Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – wide ranging news conference with Russian and foreign journalists on international politics.

The Saker

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – wide ranging news conference with Russian and foreign journalists on international politics.

November 12, 2020

قراءة في الموقف الروسي: مقابلة سيرغي لافروف

زياد حافظ

إذا كان قرار الصين على لسان رئيسها بأنّ الصين ستردّ على الاستفزازات الأميركية قراراً لافتاً للنظر وخارجاً عن مألوف الدبلوماسية الصينية التقليدية الهادئة، فإنّ أهمية التصريح لا تكمن فقط في أنه صادر عن قوّة عظمى وعظيمة في آن واحد، بل لأنه يعبّر عن موقف لمحور أصبح يملأ الفراغ الدولي الذي يسبّبه التراجع الاستراتيجي للغرب، بشكل عام، وللولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص. والأهمّ من كلّ ذلك هو سقوط نظرية ملكية الولايات المتحدة لأوراق اللعبة بنسبة 99 في المئة. وما يعزّز ذلك التحوّل هو ما أتى به وزير خارجية الاتحاد الروسي سيرغي لافروف في مقابلة طويلة ومثيرة لراديو «سبوتنيك» منذ بضعة أيام شرح فيها بصراحة موقف روسيا من كافة القضايا الساخنة في العالم.

من يطلّع على نصّ المقابلة يشعر بأنّ العالم في موقع جديد وأنّ «الفعل» أصبح خارج إطار التحكّم للغرب وللولايات المتحدة حيث أصبحوا في موقع «ردّ الفعل». وما يميّز المقابلة تواضع اللهجة في إبراز عمق الرؤية الروسية للعالم ومرتكزاتها. فهناك مزيج من المرتكزات المبدئية والواقعية الذرائعية، أيّ البراغماتية، في المقاربة الروسية للعالم. فهي تعلن بوضوح أنّ روسيا مهتمّة بالعالم، بمقدار ما يحفظ ذلك الاهتمام مصالح روسيا ومكانتها. وحرص الوزير الروسي على التأكيد أنّ الأولوية هي حماية النفوذ الروسي في دول جوارها. هذا يستدعي مقاربة للمواقف الغربية بشكل عام والولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص. قد يكون الأمر بديهياً لولا التركيز على مبادئ في أسس التعاطي الروسي في مختلف الملفّات كالقانون الدولي، ما يدلّ على أنّ مصالحها ليست بالضرورة متناقضة مع مصالح العالم. ففي رأينا لا تعتمد روسيا، ومعها الصين، قاعدة اللعبة الصفرية حيث ربح فريق هو خسارة للفريق الآخر، بينما الولايات المتحدة والغرب عموماً لا يستطيعان التعاطي إلاّ على القاعدة الصفرية، فطبيعة الغرب طبيعة عدوانية بامتياز ولم يبنِ رخاءه إلاّ عبر العدوان والتوسّع واستعباد الشعوب، لكنّ تاريخهما الاستعماري والهيمنة الشمولية وضعتهما في حالة إنكار للتحوّلات في العالم. فبدلاً من الإقرار بتلك التحوّلات، يعمد الغرب والولايات المتحدة إلى الهروب إلى الأمام والإمعان في المغامرات غير المحسوبة. لذلك فإنّ الغرب بقيادة الولايات يعتبر أنّ مصالحه هي أولاً وأخيراً الهيمنة، بينما الرؤية الروسية هي التعاون عبر الندّية والاحترام المتبادل. لذلك تخلّلت المقابلة مع الوزير الروسي عبارات كالاحترام المتبادل والكرامة والإقرار بمصالح الآخرين ومفاهيم غير مألوفة في التعاطي الغربي الذي لا يتورّع عن إعلان استعلائه وعنجهيته و«تفوّق قيمه». والرؤية الروسية تعطي أولوية للقانون الدولي ومؤسساته التنفيذية كقرارات مجلس الأمن، بينما الولايات المتحدة والاتحاد الأوروبي يختبئان وراء عنوان فضفاض كـ»المجتمع الدولي» أو التحالفات المتعدّدة الأطراف في المغامرات العسكرية دون الارتكاز إلى القانون الدولي.

ففي العديد من الملفّات التي طرحها الصحافيون حول ما يمكن أن يكون الردّ الروسي في عدد من الملفّات كملف سيل الشمال 1 و2 الذي يوصل الغاز الروسي إلى دول الاتحاد الأوروبي والابتزاز الذي تقوم به بعض الدول تجاه روسيا. من ضمن الإجابات كان ردّه أنه آن الأوان أن لا تهتمّ روسيا بما في أحكام الغرب على سلوكها. بمعنى آخر، لم تعد روسيا ساعية إلى الحصول على «رضى» الغرب كما كان في السابق! هذا الموقف يتكامل مع الموقف الصيني الذي أشرنا إليه في مقدمّة هذه المقاربة أيّ أنّ الصين لن تقف مكتوفة الأيدي أمام الاستفزازات الأميركية، ما يدلّ على أنّ المحور دخل في فرض الندّية بالتعامل مع الغرب.

قد يكون من المفيد الاطّلاع على الرؤية الروسية لعدد من الملفّات الساخنة، وإن تباينت درجات السخونة فيها. بالنسبة إلى روسيا، كما جاء في الحوار، فإنّ العلاقات مع أوروبا والولايات المتحدة أخذت حيّزاً كبيراً، سواء بسبب عدد الأسئلة الموجّهة في هذا الموضوع أو في إسهاب الوزير الروسي في الردّ عليها. هذا يدلّ على أنّ الغرب ما زال يشكّل موضع اهتمام رئيسي للقيادة الروسية وإن كان أسلوب التعاطي الروسي مختلفاً كلّياً عن الأسلوب الأوروبي أو الأميركي. لكنّ هناك منعطفاً في التعاطي، حيث التساهل لم يعد قائماً، وفقاً للموقف المستجّد عند القيادة الروسية.

لم تكن العلاقة مع الولايات المتحدة مدخل الحديث مع وزير الخارجية بل الوضع في ناغورنو كاراباخ، حيث شرح الوزير الروسي دور الرئيس بوتين في المفاوضات ودور وزير الدفاع شويغو. لم يُبدِ أيّ قلق حيال التوتر في ما يمكن اعتباره الحديقة الجنوبية لروسيا ودور الأميركيين فيه، حيث اعتبر أنّ الأميركيين قد يساهمون في الحلّ عبر انسحابهم من المنطقة! شرح كيف تمّ الوصول إلى وقف إطلاق النار والآليات لتثبيته. كما أكّد أنّ احتمالات الحلّ السياسي موجودة وأنه في آخر المطاف لا بديل عن ذلك. الدبلوماسية الروسية معطوفة على موقف عسكري واضح وحازم ساهم في إجبار الطرفين، الأذري والأرمني على وقف إطلاق النار، ما يعزّز الدور الإقليمي لروسيا رغم الانتكاسات بسبب التدخّلات الأميركية والتركية.

وبالتالي يعرض لافروف رؤيته للعلاقة مع تركيا، فهذه العلاقة لا يصفها بالتحالف الاستراتيجي بل بالشراكة الاستراتيجية في عدد من القطاعات فقط. وهذا التوصيف الدقيق للعلاقة يكشف وجود تباينات عميقة في عدد من الملفّات الاستراتيجية كموضوع ناغورنو كاراباخ، وسورية وقبرص حيث اعتبر الدور التركي دوراً سلبياً زاد من تعقيدات الموقف المعقّد أصلاً.

في المقابل، يقرّ لافروف بأنّ لتركيا مصالح متعدّدة ومشروعة، بينما لا يقرّ بمصالح دول على بعد ألوف الكيلومترات كالولايات المتحدة، وفي ذلك إشارة إلى اهتمام تركيا بليبيا والخليج والبحر الأحمر. كما يقرّ بحق تركيا في موضوع جامع آيا صوفيا. لكن رغم كل ذلك، شدّد على أنّ تجنُّب الحرب أولوية في السياسة الخارجية الروسية وعدم اللجوء إليها إلاّ في حال العدوان، أي كدفاع عن النفس إلاّ أنه لفت الانتباه إلى أنّ الدبلوماسية الروسية تستند أيضاً إلى «رأي» وزير الدفاع شويغو لمن لا يفهم مغزى الموقف الروسي بالالتزام بالاتفاقات والقانون الدولي. هنا تتميّز روسيا عن السياسة الأميركية التي لجأت إلى سياسة الحرب الاستباقية لدرء أيّ تهديد على زعامتها في العالم وذلك منذ 2002، وفقاً للسياسة «الدفاعية» الشهيرة في أيلول/ سبتمبر من ذلك العام.

قراءتنا للموقف الروسي تجاه تركيا لم تتغير بعد الاطّلاع على مقابلة لافروف. فروسيا حريصة، في الحدّ الأدنى، على تحييد تركيا من دورها في الحلف الأطلسي وفي الحدّ الأقصى على إخراجها من ذلك الحلف. من هنا نفهم الإصرار على تفاهمات سوتشي وأستانا، رغم مناورات الرئيس التركي. فسياسة النفس الطويل والتقدّم تدريجياً هي التي تحرّك روسيا تجاه تركيا، ويساعدها في تلك الاستراتيجية سياسة الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران في ضرورة احتواء تركيا وتحييدها عن الحلف الأطلسي. هذا يعني في كثير من الأحيان غضّ النظر عن تخلّف تركيا في تنفيذ التزاماتها وتطعيم ذلك ببعض الإنذارات والإجراءات التي تعيد الرئيس التركي إلى السّير ضمن الخطوط المرسومة من قبل الحليفين الروسي والإيراني. هذا ما يحصل في الملف السوري وما يحصل في الملف الليبي ومؤخّراً في ملف ناغورنو كراباخ.

تطرّق الوزير الروسي إلى الدور الأميركي في عدد من القضايا، بدءاً من سورية، إلى ليبيا، إلى أوكرانيا، إلى «النزاع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني». فبالنسبة إلى سورية يرى لافروف أنّ الأساس في التحرّك الأميركي هو زعزعة قرار مجلس الأمن رقم 2254 الذي أكّد على وحدة الأراضي السورية، والأميركيون نشطوا على خلق دولة على الأراضي السورية عبر دعمهم للوحدات الكردية. ويعتبر الوزير الروسي أنّ التدخّل التركي في شمال سورية «أكثر مشروعية» من التدخّل الأميركي. فتركيا لها مخاوف واضحة على أمنها الحدودي. في المقابل ليس للوجود الأميركي في شرق الفرات ما يبرّر ذلك إلاّ البعد النفطي وضرورة «إضعاف تركيا ومن بعدها روسيا». كذلك هو الأمر في ليبيا حيث زعزعة مكانة تركيا تصيب مكانة روسيا، على حدّ قوله، مستنداً إلى التصريحات العلنية للمسؤولين الأميركيين. فبالنسبة إلى تركيا والولايات المتحدة هناك عامل النفط الذي يلعب دوراً كبيراً في الصراع القائم كما لتركيا وجهة نظر في الصراع العربي الصهيوني، خاصة في ما يتعلّق بمستقبل مدينة القدس. ويعتقد الوزير الروسي أنّ الموقف التركي من قضية القدس جزء من الصراع حول زعامة العالم الإسلامي. فتركيا تتنافس مع بلاد الحرمين وإندونيسيا التي هي أكبر الدول الإسلامية في عدد السكّان على تلك الزعامة. التنافس داخل العالم الإسلامي يأخذ طابع الحدّية رغم محاولات بعض الزعماء، مشيراً إلى مبادرة الملك عبد الله الثاني وإعلان عمان سنة 2004 حول وحدة المسلمين. فهذه الوحدة غير موجودة والتفاهم غير موجود داخل العالم الإسلامي.

أما في ما يتعلّق بالملفّ الفلسطيني، فموقف روسيا واضح ولم يتغيّر وهو يدعم حلّ الدولتين. وأثنى الوزير الروسي على جهود الكيان (المصطلح من عندنا!) لـ «تحسين العلاقة» مع دول الجوار، ولكن ليس على حساب حقوق الشعب الفلسطيني التي تؤكدها قرارات الأمم المتحدة 181. هذا الموقف يستدعي بعض الملاحظات. الملاحظة الأولى أنّ الموقف الروسي يتنافى مع موقف محور المقاومة. الملاحظة الثانية هي أنّ الحرب الكونية التي شُنّت على سورية سببها الرئيس دعم المقاومة التي تشّكل خطراً وجودياً على الكيان المحتلّ. الملاحظة الثالثة هي أنّ الحلّ السياسي في سورية لا يمكن أن ينفصل عن حلّ القضية الفلسطينية، وبما أنه لا أفق جاداً لذلك الحلّ غير ما تعمل عليه المقاومة في فلسطين ولبنان، فهناك معضلة روسية لا نرى كيف يمكن تجاوزها بالنسبة إلى الحلّ السياسي المقترح روسياً لسورية. لا نملك الإجابة على ذلك ولكن نعتقد أنّ هذا الموضوع يستوجب البحث في العمق من قبل قيادات محور المقاومة. أما على الصعيد الداخلي السوري، فلا نستطيع أن نتكلّم نيابة عن الشعب السوري وقيادته في ما يتعلّق بالمقترحات الروسية. لكنّ كل ذلك لا ينفي طبيعة العلاقة الاستراتيجية بين سورية وروسيا التي تستطيع أن تتجاوز المعضلات، وإن كان بعضها أقرب للاستعصاء، كالموقف من الحل للقضية الفلسطينية. ففلسطين قضية داخلية في كلّ الأقطار العربية وفي طليعتها سورية وحتى في دول الخليج التي يحاول بعض قادتها تغيير الأولويات. فلا أحد يستطيع أن يقفز فوقها كما أنّ مقترح «حلّ الدولتين» أصبح في خبر كان بسبب تعنُّت قيادات وقاعدة الكيان الصهيوني المحتلّ. لكن ماذا سيكون الموقف إذا ما تدهور الوضع الداخلي في الكيان الصهيوني؟ عندئذ سيكون في رأينا لكلّ حادث حديث!

