MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that there are people in the world who wish to split up Russia and take over its vast natural resources, and others who would like to “rule over all mankind,” a veiled reference to the United States.
Speaking in front of Moscow’s iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square, Putin told a group of military cadets and youth group members that while “an overwhelming majority of people in the world” are friendly toward Russia, there are some who “keep saying to this day that our nation should be split.”
“Some believe that we are too lucky to possess so much natural wealth, which they say must be divided,” Putin said, speaking on National Unity Day. “These people have lost their mind,” he added with a smile.
Many Russians fear that their country’s rapidly declining population and enormous natural wealth could one day leave it vulnerable to outside predators.
But the theme of invasion was central to Sunday’s holiday, which Putin created by decree in 2005 to commemorate the defense of Russia from a Polish-Lithuanian incursion in the beginning of the 17th century.
Putin on Sunday referred to the battle as a turning point in Russia’s history that united the nation.
Not missing a chance to take a shot at the United States, Putin said there are people who “would like to build a unipolar world and rule over all of mankind.” He counted them as among the minority in the world who do not maintain a “friendly attitude” toward Russia.
He said any attempt to establish a unipolar world was doomed to fail.
“Nothing of this kind has ever occurred in our planet’s history, and I don’t think it will ever happen,” the president said.
Putin has been highly critical of the United States for the invasion of Iraq and opposes its plans to build a limited missile shield in central Europe.
Concern about outside forces wanting the division of Russia arose last month during Putin’s three-hour nationally televised call-in show.
A Siberian worker asked Putin about comments he said were made years ago by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright suggesting that Siberia had too many natural resources for one country.
“I know that some politicians play with such ideas in their heads,” Putin replied, adding that such talk was “political erotica.”
Putin, whose two-term presidency ends next year, said Russia will continue playing an active role in foreign policy and there are many people who look to Russia as a defender of small nations’ rights and interests.
Intended to invoke patriotism, National United Day has been hijacked by extreme nationalist groups that call for ridding Russia of foreigners and returning the pre-communist monarchy.