Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his annual address to Russian lawmakers and officials on Wednesday, with this year’s speech lasting 78 minutes, and dedicated to a broad range of issues including foreign and defence policy, the economy and social policy, the coronavirus and climate change.
Sputnik has collected the speech’s highlights. A complete readout of the address can be found here.
On Foreign and Defence Policy
- Commenting on the series of “unfriendly actions” he said have been taken against Russia, Putin said that while Russia has so far acted with “utter restraint." He added, however, that "if someone perceives our goodwill as indifference or weakness, and is prepared to completely burn, or even blow up…bridges, Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, speedy and tough,” he warned.
- Without naming any country specifically, Putin denounced nations attempting to impose “unlawful, politically motivated economic sanctions” and making “crude attempts to enforce their will on others.”
- Comparing countries seeking to bully and intimidate Russia to the tiger Shere Khan and the jackal Tabaqui – characters from Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel "The Jungle Book" – Putin warned adversaries not to cross Russia’s “red lines,” saying these lines would be determined by Moscow in each specific instance. “Those staging any provocations that threaten core interests of our security will regret it like nothing before,” he said.
- Mentioning the recently uncovered foreign-backed plot to assassinate Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and members of his family and to stage a coup in Belarus, Putin said this plot "crossed all boundaries" of legitimate intercourse between nations. Commenting on the plot’s details – including plans to shut down the Minsk power grid and shut down the city’s infrastructure and communications, Putin suggested that “apparently, it’s not for no reason that our Western colleagues have stubbornly rejected numerous proposals by the Russian side to establish an international dialogue in the field of information and cybersecurity.”
- Pointing to Moscow's ongoing work to modernise its nuclear arsenal and reporting that the share of modern weapons systems in the country's nuclear triad would exceed 88 percent by the end of 2021, Putin invited other nations to discuss with Russia questions related to strategic stability. “The purpose of such talks may be the creation of an environment of conflict-free coexistence on the basis of the equalisation of security, which would encompass not only traditional strategic weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but also – and I would like to emphasise this point: all offensive and defensive systems capable of carrying out strategic tasks, regardless of their armament,” he said.
- On the subject of strategic defence, Putin revealed that the first full regiment of Russia’s new Sarmat ICBM would come online by 2022, while Zircon hypersonic missiles would be put on alert in the near future. Overall, the share of modern equipment in the Russian military is expected to exceed 75 percent by 2024, according to Putin.
Domestic Issues: Healthcare, Social Policy, Economy, Environment
- Putin devoted considerable attention and time to the coronavirus pandemic in the first half of his speech, praising Russians for joining together to combat the disease, and reserving admiration for Russia’s scientists for their work to create three different Covid vaccines which he encouraged people to use. Suggesting that the global healthcare system was on the threshold of a “real revolution,” the president said that the pandemic had “strongly accelerated” new techniques and technologies like telemedicine, the use of AI, new approaches to diagnostics, surgery, and rehabilitation. “Our task is to put such technologies at the service of the citizens of our country. It is on the new technological basis that we need to build the entire healthcare system,” he said.
- Commenting on Russia’s demographic situation, and the recently reported decline of the population by over 700,000 people over the past three years, Putin said that “preservation of people” was the government’s “top national priority," and that its national strategy was meant to “achieve sustainable population growth, and ensure that average life expectancy in Russia will reach 78 by 2030,” up from its current average of 72.5 years, including 65.1 years for men.
- On the subject of social welfare, Putin mentioned a new programme which will pay single parents a new additional monthly stipend averaging 5,650 rubles (equivalent to about $74), complementing payments made to all parents, which have also been increased. The president praised what he said were “unprecedented measures” taken by the government to support the economy during the pandemic, saying some five million jobs had been saved through the provision of soft loans and tax breaks to business. Noting that the corporate sector was on track to registering an all-time record in profits in 2021, Putin said the government would work to promote additional private investment to create new jobs.
- Putin also indicated that the state would be soon be simplifying conditions for companies engaged in non-commodity exports through the easing of currency control restrictions. On the subject of taxes, he said that the taxation system was in need of fine-tuning to encourage companies to invest profits in their industries.
- The president also devoted attention to the environment, promising that Russia would do its part in fighting climate change, including by engaging in the cleanup of environmental damage and the reclamation of land. Emphasising that Russia is warming at a rate 2.5 times above the world average, Putin set a goal for Russia to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions to levels below the European Union over the next thirty years, notwithstanding challenges, such as geography and Russia’s northern climate. “We have to adapt our agricultural sector, industrial complex, public services and infrastructure, to create a CO2 recycling industry, aim for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through tough control and monitoring,” he said. “I am absolutely certain that this goal is achievable, given our scientific and technological potential,” he added.
- Russia is a major energy-producing nation, with its oil reserves expected to last at least several more decades. Accounting for changing circumstances, Putin suggested that the country needs “new comprehensive approaches to energy, including new solutions in nuclear power generations, in such prospective areas as hydrogen energy and energy storage.”