August 17, 2022

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“If the West wants to defeat us, they should try.” This was heard on Russian state television when President Putin addressed the State Duma – the Russian parliament – yesterday. It was one of the most threatening speeches since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin addressed Kyiv’s Western allies directly in the State Duma. He accused them of fomenting hostilities. “The West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems to be going in that direction,” the president said. When Putin talks about “the West,” he basically means the US-led NATO.

Putin has challenged the Western countries that support Kyiv in trying to defeat Russia. “We heard that they want to hit us on the battlefield. Well, let them try,” Putin said. “Russia has not started in earnest yet.”

An encouraging message to your audience

They are menacing words full of warlike rhetoric toward the West, but also a message that elevates their audience. Because even among Russians, doubts are growing about whether everything is really going “according to plan,” as the Kremlin and state media insist. Military analysts also have many doubts about how much influence the Russian military still wields after these months.

These bold words are again in line with the Kremlin’s rhetoric, which asserts that Russia launched the so-called “military operation” because it would have no choice due to threats from the West, and would only strike the military infrastructure. Moscow accuses the West of waging a proxy war against Russia by imposing economic sanctions and supplying arms to Ukraine. There is no mention of their role in the many bombings and civilian casualties.

Putin also cited Western sanctions against Russia in his speech. According to him, the West failed to “divide our society and demoralize our people.” He said any attempt by the West to impose its world order on Russia was “doomed to failure.” According to him, the time has come for a multipolar world, in which the West is no longer dominant.

Diplomacy

Finally, Putin spoke for the first time in weeks about the possibility of diplomatic talks. “We do not reject any peace negotiations,” Putin said. “But, as long as they are rejected, the conflict will continue, after which it will become increasingly difficult to negotiate with us,” he threatened. In which he once again blamed the West or Ukraine itself.

The speech comes a few days after the entire eastern Ukrainian region of Lugansk fell into the hands of the Russians. The focus is now mainly on occupying the entire Donetsk province, and the fighting there is expected to intensify in the coming period.