تناولت المقابلة مواضيع عدة كمفهوم الإمبراطورية والعلاقات الثنائية مع عدد من الدول. فهذه العلاقات يحكمها احترام المصالح والندّية والابتعاد عن قاعدة اللعبة الصفرية. كما أكّد الوزير الروسي أكثر من مرّة في المقابلة على تمسّك روسيا بالقانون الدولي. ففي ردّ على سؤال صريح حول جدوى ذلك التمسّك بالقانون الدولي الذي لا تحترمه الولايات المتحدة، أجاب أنّ الفوضى والدمار يصبحان سيّدي الموقف. كما تناول قضية إعادة كتابة التاريخ، خاصة تاريخ الحرب العالمية الثانية التي يعمل عليها قادة الدول الغربية، بدءاً من الولايات المتحدة مروراً بفرنسا (عدم دعوة الرئيس الروسي إلى احتفالات الإنزال للقوى الحليفة 2019 دليل مثال على ذلك) وكأنّ المنتصرة في الحرب في المسرح الأوروبي كانت الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا وفرنسا فقط، بينما الذي دفع الثمن الأكبر في الأرواح وتحمّل عبء المعارك العسكرية الطاحنة كان الاتحاد السوفياتي. هذه مسألة في غاية الحساسية عند الرئيس الروسي الذي تكلّم في مواقع كثيرة عن التزوير القائم في إعادة كتابة تاريخ الحرب العالمية الثانية. والمقابلة مع الوزير الروسي لم تخلُ من مقاربة ذلك الموضوع.

في الجزء الأخير من المقابلة، تناول الوزير الروسي العلاقات مع الولايات المتحدة. فقال إنّ العلاقة ستزداد سوءاً بغضّ النظر عمن سيربح الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية. واستشهد بمقال كتبه المخرج السينمائي سميون سليباكوف حيث اعتبر أنّ «أميركا لا تحبّنا». وندّد بالتدخّل الأميركي والغربي بشكل عام في الشؤون الداخلية الروسية عندما يلتقون ويشجّعون المعارضة الداخلية. لذلك قرّرت روسيا اللقاء مع المعارضة لكافة دول الغرب التي تتدخّل في الشأن الروسي كلقاء مع مارين لوبان المعارضة للرئيس الفرنسي ماكرون. كما اعتبر أنّ الخلاف الصيني الأميركي ليس فرصة للتقرّب من الولايات المتحدة كما يعتقد البعض، بل العكس فإنّ أيّ ابتعاد لن يكون لمصلحة روسيا. المسألة التي تهمّ روسيا في العلاقة مع الولايات المتحدة في المرحلة الراهنة هي الوصول إلى اتفاق حول الأسلحة الاستراتيجية. يعتبر الوزير الروسي أنّ الالتزام الأميركي بالحدّ من إنتاج أسلحة استراتيجية قد انتهى عملياً. الأميركيون يريدون فقط الحدّ من وسائل إيصال الأسلحة النووية إلى أهدافها أي الصواريخ والغوّاصات والطائرات إلخ. ويضيف أنّ الأميركيين يريدون فقط تعداد الترسانة وليس الحدّ منها كما أنّ المطلب الروسي هو سحب السلاح التكتيكي النووي من دول الجوار. واتهم الولايات المتحدة بخرق الاتفاقات عبر توريط دول الحلف الأطلسي في مناورات عسكرية نووية خلافاً للمعاهدات المعقودة. ويضيف أنّ الأميركيين يريدون العودة إلى آليات التحقّق التي وُضعت في مطلع التسعينات والتي اعتبرها مذلّة وخلص إلى أنّ الشروط الأميركية لن يوافقوا عليها مطلقاً.

وأخيراً، في ما يتعلّق بالصين، أكّد الوزير الروسي مواقف سابقة وهي أنّ الصين لها أهداف اقتصادية تسعى إلى تحقيقها على صعيد القارة الآسيوية، وهي أهداف مشروعة وأنّ روسيا تشاركها في النهضة الاقتصادية التي تقوم بها الصين. لم يعتبر أنّ هناك طموحات هيمنة بل تعاون مع كلّ المشتركين.

في الخلاصة، عرض الوزير الروسي أسس العلاقات الدولية كما يجب أن تكون والتي ذكرناها في مطلع المقاربة. كما أكّد على ضرورة تجنّب الحرب مهما كلّف الأمر إلاّ في حال العدوان. فالسياسية الروسية العسكرية هي سياسة دفاعية عن الأرض الروسية، أوّلاً وأخيراً، وأيّ اعتداء أو محاولة اعتداء سيواجه بالحزم المطلوب. ذاكرة الحرب العالمية والكلفة الباهظة الذي تحمّلها الاتحاد السوفياتي تحكم سلوك القيادة الروسية وذلك يفسّر الحساسية الكبيرة لمحاولات الدول الغربية إعادة كتابة لتاريخ والتقليل من دور روسيا. كلام الوزير الروسي نابع من ثقة بالنفس وثقة بدور روسيا ولم يُبد قلقاً من المحاولات الأميركية لزعزعة الوضع في دول الجوار سواء في أوكرانيا أو في منطقة القوقاز. كما أبدى امتلاك سياسة النفس الطويل الذي يقارب الأمور بهدوء ويأخذ بعين الاعتبار مصالح الصديق والخصم، في آن واحد، وبالتالي يتجنّب ارتكاب أخطاء سوء التقدير.

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كاتب وباحث اقتصادي سياسي والأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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Iron Curtain still separates Russia and the EU

Iron Curtain still separates Russia and the EU

October 21, 2020

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, is the world’s foremost diplomat. The son of an Armenian father and a Russian mother, he’s just on another level altogether. Here, once again, we may be able to see why.

Let’s start with the annual meeting of the Valdai Club, Russia’s premier think tank. Here we may follow the must-watch presentation of the Valdai annual report on “The Utopia of a Diverse World”, featuring, among others, Lavrov, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, Dominic Lieven of the University of Cambridge and Yuri Slezkine of UCLA/Berkeley.

It’s a rarity to be able to share what amounts to a Himalayan peak in terms of serious political debate. We have, for instance, Lieven – who, half in jest, defined the Valdai report as “Tolstoyian, a little anarchical” – focusing on the current top two, great interlocking challenges: climate change and the fact that “350 years of Western and 250 years of Anglo-American predominance are coming to an end.”

As we see the “present world order fading in front of our eyes”, Lieven notes a sort of “revenge of the Third World”. But then, alas, Western prejudice sets in all over again, as he defines China reductively as a “challenge”.

Mearsheimer neatly remembers we have lived, successively, under a bipolar, unipolar and now multipolar world: with China, Russia and the US, “Great Power Politics is back on the table.”

He correctly assesses that after the dire experience of the “century of humiliation, the Chinese will make sure they are really powerful.” And that will set the stage for the US to deploy a “highly-aggressive containment policy”, just like it did against the USSR, that “may well end up in a shooting match”.

“I trust Arnold more than the EU”

Lavrov, in his introductory remarks, had explained that in realpolitik terms, the world “cannot be run from one center alone.” He took time to stress the “meticulous, lengthy and sometimes ungrateful” work of diplomacy.

It was later, in one of his interventions, that he unleashed the real bombshell (starting at 1:15:55; in Russian, overdubbed in English): “When the European Union is speaking as a superior, Russia wants to know, can we do any business with Europe?”

He mischievously quotes Schwarzenegger, “who in his movies always said ‘Trust me’. So I trust Arnold more than the European Union”.

And that leads to the definitive punch line: “The people who are responsible for foreign policy in the West do not understand the necessity of mutual respect in dialogue. And then probably for some time we have to stop talking to them.” After all, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had stated, on the record, that for the EU, “there is no geopolitical partnership with modern Russia”.

Lavrov went even further in a stunning, wide-ranging interview with Russian radio stations whose translation deserves to be carefully read in full.

Here is just one of the most crucial snippets:

Lavrov: “No matter what we do, the West will try to hobble and restrain us, and undermine our efforts in the economy, politics, and technology. These are all elements of one approach.”

Question: “Their national security strategy states that they will do so.”

Lavrov: “Of course it does, but it is articulated in a way that decent people can still let go unnoticed, but it is being implemented in a manner that is nothing short of outrageous.”

Question: You, too, can articulate things in a way that is different from what you would really like to say, correct?”

Lavrov: “It’s the other way round. I can use the language I’m not usually using to get the point across. However, they clearly want to throw us off balance, and not only by direct attacks on Russia in all possible and conceivable spheres by way of unscrupulous competition, illegitimate sanctions and the like, but also by unbalancing the situation near our borders, thus preventing us from focusing on creative activities. Nevertheless, regardless of the human instincts and the temptations to respond in the same vein, I’m convinced that we must abide by international law.”

Moscow stands unconditionally by international law – in contrast with the proverbial “rules of the liberal international order” jargon parroted by NATO and its minions such as the Atlantic Council.

And here it is all over again, a report extolling NATO to “Ramp Up on Russia”, blasting Moscow’s “aggressive disinformation and propaganda campaigns against the West, and unchecked adventurism in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan.”

The Atlantic Council insists on how those pesky Russians have once again defied “the international community by using an illegal chemical weapon to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny. NATO’s failure to halt Russia’s aggressive behavior puts the future of the liberal international order at risk.”

Only fools falling for the blind leading the blind syndrome don’t know that these liberal order “rules” are set by the Hegemon alone, and can be changed in a flash according to the Hegemon’s whims.

So it’s no wonder a running joke in Moscow is “if you don’t listen to Lavrov, you will listen to Shoigu.” Sergey Shoigu is Russia’s Minister of Defense, supervising all those hypersonic weapons the US industrial-military complex can only dream about.

The crucial point is even with so much NATO-engendered hysteria, Moscow could not give a damn because of its de facto military supremacy. And that freaks Washington and Brussels out even more.

What’s left is Hybrid War eruptions following the RAND corporation-prescribed non-stop harassment and “unbalancing” of Russia, in Belarus, the southern Caucasus and Kyrgyzstan – complete with sanctions on Lukashenko and on Kremlin officials for the Navalny “poisoning”.

“You do not negotiate with monkeys”

What Lavrov just made it quite explicit was a long time in the making. “Modern Russia” and the EU were born almost at the same time. On a personal note, I experienced it in an extraordinary fashion. “Modern Russia” was born in December 1991 – when I was on the road in India, then Nepal and China. When I arrived in Moscow via the Trans-Siberian in February 1992, the USSR was no more. And then, flying back to Paris, I arrived at a European Union born in that same February.

One of Valdai’s leaders correctly argues that the daring concept of a “Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok” coined by Gorbachev in 1989, right before the collapse of the USSR, unfortunately “had no document or agreement to back it up.”

And yes, “Putin searched diligently for an opportunity to implement the partnership with the EU and to further rapprochement. This continued from 2001 until as late as 2006.”

We all remember when Putin, in 2010, proposed exactly the same concept, a common house from Lisbon to Vladivostok, and was flatly rebuffed by the EU. It’s very important to remember this was four years before the Chinese would finalize their own concept of the New Silk Roads.

Afterwards, the only way was down. The final Russia-EU summit took place in Brussels in January 2014 – an eternity in politics.

The fabulous intellectual firepower gathered at the Valdai is very much aware that the Iron Curtain 2.0 between Russia and the EU simply won’t disappear.

And all this while the IMF, The Economist and even that Thucydides fallacy proponent admit that China is already, in fact, the world’s top economy.

Russia and China share an enormously long border. They are engaged in a complex, multi-vector “comprehensive strategic partnership”. That did not develop because the estrangement between Russia and the EU/NATO forced Moscow to pivot East, but mostly because the alliance between the world’s neighboring top economy and top military power makes total Eurasian sense – geopolitically and geoeconomically.

And that totally corroborates Lieven’s diagnosis of the end of “250 years of Anglo-American predominance.”

It was up to inestimable military analyst Andrey Martyanov, whose latest book I reviewed as a must read, to come up with the utmost deliciously devastating assessment of Lavrov’s “We had enough” moment:

“Any professional discussion between Lavrov and former gynecologist [actually epidemiologist] such as von der Leyen, including Germany’s Foreign Minister Maas, who is a lawyer and a party worm of German politics is a waste of time. Western “elites” and “intellectuals” are simply on a different, much lower level, than said Lavrov. You do not negotiate with monkeys, you treat them nicely, you make sure that they are not abused, but you don’t negotiate with them, same as you don’t negotiate with toddlers. They want to have their Navalny as their toy – let them. I call on Russia to start wrapping economic activity up with EU for a long time. They buy Russia’s hydrocarbons and hi-tech, fine. Other than that, any other activity should be dramatically reduced and necessity of the Iron Curtain must not be doubted anymore.”

As much as Washington is not “agreement-capable”, in the words of President Putin, so is the EU, says Lavrov: “We should stop to orient ourselves toward European partners and care about their assessments.”

Not only Russia knows it: the overwhelming majority of the Global South also knows it.

More Pressure On Russia Will Have No Effect

20 years of Vladimir Putin in power: a timeline.

Source

October 17, 2020

Over the last years the U.S. and its EU puppies have ratcheted up their pressure on Russia. They seem to believe that they can compel Russia to follow their diktat. They can’t. But the illusion that Russia will finally snap, if only a few more sanctions ar applied or a few more houses in Russia’s neighborhood are set on fire, never goes away.

As Gilbert Doctorow describes the situation:

The fires burning at Russia’s borders in the Caucasus are an add-on to the disorder and conflict on its Western border in neighboring Belarus, where fuel is poured on daily by pyromaniacs at the head of the European Union acting surely in concert with Washington.

Yesterday we learned of the decision of the European Council to impose sanctions on President Lukashenko, a nearly unprecedented action when directed against the head of state of a sovereign nation.

It is easy enough to see that the real intent of the sanctions is to put pressure on the Kremlin, which is Lukashenko’s guarantor in power, to compound the several other measures being implemented simultaneously in the hope that Putin and his entourage will finally crack and submit to American global hegemony as Europe did long ago.

The anti-Russia full tilt ahead policy outlined above is going on against a background of the U.S. presidential electoral campaigns. The Democrats continue to try to depict Donald Trump as “Putin’s puppy,” as if the President has been kindly to his fellow autocrat while in office. Of course, under the dictates of the Democrat-controlled House and with the complicity of the anti-Russian staff in the State Department, in the Pentagon, American policy towards Russia over the entire period of Trump’s presidency has been one of never ending ratcheting up of military, informational, economic and other pressures in the hope that Vladimir Putin or his entourage would crack. Were it not for the nerves of steel of Mr. Putin and his close advisers, the irresponsible pressure policies outlined above could result in aggressive behavior and risk taking by Russia that would make the Cuban missile crisis look like child’s play.

