- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his annual address to Russia’s parliament. And according to Putin, things are going really well for Putin’s Russia!
Putin began by stressing that the Russian people are able to work together to solve their problems, and that, while their problems are not completely gone, “together we are sure to overcome them.” And principles of fairness, respect, and trust for which Russia stands abroad — “and, as we see, not without results” — must also be implemented within Russia itself by, for example, standing up to injustice and untruth across society. And society must be strong, and it must be secure.
And, per Putin, it is! Consider the health sector, for example! The Russian medical profession is developing and health centers are cropping up across the country! In the next year Russia will introduce mechanisms for putting in place the sustainable financing of high-tech care!
Roughly 1.5 million people currently in Russia have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. The rate of infection is rising at 10 to 15 percent a year. The Russian government is rejecting scientifically sound policies that might treat them. Also, the Kremlin is rewarding pseudoscience.
And the children! The children must be comfortable and educated in good schools! And, indeed, the schools are improving, getting ever better, Putin said
According to the 2015-2016 World University Rankings, the highest-ranking Russian university comes in at 161. (To be fair, however, Russia ranked ahead of the United States in a recent Pearson ranking of international school systems.)
And the land itself? 2017 is the Year of Ecology, and Putin has instructed the Russian government to protect such treasures as the Volga River and Lake Baikal.
Have international economic sanctions, meant to punish Russian meddling in neighboring Ukraine, been imposed by others who want to “make us dance to their tune”? Of course, Putin said. But the problems can be solved within Russia itself. Every level of the banking system must be healthy and secure.
To be fair to Putin — the International Monetary Fund has said that, although the Russian economy will continue to contract in 2016, it may indeed to begin to recover in 2017, provided structural reforms are put in place. However, VTB, Russia’s second largest lender, has said it will not privatize any state stake in the bank until sanctions are lifted. Also, the economic minister was arrested and replaced last month for reasons that remain unclear.
And yes, Putin said, there have been challenges from abroad, but consider Russia’s cooperation with China and India! And the progress made with Japan! Even relations with the United States might now be “normalized,” that the two countries might develop healthy bilateral relations to fight international terrorism!
Also this week, Putin approved a new foreign policy concept, which states that Russia is to consolidate its position as one of the most influential centers of the modern world, which may or may not prove to be at odds with the above.
Putin also noted that his party, United Russia, is 15 years old, and that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. Life’s getting better, and happier, too.
Photo credit: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images