Putin’s Speech, Annotated: A Close Look at the Russian Leader’s Ukraine Address


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In an extended and heated handle on Monday, Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, spun a story whose implications sprawl effectively past his said function of recognizing the independence of two Ukrainian territories held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Mr. Putin’s speech was awash with hard-line Russian nationalism, offended paranoia towards the West, baseless claims of Ukrainian aggression, a way of misplaced imperial pleasure on the verge of reclamation and, most of all, invocations of historical past, a lot of it distorted or fabricated.

Whereas his feedback might need sounded rambling to Western ears, Mr. Putin could actually have been articulating what amounted to a calculated sequence of justifications for an extra invasion of Ukraine aimed on the Russian public, whose assist he might want to preserve it. What follows is a concise annotation of a number of key passages that convey Mr. Putin’s overt and implied case for conflict.

Since time immemorial, the individuals dwelling within the southwest of what has traditionally been Russian land have known as themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians.

So, I’ll begin with the truth that trendy Ukraine was solely created by Russia or, to be extra exact, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia. This course of began virtually proper after the 1917 revolution, and Lenin and his associates did it in a means that was extraordinarily harsh on Russia — by separating, severing what’s traditionally Russian land.

Mr. Putin is repeating his longstanding argument that Ukraine’s borders are a synthetic creation of Soviet planners who unjustly cordoned rightful Russian land inside the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

In actuality, inner Soviet borders mirrored centuries-old cultural and political divides, in addition to what Moscow’s personal census takers discovered to be an ethnic Ukrainian majority all through that territory, together with in what’s now japanese Ukraine.

Mr. Putin’s feedback, which construct on his justification for annexing Crimea in 2014, indicate a mandate to claim Russian sovereignty over half or all of japanese Ukraine, as effectively, even when for now he’s solely recognizing the independence of the Moscow-backed separatists who management elements of it.

His repeated references to Ukraine as synthetic, and his previous claims that “Ukraine isn’t even a state,” as he mentioned in 2008, recommend he may additionally be leaving himself the choice of declaring all of Ukraine to be a historic invention, serving to justify a wider invasion.

And as we speak the “grateful progeny” has overturned monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. They name it de-communization. You need de-communization? Very effectively, this fits us simply wonderful. However why cease midway? We’re prepared to point out what actual de-communizations would imply for Ukraine.

Mr. Putin is pointedly suggesting that Ukrainians ought to have thanked Vladimir Lenin, the founding Soviet chief whom Mr. Putin blames for Ukraine’s borders, quite than overturning Soviet-era statues throughout 2014 protests towards Kyiv’s pro-Moscow authorities.

His reference to “actual de-communization” implies that Mr. Putin is getting ready to erase what he considers Lenin’s precise legacy by forcibly redrawing Ukraine’s borders to his liking.

The virus of nationalist ambitions remains to be with us, and the mine laid on the preliminary stage to destroy state immunity to the illness of nationalism was ticking. As I’ve already mentioned, the mine was the correct of secession from the Soviet Union.

Mr. Putin concurrently presents himself as championing Russian nationalism, by means of blood-and-soil territorial claims, and as preventing the “illness of nationalism,” on this case Ukraine’s lengthy wrestle for nationwide autonomy.

This contradiction is rooted in his obsession with the breakup of the Soviet Union, to which he dedicates an extended part of his speech.

It’s now that radicals and nationalists, together with and primarily these in Ukraine, are taking credit score for having gained independence. As we are able to see, that is completely fallacious. The disintegration of our united nation was led to by the historic, strategic errors on the a part of the Bolshevik leaders and the C.P.S.U. management, errors dedicated at totally different occasions in state-building and in financial and ethnic insurance policies. The collapse of the historic Russia often called the usS.R. is on their conscience.

Mr. Putin argues that Ukraine and different former Soviet republics had been manipulated into declaring independence from Moscow by self-interested opportunists.

In actuality, an awesome majority of Ukrainians — together with within the japanese Ukrainian areas that Mr. Putin suggests had been ripped from Russia towards their residents’ will — voted to ascertain an unbiased state.

These feedback painting the Ukrainian state as an illegitimate creation: an act of theft from Russia and Ukrainians who ought to nonetheless be beneath Moscow’s rule.

And, in an escalation drawing concern throughout Europe, Mr. Putin means that this is applicable to all former Soviet republics. Three of these nations at the moment are NATO members, that means that the alliance has dedicated to their protection: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The Ukrainian authorities — I wish to emphasize this — started by constructing their statehood on the negation of all the pieces that united us, attempting to distort the mentality and historic reminiscence of hundreds of thousands of individuals, of whole generations dwelling in Ukraine. It isn’t shocking that Ukrainian society was confronted with the rise of far-right nationalism, which quickly developed into aggressive Russophobia and neo-Nazism.

That is the start of Mr. Putin’s specific case for conflict to grab elements of japanese Ukraine and his implied case for attainable conflict towards all of Ukraine.

The fashionable Ukrainian state itself, he argues, is a sort of assault on Russia as a result of it divides Ukrainian and Russian peoples who ought to be united and since it cultivates anti-Russian extremism to justify this division.

In actuality, Ukraine’s ethnic and linguistic teams have coexisted much more peacefully than Mr. Putin claims. Whereas the nation’s Russian-speaking populations have typically favored political ties with Moscow over these with the West, the nation’s politics have mirrored this, and people teams have grown sharply distrustful of Russia since 2014.

