Today the Financial Times published a long and wide ranging interview with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
A full transcript is currently available through this link.
The talk is making some waves:
- Putin: Russian president says liberalism ‘obsolete’ – BBC
- Vladimir Putin says liberalism has ‘outlived its purpose’ – Irish Times
- Russia’s Vladimir Putin: Liberalism in Europe is ‘obsolete’ – NBC News
From the last link:
Putin said in an interview with the Financial Times Friday that the “liberal idea has become obsolete,” and referred to Germany’s decision to welcome more than one million refugees — many fleeing savage urban warfare in Syria — as a “cardinal mistake.”
It is only the last part of the very long interview, where Putin indeed speaks of the ‘obsolesce’ of the ‘liberal idea’, that seems to be of interest to the media. Most of the interview is in fact about other issues. The media also do not capture how his ‘obsolete’ argument is ingrained in the worldview Putin developed, and how it reflects in many of his answers.
Here are excerpts that show that the gist of Putin’s ‘obsolete’ argument is not against the ‘liberal idea’, but against what may be best called ‘international (neo-)liberalism’.
Putin explains why U.S. President Donald Trump was elected:
Has anyone ever given a thought to who actually benefited and what benefits were gained from globalisation, the development of which we have been observing and participating in over the past 25 years, since the 1990s?
China has made use of globalisation, in particular, to pull millions of Chinese out of poverty.
What happened in the US, and how did it happen? In the US, the leading US companies — the companies, their managers, shareholders and partners — made use of these benefits. [..] The middle class in the US has not benefited from globalisation; it was left out when this pie was divided up.
The Trump team sensed this very keenly and clearly, and they used this in the election campaign. It is where you should look for reasons behind Trump’s victory, rather than in any alleged foreign interference.
Primarily, this concerns Syria, we have managed to preserve Syrian statehood, no matter what, and we have prevented Libya-style chaos there. And a worst-case scenario would spell out negative consequences for Russia.
I believe that the Syrian people should be free to choose their own future.
When we discussed this matter only recently with the previous US administration, we said, suppose Assad steps down today, what will happen tomorrow?
Your colleague did well to laugh, because the answer we got was very amusing. You cannot even imagine how funny it was. They said, “We don’t know.” But when you do not know what happens tomorrow, why shoot from the hip today? This may sound primitive, but this is how it is.
On ‘western’ interventionism and ‘democracy promotion’:
Incidentally, the president of France said recently that the American democratic model differs greatly from the European model. So there are no common democratic standards. And do you, well, not you, but our Western partners, want a region such as Libya to have the same democratic standards as Europe and the US? The region has only monarchies or countries with a system similar to the one that existed in Libya.
But I am sure that, as a historian, you will agree with me at heart. I do not know whether you will publicly agree with this or not, but it is impossible to impose current and viable French or Swiss democratic standards on North African residents who have never lived in conditions of French or Swiss democratic institutions. Impossible, isn’t it? And they tried to impose something like that on them. Or they tried to impose something that they had never known or even heard of. All this led to conflict and intertribal discord. In fact, a war continues in Libya.
So why should we do the same in Venezuela? …
Asked about the turn towards nationalism and more rightwing policies in the U.S. and many European countries, Putin names immigration as the primary problem: