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The text of this speech was published on the official Kremlin website, which is currently inaccessible outside of Russia due to wartime censorship. The English text is copied below:
February 21, 2022 22:35
Address by the President of the Russian Federation
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Dear citizens of Russia, Dear friends!
The topic of my speech is the events in Ukraine and why it is so important for us, for Russia. Of course, my appeal is addressed to our compatriots in Ukraine.
We will have to talk in detail and in detail. This is a very serious matter.
The situation in the Donbas has once again acquired a critical and acute character. And today I appeal to you directly to not only assess what is happening, but also to inform you about the decisions being made, about possible further steps in this direction.
I would like to stress once again that Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space. These are our comrades, relatives, including not only colleagues, friends, former colleagues, but also relatives, people connected with us by blood and family ties.
For a long time, the inhabitants of the south-western historical ancient Russian lands called themselves Russian and Orthodox. This was the case before the XVII century, when part of these territories were reunited with the Russian state, and after.
It seems to us that, in principle, we all know about this, that we are talking about well-known facts. At the same time, in order to understand what is happening today, to explain the motives for Russia's actions and the goals that we set for ourselves, it is necessary to say at least a few words about the history of the issue.
So, I will begin with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began almost immediately after the revolution of 1917, and Lenin and his associates did it in a very rude way towards Russia itself – by separating, separating from it part of its own historical territories. Of course, no one asked the millions of people who lived there about anything.
Then, on the eve and after the Great Patriotic War, Stalin annexed to the USSR and transferred to Ukraine some lands that previously belonged to Poland, Romania and Hungary. At the same time, as a kind of compensation, Stalin endowed Poland with part of the original German territories, and in 1954 Khrushchev for some reason took the Crimea from Russia and also gave it to Ukraine. Actually, this is how the territory of Soviet Ukraine was formed.
But now I would like to draw special attention to the initial period of the creation of the USSR. I think this is extremely important for us. You will have to go, as they say, from afar.
Let me remind you that after the October Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Civil War, the Bolsheviks began to build a new statehood, and quite sharp disagreements arose between them. Stalin, who in 1922 combined the posts of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik) and the People's Commissar for Nationalities, proposed to build the country on the principles of autonomization, that is, giving the republics - future administrative-territorial units - broad powers when they join a single state.
Lenin criticized this plan and offered to make concessions to the nationalists, as he called them then – "independents". It was these Leninist ideas, in fact, of a confederal state structure and the slogan about the right of nations to self-determination up to secession that were the basis of Soviet statehood: first, in 1922, they were enshrined in the Declaration on the Formation of the Union of the SSR, and then, after Lenin's death, in the Constitution of the USSR of 1924.
Many questions immediately arise here. And the first of them, in fact, the main one: why was it necessary to satisfy any infinitely growing nationalist ambitions on the outskirts of the former empire from the lord's shoulder? To transfer to newly formed, and often arbitrarily formed, administrative units – union republics – huge territories that often had nothing to do with them at all. I repeat, to pass it on together with the population of historical Russia.
Moreover, in fact, these administrative units were given the status and form of national state formations. I ask myself again: why was it necessary to make such generous gifts, which the most ardent nationalists had not even dreamed of before, and even to give the republics the right to secede from a single state without any conditions?
At first glance, this is generally incomprehensible, some kind of madness. But this is only at first glance. There is an explanation. After the revolution, the main task of the Bolsheviks was to stay in power at any cost, precisely at any cost. For the sake of this, they went to everything: to the humiliating conditions of the Brest Peace Treaty at a time when the Kaiser's Germany and its allies were in a difficult military and economic situation, and the outcome of the First World War was actually predetermined, and to the satisfaction of any demands, any desires on the part of nationalists inside the country.
From the point of view of the historical destinies of Russia and its peoples, Lenin's principles of state-building turned out to be not just a mistake, it was, as they say, much worse than a mistake. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, this became absolutely obvious.
Of course, the events of the past cannot be changed, but we must at least say about them directly and honestly, without any reservations and without any political coloring. I can only add that the considerations of the current political situation, no matter how spectacular and advantageous they may seem at a particular time, should under no circumstances and cannot be used as the basis for the basic principles of statehood.
