Unlike last year’s state of the nation address, Vladimir Putin didn’t accuse the West of trying to subvert Russia with economic sanctions.
He didn’t even seem too worried about Moscow’s latest military intervention in Syria against the Islamic State terrorist group.
No, this time the Russian president’s first and foremost concern was Turkey.
Starting this year’s speech with a minute's silence for Russian victims of terrorism, including the 224 who died when a bomb blew up a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai desert on Oct. 31, Putin directed his anger towards his Turkish counterpart.
Relations between the two countries have been strained after Turkey downed a Russian bomber jet last month. Since then, both have been accusing each other of engaging in illegal oil trade with ISIS.
"We know who are stuffing pockets in Turkey and letting terrorists prosper from the sale of oil they stole in Syria," Putin said while addressing the Kremlin audience on Dec. 3. "The terrorists are using these receipts to recruit mercenaries, buy weapons and plan inhuman terrorist attacks."
Also, Putin didn’t really give a satisfactory overview of how well the campaign against ISIS is doing in Syria. There were no numbers, stats or figures. Just promises for future endeavors.
“We must leave all arguments and disagreements behind and make one powerful fist, a single anti-terror front, which would work on the basis of international law under the aegis of the United Nations," he added, before shifting the focus back to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.
"It appears that Allah decided to punish the ruling clique of Turkey by depriving them of wisdom and judgment," he remarked.
And it wasn’t just the war against terrorism that took a back seat in Putin’s annual address. The Russian leader, throughout the speech, talked about the U.S. and the West just once — that too in a passing, indirect reference.
“We know why that happened,” he said. “We know who wanted to replace objectionable regimes, brutally imposing their own rules.”
Oddly, Putin not once mentioned the name Islamic State or ISIS. He did, however, use the term terrorists and terrorism. But critics are taking it as yet another indication of prioritizing Turkey — and not ISIS — as Russia’s No. 1 international enemy, a move that will not help anything or anyone in the region.