Vladimir Putin tells the WEF the world risks sliding into ‘an all against’ conflict
The Russian president also hit out at tech giants that are competing with national governments and siding with citizens
Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin said the world risks sliding into an “all against all” conflict amid tensions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and growing economic inequality.
Addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday, for the first time in 12 years, Putin drew parallels with the 1930s when he said a failure to resolve international problems sparked World War 2.
“Today, such a global, hot conflict is, I hope, in principle impossible,” Putin said in his online speech to The Davos Agenda. “But I repeat, the situation can develop unpredictably and uncontrollably.”
Putin spoke a day after Russia and the US exchanged diplomatic notes agreeing to a five-year extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start) treaty limiting strategic nuclear weapons that was due to expire on February 5. Russia’s parliament voted unanimously to back the extension on Wednesday.
In a speech that was short on policy prescriptions, the Russian president hit out at tech giants that he said are competing with national governments in part over the views and beliefs held by their citizens.
He called for international co-operation to ensure greater availability of vaccines against Covid-19 in poor countries, and said governments should strive to ensure decent living standards for all citizens after decades in which the focus had been on lowering taxes for the wealthy and corporations.
Putin said the agreement Tuesday to extend the New Start agreement was a step in the right direction. He made no mention of Saturday’s nationwide protests in Russia in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Russia is seeking to gauge prospects for improving relations with the US under President Joe Biden, who warned in his first phone call with Putin on Tuesday that his administration “will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies”, according to a White House readout.
Still, Russian officials offered a cautiously upbeat assessment of prospects for reaching further agreement.
The team Biden is forming “is, in principle, more inclined to conduct serious and responsible negotiations” than former president Donald Trump’s officials, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers on Wednesday. “But there is no guarantee.”
A US return to the Open Skies treaty with Russia that was abandoned by Trump is still possible, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday. The US quit the treaty formally in November after accusing Russia of non-compliance with its obligations, which the Kremlin denied.
Putin last addressed the WEF at Davos as Russian prime minister in January 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis, when he called for international co-operation to “replace the obsolete unipolar world concept” led by the US. Putin, who spent billions rebuilding Russia’s armed forces as president, also called for “reasonable restraint” in military spending.
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