I do not accuse anyone of anything now, the situation in the country at that time and after the Civil War, the day before, was incredibly difficult and critical. Today I just want to say that everything was just like that. This is a historical fact. Actually, as I have already said, as a result of the Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine arose, which today can be rightly called "Ukraine named after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin". He is its author and architect. This is fully confirmed by archival documents, including Lenin's tough directives on the Donbass, which was literally squeezed into Ukraine. And now "grateful descendants" demolished monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. They call it decommunization.
Do you want decommunization? Well, we're fine with that. But there is no need, as they say, to stop halfway. We are ready to show you what real decommunization means for Ukraine.
Returning to the history of the issue, I repeat that in 1922 the USSR was formed in the space of the former Russian Empire. But life itself immediately showed that it is simply impossible to preserve such a huge and complex territory, or to manage it on the proposed amorphous, in fact confederal principles. They were completely divorced from both reality and historical tradition.
It is natural that the Red Terror and the rapid transition to the Stalinist dictatorship, the domination of communist ideology and the Monopoly of the Communist Party on power, nationalization and the planned system of the national economy – all this in fact turned into a simple declaration, into a formality the declared, but not working principles of the state structure. In reality, the Union republics did not have any sovereign rights, they simply did not exist. And in practice, a strictly centralized, absolutely unitary state was created.
In fact, Stalin fully implemented in practice not Lenin's, but his own ideas of the state structure. But he did not make corresponding changes to the system-forming documents to the Constitution of the country, and did not formally revise the proclaimed Leninist principles of building the USSR. Yes, apparently, it seemed that this was not necessary – in the conditions of a totalitarian regime, everything worked anyway, and outwardly looked beautiful, attractive and even super-democratic.
And yet it is a pity, it is a pity, that from the basic, formally legal foundations on which all our statehood was built, odious, utopian, inspired by the revolution, but absolutely destructive for any normal country fantasies were not cleaned up in a timely manner. About the future, as it often happened to us before, no one thought.
The leaders of the Communist Party seemed confident that they had managed to form a solid system of government, that through their policy they had finally solved the national question. But falsifications, substitution of concepts, manipulation of public consciousness and deception are expensive. The bacillus of nationalist ambitions has not disappeared, and the initial mine, undermining state immunity against the contagion of nationalism, was just waiting in the wings. Such a mine, I repeat, was the right to withdraw from the USSR.
In the mid-1980s, against the backdrop of growing socio-economic problems and the obvious crisis of the planned economy, the national question, the essence of which was not some expectations and unfulfilled aspirations of the peoples of the Union, but above all the growing appetites of local elites, became increasingly acute.
However, the leadership of the CPSU, instead of a deep analysis of the situation, taking adequate measures, primarily in the economy, as well as a gradual, thoughtful, balanced transformation of the political system and state structure, limited itself to frank verbiage about the restoration of the Leninist principle of national self-determination.
Moreover, in the course of the unfolding struggle for power within the Communist Party itself, each of the warring parties in order to expand the base of support began to mindlessly stimulate, encourage nationalist sentiments, play on them, promising their potential supporters everything they wanted. Against the background of superficial and populist chatter about democracy and a bright future built on the basis of either a market or a planned economy, but in conditions of real impoverishment of people and total shortages, none of the powers that be thought about the inevitable tragic consequences for the country.
And then they completely followed the path trodden at the dawn of the creation of the USSR to satisfy the ambitions of nationalist elites grown up in their own party ranks, while forgetting that the CPSU no longer has, and thank God, such tools for retaining power and the country itself as state terror, a Stalinist-type dictatorship. And that even the notorious leadership role of the party, like the morning fog, disappears without a trace right before their eyes.
And in September 1989, at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, a fateful document was adopted – the so-called national policy of the party in modern conditions, the platform of the CPSU. It contained the following provisions, to quote: "The Union republics have all the rights corresponding to their status as sovereign socialist states."
Another point: "The supreme representative bodies of power of the Union republics may protest and suspend the effect of resolutions and orders of the Union Government on their territory."
And finally: "Each Union republic has its own citizenship, which applies to all its inhabitants."
Wasn't it obvious what such wording and decisions would lead to?
Now is not the time, not the place to go into the issues of state or constitutional law, to define the very concept of citizenship. But the question still arises: why in those already difficult conditions was it necessary to rock the country even more in this way? The fact remains.
Two years before the collapse of the USSR, his fate was actually predetermined. It is now radicals and nationalists, including and above all in Ukraine, who attribute to themselves the merit of gaining independence. As we can see, this is not the case at all. The disintegration of our united country was caused by the historical, strategic mistakes of the leaders of the Bolsheviks, the leadership of the CPSU, made at different times in state-building, economic and national policy. The collapse of historical Russia under the name of the USSR on their conscience.
