Vladimir Putin, Never Tire Of Declaring It Essay
Every autumn since 2004 Mr. Putin has gathered a large group of international political scientists and commentators for a couple of days of discussions. The gathering, called the Valdai Discussion Club, has shifted shapes over the years, changing locations, personalities and topics. It used to be held in Valdai, a national park about halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg, but this year it was held in Sochi, where facilities left over from the Winter Olympics had fallen into disuse. It used to focus largely on Russian politics and the economy, but in the last few years has turned increasingly to Russia’s role in the world. It used to draw virtually all the Western Russia specialists who could get an invitation, offering, as it does, an opportunity to interact with a president who is usually inaccessible.
But in recent years a number of Western scholars have dropped out or been disinvited. Attendance peaked at over 200 in 2013, and dropped to roughly half that number the following year. Still, the basic nature of the event remains constant: It is a junket, an affair lavishly catered at the Kremlin’s expense, at which Mr. Putin puts forward his vision of himself and his country.
This year’s gathering was titled “Societies Between War and Peace: Overcoming the Logic of Conflict in Tomorrow’s World,” but in his keynote address Mr. Putin dispensed with the “between.” The world is at war, he explained. And it is…