SYRIAN WAR REPORT – FEB. 14, 2019: US SETS UP NEW BASE ON IRAQI BORDER, ISIS THREAT GROWS IN DESERT

South Front

On February 13, the Syrian Air Force conducted a series of airstrikes on ISIS hideouts in the area of Kiribat al-Hosn in the Damascus desert. The airstrikes reportedly came in response to a recent increase in the activity of ISIS cells in this area.

The Damascus desert as well as the desert areas near the US-occupied al-Tanf zone are still a safe haven for a few hundred ISIS-linked militants. Just last week, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) eliminated a group of 6 ISIS members involved in a reconnaissance operation near the administrative border of al-Suwayda province.

The situation in the desert area may deteriorate even further if the SAA and its allies do not employ the measures needed to neutralize this threat.

Meanwhile, reports appeared that the SAA has sent reinforcements to southern Syria. The reason for the deployment givem by some pro-government outlets is the reinforcement of SAA positions near the Golan Heights, where Israeli strikes recently took place. However, the very same forces can be used to secure the countryside of al-Suwayda in the event of the growing ISIS threat from the desert.

In the Idlib de-escalation zone, the SAA conducted one of the most intense shellings of militant positions since the start of the year. According to pro-opposition sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies came under fire in al-Lataminah, Lahaya, Maarkaba, al-Buwaydah, Qalaat al-Madiq, al-Hwaiz, al-Twinah and al-Hurriyah in northern Hama as well as Sukayk, Khan Shaykhun and al-Tamanah in southern Idlib.

The Syrian state media said that the strikes were a response to violations of the ceasefire regime by militant groups. In turn, militants accused the Assad government of violating the de-escalation deal.

It should be noted that Russia has recently toughened its attitude towards the de-escalation zone issue. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov officially stated that that the Idlib agreement is only a temporary measure and “no agreement suggests the endless preservation of this terrorist nest in Syrian territory”.

The US-led coalition is working to establish a permanent military base in southwestern Iraq, near the country’s border with both Syria and Jordan, the Iraqi al-Maalomah news outlet reported on February 13 citing a source in the province of al-Anbar. This would not be the first attempt of the US military to fortify its presence in this part of the country. In November 2018, a commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units revealed that the coalition had tried to occupy the H3 airbase, known as Abu Rida al-Baldaui, in western al-Anbar.

These actions are a part of the wider effort to establish an infrastructure allowing the US military to control key highways linking Syria and Iraq. On February 3, US President Donald Trump openly declared that despite the Syria withdrawal, US forces will remain in Iraq in order to watch Iran.

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Insights on the Iran deal, BRICS and Venezuela

January 28, 2019

Insights on the Iran deal, BRICS and Venezuela

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

An exclusive interview with former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim on how BRICS came into being, how the nuclear deal was done with Tehran and how the South dealt with Chavez

Brazil is once again in the eye of a political hurricane, after President Jair Bolsonaro’s appearance at Davos and explosive revelations directly linking his clan to a criminal organization in Rio de Janeiro.

With his administration barely a month old, Bolsonaro is already being seen as expendable to the elites that propelled him to power – from the powerful agribusiness lobby to the financial system and the military.

The new game among the elites of a major actor in the Global South, BRICS member and eighth biggest economy in the world consists of shaping a scenario capable of rescuing one the great frontiers where global capitalism is expanding from total irrelevancy.

That includes the possibility of a “soft coup”, with the Bolsonaro clan sidelined by the Brazilian military rallying around the vice-president, General Hamilton Mourao.

Under these circumstances, a conversation with former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim is more than sobering. Amorim is universally recognized as one of the top diplomats of the young 21st century, a symbol of the recent past, under President Lula, when Brazil was at the top of its game as a resource-rich continental nation actively projecting power as a BRICS leader.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ambassador Amorim, who is also the author of ‘Acting Globally: Memoirs of Brazil’s Assertive Foreign Policy’ in Sao Paulo. Here are some highlights of our conversation – from the birth of BRICS to the current Venezuela crisis.

BRICS – the most important group in the drive towards a multipolar world – is a very dirty word in Washington. How did it all start?

I had met [British economist] Jim O’Neill a few times, who first talked about BRIC, which was not yet a group and nobody saw as a group. This may sound pretentious, but it’s a curious story. I told him, ‘It is you that invented the BRICS, right?’ He said, ‘Yes, of course, I’m very proud of it’. Then I replied, ‘Yes, but I’m the one who made it happen’. Well, it was not exactly me – under the Lula government and all that it entails. The first action in terms of creating the BRIC group – still without an “S” – came from Sergey Lavrov, in a meeting we had in New York in 2006. They had the RIC [Russia, India, China], but they did not hold many summits. And we had IBAS [India, Brazil, South Africa]. Both China and Russia were always trying to get into IBAS. There was the idea that these were three great democracies, each one in a continent and in a major developing country – so the Russians and Chinese might have thought, ‘we also want to get in, why not, because we are not democracies?’ IBAS was also present in the commercial G-20 at the WTO, and IBAS had similar ideas about reform of the UN Security Council; so the geopolitical interests were not the same.

Then Lavrov proposed BRIC as a forum, I think maybe to find some more equilibrium inside the RIC. I always talked in terms of BRICS, so one day he asked me ‘Why do you say BRICS?’ and I replied, “because it’s plural, in Portuguese’, so in a sense, we were already anticipating the entry of South Africa.

We first agreed we would have a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov and I already had something more substantial, the Indians and the Chinese just read a speech, so it looked like there would not be a consequential follow-up. Next year we met at the Brazilian UN mission, outside of the UN, and decided to do it later out of New York. Lavrov then offered Yekaterinburg, where we had the first ministerial meeting in 2008, and then next year the first presidential summit, also in Yekaterinburg, and in Brazil in 2010. It was here that the idea of BRIC was expanded into BRICS – through a dinner that concluded IBAS and inaugurated BRICS.

At the time, did you think about expanding to other top emerging economies, such as Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Iran?

IBAS was born on the second day of President Lula’s government [in January 2003], out of an idea to create a group of developing countries, around seven or eight. I thought a larger group would be very complicated, based on my experience – how to coordinate positions and engage in concrete projects. For instance, Egypt would have to be a member.

When did you start to seriously discuss practical steps towards the emergence of a multipolar world – such as trade in members’ currencies? Was it in 2010?

In 2010 certainly, we had the idea of trade using each member’s currency, not yet the idea – that happened under the Dilma government – of the BRICS bank. But we were already talking about the coordination of our development banks. The concept of multipolarity, the Russians may have been the first to outline it. What I do remember about the use of the concept was by the French, especially when there were serious divergences about the attack on Iraq.

Former French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin insisted on it.

Villepin, yes, but even Hubert Vedrine [foreign minister under Jacques Chirac from 1997-2002] before him, who came up with the concept of ‘hyperpower’. So the ones who spread the concept were the French, and we adhered to it, among developing countries. The French, when they talked about the expansion of the UN Security Council, they said they were in favor regarding Germany and Japan, but also ‘three great nations of the South’, Brazil included.

The Lula government started in January 2003. Geopolitics at the time was conditioned by the war on terror. We were already expecting the invasion of Iraq. How did you, in the first days of January 2003, knowing that Dick Cheney and the neocons were about to turn the Middle East upside down, with direct and indirect repercussions on the Global South, how did you start conceiving a multi-vector Brazilian foreign policy? Which were the priorities?

I think neither President Lula nor myself used the term “multipolar” – even though the concept was already on the table. We wanted to have good relations with the US but also with the largest developing countries. When we started the greatest problems were the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA], so we had to look for other partners; the WTO and negotiations in the Doha round; and Iraq. The combination of all these led Brazil to get closer to India and South Africa, to a great extent via the WTO, and because of Iraq, we got closer to Russia, Germany and France. When President Lula went to Davos…

That was Lula’s first Davos, right?

Yes, but first he went to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre [in Brazil], then he went to Davos. The message was the search for an equilibrium; to do business, of course, but based on the idea of democratic social change.

Were you discussing Iraq in detail with Russia, Germany and France?

Yes, we were, with Schroeder in Germany and Chirac, as well as Villepin at the Security Council. And there was a fourth problem: Venezuela. Lula had already talked about it with Chavez. During the inauguration of President Gutierrez of Ecuador, Lula’s first foreign trip, on January 15, Lula proposed, in a meeting in a room full of presidents, the creation of the Friends of Venezuela Group, at a moment when the crisis was acute, even though the country was not as debilitated as today.

Already in January 2003 was there neocon pressure on Brazil in relation to Venezuela?

I think they did not know how to deal with Lula and the new government. But they were very strong on Venezuela – especially [US diplomat] Roger Noriega. And yet they saw Brazil was proposing something and accepted it. Fidel was against it, but Chavez, in the end, was convinced by Lula. And this is also relevant for today. Lula said it in so many words; this is not a Friends of Chavez group, it’s a Friends of Venezuela group. So this must also include the United States, Spain and Portugal – under conservative administrations. That was a way to escape from the OAS [Organisation of American States] and its penchant for the Monroe doctrine [the US policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas].

I used to talk to Colin Powell quite frequently – and not to receive instructions. There were many issues he wanted to know about, and he trusted Brazil. He had a notion of the importance of Brazil, our capacity for dialogue.

Switching to the Obama era, tell us about the role of Brazil, alongside Turkey, in the Iran nuclear negotiation, when you clinched a deal in Tehran in less than 24 hours, only for it to be smashed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the next day.

It was a long process, followed by 19 hours of negotiations, the Iranians tried to reopen one of the issues, both Lula and Erdogan refused. What facilitated our role as mediators was that the US had its hands full in the Middle East. I already had contacts with Javier Solana, then a sort of Foreign Affairs Minister of the EU, and also [Egyptian diplomat] ElBaradei, from my time at the UN. Obama, in a meeting of the G-8 + 5 in Italy, during a bilateral with us, he said three things: ‘I extended my hand and they did not answer’; ‘We need to solve the nuclear dossier’; ‘And I need friends to say what I cannot say’. What we did in the end, because we thought it was the right thing to do, with a lot of work and facing hardships, was exactly what the Americans wanted. One month before the deal I thought it would not happen. But then we received a letter from Obama, and to my greatest surprise, that was a reiteration of the same initial three points.

Hillary always had a different position. I foresaw her reaction as a possibility. We talked on the phone, in Madrid, when I was coming back from Iran, and I said, ‘Look, in Brazil we have this expression, ‘I didn’t read it, and I didn’t like it’. She did not want a deal. In a phone call before my trip, she was adding some other points of discussion and I said, ‘Hillary, this is a trust-building agreement. And these points that you mention were not in the letter delivered by your own President’. I’m not exaggerating, what followed was a silence lasting half a minute. So I thought; did she read the letter? Or she read it, and because they are a great power they can do what they want, and we have to take it, and adapt to it?

So what about China and Russia accepting the American line – no deal, more sanctions?

I know the sweeteners that made them accept it – concessions on the sanctions front. But geopolitically…

What’s your informed hypothesis?

There are two. This was a problem they did not solve. Who’s part of the global directory? The five permanent members of the Security Council. Now we have two developing countries, who are not even part of the Security Council, and they solve it? By coincidence, both were non-permanent members of the Security Council at the time. The other thing is whenever we are discussing a nuclear issue, the five get closer, because they are all nuclear powers.

What’s your insider view, as a statesman, of Vladimir Putin, demonized 24/7 in the US as a major existential threat to the West?

The first time I saw Putin face to face was when he received three nations from the Group of Rio, and the main topic of discussion was Iraq. That was before the invasion in March 2003. What most impressed me was his great knowledge of the dossiers – something you usually don’t expect from presidents. He’s extremely sharp, very intelligent, obviously cares for Russian interests but at the same time pays attention to the balance of power. A very realist politician. I don’t see him as a great idealist. He’s like a 19th-century politician, very conscious geopolitically.

Now, in the South American chessboard, regarding the Venezuelan crisis, we are seeing a direct confrontation between the four major poles of Eurasia – Russia, China, Iran, Turkey – against the US. And with another BRICS member, Brazil, siding against Russia and China.

In a multipolar world, we now have a huge test, because Brazil presides over the BRICS in 2019. How is Brazil going to be seen inside BRICS? There used to be an atmosphere of trust inside BRICS.