Despite all these injustices, deception and outright robbery of Russia, our people, namely the people, recognized the new geopolitical realities that arose after the collapse of the USSR, recognized the newly independent states. And not only did he admit that Russia itself, being in a difficult situation at that time, helped its partners in the CIS, including Ukrainian colleagues, from whom numerous requests for material support began to come right from the moment of declaring independence. And our country provided such support with respect for the dignity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
According to expert estimates, which are confirmed by a simple calculation of prices for our energy resources, the volume of preferential loans, economic and trade preferences that Russia provided to Ukraine, the total benefit for the Ukrainian budget for the period from 1991 to 2013 amounted to about $ 250 billion.
But that's not all. By the end of 1991, the USSR's debt obligations to foreign countries and international funds amounted to about $ 100 billion. And initially it was assumed that these loans would be returned by all the republics of the former USSR in solidarity, in proportion to their economic potential. However, Russia assumed the repayment of the entire Soviet debt and paid it in full. Finally completed this process in 2017.
In return, the newly independent states had to give up their share of Soviet foreign assets, and appropriate agreements were reached with Ukraine in December 1994. However, Kiev did not ratify these agreements and later simply refused to comply, putting forward claims to the diamond fund, gold reserves, as well as property and other assets of the former USSR abroad.
And yet, despite the well-known problems, Russia has always cooperated with Ukraine openly, honestly and, I repeat, with respect for its interests, our ties in various fields have developed. Thus, in 2011, bilateral trade turnover exceeded $50 billion. I would like to note that the volume of Ukraine's trade with all EU countries in 2019, that is, even before the pandemic, was inferior to this indicator.
At the same time, it was striking that the Ukrainian authorities preferred to act in such a way as to have all the rights and advantages in relations with Russia, but not to bear any obligations.
Instead of partnership, dependency began to prevail, which on the part of the Kiev official authorities sometimes acquired an absolutely unceremonious character. Suffice it to recall the permanent blackmail in the field of energy transit and the banal theft of gas.
I will add that Kiev tried to use the dialogue with Russia as a pretext for bargaining with the West, blackmailed it with rapprochement with Moscow, knocking out preferences for itself: they say, otherwise, Russian influence on Ukraine will grow.
At the same time, the Ukrainian authorities initially, I want to emphasise this, began to build their statehood on the denial of everything that unites us, sought to distort the consciousness and historical memory of millions of people, entire generations living in Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Ukrainian society is faced with the rise of extreme nationalism, which quickly took the form of aggressive Russophobia and neo-Nazism. Hence the participation of Ukrainian nationalists and neo-Nazis in terrorist gangs in the North Caucasus, and the increasingly loud territorial claims against Russia.
External forces also played a role, which, with the help of an extensive network of NGOs and special services, grew their clientele in Ukraine and promoted its representatives to power.
It is also important to understand that Ukraine, in fact, has never had a stable tradition of its true statehood. And since 1991, she has followed the path of mechanical copying of other people's models, divorced from both history and Ukrainian realities. Political state institutions were constantly redrawn in favor of rapidly formed clans with their own selfish interests that had nothing to do with the interests of the people of Ukraine.
The whole point of the so-called pro-Western civilizational choice of the Ukrainian oligarchic authorities was and is not to create better conditions for the well-being of the people, but to obsequiously provide services to Russia's geopolitical rivals and save billions of dollars stolen from Ukrainians and hidden by oligarchs in accounts in Western banks.
Some industrial financial groups, taken by them for the maintenance of the party and politics, initially relied on nationalists and radicals. Others paid lip service to good relations with Russia, to cultural and linguistic diversity, and to come to power through the voices of citizens who genuinely supported such aspirations, including millions of people in the southeast. But, having received posts, positions, they immediately betrayed their voters, abandoned their election promises, and the real policy was carried out under the dictation of radicals, sometimes persecuting their yesterday's allies – those public organizations that advocated bilingualism, for cooperation with Russia. They took advantage of the fact that people who supported them, as a rule, law-abiding, moderate views, accustomed to trusting the authorities, they, unlike radicals, will not show aggression, resort to illegal actions.
