Russia has technically been going through a recession for the past couple of months.
Following Western sanctions and falling oil prices, the ruble plunged – as much as 8 percent last December – and the country's economy started shrinking in annual terms for the first time since 2009. Rumors of a coup also started gaining momentum last month.
However, all of this has not had any effect on Vladimir Putin, who remained as bold as ever during his annual “direct line” press conference.
Apart from trying to reassure his people over the ailing economy, the Russian president took several shots at the Western nations – of course – especially the United States for imposing crippling economic sanctions on Russia.
U.S. sanctions “helped” Russia
Putin made it very clear that the sanctions have instead motivated Russia to avoid dependence on oil and imports. He said it would help encourage Russians to form more high-tech industries of their own and boost domestic agricultural production.
"We must use the current situation to reach new levels of development," Putin said. "In fact, these sanctions only helped the government and the Central Bank.”
"We have something to be proud of," he added.
Almost the second he started talking, the ruble took a nose dive.
U.S. has massive debt
In an attempt to take the focus of the discussion away from the crisis in Russia, Putin tried to bash the U.S. economy.
He emphasized that America’s “public debt is higher than national GDP” – a fact which is not entirely untrue since U.S. debt skyrocketed to over $17 trillion, about 74 percent of the total GDP, and is expected to rise to almost $23 trillion in the next five years.
“This is generally a very disturbing and alarming thing,” Putin said, “not only for the U.S. but for the whole economy.”
U.S. wants no friends
Putin said in order to have better diplomatic relations, Western countries must respect his country’s interests. However, he added that Russia couldn’t “exist in a system of relations” in which the U.S. seeks subordinates, not friends.
“Washington doesn’t need allies, it needs vassals,” he said.
U.S. is the “primary supplier” of weapons
Addressing Western criticism over Russia’s recent delivery of air defense missiles to Iran, Putin said:
“By the way, we’re not the primary supplier of weaponry to the Middle East. The U.S. supplies more.” Yet again, this is an undisputable truth since America is indeed the top weapon exporting country in the world. (By the way – Russia ranks second in the list.)
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