(www.latwp.com ) вЂ" Before considering the significance of Vladimir Putin's address to an international security conference in Munich on Saturday, it's worth pausing to admire the astonishing nerve of the Russian president. Mr. Putin claimed the United States had ``overstepped its national borders in every way ... in the economic, political and cultural policies it imposes on other nations.''
This from a leader who has imposed an economic boycott on Georgia and Moldova and who interrupted energy supplies during winter to Ukraine and Belarus; who supports separatist regions in Georgia and Moldova with money and troops; and who overtly intervened in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election in an attempt to impose a favored candidate through fraud, reports Trend.
Mr. Putin suggested that the United States was responsible for ``a greater and greater disdain for the principles of international law,'' and that consequently ``no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them.'' Tell that to Britain's Scotland Yard, where investigators are unable to pursue their probe of the murder of one of Mr. Putin's critics because the two leading suspects are being shielded behind a legal stone wall in Moscow.
The Russian president also said that U.S. policy ``stimulates an arms race.'' Minutes later he breezily acknowledged that Russia, unlike the United States, is developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Topol-M; that it recently supplied Iran with new air defense missiles; and that antitank missiles it delivered to Syria were used by Hezbollah against Israel in last summer's war. This week Mr. Putin was in Saudi Arabia, where he reportedly was finalizing a sale of 150 Russian T-90 tanks, and where he offered to help the Saudis with nuclear technology.
What's the point of such bravado? No doubt it partly has to do with Mr. Putin's tour of the Middle East: The Russian leader is doing his best to take advantage of U.S. problems in the region. (In an interview with al-Jazeera, the favorite TV station of Sunni Arab nationalists, Mr. Putin deplored the execution of Saddam Hussein and contrasted the deaths of 3,000 U.S. soldiers with the ``execution of around 148 people'' that he said the former Iraqi president was charged with.) Mr. Putin may also have been seeking to pre-empt criticism of himself by European governments that have grown increasingly disenchanted with his regime.
But the Russian president also had a larger purpose: to proclaim the return of his country as a power that would ``balance'' the United States. Mr. Putin, who has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a ``catastrophe,'' spoke nostalgically about the Cold War: ``We are indebted to the balance of power between these two superpowers,'' he said. ``This was certainly a fragile peace and a frightening one. But ... it was reliable enough. Today it seems that the peace is not so reliable.'' With its soaring oil revenue and its hold over European energy supplies, its modernizing nuclear forces, and its willingness to provide weapons and nuclear technology to such states as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, Russia would regain a status such that the United States would be ``afraid to make an extra step without consulting.'' That, anyway, is Vladimir Putin's clearly stated ambition.