I’ve got to say that based on my experience at the Security Council, when I was ambassador, during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso [from 1995 to 2003], the Russians and the Chinese gave immense weight to respect for national sovereignty. In terms of international law, they always stress non-intervention. I hope we won’t have a confrontation like Vietnam in our region. But when President Trump says that all options are on the table, he’s obviously accepting a military solution. This is very dangerous. I see a very sound Brazilian position coming from General Mourao [the Brazilian vice-president]. And yet the Foreign Ministry says Brazil will support politically and economically a government that does not exist – so that already means intervention.

On a personal level, in the drive towards multipolarity, what is the most important story in the world for the next 10 or 20 years? What is the issue that drives you the most?

I think that the fundamental theme is psychological – and also civilizational. It’s respect for The Other – and the acceptance of alterity. And this also concerns international relations. We need to understand that the common good is part of our well-being. This reflects on individual attitudes, in internal attitudes in politics, and in international relations. Look at the current, violent attack on multilateralism. We should see that it’s better to work multilaterally than capitulate to the law of the jungle.

Ukraine to declare war on Russia next?

December 22, 2018Ukraine to declare war on Russia next?

Note by The Saker: Eugenia and the other translators were wondering whether it was worth translating such a demented piece of proposed legislation, but I asked them to go ahead and do it even though I fully agree with them that the author of this text is clearly completely insane and the ideas this draft legislation are the product of sick, hateful and infinitely stupid minds.  But that is precisely the point! 

I am personally sick and tired of the western patrons and sponsors of the Euromaidan and of the very notion of a “Ukraine” constantly trying to constantly put some half-way decent make-up on what are the demented, corrupt and, yes, Nazi faces of the ruling Ukronazi junta in Kiev.  The truth is that just like in the cases of Noriega, Saddam Husein, al-Qaeda, the Takfiris in Syria and elsewhere, the West is yet again allied with, and protector of, an ugly clique of hateful and demented people.  This resolution is a very good example of the kind of ideas which this AngloZionist ruling gang of thugs have advocated for many decades (beginning with the hate-saturated propaganda of  RFE/RL, VOA, BBC, DW and the rest of them), then inside the Ukraine since even before 1991 and now from the Ukie Rada and Presidency. 

When we post this text, we are simply holding up a mirror to the collective face of the AngloZionists but, as we say in Russian, don’t blame the mirror if your face looks crooked!   This translation is important because it shows what kind of demented monsters the collective West has lovingly nurtured for decades.  It is also important because it is a direct attack on Poroshenko from the Nazi-crazies in the Rada, folks who might well one day replace him as the President of the “Independent Euro-compatible the Ukraine”.  When that happens, at least they won’t be quite able to say “we did not know”.  Yes, you did know, you have known for decades, and at the end of the day, this resolution is not the product of the demented mind of one crazy Ukie, but a pure product of the rabid russophobia of the collective West.  And for that I say: shame on you!
The Saker
——-

Translation by Eugenia

On December 21st just four days after Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia will not wage war against Ukraine, three days after Speaker A.Parubiy met US Special Representative K.Volker to discuss “recent Russian aggression” and “further support of Ukraine by United States of America,” and a day after A.Parubiy named the UK to be mightiest balancing military force in the Black Sea, Vitaly Kupriy, a member of the Ukrainian Rada, and an associate of Israeli oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, submitted a draft resolution No. 9442 titled “Draft Resolution on the appeal of the Supreme (Verkhovna) Rada of Ukraine to the President of Ukraine about declaration of war, termination of diplomatic relations and the cessation of transport connections with the Russian Federation.

The text of the proposed resolution is still absent on the official website, but the Ukrainian lawmaker graciously posted it on his official FaceBook page, accompanied by a memorandum titled: Down with usurpation!

Friday, December 21st, was Rada’s last day in section before winter recess. It will be back on January 5th, 2019.

 

Vitaly Kupriy (member of the Ukrainian Rada)

Down with usurpation!

“The hybrid” war must be stopped!

Poroshenko is an enemy of the Ukrainian state, who skillfully fools some of our people. One part of his uninterrupted lies is his stated intention to win the war with Putin.

He sends our service people to be captured or killed, but neither wants to nor has the ability to free our territory. Recently, this happened with our sailors. The existence of the so-called “hybrid” war with Russia allows Putin to mock our patriots, keep them in jail like criminals, because de-jure during the fifth year of the war we do not have an enemy. Even the international UN court in 2017 did not recognize Russia as an aggressor or even a combatant.

There is no hybrid war. Tens of thousands have died, hundreds of thousands were maimed, millions lost their dwellings. What kind of hybrid is this? It is obvious that this kind of war keeps Poroshenko in power, and he makes a lot of money on the blood spilled.

This hapless, unlawful position of Poroshenko does not allow us to ask for the international help, as everybody believes that we are fighting ourselves. Non-declaration of war under clear signs of aggression contravenes the 1907 Hague Convention, and Poroshenko and Turchinov must go to prison for a long time for that.

I want to calm the Ukrainians. The declaration of war is not a prelude to an offensive at the front. But after that happens, nobody in the world would consider that we are aggressors. On the contrary, it will be the beginning of the full-scale non-military legal operation of freeing our territory and repairing the damage caused by Kremlin. This is the way to a peaceful victory, this is the way to save the lives of the Ukrainians!!!

Our tough and lawful position as well as ratification of the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court, the established status of Russia as a hostile country and aggressor at the level of UN will force our “allies” to introduce real sanctions against Russia, up to disconnection from the international paying system SWIFT, introduction full-scale trade and economic embargo, etc. We also must introduce serious sanctions against the aggressor, impound and nationalize all Russian property in Ukraine, cut diplomatic relations, try criminals-collaborators, as well as stop any official collaboration with Russia.

Then Putin would be unable to withstand that and will back off. He does not have the will or the force for any full-scale war with Ukraine. Otherwise, his regime will fold like the house of cards. Economic problems, failures in social sphere and pensions, a union of unhappy elites and the people would be the death of the ruler in the Kremlin. Putin understands that the “best” President for him is Poroshenko. Poroshenko would never dare to do what I indicated in my draft of Rada resolution. Poroshenko is a collaborator who helps Putin to remain on his throne.

I would also like to note that legal consequences of the declaration of war and of the identification of the enemy, as well as cancellation of the martial law, will not include taking away any constitutional human rights. The elections won’t be cancelled, people will keep living their normal lives. In contrast, the introduction of martial law without declaration of war and identification of the enemy is a game, the only purpose of which is that the person chosen by the Kremlin usurps power!

 

Draft of the resolution

Introduced by Kupriy V.M.

Resolution of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine

Appeal of Supreme Rada of Ukraine to the President of Ukraine about declaration of war, termination of diplomatic relations and the cessation of transport connections with the Russian Federation

Because of the annexation of a part of the Ukrainian territory, occupation by foreign troops of additional territory, as well as military aggression of the Russian Federation, taking into account the failure of the Ukrainian President to fulfill his constitutional duties to defend our country, our Fatherland, the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Supreme Rada of Ukraine, expressing the sovereign will of the people and taking responsibility for the situation in Ukraine, as a sole national representative organ in Ukraine, declares:

  1. Suggest the following to the President of Ukraine:
  • introduce to the Supreme Rada a suggestion to declare war at the Russian Federation;
  • terminate diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation;
  • create the General Staff structure under the Commander-in-Chief to organize a proper response to the country-aggressor;
  • inform the United Nations and countries who signed the appropriate international conventions about the state of war with Russian Federation and demand implementation of the international humanitarian law to free the Ukrainian prisoners of war and ban passing of military ships via Bosporus and Dardanelle straits;
  • request that Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense and Supreme Rada introduce martial law in occupied territories and along the war lines to 50 kilometers;
  • disallow restrictions on the constitutional rights of people on the Ukrainian territory where the martial law is not declared, including the right to elect and be elected to the national and local governments;
  • request that the Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense introduce personal sanctions against persons and legal entities from country-aggressor, including: block their assets –temporarily limit their rights to use and dispose of their property; limit trade operations; completely terminate transit of resources, flights, and transportation via Ukrainian territory;
  • initiate criminal prosecution of collaborators of the country-aggressor, including Victor Medvedchuk and other agents of the Russian intelligence, who constitute a threat to the Ukrainian national security;
  • initiate measures to ensure energy independence from the country-aggressor, the Russian Federation, in particular, produce nuclear fuel in Ukraine, separate from Russian electric grid, etc.

 

  1. This declaration takes effect upon its adoption.

 

The speaker of the Supreme Rada                                 A. Parubiy

 

 

Explanatory Note

 

To the draft of the Supreme Rada resolution “Appeal of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine to the President of Ukraine about declaration of war, termination of diplomatic relations and transport connections with Russian Federation”

  1. Explanation why this act is necessary

The military aggression of Russian Federation against Ukraine lasts more than four years. In 2014, a part of the Ukrainian territory was annexed, and another part was occupied by foreign troops; armed aggression continues, and as a result, people are killed virtually daily.

Only on November 26, 2018, the Supreme Rada of Ukraine approved the decree of the President of Ukraine #393 “On the introduction of martial law in Ukraine”, which introduced the martial law in the following regions: Vinnitsa, Lugansk, Nikolaev, Odessa, Sumy, Kharkov, Chernygov, Donetsk, Zaporozzie, Herson, and in the Ukrainian territorial waters of Azov-Kerch area.

In spite of that, the President of Ukraine does not fulfill his constitutional duties regarding the national defense.

The article four of the Ukrainian law “On the defense of Ukraine” states that in case of armed aggression against Ukraine or a threat of aggression the President of Ukraine makes decisions about total or partial mobilization and introduction of martial law in Ukraine or its regions, use of the Ukrainian armed forces, other military units created in accordance with Ukrainian laws, submits these decisions to the Ukrainian Supreme Rada, and introduces to the Supreme Rada a suggestion regarding the declaration of war.

The President still has not introduced to the Supreme Rada a request to declare war at the Russian Federation, which, according to Article 106 of Ukrainian Constitution, is his exclusive competence.

Because of this, the Ukrainian Supreme Rada, as the only national representative organ in Ukraine, must propose to the President of Ukraine the declaration of war and other actions for the effective defense of the country, with a view of further defense of the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

  1. Goals of enacting this resolution

The goal of the suggested draft of the resolution is to exert political pressure on the President of Ukraine to make him fulfill his constitutional duties regarding the defense of the country against a foreign occupier – the Russian Federation.

  1. Key points of this resolution

Suggest to the President of Ukraine:

  • introduce to the Supreme Rada suggestion to declare war with the Russian Federation;
  • terminate the diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation;
  • create the General Staff under the Commander-in-Chief to organize a proper response to the country-aggressor;
  • inform the United Nations and the countries that signed appropriate international conventions about the state of war with the Russian Federation and demand implementation of the international humanitarian law to free Ukrainian prisoners of war and ban the passing of military ships via Bosporus and Dardanelle straits;
  • request that the Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense and the Supreme Rada introduce martial law in occupied territories and along the war lines to 50 kilometers;
  • disallow limitations of constitutional rights of people on the Ukrainian territory where the martial law is not declared, including the right to elect and be elected to national and local governments;
  • request that the Ukrainian Council of the National Security and Defense introduce personal sanctions against persons and legal entities from the country-aggressor, including: block their assets – temporarily limit their rights to use and dispose of their property; limit trade operations; completely terminate transit of resources, flights, and transportation via Ukrainian territory;
  • initiate criminal prosecution of collaborators of the country-aggressor, including Victor Medvedchuk and other agents of the Russian intelligence, who constitute a threat to the Ukrainian national security;
  • initiate measures to ensure energy independence from the country-aggressor, the Russian Federation, specifically, produce nuclear fuel in Ukraine, separate from Russian electric grid, etc.
  1. Legal basis in this sphere of the law

Key laws that regulate these issues are: the Ukrainian Constitution; the Ukrainian law “On the defense of Ukraine”, the Ukrainian law “About the legal rules of the martial law”, the Ukrainian law “On sanctions”. The adoption of this resolution does not require changes in these laws.

  1. Financial and economic basis

The realization of this resolution would not require additional spending of the Ukrainian State Budget.

  1. Prevention of corruption

This draft of the resolution does not contain rules or procedures that create risks of corruption.

  1. Prognosis of social, economic, legal and other consequences of the adoption of this resolution

The adoption of this resolution will exert influence on the President of Ukraine with a view of making him declare the state or war with the Russian Federation and take other actions necessary to defend the country, which would make him properly fulfill his constitutional duties to defend the Fatherland, the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

 

Member of Rada                                        V.M.Kupriy

Lavrov’s interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda

December 19, 2018

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moscow, December 17, 2018

 

Question: Mr Lavrov, we met with you in the same format one and a half year ago.