The U.S. arms industry lobby, in form of the Atlantic Council, confirms the ‘western’ strategy Doctorow describes. It calls for ‘ramping up on Russia’ with even more sanctions:

Key to raising the costs to Russia is a more proactive transatlantic strategy for sanctions against the Russian economy and Putin’s power base, together with other steps to reduce Russian energy leverage and export revenue. A new NATO Russia policy should be pursued in tandem with the European Union (EU), which sets European sanctions policy and faces the same threats from Russian cyberattacks and disinformation. At a minimum, EU sanctions resulting from hostilities in Ukraine should be extended, like the Crimea sanctions, for one year rather than every six months. Better yet, allies and EU members should tighten sanctions further and extend them on an indefinite basis until Russia ends its aggression and takes concrete steps toward de-escalation.

It also wants Europe to pay for weapons in the Ukraine and Georgia:

A more dynamic NATO strategy for Russia should go hand in hand with a more proactive policy toward Ukraine and Georgia in the framework of an enhanced Black Sea strategy. The goal should be to boost both partners’ deterrence capacity and reduce Moscow’s ability to undermine their sovereignty even as NATO membership remains on the back burner for the time being.

As part of this expanded effort, European allies should do more to bolster Ukraine and Georgia’s ground, air, and naval capabilities, complementing the United States’ and Canada’s efforts that began in 2014.

The purpose of the whole campaign against Russia, explains the Atlantic Council author, is to subordinate it to U.S. demands:

Relations between the West and Moscow had begun to deteriorate even before Russia’s watershed invasion of Ukraine, driven principally by Moscow’s fear of the encroachment of Western values and their potential to undermine the Putin regime. With the possibility of a further sixteen years of Putin’s rule, most experts believe relations are likely to remain confrontational for years to come. They argue that the best the United States and its allies can do is manage this competition and discourage aggressive actions from Moscow. However, by pushing back against Russia more forcefully in the near and medium term, allies are more likely to eventually convince Moscow to return to compliance with the rules of the liberal international order and to mutually beneficial cooperation as envisaged under the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.

The ‘rules of the liberal international order’ are of course whatever the U.S. claims they are. They may change at any moment and without notice to whatever new rules are the most convenient for U.S. foreign policy.

But as Doctorow said above, Putin and his advisors stay calm and ignore such trash despite all the hostility expressed against them.

One of Putin’s close advisors is of course Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In a wide ranging interview with Russian radio stations he recently touched on many of the issues Doctorow also mentions. With regards to U.S. strategy towards Russia Lavrov diagnoses:

Sergey Lavrov: […] You mentioned in one of your previous questions that no matter what we do, the West will try to hobble and restrain us, and undermine our efforts in the economy, politics, and technology. These are all elements of one approach.

Question: Their national security strategy states that they will do so.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course it does, but it is articulated in a way that decent people can still let go unnoticed, but it is being implemented in a manner that is nothing short of outrageous.

Question: You, too, can articulate things in a way that is different from what you would really like to say, correct?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s the other way round. I can use the language I’m not usually using to get the point across. However, they clearly want to throw us off balance, and not only by direct attacks on Russia in all possible and conceivable spheres by way of unscrupulous competition, illegitimate sanctions and the like, but also by unbalancing the situation near our borders, thus preventing us from focusing on creative activities. Nevertheless, regardless of the human instincts and the temptations to respond in the same vein, I’m convinced that we must abide by international law.

Russia does not accept the fidgety ‘rules of the liberal international order’.  Russia sticks to the law which is, in my view, a much stronger position. Yes, international law often gets broken. But as Lavrov said elsewhere, one does not abandon traffic rules only because of road accidents.

Russia stays calm, no matter what outrageous nonsense the U.S. and EU come up with. It can do that because it knows that it not only has moral superiority by sticking to the law but it also has the capability to win a fight. At one point the interviewer even jokes about that:

Question: As we say, if you don’t listen to Lavrov, you will listen to [Defense Minister] Shoigu.

Sergey Lavrov: I did see a T-shirt with that on it. Yes, it’s about that.

Yes, it’s about that. Russia is militarily secure and the ‘west’ knows that. It is one reason for the anti-Russian frenzy. Russia does not need to bother with the unprecedented hostility coming from Brussels and Washington. It can ignore it while taking care of its interests.

As this is so obvious one must ask what the real reason for the anti-Russian pressure campaign is. What do those who argue for it foresee as its endpoint?

Posted by b on October 17, 2020 at 16:31 UTC | Permalink

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

October 09, 2020

THE SAKER • OCTOBER 10, 2020 

This war is officially a war between Azerbaijan and the (unrecognized) Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (RNK) aka “Republic of Artsakh” (ROA) which I shall refer to simply as Nagorno Karabakh or “NK”. As is often the case, the reality is much more complicated. For one thing, Erdogan’s Turkey has been deeply involved since Day 1 (and, really, even much before that) while Armenia has been backing NK to the hilt since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is even worse: Turkey is a member of NATO while Armenia is a member of the CSTO. Thus a war started over a relatively small and remote area could, in theory, trigger an international nuclear war. The good news here is that nobody in NATO or the CSTO wants such a war, especially since technically speaking the NK is not part of Armenia (Armenia has not even recognized this republic so far!) and, therefore, not under the protection of the CSTO. And since there have been no attacks on Turkey proper, at least so far, NATO also has no reason to get involved.

I should mention here that in terms of international law, NK is an integral part of Azerbaijan. Still, almost everybody agrees that there is a difference between NK proper and the kind of security zone the army of NK created around NK (see map)

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

(note: the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is part of Azerbaijan)

The reality on the ground, however, is very different, so let’s look at the position of each actor in turn, beginning with the party which started the war: Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has been reforming and rearming its military since the Azeri forces got comprehensively defeated in the 1988-1994 war. Furthermore, for President Aliev this war represents what might well be the best and last chance to defeat the NK and Armenian forces. Most observers agree that should Aliev fail to achieve at least an appearance of victory he will lose power.

Armenia would have been quite happy to keep the status quo and continue to form one country with the NK de facto while remaining two countries de jure. Still, living in the tough and even dangerous “neighborhood” of the Caucasus, the Armenians never forgot that they are surrounded by more or less hostile countries just like they also remained acutely aware of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology which, sooner or later, would make war inevitable.

Iran, which is often forgotten, is not directly involved in the conflict, at least so far, but has been generally sympathetic to Armenia, primarily because Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology represents a danger for the entire region, including Iran.

Turkey has played a crucial behind the scenes role in the rearmament and reorganization of Azeri forces. Just as was the case in Libya, Turkish attack drones have been used with formidable effectiveness against NK forces, in spite of the fact that the Armenians have some very decent air defenses. As for Erdogan himself, this war is his latest attempt to paint himself as some kind of neo-Ottoman sultan which will reunite all the Turkic people under his rule.

One of the major misconceptions about this conflict is the assumption that Russia has always been, and will always be, on the side of Armenia and the NK, but while this was definitely true for pre-1917 Russia, this is not the case today at all. Why?

Let’s examine the Russian position in this conflict.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Armenia (proper, as opposed to NK) is a member of the CSTO and should anybody (including Azerbaijan and/or Turkey) attack Armenia, Russia would most definitely intervene and stop the attack, either by political or even by military means. Considering what Turkey has done to the Armenian people during the infamous Armenian Genocide of 1914-1923 this makes perfectly good sense: at least now the Armenian people know that Russia will never allow another genocide to take place. And the Turks know that too.

And yet, things are not quite that simple either.

For example, Russia did sell a lot of advanced weapon systems to Azerbaijan (see herefor one good example). In fact, relations between Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev are famously very warm. And while it is true that Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, Russia and Azerbaijan have retained a very good relationship which some even characterize as a partnership or even an alliance.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan has been a much better partner to Russia than Armenia, especially since the Soros-financed “color revolution” of 2018 which put Nikol Pashinian in power. Ever since Pashinian got to power, Armenia has been following the same kind of “multi-vector” policy which saw Belarus’ Lukashenko try to ditch Russia and integrate into the EU/NATO/US area of dominance. The two biggest differences between Belarus and Armenia are a) Belarusians and Russians are the same people and b) Russia cannot afford to lose Belarus whereas Russia has really zero need for Armenia.

On the negative side, not only has Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, but Azerbaijan has also joined the openly anti-Russian GUAM Organization (which is headquartered in Kiev).

Next, there is the Turkey-Erdogan factor as seen from Russia. Simply put, the Russians will never trust any Turk who shares Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman worldview and ideology. Russia has already fought twelve full-scale wars against the Ottomans and she has no desire to let the Turks trigger another one (which they almost did when they shot down a Russian Su-24M over northern Syria). Of course, Russia is much more powerful than Turkey, at least in military terms, but in political terms an open war against Turkey could be disastrous for Russian foreign and internal policy objectives. And, of course, the best way for Russia to avoid such a war in the future is to make absolutely sure that the Turks realize that should they attack they will be suffering a crushing defeat in a very short time. So far, this has worked pretty well, especially after Russia saved Erdogan from the US-backed coup against him.

Some observers have suggested that Russia and Armenia being Christian, the former has some kind of moral obligation towards the latter. I categorically disagree. My main reason to disagree here is that Russians now are acutely aware of the disgusting lack of gratitude of our (supposed) “brothers” and (supposed) “fellow Christians” have shown as soon as Russia was in need.

Most Armenians are not Orthodox Christians, but members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which are miaphysites/monophysites. They are also not Slavs.

The ONLY slavic or Orthodox people who did show real gratitude for Russia have been the Serbs. All the rest of them have immediately rushed to prostitute themselves before Uncle Shmuel and have competed with each other for the “honor” of deploying US weapons systems targeted at Russia. The truth is that like every superpower, Russia is too big and too powerful to have real “friends” (Serbia being a quite beautiful exception to this rule). The Russian Czar Alexander III famously said that “Russia only has two true allies: her army and her navy”. Well, today the list is longer (now we could add the Aerospace forces, the FSB, etc.), but in terms of external allies or friends, the Serbian people (as opposed to some of the Serbian leaders) are the only ones out there which are true friends of Russia (and that, in spite of the fact that under Elstin and his “democratic oligarchs” Russia shamefully betrayed a long list of countries and political leaders, including Serbia).

Then there is the religious factor which, while crucial in the past, really plays no role whatsoever in this conflict. Oh sure, political leaders on both sides like to portray themselves as religious, but this is just PR. The reality is that both the Azeris and the Armenians place ethnic considerations far above any religious ones, if only because, courtesy of the militant atheism of the former USSR, many, if not most, people in Armenia, Azerbaijan and even Russia nowadays are agnostic secularists with no more than a passing interest for the “spiritual values which shaped their national identity” (or something along these lines).

One major concern for Russia is the movement of Turkish-run Takfiris from Syria to Azerbaijan. The Russians have already confirmed that this has taken place (the French also reported this) and, if true, that would give Russia the right to strike these Takfiris on Azeri soil. So far, this threat is minor, but if it becomes real, we can expect Russian cruise missiles to enter the scene.

Finally, there are major Azeri and Armenian communities in Russia, which means two things: first, Russia cannot allow this conflict to sneak across the borders and infect Russia and, second, there are millions of Russians who will have ties, often strong ones, to both of these countries.

Though they are not currently officially involved, we still need to look, at least superficially, at the Empire’s view of this conflict. To summarize it I would say that the Empire is absolutely delighted with this crisis which is the third one blowing up on Russia’s doorstep (the other two being the Ukraine and Belarus). There is really very little the Empire can do against Russia: the economic blockade and sanctions totally failed, and in purely military terms Russia is far more powerful than the Empire. Simply put: the Empire simply does not have what it takes to take on Russia directly, but setting off conflicts around the Russia periphery is really easy.

For one thing, the internal administrative borders of the USSR bear absolutely no resemblance to the places of residence of the various ethnicities of the former Soviet Union. Looking at them one would be excused for thinking that they were drawn precisely to generate the maximal amount of tension between the many ethnic groups that were cut into separate pieces. There is also no logic in accepting the right of the former Soviet Republics to secede from the Soviet Union, but then denying the same right to those local administrative entities which now would want to separate from a newly created republic which they don’t want to be part of.

Second, many, if not most, of the so-called “countries” and “nations” which suddenly appeared following the collapse of the Soviet Union have no historical reality whatsoever. As a direct result, these newborn “nations” had no historical basis to root themselves in, and no idea what independence really means. Some nations, like the Armenians, have deep roots as far back as antiquity, but their current borders are truly based on nothing at all. Whatever may be the case, it has been extremely easy for Uncle Shmuel to move into these newly independent states, especially since many (or even most) of these states saw Russia as the enemy (courtesy of the predominant ideology of the Empire which was imposed upon the mostly clueless people of the ex-Soviet periphery). The result? Violence, or even war, all around that periphery (which the Russians think of as their “near abroad”).

I think that most Russian people are aware that while there has been a major price to pay for this, the cutting away of the ex-Soviet periphery from Russia has been a blessing in disguise. This is confirmed by innumerable polls which show that the Russian people are generally very suspicious of any plans involving the use of the Russian Armed Forces outside Russia (for example, it took all of Putin’s “street cred” to convince the Russian people that the Russian military intervention in Syria was a good idea).

There is also one more thing which we must always remember: for all the stupid US and western propaganda about Russia and, later, the USSR being the “prison of the people” (small nations survived way better in this “prison” than they did under the “democratic” rule of European colonists worldwide!), the truth is that because of the rabidly russophobic views of Soviet Communists (at least until Stalin – he reversed this trend) the Soviet “peripheral” Republics all lived much better than the “leftover Russia” which the Soviets called the RSFSR. In fact, the Soviet period was a blessing in many ways for all the non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union and only now, under Putin, has this trend finally been reversed. Today Russia is much richer than the countries around her periphery and she has no desire to squander that wealth on a hostile and always ungrateful periphery. The bottom line is this: Russia owes countries such as Armenia or Azerbaijan absolutely nothing and they have no right whatsoever to expect Russia to come to their aid: this won’t happen, at least not unless Russia achieves a measurable positive result from this intervention.