In turn, the radicals became arrogant, their claims grew year after year. It was not difficult for them to impose their will time after time on a weak government, which itself was struck by the virus of nationalism and corruption and skillfully replaced the true cultural, economic, social interests of the people, the real sovereignty of Ukraine with various kinds of speculation on national grounds and external ethnographic attributes.
Stable statehood in Ukraine has not developed, and political and electoral procedures serve only as a cover, a screen for the redistribution of power and property between various oligarchic clans.
Corruption, which, no doubt, is a challenge and problem for many countries, including Russia, has already acquired a special character in Ukraine. It literally permeated and corroded ukrainian statehood, the entire system, all branches of government. Radicals took advantage of people's righteous discontent, rode the protest and in 2014 brought the Maidan to a coup d'état. At the same time, they received direct assistance from foreign countries. According to reports, the material support of the so-called protest camp on Independence Square in Kiev from the US Embassy amounted to one million dollars a day. Additional very large sums were brazenly transferred directly to the bank accounts of opposition leaders. And it was about tens of millions of dollars. And how many truly injured people, the families of those who died in clashes provoked in the streets and squares of Kiev and other cities, have received in the end? It's best not to ask about it.
The radicals who seized power organized persecution, a real terror against those who opposed unconstitutional actions. Politicians, journalists, public figures were mocked, they were publicly humiliated. Ukrainian cities were swept by a wave of pogroms and violence, a series of high-profile and unpunished murders. It is impossible without shuddering to recall the terrible tragedy in Odessa, where the participants of the peaceful protest action were brutally murdered, burned alive in the House of Trade Unions. The criminals who committed this atrocity are not punished, no one is looking for them. But we know them by name and will do everything to punish them, find them and bring them to justice.
The Maidan did not bring Ukraine closer to democracy and progress. Having carried out a coup d'état, the nationalists and those political forces that supported them finally brought the situation to a dead end, pushed Ukraine into the abyss of civil war. Eight years after those events, the country is divided. Ukraine is experiencing an acute socio-economic crisis.
According to international organizations, in 2019, almost six million Ukrainians, I emphasize, this is about 15 percent, not from the able-bodied, namely from the entire population of the country were forced to go abroad in search of work. And often, as a rule, on daily unskilled earnings. The following fact is also indicative: since 2020, more than 60,000 doctors and other health workers have left the country amid the pandemic.
Since 2014, tariffs for water supply have increased by almost a third, for electricity - several times, for gas for households - dozens of times. Many people simply do not have the money to pay for utilities, they literally have to survive.
What happened? Why is all this happening? The answer is obvious: because the dowry received not only from the Soviet era, but also from the Russian Empire, was squandered and stolen from the pockets. Tens and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, which, thanks to close cooperation with Russia, gave people a stable income and brought taxes to the treasury. Such industries as mechanical engineering, instrument making, electronics industry, shipbuilding and aircraft construction, either lie on their side, or are destroyed altogether, and in fact they were once proud not only of Ukraine, but also of the entire Soviet Union.
In 2021, the Black Sea Shipyard in Nikolaev was liquidated, where the first shipyards were laid down under Catherine II. The famous Antonov concern has not produced a single serial aircraft since 2016, and the Yuzhmash plant, specializing in the production of rocket and space technology, was on the verge of bankruptcy, like the Kremenchug Steel Plant. The sad list goes on.
As for the gas transmission system that the entire Soviet Union was creating, it has become so dilapidated that its operation is associated with great risks and environmental costs.
And in this regard, the question arises: poverty, hopelessness, loss of industrial and technological potential – this is the very pro-Western civilizational choice that has been fooled and dumbed down by millions of people for many years, promising them heavenly tabernacles?
In fact, it all boiled down to the fact that the collapse of the Ukrainian economy is accompanied by an outright robbery of the country's citizens, and Ukraine itself was simply driven under external control. It is carried out not only at the behest of Western capitals, but also, as they say, directly on the spot – through a whole network of foreign advisers, NGOs and other institutions deployed in Ukraine. They have a direct impact on all the most important personnel decisions, on all branches and levels of government: from the central and even to the municipal, on the main state-owned companies and corporations, including Naftogaz, Ukrenergo, Ukrainian Railways, Ukroboronprom, Ukrposhta, the Administration of Seaports of Ukraine.
There is simply no independent court in Ukraine. At the request of the West, the Kiev authorities gave representatives of international organizations the preferential right to select members of the highest judicial bodies - the Council of Justice and the Qualification Commission of Judges.