We began by stating that the foreign policy situation surrounding Russia at the time was growing alarming. But you assured us that there would be no war because the Russian leaders were absolutely against it. Our partners, as you said, were certainly not interested in it either. Now, one and a half year later, we can see no improvements. On the contrary, things are growing increasingly alarming. Some of our listeners even feel scared. Others compare the current situation with the late 1930s. One of the readers even asks: “Please be honest and say what we should expect? Will we be attacked?”

Sergey Lavrov: There are comparisons that go farther back into history. Both in this country and elsewhere, there are figures who predict that a situation will arise resembling that on the eve of World War I. They are referring to the pent-up antagonisms existing in Europe, including, by the way, in the Balkans. But it is my strong, firm conviction that the politicians in the key countries cannot allow a big war to happen. The public opinion and the nations themselves will not let them. I hope that the parliaments in each Western country will also display maximal responsibility.

But I absolutely agree that tensions are being fomented in an unprecedented way. We see international agreements collapsing. Not so long ago, the United States unilaterally disrupted the ABM Treaty. We had to adopt measures that would prevent this extremely negative event from undermining strategic stability. Next in line is the INF Treaty, which Washington believes to be outmoded, while accusing us of violating it. In so doing, they are hinting in no uncertain terms that they would like to extend the restriction identical to that assumed by the USSR and the United States to China and a number of other countries, including North Korea and Iran.

We are categorically against this initiative. We are in favour of keeping the INF Treaty. The entire international community has repeatedly recognised it as a cornerstone of international security and strategic stability. Today at the UN, we will make a second attempt to submit a General Assembly resolution in support of preserving this Treaty.

Apart from that, we have presented the US with our concerns regarding how it implements this Treaty. These concerns are based on concrete facts and developments in the military technical sphere, specifically the deployment of a US military base in Romania and deployment plans for Poland. We hear statements by our US colleagues that the only way to save the Treaty is to destroy the 9M729 missile, which Russia has allegedly developed with a range exceeding the limit imposed by the Treaty. In response, Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu, following similar steps at the expert level, has officially suggested that he and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis meet and start a professional discussion. The US did not even reply or at least formally acknowledge the receipt of the invitation. Possibly, if they had done this, they would have had to explain why they are evading a professional discussion and continue to act in the notorious “highly likely” style, as though wishing to say that what remains for us is to repent because we are allegedly to blame for everything.

While we are on this subject, I would like to say this. I have no doubt that US President Donald Trump was sincere when he said during his election campaign that he wanted good relations with the Russian Federation. Regrettably, the consequences of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton have caused a tsunami in US domestic political life, primarily because the so-called system elites have felt uncomfortable. They saw the current developments as something that was putting power within reach of ordinary voters. Since then, no one has ever corroborated with facts the repeated charges of Russian meddling in the US elections, hacker attacks on the Democratic Party and other US agencies, etc.

Let me note that this Russophobia, as we are convinced, is to a decisive degree linked to the internal political infighting [in the US]. The United States, no matter who would advocate good relations with Russia, sees us as a rival as it does China. It is not accidental that for the lack of facts proving our “sins” against US democracy, the Russophobic campaign has brought no results whatsoever.

In recent days, the US propagandists have pitched in at China. In their view, China is already the “chief hacker” undermining the mainstay of US society. It is regrettable that the interests of the international community, global strategic stability and international security are being sacrificed for the sake of domestic political squabbles. But we will always be ready for dialogue. Even under these circumstances, we never refuse to take part in a professional discussion in areas where our partners are prepared to consider the existing threats and problems in an equal and honest manner.

After a long break, yet another round of talks on fighting terrorism has been held. Our security services are in contact on a number of other issues, including Syrian settlement, the North Korean nuclear problem and Afghanistan. We maintain regular enough contacts, even though we are not always on the same page.

Question: They write, with such friends, who needs enemies?

Sergey Lavrov: We have this proverb in Russian.

Question: When we mentioned the growing tension in the world, we actually meant Ukraine. The Kerch Strait incident is going too far. We also had in mind Donbass, where almost every day they are expecting an attack. Why do we compare poorly to Ukraine, according to the opinion of the world community?

Ukraine has assumed a clear ideological position: Russia confronts us, so we fight Russia, defending ourselves, and so on. We – Russia – are declared the enemy. Soon our church, our priests may become great martyrs, because we do not know what will happen to them. Some get imprisoned, and criminal cases are brought against them. Then, there might be a religious war, we have already gone this far. With the situation so aggravated, we still hold a sluggish, relaxed position, when Ukraine has openly declared us an enemy, and introduced martial law. Why don’t we declare Ukraine a Nazi regime? We have a lot of evidence: the new law on the Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army recognising Hitler’s rabble as heroes. This has already been proven. Why do we not explicitly declare that Nazism is a rabid dog one doesn’t talk to, but shoots? This would give us a moral trump card in the global community. This would not be a conflict with Ukraine, which has declared us an enemy and has already declared martial law, but a fight against the Nazi regime. The Ukrainian people are not our enemy. The enemy is the Nazi regime. Why not declare it directly?

We are putting our diplomats who remain there at risk (our readers write about this). Why not withdraw the Embassy from that country?

Many people ask us when Russia will recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics.

Sergey Lavrov: We are not at war with the Ukrainian regime, which has all the features of the Nazi and neo-Nazi. The Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine who live in Donbass are fighting it.

Question: Then maybe we should break off the relations with them? How can we have a relationship with the Nazi regime?

Sergey Lavrov: We have relations with the Ukrainian state. The Ukrainian state is much more important for us than the regime that came to power thanks to the West betraying all norms of international law and international behaviour.

The Ukrainian people have nothing to do with it. The overwhelming majority, I am sure, wants peace in the country, wants to get rid of this shameful regime and return to normal relations with the Russian Federation. For that, the internal problems of Ukraine will have to be resolved, of course. They are much wider, and much deeper than just the DPR and the LPR. As a reminder, it all happened because the West has committed criminal connivance, I should say. Back in February 2014, the European Union, through the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland, and France, guaranteed an agreement between Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. The next morning, the opposition destroyed that agreement. Neither France, nor Germany, nor Poland, nor the United States, which did not sign the document, but actively supported it, lifted a finger. They did not even apologise to those who had hoped that the agreement would lead to a peaceful settlement.

Three days later, Dmitry Yarosh who led all the military operations on the Maidan, publicly stated (it was his official statement and is still available) that “Russians should not be in Crimea, because they will never glorify Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevych and will never think in Ukrainian.” Therefore, he said, Russians in Crimea “must either be destroyed or expelled.” After that, unrest began among the Crimean people. When Yarosh later tried to organise an attack on the Supreme Council, it erupted in a protest, which led to a referendum and eventually to the decision to return Crimea to the Russian Federation.

Now we are obliged to fulfill the Minsk Agreements.

Question: They collapsed long ago. You spoke about this 18 months ago. Nobody remembers that now, except Donbass.

If you come to the village of Zaitsevo, where every household has buried someone, and if you mention the Minsk Agreements, I don’t know what they will do to you. They honour them, and the fact that they are being killed on a daily basis – is that Minsk Agreements as well?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements, and I also said that back in 2016. The UN Charter has also been violated many times, and it has also malfunctioned on many occasions. But we must not give in to panic. Are you suggesting that we recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics?

Question: Yes, of course.

Sergey Lavrov: And then what?

Question: After that, we would defend our territory, recognised by us, and we would help our fraternal peoples.

Sergey Lavrov: Do you want to lose the rest of Ukraine? Do you want to leave it at the mercy of the Nazis?

Question: As I see it, we should go to war against the Nazi regime because they declared martial law against us, they have called us enemies, and they attack our ships.

Sergey Lavrov: We will not go to war against Ukraine, I can promise you that.

Question: What should be done about the church?

Sergey Lavrov: You suggest recognising the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and declaring war (I don’t know how you imagine that Russia would attack Ukraine). That would just amount to a nervous breakdown and weakness. If we want to preserve Ukraine as a normal, adequate and neutral country, we must ensure that people living in Ukraine have a comfortable life. I disagree with your position if you want the rest of Ukraine to celebrate the creation of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, as well as the birthdays of Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera, rather than May 9, as their national holidays. The Minsk Agreements formalise the principle of Ukraine’s decentralisation and the use of the Russian language where Russian-speaking people want to speak it. Today, this regime is moving to wreck its own constitution, which guarantees the rights of the Russian language, as well as its international obligations; but this does not mean that we must abandon all Ukrainians who are governed by this regime to their own devices.

Question: Why don’t we officially recognise it as a Nazi regime, and why don’t we say that we will not have any dealings with it because it is impossible to have dealings with Hitler?

Sergey Lavrov: This is an appealing position. Somewhere in the village of Zaitsevo people will probably rejoice for a week if we now sever all relations with this regime. And what will happen next? After that, you will need to explain why progressive and civilised humankind lost Ukraine.

We want to keep it. Today, we have the right under international law to demand this from Ukraine and, most importantly, from the West, which now controls Ukraine.

Question: What do you think of the OSCE’s work in that region? Its representatives are coming here while in fact working against us, spying against the Donbass defenders and communicating their information to Kiev. After the OSCE visits a town or a village, they become subject to strikes. It is a known fact. The OSCE is never on our side.

Sergey Lavrov: First of all, it is not true that the OSCE brings shells to their targets. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is indeed under very serious pressure – mainly from pro-Western Ukrainians; but the mission is also susceptible to our influence and is gradually making steps in the right direction, although it takes a while to be pushed first. I will give you an example. We have been asking the SMM to stop writing such things in their reports as “this week, so many strikes took place, so many civilian facilities were destroyed, there were so many civilian casualties”, but to specify from which side of the contact line [the strikes came], which victims and what kind of destruction. A year ago, with great difficulty, we managed to get the OSCE to write its first report on this matter which said that the eastern side of the contact line – where the self-defence forces are living and defending themselves – account for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties and destruction in the civilian sector.

Ukraine tried hard to stop this report, to stop it from being published. But it failed. The OSCE eventually did what it was supposed to do and the required statistics became publicly available.

We have one more concern regarding our Western partners (who, I believe, discredited themselves in this Ukrainian story starting in February 2014, when they failed to compel the opposition to fulfil the agreement with the government). This, in fact, has to do with the media. You, for example, go to Donbass. Our television crews are working at the contact line 24/7 to show the frontline from the perspective of the self-defence forces. When our Western partners claim that the self-defence forces are to blame for all the clashes and attacks, that they provoke them, we show them our journalists’ work, which is always available on air and is broadcast repeatedly on the news. We ask them: if they are so sure that the Ukrainian government is acting in the right way and they want to show the truth to international audiences, then why are there no Western journalists working on the western side of the contact line the same hours as our journalists? There were a couple of cases when, I think, BBC reporters travelled there for a few days and, by the way, filmed a rather objective report (perhaps this is why this practice was stopped).

They can’t wait for us to break off the relationship with Ukraine and withdraw from the Minsk Agreements. Just like after the coup of February 21, 2014, they will wash their hands of them and say, “so it died” – meaning they are not bound by anything. It will be a huge mistake.

Question: If President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko now sends troops to Donbass or warships to break through the Kerch Strait, what will we do?

Sergey Lavrov: I am sure that there will be provocations. The day before yesterday we heard Petr Poroshenko speak at a show called Unification Council for Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Actually, he has never stuck to the diplomatic language before, but this time he crossed all lines imaginable and unimaginable. I have never heard such rudeness from a leader who considers himself a politician. He seemed to actually lose control a few times. Apparently, something is happening to him. But this is not my problem.

Commenting on the martial law he wanted to introduce for 60 days, then 30, first across the country, then only in Russian-speaking areas, where he has a very low popularity rating (it is low enough everywhere, but there he is not popular at all, and does not even enjoy minimum understanding), Poroshenko said they would not extend martial law unless there are armed provocations along the contact line in Donbass or, as he put it, “on the administrative border” with Crimea.

The 30-day martial law expires on December 25. We have information (official Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has mentioned this more than once) that Ukraine has concentrated around 12,000 troops and a large amount of equipment on the contact line. American, British and, apparently, other instructors are actively helping them. An American drone regularly patrols the area. We have reported this. According to additional information that we tend to believe, in the last ten days of December, President Poroshenko is planning an armed provocation on the border with the Russian Federation – Crimea.

He will get a response. He won’t find it funny, I can assure you.

