Putin: West is trying to ‘defang’ the Russian bear

Vladimir Putin pledges to resist attempts to reduce Russia's influence and to pull back economy from ongoing crisis.
The Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks at his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow on December 18, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev / Reuters
The Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks at his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow on December 18, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev / Reuters

MOSCOW // President Vladimir Putin vowed on Thursday to fix Russia’s economic woes within two years by diversifying away from its heavy reliance on oil and gas and voiced confidence that the plummeting rouble will soon recover.

He also promised never to let the West chain or defang his proud nation, evoking the symbolic Russian bear.

Speaking at a live news conference, Mr Putin displayed his traditional defiant stance toward the West, which he insisted is trying to destroy Russia to grab Siberia’s great natural resources.

The annual televised production before the holidays is a Putin tradition.

In his speech, the man who has led Russia for 15 years acknowledged that western economic sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine were just one factor behind Russia’s economic crisis– a key reason for the rouble’s fall was Russia’s failure to ease its dependence on oil and gas exports.

Mr Putin said sanctions they slapped on Russia after it seized Crimea in March were part of a historical campaign to weaken Russia and accused the West of trying to infringe on Russia’s sovereignty, saying the Ukrainian crisis was just a pretext for Western action.

To get his point across, he brought in a famed Russian symbol – the bear.

“Sometimes I think, maybe it would be better for our bear to sit quiet... Maybe they will leave it in peace,” said Mr Putin. “They will not. Because they will always try to put him on a chain, and as soon as they succeed in doing so they tear out his fangs and his claws.”

He said by fangs and claws he meant Russia’s nuclear weapons. “The issue is not Crimea, the issue is that we are protecting our sovereignty and our right to exist.”

The European Union on Thursday further beefed up its sanctions against Russia with a ban on investment in Crimea and other economic penalties.

* Associated Press

Published: December 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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