UK Prime Minister Theresa May came up with a “narrow definition” of liberalism in her indirect debate about the future of the liberal idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian embassy in London said.

“Mrs May, while engaging in an indirect discussion with the President, gives a narrow definition of “liberalism” by reducing it to comparison between the economic situation in the United Kingdom, France, Germany with that in the Russian Federation, without consideration of multiple additional factors. By the way, her argument about “the economic success” of the United Kingdom as a liberal democracy looks particularly unconvincing, as the growth of the British economy is extremely slow and the prospects for the country’s future development are uncertain. At the same time, according to the World Bank, Russia, for instance, is currently the 6th biggest economy in the world measured by PPP, while the UK is only the 10th,” a Russian embassy spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson went on to say that “the issue of liberalism has many sides in the context of globalization, modern multiculturalism, migration, interreligious cooperation throughout the world.”

“One should not reduce the discussion on the ways of future development to extremes, by countering, for example, the liberal idea to the traditional values, or by positioning certain Western postulates as the only right choices,” the embassy statement says.

In an interview with the Financial Time in June, President Putin said he believed liberalism had “outlived its purposes” and “become obsolete.” In his words, the modern liberal idea had come into contradiction with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population. He noted that Russia’s Western partners also admitted that some of its elements, such as multiculturalism or denial of traditional values were simply unrealistic. But, he stressed he was confident that liberal ideas could not be done away with and should go on existing.

In her speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, or Chatham House, a thinktank, on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said she did not share Putin’s point of view that the “liberal idea has become obsolete.” “This is a cynical falsehood. No one comparing the quality of life or economic success of liberal democracies like the UK, France and Germany to that of the Russian Federation would conclude that our system is obsolete. But the fact that he feels emboldened to utter it today indicates the challenge we face as we seek to defend our values,” she said.

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