This is our country, our border, and we will not allow him to try in any way to defend “his interests” as he sees them and violate those rights that the Crimeans have defended in full accordance with international law. Moreover, according to our information, he is discussing this provocation on the border with Crimea with his Western curators and “trustees.”

According to our data, which seem credible, he is advised to maintain low-intensity hostilities to support the ongoing outcry in the propaganda space about “Russians attacking Ukraine” and “Russians need to be further sanctioned,” but in no case should military operations be allowed to reach a phase to elicit a full-blown response. Nasty, petty provocation. Our respective services take all necessary measures to prevent such excesses from happening.

Question: I would like to talk about Russian-US relations again. Mr Poroshenko is behaving boorishly, but I think he is emulating US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made unacceptable comments about the Russian Government after our bombers arrived in Venezuela, telling us how we must spend public funds.

As for President Donald Trump, he doesn’t seem to know his own mind. You said he was really willing to meet with President Vladimir Putin. He said when boarding the plane for the G20 summit that he was looking forward to a face-to-face with President Putin. But when he disembarked in Argentina several hours later, he said he had called off the meeting. He did an about-face, as the saying goes. Maybe they really don’t want to conduct a constructive dialogue with us?

Sergey Lavrov: They are extremely pragmatic people. They want to talk when this can benefit them, especially now that the business mentality is taking a hold in US foreign policy.

This is a very short-sighted position, because it can help you get something today but will undermine your long-term positions and harm your strategic interests. The Americans live in two-year cycles. Every two years they need to show everyone that they are tough guys who can do what others can’t, and that everyone else is soft.

Look at the unilateral sanctions that have been imposed not only on Russia or China but also on some of the US allies. The United States continues to threaten others with sanctions and imposes new sanctions simply for violating a US law that prohibits trade with Iran. There are no such laws in France or Germany. But when their companies engage in business that is perfectly legal from the viewpoint of their own legislation or international law, they are forced to pay billions of dollars in a deal that would allow them to work in the United States. This is racketeering.

There are also sanctions that concern settlements in US dollars. In  the near future before the next elections, these sanctions may benefit US companies, weaken their rivals and increase employment in the United States, but in the long run they will undermine trust in the dollar. This will harm the fundamental interests of the US because many countries are thinking of reducing their dependence on the dollar.

Question: Do the Americans see this danger?

Sergey Lavrov: Analysts possibly do. But politicians think in the moment, they want to win the election, and they don’t care what happens afterwards.

As for Mr Pompeo, it’s a long time since we met. I think he is no longer involved with US policy towards Russia. But both of us understand that we need to meet and to talk.

As of now, US foreign policy has been clearly delegated to John Bolton. He has come to Russia several times. He has met with President Putin and his counterpart, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. I have held rather lengthy talks with Mr Bolton. There is a kind of dialogue.

We have not met for a long time at the level of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State. The last time was in New York in September, when the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council held a traditional meeting. But it was not a bilateral meeting. Our deputies and department directors hold meetings, although the Americans often pull stunts and cancel meetings with barely a day’s notice. But as I said, we don’t hold on to grudges.

Question: Why?

Sergey Lavrov: Because a grudge is a heavy burden to carry.

Question: Well, a grudge is, indeed, a heavy burden to carry. For example, what is Russia doing in the Council of Europe, where it has no right to vote? Why does such a sovereign state as Russia submit to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? Why don’t we withdraw completely from such organisations, where we don’t play any role at all? We can use this money to build schools. What are we doing there? And how much do we pay to the European Court of Human Rights?

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t pay anything to the European Court of Human Rights. We pay for its decisions. Do you know what percentage of our payments to the ECHR has to do with Russian courts’ decisions on payments to our citizens that the Russian Treasury violates and withholds the payments?

Question: In that case we must get back to our own problems. Why are we running to foreigners for help?

Sergey Lavrov: As you probably know, we are now facing a situation that we are actively discussing: the future of Russia’s Council of Europe membership is in question. There is no doubt that our decision to join this organisation was sincere and met the country’s interests. You should discuss this matter with judges, representatives of the Supreme and Constitutional courts and the Ministry of Justice. A huge set of laws that make life easier for Russian citizens and protect their life and rights was passed during our cooperation with the Council of Europe and as a result of our perception of the practices that could be applied to Russian legislation. Russian citizens are forced to apply to the European Court of Human Rights after a Russian court has ruled that the state must pay them. If the state has failed to pay a citizen in compliance with a Russian court’s ruling, do you think that therefore he or she does not deserve this payment?

Question: Of course, they deserve them. But instead of taking the case to a foreign court, we need to sort things out at home. What is your opinion of this?

Sergey Lavrov: In some cases, we were unable to rectify the situation without the ECHR. I will tell you more: Russia is now by no means the main client of the European Court of Human Rights.

We make an overwhelming majority of payments under Russian courts’ decisions.  Please keep that in mind.

Question: Are we going to leave the Council of Europe?

Sergey Lavrov: To show that we don’t care?

Question: If they don’t take us seriously, yes, we should show them that we don’t care.

Sergey Lavrov: No, we shouldn’t do that. Instead we should have a sense of dignity.

Speaking of the Council of Europe, we have no right to vote only at the Parliamentary Assembly, which would be an unimportant body if it weren’t for its function to elect judges, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

No one has deprived us of any rights at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is a regulatory, rather than consultative, body.

Today, we are trying to convince the Council of Europe that this situation cannot last indefinitely, and that, under the Council of Europe Statute, all member countries have equal rights at all its bodies. The incumbent Secretary General’s legal findings state that the PACE decision runs counter to the Council of Europe Statute and should therefore be modified.

We have repeatedly explained to our colleagues that there can be no halfway decisions here. They tried to assuage our concerns by proposing to reinstate our right to elect officials, including judges, the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights, but to withhold all other rights for the time being. We emphatically rejected this offer.

The moment of truth will come in June, when the new Council of Europe Secretary General will be elected. If we don’t take part in this election, it would send a message that the Council of Europe is losing its importance for us as an organisation that does not respect the principle of equality.

Question: You mentioned dignity. As I see it, our dignity is being trampled in various situations.

Poland has destroyed many monuments to Soviet soldiers. Actually, 600,000 of our boys were killed there. Why doesn’t Russia give an appropriate response in line with diplomatic traditions?

Do you want to hit our monuments? In that case, we will send bulldozers to Katyn, and we will demolish your monuments if you touch ours.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you serious?

Question: Absolutely. Why can they wreck our monuments?

Sergey Lavrov: I wish you were not serious. I was hoping this is a joke.

Question: Unfortunately, my colleague is voicing a common opinion that is expressed by our audiences. What can you say on this score?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe this position has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity or Christianity in general.

Question: Are they acting like Christians?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not.

Question: So, where is our symmetrical diplomatic response? You do something nasty to us, and we will reciprocate. Where is our dignity?

Sergey Lavrov: Our dignity tells us that we must be above all this, and that we must never descend to the level of these neo-Nazis.

Question: We are always above that. We were above it in the Skripal case too.

But what about the Skripals? Where is our consul? Where is Yulia Skripal? Local lawyers ask me why our consuls are not suing to see Yulia Skripal – dead or alive. After all, she is a Russian citizen. The West operates only through courts. The state should sue and demand access to Yulia Skripal. All conventions are on our side. Why are we being so sluggish?

Why don’t we sue, when British Prime Minister Theresa May accuses our President of having committed murder? We could hire Swiss lawyers and sue. Could it be that there are things we don’t know and an action of this sort is being pursued?

Sergey Lavrov: If you followed our Ministry’s reports, including the information delivered by the ministry spokesperson at her briefings, you would have a somewhat different picture of what is happening.

We have been acting in full conformity with international law, because English law is of no help in this case. There is the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which makes it mandatory for the British government to grant us access to a Russian citizen. Sergey Skripal is an arguable case because he has dual citizenship, but Yulia Skripal is only a Russian citizen.

Question: But we can apply to the British court, can’t we? Lawyers in the UK explained this to me. And Swiss layers also said we could apply to the British court for the Russian citizen to be delivered to us or at least in order to arrange her meeting with a Russian consul.

Sergey Lavrov: No court will help us. There is an international obligation, the Vienna Convention, which is absolutely irrevocable. And we will demand that it is obeyed.

Question: What stage are the talks at now?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not yet through with the courts. Let me remind you how we tried to deal with the Litvinenko case, when [Litvinenko] was also allegedly poisoned.

The court did not want to prove anything. The court just made the investigation secret and conducted it in a format that banned the demonstration of security service documents.

In this instance, when we demanded information on the Skripals that was linked, among other things, to the British exploiting the Skripal theme at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, we got an official reply to the effect that this issue was related to British security. For this reason, it is not subject to any disclosure or London’s meaningful reply.

Question: But international law has precedence over their law, hasn’t it? Does the Vienna Convention have precedence?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes it does.

Question: Can’t we achieve anything through the courts?

Sergey Lavrov: We will continue to press for a meeting with our citizen.

Question: But isn’t it their minister who said that Russia should “shut up and go away?”

Sergey Lavrov: He (the UK Defence Secretary. – Ed.) is a man whose oversized amour propre is superimposed upon an inferiority complex. I saw his colleague too, and it is very sad that the UK assigns foreign ministers of this sort to handle foreign policy.

He contacted me when five ministers of foreign affairs of the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council were meeting in New York. The five of us were just sitting around a table. After that he went out and started saying that he had challenged me on 12 counts and accused me of everything.

Question: What did you say to him in response?

Sergey Lavrov: I didn’t say anything: you can’t talk with people like that.

As for the Skripal case, I can assure you that we will not drop this issue. I am absolutely convinced that we must demand answers, just like with the Malaysian Boeing. And the longer our partners delay with a response, the more out of line they will look.

Question: But we have been sued by the relatives of those who have died in the Boeing crash.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they have sued us. There is one thing we need to understand. They say that we have done it to the Skripals and that we must say whether it was done on orders from President Putin or whether he had lost control over the secret services which did this without his consent. Nobody else had a clear reason [to poison the Skripals], so it is highly likely that Russia is responsible, they say.

This is baby talk, not a serious investigation.

We put concrete questions to them: Where is Yulia Skripal? Why has her cousin been denied a visa which we requested officially many times? Unfortunately, you can’t sue for a visa.

We ask similar questions about the Malaysian Boeing. Why haven’t they included in their investigation the material that has been provided by Almaz-Antey, the producer of the Buk systems? Why haven’t the Ukrainians provided their radar data, unlike Russia, or the transcript of what their air controllers said? Why haven’t the Americans provided their satellite information? No answer. But we will continue to ask these questions and we will keep reminding everyone that a day will come when these shameful intrigues will end.

Question: Maybe we should not remind but demand? There are already jokes about your recommendations on social media. Can I tell one of them?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, certainly. I have read many things about myself.

Question: Sergey Lavrov enters a room for talks with Mike Pompeo, opens his briefcase and takes out a jar of fat chance, a dead donkey’s ears and a heap of fig leaves. He lights a cigarette and politely says “Hello” to Mike Pompeo.

Maybe this is how we should talk with them, not “express concern” or “draw their attention” to problems?

Sergey Lavrov: The meeting I had in this joke was not with Pompeo but with Taro Kono.

Really, do you want us to use four-letter words in international discourse, so that we will all be in the same league? No, I think that if Jupiter is angry, it means he is wrong.

I have read your reports from hot spots, and I respect you for what you are doing. We have criticised our Western colleagues for not sending their journalists to Donbass to report the truth. There are few Western journalists in Syria as well. When somebody wants to drive you mad and you resort to foul language in response, I would caution against this, even if we are not full of grace ourselves. We must not exceed the bounds of decency even if we ourselves set the boundaries.

Question: Is it true that the Foreign Ministry cellars are stocked with coffers of your great patience?

Sergey Lavrov: We have no cellars.

Question: I have worked in Armenia and Georgia. The situation there is dramatic.

I am shocked that we have let go of the situation in Georgia. The Americans are building a deep-water port in Anaklia, a stone’s throw from Sochi. Initially, they planned to deploy their nuclear submarines there, which would be extremely dangerous for us. A NATO base is under construction near Tbilisi. They have signed an official declaration to this effect. And there are three bio laboratories in Georgia.

The Americans are training nine motorised battalions. When I asked who these battalions would be used against, the answer was, “Against our enemies, against Russia.”

President Elect Salome Zurabishvili said at her inauguration that she would do her utmost to fight the Russian occupation.

The situation is very serious, considering that the Americans have failed to build a naval base in Crimea. But now they will build it on our doorstep, on Abkhazia’s border with Georgia. Yet we remain silent.