Still, let’s now look at the reasons why Russia might want to intervene.

First, this is, yet again, a case of Erdogan’s megalomania and malevolence resulting in a very dangerous situation for Russia. After all, all the Azeris need to do to secure an overt Turkish intervention is to either attack Armenia proper, which might force a Russian intervention or, alternatively, be so severely beaten by the Armenians that Turkey might have to intervene to avoid a historical loss of face for both Aliev and Erdogan.

Second, it is crucial for Russia to prove that the CSTO matters and is effective in protecting CSTO member states. In other words, if Russia lets Turkey attack Armenia directly the CSTO would lose all credibility, something which Russia cannot allow.

Third, it is crucial for Russia to prove to both Azerbaijan and Armenia that the US is long on hot air and empty promises, but can’t get anything done in the Caucasus. In other words, the solution to this war has to be a Russian one, not a US/NATO/EU one. Once it becomes clear in the Caucasus that, like in the Middle-East, Russia has now become the next “kingmaker” then the entire region will finally return to peace and a slow return to prosperity.

So far the Russians have been extremely careful in their statements. They mostly said that Russian peacekeepers could only be deployed after all the parties to this conflict agree to their deployment. Right now, we are still very far away from this.

Here is what happened so far: the Azeris clearly hoped for a short and triumphant war, but in spite of very real advances in training, equipment, etc the Azeri Blitzkrieg has clearly failed in spite of the fact that the Azeri military is more powerful than the NK+Armenian one. True, the Azeris did have some initial successes, but they all happened in small towns mostly located in the plain. But take a look at this topographic map of the area of operations and see for yourself what the biggest problem for the Azeris is:

Almost all of NK is located in the mountains (hence the prefix “nagorno” which means “mountainous”) and offensive military operations in the mountains are truly a nightmare, even for very well prepared and equipped forces (especially in the winter season, which is fast approaching). There are very few countries out there who could successfully conduct offensive operations in mountains, Russia is one of them, and Azerbaijan clearly is not.

Right now both sides agree on one thing only: only total victory can stop this war. While politically that kind of language makes sense, everybody knows that this war will not end up in some kind of total victory for one side and total defeat of the other side. The simple fact is that the Azeris can’t overrun all of NK while the Armenians (in Armenia proper and in the NK) cannot counter-attack and defeat the Azeri military in the plains.

Right now, and for as long as the Azeris and the Armenians agree that they won’t stop at anything short of a total victory, Russia simply cannot intervene. While she has the military power to force both sides to a total standstill, she has no legal right to do so and please remember that, unlike the US, Russia does respect international law (if only because she has no plans to become the “next US” or some kind of world hegemon in charge of maintaining the peace worldwide). So there are only two possible options for a Russian military intervention:

  1. A direct (and confirmed by hard evidence) attack on the territory of Armenia
  2. Both the Azeris and the Armenians agree that Russia ought to intervene.

I strongly believe that Erdogan and Aliev will do whatever it takes to prevent option one from happening (while they will do everything in their power short of an overt attack on Armenia to prevail). Accidents, however, do happen, so the risk of a quick and dramatic escalation of the conflict will remain until both sides agree to stop.

Right now, neither side has a clear victory and, as sad as I am to write these words, both sides have enough reserves (not only military, but also political and economic) to keep at it for a while longer. However, neither side has what it would take to wage a long and bloody positional war of attrition, especially in the mountain ranges. Thus both sides probably already realize that this one will have to stop, sooner rather than later (according to some Russian experts, we are only talking weeks here).

Furthermore, there are a lot of very dangerous escalations taking place, including artillery and missile strikes on cities and infrastructure objects. If the Armenians are really pushed against a wall, they could both recognize NK and hit the Azeri energy and oil/gas infrastructure with their formidable Iskander tactical ballistic missiles. Should that happen, then we can be almost certain that both the Azeris and the Turks will try to attack Armenia, with dramatic and most dangerous consequences.

This conflict can get much, much more bloody and much more dangerous. It is thus in the interests of the entire region (but not the US) to stop it. Will the Armenian lobby be powerful enough to pressure the US into a more helpful stance? So far, the US is, at least officially, calling all sides for a ceasefire (along with France and Russia), but we all know how much Uncle Shmuel’s word can be trusted. At least there is no public evidence that the US is pushing for war behind the scenes (the absence of such evidence does, of course, not imply the evidence of the absence of such actions!).

At the time of writing this (Oct. 9th) Russia has to wait for the parties to come back to reality and accept a negotiated solution. If and when that happens, there are options out there, including making NK a special region of Azerbaijan which would be placed under the direct protection of Russia and/or the CSTO with Russian forces deployed inside the NK region. It would even be possible to have a Turkish military presence all around the NK (and even some monitors inside!) to reassure the Azeris that Armenian forces have left the region and are staying out. The Azeris already know that they cannot defeat Armenia proper without risking a Russian response and they are probably going to realize that they cannot overrun NK. As for the Armenians, it is all nice and fun to play the “multi-vector” card, but Russia won’t play by these rules anymore. Her message here is simple: if you are Uncle Shmuels’s bitch, then let Uncle Shmuel save you; if you want us to help, then give us a really good reason why: we are listening”.

This seems to me an eminently reasonable position to take and I hope and believe that Russia will stick to it.

PS: the latest news is that Putin invited the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Moscow for “consultations” (not “negotiations”, at least not yet) with Sergei Lavrov as a mediator. Good. Maybe this can save lives since a bad peace will always be better than a good war.

PPS: the latest news (Oct 9th 0110 UTC) is that the Russians have forced Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate for over thirteen hours, but at the end of the day, both sides agreed to an immediate ceasefire and for substantive negotiations to begin. Frankly, considering the extreme hostility of the parties towards each other, I consider this outcome almost miraculous. Lavrov truly earned his keep today! Still, we now have to see if Russia can convince both sides to actually abide by this agreement. Here is a machine translation of the first Russian report about this outcome:

Statement by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia

In response to the appeal of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin and in accordance with the agreements of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan I.G. Aliyev and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia N.V. Pashinyan, the parties agreed on the following steps :

1. A ceasefire is declared from 12:00 pm on October 10, 2020 for humanitarian purposes for the exchange of prisoners of war and other detained persons and bodies of the dead, mediated and in accordance with the criteria of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

2. The specific parameters of the ceasefire regime will be agreed upon additionally.

3. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, on the basis of the basic principles of the settlement, begin substantive negotiations with the aim of reaching a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.

4. The parties confirm the invariability of the format of the negotiation process.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses in Russia, Moscow, October 5, 2020

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses in Russia, Moscow, October 5, 2020

October 08, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Mr Vanderplaetse,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Colleagues,

Thank you for the opportunity to address once again the members of the Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the 25th anniversary of your association. We appreciate your efforts to promote our economic, investment and trade ties, laying a solid foundation for building good relations between us and the countries you represent.

Here at the Foreign Ministry we value opportunities for dialogue with European entrepreneurs aimed at pushing forward a pragmatic, politics-free and mutually beneficial agenda. At the end of the day, these efforts are designed to improve the wellbeing of the people in Russia and in your countries. Holding regular meetings in this format has become a good tradition, testifying to our mutual commitment to keeping this dialogue going.

Since our previous meeting last year, in fact more than a year ago, the overall global environment has not become any easier, seriously affecting business activity. For many years now, the problems of international terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime have been escalating around the world. Regional conflicts continue unabated and their number is growing. Recently, the coronavirus infection emerged as a new and a very serious challenge for all of humanity. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it changed the lives of billions of people overnight. Today, no one can say with certainty when the pandemic will end. I will not elaborate here on how the interruption of global supply chains affects global trade. Unemployment is on the rise in many countries. All this weighs on the global economy, which will have to go through a lengthy and probably challenging recovery.

Speaking broadly, in the global context, the pandemic has yet again highlighted what we have long been talking about, that all countries without exception are interconnected, regardless of their geography, size and the level of economic development. All of them have been affected. This is how the pandemic has shown again that cross-border issues cannot be disregarded in this globalised world.

We believed that the conclusion was obvious, that the common tasks and challenges should bring all of us together based on the universally recognised norms of international law. Regrettably, this has not happened so far.  Quite to the contrary, some of our Western colleagues led by the United States have tried to take advantage of the novel coronavirus crisis to promote their narrow interests even more energetically and to settle scores with their geopolitical rivals. The appeals by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to suspend the illegitimate unilateral sanctions at least during the pandemic, primarily to allow the delivery of medicines and medical equipment as well as the necessary financial transactions, have fallen on deaf ears. Likewise, they have paid no heed to the initiative, put forth by President Vladimir Putin at the online G20 meeting, for setting up green corridors free from trade wars and sanctions to supply medications, food, equipment and technologies. This attitude to unifying initiatives is seriously poisoning the atmosphere of international cooperation and increasing the lack of mutual trust, damaging not only ordinary people, who have been affected first of all, but also the business circles. You know this better than anyone.

These alarming trends have also affected Russia-EU relations. There are hardly any positive achievements to speak about. Since 2014, when the European Union flagrantly violated its own pledge to guarantee the agreement between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition, it has not just accepted the coup but has actually been encouraging those who seized power in Ukraine illegally and in violation of the Constitution. In particular, the EU has turned a blind eye to the fact that the coup plotters’ policy is based on Russophobia, and that they threatened to oust Russians from Crimea and tried to browbeat the Russian-speaking regions which refused to recognise the coup and said they wanted to sort out the situation. They were denounced as terrorists, even though they had not attacked anyone, and the army and Ukrainian security forces were sent to fight them. As I said, they have been designated terrorists for refusing to recognise the coup.

Since then, the EU, probably becoming aware of its negative role in these processes but still trying to shift the blame onto someone else. Since 2014, it has ruined the multilevel architecture of interaction between Brussels and Moscow, from summit meetings to over two dozen sectoral dialogues. The programme of four common spaces has been abandoned. To this very day, the normalisation of our relations is being artificially conditioned on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Moreover, they say openly that it is the Russian Federation that must do this. Meanwhile, our Ukrainian colleagues have announced once again through their leaders, as you probably know, that the Minsk agreements should be preserved as the basis of the EU and US sanctions against Russia. This is their logic.

Of course, we will insist on the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, which has been approved by the UN Security Council, but we will not do this because we want the EU to lift its sanctions. We will do this above all in the interests of the fraternal Ukrainian people, who are suffering from what has been recently going on in Kiev and other parts of their country.

Restrictions are still retained on Russian economic operators’ access to external financial markets. European producers, too, continue to sustain multi-billion losses. The other day, we became aware that Sweden has taken yet another discriminatory step. A Swedish company, Quintus Technologies AB, has refused to supply spare parts for GAZ Group’s industrial press, under an absolutely far-fetched pretext. Allegedly, the equipment is of a military nature and has a dual purpose. This is absolutely artificial logic. This press has been in use since 2009, and never before, including the entire period of crisis in our relations after the coup in Ukraine, have the Swedish regulators entertained any doubts. Judging by all appearances, this is by far not the last example, where the wish to curry favour with those who lay down the West’s geopolitical line prevails over commonsense and own interests. Of course, this will also affect Swedish businesses that cooperate with the GAZ Group and the company’s employees.

Regrettably, we have to state that the EU agencies continue their shortsighted policies. In particular, this refers to the EU member countries that have proclaimed themselves “frontline” states. Their mood is also “frontline” and they pursue “frontline” policies. Let me note that in July, the EU set into motion, under an absolutely far-fetched pretext, its 2019 framework for unilateral sanctions against violations of certain “rules” in the cyberspace, which rules have not yet been coordinated on a universal basis. Invented last year, this generic regime, as they decided, should be “test-driven” in practice over Russian citizens. Without providing any real evidence, they have accused them of launching a cyber attack against the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. Created in 2019, this regime is not the only one of its kind. The EU has spawned, also within its “inner circle,” yet another generic regime punishing violations in the field of employment of toxic chemicals, or, to put it in a nutshell, the use of prohibited types of chemicals that are chemical weapons. It is intended to be used in specific situations. I have no doubt that they will be attempting to apply this regime to the situation involving Alexey Navalny. Moreover, there is no need to “test-drive” or discuss the facts for this on a universal basis either.

Our French colleagues, again unilaterally, have established the so-called “partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons,” a structure outside of the UN or any universal and generally approved international legal framework. But a narrow circle of soul-mates will establish so called “facts,” whereupon a unilaterally created EU organisation intended to punish those who are allegedly guilty of violations will approve sanctions, based on these unilaterally established “facts.” All of this is sad and makes one think that our Western colleagues’ talk of the need for everyone to respect the rules-based order is not just a figure of speech or a synonym of the need to respect international law, but a conscious policy to substitute unilateral and illegitimate actions for the universal international legal framework that requires a consensus of all states in order to approve relevant conventions.

We are interested in establishing the truth regarding Alexey Navalny. That said, this is an outrageous situation that is unfolding following the exact same scenario as in the so-called Skripal case, when accusations were made without presenting any evidence. As you are aware, Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office sent requests under the 1959 European Convention for Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters to the relevant agencies in Germany, France and Sweden, where the required tests were allegedly carried out. Under the protocols to this convention they were asked to share information on the results of these tests. We were told that no action will be taken under this convention, which in itself is a violation, and that the results were handed over to the OPCW. They told us to wait for this organisation to release the results of its tests. However, the OPCW informed us that they continue investigating this matter and the samples they collected (it is unclear who collected them and when). We were told that once they are finished, they will communicate the results to Germany, since the request came from there, leaving it to Germany to decide whether to share this information with us. This is a travesty of common sense, and I believe that everyone understands this, including our Western colleagues who deny our requests that are based on a binding international convention. It seems that their Russophobic fervour is so strong that it prevents them from exercising good judgement.

We regret that trade and economic cooperation is becoming increasingly politicised. I have just cited some examples. Trade and economy have always been viewed as a safety net in relations among nations. Nowadays though, things seem to have shifted into a somewhat different phase. I remember so well that in 2014 German businesses called on the European Union and its agencies not to place politics above the economy in its approach to Ukrainian affairs. At the time it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said that there are cases when politics must be above economics. This is regrettable.

