President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Friday reprised his critique of the United States as a declining power that treats its allies as colonies, while declaring itself exceptional and “the messenger of the Lord on Earth.”
“If they are exceptional, then that means that everyone else is second-class,” Mr. Putin said of the United States in an address that the Kremlin had billed as “extremely important” at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum — an annual business conference once known as “Russia’s Davos.”
Mr. Putin, whose remarks were delayed by over an hour after the Kremlin cited “large-scale” distributed denial-of-service cyberattacks on the conference’s computer systems, spoke for more than 70 minutes but barely touched on the war in Ukraine. Instead, he focused on how he claimed Russia’s economy could flourish despite Western sanctions. He promised environmental and regulatory reforms as well as government initiatives to support demand for Russian businesses.
“Russia is entering the approaching epoch as a powerful, sovereign country,” Mr. Putin said. “We will certainly use the new, colossal opportunities that this era is opening in front of us and will become even stronger.”
The Russian leader said the European Union had imposed sanctions against Russia on orders from Washington despite the damage to its own economy, saying that “the European Union has completely lost its political sovereignty.”
He claimed that Western politicians were falsely blaming inflation in their countries on the war in Ukraine to distract the public from what he described as the real reasons: excessive Western government spending and loose monetary policy. “We all hear about so called Putin inflation in the West,” Mr. Putin said. “When I see this, I always think: Who’s this meant for, this stupidity? For someone who doesn’t know how to read or write.”
And he warned that inflation threatened to cause “hunger in the poorest countries,” adding, “This will be fully on the conscience of the United States and Euro-bureaucracy.”
On the domestic front, Mr. Putin insisted that the Russian economy would remain open to foreign investment and cooperation. “Russia, while our Western friends literally dream of this, will never take the path of isolation and autarky,” Mr. Putin said.
He vowed to cut the red tape plaguing what remains of Russia’s market economy, pledging to reduce the frequency of audits and the jailing of executives in pre-trial investigations. And he issued a plea to Russian business tycoons to keep their money at home, pointing to this year’s sanctions as proof that they should cut ties with the West.
“Real, solid success and the feeling of dignity and self-respect will only come when you tie your future and your children’s future to your Motherland,” Mr. Putin said as the state television feed of his speech cut to two oligarchs in the audience, Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg.
“Those who didn’t want to hear this obvious message lost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in the West,” he said.