The Georgians who are on our side – 40 per cent of people in Georgia are for rapprochement and 80 per cent for dialogue with Russia – say that we are feeding them.

Their shops are stocked with Russian goods. There were 1.6 million [Russian] tourists.

Sergey Lavrov: I know this.

Question: They ask why we keep silent, why we don’t say to them that either they shut down the bases, which are a direct threat to our security, or we close the border to their goods.

Sergey Lavrov: Where did you find these highway advisers?

Question: Why do we sell Georgian wines? They are making money through us, and at the same time they are fighting against our “occupation.”

Sergey Lavrov: You surely know that Ukrainians earn millions of roubles in Russia.

Question: We must respond to this. Why do we remain the whipping boys?

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t say that we know all the answers. How can we respond? Close the border? Sever all ties?

Question: The Georgians themselves have proposed closing the border and suspending trade and money transfers until the construction of a base on Russia’s doorstep is stopped. They complain that we don’t have a policy towards Georgia, that we are glad that Mikheil Saakashvili is no longer in Georgia. But we forget that there are very many other anti-Russia forces working there.

Sergey Lavrov: Just imagine how it would be if we severed the relations which we have been developing in recent years.

First we launched chartered flights. Now we have scheduled flights, and their number has increased to include Tbilisi, Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Kutaisi. The planes are filled with tourists. Our trade is on the upswing. I believe Russia has become Georgia’s largest trade partner. Our civil societies hold regular events. People are meeting, talking and trying to understand which point in our relations we have reached.

Imagine that we stop all this simply to please your friends, who feel hurt. We stop all this, but they complete the base anyway and train the battalions, and the bio laboratory continues working. Who will stand to gain from this?

Question: Should there be some response from our side? What should we do?

Sergey Lavrov: I would like to ask you, do you think that we need to respond just to establish our importance or what?

Question: We do need to show our importance.

Sergey Lavrov: And that’s all?

Question: No, that’s not all. There are levers of economic pressure, similar to military ones. If Georgia lives at our expense, it will howl when it has nothing to eat.

Sergey Lavrov: I assure you, they will find a way to live. I would like to look at this from a different angle. Are you proposing to choke Georgia? What for? You say 40 percent of the population supports contacts with Russia. Break these contacts, and it will be 2 percent.

Question: But we will need to explain why we are doing this. We can say: it threatens our security.

Sergey Lavrov: Once again. The most serious threat here is the biological laboratories. I am confident that they will not go anywhere with their battalions. They understand that we have allied relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and we will not allow anyone to attack our allies. There are bio labs not only in Georgia, but also in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. It will be useless to talk about it with Ukraine. We are talking about it with Georgia through the relevant organisations, the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons. Similarly, we are talking with Kazakhstan and Armenia. Georgians have already invited diplomats to their bio lab to look around. We thanked them because it was a large group of diplomats and we noted that we would be more interested in sending professionals who understand what is being done in this bio lab better than diplomats. We need to know how big a threat these experiments pose to the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries.

On principle, I am categorically against a foreign policy that amounts to breaking off relations every time someone does us wrong. Otherwise we would have to break off relations with America and Britain. Do you by any chance have friends there who offer you advice?

Question: America clearly responds with sanctions. We do not impose sanctions. Introduce sanctions against Georgia. Armenia is our strategic ally. Why did we allow the building of three US bio labs there in 2016? We have the best friendship in the Eurasian Economic Union.

Sergey Lavrov: With Armenia, we are completing the work on a document that will guarantee the non-presence of the foreign military in these biological labs and full transparency.

Question: And Kazakhstan?

Sergey Lavrov: The same.

Question: Will they remove these labs? Or make sure there are no foreign nationals?

Sergey Lavrov: You are not listening to me. I have just told you that an agreement is being prepared that will guarantee that there will be no foreign military in the bio labs and everything that is done there will be transparent, with guarantees, without any threats or risks.

Question: Consider this example: When you come to Armenia, you find 19 Russian diplomats and 2,500 American workers there – an impressive ratio, of course. I do not understand how we can have only 19 diplomats in such a strategically important country. Political strategists in Armenia say: “Russia really uses clumsy force against the former Soviet republics. It never works with the opposition, so for Russia, Nikol Pashinyan came as a huge surprise. Russia never works with the civil society, but only with people in power who are hated in society and whose ratings, according to your Russian officers, are below zero. What is it, the blindness of your diplomacy? I do not know; it is unexplainable. There are normal people in the opposition with whom you could be cooperating.”

Sergey Lavrov: Who writes all this to you?

Question: Political observers with whom I spoke in Armenia.

Sergey Lavrov: This “your diplomacy” – have Armenians written this?

Question: Yes, Armenians. Why isn’t Russian diplomacy working with the opposition? Remember the last time we argued about soft power? There are 5,000 US NGOs that are canvassing young people who then grow up pro-America and anti-Russia, but there are no Russian NGOs or media there. We have already spoken about this many times.

Sergey Lavrov: So what is your bottom line? As I understand it, the options are either to send 3,000 diplomats and create 5,000 NGOs there, or to break off diplomatic relations.

Question: This is where I think soft power is the best option.

Sergey Lavrov: Why?

Question: At least the people’s attitude to Russia was good; now it has grown worse. It will continue deteriorating. The youth is growing up.

Sergey Lavrov: We are treated well in Georgia. And you propose breaking off relations.

Question: What ideas are being fed to young people? They are raised on the idea that Russia is bad. They are now arguing who was the first to attack.

Sergey Lavrov: Where – in Georgia?

Question: I just watched a talk show where they are proving to children that it was Russia who attacked Georgia ten years ago. And the children are listening.

Sergey Lavrov: There is a report prepared for the EU by a group of experts led by Heidi Tagliavini, which clearly blames Saakashvili for starting the war. Nobody in the EU has contested this conclusion. Now they say that our response was unacceptable. This is sheer hypocrisy.

As for soft power, I fully agree on this. There are two or three times fewer Russian diplomats in Armenia or any other CIS country than American ones. Our diplomatic staff numbers 2,500 together with rotation personnel.

Question: The Americans have the largest staff in Bagdad and second largest in Armenia.

Sergey Lavrov: They have their own criteria for their work. And we have our traditions and financial limitations, because their non-governmental team working in the former Soviet republics costs big money. In most cases, these NGOs are financed by the Agency for International Development of the US State Department, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which is affiliated with the Democratic Party, or other similar organisations. George Soros is very active there, just as in many other parts of our space and beyond. Of course, they have the  advantage in numbers. We cannot respond in kind; we cannot create the same number of puppet organisations. Very many of them have a provocative negative agenda.

I agree that we must work with all political forces, which we are doing. We are working with everyone not only in the South Caucasus but also in other post-Soviet republics. We are working with registered opposition groups. We don’t work with nonregistered or underground groups. I believe that this is correct. We have maintained ties with various parliamentary groups, including the nine MPs who represented Nikol Pashinyan’s party when Serzh Sargsyan was president of Armenia.

It is another matter that we have probably acquired immunity against revolutions, because everything the West is doing in the post-Soviet space is preparing revolutions. This may be our problem, but we definitely cannot be blamed for this. We have survived several revolutions, which claimed a great number of lives and destroyed cities and villages. We don’t want to see a repetition of this, and we don’t wish it on others.

Therefore, the conclusion is simple: we must work with society and people, promote projects of interest to them in culture, language, sport, education and people-to-people interaction. I believe we can report certain positive results in this sphere. But we must not stop now. You can’t have enough of such events. We have established interregional forums, days of culture and educational exchanges with nearly all CSTO countries. We are opening branches of our universities there. I have recently visited Azerbaijan where MGIMO University is opening a branch. It is a very popular form of cooperation.

Question: Yet the most influential instrument is mass media. But Margarita Simonyan cannot work for all of us. We need our own local media outlets that will look to you in their work. Very many people would like to work in this way. But they simply don’t have the money.

Sergey Lavrov: Exactly.

Question: Do you mean that we don’t have the money for this?

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry doesn’t.

Question: Why cannot we ask our oligarchs? They could be made responsible for certain areas.

Sergey Lavrov: Those of our people who have big money buy media outlets, including in Russia. If they do the same abroad, we would not complain.

Question: The Americans do this. They have more money.

Sergey Lavrov: But they don’t buy on behalf of the state.

Question: They set up a state fund to finance such projects.

Question: Why not lease the Kuril Islands? The sovereignty would be ours either way. Hong Kong was once leased on these terms. China leased a village and got a major modern city.

Question: There is such a thing as zugzwang in chess, when any move leads to a worse position. We have not had this peace treaty, so why do we need this “piece of paper?” We have diplomatic and economic relations, but no military relations. Nor will there be any in the future. Why do we need a peace treaty with Japan, if we consider the Kuril issue on this basis?

Sergey Lavrov: We are interested in having good relations with Japan.

The situation is very simple. We are people obeying international law. In 1956, the USSR signed an agreement with Japan, the so-called 1956 Declaration. When the USSR was dissolved, the Russian Federation was recognised not just as the legal successor state (all constituent republics except the Baltic states became legal successors) but the USSR’s only continuing state. This is the legal status under which we assumed all the obligations as well as all the assets of the USSR. This was one of the grounds for signing, within the CIS, a treaty on the “zero option” for properties abroad. We assumed all of the USSR’s debt obligations as all the properties were transferred to us (something that is happening today). This is why, when President Vladimir Putin was elected and this issue came up for the first time during his presidency in some situation (I think it was a meeting with then prime minister, Yoshiro Mori) he said that as the successor to the USSR we assumed the 1956 Declaration and were prepared to sign a peace treaty based on that.

In Singapore, we agreed to declare that we had come to terms on revisiting negotiations on signing a peace treaty based on the 1956 Declaration. In this regard, it is very important to understand what this document is all about and basically what situation has taken shape around it. It says: You shall sign a peace treaty. After that, the USSR – as a goodwill gesture and with regard for the interests of the neighbourly Japanese people, not as a move to return [the islands] – will be prepared to transfer the Habomai Ridge and Shikotan Island. President Putin has repeatedly explained, including at his news conference in Singapore and later in Buenos Aires, that this was not a directly applicable obligation of the USSR that had transferred to Russia and that the parties would have to discuss how, to whom, when, and in what form to transfer [whatever there is to transfer].

This was in 1956. After that were the events of 1960, when Japan and the US signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, under which the Americans could deploy their military bases practically wherever they wanted, in any part of Japanese territory. Under the same treaty, the US is creating the Asian segment of its antimissile defence system and deploying antimissile launchers that can be used to fire Tomahawk missiles.

Japan has withdrawn from the Declaration of its own free will. Of course, the USSR responded to the signing of the US-Japan security treaty. Therefore, when we say “based on the Declaration,” we cannot ignore the fact that the events of 1960 have taken place since then, which, from the point of view of a US military presence on the Japanese islands, are increasingly of a very serious nature as a threat to our security. We have explained all of this to our Japanese colleagues at talks with foreign ministry and security council representatives. We are waiting for a response. For us, this is a problem of direct practical importance.

But, most importantly, when we say “based on the 1956 Declaration,” this expresses Japan’s unconditional recognition of the results of World War II. So far, our Japanese colleagues are not ready for this, and they are sending all sorts of signals to the effect that this will not work out. This is a serious issue.

Recently, my Japanese counterpart went on record as saying that he apologised to the Japanese media for having avoided answering the question about the upcoming talks, on several occasions. He stated that he was unwilling to discuss the subject because Japan’s position was unchanged but, if he said this he would provoke his Russian colleagues to state their point of view. Consider that it was not he who provoked us. It is just that we were never ashamed of our position. If Japan’s position is unchanged then we are in the same position we have always been in. This is basically a refusal to recognise the results of World War II, while recognising the results of World War II is an inalienable first step in any talks, let alone any legal negotiations.

Question: Should we perhaps leave this matter to the judgment of future generations and place it on record as is?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not refuse to talk, but I have outlined the terms and the framework, within which these talks will proceed.

Question: May I ask you a few private questions that are often asked by our readers – in the blitz mode?

Sergey Lavrov: Go ahead.

Question: You are one of the most popular and best-known politicians in our country. How do you feel in that capacity?

Sergey Lavrov: I have never thought about it. It is a pleasure for me to communicate with people when I go somewhere, whether on a working mission or not. I talk to young people. It is interesting to listen to questions and comments. If my work meets with a positive response, I am pleased for our Ministry.

