This article presents a few paragraphs from an address by President Vladimir Putin to a conference in Sochi in October, 2014. Its focus was to analyse the factors eroding the current institutions and norms of international law. The title of the conference was: The World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules?
The Russians, and many others, believe the institutions and norms of international law established after WW II have been eroded by the major Western powers. Some examples are the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and current actions against Syria. They see that a system established 70 years ago is coming apart. The issue for the conference was this: are the old rules of the UN Charter being replaced by new rules, or is there now going to be a system with no rules at all?
Putin's speech is too long to reproduce in full. Below are a few relevant paragraphs with titles. The full text of the speech can be found at: http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/putins-speech-at-valdai-club-full.html
NEW RULES OR A GAME WITHOUT RULES?
Today's discussion took place under the theme: New Rules or a Game without Rules. I think that this formula accurately describes the historic turning point we have reached today. We need to be frank in asking each other if we have a reliable safety net in place. Sadly, there is no guarantee and no certainty that the current system of global and regional security is able to protect us from upheavals.
Yes, many of the mechanisms we have for ensuring the world order were created quite a long time ago now, including and above all in the period immediately following World War II. It is my conviction that we should not take this mechanism of checks and balances that we built over the last decades and simply tear it apart without building anything in its place. Otherwise we would be left with no instruments other than brute force.
What we need to do is to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it to the new realities in the system of international relations.
WHAT DOES THE US THINK OF THE OLD SYSTEM OF RULES?
But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, sees no need for this. (That is, the US has seen no need for a new set of rules to replace the old ones. ed.) Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance.
The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. It seems that the so-called "victors" in the Cold War decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place get in the way of these aims, this system has been declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.
The very notion of national sovereignty has become a relative value for most countries. In essence, what is being proposed is the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the worlds sole power centre, the greater this or that regimes legitimacy.
HOW DOES THE US MAKE OTHERS OBEY THEIR RULES?
The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times. They include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of "supra-legal" legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes. Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders. It is not for nothing that "big brother" is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance.
BUT IS THIS A GOOD SYSTEM?
Let's ask ourselves, how comfortable are we with this, how safe are we, how happy living in this world, and how fair and rational has it become? Maybe the United States' exceptional position and the way they are carrying out their leadership really is a blessing for us all, and their meddling in events all around the world is bringing peace, prosperity, progress, growth and democracy, and we should maybe just relax and enjoy it all? Let me say that this is not the case, absolutely not the case.
THE EXAMPLE OF SYRIA
In Syria, as in the past, the United States and its allies started directly financing and arming rebels and allowing them to fill their ranks with mercenaries from various countries. Let me ask where do these rebels get their money, arms and military specialists? Where does all this come from? How did the notorious ISIL manage to become such a powerful group, essentially a real armed force?
As for financing sources, today, the money is coming not just from drugs. The terrorists are getting money from selling oil too. Oil is produced in territory controlled by the terrorists, who sell it at dumping prices, produce it and transport it. But someone buys this oil, resells it, and makes a profit from it, not thinking about the fact that they are thus financing terrorists who could come sooner or later to their own soil and sow destruction in their own countries.
WHAT DOES RUSSIA WANT?
Colleagues, Russia made its choice. Our priorities are further improving our democratic and open economy institutions, accelerated internal development, taking into account all the positive modern trends in the world, and consolidating society based on traditional values and patriotism.
We have an integration-oriented, positive, peaceful agenda; we are working actively with our colleagues in the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS and other partners. This agenda is aimed at developing ties between governments, not dissociating. We are not planning to cobble together any blocs or get involved in an exchange of blows.
The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, are groundless. Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world I want to emphasise this. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected.