Munich – Valdai – Crimea

The Malaysian Institute of Translations and Books in Cooperation with ASEAN Centre in MGIMO has published in Kuala Lumpur a book with three landmark speeches of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

The need to understand others and to be understood by others is a characteristic sign of responsibility in both individuals and nations. Since his emergence on the Russian and global political scene, Vladimir Putin has never spared an opportunity to explain what his government stands for – and why it stands for what it stands in domestic and foreign policy terms.

At least three of these numerous statements may be singled out as being of special interest to all those who seek a better understanding of modern Russia and its leader. In each of the three cases the importance of the message is matched by the scope and intensity of reactions and comments.

The first of these statements, made on February 10, 2007, during the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy and known ever since as the Munich speech, was a thorough criticism of attempts to impose a unipolar order on the world. “Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy. We are not going to change this tradition today”, said Putin, confirming at the same time that Russia is always open to external partnerships based on equality and mutual respect.

The venue for another landmark speech, this time on the issues of Russia’s national identity in the era of globalization, was the 10th session of the Valdai International Discussion Club (September 19, 2013). Putin’s address was largely built around the theme of indigenous spiritual values as well-springs of genuine sovereignty. Presenting Russia’s cultural diversity as its major advantage at the time of growing economic, political and military competitions, he strongly spoke against “a unipolar, standardized world” in which so many states are reduced to the status of “vassals” with blurred identities – and very few chances of becoming successful competitors. No wonder many observers interpreted the Valdai speech as a continuation of the one delivered in Munich.

When in September 2013, the Russian President and the Valdai Club members discussed Ukraine’s relations with the West and Russia, hardly anyone could anticipate the magnitude of the crisis that would unfold in Ukraine in just a matter of months. The truly global echo of these events could not be imagined either. A referendum held in Crimea in mid-March 2014 on the issue of its reunification with Russia resulted in an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote. On March 18, 2014, the Federal Assembly of Russia met in Kremlin to listen to the President’s address on this matter and to applaud the signing of the treaty on admitting Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation.

Who is to blame for stirring up a brutal conflict in Ukraine? Has Russia really violated international law in the case of Crimea? Why, in view of Ukraine’s domestic trends and their geopolitical implications, Russia cannot help but welcome Crimea people’s choice? These and other sensitive questions (including the ones already addressed in the Munich and Valdai speeches) are answered in the Crimea speech in a manner so frank that it becomes an obligatory reading for both a friend and a foe.

Promoting mutual understanding between Russia and ASEAN member-countries is a priority task of ASEAN Centre in MGIMO University of Moscow. Therefore – and for all the reasons outlined above – the Centre welcomes the publication of Vladimir Putin’s landmark speeches by the Malaysian Institute of Translations and Books. Let the texts speak for themselves.

Victor SUMSKY, Director,
ASEAN Centre in MGIMO University



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