Putin calls liberalism ‘obsolete’, Tusk offers strong rebuttal

Russian President Vladimir Putin (front, R) attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Leaders' meeting on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, 28 June 2019. [Kremlin pool/EPA/EFE]

EU President Donald Tusk on Friday (28 June) lashed out at his Russian counterpart in unusually undiplomatic language, saying he “strongly disagreed” with Vladimir Putin when he said liberalism was “obsolete.”

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Kremlin strongman said the “liberal idea” was now “in conflict” with what people around the world want.

“(Liberals) cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades,” he told the newspaper, as populist movements gather support across Europe and in the US.

Putin criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than one million refugees into Germany as a “cardinal mistake” and praised US President Donald Trump for his efforts to stop the flow of migrants from Mexico.

“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected,” he said.

“The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

The Russian president concluded in the interview that liberal ideology had “outlived its purpose”.

Tusk, in Osaka for the G20 gathering of the world’s leading economies, took Putin to task for the comments.

“I have to say that I strongly disagree with the main argument that liberalism is obsolete,” the EU President said.

“Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete,” he added.

These are “essential and vibrant values” for Europeans, said Tusk.

“What I find really obsolete are authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs, even if sometimes they may seem effective,” said Tusk.

The feisty comments fitted the tone of this year’s G20 meeting in Osaka where leaders are expected to clash over trade, foreign policy and climate change.

US President Donald Trump already attacked friend and foe alike on domestic soil before flying to Osaka but appeared to strike a more conciliatory tone upon arrival, predicting a “very successful day.”


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