On December 3, Vladimir Putin delivered his annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly in St. George’s Hall in the Kremlin, before an audience of more than a thousand invited guests.
Putin began by expressing his gratitude to the Russian servicemen “fighting international terrorism” and honouring the memory of the soldiers who had given their lives fighting and the citizens who had fallen at the hands of terrorists. Following a moment of silence, Putin recounted the history of terrorist incidents in Russia dating back to the mid-1990s. It had taken “nearly a decade to break the backbone” of the terrorists involved, he said, and Russia had “almost succeeded in expelling” them. But “evil was still out there” and terror was now “a growing threat”. The reason, in Putin’s view, was that countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria — which he described as “recently stable and rather well-doing” — had been plunged into chaos and anarchy by those (“We know who decided”) who wished to oust their regimes and “brutally impose their own rules”. They then washed their hands of these countries, which opened the way for “radical activists, extremists and terrorists”.
Every civilised country, Putin declared, must contribute to the fight against terrorism, reaffirming their solidarity, not in word but in deed. This meant that the terrorists must not be given refuge anywhere. “There must be no double standards. No contacts with terrorist organisations. No attempts to use them for self-seeking goals. No criminal business with terrorists.”
But Putin directed his wrath principally at Turkey and solumnly warned of retribution for Turkey’s recent actions.
We know who are stuffing pockets in Turkey and letting terrorists prosper from the sale of oil they stole in Syria. The terrorists are using these receipts to recruit mercenaries, buy weapons and plan inhuman terrorist attacks against Russian citizens and against people in France, Lebanon, Mali and other states. We remember that the militants who operated in the North Caucasus in the 1990s and 2000s found refuge and received moral and material assistance in Turkey. We still find them there.
Meanwhile, the Turkish people are kind, hardworking and talented. We have many good and reliable friends in Turkey. Allow me to emphasise that they should know that we do not equate them with the certain part of the current ruling establishment that is directly responsible for the deaths of our servicemen in Syria.
We will never forget their collusion with terrorists. We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change. I would like them to remember this – those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists.
I don’t even understand why they did it. Any issues they might have had, any problems, any disagreements even those we knew nothing about could have been settled in a different way. Plus, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on all the most sensitive issues it had; we were willing to go further, where its allies refused to go. Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason.
But, if they expected a nervous or hysterical reaction from us, if they wanted to see us become a danger to ourselves as much as to the world, they won’t get it. They won’t get any response meant for show or even for immediate political gain. They won’t get it.
Our actions will always be guided primarily by responsibility – to ourselves, to our country, to our people. We are not going to rattle the sabre. But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.