Basically, the so-called pro-Western civilizational selection made by the oligarchic Ukrainian authorities was not and isn’t geared toward creating higher circumstances within the pursuits of individuals’s well-being however at holding the billions of {dollars} that the oligarchs have stolen from the Ukrainians and are holding of their accounts in Western banks, whereas reverently accommodating the geopolitical rivals of Russia.

Right here Mr. Putin extends his historic revisionism into an indictment of contemporary Ukraine. Its authorities, he argues, isn’t an actual authorities however a clan of thieves — and subsequently due not one of the rights of a sovereign state — in addition to an intrinsic menace to Russian safety.

By couching his case within the supposed illegitimacy of the Ukrainian state itself, Mr. Putin is suggesting that no coverage change or diplomatic concession may alleviate this menace. It’s, in a way, a declaration that there isn’t any level in negotiation, that Moscow has no selection however to coerce Kyiv’s leaders by power, or else take away them outright.

The coverage to root out the Russian language and tradition and promote assimilation carries on. The Verkhovna Rada has generated a gentle circulate of discriminatory payments, and the legislation on the so-called Indigenous individuals has already come into power. Individuals who determine as Russians and wish to protect their id, language and tradition are getting the sign that they aren’t needed in Ukraine.

Since 2004, Ukraine has moved, typically slowly, to raise the standing of the Ukrainian language.

Russian officers and state media have sought to painting this as a part of a galling marketing campaign to marginalize and even outright exterminate Ukraine’s Russian-speaking populations.

They like to not acknowledge this, there isn’t any genocide perpetrated towards 14 million individuals.

Such claims, that are largely fictitious, serve to justify Russian army interventions as defending populations that Moscow had each a proper and an obligation to defend. Additionally they implicitly assert a Russian proper to dominate what Mr. Putin has known as the “Russian world” — territory containing massive numbers of Russian audio system or ethnic Russians, which roughly maps onto the previous Soviet borders.

In 2014, related accusations, supported by grisly, false tales of anti-Russian atrocities in Ukraine, provoked widespread anti-Ukraine sentiment in Russia.

However Russian attitudes towards Ukraine have since cooled to 45 % favorable and 43 % unfavourable, a current ballot discovered. Different polls recommend most don’t want overt conflict, which can be why Mr. Putin is searching for to resume public outrage.

The Kyiv authorities can’t problem the clearly said selection of the individuals, which is why they’ve opted for aggressive motion, for activating extremist cells, together with radical Islamist organizations, for sending subversives to stage terrorist assaults at vital infrastructure services, and for kidnapping Russian residents. We’ve factual proof that such aggressive actions are being taken with assist from Western safety providers.

In actual fact, that is nothing aside from preparation for hostilities towards our nation, Russia.

These outlandish accusations of Ukrainian and Western plots to assault Russia are almost definitely meant for the Russian public, portraying additional invasion of Ukraine as essential to defend Russian households — quite than a pursuit of lofty regional ambitions that is perhaps a more durable promote.

However these claims may not be solely strategic. After a few years in workplace, Mr. Putin has tightened his interior circle to a small cadre of yes-men and safety service hard-liners, who’re thought to inform him solely what he desires to listen to.

It’s attainable that Mr. Putin sincerely believes some portion of the overseas threats he claims, maybe particularly these relating to NATO.

The Ukrainian military is ready to get into NATO. … The West has explored the territory of Ukraine as a future theater, future battlefield, that’s aimed towards Russia.

Mr. Putin has lengthy striven to forestall extra of Russia’s neighbors from becoming a member of NATO. All through negotiations through the present disaster, he has insisted that NATO revoke Washington’s 2008 declaration that it could take into account membership for Ukraine or Georgia.

It’s tough to say for sure whether or not his claims of a NATO plot to assault Russia characterize his honest perception or an exaggeration for political impact.

As soon as once more, they threatened us with sanctions. They are going to nonetheless impose these, the stronger and extra highly effective our nation turns into. They are going to all the time discover an excuse to introduce extra sanctions whatever the state of affairs in Ukraine. The one objective they’ve is to include the event of Russia.

Mr. Putin is telling Russians that there isn’t any level in constraining Russian overseas coverage to keep away from sanctions that may come it doesn’t matter what — and that, ought to Russians endure beneath additional financial isolation, Mr. Putin and his insurance policies shall be innocent.

This can be one of many few strains within the speech geared toward Western capitals in addition to at his viewers at dwelling. European leaders know that extreme financial sanctions will hurt their economies in addition to Russia’s. Mr. Putin could also be hoping to steer them that such a sacrifice shall be futile.

Now, virtually day by day, they’re shelling settlements. They’ve amassed massive troops. They’re utilizing automobiles and different heavy equipment. They’re torturing individuals, kids, ladies, aged individuals. It doesn’t cease. We’ve seen no finish to it.

Mr. Putin’s speech culminates by describing a completely false Ukrainian army assault on the nation’s separatist-held east. In actuality, prematurely of his speech, Russia-backed forces shelled territory alongside the road of management between Ukrainian and separatist forces.

That is possible geared toward muddying the Russian public’s understanding. If either side accuse each other of unwarranted aggression, then who can say which is true?

However his depiction could also be meant to justify even better motion than the order he issued after his speech for a Russian “peacekeeping operation” in separatist-held territories.

Western governments have repeatedly claimed that their intelligence reveals that Mr. Putin is planning to stage a supposed assault on Russia-backed forces to justify a fuller invasion, even perhaps a siege of Kyiv. A lot of Russia’s forces are massed on Ukraine’s northern and southern borders, removed from the separatist-held east.

The image that Mr. Putin paints on the finish of his speech, of an enormous Ukrainian marketing campaign of terror abetted by hostile Western governments bent on attacking Russia, appears to depart that choice open.

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