If you take the time to watch Vladimir Putin’s press conference yesterday (Friday) in Astana and then watch any recent cluster fark by Joe Biden, you will understand why the Russians are so calm in dealing with Ukraine. Putin is remarkable. Low key, well informed, articulate and not afraid of tough questions. He did not get any softballs here and, in fact, faced some tough questions. So much for the myth that Russia is a totalitarian state that brokers no dissent and requires everyone to toe a party line. That characterization more aptly describes the United States under the demented Joe Biden.
Here are the highlights with the relevant time stamp:
9:15 Putin asked about Germany’s behavior. He notes incisively that Germany has put priority on serving NATO rather than the interests of its nation and people.
14:40 Putin is asked about attending the G20 and meeting with Joe Biden. Putin said, there is no point. “There is no platform for any kind of negotiations at this point.” And we are in constant contact with some members of the G20, e.g. Turkey.
18;00 Putin is questioned directly about recent arrest of man in Moscow for listening to Ukrainian music. Putin responded that the arrest is wrong and we (Russia) should not behave like the West in trying to cancel a culture, in this case Ukrainian culture. He noted that Ukrainian is still a recognized language in Crimea and would remain so. He emphasized that Neo-Nazis and Nazi symbols on display in Ukraine are NOT Ukrainian culture and must be eliminated.
20:10 Mobilization was a hot topic. Will there be another wave of mobilization? Will there be “total mobilization”? Putin said the Defense Ministry initially planned a smaller number than the 300,000. Putin remarked that he doesn’t see any need right now to expand that number. There are 220,000 mobilized and the work of mobilization will be finished in two weeks.
22:00 Putin was asked about the men who fled Russia for other countries and calls in the Duma to confiscate their property. Putin said it must not be handled based on emotions. Rather it must be dealt with according to the law. In other words, each case must be litigated on an individual basis instead of a blanket action.
24:00 Another reporter cited one person mobilized who died allegedly with no training. Putin emphasized that the mobilized are supposed to receive 5 to 10 days refresher training. Then they go for specialized training that lasts 5 to 15 days. Then they undergo joint combat training. So far 33,000 men mobilized already with front line units and 16,000 in units with combat missions. Putin said he will order a review of the training regimen to ensure it is being done appropriately.
29:15 A reporter asked about the retaliatory strikes in response to the terrorist bombing of the Crimea bridge. Putin said there is no massive retaliation. Russia hit 22 of 29 targets and is now working on hitting the remaining 7. He said he saw no need for “massive retaliation” at this point.
30:00 Final question–NATO says that defeat of Ukraine by Russia will be the defeat of NATO. What happens if NATO deploys troops to Ukraine. Putin said “it could lead to a global catastrophe and I hope that those who talk about this will be smart enough not to undertake such dangerous steps.”
Whether you like or despise Putin, give the man his due. He spoke off the cuff. No notes in hand. He did not shy away from any question and he did not get angry or lose his cool. What a contrast with a Joe Biden press encounter. I think that Western politicians and pundits who disparage Putin as an incompetent dictator are making a very dangerous mistake. They fail to take this man at his word. Putin is establishing himself as a man who says what he means and means what he says.