Vladimir Putin showed up at Branch No 2 of the National Medical Research Centre of High Medical Technologies – Vishnevsky Central Military Clinical Hospital of the Russian Federation Defence Ministry this week and sat down for a chat with Russian military personnel who had been wounded during the special military operation. Can you imagine Joe Biden doing this with a group of American military personnel? I can’t.
I am posting this because I think it is important that people, especially Americans, have the opportunity to read Putin’s comments. If you are wondering how Putin views the United States, NATO and Ukraine, you need only read the following. There is no nuance. Putin is refreshingly candid.
His concern for the welfare of the soldiers comes across as genuine, sincere. But that is not the news. He makes it very clear that the Western countries are the enemy, not Ukraine. He also vowed to step up attacks on Ukrainian military targets and foreign mercenaries. Putin minces no words in noting that Western hopes of bamboozling him into negotiations for a ceasefire are in vain. Ain’t going to happen.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Hello, guys! Glad to see you. I would like to congratulate you on the New Year.
How is your treatment here going?
Vladimir Putin: I walked around here, from what I have seen the equipment looks solid, this is clear of course. But, first and foremost, it must be used effectively. I hope, it does.
Vladimir Putin: You know, of course, I wanted to come here and congratulate you on the New Year, but there was also something I wanted to see. You might have seen me on Direct Line, at least some of it; it is impossible to watch it in its entirety, four hours, it is crazy just how long it is. But there were things that concerned the Armed Forces and you directly: for example, people asked whether you really had to return to your units after your wounds and treatment and even rehabilitation to obtain the corresponding medical certificates there and even be cleared by military medical commissions. The Defence Ministry denies this, saying it does not happen, at least, not now. Moreover, they said – as I requested some time ago – that housing issues are being resolved during treatment and our service personnel undergo additional training to be able to continue serving, if they want, even those who sustained severe injuries, at military enlistment offices and so forth.
I wanted to hear from you what is really going on, if this is so, if you need to go somewhere else to obtain the necessary documents and certificates. No? So, do you get everything here? The military medical commission examination, all the documents – everything is done here, right?
Vladimir Putin: Are housing issues being resolved too?
Remark: Already been resolved.
Vladimir Putin: Ok, I see. They have been resolved for you and they are being resolved for our other fighters. At least, the system for resolving housing issues has been created and it is working, that is the most important thing, right?
And you are also receiving some additional professional training to allow those willing to continue their service in the Armed Forces but in different positions, health permitting. Is that so? Is that the reality?
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. So, how is it going?
Vladimir Putin: This is one of the best medical institutions of the Defence Ministry. Not all of them are so well-equipped, so shiny, so to speak. But gradually the Ministry will bring everything up to the standard, to this level in terms of quality.
Any questions you want to ask me, guys? Don’t be shy.
Alexander Dublyanin: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,
During the special military operation we are liberating Russian territory. How do you feel about Western countries helping our enemy?
Vladimir Putin: The point is not that they are helping our enemy. They are our enemy. They are solving their own problems with their hands. That is what it is all about. This has been the case for centuries, unfortunately, and continues to be the case today.
Ukraine itself is not our enemy whereas those who want to destroy Russian statehood and to achieve, as they say, a strategic defeat of Russia on the battlefield, are mainly in the West, but still, there are different people there. There are people who sympathise with us and who are with us at heart. But there are the elites who think the existence of Russia (at least in its current state and size) is unacceptable. They want to disintegrate it. As a matter of fact, you are young people, some have read about this, perhaps: they do not hide it. They speak and write about this publicly, and have been doing it for decades, if we are talking about contemporary history. For decades, they have simply been writing frankly about it: divide Russia into five parts, one is too much. I can talk about this till morning, but it is obvious.
Therefore, they have been nurturing the Kiev regime for quite a long time, precisely to create this conflict. Unfortunately for us, they have achieved this: they started this conflict and are trying to achieve their objective, namely the task of fighting Russia, with the help of Ukrainians.
You probably see on the battlefield that they are gradually losing their zest. When a projectile flies, it is difficult to understand whether they are losing it or not, but in general you probably know that the situation on the battlefield is changing. This is despite the fact that the entire “civilised” West is fighting us.
You, too, have probably heard many times: the Ukrainian army expends 5,000–6,000 155-calibre shells there per day of combat operations, and the United States produces 14,000 per month. Per month! And they use 5,000 per day. Yes, they are planning to increase it during 2024, but still, they produced 14,000–15,000, they will produce up to 20,000. But if you use 5,000 a day, then the supply depletes quite quickly. It is close to that now. And we are building up and will continue to, exponentially at that. They were supplied with more than 400 tanks (450 or whatever it is), and in a year we will produce and overhaul 1,600. This is not a state secret; in fact, there will be probably more. It is like this almost across the board. Therefore, though it has been their goal to deal with Russia from time immemorial, we will deal with them faster, it seems.
