“With this speech from Vladimir Putin, we could see that we were entering another era”

“With this speech from Vladimir Putin, we could see that we were entering another era”
“With this speech from Vladimir Putin, we could see that we were entering another era”

Vladimir Putin officially began his fifth term. In his swearing-in speech, the Russian president spoke in particular about the war in Ukraine, Russia’s relations with the West, but also about the composition of his next government. Analysis with Laetitia Spetschinsky, doctor in international relations at UCLouvain and specialist in Russia.

How would you describe Vladimir Putin’s inauguration speech?

He is almost mocking because he welcomes the achievements, he thanks the Russian people for having placed their trust in him while no one is fooled, including in Russia, by the fact that there was no alternative. He insists for two paragraphs on the trust placed in him. He takes note of the success that he himself imposed on the Russian people. This speech is not very creative, there is not much effort, unlike others since almost everything was said in his previous speech to the nation last February, in which he made a program of campaign.

What are the key points of the speech?

What is worth remembering is the paragraph which focuses on the fact that the new government will be made up of people who have demonstrated their patriotism, particularly during the war in Ukraine. “People who have proven their quality and loyalty to the homeland will take dominant positions in the administration and in the economy,” he said. It’s something we’ve been waiting for. It will be made up of personalities from the intelligence service and the army. We will have a government that will be much more military and security focused, with fewer technicians, fewer economists. This will set a completely different tone, we are entering another era. This also applies to large public companies in strategic sectors. We will see this in more detail when he forms his government.

Vladimir Putin also talks about strengthening Russia. It basically mentions two directions. First of all, Russia must be autonomous, “self efficient”, this is the Russian version of strategic autonomy. He talks about autonomy but the border is quite weak with autarky. Then, “be competitive” – this is the second adjective he uses – to conquer new markets. This is wishful thinking for the moment, since the Russian economy is neither autarkic nor competitive.

Vladimir Putin affirmed that he “did not refuse “dialogue” with the West but that the “choice depended on them”. Have his remarks towards the West evolved?

The part of the speech about the hand extended towards the West is a smokescreen. The speech indicates that the West can choose to respectfully address Russia, which in this case will eventually consider the option of renewing ties, which is unlikely. Putin adds, immediately afterwards, that the West cannot claim a dialogue with Russia if it positions itself in a posture “of force and arrogance and exclusivity”. It’s appalling. These three months best characterize Russian policy on the Western level. All of Vladimir Putin’s previous speeches are based on the fact that Russia pursues a greater good against Western evil and decadence. So the arrogance is more in the Russian camp. Regarding “exclusivity”, it is Russia which, through its war, is sending a clear message to the West by saying: “this region is our exclusive zone of influence and all Western forces must retreat from several tens of kilometers beyond Ukraine, if they want pacification”.

This speech is quite distressing because we find no substance in it, we find a succession of words which have no concrete application. Usually, Vladimir Putin provides content but this is just political marketing, like an obligatory exercise.

War in Ukraine: will Russia target Europe following the United Kingdom’s declaration?

What does this speech portend for the future?

The speech itself does not suggest much other than what concerns his government. That’s a real change. For the rest, it is more or less an extension of what was said before but with less force of conviction. I think Vladimir Putin has a busy schedule, he has to rebuild his government. It seems to me that he didn’t have much time.

At the start of each mandate, the government resigns on principle and then the president appoints a new Prime Minister who forms his government. This is completely normal procedure. On the other hand, what is interesting is that there are usually no guidelines on the type of government that will be formed. It’s been 3 months since he announced that he was going to seek out future members of the government from a certain caste and form a new elite who would have access to power and privileges. This suggests a very radical government, very anti-European and hyper loyal to Putin for the coming years. In the previous government, there was still a little slack in the solidity of the executive with a Prime Minister who was essentially an economic technician.

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