New Year Message, an Ominous 2019

As the global community enters 2019, strategic challenges and demands are writ large. Conflicts are immediate, rising existential threats cross borders, rearmament and resurgent nationalism are growing grave.  The relations of China, Russia, and the United States border on near crisis, a darkened horizon with glimpses of light

Let us open the New Year with 3 messages…

 

1) With a background of a new nuclear arms race and breakdown of international nuclear weapons limitation agreements…

Is there a glimmer of hope for the INF Treaty?

 

2) New Year greetings to heads of state and government • President of Russia

The multi-national citations of greetings included these:

Vladimir Putin sent New Year and the upcoming Spring Festival greetings to President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping. “The relations of comprehensive trust-based partnership and strategic interaction between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China have reached an unprecedented level,” the message says.

The President of Russia stressed the existence of an ongoing substantive political dialogue, the dynamic growth of bilateral trade, the successful launch of the reciprocal years of region-to-region cooperation and the good results of coordinating the efforts by Moscow and Beijing in addressing important regional and global issues. The Russian leader also expressed confidence that effective joint work on the bilateral and international agenda will continue in the coming year, which will mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Vladimir Putin wished Xi Jinping good health, happiness and every success, and the friendly Chinese people happiness and prosperity.

Vladimir Putin also sent a message to President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad, in which he stressed that Russia will continue to provide all-round assistance to the government and people of Syria in their fight against terrorism and efforts to protect state sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Russian leader wished the Syrian people the earliest return to peaceful and prosperous life.

The President of Russia sent New Year greetings to President of the Turkish Republic Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he noted that he was pleased with the auspicious development of Russia-Turkey relations.

“The construction of the first unit of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant has begun and the offshore section of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline has been built. New, promising areas of bilateral cooperation have been outlined,” the message says. The Russian leader stressed that through their joined efforts, Moscow and Ankara are making a decisive contribution to fighting terrorism in Syria and advancing the process of political settlement in that country.

Vladimir Putin expressed his firm belief that the work on building mutually beneficial ties across all areas for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries in the interest of strengthening peace, security and stability on the Eurasian continent will continue.

The President also sent greetings to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Prime Minister Theresa May, in which he wished them and their family members good health, happiness and every success, and the British people well-being and prosperity.

In a Christmas and New Year greeting message to President of the United States of America Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia-US relations are the most important factor behind ensuring strategic stability and international security, and reaffirmed that Russia is open to dialogue with the United States on the most extensive agenda.

In his Christmas and New Year greetings to His Holiness Pope Francis, Vladimir Putin expressed hope for further strengthening of the relations between Russia and the Vatican in order to protect universal values, to uphold the ideals of justice and peace in the world and to promote dialogue between various religions.

 

3) December 20, 2018 / Russian live broadcast with the Russian Federation President

The live question and answer format press conference was first held in 2001 and hosted over 500 journalists. Since then it continued annually until 2008, when Putin became Russia’s prime minister.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked:

“Mr. President, as Soviet-era children, all of us feared a nuclear war very much…. Forty years have passed, and major media outlets on both sides of the ocean are beginning to publish a scenario for a nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States. The word ‘war’ is sounding more and more often at household level, in kitchens.

“Mr. President, how can you calm down my little son who, just like me, also fears a nuclear war today? What words and actions can calm us all down?”

Here is President Putin’s answer (translated/English):

“You know, I think you are right. I just thought that all this, including the danger of such developments in the world, is now being hushed up and played down to some extent. It seems impossible or something that is not so important. At the same time, if, God forbid, something like this happens, it might destroy the whole of civilization or perhaps the entire planet.

“These issues are therefore serious, and it is a great pity that there is such a tendency to underestimate the problem, and that this tendency is probably becoming more pronounced. What are the current distinguishing features and dangers?

“First, all of us are now witnessing the disintegration of the international system for arms control and for deterring the arms race. This process is taking place after the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty that, as I have already noted a thousand times, was the cornerstone in the sphere of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and deterring the arms race.

“After that, we were forced to respond by developing new weapons systems that could breach these ABM systems. Now, we hear that Russia has gained an advantage. Yes, this is true. So far, the world has no such weapons systems. Leading powers will develop them, but, as yet they do not exist. In this sense, there are certain advantages. But, speaking of the entire strategic balance, this is just an element of deterrence and for equalizing parities. This is just the preservation of parity, and nothing more.

“They are now about to take another step and withdraw from the INF Treaty. What will happen? It is very difficult to imagine how the situation will unfold. What if these missiles show up in Europe? What are we supposed to do then? Of course, we will need to take some steps to ensure our safety. And they should not whine later that we are allegedly trying to gain certain advantages. We are not. We are simply trying to maintain the balance and ensure our security.

“The same goes for the START III Treaty, which expires in 2021. There are no talks on this issue. Is it because no one is interested, or believes it is necessary? Fine, we can live with that.

“Finally, there is another circumstance I cannot ignore. There is a trend to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. There are plans to create low-impact nuclear charges, which translates to tactical rather than global use. Such ideas are coming from Western analysts who say it is okay to use such weapons. However, lowering the threshold can lead to a global nuclear disaster. This is one danger we are facing today.

“The second is the use of non-nuclear ballistic missiles. True, our U.S. partners seem to have dropped this idea, but it still exists. What does it mean? Suppose, a ballistic missile is launched, nuclear or non-nuclear. The missile attack warning system identifies the launch and the launch site, and, seconds later, determines the flight path and the possible warhead landing area. This is all on the verge of a possible error. It is terrible, and we cannot take it that far. Nevertheless, such an idea of using non-nuclear ballistic missiles exists. Suppose, a submarine fired a ballistic missile from the World Ocean, but who the hell knows if it is nuclear or not, go figure. This is very dangerous. All of that is being widely discussed, which is dangerous.

“However, I believe humanity has enough common sense and enough of a sense of self-preservation not to take these things to the extreme.”

 

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