The last time Vladimir Putin addressed the UN General Assembly, there was no Islamic State, the Syrian civil war was years away, and Crimea was Ukrainian.
Back then, in 2005, the Russian president spoke for five minutes. On Monday, he went on for about 20, starting with a defense of Russia’s role on the UN’s Security Council disguised as a history lesson.
“When the UN was established, its founders did not in the least think that there would always be unanimity,” Putin said, adding that disagreement among council member states is “absolutely natural.”
Last spring, Russia ignored one UN resolution that deemed its annexation of Crimea illegal, and blocked another that called for the Syrian conflict to be considered by the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes war crimes. It was the fourth time Russia had stymied a resolution involving the Syrian government run by Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally of Moscow that Washington wants removed from power. These actions have, unsurprisingly, exasperated at least some of Russia’s fellow council members, especially the U.S., but Putin remains unfazed.
But the deteriorating security situation in Syria has forced both countries to see a common threat: the Islamic State. On that issue, too, there has been disagreement, but also hints of reconciliation.