Question: As you know, the former Soviet Foreign Minister Alexei Gromyko was dubbed in the West as nothing other than “Mr No”. Andrei Kozyrev must have been a “Mr Yes”. How would you describe your own image in similar terms? Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov is “Mr what?”

Sergey Lavrov: Whatever, but certainly not “Mr Yesman.”

Question: In your interviews, you nearly always refer to our foes as partners. Why?

Sergey Lavrov: Sometimes, I fail to express irony through intonation.

Question: In one of your interviews, you said that you respect Vladimir Vysotsky’s work. What words from his songs would you use to describe the current international situation?

Sergey Lavrov (laughing): “Lukomorye exists no more…” and so on and so forth.

Question: Your opponents were talking such nonsense lately. What self-composure you have. Is it hard to deal with a negotiating partner if you feel that he or she has a grudge against you?

Sergey Lavrov: I have grown used to it.

Question: What helps you remain so calm and coolheaded?

Sergey Lavrov: Maybe life has hardened me over the past years. In New York, I had a good schooling in terms of responding to all sorts of crisis situations at the UN Security Council. Someone would dash in and say that something had erupted, broken out and it was necessary to urgently adopt a resolution, when we wanted to work the matter through and take no abrupt steps.

Question: Were there episodes during your service as minister, when things grew very alarming and even frightening?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably not, considering that I was already accustomed to crisis situations in my work prior to my appointment to this post. Maybe, that experience helps.

Question: Do you feel like putting work aside

And sailing down the river with a guitar,

Making a campfire at sunset

And talking of peace and love?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, certainly. Moreover, I even do that.

Question: What is the largest fish that you caught during your river trips? Where did it happen and how much did it weigh?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not remember, because, actually, I am not really a fishing sort. When we go canoeing down the river Katun, two of our group members handle the fishing and I break camp and watch the campfire.

Question: Suppose you had a time machine, who of our country’s rulers of the past years or even centuries would you like to talk to and what essential question would you ask that person?

Sergey Lavrov: Among our fellow countrymen – Alexander Gorchakov. Much has been written about him and all his diplomatic achievements are well known. I would ask him exactly the same thing that you asked me – about his self-composure that enabled him to return Crimea.

Question: Who of the US presidents of the past would you like to talk to and what would you ask him?

Sergey Lavrov: Maybe, Harry Truman. After Franklin Roosevelt’s policy, he made a sharp turn towards the “cold war”. It would be interesting to understand why. Though, as a matter of fact, it looks like everyone understands everything. The USSR was a real ally of Britain and the United States in the war, but maybe a situational ally, after all, though that situation was about the life or death of the whole of humanity. Almost. And it was a genuine alliance. Nevertheless, they never fully considered us to be one of theirs, and back then they already saw a threat.

Question: If you had the opportunity to turn back the clock and influence some event in our country or elsewhere, what would you change?

Sergey Lavrov: First, I have no opportunity to turn back the clock. Second, I do not want to. Third, we all know that history has no “ifs”. Whatever God does is for the best. There are many proverbs, for example, “it does not hurt to dream.”

Question: Will the Eurasian Economic Union survive as an entity, considering our problems with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakhstan?

Sergey Lavrov: It will survive. In any event, we have common interests. In the five years of its existence or even less (there used to be a Customs Union, followed by the Eurasian Economic Union), we are making great strides forward, as compared with the deadlines that allowed Europe to achieve the same level of integration.

Question: It was easier for us.

Sergey Lavrov: Nevertheless, economic ties were disrupted considerably after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Question: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko says that he is planning to leave the Eurasian Economic Union.

Sergey Lavrov: Just like other countries’ leaders, we judge the policies of other countries by their deeds, rather than words. When US President Donald Trump conducts talks, he also makes all kinds of statements.

Question: Is this blackmail?

Sergey Lavrov: It is preparations for talks, if you like. I cannot say that US President Donald Trump is blackmailing anyone, although he exerts tough pressure.

Question: What would be the first thing you saved if the Foreign Ministry building caught fire?

Sergey Lavrov: God forbid.  We don’t need any self-fulfilling prophecies, and we have a good fire safety system.

Question: What do you eat to improve your mood?

Sergey Lavrov: I prefer tasty food.

Question: Could you be more specific? All of us like tasty food.

Sergey Lavrov: Sauerkraut shchi and borsch. I like soups very much.

Question: How do you relax? And what is your favourite music? How do you manage to stay in shape all the time? Perhaps you like rap music?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not into rap music. I like bard singers, including Vladimir Vysotsky, Bulat Okudzhava, Yury Vizbor and Oleg Mityayev. And I love the outdoors.

Question: If on New Year’s Eve you found a magic lantern that could grant any personal wish, what would it be?

Sergey Lavrov: A personal wish? I don’t know. Never thought about it. I am not used to making wishes. I am more of a realist than a dreamer.

Question: So when the Kremlin chimes welcome the New Year in, you never make a wish?

Sergey Lavrov: No. On my rafting team, we have this principle – never drink to anything in advance. We do not celebrate what is to come, but celebrate what happened. If it’s someone’s birthday, we raise a glass of champagne. But we never toast what is still to come. It is even considered wrong.

Question: Figuratively speaking, if we take Russia’s foreign policy in recent years, was there anything you would toast with a glass of champagne with your colleagues?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not assessing the work of my Ministry now. One of our most significant projects in recent years was the chemical disarmament agreement in Syria, which helped us avoid an act of American aggression. This agreement was documented in a UN Security Council resolution, but, unfortunately, after that, the OPCW, whose job was to physically remove and destroy toxic substances from Syria, suffered a hostile takeover from the inside.

Question: Do you mean following the Skripal case?

Sergey Lavrov: No, this was not following the Skripal case. It primarily had to do with Syria. It was a separate story. Some of our western partners are now trying to replace international law with a “rules-based order.” But what they mean is not any universally agreed rules, but those they consider convenient for themselves. Western media are already openly writing about it. In particular, the British newspaper The Times wrote that the departure from international law is leading to a very unstable system, where relationships will be determined by the balance of power, brute force or economic and financial pressure such as blackmail, and bilateral agreements. This is roughly what the Americans are trying to do now, breaking the multilateral structures, including the World Trade Organisation, and moving from relations with the EU to resolving all problems bilaterally. Therefore, the agreement on chemical disarmament in Syria was indeed a serious achievement. Now, under various far-fetched pretexts, the Americans and their closest allies are trying to claim that not everything has been destroyed. Although international organisations, namely the OPCW, in the presence of observers, including those from the United States, verified the destruction of all chemical facilities and substances in Syria. Such are our partners.

Question: Do we still have any influence in that organisation?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes.

Question: Do you remember the most unusual New Year gift you received or gave?

Sergey Lavrov: My “hard drive” does not store such things. They have been erased from memory. These days I am more busy thinking about work than about the New Year.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the listeners and readers of Komsomolskaya Pravda a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. All the best to you, good health and good luck.

Russia, Ukraine and the Minsk agreement fiction (Exclusive!)

Russia, Ukraine and the Minsk agreement fiction (Exclusive!)

December 18, 2018

by Pepe Escobar exclusive for The Saker Blog

Rostislav Ishchenko is arguably the leading international analyst focused on the extraordinarily turbulent Russia-Ukraine relations. He posts regularly on Ukraina.ru, with frequent English translations here.

In contrast to the 24/7 “Russian aggression” demonization campaign effective on all corners of the Beltway and spreading towards selected European capitals, Ishchenko’s analysis, for instance of the information war deployed on all fronts of the Russia-Ukraine saga comes as a breath of fresh air.

Although we were not able to meet in person during my recent visit to Moscow, due to conflicting schedules (the meeting will take place later in the winter), Ishchenko graciously accepted to answer my most pressing questions regarding what could happen next on the Russia-Ukraine front, with translation by Scott Humor.

Ishchenko’s answers on the situation in Donbass should also be expanded to Crimea, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed he had information about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko planning an armed provocation on the border with Crimea in the last ten days of December.

Considering the terrain in winter is usually propitious for tank advance, would Poroshenko, in desperation, go for a major provocation in the Donbass, perhaps between Christmas and New Year’s Eve? 

First of all, this winter is too warm and the area is not yet favorable for an offensive. Second, even if frost strikes and an attack becomes possible, it is too big of a risk for Poroshenko. He does not have enough military power to defeat the DPR/LPR forces, without even mentioning that surprises are still possible as it happened in August 2008 in South Ossetia. After all, the Minsk peace agreement has not been canceled yet, and it is unlikely that the West will be able to stand against Russia in a consolidated manner at the moment when Russia is conducting a peace coercion of the confectioner, who is out of his mind with fear, and whom the West has already written off. The West requires a mandatory holding of elections, and any war would mean a cancellation of elections. If the war is facilitated by Poroshenko, he will be blamed for the cancellation of the elections and there will be no need to protect him.

Is there any possibility of the Minsk agreements being fulfilled in case of a slightly less anti-Russian government in place in Kiev after the next elections? 

No, it’s not possible. Kiev is unable to implement the Minsk agreements because this would imply the federalization of Ukraine, while the Kiev elites are able to rule only within the rigid vertical of the unitary state. They basically do not imagine a different system of relationships. Since 2014, the internal resources which could satisfy appetites of oligarchic groups were exhausted, and there is no material basis for compromise. Therefore, they are doomed to fight among themselves for the dominance. Even if Russia, Crimea, Donbass and the whole world would suddenly vanish, the civil war in Ukraine, no longer restrained from the outside, would only intensify.

Is Kiev aware that in case of a military attack on Donbass, the Russian response would be devastating? And that in Brussels, as I confirmed with many diplomatic sources, nobody really cares about Poroshenko’s fate anymore? 

I think that he knows this very well. That’s exactly why he organized his provocations in the Kerch Strait and also in Kiev (attacking the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate), but not in Donbass.

 

Why Russia won’t invade the Ukraine, the Baltic statelets or anybody else

The Saker

December 06, 2018

Why Russia won’t invade the Ukraine, the Baltic statelets or anybody else

[this article was written for the Unz Review]

The AngloZionist propaganda machine is constantly warning us that Russia is about to invade some country.  The list of candidates for invasion is long and ranges from Norway to the Ukraine and includes the Baltic statelets, Poland and even countries further West.  Of course, we are also told that NATO and the US are here to prevent that.  Well, thank God for them, right?

But what is conspicuously missing from this narrative is a discussion of the possible Russian motives for such a military move. Typically, we are merely told that Russia has broken the European post-Cold War order and borders by “annexing” Crimea and by sending military forces into the Donbass. Anybody with an IQ at room temperature or above by now realizes that both of these claims are total bunk. The ones who indeed broke the post-Cold War international order and borders were the NATO member states when they used military force, in complete illegality, to break-up Yugoslavia. As for the people of Crimea, they had the opportunity to vote about their future in a referendum, very much unlike the inhabitants of Kosovo which had no such opportunity. As for the 08.08.08 war, even the Europeans who eventually, and very reluctantly, agreed that it was, in fact, Saakashvili who started this conflict, not Russia.

But let’s set all this aside and assume that the Russian leaders would not hesitate to use military force again if it was to their advantage.  Let’s assume that, yes, the Russians are up to no good and that they might well try to bite-off some other piece of land somewhere in Europe.

Such an assumption would immediately raise a crucial question: why would the Russians want to do that?

For some reason, this question is rarely, if ever, asked.

Oh sure, we are told that “Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union” or some other type of empire but, again, nobody seems to wonder why he would want that!

So let’s look at possible rationales for such an attack:

Reason number one: to gain more land

That is probably the least credible reason of all.  Russia is a vast country (17,098,246 km2) with a relatively small population (144,526,636) resulting in a very low population density. Not only is Russia huge, but her territory has immense natural resources. The very last thing Russia needs is more land.

Reason number two: to increase the Russian population

Well, yes, Russia has a population deficit for sure.  But that does not mean that just any population increase would be a bonanza for Russia.  For example, Russia will only be in a  worse shape if the number of people depending on unemployment, social services or pensions increases.  Likewise, Russia would not benefit from a politically hostile population.  So while Russia could benefit from having a larger population, what she needs is more young and well-educated *Russians*, not unemployed and destitute Ukrainians or Lithuanians! The massive influx of Ukrainian refugees, by the way, has already contributed to an increase in qualified specialists, including medical doctors and highly qualified engineers from the Ukrainian military-industrial specialists who, when they saw their bureaus and industries collapse in the Ukraine, moved to Russia to continue to work. There is no need for the Russia to invade anybody to get those highly qualified specliasts. As for Ukrainians without special qualifications, they have already shown up in Russia, and the last thing Russia needs is more of them (they can go scrub toilets in Poland or the UK). Furthermore, there are already a lot of immigrants from other parts of the world in Russia and getting more of them is hardly a good idea. So while Russia would benefit from more qualified young Russians, invading other countries is not the way to get them.

