After defending Crimea’s “reunification” referendum as adhering to “all international norms,” Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Tuesday, March 18, that Russia would henceforth strongly defend its national interests against the “cold war tactics” practiced by the United States and the West.
He complained Moscow had sought dialogue with the West, but was “cheated all the time.” When he accused America of practicing the “law of the strong,” he was cheered by the packed lower house of the Russian parliament.
This was the most acrimonious speech heard from any Russian leader since the end of WWII in 1945.
Putin started with a review of the profound historical, national and religious significance of Crimea as the cradle of Russian civilization and went on to declare, “Our relationship with our brothers in Ukraine will always be a key issue for Russia,”
But then, after voicing sympathy with the protesters of Maidan Square against a succession of corrupt Ukrainian governments, he said Moscow would have no truck with the people who took power in Kiev. They were “fascists, anti-Semites, nationalists and radicals who seized power in a coup d’etat backed by western patrons, and do not legitimately represent the people of Ukraine.”
He accused them of plots against the ethnic Russians of Ukraine, starting with Crimea, after which they planned to serve the West by bringing NATO right up to the historic borders of Russia and into Sevastopol.
The Russian president repeated that Russia will always defend the interests of ethnic Russians of Ukraine “diplomatically, through laws and other means.”
Putin asked why Kosovo’s legitimacy in breaking away from Serbia was recognized by the UN and US and Crimea’s referendum deemed illegal. This is a double standard, he said. In 1999 Western troops invaded Serbia to separate Kosovo and NATO fired rockets into Belgrade, whereas Crimea saw no military showdown and not a single person died, he boasted.
So why was Western military action in defense of Kosovo’s rights legitimate, while Russia was accused of aggression in support of Crimea?
The Russian leader then delivered an unprecedented diatribe against the United States, accusing Washington of flouting the UN and Security Council in pursuit of its own interests, breaking international laws by bombing Iraq and Afghanistan, and fostering an “Arab spring” which turned into an “Arab winter.”
The West calls Russia an aggressive power which must be contained, Putin noted and added: “We have to stop this cold war rhetoric and assert our interests and you have to respect us and our interests as an independent nation.”
He mocked the sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials that the US and European Union approved Monday, saying that Moscow was used to sanctions in the form of dictates to fall in with their policies.
Putin also joked that Russia was ready to take on NATO forces in Crimea and Ukraine at any time
The session ended with Putin and Crimean leaders signing the treaty for making Crimea part of Russia with a grand flourish.