Putin says he will meet with Xi and insists Russia ‘has not lost anything’
By Ivan Nechepurenko and Victoria Kim
As his forces struggle in Ukraine and his economy strains under sanctions, President Vladimir Putin of Russia struck a defiant tone Wednesday, arguing that the West had failed in its “economic, financial and technological aggression” against Russia and that his country had only gained from the global furor over his invasion.
“We have not lost anything and will not lose anything,” Putin said at an economic conference in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok.
Putin also said he would meet next week with an increasingly important ally, President Xi Jinping of China, as the Russian leader tries to expand economic ties with Asia to counteract the effects of Western penalties. And he insisted that the invasion, now in its seventh month, had raised Moscow’s international stature and that a crackdown on dissent was cleansing Russia of “harmful” elements, including journalists who have left the country since the conflict began.
“Of course, a certain polarization is taking place — both in the world and within the country — but I believe that this will only be beneficial,” Putin said. “Because everything that is unnecessary, harmful and everything that prevents us from moving forward will be rejected.”
He also reasserted his interpretation of the war in Ukraine as the culmination of efforts to subvert an unjust world order led by the United States, saying Western countries were “striving to maintain a former world order that is beneficial only to them.”
Putin’s remarks came as his forces face an increasingly difficult situation at the front lines in Ukraine, where they have been unable to capture a major town for more than two months. Ukraine is mounting a counteroffensive that its officials contend is showing initial signs of success.
“All of our actions aim to help people who live in Donbas,” Putin said, referring to the region of eastern Ukraine that his forces have sought to conquer, vowing to fulfill this “duty to the end.”
The Russian president sought to radiate confidence that the West’s efforts to isolate Moscow were doomed to fail. Sitting on a panel with the leader of Myanmar and the prime minister of Mongolia, and with the third-highest-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party, he indicated that Russia could shift its trade flows toward Asia.
“No matter how much someone wants to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do,” Putin said. “You just need to look at the map.”
Putin said Russia’s currency and financial markets had been stabilized, inflation had been tamed and unemployment had been kept to “record lows.” Yet his rosy pronouncements have been tempered by his own economic policymakers, who say it will take years for Russia’s economy to rebound to prewar levels and that its growth will be hampered as long as Western sanctions are in place. Many analysts also predict further shocks as European countries press ahead with plans to sharply reduce purchases of Russian oil by the end of the year.
The severing of economic ties with Western countries has pushed Russia into a speedy reorientation of its economy toward Asia, most of all China, making the meeting with Xi particularly important. Putin said he would take part in a meeting with Xi and the president of Mongolia on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan.
A meeting with Xi could help Putin further strengthen his expanding partnership with China. While Beijing has not declared its support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has echoed Kremlin talking points in describing the United States as the “main instigator” of the conflict. It was not immediately clear what form the meeting would take, and Chinese officials did not confirm it. Russia’s ambassador to China said earlier Wednesday that the meeting would take place in person.
“This summit promises to be interesting, because it will be the first full-fledged summit during the pandemic,” the ambassador, Andrei Denisov, was quoted as saying by the Russian state-run Tass news agency.