Russia and the West: Hard talk

WHEN Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, gave a belligerent anti-Western speech in Munich seven years ago he was tense and angry. But on October 24th he was reportedly relaxed and happy as he delivered his most anti-American diatribe so far. He joked and smiled. He enjoyed flaunting his characteristic toughness in front of foreign journalists and experts who are members of the Valdai discussion club, leaving them stuck for words by his ability to twist facts and distort meanings.In substance the speech contained little new. Mr Putin blamed America’s “unilateral diktat” for the world’s disorders, and accused the West of double standards and hypocrisy towards Russia, which was only “protecting the interests of the Russian-speaking population in Crimea” against “neo-fascists” when it annexed the peninsula and stirred conflict in the east. The message was clear: if America breaks rules in Kosovo, so can Russia in Ukraine. “The bear will not even bother to ask permission. Here we consider it the master of the taiga. It does not intend to move to any other climatic zones. However, it will not let anyone have its taiga either.”Mr Putin recalled Khrushchev banging his shoe at the UN as a way to command attention. “The whole world, primarily the United States and NATO thought: this Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a…

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