President Vladimir Putin gave his annual address to the Federation Council or upper house of parliament, emphasizing the battle against terrorism which he clearly sees Russia as leading, and taking a major swipe at Turkey which downed a Russian warplane, saying “Allah had punished” Ankara by “depriving it of sense and reason.”
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
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Putin held a moment of silence and gave a word of thanks to the Russian military “fighting world terrorism” in this hall of “historical warriors’ glory” and pointed out the widows of those “lost in battle with terrorism” present at the speech.
“The terrorists have been squeezed out of Russia but implacable struggle goes on,” he said; here he mentioned more recent terrorist attacks in Volgograd two years ago and last month’s crash of the Metrojet plane, believed to be caused by a terrorist’s bomb.
“The threat of terrorism is growing. The problem of Afghanistan is not resolved. The situation in that country is alarming and does not instill optimism and the recently stable, in fact fairly prosperous countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa — Iraq, Libya and Syria — have turned into a zone of chaos and anarchy from which a threat to the whole world ensues.
We know too well why that happened, who wanted to remove undesirable regimes, crudely impose their rules. And the result is what? They boiled the porridge, destroyed statehood, set people against each other and then — as we say here in Russia — they washed their hands of it, having opened the road to radicals, extremists and terrorists.”
We must cast aside all disputes and differences and create one powerful fist, a united anti-terrorist front, which will operate on the basis of international law and under the aegis of the United Nations.
Every civilized state now is obliged to make its contribution to the defeat of terrorists and confirm its solidarity — and not by declarations but by concrete actions.
That means no asylum for bandits. No double standards. No contacts with any terrorist organizations. No attempts to use them in ones’ aims. No criminal, bloody business with terrorists.
We know, for example, who in Turkey is filling his pocket and letting terrorists earn money for the sale of stolen oil in Syria. It is with this cash that the bandits recruit mercenaries, buy weapons, and organize inhuman terrorist acts aimed against our citizens and the citizens of France, Libya, Mali and other states. We recall that it was in fact in Turkey that militants who had operated in the North Caucasus in the 1990s and 2000s hid out and received moral and material support. And we note them there still.
Meanwhile, the Turkish people are good, hard-working and talented. We have many long-time and reliable friends in Turkey. And I will emphasize: they must know that we do not equate them with part of the current ruling elite which has direct responsibility for the death of our servicemen in Syria.
We will not forget this assistance to terrorists. We have always believed and will go on considering betrayal as the lowest and most shameful thing. Let those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back that hypocrisy tries to justify itself, its actions and hide the crimes of terrorists.
My respected colleagues, I really do not understand why they did this. Any issues, any problems, any contradictions which we even did not see could have been resolved in a completely different way. Moreover, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on its most sensitive issues and were prepared to go further than their allies wanted to do. Only Allah likely knows why they did this. And apparently Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey, depriving it of intelligence and sense.
Putin also highlighted the role of civil society in his speech, which might seem counterintuitive given the crackdown on NGOs, the designation of some as “foreign agents” and others as “undesirable,” forcing foreign foundations and local groups to close.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick