Putin’s latest speech
Following are extracts from a televised speech on Monday 20 February by Russian President Vladimir Putin; here he is speaking on the Russian economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union
Colleagues, in this context I would like to make a small philosophical
digression. This is what I would like to single out.
We remember what problems and imbalances the Soviet economy faced in its
later stages. This is why after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its
planned system, in the chaos of the 1990s, the country began to create its
economy along the lines of market relations and private ownership.
Overall, this was the right thing to do. The Western countries were
largely an example to follow in this respect. As you know, their advisers
were a dime a dozen, and it seemed enough to simply copy their models.
True, I remember they still argued with each other – the Europeans argued
with the Americans on how the Russian economy should develop.
And what happened as a result? Our national economy was largely oriented
to the West and for the most part as a source of raw materials. Naturally,
there were different nuances, but overall, we were seen as a source of raw
materials. The reasons for this are also clear – naturally, the new
Russian businesses that were taking shape were primarily oriented toward
generating profit, quick and easy profit in the first place. What could
provide this? Of course, the sale of resources – oil, gas, metals
Few people thought about other alternatives or, probably, they did not
have the opportunity to invest long-term. This is the reason other, more
complex industries did not make much headway. It took us years – other
governments saw this clearly – to break this negative trend. We had
to adjust our tax system and make large-scale public investments.
We have achieved real and visible change. Indeed, the results are there,
but, again, we should keep in mind the circumstances in which our major
businesses developed. Technologies were coming from the West, cheaper
sources of financing and lucrative markets were in the West, and capital
started flowing to the West as well. Unfortunately, instead of expanding
production and buying equipment and technology to create new jobs
in Russia, they spent their money on foreign mansions, yachts and luxury
They began to invest in the economy later, but initially the money flowed
rapidly to the West for consumption purposes. And since their money was
there, that is where their children were educated, where their life was,
their future. It was very difficult and almost impossible for the state
to track and prevent these developments, because we lived in a free market
Recent events have clearly shown that the image of the West as a safe
haven for capital was a mirage. Those who failed to understand this
in time, who saw Russia only as a source of income and planned to live
mostly abroad, have lost a lot. They just got robbed there and saw even
their legitimate money taken away.
At some point I made a joke – many may still remember it – I told Russian
businesspeople that they will make themselves sick running from courtroom
to courtroom and from office to office in the West trying to save their
money. That is exactly how it turned out.
You know, I will say something that is quite simple, but truly important.
Trust me, not a single ordinary citizen in our country felt sorry
for those who lost their assets in foreign banks, lost their yachts
or palaces abroad, and so on. In their conversations around the kitchen
table, people have all recalled the privatisation of the 1990s, when
enterprises that had been built by our entire nation were sold for next
to nothing and the so-called new elites flaunted their lavish lifestyle.
There are other key aspects. During the years that followed the breakup
of the Soviet Union, the West never stopped trying to set the post-Soviet
states on fire and, most importantly, finish off Russia as the largest
surviving portion of the historical reaches of our state. They encouraged
international terrorists to assault us, provoked regional conflicts along
the perimeter of our borders, ignored our interests and tried to contain
and suppress our economy.
I am saying this because big business in Russia controls strategic
enterprises with thousands of workers that determine the socioeconomic
well-being of many regions and, hence, the overall state of affairs. So,
whenever leaders or owners of such businesses become dependent
on governments that adopt policies that are unfriendly to Russia, this
poses a great threat to us, a danger to our country. This is an untenable
Yes, everyone has a choice. Some may choose to live in a seized mansion
with a blocked account, trying to find a place for themselves
in a seemingly attractive Western capital, a resort or some other
comfortable place abroad. Anyone has the right to do that, and we will
never infringe on it. But it is time to see that in the West these people
have always been and will always remain second class strangers who can be
treated any way, and their money, connections and the acquired titles
of counts, peers or mayors will not help at all. They must understand that
they are second class people there.
There is another option: to stay with your Motherland, to work for your
compatriots, not only to open new businesses but also to change life
around you in cities, towns and throughout your country. We have quite
a few businesspeople like this, real fighters in our business community,
and we associate the future of our business with them. Everyone must know
that the sources of their prosperity and their future can only be here,
in their native country Russia.
If they do, we will create a very strong and self-sufficient economy that
will not remain aloof in the world but will make use of all its
competitive advantages. Russian capital, the money earned here, must be
put to work for the country, for our national development. Today, we see
huge potential in the development of infrastructure, the manufacturing
sector, in domestic tourism and many other industries.
I would like those who have come up against the predatory mores
of the West to hear what I have to say: running around with cap in hand,
begging for your own money makes no sense, and most importantly, it
accomplishes nothing, especially now that you realise who you are dealing
with. Stop clinging to the past, resorting to the courts to get at least
something back. Change your lives and your jobs, because you are strong
people – I am addressing our businesspeople now, many of whom I have known
for years, who know what is what in life.
Launch new projects, earn money, work hard for Russia, invest
in enterprises and jobs, and help schools and universities, science
and healthcare, culture and sports. In this way, you will increase your
wealth and will also win the respect and gratitude of the people
for a generation ahead. The state and society will certainly support you.
Let us consider this as a message for your business: get moving
in the right direction.