A storm of drivel. Ilya Shablinsky – on how Putin killed a man and addressed the Federal Assembly [Spektr.press]

1 March 2024

by Ilya Shablinsky

Source: Spektr.press

As expected, Putin’s latest address to the Federal Assembly was about the war and how wonderful it will be to live with him, Putin, as president for another six years. All the more so because in two weeks’ time there will be ‘a kind of election’.

Those who thought that nothing new could be expected from this speech were right. But still. There was a new (in the sense of just another) threat to use the Most Important Weapon. The dictator found new wording for it: ‘strategic nuclear forces are in a state of full readiness for guaranteed use.’ And then went on to specify that the targets could be objects on the territory of Western European countries. However, he has already said this more than once. And his henchmen have already loudly shouted out specific addresses, European countries and cities – whether in Poland, or in Great Britain, or…..

In general, we have heard this all before. We can’t say any new records have been set in terms of hypocrisy. Once again Putin said we did not start the war. And that the conflict in Ukraine was “provoked by the West”.

Almost in passing he said the Western Grouping of Troops would be strengthened, taking into account “the latest expansion of NATO”, i.e. the entry of Sweden and Finland into the bloc. He did not focus on this topic. And rightly so. The heads of these countries have explicitly stated that they were prompted to join the alliance by the war Putin unleashed against Ukraine. What is there to say more about that now?

He also said that military factories are working in triple shifts. That our military units are steadily advancing. That new types of missiles are being created and are about to enter service.

At the same time, Putin revealed the West’s intention to drag us into an arms race. And, as a man who knows history very well (we remember his lectures on the history of Ukraine), he reminded his audience that this trick of the West’s had already succeeded in the 1980s with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, which, according to Putin, spent up to 13 percent of its budget on the military (although experts believe it to have been more).

Here, in principle, one could expect the vigorous dictator to declare that such things will not work with us. Or at least report on the current expenditures on the war.

But no. From what he said, it followed that we have already been drawn into the arms race, and all that remains now is “to distribute resources as rationally as possible, to build an efficient military economy.”  That’s a literal quote.

Here, perhaps, it would be appropriate to recall that the current budget revenues of the Russian Federation are approximately equal to the revenues of the Netherlands. And about three times less than the revenues of Germany. Putin didn’t bring this up, and probably rightly so. At the same time, there is no reason to question his intention to throw a large part of the budget into the furnace of war. It can be done. We just really don’t know how long the country’s economy can withstand it. But we understand: according to this logic, Ukraine’s economy will not withstand the pressure and will collapse sooner. And this is also true – if the small-minded politicians from the conservative wing of the US Republicans continue to behave like hagglers at a market stall, engaging in flaccid haggling over aid to Ukraine. After all, there have always been people like that in America. But they failed to get the upper hand during WWII. It’s not clear how it will turn out now…..

Of course, Putin is thinking all this over. But it’s a secret. Not for the federal assembly.

Next, we must talk about the main contradiction of his speech. Having made it clear there will be gigantic, i.e. completely crazy, expenses related to the war, he, as a political entrepreneur should, began to take out of his election basket various goodies. The contradiction could be expressed in the question: how will these be paid for?  If everything is as was stated in the first part of the speech, then what new hospitals, schools, equipment and, excuse me, artificial intelligence can he be talking about? Or: what super high-speed motorways to Ekaterinburg or domestic airliners for domestic airlines?

It is clear these goodies were more like pet food (in the Russian Federation, they used to feed soldiers with it). Judge for yourself.  Here, for example, is a handout to the poor – those who have a monthly income of up to 14,000 roubles, that is, about 130 euros: for them there will be monthly payments, on average of 10,000 roubles, that is, 90 euros. Putin announced this with due pride. Or consider how the dictator’s long discourse on tax deductions for families with modest incomes ended with a joyful summary: the tax break “will allow them to save up to 1,300 roubles a month.” That is, up to 13 euros. I am not joking – this is a literal quote.

We should also note one more detail. The dictator expressed his intention to promote veterans of combat operations in Ukraine to leadership positions in various spheres: “our heroes”, “the new elite”. It seems that he sees this experience as one of the criteria of absolute loyalty or devotion to him and his bloody cause. In fact, these veterans are of very different kinds: some of the “new elite” have already been imprisoned for murder and rape in “civilian life”, some have joined United Russia. It is clearly not worth expecting any particular success from these people. In Khakassia, such a veteran could not even approach the popularity of the incumbent governor who is a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and in Omsk region a former official from the DNR had no better luck. However, this is not even the point. It’s just that the elderly dictator suddenly got the idea of creating some new social class – bound together with, or covered in, blood. Remember, at the dawn of Soviet power, a high value was placed on proletarian origin. And, thanks to that, a certain Yezhov attained his post.

And there’s an end of it.

In fact, it makes no sense to seriously analyse most of this speech, this two-hour-long drivel, this creation of diligent speechwriters. All this mishmash of topics, questions and “sub-questions”, with all these icebreakers, school buses, banking services, technological sovereignty and so on and so forth… means nothing. It has zero meaning.

What was the dictator thinking while he was spouting all this? One thing we know for sure. He was preparing for 1st March. He killed a man, and now he has a new concern. Today is 1st March, Aleksei Navalny’s funeral.

Do you know the moment when I felt the pain of this loss again, when I realised its scale?

When, watching the broadcast of Putin’s drivel, I saw those faces with my own eyes once again. When I could see them once again and was forced to look at them closely. Their vassal’s joy in the face of the boss. Their convulsive applause every five minutes. I don’t remember such a thing even under Brezhnev.

As the speech is, so is the audience.

And leaders of such magnitude as Aleksei come rarely. It’s hard without them. And at times like this, it is particularly acute.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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