And the most important thing we have is, of course, what I have spoken about repeatedly: the unity of our people and society, because there is an understanding of how important the job you are doing on the battlefield is in the armed struggle for our country and our future. That is what’s most important. The point is not that we do not like that they are supplying Ukraine, that’s not the core of the problem. The problem is not with Ukraine, but with those who are trying to destroy Russia using Ukraine. That is the problem. But they will fail: it is simply out of the question, absolutely out of the question.
I think that the realisation is starting to dawn on them, and the rhetoric is changing: those who were talking just yesterday about the need to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia are now looking for the right words on how to quickly end the conflict. We also want to end the conflict, as quickly as possible, but only on our terms. We have no desire to fight endlessly, but we are not going to cede our positions either. You fought there, you were wounded there; are we going to surrender everything now? The cameras are on, otherwise I would make a certain gesture here now; you all know what kind of gesture it is. So, it is not going to happen.
So, what else? Yes, please.
Denis Shamalyuk: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,
I am Sergeant Shamalyuk. I have a question. From the very beginning of the special operation, our enemies have been constantly and regularly shelling the territories near the border, killing civilians and children, destroying villages and cities. I have the following question for you. Do you think it is possible and necessary to take tougher measures against the adversary so that the thought does not even cross their minds to commit these atrocities?
Vladimir Putin: What has happened in Belgorod is of course a terrorist attack. Why? Because of what they have done under the cover of two missiles – I think it was Olkha: they fired from multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS). You, as military people, know what MLRS is. This weapon is not selective, it hits areas. This weapon struck right in the centre of the city, where people were walking before the New Year. It was a targeted strike on the civilian population. Of course, this is a terrorist attack; there is no other way to describe it.
Should we respond in kind? Of course, we can hit squares in Kiev or any other city. But Denis, there are children walking there, mothers with strollers. I understand, because I am quite angry, too, but I want to ask you: do we need to do this, target the squares?
Denis Shamalyuk: No, I am not saying that it should [be] against the civilian population, but specifically against military infrastructure…
Vladimir Putin: That is what we are doing.
Denis Shamalyuk: So that they will not be able to come round and respond.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, but that is exactly what we are doing. We strike with high-precision weapons at locations where they make decisions, where military personnel and mercenaries gather, at other similar centres, and at military facilities, above all. These blows can really be felt. We will continue to do this. You probably noticed that the very next day after these attacks were carried out. I think they are continuing today, and tomorrow, too.
Do you know why they are doing it? They want to intimidate us and to create some uncertainty within our country. For our part, we will increase the strikes that I have mentioned. Of course, not a single crime like that, and this is certainly a crime against the civilian population, will go unpunished, this is for sure, there can be no doubt.
Denis Shamalyuk: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Please.
Ivan Shushakov: May I?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.
Ivan Shushakov: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,
For two years now, our country has been fighting for its future. Please tell me, how do you assess the progress of the special military operation?
Vladimir Putin: I have already said this, I can repeat, but you can feel this yourselves. Our Armed Forces are getting more capable and prepared to use advanced weapons than any other army in the world.
First, we have weapons that are not available in any army in the world, and second, we can use everything that is being developed and produced. Third, everything that is being developed is being produced and supplied rather fast. I know, there is probably not enough on the front lines, and they would like more of all the latest stuff there, such as drones, as well as more means of suppressing enemy drones, which are flying over you like flies. I understand everything, but still, what is being produced appears quickly enough.
You know what else is rather important? Modern means of warfare and their effectiveness depend on how quickly an army can find out what is the most important thing at this moment and respond in terms of producing and introducing that in combat as quickly as possible.
We are doing this better and better, probably better than anywhere else. And these are very huge advantages that our Armed Forces are gaining. I think that no one else could do the same today. And these capabilities of the Russian Armed Forces are constantly increasing, multiple times over. So, in general, you are already a senior officer, so you know, we try not to give high marks…
Ivan Shushakov: Exactly.
Vladimir Putin: Satisfactory.
Alexander Davydov: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, may I ask a question, sir?
We can see that you are very busy. How do you manage to maintain such high performance?
Vladimir Putin: Meeting you gives me strength. I am not joking. I am being honest. When I meet people like you, it gives me extra strength and confidence that we are doing the right thing.
Alexander Davydov: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: This is a very important element. In fact, I am not being ironic, this is an important element, for me, at least.
