Quotes from the Russian President have resurfaced in which he casually boasts of his country’s military capabilities.
He uttered the famous words at a ball he hosted in December 2011, in the run-up to the March 2012 presidential elections, which almost everyone knew he had already won. The extravagant banquet was held at New Century, an equestrian club famous for its role as a bastion of the Russian elite.
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Putin’s musings and gourmet cuisine
In attendance were members of the Valdai International Discussion Club, a group of leading experts who meet to discuss Russia and its role in the world, as well as leading academics and journalists from around the world. According to Douglas E. Schoen and Melik Kaylan, authors of The Russia-China Axis, “the fare was extravagant: smoked trout, duck liver, venison soup, rhubarb sorbet, veal cheeks, and pear soup with caramel.”
The atmosphere was relaxed as guests enjoyed their food and listened to Putin’s musings on such topics as his indispensable leadership of the country and the loss of public trust in the government, before he turned his attention to the U.S. and American attendees.
America in the firing line
“You ask me whether we are going to change,” he reportedly said. “The ball is in your court. Will you change?” At the time Putin was annoyed by U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, which he believed was designed to threaten Russia’s national security.
To this point attendees were presumably not surprised to hear the usual Putin rhetoric, but what came next would surely have left them choking on their veal cheeks. The soon-to-be-President claimed that the U.S. only wanted to maintain relations with Moscow because they knew that Russia could “destroy America in half an hour or less.”
Perhaps Putin felt safe speaking out on the matter at a more private gathering, or maybe he was attempting to rile his American attendees, but as Schoen and Kaylan wrote: “it would be a difficult to find a statement more revealing about Putin’s true position regarding the United States.”