Vladimir Putin: World must co-operate on Covid and guard against ‘anarchy’

Russian president questions the growing power of US social media companies

epa08968335 Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a session of the Davos Agenda 2021 online forum organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF), via a video link from the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 27 January 2021.  EPA/MICHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN / POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday urged world co-operation on the coronavirus crisis and said institutions must be strengthened to avoid anarchy and conflict.

Addressing an online meeting of the World Economic Forum, Mr Putin said the crisis was likely to drag on until people receive adequate protection from the virus.

Mr Putin said the era of a ‘unipolar’ world was over and that a multilateral approach to diplomacy was needed.

“Monopoly was always contrary to cultural and historical diversity of our civilisation”, he said. “The reality is that there are truly different centres of development in the world, with their own distinctive models or political systems.

“Today, it is extremely important to create mechanisms for co-ordinating interests so that the diversity and the natural competition between the poles of development does not turn into anarchy and multiple protracted conflicts.

“We have to strengthen and develop the universal institutions whose responsibility is to ensure global stability and enforce rules on the world’s economy and trade.

“These institutions were created during a different era and are facing today’s challenges. It is not an easy task for them.”

The Russian leader also said the current economic crisis was leading to greater inequality and social tensions, with nearly 500 million job losses around the world. Surging debt levels among many nations were also a concern, he said.

Mr Putin questioned the growing power of US social media companies, saying their influence meant they now competed with governments. Their monopoly position may not coincide with society's interests, he said.

"These are not just economic giants, in some areas they are already de facto competing with states," Mr Putin said.

Mr Putin said a deal with Washington to extend a nuclear pact by five years was a "step in the right direction" in reducing global tensions.

Putin hailed the deal to extend the New Start treaty, announced after a call on Tuesday with US President Joe Biden, but said the global situation could still "develop unpredictably and uncontrollably if we sit on our hands".

The New Start treaty will expire on February 5.

After taking office last week, Mr Biden proposed extending the treaty for five years, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.

The treaty, signed in 2010 by former US president Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.

Mr Biden indicated during his election campaign that he favoured the preservation of the New Start treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as vice president.