From Nuclear Risk To Helping Young Families: Things To Know About Putin's State-Of-The-Nation Speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall to deliver his state-of-the-nation address in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall to deliver his state-of-the-nation address in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday delivered a blunt message to the West, warning that it risks provoking a global nuclear war if it expands its involvement in the fighting in Ukraine.

At the same time, Putin focused his 2-hour state-of-the-nation address on a wide range of economic and social issues, vowing to boost the national economy, revamp education and healthcare and support young families ahead of the March 15-17 vote in which he is all but certain to win another six-year term.

Here is a look at things to know about Putin's speech.

What did Putin say about the threat of a nuclear war?

In an apparent reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that the future deployment of Western ground troops to Ukraine should not be “ruled out,” Putin warned that such a move would lead to “tragic” consequences for the countries who risk doing so.

Putin said that while “selecting targets for striking our territory” and “talking about the possibility of sending a NATO contingent to Ukraine” the West should keep in mind that “we also have the weapons that can strike targets on their territory, and what they are now suggesting and scaring the world with, all that raises the real threat of a nuclear conflict that will mean the destruction of our civilization.”

What was Putin's response to the U.S. warning about evolving Russian space weapons?

Putin rejected the U.S. allegations that Russia has pondered the deployment of space-based weapons as a false claim. He said it was intended to draw Russia into talks on nuclear arms control on American terms even as Washington continues its efforts to deliver a “strategic defeat” to Moscow in Ukraine.

“Ahead of the U.S. election, they just want to show their citizens, as well as others, that they continue to rule the world. It won’t work," Putin said.

What did Putin say about the fighting in Ukraine?

Putin vowed to fulfill Moscow’s goals in Ukraine, and do whatever it takes to “defend our sovereignty and security of our citizens." He claimed the Russian military has “gained a huge combat experience” and is “firmly holding the initiative and waging offensives in a number of sectors.”

“The fulfillment of all our plans directly depends on our soldiers, our officers and volunteers = all servicemen who are fighting on the front now, from the courage and resolve of our comrades-in-arms who are defending the motherland,” he said.

How did Putin describe the role of the Global South?

Putin alleged that the influence of the U.S. and its allies was waning while the developing countries of the Global South are quickly gaining political and economic weight. He argued that the West has eroded its own economic power by using its currencies and financial system to strike Russia with sanctions.

He declared that the BRICS alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is poised to account for 37% of the global economic output in 2028 while the share of the Group of Seven richest countries will drop to 28%.

“Together with friendly countries we will continue to create efficient and safe logistical corridors and use a new technological basis to build a new global financial architecture that will be free of political interference,” he said. “Even more so as the West has discredited its own currencies and its banking system, undermining the very foundation it has relied upon for decades."

What did Putin say on domestic issues?

Putin said that the eradication of poverty remains a top task for his government, acknowledging that 13.5 million of Russia's population of 144 million currently live below the poverty line. He said that the share of the poor should be reduced to less than 7% by 2030.

He said that the country will extend cheap mortgages to help young families, particularly those with children, and promised to pour more government funds into health care, education, science, culture and sports.

Putin also pledged to create more incentives for small businesses and reduce the state pressure on the private sector.

“We are one big family, we are together and we will do everything we plan and want to do,” he said.

What is Putin's vision of Russia's new elite?

Putin hailed Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine and said that military veterans should form the backbone of the country's new elite, inviting them to join a new federal program for training future leaders.

"When I look at these brave people, some of them very young, my heart is filled with pride for our people," Putin said. “They should take the leading positions in the education system, public organizations, state companies, business, state and municipal governing structures, lead the regions, enterprises and the biggest national projects."