We are now witnessing another example. The European Commission has drafted a report with a long title: Report on Significant Distortions in the Economy of the Russian Federation for the Purpose of Trade Defence Investigations. You probably understand what this is all about. The document is clearly biased and can lead to new restrictions on the access of Russian goods to the EU market. You know that this will definitely prompt us to reply. In particular, this report presents regulatory measures that are totally legitimate, including in energy, transport and labour resources, as distortions in the Russian economy. We also have questions regarding another EU initiative. I am referring to the key element of the European Green Deal, the so-called carbon border adjustment mechanism. Brussels said that it will be enacted not later than on January 1, 2023 in one form or another. For now, we are looking into what this initiative actually means. We do hope that this mechanism would not contradict the World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms and will not lead to “trade protectionism on climate issues.” We would like to avoid having to take retaliatory measures. I believe now is not the time for trade wars, even in the current politicised environment.

I will not elaborate too much on the games with Nord Stream 2. It all started quite a few years ago when the EU retrospectively amended the gas directive within its Third Energy Package just to make it harder to carry out this project. This ran counter to all legal norms and established practices approved by all countries. It was with great difficulty that compromises were found. This did not prevent things from going awry afterwards. When the end of the project was on the horizon, a new factor emerged in the form of the heavy hand of the United States that stated its open and unscrupulous intention to derail this project for Russia and the Europeans in order to force the US LNG on the Europeans. They are franticly creating LNG capabilities. Washington claims that these measures are designed to support US producers. This is a gloves-off approach free from any ethical boundaries. They do not seem to be concerned with the fact that higher costs for buying expensive gas will undermine the competitiveness of entire European manufacturing sectors. In fact, this suits the US.

Politicised energy cooperation is yet another blow at the foundations of what we call European security. Energy is the area of cooperation dating back over 50 years. We recently marked the anniversary with our Austrian colleagues. Energy was always left outside any forms of confrontation during the Cold War. Our joint energy programme and cooperation have survived the dissolution of some states and the formation of others; they have always served the long-term interests of all European nations, including the Russian Federation.

Protectionism and other barriers and restrictions will only aggravate the economic situation, which is already complicated. By the way, we noted that the BusinessEurope Confederation of European Business recently published recommendations aimed at protecting European businesses amidst sanctions-related restrictions. The document directly states that the weaponisation of the sanctions policy to pursue economic interests is unacceptable. It may seem obvious but as things go nowadays, it takes a lot of courage to say something as obvious as this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Russian leadership is implementing measures to support the public and businesses in the face of COVID-19 related problems. We are doing everything we can, considering certain minimum requirements of the epidemiological authorities, to help return foreign workers to Russia, which you are well aware of. You have made respective requests and requests continue to come in. We will continue to process them promptly. We expect that, according to the forecasts made in Russia and foreign capitals (including multilateral institutions), the depth of the economic decline in our country will not be as significant as in many other countries, including the eurozone.

Our potential for countering infectious diseases is becoming increasingly more effective. We have learned a lot while taking practical measures to fight this challenge. Relying on our past experience in countering various pandemics, we managed to develop a series of test systems to diagnose the coronavirus and launch the production of drugs to treat it efficiently. As you know, we registered the Sputnik V vaccine. Registration of one or two more vaccines developed by the Vector Research Centre is being finalised. We support sharing experience in this area and cooperating with all interested countries because it is important for overcoming the consequences of our common emergency once and for all. As you know, speaking at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly via videoconference, President Vladimir Putin proposed an initiative of holding a high-level online conference involving the states interested in cooperation on developing coronavirus vaccines. We hope to receive a constructive response to this important proposal.

Before concluding my opening remarks, I would just like to say a few more words about the main subject on our agenda today: as we have already seen more than once, economic interdependence can be both a boon and a bane. I don’t really think that anything good will come out of this if the EU continues to see its partners as some “appendages” of the Eurocentric world. The world that was based on the central role of Europe has become history, not regrettably or happily but objectively. The drivers of economic growth and political influence are now in the East. The new polycentric reality calls for new approaches in politics and the economy. The “leader-follower” relationship is no longer tenable. What we need now is respect for the fundamental principle of equality.

Nowadays we must help the global economy through this difficult period and ensure its consistent post-COVID development. This goal should unite all of us, because this is about the welfare of all nations. We call for finding new growth points in order to overcome the global recession. It is crucial in this respect to combine the potentials of the various integration initiatives that are being implemented throughout Eurasia. This is the objective of President Putin’s initiative on the Greater Eurasian Partnership based on the universal principles of international law and transparency and open to all countries of our huge common continent without exception. You are aware that we are actively promoting dialogue on this subject within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), as well as in relations with ASEAN nations. While doing so, we point out that we would like all countries of our common continent to join this process, both members of regional associations and the unaligned countries. This means that the EU countries could also take a look at this initiative with regard to their own interests, the interests of European businesses, including the possibility of easy access to the rapidly growing markets and new transit routes within the framework of this project. We have a starting point for launching this work in earnest. I am referring to the contacts created at the technical level between the European Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission. We would like these contacts to break out of the restrictions of technical and regulatory issues. We would like our discussions to move over to a political level and to acquire a political vision of the development of Eurasia, which will become a global economic driver – there is no doubt about this.

We firmly believe that it is in our common interests to prevent the appearance of undesirable dividing lines in the new economic spheres created by the new technological paradigm. Energy and industry are becoming ever greener and all spheres of human activity, including the work of economic operators, are being digitalised. It is our strong conviction that this calls for combining efforts rather than trying to play zero sum games again, as was the case in the past. We are ready for cooperation on the broadest possible basis.

Thank you. I am now ready for the interactive part of our meeting.

Question: There is a saying in my native German language that smart people give way in a dispute. What steps would Russia be ready to make in this regard? What opportunities do you see for giving an impetus to this process and putting it back on a more constructive trajectory? What mechanisms and measures do you see for shielding small islands of cooperation from the collateral damage caused by geopolitical rivalry?

Sergey Lavrov: As far as I can see, the way you used this German saying (smart people giving way in a dispute) suggests that you are certain that the West will never give way.

I also see this in the way many of the ongoing developments are unfolding. In particular, this refers to the complaints we hear. Russia invariably owes something regardless of the international matter, be it Syria, Libya or Belarus. The same goes for Alexey Navalny, any cyber affairs and poisonings. But no evidence is presented. Moreover, when we question their claims and findings, in this case I am referring to the Bundeswehr laboratory, or to the Porton Down laboratory in the Skripal case, they see this as an insult. But no evidence was presented. Our German colleagues are now telling us that this is our problem and that the poisoning took place on Russian territory, so they don’t know anything. Go ahead and open a criminal case, but we will not give you anything, they tell us.

By the way, I remember a rather gruesome episode in our relations with Germany when there was a problem in 2016 with Yelizaveta Fesenko, a Russian underage girl. She disappeared and the search continued for quite a long time. She later resurfaced and said that she had been raped. It turned out that she had not been raped but Germany still opened a criminal case on child sexual abuse charges. One of the defendants received a suspended sentence. But when we tried to become involved to help the girl (apart from a German citizenship she also is a citizen of the Russian Federation) and asked our German colleagues to explain what happened, we faced an outpouring of resentment, including a statement by then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said that Russia should not interfere in Germany’s domestic affairs or use this incident for propaganda purposes. This is a similar case. Something happened to a Russian national on German territory. When we asked to explain what had happened they told us that it’s not our business and asked us not to interfere in their domestic affairs. When now we asked our German colleagues to share their findings after analysing Alexey Navalny’s test samples, they referred us to the OPCW. The OPCW referred us to Germany, arguing that it was Germany that filed the request, while Russia should have had the same findings as Berlin. However, the doctors in Omsk passed on to the Germans the results of all the tests they ran and everything they did. When the Germans came to transport Alexey Navalny to Germany, they signed papers confirming that they received all the information. Moreover, Alexey Navalny’s spouse signed a document assuming responsibility for all the consequences of his transfer to Germany, since our doctors were not convinced that this was safe. It is true that they did not find any traces of weapon-grade toxic substances. They honestly said so. Let me draw your attention to the fact that the Charite clinic did not find any toxic agents from the so-called Novichok group in Navalny’s samples either. It was the Bundeswehr clinic that made these findings. We still do not know whether the French and the Swedes collected the samples themselves or the Germans simply passed on these samples to them. The fact that our partners are trying to keep this secret, muddying the waters, is a matter of serious concern for us. We want to get to the truth and will pursue this objective. I don’t know what to do with this. Now we are being accused of the developments in the Central African Republic, and they are trying to pin the blame for something that happened in Mozambique on us as well. We stand accused of everything no matter where it occurs.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his deputies and other members of the US administration travel around the world, they openly call on their partners during news conferences in Africa, Greece or elsewhere to stop cooperating with Russia and China. These statements are being made officially and unceremoniously, for everyone to hear. It is difficult for me to say now what concessions we can make when it comes to this situation.

As your board chairman has already mentioned, it is good that the ties with the EU are being revived. Yes, they are indeed being revived, but only in specific areas, such as Syria, Libya and Africa – we have recently held such consultations. However, we do not see a systemic approach to our relations on the global and hugely important political plane.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell is a good friend of mine. We spoke with him earlier  this year on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. In June, we talked for two hours via videoconference. We discussed all topics in great detail. There is a common understanding that we need to review the situation, at least so as to see if the EU policy based on sanctions is really effective. This is for the EU to do. In our opinion, it is a flawed policy. Sanctions damage both those against whom they are applied and those who apply them. You are aware that we are trying to abandon all forms of cooperation that can strengthen our dependence on Europe, including in the fields of technology and agricultural goods. I believe that we have achieved good results with this. We are probably doing this because we are no longer sure that our European partners will honour their commitments. I have cited the example of Nord Stream 2. It would seem that the EU’s Legal Service has long analysed this project and concluded that it is good and does not contradict any EU norms. Nevertheless, the question has been reopened and the rules have been changed. Is this how reliable partners act? Moreover, this is being done contrary to the fact that companies from the five respected “old” EU members were fully interested, and continue to be interested, in the Nord Stream 2 project. But politics has prevailed over business.

Of course, selective dialogue is underway on some specific matters, as you mentioned. We are not abandoning it. But we can see that the EU has been trying to preserve the five guiding principles and only to modernise them (and they are based on the fact that the normalisation of EU’s relations with Russia is conditioned by the implementation of the Minsk agreements by Russia, not by Ukraine). While these futile discussions are underway in the EU and the very aggressive and loud Russophobic minority is preventing any efforts to reassess relations with Russia, very serious analytical processes are gathering momentum in Germany. As far as we know (this information is based on German media reports), experts close to the German Government are developing what they describe as “a new Eastern policy,” which actually amounts to removing the remaining positive parts on our agenda.  Their main arguments, as cited by the press, are that strategic partnership is a thing of the past; that the Partnership for Modernisation, which used to be a symbol of our cooperation with Germany and subsequently with the EU as a whole, has not materialised; and that Russia refused to become an ally for the EU and NATO and hence became their opponent when it comes to fundamental political and ideological aspects of the new international order. I have already said that our Western friends want the new international order to be based on rules rather than international law, and on rules invented in a narrow circle of confederates.

As for selective cooperation, the circles close to the Government who are formulating a new agenda say that such cooperation will be possible only after Russians mend their ways. Amid mental stagnation in Brussels, these processes are gathering momentum first of all in Germany. Geopolitical analysts have probably seen that Germany is becoming the lead player in ensuring a strong and lasting anti-Russia charge in all processes underway in the EU.

We have seen this before. The first sanctions were adopted after an absolutely transparent referendum was held in Crimea and nobody questioned their outcome – US representatives told me so immediately after the referendum. Nobody doubted then, and nobody doubts now, that it was a sincere desire of the Crimean residents. But as soon as this happened, we were told in a quite superior manner that Russia should know that there would be no “business as usual.” We replied that yes, there will be no “business as usual.” You yourself have ruined your standing and reputation when you were spit in the face – excuse my French – by those who terminated the agreement guaranteed by France, Germany and Poland. We know very well that there will be no “business as usual,” but we are nevertheless ready to look for spheres of constructive interaction. But take a look at the current situation. Just a small but telling example regarding Nord Stream 2: the Swedish authorities have cancelled their companies’ permit for cooperation with GAZ. There are more examples of this kind too. The question now is not that there will be no “business as usual,” but that there may be no reliable basis for doing business with Europe in the long term and we cannot be sure that our European partners will honour their commitments. I am not talking about companies. They want to do business, but it is the politicians who are ruling over business now. This is the problem. As I have already said, there is no lack of goodwill or desire to develop normal relations on our part. Just read President Putin’s message of greetings to Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on Germany’s reunification. It clearly says everything. But goodwill cannot be unilateral. It is said that he who is smarter and stronger should take the first step. We probably have grounds to believe that our partners are strong and smart. I really do hope that they think about us in the same way. If there is goodwill on both sides, we can turn the tide. But we do not see any reciprocity so far.

Question: We have noticed these concerns regarding the recent trends that you mentioned, and the articles claiming that the partnership has come to an end. We share these concerns. As an association, we agree that it takes two to tango.

Sergey Lavrov: These days, some prefer breakdancing and you don’t need a partner.

Question: Let’s hope that partner dancing will not go out of style. As an association, we adhere to the principle of independence. We communicate both with Brussels, by voicing our concerns with the current situation, and with officials in Russia. I was very happy to hear your greetings on our anniversary. This year we marked 25 years. We planned to organise a conference using the motto “Russia and Europe in the world of tomorrow: looking back on the past to move towards the future.” How do you see Russia and Europe in the world of tomorrow? What are the most promising areas for continuing the cooperation that has not always been easy but has undoubtedly been productive over these 25 years? What are the key areas for you?

Sergey Lavrov: We spoke about this at length today. If we talk about specific areas, these include, of course, the digital economy, the green economy and everything related to the new types of energy (the Russian-Italian-French thermonuclear reactor project). We have many hi-tech projects with Germany. There is mutual interest. But, again, the political course pursued right now, mainly by the United States, is aimed at preventing any mutually beneficial, promising and competitive economic projects in Europe to be carried out without the American involvement – be it Russia or China. This has been stated openly. Politics is the art of the possible but perhaps, in the current circumstances, the economy is also the art of the possible. As long as the leaders of your countries are capable of protecting the core interests of European businesses, as long as they can protect your competitiveness and as long as they can withstand this pressure.