In addition, the U.S. Embassy directly controls the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, and the High Anti-Corruption Court. All this is done under a plausible pretext to increase the effectiveness of the fight against corruption. Well, okay, but where are the results? Corruption has blossomed and is still flourishing.
Are Ukrainians themselves aware of all these management methods? Do they understand that their country is not even under a political and economic protectorate, but reduced to the level of a colony with a puppet regime? The privatization of the state has led to the fact that the government, which calls itself the "power of patriots", has lost its national character and consistently leads to the complete de-sovereignization of the country.
The policy of de-Russification and forced assimilation continues. The Verkhovna Rada is non-stop issuing new discriminatory acts, the law on the so-called indigenous peoples is already in force. People who consider themselves Russians and would like to preserve their identity, language, culture, were directly made to understand that they are strangers in Ukraine.
In accordance with the laws on education and on the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language, Russian is expelled from schools, from all public spheres, up to ordinary shops. The law on the so-called lustration, "purification" of power made it possible to deal with unwanted civil servants.
Acts are proliferating that give the Ukrainian security forces grounds for a harsh suppression of freedom of speech, dissent, and persecution of the opposition. The world knows the sad practice of unilateral illegitimate sanctions against other states, foreign individuals and legal entities. In Ukraine, they outdid their Western curators and invented such a tool as sanctions against their own citizens, enterprises, TV channels, other media and even members of parliament.
In Kiev, they continue to prepare a massacre of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. And this is not an emotional assessment, this is evidenced by specific decisions and documents. The tragedy of the church schism of the Ukrainian authorities was cynically turned into an instrument of state policy. The current leadership of the country does not respond to the requests of the citizens of Ukraine to abolish laws that infringe on the rights of believers. Moreover, the Rada has registered new bills against the clergy and millions of parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
I will talk separately about Crimea. The inhabitants of the peninsula have made their free choice – to be together with Russia. The Kiev authorities have nothing to counter this clear, precise will of the people, so the stake is on aggressive actions, on activating extremist cells, including radical Islamic organizations, on the deployment of sabotage groups to commit terrorist acts at critical infrastructure facilities, to kidnap Russian citizens. We have direct evidence that such aggressive actions are carried out with the support of foreign special services.
In March 2021, Ukraine adopted a new Military Strategy. This document is almost entirely devoted to the confrontation with Russia, aims to draw foreign states into a conflict with our country. The strategy proposes the organization in the Russian Crimea and on the territory of the Donbass, in fact, of a terrorist underground. It also spells out the contours of the proposed war, and it should end, as today's Kiev strategists think, I will quote further – "with the assistance of the international community on favorable terms for Ukraine." And also, as they say today in Kiev, I also quote here, please listen more carefully – "with the military support of the world community in the geopolitical confrontation with the Russian Federation." In fact, this is nothing more than preparation for military operations against our country – against Russia.
We also know that there have already been statements that Ukraine is going to create its own nuclear weapons, and this is not empty bravado. Indeed, Ukraine still has Soviet nuclear technology and means of delivering such weapons, including aviation, as well as operational-tactical missiles "Tochka-U", also of Soviet design, the range of which exceeds 100 kilometers. But they will do more, it is only a matter of time. There are reserves from the Soviet era.
Thus, it will be much easier for Ukraine to acquire tactical nuclear weapons than for some other states, I will not call them now, actually leading such developments, especially in the case of technological support from abroad. And we should not rule this out either.
With the advent of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Ukraine, the situation in the world, in Europe, especially for us, for Russia, will change dramatically. We cannot but react to this real danger, especially since, I repeat, Western patrons can contribute to the emergence of such weapons in Ukraine in order to create another threat to our country. We see how persistently the military pumping of the Kiev regime is carried out. Since 2014, the United States alone has allocated billions of dollars for these purposes, including the supply of weapons, equipment, and training of specialists. In recent months, Western weapons have been coming to Ukraine in a continuous stream, demonstratively, in front of the eyes of the whole world. The activities of the armed forces and special services of Ukraine are led by foreign advisers, we know this well.
In recent years, under the pretext of exercises, military contingents of NATO countries have been almost constantly present on the territory of Ukraine. The command and control system of Ukrainian troops has already been integrated with NATO's. This means that the command of the Ukrainian armed forces, even individual units and subdivisions, can be carried out directly from NATO headquarters.
