Above, Pope Francis meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 4, 2019
Letter #49, 2023 Tuesday, February 21: Putin’s Speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual “state of the nation” speech to the Russian people this morning in Moscow, praising the courage of Russia’s soldiers, defending his decision to launch a “Special Military Operation” last February 24 as necessary to protect Russia from external military threats, and announcing that he would withdraw from a “New Start” treaty which is the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and America (it limits the nuclear arsenals of the two countries).
“By losing this framework, we are witnessing the real threat of a nuclear war,” Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the BBC (see below), “because we cannot predict how Putin will behave in the future and what is in his mind. In order to avoid nuclear war, it’s better to have a framework.”
Thus, after one year of war in Ukraine, with no peace talks on the horizon, the threat of a wider and possibly even nuclear war looms larger today than yesterday.
Pope Francis has repeatedly said he wishes to try by any means to assist a “peace process,” whether by traveling to Moscow and Kiev personally, or by inviting world leaders to come to the Vatican for talks.
We ourselves continue to pray daily for peace, mourning with those who mourn, and praying that a way may be found, even if by a miracle, to bring peace to end the clamor of arms and the tragedy of bloodshed.
Below are several reports on Putin’s speech, and excerpts from what he said. —RM
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Here is a link to a video of the entire speech in Russian:
Here is a link to a video of the speech with simultaneous English translation (but note that the speech does not begin until about 1 hour and 3 minutes into the video, so click forward to that point):
Putin promotes Russian escalation in annual speech (link)
By Steve Rosenberg
Russia editor, Moscow
Escalation. It’s become President Putin’s watchword.
And we saw more of it today.
“Russia suspends its participation in the New Start treaty,” announced the Kremlin leader in his state of the nation address. As usual he blamed the West.
New Start is the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and America. It limits the nuclear arsenals of the two countries.
But there was more.
The Russian president announced that he had signed a decree on “putting new ground-based strategic complexes on combat standby duty”.
He warned that Russia was ready to resume nuclear weapons testing.
“Of course, we will not do it first,” President Putin added. “But if the US conducts tests, we will do it as well.”
New Start had been in trouble. Last month Washington had accused Moscow of violating the agreement by refusing to allow inspection activities on its territory.
Moscow’s suspension of its participation in the treaty raises the stakes.
“This is more about nuclear blackmail, but it is extremely dangerous,” believes Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “because we cannot predict how Putin will behave in the future and what is in his mind.
“In order to avoid nuclear war, it’s better to have a framework,” he added.
“By losing this framework we are witnessing the real threat of a nuclear war.”
What is the New Start treaty?
Signed in 2010 by two then presidents – Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev – the New Start treaty was designed to prevent nuclear war. It limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that both sides can deploy, and gives each country the power to inspect the other.
The arrangement came into force in 2011 and was extended 10 years later – although weapons inspections were disrupted by the Covid pandemic.
Each side’s limit is 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads, a lower number than under the previous Start deal.
Between them, the two former Cold War rivals account for almost all of the world’s nuclear weapons. Russia had previously said it wanted to keep the treaty running – despite hostile rhetoric on both sides during the Ukraine war.
We’re also witnessing a Kremlin leader who expresses no remorse or regret for his decision to invade Ukraine.
His “special military operation” has not gone at all according to plan, bringing misery to Ukraine, heavy military casualties for Russia and forcing President Putin to draft hundreds of thousands of Russians into the army.
So, was the invasion a huge mistake? A giant miscalculation? You won’t hear Putin admit to one of those. He continues to push the false narrative that the West is to blame for the war.
“I want to repeat,” he said. “They [the West] started the war. And we used force and are using force to stop it.”
“The Western elites do not conceal their goals to bring Russia a strategic defeat. What does it mean? It means to end us, once and for all.
It means they plan to turn a local conflict into a global confrontation. We understand it exactly like that. We will react to it accordingly. This is because in this case it is about the very existence of our country.”
President Putin exuded confidence that Russia could survive international sanctions and – despite Western support for Ukraine – emerge victorious. No hint of compromise. No sign he’s looking for an off-ramp.
“He thinks he has reserves for continuing the war and confrontation. It’s a bad sign,” Mr Kolesnikov concludes.” He has disrupted any connection with Western countries. He is not ready to finish this disaster right now. He will continue.”
The NATO military alliance says the world has become more dangerous after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his nation’s suspension of a key nuclear weapons treaty with the United States.
By Stefan J. Bos
Russian President Putin used his annual State of the Nation speech on Tuesday to announce he was suspending Russia’s participation in the New START Treaty with the United States.
New START is the last remaining nuclear arms reduction deal between Washington and Moscow. It was signed in 2010 and extended for five years in 2021.
It limits each side to 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads.
Putin claimed Russia’s suspension of the treaty was needed as the US and its allies wanted Russia, in his words, “to suffer a strategic defeat” and meddle with its nuclear facilities.
In a reaction, NATO military alliance secretary general Jens Stoltenberg condemned the move saying that “more nuclear weapons and fewer arms control makes the world more dangerous.”