But, of course, besides the economy, we are deeply concerned about the military and political situation. It is not improving in Europe and, on the contrary, it is becoming more disturbing. By the way, there have been many reports, analysis pieces and articles recently marking the anniversary of the German reunification. Russian television filmed a two-hour documentary, The Wall, which came to a rather sad conclusion: the Berlin Wall was never destroyed; it simply became virtual and moved to the East very close to the Russian border, despite all the promises and assurances. I will not comment on this film right now. I hope you watched it. If you did not, I recommend it because you will understand a lot about the current conditions for the Russia-Europe relations, how the Russian leadership and Russian people remember the times when – and we all know this very well – Russia played the decisive role in the German reunification, by making a huge sacrifice. I am not exaggerating. The withdrawal of our troops was conducted in absolutely cruel and inhumane conditions. We know the real (financial) cost Germany paid for this. We also know that, not that our Western colleagues tried to persuade the Soviet leaders against it but they asked whether they [the Soviet leaders] had thought carefully and whether everybody needed a united Germany. You know the outcome. I find the manner used by some representatives of the German leadership in communication with the Russian Federation not only unacceptable but fully indicative of the fact that the era everybody considered a historic victory of Germans and Russians and eventually the victory of the entire Europe is now completely forgotten. This is unfortunate. I really hope that this anomaly goes away. It cannot reflect the Germans’ true attitude towards Russia. Speaking of which, in a recent public opinion poll, half of the German people across the Federal Republic of Germany, including Western Germany, expressed a positive attitude towards the Russian people. I think the number of people in our country supporting cooperation with Germans will not be less than that. Our historic victory is in overcoming all phobias and focusing on the constructive process in the interests of our nations. Of course, it would be a crime to lose it.

Question: I would like to get back to the issue of highly skilled professionals returning to Russia. We are very grateful for the help we received from the Government of the Russian Federation and, in particular, from the Foreign Ministry. We know that the rules currently in place, the Government Directive No. 635-r of March 16, 2020, is greatly appreciated by our members because it opens a channel for returning highly skilled professionals. However, on the other hand, this process is still complicated and there are many unresolved matters. What are the prospects of relaxing the border crossing regime, especially ahead of the New Year days off?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already spoken on this matter multiple times. The Foreign Ministry will play a secondary role there. Public health is the top priority. Therefore, the epidemiological and sanitary authorities are calling all the shots. We have an Emergency Response Centre headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, the Federal Supervision Service for Consumer Protection and Welfare, the Healthcare Ministry and the Federal Medical-Biological Agency. All these experts are working on the best measures to protect our citizens and our visitors from the danger of contracting the coronavirus.

It is in the interests of the Foreign Ministry to establish contacts as quickly as possible. As you are aware, the aviation authorities are also interested in this – as are the airline companies which are suffering losses and hoping to resume air services as quickly as possible. Once again, the decisions are up to the epidemiologists.

Question: I can see that Russia is trying to shut itself off from the rest of the world by demanding that production facilities be more localised.  We invested about 2 billion and are one of the largest companies. Seventy percent of our products will not be considered Russia-made products in two years. I am urging you to do everything you can to make sure that Russia does not isolate itself from the rest of the world and cooperates with Western companies. Do not force us to resort to localisation which puts us at a disadvantage and which will seem rather strange after we invested 2 billion.

Sergey Lavrov: I agree with the idea that we should not destroy the global forms of cooperation and build barriers. If we look at localisation as a barrier, this logic probably applies here. But again, we need to remember about the strategic goals set for our economy by President Vladimir Putin and the Government. To a great extent, they have to do with the events in our relations of the past six or seven years and with the fact whether the West demonstrated itself as reliable and capable of negotiating in relations with us.

When it comes to localisation, we are not alone. For example, India is rather actively pursuing its Make in India policy and I think it is much more demanding than the localisation policy in the Russian Federation. Overall, I understand your production-related concerns and assume that these issues should be raised with the Government Foreign Investment Advisory Council that is in charge of these matters.

Question: The Government of the Russian Federation adopted new rules that prevent us from investing for the next two years. We do not know whether we can invest in the future because in two years there will be no benefits in this for us.

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry is interested in continuing pragmatic and mutually beneficial economic cooperation; therefore, let’s agree that following this meeting, following our discussion, your chairman, the Director General, will send me a proposal outlining the steps which, in your opinion, would allow our cooperation to continue on a mutually beneficial basis.

I know that you cooperate with the GAZ Group. I meant exactly the same thing that you are talking about when I said that some small European countries are trying to run before the American hounds because the seizures by the United States were once again extended. The Americans are thinking about themselves, too. Many American jobs depend on continuing this cooperation. Our Swedish neighbours decided that they will be more American than the Americans themselves.

Question: When we discuss relaxing the border crossing regime for highly skilled professionals, please do not forget about their family members because it is a major part of their lives here. I would like to ask you to consider this issue.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, their comfort is important. We will make sure to support requests concerning their family members as well.

Question: We are witnessing the US administration purposefully dismantling the international relations system that took shape after World War II. How much have they managed to accomplish in this regard? Is this an irreversible process? What can we expect from the upcoming election?

Sergey Lavrov: As I mentioned earlier, the current international relations system is collapsing under the banner of the “rules-based world order.” It became part of the political vocabulary, or narrative, in modern parlance, about three to four years ago. We took note of it immediately. When we began to talk about this term which was proposed to be included in the declarations of international forums, we were told that “this is the same as international law.” When we proposed replacing this term with “respect for international law,” we were told, by hook or by crook, that “we need to use some fresh language.” And then everything that I was talking about came to the surface.

Two parallel processes are underway that are directly related to the erosion of the system that was created after World War II, which suited everyone, made it possible to avoid another world war and, as we all hoped, would be ridding itself of confrontational components after the Cold War ended. We have already talked about the Berlin Wall and everything that followed and what we are witnessing now.

There are two obvious areas where this system is being eroded. The first is the privatisation of the existing international organisations’ secretariats. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is based on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is a case in point. It was adopted unanimously (any convention can only be adopted unanimously) and is binding exclusively for the countries that have ratified this Convention, 193 in all. The OPCW is one of the most universal organisations. The Convention can only be amended by way of talks, and the language must be agreed upon by a consensus, after which the amendments are adopted and ratified. Under the convention, the OPCW Technical Secretariat (TC) has the competence to conduct a probe in response to an inquiry by any CWC member country. This should be done by an onsite visit by the experts to a location designated by the corresponding party to take samples that are then taken to certified labs. Then, a report is compiled which says whether a substance prohibited by the special lists attached to the CWC was found in these samples. That’s all there is to it. The OPCW Secretariat began to grossly violate the Convention. For example, in Syria, they were making decisions and compiling reports without onsite visits. They just said that they managed to get samples from, say, Great Britain or France (there was such an episode in Khan Shaykhun), since it was “unsafe” for them to go there. We insisted that, under the Convention, they must go there themselves. The answer was “it’s unsafe.” Then, we asked the British and the French, since they were able to obtain the samples in unsafe circumstances, to use their contacts to ensure the safety of the OPCW inspectors so that they comply with the convention. We were told there was nothing they could do, and it’s “classified.” The Syrian government was accused of airstrikes using bombs filled with toxic agents. This “classified” information was used to conclude that a poisonous agent was used in Khan Shaykhun. End of story. Nobody knows who took these samples, or who took them to which laboratory, because it’s “classified.”

There are many questions. When we started asking them and stopped accepting such reports in the UN Security Council (only the UNSC can decide who is right and who is wrong under international law and the UN Charter), our Western colleagues at the OPCW convened an extraordinary session of all parties to the Convention. They put to the vote a proposal that, in addition to what is allowed for the OPCW Technical Secretariat under the Convention (to determine whether a prohibited poisonous agent was used or not), it should also be authorised to identify the perpetrators and to carry out the attribution. Less than half of the countries members of the convention voted in favour of the proposal. The rest voted against it or abstained. However, according to the rules of procedure, the decision was declared adopted. Thus, instead of an international law instrument, which any universal convention is, we got an instrument of the “rules-based order.” Of course, we will not be paying for the portion of the Secretariat’s activities that focuses on these purposes. China and a number of other countries are doing the same, but that doesn’t make the problem disappear. This is an outright privatisation of the Secretariat, which can now be seen in the way the senior officials of this body (Western countries hold the posts of Director-General and his “right hand”) react to our inquiries on many issues (Syria, Navalny, etc.). Concurrently, privatisation is carried out in less aggressive forms, when the Western employees of the respective secretariats conduct blatantly one-sided policies at the UN organisations.

The second area is about the propensity to move “inconvenient” matters outside the UN system. In my opening remarks, I mentioned that our French colleagues had created the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. We asked why we can’t discuss this at the UN or the OPCW, which they are trying to manipulate. Why do this somewhere else? We were told that this is just a “group of like-minded people.” Today, I spoke on the phone with my French colleague, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, and asked him why they were not responding to a request filed by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia regarding Alexey Navalny’s tests. Mr Le Drian told me they were waiting for the OPCW to respond. The OPCW has not yet responded (today is October 5). However, already on September 24, our French colleagues initiated the distribution, among their closest partners at the very same organisation in The Hague, of a draft statement by the countries participating in the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. The draft of this statement is already saying that, as confirmed by the OPCW Secretariat, Mr Navalny was poisoned with Novichok. The Secretariat has not confirmed or said anything. We have an official letter from the OPCW Director General Fernando Arias Gonzalez saying that the process is still underway.

This “privatisation,” as we call it, creates quite serious problems in other areas of the universal institutions’ work as well. Instead of once again provoking scandals at the conferences of the parties to the relevant universal conventions, they are now making decisions in a narrow circle of “like-minded people” and then present this as an example of multilateralism. This approach forms the basis of the Franco-German initiative for a new multilateralism, which they are promoting and which was proclaimed not so long ago. It was stated that the EU is an example of multilateralism. We asked again why multilateralism is being considered outside the framework of the UN multilateral organisation. There’s no answer, but we know it. There will be more cases like this. Along with this International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, the French have created a similar partnership on the freedom of journalism and information in cyberspace.

Question: The impact of geopolitics on de-globalisation. Modern equipment has a very broad built-in functionality for data collection and transmission. At the same time, requirements for a mandatory local hosting are being tightened, in particular, with regard to data collection and transmission. Some forecasts say that by 2030, many countries will close their markets to each other. What do you think could promote the opening of a common economic space?

Sergey Lavrov: For 15 years, if not longer, we have been actively promoting the initiative (it has gained a large number of supporters now) to figure out how the internet should work so that everyone feels comfortable. This question was raised at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an organisation dealing with all forms of information and communication technologies, and in the UN, where it was proposed to agree on the rules of responsible behaviour in the information landscape. It is about international information security. At the same time, we are promoting initiatives at the UN to combat crime in cyberspace. There is one part that relates to processes affecting national security, and the other is crime proper – drug trafficking, paedophilia, pornography, and so on. But things are moving with difficulty at the ITU. All these years of discussions have led us nowhere. The Americans do not seem interested in making this topic the subject of agreements. The discussion continues, but you know how the internet is governed, how it all works. It suits them. The Americans are actually pushing forward the idea that there is no need for any anti-cybercrime conventions or rules of conduct to ensure security in the information landscape. There is international law and it is applicable. This also reflects our Western partners’ policy to declare cyberspace an arena of potential confrontation, including the possibility of hostilities (and the outer space for good measure).

As we have seen from hours of discussions with the Americans and other Westerners, they are reluctant to introduce new regulations and cite applicable international law because the West again wants to reserve some extra rights. I mentioned the partnership to protect freedom in cyberspace. If it is established that someone has violated “freedom in cyberspace,” they will not have to prove anything to anyone, because international law is already in place. The Americans are primarily interested in Article 51 of the UN Charter (the right to self-defence and the possible use of weapons). They do not hide this and want to reserve the right to strike. More precisely, not reserve, but actually obtain the right to use military force in response to what they might consider an encroachment in cyberspace that affects their national interest. You can implicate just about anything there.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed reopening the existing channels on cybersecurity issues. On October 2, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev met with US President Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, who said that so far, Washington has not seen any Russian interference attempts in the 2020 United States elections. Well, they kind of expected Moscow to interfere, but “Mr Patrushev assured them they won’t.” What the Russian Security Council Secretary proposed – we actually lived through all this many years ago with the Obama administration, and later it resumed with Donald Trump – was a proposal to sign a deal on non-interference in each other’s affairs, including in cyberspace, concerning elections or other processes. The US does not want to, because they really interfere in our internal affairs. After Kiev events in 2014, they passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which explicitly ordered the State Department to spend $20 million a year to liaise with Russian civil society, to support certain “independent” and “non-governmental” organisations. You are certainly well aware of this. Indeed, a cutting-edge sphere like cyberspace and information and communication technologies in general, where progress is rapidly gaining momentum, is a field for competition. Look at what is happening with 5G networks now, how the Americans prohibit Europe and the rest of the world from cooperating with China; look at how these policies affect the atmosphere of international relations. Consider artificial intelligence. I think competition will continue, as we are seeing a new industrial revolution – or rather, not an industrial, but a technological one.

If we consider the US policy line they are pursuing today, it is difficult to predict how and when it will end, whether it will even come to a close in our lifetime, because anything’s possible. Who knows what will happen on this planet in 50-100 years. There are many people who believe the current US policy line is irrevocable, and from now on, they refuse to put up with it. The most interesting thing is that they actually achieve their goals in some cases. As we say, might is right. But it seems to me that the United States should and will try to pay more attention to its internal problems. I would say what we can see there now has very deep roots. There are many forecasts that any empire will reach a crisis at some point and become smaller and quieter. As Vladimir Vysotsky wrote, “it goes at random, all over the place, and downhill.”