The United States and NATO have embarked on the shameless development of Ukraine's territory as a theater of potential military operations. Regular joint exercises have a clear anti-Russian orientation. Last year alone, more than 23,000 troops and over a thousand pieces of equipment participated in them.
A law has already been adopted on the admission in 2022 of the armed forces of other states to the territory of Ukraine to participate in multinational exercises. It is clear that we are talking primarily about NATO troops. And in the coming year, at least ten such joint maneuvers are planned.
Obviously, such events serve as a cover for the rapid build-up of the NATO military grouping on the territory of Ukraine. Moreover, the network of airfields modernized with the help of the Americans – Boryspil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chuhuiv, Odessa, and so on – is able to ensure the transfer of military units in the shortest possible time. The airspace of Ukraine is open for flights of strategic and reconnaissance aircraft of the United States, unmanned aerial vehicles that are used to monitor the territory of Russia.
I would like to add that the Maritime Operations Center in Ochakov, built by the Americans, makes it possible to ensure the actions of NATO ships, including their use of high-precision weapons against the Russian Black Sea Fleet and our infrastructure on the entire Black Sea coast.
At one time, the United States intended to create similar facilities in the Crimea, but the Crimeans and Sevastopolians thwarted these plans. We will always remember that.
Let me repeat that today such a centre has been deployed and has already been deployed in Ochakiv. Let me remind you that in the XVIII century the soldiers of Alexander Suvorov fought for this city. Thanks to their courage, it became part of Russia. At the same time, in the XVIII century, the lands of the Black Sea region, annexed to Russia as a result of wars with the Ottoman Empire, were called Novorossiya. Now these milestones of history are trying to be forgotten, as well as the names of state military figures of the Russian Empire, without whose works modern Ukraine would not have many large cities and even the very access to the Black Sea.
Recently, a monument to Alexander Suvorov was demolished in Poltava. What can I say? Giving up on your own past? From the so-called colonial legacy of the Russian Empire? Well, then be consistent here.
Further. I note that Article 17 of the Constitution of Ukraine does not allow the deployment of foreign military bases on its territory. But it turned out that this is only a convention that can be easily circumvented.
Training missions of NATO countries have been deployed in Ukraine. These, in fact, are already foreign military bases. They just called the base a "mission" and it's about the hat.
Kiev has long proclaimed a strategic course for joining NATO. Yes, of course, each country has the right to choose its own security system, to conclude military alliances. And everything seems to be so, if not for one "but". International instruments explicitly enshrine the principle of equal and indivisible security, which, as you know, includes obligations not to strengthen one's security at the expense of the security of other States. I can refer here to the 1999 OSCE Charter for European Security, adopted in Istanbul, and to the OSCE Astana Declaration of 2010.
In other words, the choice of ways to ensure security should not pose a threat to other states, and Ukraine's accession to NATO is a direct threat to Russia's security.
Let me remind you that back in April 2008, at the Bucharest summit of the North Atlantic Alliance, the United States pushed through the decision that Ukraine and, by the way, Georgia would become nato members. Many European allies of the United States were already well aware of all the risks of such a prospect, but were forced to accept the will of the senior partner. The Americans simply used them to pursue a pronounced anti-Russian policy.
A number of member states of the Alliance are still very skeptical about the appearance of Ukraine in NATO. At the same time, we receive a signal from some European capitals, saying: "What are you going through? It's not going to happen literally tomorrow." Actually, our American partners are also talking about this. "Okay," we reply, "not tomorrow, so the day after tomorrow. What does this change from a historical perspective? Basically, nothing."
Moreover, we are aware of the position and words of the leadership of the United States that active hostilities in the east of Ukraine do not exclude the possibility of this country's accession to NATO, if it can meet the criteria of the North Atlantic Alliance and defeat corruption.
At the same time, they are trying to convince us time after time that NATO is a peace-loving and purely defensive alliance. Like, there are no threats to Russia. Again, they offer to take their word for it. But we are well aware of the real price of such words. In 1990, when the question of German reunification was discussed, the Soviet leadership was promised by the United States that there would be no extension of NATO's jurisdiction or military presence by a single inch in the eastern direction. And that the unification of Germany will not lead to the expansion of the NATO military organization to the East. It's a quote.
They spoke, gave verbal assurances, and everything turned out to be empty words. Later, we were assured that the accession of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to NATO would only improve relations with Moscow, rid these countries of fears of a difficult historical legacy and even, moreover, create a belt of states friendly to Russia.
