(Transcript – video appended)
Session of Davos Agenda 2021 online forum
Vladimir Putin spoke at the session of the Davos Agenda 2021 online forum organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The online events are taking place from January 25 to 29 and involve heads of state and government, CEOs of major international companies, global media and youth organisations from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Latin America.
The main focus of the forum is the discussion of the new global situation arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab: Mr President, welcome to the Davos Agenda Week.
Russia is an important global power, and there’s a long-standing tradition of Russia’s participation in the World Economic Forum. At this moment in history, where the world has a unique and short window of opportunity to move from an age of confrontation to an age of cooperation, the ability to hear your voice, the voice of the President of the Russian Federation, is essential. Even and especially in times characterised by differences, disputes and protests, constructive and honest dialogue to address our common challenges is better than isolation and polarisation.
Yesterday, your phone exchange with President Biden and the agreement to extend the New START nuclear arms treaty in principle, I think, was a very promising sign in this direction.
COVID-19, Mr President, has shown our global vulnerability and interconnectivity, and, like any other country, Russia will certainly also be affected, and your economic development and prospects for international cooperation, of course, are of interest to all of us.
Mr President, we are keen to hear from your perspective and from that of Russia, how you see the situation developing in the third decade of the 21st century and what should be done to ensure that people everywhere find peace and prosperity.
Mr President, the world is waiting to hear from you.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Schwab, dear Klaus,
I have been to Davos many times, attending the events organised by Mr Schwab, even back in the 1990s. Klaus [Schwab] just recalled that we met in 1992. Indeed, during my time in St Petersburg, I visited this important forum many times. I would like to thank you for this opportunity today to convey my point of view to the expert community that gathers at this world-renowned platform thanks to the efforts of Mr Schwab.
First of all, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to greet all the World Economic Forum participants.
It is gratifying that this year, despite the pandemic, despite all the restrictions, the forum is still continuing its work. Although it is limited to online participation, the forum is taking place anyway, providing an opportunity for participants to exchange their assessments and forecasts during an open and free discussion, partially compensating for the increasing lack of in-person meetings between leaders of states, representatives of international business and the public in recent months. All this is very important now, when we have so many difficult questions to answer.
The current forum is the first one in the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century and, naturally, the majority of its topics are devoted to the profound changes that are taking place in the world.
Indeed, it is difficult to overlook the fundamental changes in the global economy, politics, social life and technology. The coronavirus pandemic, which Klaus just mentioned, which became a serious challenge for humankind, only spurred and accelerated the structural changes, the conditions for which had been created long ago. The pandemic has exacerbated the problems and imbalances that built up in the world before. There is every reason to believe that differences are likely to grow stronger. These trends may appear practically in all areas.
Needless to say, there are no direct parallels in history. However, some experts – and I respect their opinion – compare the current situation to the 1930s. One can agree or disagree, but certain analogies are still suggested by many parameters, including the comprehensive, systemic nature of the challenges and potential threats.
We are seeing a crisis of the previous models and instruments of economic development. Social stratification is growing stronger both globally and in individual countries. We have spoken about this before as well. But this, in turn, is causing today a sharp polarisation of public views, provoking the growth of populism, right- and left-wing radicalism and other extremes, and the exacerbation of domestic political processes including in the leading countries.
All this is inevitably affecting the nature of international relations and is not making them more stable or predictable. International institutions are becoming weaker, regional conflicts are emerging one after another, and the system of global security is deteriorating.
Klaus has mentioned the conversation I had yesterday with the US President on extending the New START. This is, without a doubt, a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the differences are leading to a downward spiral. As you are aware, the inability and unwillingness to find substantive solutions to problems like this in the 20th century led to the WWII catastrophe.
Of course, such a heated global conflict is impossible in principle, I hope. This is what I am pinning my hopes on, because this would be the end of humanity. However, as I have said, the situation could take an unexpected and uncontrollable turn – unless we do something to prevent this. There is a chance that we will face a formidable break-down in global development, which will be fraught with a war of all against all and attempts to deal with contradictions through the appointment of internal and external enemies and the destruction of not only traditional values such as the family, which we hold dear in Russia, but fundamental freedoms such as the right of choice and privacy.
I would like to point out the negative demographic consequences of the ongoing social crisis and the crisis of values, which could result in humanity losing entire civilisational and cultural continents.
We have a shared responsibility to prevent this scenario, which looks like a grim dystopia, and to ensure instead that our development takes a different trajectory – positive, harmonious and creative.
In this context, I would like to speak in more detail about the main challenges which, I believe, the international community is facing.
The first one is socioeconomic.
Indeed, judging by the statistics, even despite the deep crises in 2008 and 2020, the last 40 years can be referred to as successful or even super successful for the global economy. Starting from 1980, global per capita GDP has doubled in terms of real purchasing power parity. This is definitely a positive indicator.
Globalisation and domestic growth have led to strong growth in developing countries and lifted over a billion people out of poverty. So, if we take an income level of $5.50 per person per day (in terms of PPP) then, according to the World Bank, in China, for example, the number of people with lower incomes went from 1.1 billion in 1990 down to less than 300 million in recent years. This is definitely China’s success. In Russia, this number went from 64 million people in 1999 to about 5 million now. We believe this is also progress in our country, and in the most important area, by the way.
Still, the main question, the answer to which can, in many respects, provide a clue to today’s problems, is what was the nature of this global growth and who benefitted from it most.