I am not trying to make any predictions about the US elections now; I do not want to be blamed again for supporting someone or not supporting someone else. Vladimir Putin has said many times that we will work with anyone they elect. We are watching the squabbles between Democrats and Republicans. No silver lining, of course. Destabilisation in the United States is unlikely to do any good to any of us. We are actually all interested in the United States being a responsible player in the international arena; but for that, they should at least have some internal stability, which is now being tested. We want them to be a responsible player, which means they should follow the rules, not those invented by them, consistently rather than occasionally, and not change those rules at their whim or use loopholes (like we say, every law has a loophole). This is rules-based order. Unfortunately, the trend is quite steady – they have left the UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, and withdrawn from nearly all treaties; now the last one, the New START, is going to die. The conditions they set are absolutely unilateral and do not take into account either our interests or the experience of many decades, when arms control was enforced to everyone’s satisfaction and was welcomed by all countries. I cannot rule out that the World Trade Organisation will be next. They are also complaining about it, as I understand it, and continue blocking the dispute resolution body, preventing the appointment of the necessary participants for a quorum.

This question causes everyone’s concern, but I have no answer to give you. Some expound on how empires grow old and new ones emerge, like when you all play together as kids, and there is always the main bully in the sandbox who hits the younger ones. But later, when they grow up, they get even. This probably happens in different forms on a bigger scale, like centuries-long cycles.

Question: As you may be aware, Turkey and Libya have certain agreements regarding the Mediterranean Sea. We’re amid an abnormal situation, where Turkey, a NATO member, has a run-in with Europe, where most countries are NATO members as well. Clearly, in addition to the economic interests, there are geopolitical and military reasons as well. What’s your view about a potential increase in the number of clashes in this region and Russia’s role?

Sergey Lavrov: Here, too, we need to look through the lens of geopolitical interests. The situation in Libya, Syria and a number of other countries is far from being alright, but hydrocarbons are among the factors that clearly influence politics. At least what the Americans are doing with oil having illegally occupied the eastern coast of the Euphrates River in Syria and making a decision allowing their company to produce oil. Together with the Kurds, they are trying to “cobble up” a Kurdish autonomy, which will have quasi-state functions. It is well known that they are also trying to talk the Turks into not objecting to the idea of creating such autonomy, assuring them that the Americans will ensure the Kurds’ loyalty. Flirting with a country’s territorial integrity is a gross violation of international law. In this case, this applies not only to Syria, but also to the Kurdish problem, which can be so explosive that the current situation will appear much less serious. It affects a number of countries in the region. An invitation to separatism and its active promotion can end very badly. This is being done by a distant overseas country, but the countries of the region and Europe will have to deal with the consequences. We are not far away from there, either. So, we have come up with an initiative to develop a security concept in the Gulf with the participation of all Arab countries, Iran, the League of Arab States (LAS), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the UN Security Council permanent members, and the European Union.

The time has come when too many problems have piled up in and around the Gulf, including the Middle East and North Africa. We need to sit down and talk.

The Americans are also departing from international law and moving to the rules on which they want to establish the world order, I mean a Middle East settlement. They are turning the Arab Peace Initiative upside down, which proclaimed the creation of the Palestinian state followed by the normalisation of relations between the Arab countries and Israel. Now, the process has reversed.

We welcome any agreements that normalise relations between the states, but we cannot agree to this being done to the detriment of the Palestinian people’ interests which are enshrined in numerous consensus resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the UN General Assembly.

Question: More than a year ago now, President of Russia Vladimir Putin met with President of France Emmanuel Macron in Bregancon. How would you assess the results of that meeting? I know that recently in Lithuania, President Macron said he would continue cooperating with Russia because it is crucial for Europe. What do you have to say  on this score?

Sergey Lavrov: In August 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron had a very good and productive meeting in Bregancon. France is the only state whose government responded to Vladimir Putin’s address circulated in autumn 2019, when it became known that the INF Treaty had finally “died.” That long letter went to all NATO members and a number of other states, in which Vladimir Putin spelled out the history of the issue, explained how important the INF Treaty was, how its termination would increase the risks and wipe out any control over such missiles, and proposed to declare a voluntary moratorium. He said that Russia has already announced it and will not build or deploy any such missiles until such US-made systems are deployed in some part of the world. The President of Russia asked his NATO partners to consider the possibility of a counter moratorium without concluding any agreement – just pure goodwill, similar to the previous nuclear test ban. Only a few of them even bothered to respond, usually “thank you and we’ll read it later.” Some just declined. French President Macron was the only one who actually wrote he was ready to discuss the proposal, and who noticed that we were not just proposing two counter-moratoriums in that letter – a Russia-NATO and a wider one – but we were ready to discuss specific ways to verify compliance. Western Europeans as well as our American colleagues said the “cunning” Russia was proposing a moratorium when it allegedly had such missiles in Kaliningrad. They believe our Iskander systems violate this Treaty, but never provided a single fact that proved it. If they say that an Iskander missile has been tested at a prohibited range, then obviously, they should have satellite images, but they never showed any, just as they have not shown any satellite images when it comes to the Malaysian Boeing shot down over Donbass. They have some pictures, but they just don’t show them to anyone. So Vladimir Putin proposed, if they have any such concerns, to discuss what verification measures we can agree upon to make everyone feel comfortable. The only one who responded to that was Emmanuel Macron.

Unlike our selective cooperation with EU’s Brussels on specific conflict matters, sporadically, from time to time, what we have with France is a stable dialogue, including the two-plus-two format with the foreign and defence ministers. In September 2019, our French colleagues were in Moscow. We also established cooperation in more than ten working groups on various strategic tracks. The working groups on combating terrorism and cybersecurity met recently – these topics should obviously be of interest to everyone, but the Americans and most other Westerners, including the Germans, have shown little interest in cooperating on them, to put it mildly.

Emmanuel Macron also makes critical statements. We can hear those. We also have some questions for France. I have just mentioned some of the steps they are taking that undermine the legitimacy of universal organisations, attempts to isolate some issues to be addressed by a narrow circle of participants they find comfortable. But we are having a dialogue, whatever disagreements we might have cannot be a reason to refuse to discuss serious matters, and limit interaction to some selective, elective topics, as the European Union does.

Question: The international community failed to prevent two global catastrophes in the 20th century: the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. Today we are witnessing the escalation of a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in which Turkey has become involved. Do we have any mechanisms for preventing genocide in the 21st century?

Sergey Lavrov: We have the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), which is effective. Genocide has been denounced as a crime against humanity. There are different types and forms of genocide. What is happening today to the Russian language and Russian education in the Baltic countries (in Latvia and Estonia), in Ukraine and several other places clearly amounts to infringement on the fundamental rights of a very large group of people.

One of the topics we discussed with Josep Borrell was discrimination against Russian speakers, in particular, in Ukraine. We regularly raise the question of the Baltics with the EU. They seem unable to do anything, and it even looks to me as if they are unwilling to do anything about it. They only speak in favour of naturalisation. The process is underway, they claim, adding that everything will be just fine, in time. Nothing good is taking place there though. And in Ukraine they adopted several laws on education and language, following which they have adopted amendments that stipulate exemptions for EU languages, which has placed the Russian language in conditions of double discrimination, even though the Ukrainian Constitution stipulates the protection of national minority rights. And it directly mentions Russians.

We have informed the EU that there are Hungarian, Bulgarian and Polish communities in Ukraine and called on them to join forces to protect the rights of the national minorities at the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We sense a trend in each of these countries to settle the problems of their national minorities in Ukraine unofficially, and they don’t care what happens after that. I asked Josep Borrell if Brussels would support this policy. Absolutely not, he replied, adding that they would equally protect all national minority languages and that the EU would never be content with exemptions for their minorities. But these exemptions have already been made. A law prohibiting primary school tuition in any language other than Ukrainian was to become effective as of September 1. A three-year exemption has been approved for the EU languages, but not for the Russian language. I asked Josep Borrell why this was so. He answered that they were working on this problem.

I don’t think a repetition of genocide in its classical form is possible today, but regrettably, discrimination trends will be gathering momentum. Speaking about Karabakh, we maintain contact with Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as with Turkey and Iran as their neighbours. Today I had a telephone conversation with [French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs] Jean-Yves Le Drian, during which we also spoke about Karabakh. The presidents of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – Russia, France and the United States – have made a very strong statement. We are now preparing a statement of the three countries’ foreign ministers.  However, what we need is not only statements but practical moves that can be made to end the bloodshed and resume negotiations.

You have mentioned that Emmanuel Macron said in Vilnius that cooperation with Russia was crucial for finding solutions to problems. We fully share this view. He also met with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya there; she has met with a number of high-ranking officials from EU countries.

This has jogged my memory regarding a situation, I think it was in 2017, when Jean-Marc Ayrault held the post of foreign minister. In March 2017, Marine Le Pen came to Russia at the invitation of our parliament. She met with President Putin. Mr Ayrault criticised that meeting between the President of Russia and the leader of a large French party. He interpreted it as “an attempt to interfere in the election process.” “We would like to understand if this is so. France is not interfering in Russia’s internal affairs, and we hope that Russia will not interfere in our affairs either,” he said. This is how he commented on President Putin’s meeting with the leader of a French political party who had been invited to visit Russia by our parliament. Now look at the [Western] reaction to what is taking place in Vilnius and other places. This is double standards.

Question: First of all, I would like to point out the importance of [foreign] professionals returning to Russia so that they can resume their operations here. As for our exports to Russia, we would like to say that we account for 25 percent of them, and we would like to continue to increase our share. We can see great potential here, in particular, when it comes to raw materials. We should start with renewable materials and discuss recycling. We also need to coordinate certification issues and think about improving the furniture industry in Russia so as to be able to export more IKEA products from Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: I hope your products will not be designated as military or dual-purpose items, as was the case with Sweden’s Quintus Technologies, and that you will continue to supply us with affordable, solid and reliable furniture.

هل اقتربت الحرب النهائية في سورية؟

د. وفيق إبراهيم

تتراجع الموانع التي كانت تحول دون فتح معارك واسعة لطرد الأميركيين من شرقي الفرات والأتراك من منطقة ادلب.

هذا استنتاج روسي أطلقه وزير خارجيتهم لافروف الذي أعلن أن المعارضة السورية التقليدية انتهت ولم يبق إلا هيئة تحرير الشام وريثة منظمة القاعدة في ادلب المدعومة من قوات تركية منتشرة فيها، مضيفاً ان الاميركيين في شرق الفرات يحتلون المنطقة بالتعاون مع انفصاليين أكراد وتسرق شركاتهم الاميركية النفط السوري.

هناك اذاً تحولٌ عميقٌ في الموقف الروسي الذي يحدد للمرة الأولى ضرورة العمل على تحرير شرقي الفرات وطرد الهيئات الإرهابية من مناطق النفوذ التركي.

ولتجميل موقفه قال إن الاتراك يعملون على تضييق الرقعة التي يسيطر عليها الإرهاب في ادلب.

لماذا هذه الاندفاعة الروسية المفاجئة؟

يعتقد البعض أنها ردة فعل على التدخلات الاميركية الخطيرة في بيلاروسيا التي تستهدف النفوذ الروسي فيها بالإضافة الى الضغوط الأميركية على المانيا واوكرانيا وتركيا لإلغاء الخطوط التي تنقل الغاز الروسي الى اوروبا.

يمكن إضافة التحركات الاميركية العنيفة لإسقاط الرئيس الفنزويلي مادورو صديق الروس والصينيين.

قد تكون هذه الأسباب راسخة في العقل الروسي، لكنها ليست عناصر وحيدة تحكم المعطيات الحقيقية.

لذلك تجب العودة الى مركزية الأسباب المتعلقة بأمرين: انهيار المعارضات الداخلية السورية واستمرار الاحتلالين التركي والاميركي.

الى جانب حصار اقتصادي اميركي يقفل حدود سورية مع الأردن والعراق ويعمل على إقفالها نهائياً من جهة لبنان، خصوصاً أن معلومات فرنسية كشفت عن سرقة مصرفية مشبوهة أخلت فيها بنوك لبنانية ودائع سورية قيمتها أربعون مليار دولار تقريباً كان رجال أعمال سوريون يستخدمونها لاستيراد بضائع للزوم الأسواق السورية عبر حدود لبنان.

بما يعني أن هذا الحصار الأميركي للبنان وسورية يريد خنق البلدين معاً.

ولا يمكن ايقافه إلا بإلغاء الدور الاحتلالي الأميركي في شرق سورية وذلك لإلغاء المشروع الانفصالي الكردي وتحرير آبار النفط والغاز لإعادة استخدامها في تلبية الاستهلاك السوري الداخلي الذي يتعرّض حالياً لأزمة وقود كبيرة هي جزء كبير من ازمة اقتصادية عامة تدفع بسورية الى مزيد من الفقر.

هذا الى جانب اقتراب موسم الشتاء الذي يستهلك فيه السوريون عادة كميات أكبر من الطاقة.

أما الأسباب الأكثر عمقاً فلها علاقة بإصرار الدولة السورية على تحرير كامل أراضيها المحتلة، انسجاماً مع وطنيّتها وتطبيقاً للقانون الدولي الذي يعتبر أي قوة عسكرية تتموضع في أراضي بلد آخر غير دولتها ومن دون موافقة اصحاب السيادة هي قوة احتلال، يمكن التعامل معها بالقوة المسلحة.

الموضوع اذاً ليس موضوع قوانين دولية ينتهكها الأميركيون بشكل دائم منذ خروجهم الى ملعب المنافسات الدولية بعد انتصارهم في الحرب العالمية الثانية في 1945.

إنها مسألة موازين قوى تدفع مَن يحوز عليها الى تحصيل حقوقه. هذا في حالة سورية، او الاعتداء على الآخرين وفق النموذج الاميركي والتركي.

وفقاً لهذا المعطى المثبت بالأسانيد التاريخية، تستشعر الدولة السورية والحليف الروسي والصديق الايراني ان انتهاء المعارضات السورية الداخلية هو التوقيت الدقيق للبدء بالتعامل مع آخر المعوقات التي لا تزال تعرقل سيادة سورية على كامل أراضيها واستعادتها للموقع الداخلي والإقليمي والازدهار الاقتصادي.

ما يجب التأكيد عليه بعد هذه القراءة ان تصريح لافروف هو نتيجة مشاورات مع الرئيس الأسد وقيادته استناداً الى تغيير في موازين القوى الداخلية لمصلحة حلف الدولة السورية.

