Putin: Russian president says liberalism 'obsolete'

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Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during an interview with the Financial TimesImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Vladimir Putin says liberal ideals conflict with the interests of most people

Vladimir Putin has said liberalism is "obsolete" in an interview before he left for the G20 summit.

The Russian president said the ideology that has underpinned Western democracies for decades had "outlived its purpose".

The Russian leader also praised the rise of populism in Europe and America, saying ideas like multiculturalism were "no longer tenable".

His comments came in a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times.

The piece was published as world leaders began talks on trade and security in Japan.

"[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone," said Mr Putin, who is on his fourth term as president.

He added that liberalism conflicted with "the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population," and took aim at German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing large numbers of refugees to settle in Germany.

"This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected."

Media caption,

Donald Trump jokes to Vladimir Putin about Russian election meddling at the G20 summit

Mr Putin, 66, also said Russia had "no problems with LGBT persons… but some things do appear excessive to us".

"They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles," he continued.

"Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population."

President Putin is a man who grew to maturity in the Soviet-era and was a servant of the Communist state. He regards the collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy, and has sought to establish Russia as a counterweight to the liberal Western order.

So, to that extent, his comments are hardly surprising.

Russia, though - with its relatively weak economy and many social problems - is hardly an example that many will want to follow.

Nonetheless, where Mr Putin's remarks carry some weight is that the liberal order established in the wake of the World War Two is under stress like never before.

The ramifications of the financial crisis; populist currents inside many liberal democratic countries; Brexit; the rise of China as a major economic force; and a US president who many critics see as corrosive to the established US-led order have combined to create a genuine sense of drift and unease.

Aside from remarks on liberalism, Mr Putin also praised US President Donald Trump as a "talented person" who knew how to relate to voters.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
World leaders from 19 countries - and the European Union - are meeting in Japan from Friday to discuss economic policy and co-operation

But the Russian leader also said American unilateralism was partly to blame for the ongoing trade war between China and the US, and for tensions with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

But EU President Donald Tusk lashed out at Mr Putin on Friday, telling reporters he "strongly [disagreed]" with his sentiments on liberalism.

"Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete," said Mr Tusk.

"What I find really obsolete are authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs, even if sometimes they may seem effective," he added.