Yevgeny Korsun: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,
Guards junior sergeant Korsun.
Mr President, first of all, Happy New Year.
My question is, what are the results of the past year and what are the real plans for this year? What should everyone, not just the Armed Forces and military personnel, be prepared for?
Vladimir Putin: The country in general, right?
Yevgeny Korsun: Yes. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: You know, as far as the results of last year are concerned, I spoke about this on Direct Line, what can I say. The most important thing is that you keep everything tight at the front and, moreover, the practical strategic initiative is in our hands today. Senior commanders have learned to act carefully instead of carrying out combat missions at any cost. At least that is what they report to me. I always insist that everything must be done and any offensive operations carried out after the adversary has sustained heavy fire. This is what concerns the battlefield.
Talking about the country as a whole, of course, the fundamental thing is not only that we preserved the country’s economy, we did not allow it to be destroyed, which is what the enemy was counting on – this is also in response to your question. It was not Ukraine that hoped to destroy our economy; it is not capable of doing it. It has already been completely destroyed itself; there is nothing left there, it lives entirely on handouts. All its leaders travel around with hat in hand, begging for an extra million dollars.
Our situation is completely different. In 2022, our economy contracted by 2.1 percent. But recently, the Government has reported to me – the calculations are ongoing, and new data appear – the latest data are that it declined not 2.1 but 1.2 percent. This is of essence. In 2023 year, the economy grew 3.5 percent. Gross domestic product (GDP), the main economic indicator, is how much the country has produced. You can use money to calculate how much you produced, plus 3.5 percent. And the decline was 1.2 percent. We made up for the decline and moved forward. This is an absolutely fundamental matter. This is the first point, and it is a very important one.
This shows that the economy is stable. Inflation has gone up a little, which means prices have risen, but we are keeping everything under control. You know, we have never seen anything like this. We have always noted with sadness that our main revenues come from oil and gas. For the first time in many years, the growth of processing industries in our economic structure far exceeds revenues from oil and gas. I think that oil and gas revenues grew three percent, while the processing industry has yielded many times more. This has never happened before. This indicates that we are undergoing structural changes in the economy. It is very important.
And why is that? When Western companies left our market, they apparently expected that everything would collapse overnight: businesses would shutter and thousands of people would be left without work. And, in the best-case scenario for the adversary in the broad sense of the word: for the opponents of Russia in general, and not just on the battlefield, people will take to the streets and demand bread and work.
We have the lowest unemployment rate in the history of Russia: 2.9 percent, which has never happened before. And real incomes of the population have grown (there is such a thing as real disposable income of the population) and real wages have grown, and quite significantly. All this suggests that we have a stable economy and stable financial system.
Russia was disconnected from the international payment system known as SWIFT. Apparently, they hoped that everything would collapse here too. We supply our traditional export goods, but what about the settlements? However, everything works.
Everyone thought that enterprises would stop because they stopped supplying us with components, but it turns out that everything is possible. Yes, there are problems, but nevertheless they are being addressed.
Small and medium-sized businesses are also working effectively. Some foreign enterprises have left, but our businesses have taken their place. Firstly, there are highly qualified personnel who have not left; there are good production managers in a variety of sectors both in industry and in the services sector, and everything works. This is the most important thing: the stability of the country’s economy and financial system because this is the foundation for everything.
And, of course, as I have already said, the number of weapons produced in Russia has increased multiple times over, including when I talk about the growth of industrial production, but not only: one third of the growth was achieved in civilian production branches, which is very important. So, the stability of the financial and economic system and the real sector of the economy is probably the most important thing.
In addition to this, we are implementing all our previously planned projects. In terms of infrastructure, as you understand, this means trillions, and we are building roads and opening new routes every week. This is very important, because it is not just to take one ride there and back. A road means life, and economic life too begins with it: small and medium-sized businesses appear immediately, because there was no other way to get there, but now it is possible. A completely different picture of the world emerges.
Despite the difficulties involved, housing issues are gradually being resolved in the country. Social issues are also very important. Many of you have families and children, right? And there is maternity capital, which no one is shutting down. The country continues to meet all social commitments in full. Moreover, we have created quite a powerful and balanced system of support for families with children (this is very important for the future of the country), starting from the woman’s pregnancy until the child is 18 years old. This is important for real people, and therefore for the country as a whole.
So, strange as it may seem, despite the fact that we are in a state of armed conflict, all the main indicators of the country’s viability and effectiveness have gone up. And this is probably the most important indicator of Russia’s situation.
Yevgeny Korsun: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: What else? Is that all?
Happy New Year to you. All the best. Best wishes. Get well!