Several Comments to President Putin's Speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy
President Putin's speech held in Munich on the 10th February 2007 was analyzed by experts from all possible points of view. Several of them even were not able to avoid comparison with the famous address of Winston Churchil in Fulton. Russkii vopros does not want to broaden number of comments and gives the priority to voices of immediate witnesses of Putin's performance and short opinions of experts.
Robert M. Gates (Secretary of Defense, USA)
„Speaking of issues going back many years, as an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday’s speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time.
Many of you have backgrounds in diplomacy or politics. I have, like your second speaker yesterday, a starkly different background – a career in the spy business. And, I guess, old spies have a habit of blunt speaking.
However, I have been to re-education camp, spending four and half years as a university president and dealing with faculty. And, as more than a few university presidents have learned in recent years, when it comes to faculty it is either “be nice” or “be gone.”
The real world we inhabit is different and a much more complex world than that of 20 or 30 years ago. We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other countries, including Russia.”
Karel Schwarzenberg (Minister of Foreign Affaires, Czech Republic)
„I would like to thank president Putin, first for bringing all the media attention to this conference and second for spelling out all the reasons why NATO should enlarge.”
Putin's speech in Munich did not come out of the blue. There were many indications in recent months to realize that Russian President was on a colision course with the West and particulary with the USA. However, what was the immediate background behind Putin's speech? Were the views on show real belives of the President or was he simply tasting watter like Stalin had previously donne with big pleasure several decades ago? Could Russia's recent resurgance be behind the President's criticism of Western policy in such a strong manner?
Richard Pipes (a historian of Russia and Communism, USA)
„I believe that the "immediate background" of his recent speech in Munich was annoyance with the American plan to install anti-rocket weapons in your country and Poland.“
Maksym Strikha (Director of research programs, Open Politics Institute Kiev, Ukraine)
„Probably, there was no single immediate reason for Putin’s speech in Munich. At the same time, there were many reasons for the speech. The principal one is the forthcoming presidential elections in Russia. The internal situation is not so good. There are many treats (from instability, caused by the change of person in the presidential cabinet, up to problems with the lack of gas – “Gazprom’s” deficit in the nearest years will be increasing). Therefore it was necessary to give a clear evidence of the strength of Russian elites, their resolution to act brutally in order to maintain the status of the “Great Russia”. Note, that disastrous, but “resolute” steps of Russian leaders helped them for many times in history to keep love of Russian people.
Therefore, the way Putin was speaking in Munich was somewhat similar to the way Litvinenko was assassinated in London – not the final result, but the psychological effect was crucial.
It is hard to speak about Putin’s real believes – the KGB fellow should not have any complicated believes at all. However, the reaction of Western leaders was important for Russian president. It become clear, that, despite of obvious dislike of Russian brutality, Western democracies would not be as resolute in their policy towards Moscow, as Russia is in Putin’s rhetoric. Although Russian general’s statement about Poland, and Czech Republic as possible aim for Russian missiles makes, probably, a greater threat for international stability, than the nuclear program of Iran.
It is also crucial for Putin’s Russia now to regain its control over Ukraine, lost in 2004. The reason is, that the democratic Ukraine would be a constant challenge for autocratic Russia. One of possible aims of hysteria in Russian official statements, and in Russian media around the idea of new anti-missile shield in Poland, and Czech Republic is to make pressure on Kyiv in order to reject finally the idea of Ukrainian membership in NATO. Unfortunately, Ukrainians are not so resistant towards Russian blackmail, as Poles, and Czechs are.“
Hans-Georg Wieck (former Head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus, Germany)
„The North Atlantic Alliance has not yet held extensive consultations on the deployment of the US antiballistic defence systems or components there of in Europe. But the plans are discussed and some bilateral talks have taken place. So far as I know no such consultations have taken place yet in the NATO-Russia Council.
It is a practice of long standing in Moscow, "to raise hell" about upcoming issues that may affect Russia and its security interests - or for that matter the Soviet Union in the past. Russia seeks to exploit attitudes in Europe that are critical of the circumstances of the US campaign in Iraq. They also seek to build on the widely spread undercurrent in Europe usually referred to as pacifism. It can be questioned whether Putin was well advised to make this issue the dominant theme for his statement in Munich.
On the other hand no one can overlook the degree of tension that has developed in the relationship between Russia and its neighbours on issues resulting from the past and on energy.
It should be noted that US Secretary of Defence Gates was not overreacting to the tough language chosen by Vladimir Putin.
It used to be good practice within the North Atlantic Alliance to consult on issues related to major new weapon systems and on weapons of a strategic dimension to be deployed in Europa. In the interest of mutual trust this good practice has to be continued under all circumstances - also today that means after the cold war and at a time that faces the important task of bringing about effective European integration.“