"Shoe bangs, shoe bangs..."
Nikita Krushchev at the United Nations, September 29, 1960
From the hysterical coverage given to Putin's remarks at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, the casual observer might think he was pulling a Krushchev. Much of the "Cold War rhetoric" actually comes from politicians in other democratic states making use of Russia as a whipping boy for their inability to deal constructively or timely with a myriad of foreign policy issues. Putin addressed the audience as only an elected official secure at the end of his successful two-term run can - with candor.
Putin used his remarks to clarify Russia's (and Russians') position on several issues. His response to reporters' pointed questions were the most telling and the speech and Putin's answers can be read in full (in English no less) on the Kremlin homepage.
On international double standards, perceptions of unfairness, and why it's not hard to understand why Russia is becoming a leading voice of constructive criticism from developing and transitional economies:
Foreign companies participate in all our major energy projects. According to different estimates, up to 26 percent of the oil extraction in Russia -- and please think about this figure -- up to 26 percent of the oil extraction in Russia is done by foreign capital. Try, try to find me a similar example where Russian business participates extensively in key economic sectors in western countries. Such examples do not exist! There are no such examples.
I would also recall the parity of foreign investments in Russia and those Russia makes abroad. The parity is about fifteen to one. And here you have an obvious example of the openness and stability of the Russian economy.
Putin at the Munich Security Conference
... Furthermore. As you know, the process of Russia joining the World Trade Organization has reached its final stages. I would point out that during long, difficult talks we heard words about freedom of speech, free trade, and equal possibilities more than once but, for some reason, exclusively in reference to the Russian market.
On NATO's enlargement, he rightly asks what establishing forward bases in Eastern Europe has to do with the real threat today, terrorism:
Regarding our perception of NATO's eastern expansion, I already mentioned the guarantees that were made and that are not being observed today. Do you happen to think that this is normal practice in international affairs? But all right, forget it...NATO is not a universal organisation, as opposed to the United Nations. It is first and foremost a military and political alliance...why is it necessary to put military infrastructure on our borders during this expansion? Can someone answer this question? Unless the expansion of military infrastructure is connected with fighting against today's global threats? Let's put it this way, what is the most important of these threats for us today -- the most important for Russia, for the USA and for Europe -- it is terrorism and the fight against it.
Does one need Russia to fight against terrorism? Of course! Does one need India to fight against terrorism! Of course! But we are not members of NATO and other countries aren't either. But we can only work on this issue effectively by joining our forces.
On Kosovo and Serbia, he openly states the problems of micro-managing expert-driven approaches:
What will happen with Kosovo and with Serbia? Only Kosovars and Serbs can know. And let's not tell them how they should live their lives. There is no need to play God and resolve all of these peoples' problems. Together we can only create certain necessary conditions and help people resolve their own problems. Create the necessary conditions and act as the guarantors of certain agreements. But we should not impose these agreements. Otherwise, we shall simply put the situation into a dead end. And if one of the participants in this difficult process feels offended or humiliated, then the problem will last for centuries. We will only create a dead end.
On Iran, which is probably one area where Russia's current activities will come back to kick the bear in the teeth, he does remind us why other nations don't see America as so benign:
In general we deliver much less arms to the Middle East than other countries, including the United States. No comparison is possible there. We recently delivered an anti-aircraft weapon system to Iran -- that is true -- with a medium range, approximately 30 to 50 kilometres. That is true. Why did we do this? I can explain why. We did this so that Iran did not feel it had been driven into a corner. So that it didn't feel that it was in some kind of hostile environment. Rather that Iran could understand that it had channels of communication and friends that it could trust. We very much expect that the Iranian party will understand and hear our signals.
On the new NGO registration system (remember when a parade of do-gooders swore up and down that this bill would be the end of civil society in Russia):
Yes, we introduced a new system for registering these organisations. But it is not that different from registration systems in other countries. And we have not yet seen any complaints from non-governmental organisations themselves. We have not refused registration to almost any organisations. There were two or three cases that were refused on simply formal grounds and these organisations are working on correcting certain provisions in their charters and so on. Nobody has been refused registration based on substantial, fundamental issues. All are continuing to work in the most active possible way and will continue to do so in the future.
What bothers us? I can say and I think that it is clear for all, that when these non-governmental organisations are financed by foreign governments, we see them as an instrument that foreign states use to carry out their Russian policies. That is the first thing. The second - in every country there are certain rules for financing, shall we say, election campaigns. Financing from foreign governments, including within governmental campaigns, proceeds through non-governmental organisations. And who is happy about this? Is this normal democracy? It is secret financing. Hidden from society. Where is the democracy here? Can you tell me? No! You can't tell me and you never will be able to. Because there is no democracy here, there is simply one state exerting influence on another.
On journalists in Russia (where the number dead per year continues to decline despite the sensationalized deaths in recent months):
And, incidentally, journalists are not only killed in Russia, but in other countries as well. Where are most journalists killed? You are an expert and probably know in which country the most journalists died in, say, the last year and a half? The largest number of journalists were killed in Iraq.