In an exclusive interview with FT on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin touted the growth of national populism in Europe and America while saying that liberalism is “spent” as an ideology. He spoke on numerous issues at length, which we have broken down here by topic.
On the eve of the G20 summit, Putin said that the “liberal idea” had “outlived its purpose” as the public has turned against immigration and multiculturalism. His push back on liberalism aligns Putin with leaders like US president Donald Trump, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini in Italy, and the Brexit insurgency in the UK.
“[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades.”
Immigration and Refugees
He said that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to admit over 1 million refugees to German was a “cardinal mistake” and praised President Trump for trying to stop migrants and drugs from Mexico.
“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected. Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”
On Election Interference
While Putin has been targeted in the U.S., namely for attempting to intervene in the country’s elections, Putin denied it and called the idea “mythical interference”.
“What happened in the US, and how did it happen? In the US, the leading US companies — the companies, their managers, shareholders and partners — made use of these benefits. The middle class hardly benefited from globalization. The Trump team sensed this very keenly and clearly, and they used this in the election campaign. It is where you should look for reasons behind Trump’s victory, rather than in any alleged foreign interference.”
The China/U.S. Trade War
With regard to the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, Putin called the situation “explosive”, blaming the issue on American unilateralism.
“Our relations with China are not motivated by timeserving political or any other considerations. China is showing loyalty and flexibility to both its partners and opponents. Maybe this is related to the historical features of Chinese philosophy, their approach to building relations,” Putin said.
A New Nuclear Arms Race
He also expressed concern about a new nuclear arms race.
“The cold war was a bad thing . . . but there were at least some rules that all participants in international communication more or less adhered to or tried to follow. Now, it seems that there are no rules at all,” Putin said.
Syria and Venezuela
On the precarious situations in Syria and Venezuela, Putin said:
“I believe that the Syrian people should be free to choose their own future. At the same time, I would like the actions of external players to be substantiated and, just as in the case of the risks you have mentioned, predictable and understandable, so that we can consider at least our next moves.”
He continued: “I believe that many things could have been done differently there when it comes to the economy. But we do not meddle in things; it is none of our business. We are prepared for any developments in any country, including Venezuela, if they are taking place in accordance with internal rules and the country’s legislation, its constitution, and in line with the people’s will.”
Relations With UK
Putin also alluded that relations with the UK were on the mends. Relations had been stalled since the attempted assassination of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in England. The UK blames the Russian government for the nerve agent attack, but Putin has refuted it. Putin said:
“I think Russia and UK are both interested in fully restoring our relations, at least I hope a few preliminary steps will be made.”
Regarding North Korea, Putin said:
“What we should be talking about is not how to make North Korea disarm, but how to ensure the unconditional security of North Korea. We must show it respect, and we must find a way of ensuring its security that will satisfy North Korea. If we do this, the situation may take a turn nobody can imagine today.”
The Russian Economy
Speaking about his own country, Putin said:
“Real wages are not in decline in Russia. On the contrary, they are starting to pick up. The macroeconomic situation in the country is stable. As for the central bank, yes, it is engaged in a gradual improvement of our financial system: inefficient and small-capacity companies, as well as semi-criminal financial organizations are leaving the market, and this is large-scale and complicated work.”
Spies and Treason
He also made it clear he had zero tolerance for spies against his country.
“Treason is the gravest crime possible and traitors must be punished. I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way to do it . . . but traitors must be punished,” he said.
Finally, Putin claims that liberal government have pursued a “mindless multiculturalism” that embraces sexual diversity.
“I am not trying to insult anyone because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia. But we have no problem with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish. But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”