Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out Russia’s displeasure with the global order, but offered no specific solutions.


Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. Photo: AP

Vladimir Putin’s speech at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28 wasn’t a game-changer despite high expectations in the media and expert community. The UN delegates in New York expected concrete proposals not statements.

Today the world is facing grave security challenges, and Moscow is reclaiming its role in global affairs and heading the struggle against what Putin refers to as the “single-superpower hegemony.” All these factors made many experts assume that Putin’s address would be full of actionable proposals.

However, the Russian president chose once again to take a prudent approach towards any foreign policy innovations. 

The major takeaway from his speech was the condemnation of the current world order without any new constructive suggestions on how to improve the situation. 

 Recommended: "Why Russia wants a change to the contemporary world order." 

Putin’s skepticism concerning the impact of “exported revolutions,” unilateral decision-making in the post-Cold War world, and the detrimental effects of failed statehood and sovereignty is fair and it is important to articulate this position shared by many countries. 

However, this may also give additional arguments to the opponents of the Kremlin, who criticize it for blocking any international (read – Western) initiatives without setting forth any reasonable alternatives.

One third of Putin’s speech was appealing to no one

Obviously, it would be politically incorrect to be harsh towards the United Nations while speaking at its headquarters. Nonetheless, the international community has been realizing for nearly 20 years now that the supreme role of the UN in maintaining global peace and security is no longer relevant. 

Hence, it made little sense to repeat the old Russian mantra about the exclusiveness of this multilateral forum and its unique nature, especially taking into account the fact that Russia is also quite flexible in respecting the UN decision-making process when it comes to the protection of real national interests. 

The world is waiting for a new program of reform for the United Nations and for a leader who will push this process forward rather than eternal statements about the UN’s significance. 

Thus, nearly one-third of Putin’s speech was appealing to no one – the delegates expected proposals not statements. 

 Related: "The UN is a mirror that reflects the ability of global powers to act together." 

Other thoughts were not specific either. Russia pretends to set up an international antiterrorist coalition and link it symbolically with the anti-Hitler alliance, which was successful 70 years ago. 

The idea is great in its simplicity. However, indicating the framework is not enough – Russia has already done it several times at different events and even in the course of numerous negotiations of the last two months. 

Everyone was looking for the specific plan and got… a suggestion to discuss the “coordination mechanism” at the next UN Security Council ministerial meeting. 

The same thing with climate change – let’s hold another international forum on climate.

The same with global trade rules – let’s discuss the rules once again (even though in the previous paragraph of his speech Putin praised the WTO, so the rules are theoretically there and the only thing needed is their implementation). 

Therefore, instead of specific solutions, Russia seems to ask the world to create another “working group” with endless discussions. 

Communications in world affairs

The communications system in world affairs is certainly broken due to the Syrian and Ukrainian crises, but the process of its restoration should be accompanied with concrete steps forward.

The ideas of “integration of integrations” and comprehensive “indivisible security” are extremely noble and attractive. However, like in 2008 when Moscow set forth a draft of the European Security Treaty, they are no more than principles with a nice and correct wording, without any backing in real details.

 Also read: "Putin's UN speech showcases Russia's view of the global order." 

The statement of principles is important, but they should be codified by the international community into a program of action instead of rhetorical questions about the role of NATO in the modern world.

President Putin’s address to the UN General Assembly described the apprehensions and discontent of the Russian Federation with the current state of affairs, but provided no answers. 

Re-defining international security for the modern world

One of a few important messages that might have passed unnoticed was the urge to provide for a unified interpretation of the key terms in international security and international relations.

This could be a starting point for building a new world order based on justice and mutual respect. 

However, even here Moscow should be more specific in emphasizing the ways to commence such global dialogue.

Putin did not delight the world with initiatives, but he indicated the problems in a straightforward way appealing to many who do not dare to challenge the hegemony of the United States. 

One can only hope that Russia will be much more successful in solving these problems in the course of bilateral talks and through specific conversations with the heads of states rather than via multilateral institutions.

The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.