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West Needs to Reconsider its Place in Changing World: Experts on Putin's Speech

© iStock.com / Stanislav GvozdDigital globe
Digital globe - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 06.10.2023
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed those who were taking part in this year's gathering of Russian think-tank, the Valdai International Club. In his speech, the leader elaborated on various issues of geopolitics, the modern world order, the Ukrainian crisis and other pressing topics.
Western countries should reconsider their place in the changing world and "listen a lot more" to other regions, Philani Mthembu, Executive Director at the South African Institute for Global Dialogue told Sputnik Africa.

"I do think there's a need for the West to look again and understand its place in a changing international landscape, and understand that it needs to listen a lot more to what other regions of the world are saying," Mthembu said.

The expert also agreed with Putin's statement that "the West needs to abolish its arrogant, colonial thinking," adding that more regions of the world want to speak up for themselves and "to set their own rules".

"I think a lot of introspection needs to take place in the West. I think for many years, the West became used to essentially calling the shots in global politics. They could get their way quite easily. But the world is changing. And I think more and more regions of the world want to assert their voice, are becoming more confident, and are no longer willing simply to toe the line - they also want to set their own rules," the researcher stressed.

This was echoed by Jafar Geletu, deputy director general at the Ethiopian Institute of Foreign Affairs, who is also convinced that the world has changed and can no longer be ruled by one center of power.

"We live in a world where not one country, no matter how great your economic and military power might be, you cannot dominate the global system. It has been realized. All the countries, all international leaders have acknowledged that the world has become multipolar, that there are several centers of power. We need to come to this discussion and the negotiating table for equal treatment of countries and nations," Geletu emphasized.

The expert also highlighted that since there are "multiple centers of power in this new world", the order, where one group dominates the others - where "alternative voices, civilizations, thoughts, political and economic systems" are suppressed - "cannot be sustained in this globalized world".
Moreover, the Ethiopian researcher underscored that it is necessary for countries to find a way to co-exist, "to talk through differences".

"So we need to acknowledge that fact, and we have to find a way to live with the reality that in the West or the East, everyone needs to come to that realization and come to a sober assessment and talk through differences. Rather than making confrontation out of political tensions, we need to resolve differences peacefully. So the world has changed. This is a reality. We have to acknowledge that," Geletu emphasized.

Speaking about the six principles of international relations outlined in Putin's speech, the South African expert said that to establish stability in the world, certain countries need to respect the diversity and differences of other states and stop "remaking them in their own image".

"Part of the problem we've experienced over the past maybe 30 years in global politics is that many of the conflicts we have seen have been an attempt by certain countries to make other countries or remake other countries in their own image. And therefore, what you've had is an inability to respect the historical development, the cultural context of other regions of the world, different political systems, different ideologies, different economic structures. And so what that does is it leads to conflict. So if you are going to have more stability in the international order, you're going to have more respect for difference, for diversity. And I think that's the message that he was trying to communicate," Mthembu explained.

Elaborating on this topic, the Ethiopian expert, in turn, concurred that the principles are "fundamentals of humanity," noting that they "were violated by geopolitical competition among great powers during the Cold War".

"These are very good principles and ideas. At least in principle, this is the fundamental thinking behind the foundation of the United Nations Charter. The authors of that charter envisaged this kind of thinking and thought. But with time, these principles were violated by geopolitical competition among great powers during the Cold War. And after that, the unipolarity of the Western-dominated global system has infringed upon this, violated these principles. But these principles, of course, are the fundamentals of humanity and societies and relationships," Geletu said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the plenary session of the 20th Annual Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club (meeting topic: “Fair multipolarity: how to ensure security and development for all”). - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 06.10.2023
Russian President's Full Address at Valdai Discussion Club's Plenary Session
Furthermore, he stressed that global stability could be reached only if all states "are treated equally" politically and economically.
"States could be stabilized if we organize the global system in such a way that all countries, small or big, are treated equally and fairly and justly, beneficial to the economic and political advantages of a good globalized world system. So these are good principles," the researcher highlighted.
However, the expert said that these principles would only work if "big economies", including Russia, China, India, the United States and others, follow them.

"I think they work, but we need political commitment, especially from big countries, big economies. Countries such as Russia, China, India, the US, and other Western societies should also commit to these principles. I don't think anyone would contradict these principles. As they say, the devil is in the detail. Everyone believes in these principles in theory, but getting them on the ground and institutionalized in practice is very difficult. That's the kind of political commitment and will that we need for these kinds of principles to be realized in the global system," Geletu added.

The Ethiopian expert also underscored that Putin gave the audience a clear understanding of the global situation and "how the global system needs to be multipolarized" and the leader emphasized the need to protect and respect sovereignty and independence of all states.

"After we finished the discussion with His Excellency, President Vladimir Putin, he gave us a clear account of the present global situation and the relationship between great powers in how the global system needs to be multipolarized and democratized and diversified, that all voices need to be heard. And all countries, they should be treated equally here. Their sovereignty and independence should be protected. And the global system, political and economic institutions, should be organized in a way that needs to take into account the independence, sovereignty and the economic needs of countries and countries need to be treated as equals and independent," he noted.

In addition, according to Geletu, the president's speech in essence spelt out that it is important to recognize that each state has its own culture and history, and they should not be "moulded into one perspective, one civilization".

"We have the need for acknowledging their independence, the freedom of countries and their civilizational thoughts and their civilizational history. That needs to be respected, rather than trying to mould countries into one perspective, into one view, one civilization. Rather, we have a multiplicity of civilizations in the world. So there is a need to tolerate, coexist and for a good relationship among these civilizational states and respecting their boundaries, their cultures and perspectives. So that's my impression of his speech, and it's totally a good idea," he stressed.

As for Mthembu, the most interesting part of the Russian leader's speech was that he highlighted "what constitutes a civilizational state".
However, the researcher added that even if a state does not see itself as a civilizational country, it could derive from the speech the significance of "self-sufficiency" in various fields, including politics, economy and technological development.

"Well, for me, it's this emphasis on what constitutes a civilizational state. But, you know, I think even if there are countries that do not consider themselves civilizational states, I do think what they can take from this speech is the importance of self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency when it comes to technological development, economic development and a whole range of other things," the expert said as he shared his impression.

Continuing along these lines, Mthembu explained that self-sufficiency allows a country to be confident and to stand up for itself in international affairs. The analyst believes that this is "a very strong message".
"Because, when you have self-sufficiency, it also leads to greater confidence and enhancement of your voice in international relations. So I think the importance of self-sufficiency and linking that with sovereignty is something that for me was a very strong message, not only in the speech, but in the discussion itself," he concluded.