On January 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the Davos Week, which is scheduled for January 25 to 29 via video conference over the coronavirus pandemic. This year's "Great Reset" discussions are attended by heads of state and government, politicians and scientists, as well as world business leaders from dozens of countries. During the event, they will present their views on the 2021 world situation.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), a traditional winter event taking place in Davos, was postponed until the summer of 2021 due to COVID-19. This year, the WEF Special Annual Meeting is due in Singapore from May 13 to 16. In 2022, the forum is expected to be back in Davos, Switzerland.
It's been for a while now that Russia has last been represented by its President in Davos. In 2011 and 2013, Dmitry Medvedev attended the forum as President and Prime Minister respectively, while Vladimir Putin's last visit to the WEF was as far back as in 2009, in the capacity of Prime Minister.
Despite its highest-level leaders' failure to travel to Davos for a while and the sanctions-caused setback in relations with the West, Russia annually sent a strong delegation to the forum led by one of the deputy prime ministers, high-ranking officials, heads of state banks or state-owned companies. The only exceptions were 2019, when Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin was appointed head of the delegation, and 2020, when the Russian government changed before the forum, and the same Oreshkin went to the WEF session without being a minister, but also before becoming presidential aide.
Vladimir Putin's Davos Week speech was largely philosophic. The Russian leader compared the current global situation to the 1930s, with the pandemic having only aggravated the existing problems. In particular, he said: "Of course, such a heated global conflict is impossible in principle, I hope. This is what I am pinning my hopes on, because this would be the end of humanity. However, the situation could take an unexpected and uncontrollable turn – unless we do something to prevent this."
Vladimir Putin also spoke about the threat of "losing entire continents". Touching upon this topic, the Russian leader noted: "There is a chance that we will face a formidable break-down in global development, which will be fraught with a war of all against all... and the destruction of not only traditional values such as the family, which we hold dear in Russia, but fundamental freedoms such as the right of choice and privacy... The social and value crisis is already turning into negative demographic consequences, because of which humanity risks losing entire civilizational and cultural continents."
In his speech, President Putin could not but dwell on such an important issue as disarmament. Let's recall that just the day before, the Russian leader had a telephone conversation with American President Joe Biden, during which they agreed to extend the treaty between Russia and the United States on measures to further reduce and limit strategic offensive weapons (the START Treaty, also referred to as START-3) for another five years. In this regard, Putin said: "This is, without a doubt, a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the differences are leading to a downward spiral. As you are aware, the inability and unwillingness to find substantive solutions to problems like this in the 20th century led to the WWII catastrophe."
According to Vladimir Putin, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated new structural changes in the world economy and politics that began to take shape even before it. "It is difficult to overlook the fundamental changes in the global economy, politics, social life and technology. The coronavirus pandemic, which became a serious challenge for humankind, only spurred and accelerated the structural changes, the conditions for which had been created long ago," the Russian head of state pointed out.
"It is clear that the world cannot continue creating an economy that will only benefit a million people, or even the golden billion. This is a destructive precept," Putin said. Speaking about the tech giants, he noted: "Much is being said about this now, especially regarding the events that took place during the election campaign in the US. They are not just some economic giants. In some areas, they are de facto competing with states."
In his speech, Vladimir Putin also touched upon the unipolar world issue. "Obviously, the era linked with attempts to build a centralized and unipolar world order has ended. To be honest, this era did not even begin. A mere attempt was made in this direction, but this, too, is now history. The essence of this monopoly ran counter to our civilization’s cultural and historical diversity," the head of state stressed.
The Russian president also spoke about relations with Europe, stressing that "Europe and Russia are absolutely natural partners from the point of view of the economy, research, technology and spatial development for European culture, since Russia, being a country of European culture, is a little larger than the entire EU in terms of territory.". According to Putin, "we need to approach the dialogue with each other honestly. We need to discard the phobias of the past... We are ready for this, we want this, and we will strive to make this happen. But love is impossible if it is declared only by one side. It must be mutual."
During his speech, the Russian leader called it encouraging that this year, despite the pandemic and all the restrictions, the Davos Forum is still continuing its work, although in the online mode. "It provides an opportunity for participants to exchange their assessments and forecasts during an open and free discussion, partially compensating for the increasing lack of in-person meetings between leaders of states, representatives of international business and the public in recent months," Putin said.
In his opinion, "all this is very important now, when we have so many difficult questions to answer." According to the President of Russia, the first forum in the 21st century's third decade is mostly devoted to the profound changes that are taking place in the world.