On Friday, September 30th, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties ushering the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson into the Russian Federation. While the West deems the move to be ‘illegal,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy formally seeks NATO membership.
Controversial referendums, which were held between September 23rd and 27th in the four Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories have, according to Russia, garnered an overwhelming vote in favor of joining the Russian Federation. On Friday, September 30th, Putin held a formal signing ceremony in the Kremlin’s St. George Hall. “The people have made their unequivocal choice,” he said, adding that “it is undoubtedly their right, an inherent right sealed in Article 1 of the UN Charter, which directly states the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”
In his speech, the Russian leader viewed these regions to now be part of Russian territory, and that these would now be defended as such. The Russian leader said he had no ambition to revive the disintegrated Soviet Union. “But,” he went on to say, “there is nothing stronger than their [millions of people’s] determination to return to their true historical homeland.”
He wanted everyone, including “the Kyiv authorities and their true handlers in the West” to remember that “the people living in Lugansk and Donetsk, in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia have become our citizens, forever.”
An earlier statement by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov promised that strikes on Russia’s new territories would be viewed as acts of aggression. “It will be nothing else,” he said.
What made Putin’s speech remarkable, yet worrying to those seeking a peaceful resolution, was his blistering critique of western elites. Indeed, the bulk of his speech was a long diatribe against the West—one rarely, if ever, seen from a major world leader.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed, the West decided that the world and all of us would permanently accede to its dictates,” Putin said, as he accused it of trying “to weaken and break up Russia,” because it can not suffer “such a great country with this huge territory in the world, with its natural wealth, resources, and people who cannot and will not do someone else’s bidding” to exist.
“This explains their [western countries] aggression towards independent states, traditional values, and authentic cultures, their attempts to undermine international and integration processes, new global currencies, and technological development centers they cannot control. It is critically important for them to force all countries to surrender their sovereignty to the United States,” he went on.
Without explicitly mentioning the UN’s condemnation of Russia’s ‘sham’ referendums, which it views as being in breach of its Charter over its alleged threat or use of force, Putin cast doubt on the validity of the Western-imposed ‘rules-based order.’
After rhetorically questioning where these came from, who had ever seen these rules, or who had agreed to or approved them, he promised that Russia “is not going to live by such makeshift, false rules.”
As he impugned the West’s “moral right to weigh in, or even utter a word about the freedom of democracy,” as its “hegemony has pronounced features of totalitarianism, despotism, and apartheid, he concluded that its “current neocolonial model is ultimately doomed,” and that it “simply has nothing to offer the world except to maintain the same system of plundering and racketeering.”
Putin’s patent resentment against the West caused him to dwell on one of the main concerns in this conflict: the possible use of nuclear weapons. According to its nuclear doctrine, Russia can use a nuclear weapon if the country feels itself to be “existentially threatened.”
Yet, he does not appreciate the fact that the collective West is squarely pointing the finger at Russia as being the first to use that method, as the U.S. had set a precedent during World War II, while Russia had never used nuclear weapons before.
Putin expressed particular worry over the U.S.’ influence over European elites, as it is “practically pushing Europe toward deindustrialisation in a bid to get its hands on the entire European market.” He went on to accuse these European elites of being of perfect understanding about the situation, but that “they prefer to serve the interests of others, and that “this is no longer servility but a direct betrayal of their own peoples.” He also—again a first for a world leader—openly accused “the Anglo-Saxon countries” [the U.S. and the U.K.] of “having embarked on the destruction of Europe’s entire energy infrastructure,” by sabotaging both Nord Stream pipelines, since “sanctions are no longer enough.”
Judging by his speech, Putin is clearly broadening the regional conflict and turning it into a global exposé of the American ‘neocolonial system.’ As an alternative, he proposed a world of multipolarity, which is an opportunity for countries “to strengthen their sovereignty.” He concluded that “an essentially emancipatory, anti-colonial movement against unipolar hegemony is taking shape in the most diverse countries and societies. Its power will only grow with time. It is this force that will determine our future geopolitical reality.”
The Russian leader called upon Kyiv to agree to a ceasefire, and that he was open to negotiations.
Yet, Kyiv remains implacable, as it does not want to enter into talks with Moscow while Putin is in power. Shortly after the Russian leader’s speech, Ukrainian President Zelensky convened his National Security Council to discuss the annexation and made a surprise formal application to join NATO—which, in the halls of the Kremlin, is a red line.
Before Moscow launched its ‘special military operation’ in February, it was demanding legally binding guarantees that Ukraine would never be admitted into the military alliance.
Meanwhile, as a response to the ‘fraudulent’ annexation, a new package of U.S. sanctions has come into effect. “These sanctions will impose costs on individuals and entities—inside and outside of Russia—that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory,” a White House press release states.
Members of the European Council have also condemned the annexation, as its press release states that Russia is “wilfully undermining the rules-based international order and blatantly violating the fundamental rights of Ukraine to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, core principles as enshrined in the UN Charter and international law,” and is therefore “putting global security at risk.”
At a Friday session of the UN Security Council, Russia vetoed a resolution that described its annexation as “a threat to international peace and security,” demanding that the decision be immediately and unconditionally reversed. It was supported by ten of its fifteen members, with Russia voting against it. Brazil, China, Gabon, and India abstained.