Claims of Western guilt
President Putin spoke in Moscow in an address to legislators and leaders ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He blamed the West for the war by allegedly supporting attacks in eastern Ukraine, where many Russians live, and other actions.
“They unilaterally broke fundamental agreements that maintained peace on the planet,” Putin said. “And finally, in 2021, we officially sent our draft resolution to the United States and NATO regarding security on all important points. But on all important points, we virtually got a point-blank denial,” the Russian leader claimed.
“I want to repeat that it was them [the West] who were guilty or culpable for the war. And we are using a force to stop it,” Putin added.
Biden in Ukraine
However, earlier in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, President Joe Biden accused Russia of provoking Europe’s largest armed conflict since the Second World War by invading a sovereign nation.
“We mourn alongside the families of those who’ve been lost to the brutal and unjust war. We know that there’ll be very difficult days and weeks and years ahead,” Biden said, standing next to Ukraine’s president on Monday.
“But Russia’s aim was to wipe Ukraine off the map. Putin’s war of conquest is failing. Russia’s military has lost half the territory it once occupied,” Biden stressed.
He also noted that, “Young, talented Russians are fleeing by the tens of thousands, not wanting to come back to Russia.”
Biden was due to give a similar message in neighboring Poland on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after announcing another half a billion dollars in military support to the war-torn nation.
[End Stefan J. Bos Vatican News article]
Putin’s state of the nation speech: What exactly did he say? (link)
President Putin blames the West and Ukraine for the war he ordered a year ago.
21 Feb 2023
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has delivered a state of the nation speech in the Russian capital, Moscow, assessing the invasion of Ukraine he ordered a year ago.
Here are highlights from his address delivered on Tuesday to members of both houses of parliament, military commanders and soldiers:
‘Russia is suspending its participation’ in the New START treaty
“I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty.”
The New START treaty was signed in Prague in 2010. It came into force the following year and was extended in 2021 for five more years after United States President Joe Biden took office.
It caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of land and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.
Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, with close to 6,000 warheads, according to experts. Together, Russia and the United States hold about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads – enough to destroy the planet many times over.
‘A watershed moment for our country’
“I am making this address at a time which we all know is a difficult, watershed moment for our country, a time of cardinal, irreversible changes around the world, the most important historic events that will shape the future of our country and our people, when each of us bears a colossal responsibility.”
Western nations trying to ‘distract people’s attention’
“They just tried to use these principles of democracy and freedom to defend their totalitarian values and they tried to distract people’s attention from corruption scandals … from economic-social problems.”
‘Responsibility is on West and Ukrainian elite’
“The responsibility is on the West and the Ukrainian elite and government, which does not serve the national interest, but [rather serves the interest] of third countries [which] use Ukraine as a military base to fight Russia.
“The more they send weapons to Ukraine, the more we will have the responsibility of the security situation at the Russian border. This is a natural response.”
‘We don’t fight the Ukrainian people’
“We don’t fight with the Ukrainian people. They became hostages of the Kyiv regime that occupied Ukraine both economically and politically. Over years, they were doing everything to bring this degradation … They are using their people, it’s sad but true.”
Donbas subjected to ‘undisguised hatred’
“Step by step, carefully and consistently, we will resolve the tasks facing us. Since 2014, the (people of the) Donbas had been fighting, defending their right to live on their own land, to speak their native language.
“They fought and did not give up in the conditions of blockade and constant shelling, undisguised hatred on the part of the Kyiv regime. They believed and expected that Russia would come to their rescue.
“Meanwhile, we did our best to solve this problem by peaceful means. We patiently tried to negotiate a peaceful way out of this most difficult conflict, but a completely different scenario was being prepared behind our backs.”
‘Reviving enterprises and jobs’ in occupied Ukrainian lands
“We have already begun and will continue to build up a large-scale programme for the socioeconomic recovery and development of these new subjects of the federation (territory annexed from Ukraine). We are talking about reviving enterprises and jobs in the ports of the Sea of Azov, which has again become an inland sea of Russia, and building new modern roads, as we did in Crimea.”
‘I understand how unbearably hard it is’ for families of killed soldiers
Putin said he understood how difficult it was for relatives of Russian soldiers who had died fighting in Ukraine, and promised “targeted support” with a new special fund.
“We all understand, I understand how unbearably hard it is now for the wives, sons, daughters of fallen soldiers, their parents, who raised worthy defenders of the Fatherland.”
‘Child abuse all the way up to paedophilia … advertised as the norm’ in the West
“They distort historical facts and constantly attack our culture, the Russian Orthodox Church, and other traditional religions of our country,” Putin said of Western nations supporting Ukraine.
“Look at what they do with their own peoples: the destruction of the family, cultural and national identity, perversion and the abuse of children are declared the norm. And priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages.
“As it became known, the Anglican Church plans to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God … Millions of people in the West understand they are being led to a real spiritual catastrophe.”
“Look at what they do to their own people: the destruction of families, of cultural and national identities and the perversion that is child abuse all the way up to paedophilia, are advertised as the norm … and priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages.”