One of the clearest and yet astonishing policy statements given by a statesman in the last twenty years came from Vladimir Putin:
What is the point of a world without Russia?
Why would we need a world without Russia?
What use to us is a world without Russia?
Зачем нам такой мир, если в нём не будет России?
The Russian is even clearer and pointed than the English, although I’ve done my best with the translations. If you read all three English versions, and hold all three in your head, you have a fairly exact understanding of just what Vladimir Putin said. I’d seen the clip in isolation but thought it came from Oliver Stone’s documentary The Putin Interviews (2017). I was also not quite sure of the wording.
I decided to do a bit of digging. It turns out that Putin had been speaking to Russian television anchor Vladimir Soloviev for his film World Order 2018 (Miroporyadok/Миропорядок 2018). The phrase is normally given without context in English.
I did find a high quality 2m12s clip of the (in)famous quote in context in Russian. But no how hard I looked I could not find a version with English subtitles. Here’s the clip with hand-translated idiomatic subtitles (by yours truly).
The whole transcript is above. In context, it’s clear that Russia’s nuclear doctrine is no first strike, unlike the US nuclear doctrine, which allows “preventative” use. In response to the aggressive first strike US posture, Russia subsequently changed its nuclear doctrine in June 2020. The new nuclear doctrine allows use when the existence of the Russian State is threatened:
The Russian Federation retains the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies and also in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is put under threat.
Given the public nuclear doctrine of the Russian Federation, I’m astonished at US efforts to threaten its existence. Perhaps Jens Stoltenberg, Mark Milley, Lloyd Austin and Ursula von der Leyen believe that Vladimir Putin is bluffing. I would suggest they more closely examine his track record of execution. Few current Western leaders seem particularly thoughtful and all seem inclined to groupthink. The genuine Kremlinologists and Arabists have been thrown out of the State Department and are held in disgrace in Europe.
I remember the days when Western leadership was still capable of listening to those who disagreed with them. Some select few were even capable of negotiation. We need that kind of leadership now.