Analysis. In his fourth inaugural speech, President Vladimir Putin paid lip service to diplomacy while reasserting the primacy of the state.

Putin’s Cold War II doctrine: self-reliance and ‘traditional family values’

With a speech of just over 25 minutes, held in the magnificent main building of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin inaugurated his fourth term as the Russian President on Monday. In his speech, Putin said “harmony between free individuals, responsible civil society and a strong, active and democratic state” represent “a solid foundation for the development of Russia”—with more of an emphasis on the “strong state” than on the “free individuals.”

“The way forward is never easy. It is always a challenging journey. But there is only one thing history never forgives: indifference and inconsistency, slackness and complacency, which rings especially true today, at this turning point in history, as the entire world is undergoing rapid change,” said the president.

This is the “new Putin doctrine” that the president has been preparing for some time now: Russia will be self-reliant, regardless of the international pressures that have been building up and will build up even further. The current “Cold War 2.0” is not a mere happenstance, and Russia must prepare for a hard and long-lasting confrontation with the West.

In Putin’s speech, the appeal to international dialogue was mentioned as a diplomatic formality, nothing more: “We are in favor of equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation with all states in the interests of peace and stability on our planet,” Putin said.

But “the Tsar” is already focusing on the agenda of the next few weeks. He will meet with Merkel on May 18 in Sochi, and immediately afterwards, between May 24 and 26, in the traditional setting of the World Economic Forum, he will see Emmanuel Macron. His discussions with the two EU leaders will come back to the issues of the Ukraine crisis, the unraveling of the Syrian knot and the aggressive “made in the USA” protectionism. Then, on June 5, Putin will be in Vienna, where he will aim to strengthen the already excellent relationship with the center-right government of Sebastian Kurz.

However, as has often been said, Putin wants to focus his attention first and foremost on the internal situation of the country, marked by tensions which do not always rise to the surface of Russian political life. “But now, we must use all the opportunities available to us primarily to address the most vital domestic development objectives, to achieve an economic and technological breakthrough, and to enhance competitiveness in the spheres that determine the future. A new quality of life, wellbeing, security and health are what constitute our main goals and the focus of our policies.”

In that regard, Putin put particular emphasis on “traditional family values.” “We will pay special attention to supporting the traditional family values, motherhood and childhood, so that more and more wanted and healthy babies are born in Russia who go on to become smart and talented people.” In short, no Gay Pride parade in Moscow in the near future, and plenty of funding for maternities and nursery schools to try to reverse the country’s dramatic demographic situation.

Later in the afternoon, Putin again named Dmitry Medvedev as the leader of the new Russian government. It is a continuity choice, very much in style with Putin’s character, always very careful to avoid changes that could blow up patiently built equilibria. It is no coincidence that Medvedev himself later confirmed to the press that “the ministers holding the key ministries will remain the same.” Critics, however, say that the partnership between Putin and Medvedev is now indestructible: his friend Dmitry simply knows too many of the secrets hidden within the halls of the Kremlin.

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