Everything turned out to be exactly the opposite. The authorities of some Eastern European countries, trading russophobia, brought to the Alliance their complexes and stereotypes about the Russian threat, insisted on building up the potentials of collective defense, which should be deployed primarily against Russia. And this happened in the 1990s and early 2000s, when, thanks to openness and our goodwill, relations between Russia and the West were at a high level.
Russia has fulfilled all its obligations, including the withdrawal of troops from Germany, from the states of Central and Eastern Europe and thereby made a huge contribution to overcoming the legacy of the Cold War. We have consistently proposed various options for cooperation, including in the format of the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE.
Moreover, I will say now something that I have never said publicly, I will say this for the first time. In 2000, during a visit to Moscow by outgoing U.S. President Bill Clinton, I asked him, "How will America react to admitting Russia to NATO?"
I will not disclose all the details of that conversation, but the reaction to my question looked, let's say, very restrained, and how the Americans really reacted to this possibility can actually be seen in their practical steps towards our country. This is open support for terrorists in the North Caucasus, a dismissive attitude to our demands and security concerns in the expansion of NATO, withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and so on. So I want to ask: why, why all this, for what? Okay, you don't want to see us as a friend and ally, but why make us an enemy?
There is only one answer: it's not about our political regime, it's not about anything else, they just don't need such a large independent country as Russia. That's the answer to all the questions. This is the source of traditional American policy towards Russia. Hence the attitude to all our proposals in the field of security.
Today, one glance at the map is enough to see how Western countries have "kept" their promise to prevent NATO from advancing to the east. They just cheated. We got five waves of NATO enlargement one after another. In 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary were admitted to the Alliance, in 2004 - Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, in 2009 - Albania and Croatia, in 2017 - Montenegro, in 2020 - North Macedonia.
As a result, the Alliance and its military infrastructure went directly to Russia's borders. This was one of the key causes of the crisis of European security, had the most negative impact on the entire system of international relations, led to the loss of mutual trust.
The situation continues to deteriorate, including in the strategic sphere. Thus, in Romania and Poland, within the framework of the US project to create a global missile defense system, positional areas for anti-missiles are being deployed. It is well known that the launchers stationed here can be used for Tomahawk cruise missiles - offensive strike systems.
In addition, the United States is developing a universal missile "Standard-6", which, along with solving the tasks of air and missile defense, can hit both above-ground and surface targets. That is, the allegedly defensive system of the US missile defense system is expanding and new offensive capabilities are emerging.
The information available to us gives every reason to believe that Ukraine's accession to NATO and the subsequent deployment of the Facilities of the North Atlantic Alliance here is a foregone conclusion, it is a matter of time. We clearly understand that in such a scenario, the level of military threats to Russia will increase dramatically, significantly. And I would like to draw your special attention to the fact that the danger of a sudden strike on our country will increase many times over.
Let me explain that the US strategic planning documents (in the documents!) enshrine the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike on enemy missile systems. And we also know who the main adversary is for the United States and NATO. This is Russia. In NATO documents, our country is officially explicitly declared the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as a forward springboard for such a strike. If our ancestors had heard about it, they probably just wouldn't have believed it. And we don't want to believe it today, but it is. I want both Russia and Ukraine to understand this.
Many Ukrainian airfields are located near our borders. NATO tactical aviation stationed here, including carriers of high-precision weapons, will be able to hit our territory to a depth of up to the Volgograd-Kazan-Samara-Astrakhan border. The deployment of radar reconnaissance equipment on the territory of Ukraine will allow NATO to tightly control the airspace of Russia up to the Urals.
Finally, after the United States broke the Treaty on Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, the Pentagon is already openly developing a number of ground-based strike weapons, including ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets at a distance of up to 5.5 thousand kilometers. If such systems are deployed in Ukraine, they will be able to hit objects throughout the European territory of Russia, as well as beyond the Urals. The flight time to Moscow of Tomahawk cruise missiles will be less than 35 minutes, ballistic missiles from the Kharkov area - 7-8 minutes, and hypersonic strike aircraft - 4-5 minutes. It's called, right, "knife to the throat." And I have no doubt that they expect to implement these plans in the same way as they have repeatedly done in past years, expanding NATO to the east, promoting military infrastructure and equipment to the Russian borders, completely ignoring our concerns, protests and warnings. Sorry, they just spit on them and did whatever they wanted, whatever they saw fit.
