A broadcast of Putin's annual speech to the Russian parliament at a Moscow electronics store (Image: TASS)
In his speech to the Russian parliament, Vladimir Putin outlined a vision for Russia’s future as a major combatant in the Middle East and “a besieged fortress” at home for a long time to come, but he also sent five key messages to Ukraine, according to Yury Romanenko.
The five messages, the Ukrainian political analyst says, are the following:
- Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine is no longer at the center of Moscow’s attention; the war in Syria is. For Ukrainians, Romanenko says, “this is a good thing.”
- But “this does not mean that Russia has left us in peace. It simply means that Ukraine has a brief “breathing space.”
- “Putin is preparing Russians for the state of being a besieged fortress,” and to pacify the Russian people he pledged to defend them against the arbitrary actions of officials.
- “Putin in practical terms acknowledged that the struggle with corruption has collapsed because he openly acknowledged that grey schemes have taken out of the budget hundreds of billions of rubles.”
- Putin “acknowledged that low prices for oil are a long-term trend” and that Russians will have to tighten their belts.
Overall, Romanenko says, Putin’s speech was a defensive one, an implicit recognition that the conflicts he has gotten Russia involved in require more resources than Russia has. That makes the next two years truly fateful ones for Russia just as they will be for Ukraine.