Reason number three: geostrategic reasons

What about the Baltic ports? What about the Ukrainian gas pipelines? The truth is that in the Soviet times the Baltic ports or the Ukrainian pipelines were crucial strategic assets. But since their independence, these countries have not only ruined themselves and destroyed the infrastructure they inherited from the “Soviet occupiers,” but Russia has also successfully replaced the infrastructure and industries she lost after 1991. Thus, for example, Russia has actively developed her own commercial ports on the Baltic Sea, and they have now outgrown the ones found in the Baltic states (see here for a good comparative chart). As for the Ukrainian pipelines, not only are they in terrible shape, Russia has successfully built “North” and “South” streams which allow her to completely bypass the Ukraine and the need to deal with the crazy Banderite junta in Kiev. The simple truth is that while the Baltic statelets or the Ukronazis can fancy themselves as a very precious prize, Russia has absolutely no need for them whatsoever.

In fact, the opposite is true: right now, Russia can barely finance all the reconstruction programs which are so urgently needed after decades of nationalist rule in Crimea. In the future, Russia will also have to help the Donbass rebuild. Does anybody seriously believe that the Russians can afford to rescue even more countries or territories?!

Reason number four: revanchist motives

That is the Hillary Clinton/Zbigniew Brzezinski argument: the Russians are inherently expansionists, imperialists, militarists, and revanchists and they don’t need a motive to invade somebody: that’s simply what they do – invade, terrorize, oppress. Well, a quick objective look at history would prove that it is the West which has always displayed such behavior, not Russia, but we can even ignore that fact. The truth is that while there are a lot of people in Russia who have good memories of their lives in the Soviet Union, there is just no constituency pushing for the re-birth of the Soviet Union or for any kind of imperialism. If anything, most Russians are much more isolationist, and they don’t want to get involved in wars or the invasion of foreign countries. This is not only a result of memories of wars in Afghanistan or interventions in Germany, Hungary or Czechoslovakia, but also the bitter realization that even the so-called “Orthodox brothers” (some of whom even owe the existence of their country on a world map to Russia!) have now fully turned against Russia and have become willing NATO-colonies (think Bulgaria or Romania here). Yes, Putin did say that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy (objectively, it was, and it brought immense suffering to millions of people), but that does not at all mean that Putin, or anybody else, actually wants to “resurrect” the Soviet Union, even if it was feasible (which it is not). If anything, it was the US, NATO, and the EU which, for purely ideological reasons chose to expand their influence to the East and which are now constantly engaged in a nonstop campaign of russophobia (phobia in both meanings of “fear” and “hatred”). Yes, Russians are disgusted with the West, but that hardly means that they want to invade it.

Reason number five: megalomania

Well, maybe the Russians are mad that they lost the Cold War and now want to become a superpower again? In fact, no. Not at all. Not only do Russians not feel that they “lost” the Cold War, they even feel that they are already a superpower: one which successfully defies the Empire and which continues to struggle for full sovereignization at a time when all European countries are competing with each other for the title of most subservient lackey of the Empire. Just like the USSR after WWII, Russia, after the nightmare of the 1990s, has very successfully rebuilt, in spite of the constant subversion and sabotage of the “united West” which tried every dirty trick in the book to prevent Russia from recovering from the horrors which the western-backed (and, really, run) “liberal democracy” imposed upon her during the Eltsin years. Sure, Russians want their country to be prosperous and powerful, but that does not mean that they want to become a USA-like world hegemon which gets involved in every conflict on the planet. Truth be told, even the bad old USSR was not anti-USA and never had the kind of global ambition the USA has (well, except for Trotsky, but Stalin gave the boot to those crazies, many of whom later emigrated to the USA and re-branded themselves as Neocons). Of course, there is the eternal Russian “court jester,” aka “Zhirik” aka Vladimir Zhironovskii. He has made all sorts of threats (including nuclear ones) against various countries neighboring Russia, but everybody knows that he is just that, a court jester and that what he says is basically utter nonsense.

Reason number six: to save Putin’s “regime.”

It is true that unpopular regimes use war to distract from their failures and to make the population switch off their brains for the sake of “circling the wagons” and being “patriotic.” That is most definitely what Poroshenko is doing right now. But Putin has no such need! Even if the pension reform did cost him quite a bit in terms of popularity, he is still far more popular at home (and even internationally!) than any political leader in the West and the Russian economy is doing just fine, in spite of the famous sanctions. True, the mostly Atlantic Integrationist Medvedev government is not very popular, but those officials (like Shoigu or Lavrov) who are typically associated with Putin and his Eurasian Sovereignists remain very popular. The simple truth is that Putin has no need for any “distracting crises” because he remains remarkably popular in spite of all the difficulties Russia is currently facing. If anything, it is the Trumps, Macrons, Mays, and Co. who need a distracting war, not Putin!

I could go on listing more nonsensical pseudo-reasons for why Russia would want to occupy some piece of land somewhere, each more far-fetched and baseless than the previous one, but you get the point: Russia has no interest whatsoever in military interventions. In fact, what Russia needs more than anything else is peace for as long as possible.

Now, let’s come back to reality,

Putin is a continuator of another great Russian reformer: Petr Arkadievich Stolypin

Petr Stolypin (1862—1911)

The Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister of Russia from 1906 to 1911, Petr Arkadievich Stolypin, once famously said

Next comes our main task: to strengthen our lower classes.  In them lies the strength of our country.  There are more than 100 millions of them and the roots of our state will be healthy and strong and, believe me, the voice of the Russian government before Europe and the rest of the world will sound very differently.  Our motto, of all of us Russians, should be a united, common labor based on mutual trust.  Give Russia 20 years of peace, internal and external, and you will not recognize today’s Russia” (this is my own, free, translation.  This is the original text: На очереди главная наша задача — укрепить низы. В них вся сила страны. Их более 100 миллионов и будут здоровы и крепки корни у государства, поверьте — и слова Русского Правительства совсем иначе зазвучат перед Европой и перед целым миром… Дружная, общая, основанная на взаимном доверии работа — вот девиз для нас всех, Русских. Дайте Государству 20 лет покоя, внутреннего и внешнего, и вы не узнаете нынешней Poccии).

Of course, Stolypin was eventually murdered by a Jewish revolutionary, Mordechai Gershkovich Bogrov, and Russia was forced to enter WWI. Eventually, the Russian monarchy was overthrown by a Masonic conspiracy lead by Alexander Kerensky. These “liberals” (i.e., plutocrats) did exactly what their successors did under Eltsin and plunged Russia into utter chaos. Eight months later, the Bolsheviks seized power, and the civil war began. Instead of 20 years of peace, Russia got 30 years of wars. After immense sacrifices and many horrors, Russia only succeeded in recovering after the end of WWII.

Nobody in Russia wants to repeat this terrible experience even if, in the end, Russia would prevail. The costs are just too high.

Today, just like in 1911, Russia needs internal and external peace more than anything else, and that is not what she would get if she got involved in some foreign military adventure! In fact, attacking an alliance which includes three nuclear power would be suicidal, and the Russians are anything but suicidal.

If Russia needs peace so badly, why the constant rumors of war?

That is really simple! First, Poroshenko is in deep trouble and short of a major crisis his only option is to completely steal the election. That latter option might be tricky, because if the “collective West” as always, turns a blind eye to the actions of the Ukronazi regime, the internal opposition to Poroshenko might not. Then some serious civil unrest, or even a counter-coup, are real possibilities. Hence Poroshenko’s desperate need for a crisis.

They say that an image is worth a thousand words.  Well, in that spirit, check this one:

Left: martial law regions Right: regions which voted against Poroshenko in 2014 (by the way, this does suggest some kind of future border, don’t it? 🙂

QED, right?

There is also another reason, a particularly shameful one: while it is true that Hitler and the AngloZionists did, eventually, fight each other, it is also true that in many ways Hitler truly embodied the dream of a “united Europe” and a “reborn western civilization” (albeit a pagan one!). In the history of European imperialism, Hitler represents something of an apogee, at least until the USA superseded the Nazis as a global hegemon after WWII. There is not much difference between Hitler’s (oh so modestly promised) “thousand year Reich” and Fukuyama’s “end of history” (or, for that matter, the Marxist idea of realized Communism which also would end history by solving the dialectical contradictions which are the engine of history). On a psychological level, Hitler was the continuator of the Popes and Napoleon – a self-described “Kulturträger” bringing “western civilization” to the barbaric subhuman “Untermensch”mongoloid hordes of the East. So while Hitler was most definitely an “SOB,” he sure was “our SOB” (hence the impotent rage my use of the term “Ukronazi” elicits in various type of defenders of “Western civilization” or, even better, a supposed “White civilization”!). Well, we all know how these Nazi “culture-carrying” White supremacists ended, don’t we:

sic transit gloria mundi indeed…

 

These carriers of the values of a “united Europe” and “western civilization” were totally defeated by these men:

These are the men who destroyed 80% of the Nazi military and who *really* won WWII (not Patton or MacArthur!)

These memories are what truly terrifies the western elites: the existence of a different civilizational realm which not only dares to defy the AngloZionist Empire openly, but which has already defeated every western hegemonic power which dared to attacked it in the past.

The Russian people, by the way, see the current confrontation in the very similar “mental coordinates” as the western Russophobes, just with an inverted value sign meaning that they perfectly understand that the kind of war the Empire is waging against Russia right now has its roots in the outcome of WWII. This is one of the reasons they all cherish the memories of the millions who died fighting “western civilization” and a “united Europe.” This is best shown by the “Immortal Regiments” in all the Russian cities:

The “Immortal Regiment” as an expression of the acute historical awareness of the Russian people

This historical awareness is also shown in the parade of Ukronazi POW in Donetsk:

Again, the reference to WWII is unmistakable.

As I have said many times in the past, one of the most significant differences between Russia and the “collective West” is that Russians fear war but are nevertheless prepared to fight it, whereas the westerners do not fear war, even though they are not prepared for it at all. Truly, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” (think Pompeo, Mattis and the rest of them here). And yet, despite this apparent insouciance, the leaders of the AngloZionists have an almost genetic fear and hatred of Russia, because they remember how all their predecessors were eventually defeated by the Russian nation.

And, finally, let’s remember the crucial question which Bertolt Brecht asked: “How can anyone tell the truth about Fascism unless he is willing to speak out against capitalism, which brings it forth?“.  Yes, in words, and in words only, the collective West has condemned Fascism and National-Socialism.  But in deeds?  No, not at all.  This is why Fascist scum à la Poroshenko *always* get the support of the western elites under the pious heading of “he is an SOB, but he is our SOB“?

[Sidebar: think of it,during the Crimean War the putatively “Christian West” united with the (Muslim) Ottoman Empire Against Russia. During the revolutionary years, US Jewish bankers fully financed the Bolsheviks. Just before WWII, the Brits likewise financed Hitler. During WWI and WWII the West backed Ukieseparatists, including bona fide Nazis. During the Cold War, the West fully backed the Wahabi nutcases in Saudi Arabia (no, MBS is not the first bloodthirsty Saudi maniac!) and in Afghanistan. The West also supported Apartheid South Africa for as long as politically possible. In Latin America the USA gladly supported what Roger Waters called Latin American “meatpacking glitterati”, that is the many military regimes who all were garden variety Fascists. In Kosovo the USAF became the KLA‘s Air Force even though the USA had previously considered the KLA as a dangerous terrorist organization (that was against the Serbs but, according to Strobe Talbott, the main goal here was to show Russia what could happen to her if she resisted). During the Chechen wars, the West fully backed the Takfiri crazies. Then, after 9/11, the USA finally got fully in bed with al-Qaeda (especially in Syria) even though the official fairy tale wants us to believe that al-Qaeda and Bin Laden were responsible for the death of 3000 people (nevermind that NIST admitted by direct implication the destruction of WTC7 with explosives1). Does anybody doubt that if Satan himself took on a body and appeared before us the USA would fully and totally back him as long as he promised to be anti-Russian or, even better, anti-Orthodox? By allying itself for decades with what can fairly be described as the worst evil scum of mankind, as the not already been allied with Satan for many, many, year?]