And of course, they also assume to behave further according to the well-known saying - "The dog barks, and the caravan goes." I will say right away, we did not agree to this and will never agree. At the same time, Russia has always advocated resolving the most complex problems by political and diplomatic methods, at the negotiating table.
We are well aware of our enormous responsibility for regional and global stability. Back in 2008, Russia put forward an initiative to conclude a Treaty on European Security. Its meaning was that no state and no international organization in the Euro-Atlantic could strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others. However, our proposal was rejected from the outset: it is impossible, they say, to allow Russia to limit the activities of NATO.
Moreover, we were explicitly told that only members of the North Atlantic Alliance can have legally binding security guarantees.
Last December, we handed over to our Western partners a draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on security assurances, as well as a draft agreement on security measures for the Russian Federation and NATO member states.
In response, there were many common words from the United States and NATO. Rational seeds were also contained, but all this concerned secondary points and looked like an attempt to twist the issue, to divert the discussion to the side.
We reacted accordingly and stressed that we are ready to follow the path of negotiations, but on the condition that all issues are considered in a comprehensive manner, as a package, without interruption from the main, basic Russian proposals. And they contain three key points. The first is to prevent further expansion of NATO. The second is the refusal of the Alliance to deploy strike weapons systems on the Russian borders. And finally, the return of the military potential and infrastructure of the bloc in Europe to the state of 1997, when the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed.
It is these fundamental proposals of ours that have been ignored. I repeat, our Western partners once again voiced memorized language that every state has the right to freely choose how to ensure its security and to join any military alliances and alliances. That is, nothing has changed in their position, all the same references to the notorious policy of "open doors" of NATO are heard. Moreover, they are again trying to blackmail us, again threatening us with sanctions, which, by the way, they will still introduce as Russia's sovereignty strengthens and the power of our Armed Forces grows. And the pretext for another sanctions attack will always be found or simply fabricated, regardless of the situation in Ukraine. There is only one goal – to restrain the development of Russia. And they will do it as they did before, even without any formal pretext at all, just because we are and will never give up our sovereignty, national interests and our values.
I want to say clearly, frankly, in the current situation, when our proposals for an equal dialogue on fundamental issues have actually remained unanswered by the United States and NATO, when the level of threats to our country is significantly increasing, Russia has every right to take retaliatory measures to ensure its own security. That's what we're going to do.
As for the situation in the Donbas, we see that the ruling elite in Kiev constantly and publicly declares its unwillingness to implement the Minsk package of measures to resolve the conflict, is not interested in a peaceful solution. On the contrary, it is trying to organize a blitzkrieg in the Donbas again, as it was already in 2014 and 2015. How these adventures ended then, we remember.
Now almost not a single day is complete without shelling the settlements of Donbass. The formed large military group constantly uses attack drones, heavy equipment, missiles, artillery and multiple launch rocket systems. The killing of civilians, the blockade, the abuse of people, including children, women and the elderly, does not stop. As we say, there is no end in sight.
And the so-called civilized world, the only representatives of which our Western colleagues have self-proclaimed themselves, prefers not to notice this, as if there is no horror, genocide to which almost 4 million people are subjected, and only because these people did not agree with the Western-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014, opposed the state movement elevated to the rank of cave and aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism. And they are fighting for their elementary rights – to live on their land, to speak their language, to preserve their culture and traditions.
How long can this tragedy last? How much longer can we tolerate this? Russia has done everything to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine, all these years persistently and patiently fought for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2202 of February 17, 2015, which consolidated the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015 to resolve the situation in the Donbas.
All in vain. Presidents and deputies of the Rada are changing, but the essence, the aggressive, nationalist nature of the regime itself, which seized power in Kiev, does not change. It is entirely a product of the 2014 coup d'état, and those who then embarked on the path of violence, bloodshed, lawlessness, did not and do not recognize any other solution to the Donbass issue, except for the military one.
In this regard, I consider it necessary to make a long-overdue decision to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic.
I ask the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to support this decision and then ratify the Treaties of Friendship and Mutual Assistance with both republics. These two documents will be prepared and signed in the very near future.
And from those who have seized and hold power in Kiev, we demand an immediate cessation of hostilities. Otherwise, all responsibility for the possible continuation of the bloodshed will be entirely on the conscience of the ruling regime on the territory of Ukraine.
Announcing the decisions taken today, I am confident in the support of Russian citizens and all patriotic forces of the country.
Thank you for your attention.