Vladimir Putin says liberalism has ‘become obsolete’
Vladimir Putin has trumpeted the growth of national populist movements in Europe and America, crowing that liberalism is spent as an ideological force. In an FT interview in the Kremlin on the eve of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, the Russian president said “the liberal idea” had “outlived its purpose” as the public turned against immigration, open borders and multiculturalism.
Mr Putin’s evisceration of liberalism — the dominant western ideology since the end of the second world war in 1945 — chimes with anti-establishment leaders from US president Donald Trump to Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini in Italy, and the Brexit insurgency in the UK. “[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades,” he said. Mr Putin branded Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to admit more than 1m refugees to Germany, mainly from war-ravaged Syria, as a “cardinal mistake”. But he praised Donald Trump for trying to stop the flow of migrants and drugs from Mexico. “This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.” Recommended The Big Read Putin: friendship with China, ‘Donald’ and the end of liberal ideas He added: “Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said he “strongly disagreed” with Mr Putin. “What I find really obsolete is authoritarianism, personality cults and the rule of oligarchs,” he said. As the de facto ruler of Russia for almost two decades, Mr Putin, 66, has been regularly accused of covertly supporting populist movements through financial aid and social media, notably in the 2016 US presidential election, the Brexit referendum and the recent European Parliament elections. Mr Putin emphatically denied this. He dismissed the conclusion by special counsel Robert Mueller that Russia had systemically interfered in the 2016 US presidential election as “mythical interference”. Turning to the US-China trade war and geopolitical tensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran, Mr Putin said the situation had become “explosive”. The problem, he said, stemmed from American unilateralism and the lack of rules underpinning world order.