Honestly, we should have no illusions about the nature of the western plutocracy, and we should always heed the Marxist truism which states that “the state is an apparatus of violence which fulfills the will of the ruling class.” We all know who the ruling class of the AngloZionist Empire is composed of, don’t we?

Western liberal democracies are, in reality, plutocracies which were created by a class of capitalist thugs with the purpose of controlling our entire planet.  This was true before WWII. This was also true during and after WWII and this has not changed, notwithstanding all the sanguine denunciations of Fascism and Nazism.

What this means is that it is the western ruling elites which need war to survive and preserve the New World Order they have attempted to impose on all of us.  Russia does not need war – she only needs peace.

Conclusion: relax, folks, the Russians ain’t coming, I promise!

AngloZionist paranoid collective hallucinations notwithstanding, the Russians are not coming. Yes, they will annihilate you if you are crazy enough to attack them but, no, they are not coming, at least not of their own volition. Not even to liberate the Russian minorities in Apartheid Latvia or the Nazi-occupied Ukrainian Banderastan. The Russian policy towards these regimes is very simple: let them collapse on their own. After all, they will all eventually come knocking sooner or later, as ideological delusions are powerless against geographical realities.

I will let a much better person than myself conclude this article.

This is what Professor Stephen Cohen recently had to say about the risks of war:

He indeed is the “voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

Will enough people listen to him to avoid an apocalypse?

I don’t know.

The Saker

Footnote 1: the US government – through NIST – officially recognized the fact that the WTC7 building fell at a free-fall speed for 2,25 seconds (for a detailed discussion of this please check out the video which I posted here). Do those 2,25 seconds really matter? Hell yes!! What this means is that the US government admits that for 2,25 seconds WTC7 fell without any kind of resistance to slow it down and this, therefore, means that there was nothing under the collapsing section. So this begs an obvious question: since we now know that there was nothing under the collapsing section and since we also know that there was a steel frame building there seconds before the collapse – what happened in between those two events? There is only one possible answer to this question: the steel-framed section of the building which would have normally slowed down the collapsing section of the building was removed a) extremely rapidly b) symmetrically. There is only one technology which can do that: explosives.  The above is simply not a matter of opinion. This is a fact.  Likewise, it is a fact that fires could not have removed a section of WTC7 the way it was observed.  Amazing but true: NIST itself admitted that explosives were used.

 

Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin”

Source

December 03, 2018Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, December 2, 2018

Question: It was a highly unusual G20 summit, with very many factors.  I don’t remember Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel having to overcome so many obstacles just to get to a meeting. The death of President George H.W. Bush cast a pall over the event. And then there is this strange situation with presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and the US president’s reaction to the incident in the Black Sea.

What are your feelings over this? Have these events spoiled the G20 meeting or prevented the participants from implementing the agenda?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that all these circumstances have had their effect on the events that are taking place in Buenos Aires. However, they have hardly had any serious effect on the agenda.

Just as it happened in 2008, when the G20 convened at the top level to discuss the root causes of a crisis that had spread to nearly all the countries, we are now amid a period of transformation in the global economy. There is, first of all, the digital transformation, an unprecedented rise in protectionist policies, up to trade wars, the sovereign debts of many countries and a shadow over the future of free multilateral trade, as well as many other factors. There is also the problem with the reliability of reserve currencies and the obligations of the countries that have them. It is these factors that influenced the preparations for the summit and discussions at it.

I have not mentioned the sanctions, the restrictive, prohibitive or punishing duties and tariffs, all of which created a serious and contradictory background for and influenced the essence of the discussions. It is good that a final declaration has been adopted. This is better than nothing. However, all the sharp angles which I mentioned have been smoothed over. But I don’t think this is connected to the circumstances we were talking about.

Anyway, the G20 has made rather useful decisions. We have outlined our position on the digital economy and the need to start adjusting the labour and education markets to it. We have also put forth our views on the situation when it comes to food security. Russia as a major grain producer is playing an increasing role in these matters.

There was also a thorough discussion on migration, refugees and approaches to this new problem. I would like to say in this connection that we have rejected the attempts to force the “concept of equal responsibility” on the G20 and the international community as a whole for the refugees who fled their homes, for various reasons, in the hope of finding a better future in foreign countries. We clearly pointed out to our colleagues that the root cause of this unprecedented wave of migration in Europe and other countries is the irresponsible policy of flagrant military interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. The most serious factor is, of course, the aggression against Libya, which has destroyed the country and has turned it into a black hole for the transfer of illegal weapons, drugs and organised crime to southern Africa. The northbound transit, above all via Libya, has brought migrants to Europe where they have become a major problem, including for the EU.

Another subject on which Russian delegates spoke actively here is the fight against terrorism. We drew the international attention to a new phenomenon of the so-called foreign terrorist fighters who return back to their home or other countries after completing criminal jobs in Libya, Syria, Iraq or some other places. It is vitally important to trace the movement of these dangerous people. Several years ago, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) created a database of foreign terrorist fighters. This database involves 42 security services from 35 countries, including G20 members, such as the BRICS countries, Turkey and South Korea. The UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Interpol, the CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre, the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) and other international organisations have joined this database. We actively promoted this experience at the G20 summit where it aroused keen interest.

Question: Have you managed to bring across to our European partners the truth on what really happened in the Black Sea (and not in the Sea of Azov, as they usually write)? Have they finally heard our position?

Sergey Lavrov: I think they could not but hear it because President Vladimir Putin, while meeting with President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, personally explained “in lay terms” how all this happened, how the provocation had been planned and how its execution was attempted, as well as how responsibly the Russian border guards performed their functions trying to prevent any undesirable incidents. Regrettably, the [Ukrainian] agents provocateurs (and the provocation, carried out by two craft and a tug, was controlled by two Ukrainian Security Service officers) did their best to fulfill the order, which was found after the Russian border guards stepped on board these fire-support craft. It said in no uncertain terms that they should secretly penetrate the neutral waters, perform a breakthrough under the Crimean Bridge without giving any previous notice or hiring a pilot, and sail through the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov. President Putin personally told his interlocutors about this. I did not hear from them a response that would be based on different facts.

Question: It is important to note a totally different level of cooperation between Russia, India and China. One gets the impression that this time a unique mutual understanding took shape within the G20 between the three countries that together account for one-third of the world population. They have a totally different point of view than, for example, America and its partners, whom it is easier to call “satellites.”

Sergey Lavrov: It was the first Russia-India-China summit (RIC Group, as we call it) since 2006. The leaders of our three countries have agreed that this format should be maintained, including by holding regular summits in addition to ministerial and expert contacts that, basically, have not been discontinued during these years. What unites our countries was emphasised at the RIC meeting. This is primarily the striving not to allow the disintegration of multilateral universal organisations that are based on the UN Charter and the principles enshrined in it, such as equality, respect for sovereignty, and non-interference in internal affairs. Generally, an intention was voiced to defend the foundations of the multilateral, open economic and trade system. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi clearly spoke out against the sanctions that were increasingly often used in this sphere by the United States in the hope of enhancing its competitiveness and getting unfair competitive advantages.

As I said, the [three] leaders have agreed to continue holding summits, while instructing their foreign ministers to prepare for the RIC leaders proposals on how to make this cooperation more effective and promote it in new spheres.

Question: Is there any hope that these three countries – Russia, India and China – will have a common understanding and will vote unanimously in the UN Security Council?

Sergey Lavrov: India is not yet a full member of the UN Security Council, but it was elected several times as a non-permanent member for two years. We have identical views on the overwhelming majority of subjects. It is notable that our countries’ positions often overlap not only in the UN Security Council but also during voting on matters of fundamental importance at the UN.

Another example has to do with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and concerns a scandalous process which the West has launched in gross violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). When the Western countries proposed giving the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat the prerogatives that actually belong to the UN Security Council, India, Russia and other like-minded countries unanimously voted against this. The BRICS countries co-authored a statement in which they sharply criticised such inappropriate actions and demanded that all states respect the CWC and their obligations under it. I have mentioned BRICS for a reason, because President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of China Xi Jinping and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi have said that these three countries are the driving force behind such organisations as BRICS and the SCO, which India has recently joined. We are connected geographically and politically, share common views on the key aspects of the world order, want all disputes to be settled peacefully and would like to have a free, open and fair trade and economic system, which, taken together, makes us allies in these matters.

Question: Presidents Putin and Trump have held a short meeting after all. As for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was he evading you, or did he have to meet with you?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, I did not pursue him, and he did not try to meet with me. To be quite frank, I do not even know if he is here, because I have not seen the full US delegation. US National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a conversation with Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, who deals with political matters, that they [the US administration] would like to resume and normalise our dialogue. We are ready to do this as soon as our colleagues are.

Question: As far as I know, there have been very interesting discussions on Syria. Has Russia managed to move the Western countries towards the realistic Russian view on the Syrian problem?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know how close we have managed to move them towards our position, but it is becoming increasingly clear that they don’t have any alternative strategy or tactic on this matter. Likewise, it is becoming clear that unacceptable things are taking place on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. The United States is trying to create quasi-public structures there, investing hundreds of millions of dollars so that the people could resume a normal peaceful way of life in these regions. At the same time, they refuse to rebuild the infrastructure in the regions that are controlled by the Syrian government. It is becoming obvious to everyone that the developments on the eastern bank of the Euphrates run contrary to the general commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity as sealed in a relevant UN Security Council resolution, although the United States has been trying to present its activities there as a temporary solution.

The US activities on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and in other Syrian regions where it has special forces and advisers include playing the Kurdish card. It is a very dangerous game, considering that the Kurdish question is very acute in several countries apart from Syria, such as Iraq, Iran and, obviously, Turkey. President Putin discussed this matter at a meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the last day of the G20 session. They have confirmed their commitments regarding the Idlib de-escalation zone. We pointed out that not all extremists have heeded the demand to leave the 20-mile demilitarised zone, despite the active and consistent operations of our Turkish colleagues. We have coordinated further moves to ensure compliance with the agreement on the demilitarised zone and also to prevent the extremists from sabotaging this crucial agreement, which all sides welcomed.

The third aspect of the Syrian subject is the political process. The overwhelming majority of countries agree that the Constitution Committee, which is being created at the initiative of the three guarantor countries of the Astana process as per the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi, is the only viable method to start implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, under which all Syrian sides must hold negotiations to coordinate common and mutually acceptable views on life in their country and on its future development. This is exactly what is stipulated in the above-mentioned UN Security Council resolution. After they reach this understanding, they should adopt a new constitution and hold elections based on its provisions. However, as I have said before, no reasonable alternatives have been proposed over the past years to the initiatives advanced by the three Astana countries on combating terrorism, creating conditions for the return of the refugees and internally displaced persons back home, providing humanitarian aid and launching a political process.

Question: When the death of President George H.W. Bush was announced, President Putin expressed his condolences in a very emotional message. George Bush Sr. believed that one of the worst mistakes of his presidency was failure to prevent the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Did you meet with him? What are your impressions of him?

Sergey Lavrov: I did not meet with him often, but we did meet. I believe that George Bush Sr greatly contributed to the development of the United States and ensured that his country responsibly played its role in the world, considering its weight in international affairs.

I remember very well how President George H.W. Bush visited Moscow, I believe it was in 1991, and then he went to Ukraine where he encouraged the Soviet republics’ political forces to act responsibly and do their duty by preserving the country rather than create huge, tragic problems for millions of people who became citizens of different states the next morning after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Mr Bush was a great politician. I believe that every word that will be said about his achievements reflect the people’s true attitude to this man. However, one comment among the great number of condolence messages can be connected to your question about the link between President Bush and the demise of the Soviet Union. I watched CNN and Fox News on the day he died, and I heard a commentator say that George Bush Sr made history by helping Mikhail Gorbachev soft-land the Soviet Union. In fact, George Bush Sr never did that; he simply wanted to protect the millions of people who had lived in one country for decades or even centuries from political games. This is what we can say confidently about him.

***

Question: Do you think there is a connection between the provocation in the Kerch Strait and the US cancellation of the planned meeting between our presidents?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories. However, there have been too many coincidences, when a provocation that takes place ahead of a major event is used for fanning hysteria over sanctions. British Prime Minister Theresa May has demanded that Brussels further worsen its Russia policy, even though Britain has almost exited the EU.

We know our partners very well, and we have masses of questions about the adequacy of their approach to serious problems. There are very serious and very real threats. The fight against these challenges cannot be improved by making sacrifices to immediate geopolitical considerations.

Question: When will President Putin and President Trump hold a full-scale meeting after all?

Sergey Lavrov: I won’t even try to guess.

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