Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West has been reluctant to recognize “irreversible tectonic shifts” in international relations and that the Asia-Pacific region has become a magnet for human resources, capital and production capacities.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused the U.S. of wanting to maintain a “dictatorship” over global affairs at the expense of Europe and the rest of the world.
Putin slammed the West repeatedly during a speech to business leaders gathered in far eastern Russia, saying sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine were a “danger” to the whole world and left Europe worse off.
“The pandemic has been replaced by new challenges of a global nature, carrying a threat to the whole world, I’m talking about the sanctions rush in the West and the West’s blatantly aggressive attempts to impose their modus vivendi on other countries, to take away their sovereignty, to submit them to their will,” Putin told delegates at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum in the port city of Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast.
“The high level of industrial development in Europe, the standard of living, social and economic stability — all of this is being thrown onto the fire of sanctions,” he added.
“They are being wasted on orders from Washington in the name of so-called Euro-Atlantic unity. Though in reality, they are basically being sacrificed in the name of preserving the U.S. dictatorship in global affairs,” Putin said.
CNBC has contacted the White House for a response to Putin’s comments and is awaiting a reply.
Russia is widely believed to have been taken aback by the West’s assertive and unified response against its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which began back in February, with an ever-increasing number of sanctions being leveled at the Russian economy and personnel and businesses linked to the Kremlin.
The EU is trying to phase out energy imports, particularly of natural gas, from Russia — a move that comes at a tricky time for the bloc as it deals with rampant inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.
Unsurprisingly, Moscow has taken a dim view of sanctions and has sought to circumnavigate the damaging economic consequences of these by turning to its allies in Asia to sell its oil. It has now also halted all gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, saying sanctions prevent the pipeline from being repaired and working properly, a claim rejected by Siemens Energy which has supplied and maintained equipment for the pipeline.
Sergei Guriev, professor of economy at Sciences Po and former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, told CNBC that Russia was promoting a “false narrative” around sanctions.
“The narrative is false become Putin’s economy is hurt when you look at the actual numbers. in the second quarter of 2022, GDP was 6% below the first quarter, this is an amazing speed in the fall of GDP. When you look at the decline in retail trade turnover, the consumption of goods and services by Russian households, that’s [seen] about a 10% decline. When you look at fiscal affairs, July saw about a deficit of about 8% of GDP and that was with an oil price of around $100 [a barrel].”
“Putin is not doing very well but what he’s doing with his gas blackmailing in July and August is trying to divide Europe … and to [try to] make sure that Europeans will stop pushing the sanctions.”
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the war continues to cause untold misery to civilians and death and destruction.
The United Nations’ said this week that, from Feb. 24 when the invasion began to Sept. 4, 13,917 civilian casualties had been recorded in Ukraine with 5,718 killed and 8,199 injured — although the true number is likely to be far, far higher given the chaotic nature of recording such data during times of war.
Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced from the country during the war, with Russia accused of multiple war crimes and of repeatedly targeting civilian infrastructure, which it denies doing despite an overwhelming and mounting amount of evidence.
U.S. President Joe Biden has called Putin a “war criminal” but on Tuesday refused to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, a label Ukraine has called for. The EU has said Russia is “weaponizing” energy supplies to blackmail it into sanctions relief.
Russia currently occupies a swathe of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine but Kyiv’s forces have recently launched a counteroffensive to reclaim lost land.
Pivot eastward continues
Russia’s president, who has been largely ostracized by developed Western countries following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, said he believed the current situation had been precipitated by the U.S.’s “slipping dominance” in global politics and economics.
He said the West had been reluctant to recognize “irreversible tectonic shifts” in global politics and international relations, particularly a pivot east.
Describing the Asia-Pacific region as a “magnet” for human resources, capital and production capacities, Putin said that “despite that, Western countries are trying to maintain the old world order that only benefitted them.”
On Tuesday, Putin announced that China will pay for gas from Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom in both their currencies, the ruble and Chinese yuan, signaling a further attempt by both countries to sideline the dollar.
“Western countries have undermined the key pillars of the world economic system built over centuries,” Putin said.
“We have seen the loss in trust in the dollar, and the euro and the pound as the currencies in which you can carry out transactions, hold deposits or assets and that is why, step by step, we are moving away from the use of these unreliable, compromised currencies,” he said.
Russia itself is facing a hard winter with the central bank forecasting a deepening contraction in the third quarter.
Gross domestic product will fall by 7% in the third quarter after contracting by 4.3% in the second quarter, Reuters reported last month citing a report from the central bank. The bank forecast that the economy will start recovering in the second half of 2023. Inflation stood at 15.1% in July, above the EU rate of 9.8% in the same month.
Speaking to business leaders Wednesday, Putin said Russia would post a budget surplus this year and that GDP would fall by “around 2% or a little more.”