Putin says ‘impossible’ to isolate Russia, hails strong Asia ties

Russian president calls Western sanctions a ‘threat to the entire world’, downplays impact at home.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia [Sergei Bobylev/The Associated Press]

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called Western sanctions imposed on his country following the invasion of Ukraine a “threat to the entire world” while saying efforts to isolate Russia were in vain amid a pivot towards Asia.

Putin made the comments during a speech at the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok on Wednesday, shortly before it was announced that the Russian leader would meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, next week in Uzbekistan.

Decrying what he described as “sanctions fever” in the West, Putin called the measures “undisguised aggressive attempts to impose behaviour patterns on other countries, deprive them of their sovereignty and subordinate them to their will”.

The remarks come after the Kremlin on Monday said gas flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany would not resume in full until Western countries lifted sanctions against Russia.

Putin denied that Moscow has “weaponised” the energy market, as many European leaders have claimed.

The speech followed the G7 grouping of the world’s wealthiest democracies last week agreeing on an oil price cap in an attempt to undermine Russian revenues.

European Union ministers are also set to discuss a possible price cap on Russian gas on Friday as the cold winter months approach, a tactic Putin dismissed as “stupid” during his speech in Vladivostok. He pledged to walk away from supply contracts with Europe if countries imposed the caps.

The Russian leader also sought to dispel the notion that actions by Western countries, and the costly ongoing conflict in Ukraine, have had a major effect on his country’s economy, saying that gross domestic product (GDP) would fall by “about 2 percent or a little more” in 2022, a more optimistic forecast than Russia’s economy ministry had previously released.

He said Russia’s budget surplus this year would come in at 1.5 trillion roubles ($24.5bn), although Bloomberg has reported, citing an internal government report, that Moscow is privately preparing for a long, prolonged recession in the coming years.

“No matter how much someone would like to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do this”, Putin said, noting that “the role … of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region has significantly increased”.

He added that partnerships in the region “will create colossal new opportunities for our people”.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov told news agencies that Putin and Xi would meet next week during a regional summit in Uzbekistan. It would be the first in-person meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

Days before the invasion, Putin and Xi had signed an agreement pledging that relations between the countries would have “no limits”.

On Tuesday, Putin attended sweeping military drills in the country’s east that also involved forces from China.

In a sign of further tightening ties, Russia announced on Tuesday that China would be switching from US dollars to the national currencies of the two countries – yuan and rubles – to pay for deliveries of Russian natural gas.

Putin said on Wednesday that “confidence has been lost” in US dollars, euros and British pounds, and Russia was distancing itself from such “unreliable, compromised” currencies.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies