should not be a threat to other states, and Ukraine’s accession to NATO is a direct threat to Russia’s security.
Let me remind you that in April 2008, at the Bucharest Summit of the North Atlantic Alliance, the U.S. pushed through the decision that Ukraine and, for that matter, Georgia would become members of NATO. Many European allies of the U.S. were already aware of all the risks of such a prospect, but had to bow to the will of their senior partner. The Americans simply used it to pursue a clearly anti-Russian policy.
A number of Alliance member states are already very skeptical about Ukraine joining NATO. At the same time, we are getting a signal from some European capitals saying, “What are you worried about? It’s not literally going to happen tomorrow.” In fact, our American partners are talking about it, too. “Well,” we say, “not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow. What does it change in the historical perspective? Basically nothing.”
More than that, we are aware of the position and words of the leadership of the United States that the active hostilities in eastern Ukraine do not preclude the possibility of that country joining NATO if it can meet the criteria of the North Atlantic Alliance and defeat corruption.
Yet they keep trying to convince us that NATO is a peace-loving and purely defensive alliance. They say that there is no threat to Russia whatsoever. Once again, they suggest that we take their word for it. But we know the true value of those words. When the issue of German reunification was discussed in 1990, the Soviet leadership was assured by the United States that NATO’s jurisdiction and military presence would not be extended one inch eastward. And that German reunification would not lead to an eastward expansion of NATO’s military organization. That is a quote.
They talked, made verbal assurances, and it all turned out to be empty noise. Later, we were assured that NATO membership of Central and Eastern European countries would only improve relations with Moscow, relieve those countries of the fear of their difficult historical legacy, and, moreover, create a belt of Russia-friendly countries.
The exact opposite has occurred. The governments of some Eastern European countries, peddling their Russophobia, brought their complexes and stereotypes about the Russian threat into the alliance and insisted on building collective defense capabilities to be used primarily against Russia. And this happened in the 1990s and early 2000s, when relations between Russia and the West were at a high level thanks to openness and our goodwill.
Russia fulfilled all its obligations, including the withdrawal of troops from Germany and from the Central and Eastern European states, thus making a great contribution to overcoming the legacy of the Cold War. We have always offered various opportunities for cooperation, including within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE.
More than that, I am going to say something now that I have never said publicly before, I am going to say it for the first time. In 2000, when outgoing U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Moscow, I asked him, “What would America think about admitting Russia into NATO?”
I won’t divulge all the details of that conversation, but the response to my question looked outwardly, shall we say, very guarded, and how the Americans actually reacted to that possibility can be seen in their practical steps toward our country. These include open support for terrorists in the North Caucasus, a dismissive attitude toward our demands and security concerns in the area of NATO expansion, withdrawal from the ABM Treaty on the prohibition of missile defense, and so on. It makes you wonder: why? What is the point of all this? All right, you don’t want to see us as a friend and ally, but why do you have to make an enemy out of us?
There is only one answer: it is not because of our political regime or anything else, they simply do not need such a big independent country as Russia. That is the answer to all questions. It is the source of traditional American policy toward Russia. Hence the attitude to all our security proposals.
Today, it is enough to look at the map to see how the Western countries have “kept” their promise not to expand NATO to the East. They have simply deceived us. We have seen five waves of NATO expansion, one after another. In 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were admitted to the Alliance. In 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. 2009 Albania and Croatia. 2017 Montenegro and 2020 Northern Macedonia.
As a result, the Alliance has come right up against Russia’s borders with its military infrastructure. This was one of the main causes of the Euro-security crisis and has had a very negative impact on the whole system of international relations, leading to the loss of mutual trust.
The situation continues to deteriorate, including in the strategic sphere. For example, positions for missile defense missiles are being established in Romania and Poland as part of the U.S. global missile defense project. It is known that the launching pads placed there can be used for Tomahawk cruise missiles, i.e. offensive attack systems. (Translator’s note: details can be found here).
In addition, the U.S. is developing the universal Standard 6 missile, which not only solves air and missile defense problems, but can also hit sea and land targets. In other words, the supposedly defensive U.S. missile defense system is being expanded and new offensive capabilities are emerging.
The information available to us gives us every reason to believe that Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the subsequent stationing of NATO assets in that country are a foregone conclusion; it is only a matter of time. It is clear to us that in such a scenario the military threat to Russia will increase many times over. And I particularly point out that the danger of a surprise attack on our country will increase many times over.
I would like to clarify that the American strategic planning documents – they are official documents! – provide for the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike against enemy missile systems. And we also know who is the main opponent of the U.S. and NATO. It is Russia. NATO documents officially declare our country directly as the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as a springboard for such a blow. If our ancestors heard this, they probably would not believe it. And we don’t want to believe it today, but it’s true. I want this to be understood both in Russia and in Ukraine.
Many Ukrainian airfields are close to our borders. NATO tactical aircraft stationed here, including high-precision weapon carriers, will be able to hit our territory as far as the Volgograd-Kazan-Samara-Astrakhan line. The deployment of radar reconnaissance equipment on Ukrainian territory will allow NATO to strictly control Russian airspace all the way to the Urals.
After the United States broke the treaty on short- and medium-range missiles, the Pentagon is already openly developing a range of ground-based offensive weapons, including ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets up to 5,500 kilometers away. If deployed in Ukraine, such systems could strike targets throughout Russia’s European territory as well as beyond the Urals. Tomahawk cruise missiles would take less than 35 minutes to reach Moscow, 7 to 8 minutes for ballistic missiles from the Kharkov region, and 4 to 5 minutes for hypersonic missiles. That is what you call having the knife at your throat. And I have no doubt that they will implement these plans just as they have repeatedly done in recent years, expanding NATO eastward and moving military infrastructure and equipment to Russia’s borders, completely ignoring our concerns, protests, and warnings. Along the lines of, excuse me, we don’t give a damn about them, and we’ll do whatever we want, whatever we think is right.
And, of course, we are also expected to continue to behave according to the wellknown saying, “The dog barks, but the caravan moves on.” I say right away that we have not agreed to that and never will. At the same time, Russia has always been and still is in favor of solving the most complex problems by political and diplomatic means at the negotiating table.
We are aware of our great responsibility for regional and global stability. As early as 2008, Russia presented an initiative to conclude a European Security Treaty. The key message was that no state or international organization in the Euro-Atlantic area can strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others. However, our proposal was rejected from the outset: Russia could not be allowed to restrict NATO’s activities.
More than that, we were explicitly told that only members of the North Atlantic Alliance could have legally binding security guarantees.
Last December, we sent our Western partners a draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on security guarantees and a draft agreement on measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and NATO member states.
The response from the United States and NATO consisted of many common words. While there were some reasonable points, they dealt with secondary issues and looked like an attempt to divert the discussion in another direction.
We responded accordingly, stressing that we are ready to go down the road of negotiations, but on condition that all issues are considered as a package, as a whole, without separating them from the basic Russian proposals. And these contain three important points. The first is the prevention of further NATO enlargement. The second is the refusal to allow the alliance to deploy offensive weapons systems on Russia’s borders. And finally, the return of the bloc’s military capabilities and infrastructure in Europe to where they were in 1997, when the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed.
It is precisely these our principled proposals that have been ignored. Our Western partners, I repeat, have once again uttered the hackneyed phrase that every state has the right to freely decide how to ensure its security and join any military alliances and alliances. In other words, nothing has changed in their position, and they keep referring to NATO’s infamous “open door policy.” Moreover, they are trying to blackmail us again by threatening us again with sanctions, which, by the way, they will impose anyway as Russia’s sovereignty and the power of our armed forces increase. And a pretext for another sanctions attack is always found or simply invented, regardless of the situation in Ukraine. The goal is the same – to suppress Russia’s development. And they will do it as they have done before, even without any formal pretext, because we will never compromise our sovereignty, our national interests and our values.
I want to say clearly that in the current situation, when our proposals for an equal dialogue on fundamental issues have gone virtually unanswered by the United States and NATO, when the scale of threats to our country is increasing significantly, Russia has every right to take countermeasures to ensure its own security. That is exactly what we are going to do.
As for the situation in the Donbass, we see that the leadership in Kyiv is constantly stating publicly that they are not ready to implement the Minsk package of measures to settle the conflict and that they are not interested in a peaceful solution. On the contrary, they are once again trying to organize a blitzkrieg in the Donbass, as they did in 2014 and 2015. We still remember how these adventures ended then.
Now practically not a day goes by without shelling of towns and villages in the Donbass. A large group of troops constantly uses attack drones, heavy equipment, rockets, artillery and multiple rocket launchers. The killing of civilians, the blockade, the mistreatment of people, including children, women and the elderly, continues unabated. There is no end in sight.
And the so-called civilized world, the only representatives of which our Western colleagues have appointed themselves, prefers not to take note of this, as if all this horror, genocide, to which almost 4 million people are subjected, did not exist, and only because these people did not agree with the Western-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 and resisted the increased state movement towards a cavalier and aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism. And they are fighting for their most basic rights: to live in their own country, to speak their own language, to preserve their culture and traditions.
How long can this tragedy continue? How much longer can we endure it? Russia has done everything to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity and has fought hard and patiently all these years for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2202 of February 17, 2015, which enshrines the Minsk Agreement of February 12, 2015 to resolve the situation in the Donbass.
All in vain. Presidents and deputies of the Rada change, but the essence and aggressive, nationalistic character of the regime that took power in Kiev does not change. It is exclusively a product of the 2014 coup d’état, and those who took the path of violence, bloodshed, and lawlessness have not recognized any solution to the Donbass issue other than a military one and will not do so in the future.
In this context, I believe it is necessary to take a long-overdue decision: to recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic without delay.
I ask the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to support this decision and then ratify the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with both republics. These two documents will be drafted and signed in the near future.
And from those who have taken and hold power in Kiev, we demand the immediate cessation of hostilities. Otherwise, the responsibility for the possible continuation of bloodshed will rest solely on the conscience of the regime that governs the territory of Ukraine.
In announcing the decisions taken today, I trust in the support of the citizens of Russia and all patriotic forces of the country.
I thank you for your attention.