لجهة هذه الموازين، يكفي أن هناك تمرداً من أبناء شرق الفرات على الحلف الأميركي – الكردي يتطوّر بسرعة نحو التحالف مع الدولة السورية على الرغم من محاولات سعودية – إماراتية لإعادة جذب العشائر السورية في الشرق لحضن الأميركيين وبالتعاون مع قوات قسد الكردية الانفصالية.

كما أن أبناء ادلب وشريط الحدود السورية مع تركيا يعلنون سخطهم من الدور التركي الذي يصفونه بشبيه الاحتلالات الأميركية والتركية.

هل تندلع الحرب السورية على الأميركيين والأتراك في وقت قريب؟

الظروف أصبحت ناضجة إلا أن الواضح ان الروس يعوّلون على علاقاتهم بالأتراك لإقناعهم بالانسحاب من ادلب ويعتقدون ان انطلاق المقاومة الشعبية السورية في شرقي الفرات بالتنسيق مع الجيش العربي السوري هو الفيصل في إقناع التركي بالتراجع الى أراضيه من دون أي تسويات لا يزال يصرّ عليها بين الدولة السورية والاخوان المسلمين.

تشير هذه المعطيات الى أن الازمة السورية تدخل الحروب الأخيرة من معارك تحرير سورية واستعادتها لسيادتها من جهة ودورها الإقليمي في كبح مسلسل التطبيع من جهة ثانية وتحالفاتها العربية والإقليمية والدولية التي تعمل على إسقاط النظام الأحادي القطبي الاميركي لمصلحة عالم أكثر أماناً واستقراراً.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RTVI television, Moscow, September 17, 2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RTVI television, Moscow, September 17, 2020

September 18, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Question: I’ll start with the hottest topic, Belarus. President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko visited Bocharov Ruchei. Both sides have officially recognised that change within the Union State is underway. This begs the question: What is this about? A common currency, common army and common market? What will it be like?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be the way our countries decide. Work is underway. It relies on the 1999 Union Treaty. We understand that over 20 years have passed since then. That is why, a couple of years ago, upon the decision of the two presidents, the governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus began to work on identifying the agreed-upon steps that would make our integration fit current circumstances. Recently, at a meeting with Russian journalists, President Lukashenko said that the situation had, of course, changed and we must agree on ways to deepen integration from today’s perspective.

The presidential election has taken place in Belarus. The situation there is tense, because the opposition, backed by some of our Western colleagues, is trying to challenge the election outcome, but I’m convinced that the situation will soon get back to normal, and the work to promote integration processes will resume.

Everything that is written in the Union Treaty is now being analysed. Both sides have to come to a common opinion about whether a particular provision of the Union Treaty is still relevant, or needs to be revised. There are 31 roadmaps, and each one focuses on a specific section of the Union Treaty. So, there’s clearly a commitment to continue the reform, a fact that was confirmed by the presidents during a recent telephone conversation. This is further corroborated by the presidents’ meeting in Sochi.

I would not want that country’s neighbours, and our neighbours for that matter, including Lithuania, for example, to try to impose their will on the Belarusian people and, in fact, to manage the processes in which the opposition is unwittingly doing what’s expected of it. I have talked several times about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s situation. Clearly, someone is putting words in her mouth. She is now in the capital of Lithuania, which, like our Polish colleagues, is strongly demanding a change of power in Belarus. You are aware that Lithuania declared Ms Tikhanovskaya the leader of the Republic of Belarus, and Alexander Lukashenko was declared an illegitimate president.

Ms Tikhanovskaya has made statements that give rise to many questions. She said she was concerned that Russia and Belarus have close relations. The other day, she called on the security and law-enforcement forces to side with the law. In her mind, this is a direct invitation to breach the oath of office and, by and large, to commit high treason. This is probably a criminal offense. So, those who provide her with a framework for her activities and tell her what to say and what issues to raise should, of course, realise that they may be held accountable for that.

Question: Commenting on the upcoming meeting of the presidents of Russia and Belarus in Sochi, Tikhanovskaya said: “Whatever they agree on, these agreements will be illegitimate, because the new state and the new leader will revise them.” How can one work under such circumstances?

Sergey Lavrov: She was also saying something like that when Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin went to Belarus to meet with President Lukashenko and Prime Minister Golovchenko. She was saying it then. Back then, the opposition was concerned about any more or less close ties between our countries. This is despite the fact that early on during the crisis they claimed that they in no way engaged in anti-Russia activities and wanted to be friends with the Russian people. However, everyone could have seen the policy paper posted on Tikhanovskaya’s website during the few hours it was there. The opposition leaders removed it after realising they had made a mistake sharing their goals and objectives with the public. These goals and objectives included withdrawal from the CSTO, the EAEU and other integration associations that include Russia, and drifting towards the EU and NATO, as well as the consistent banning of the Russian language and the Belarusianisation of all aspects of life.

We are not against the Belarusian language, but when they take a cue from Ukraine, and when the state language is used to ban a language spoken by the overwhelming majority of the population, this already constitutes a hostile act and, in the case of Ukraine, an act that violates its constitution. If a similar proposal is introduced into the Belarusian legal field, it will violate the Constitution of Belarus, not to mention numerous conventions on the rights of ethnic and language minorities, and much more.

I would like those who are rabidly turning the Belarusian opposition against Russia to realise their share of responsibility, and the opposition themselves, including Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and others – to find the courage to resist such rude and blatant manipulation.

Question: If we are talking about manipulation, we certainly understand that it has many faces and reflects on the international attitude towards Russia. Internationally, what are the risks for us of supporting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko? Don’t you think 26 years is enough? Maybe he has really served for too long?

Sergey Lavrov: The President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, did say it might have been “too long.” I believe he has proposed a very productive idea – constitutional reform. He talked about this even before the election, and has reiterated the proposal more than once since then. President of Russia Vladimir Putin supports this attitude. As the Belarusian leader said, after constitutional reform, he will be ready to announce early parliamentary and presidential elections. This proposal provides a framework where a national dialogue will be entirely possible. But it is important that representatives of all groups of Belarusian society to be involved in a constitutional reform process. This would ensure that any reform is completely legitimate and understandable for all citizens. Now a few specific proposals are needed concerning when, where and in what form this process can begin. I hope that this will be done, because President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly reaffirmed carrying out this initiative.

Question: Since we started talking about the international attitude towards Russia, let’s go over to our other partner – the United States. The elections in the US will take place very soon. We are actively discussing this in Russia. When asked whether Russia was getting ready for the elections in the US at the Paris forum last year, you replied: “Don’t worry, we’ll resolve this problem.” Now that the US elections are around the corner, I would like to ask you whether you’ve resolved it.

Sergey Lavrov: Speaking seriously, of course we, like any other normal country that is concerned about its interests and international security, are closely following the progress of the election campaign in the US. There are many surprising things in it. Naturally, we see how important the Russian issue is in this electoral process. The Democrats are doing all they can to prove that Russia will exploit its hacker potential and play up to Donald Trump. We are already being accused of promoting the idea that the Democrats will abuse the mail-in voting option thereby prejudicing the unbiased nature of voting. I would like to note at this point that mail-in voting has become a target of consistent attacks on behalf of President Trump himself. Russia has nothing to do with this at all.

A week-long mail-in voting is an interesting subject in comparing election systems in different countries. We have introduced three-day voting for governors and legislative assembly deputies in some regions. You can see the strong criticism it is subjected to, inside Russia as well. When the early voting in the US lasts for weeks, if not months, it is considered a model of democracy. I don’t see any criticism in this respect. In principle, we have long proposed analysing election systems in the OSCE with a view to comparing best practices and reviewing obviously obsolete arrangements. There have been instances in the US when, due to its cumbersome and discriminatory election system, a nominee who received the majority of votes could lose because in a national presidential election the voting is done through the Electoral College process rather than directly by the people. There have been quite a few cases like that. I once told former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in reply to her grievances about our electoral system: “But look at your problem. Maybe you should try to correct this discriminatory voting system?” She replied that it is discriminatory but they are used to it and this is their problem, so I shouldn’t bother.

When the United States accuses us of interference in some area of its public, political or government life, we suggest discussing it to establish who is actually doing what. Since they don’t present any facts, we simply recite their Congressional acts. In 2014, they adopted an act on supporting Ukraine, which directly instructed the Department of State to spend $20 million a year on support for Russian NGOs. We asked whether this didn’t amount to interference. We were told by the US National Security Council that in reality they support democracy because we are wreaking chaos and pursuing authoritative and dictatorial trends abroad when we interfere in domestic affairs whereas they bring democracy and prosperity. This idea is deeply rooted in American mentality. The American elite has always considered its country and nation exceptional and has not been shy to admit it.

I won’t comment on the US election. This is US law and the US election system. Any comments I make will be again interpreted as an attempt to interfere in their domestic affairs. I will only say one thing that President Vladimir Putin has expressed many times, notably, that we will respect any outcome of these elections and the will of the American people.

We realise that there will be no major changes in our relations either with the Democrats or with the Republicans, as representatives of both parties loudly declare. However, there is hope that common sense will prevail and no matter who becomes President, the new US Government and administration will realise the need to cooperate with us in resolving very serious global problems on which the international situation depends.

Question: You mentioned an example where voters can choose one president and the Electoral College process, another. I even have that cover of Time magazine with Hillary Clinton and congratulations, released during the election. It is a fairly well-known story, when they ran this edition and then had to cancel it.

Sergey Lavrov: Even the President of France sent a telegramme, but then they immediately recalled it.

And these people are now claiming that Alexander Lukashenko is an illegitimate president.

Question: You mentioned NGOs. These people believe that NGOs in the Russian Federation support democratic institutions, although it is no secret to anyone who has at least a basic understanding of foreign and domestic policy that those NGOs act exclusively as institutions that destabilise the situation in the country.

Sergey Lavrov: Not all of them.

Question: Can you tell us more about this?

Sergey Lavrov: We have adopted a series of laws – on public associations, on non-profit organisations, on measures to protect people from human rights violations. There is a set of laws that regulate the activities of non-government organisations on our territory, both Russian and foreign ones.

Concepts have been introduced like “foreign agent,” a practice we borrowed from “the world’s most successful democracy” – the United States. They argue that we borrowed a practice from 1938 when the United States introduced the foreign agent concept to prevent Nazi ideology from infiltrating from Germany. But whatever the reason they had to create the concept – “foreign agent” – the Americans are still effectively using it, including in relation to our organisations and citizens, to Chinese citizens, to the media.

In our law, foreign agent status, whatever they say about it, does not prevent an organisation from operating on the territory of the Russian Federation. It just needs to disclose its funding sources and be transparent about the resources it receives. And even that, only if it is engaged in political activities. Initially, we introduced a requirement for these organisations that receive funding from abroad and are involved in political projects to initiate the disclosure process. But most of them didn’t want to comply with the law, so it was modified. Now this is done by the Russian Ministry of Justice.

Question: Do you think that NGOs are still soft power?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course. In Russia we have about 220,000 NGOs, out of which 180 have the status of a foreign agent. It’s a drop in the ocean. These are probably the organisations, funded from abroad, that are more active than others in promoting in our public space ideas that far from always correspond to Russian legislation.

There is also the notion of undesirable organisations. They are banned from working in the Russian Federation. But there are only about 30 of them, no more.

Question: Speaking about our soft power, what is our concept? What do we offer the world? What do you think the world should love us for? What is Russia’s soft power policy all about?

Sergey Lavrov: We want everything that has been created by nations and civilisations to be respected. We believe nobody should impose any orders on anyone, so that nothing like what has now happened in Hollywood takes place on a global scale. We think nobody should encroach on the right of each nation to have its historical traditions and moral roots. And we see attempts to encroach upon them.

If soft power is supposed to promote one’s own culture, language and traditions, in exchange for knowledge about the life of other nations and civilisations, then this is the approach that the Russian Federation supports in every way.

The Americans define the term “soft power” as an attempt to influence the hearts and minds of others politically. Their goal is not to promote their culture and language, but to change the mood of the political class with a view to subsequent regime change. They are doing this on a daily basis and don’t even conceal it. They say everywhere that their mission is to bring peace and democracy to all other countries.

Question: Almost any TV series out there shows the US president sitting in the Oval Office saying he’s the leader of the free world.

Sergey Lavrov: Not just TV series. Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that America is an exceptional nation and should be seen as an example by the rest of the world. My colleague Mike Pompeo recently said in the Czech Republic that they shouldn’t let the Russians into the nuclear power industry and should take the Russians off the list of companies that bid for these projects. It was about the same in Hungary. He then went to Africa and was quite vocal when he told the African countries not to do business with the Russians or the Chinese, because they are trading with the African countries for selfish reasons, whereas the US is establishing economic cooperation with them so they can prosper. This is a quote. It is articulated in a very straightforward manner, much the same way they run their propaganda on television in an unsophisticated broken language that the man in the street can relate to. So, brainwashing is what America’s soft power is known for.

Question: Not a single former Soviet republic has so far benefited from American soft power.

Sergey Lavrov: Not only former Soviet republics. Take a look at any other region where the Americans have effected a regime change.

QuestionLibya, Syria. We stood for Syria.

Sergey Lavrov: Iraq, Libya. They tried in Syria, but failed. I hope things will be different there. There’s not a single country where the Americans changed the regime and declared victory for democracy, like George W. Bush did on the deck of an aircraft carrier in Iraq in May 2003, which is prosperous now. He said democracy had won in Iraq. It would be interesting to know what the former US President thinks about the situation in Iraq today. But no one will, probably, go back to this, because the days when presidents honestly admitted their mistakes are gone.

QuestionHere I am listening to you and wondering how many people care about this? Why is it that no one understands this? Is this politics that is too far away from ordinary people who are nevertheless behind it? Take Georgia or Ukraine. People are worse off now than before, and despite this, this policy continues.

Will the Minsk agreements ever be implemented? Will the situation in southeastern Ukraine ever be settled?

Returning to what we talked about. How independent is Ukraine in its foreign policy?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t think that under the current Ukrainian government, just like under the previous president, we will see any progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, if only because President Zelensky himself is saying so publicly, as does Deputy Prime Minister Reznikov who is in charge of the Ukrainian settlement in the Contact Group. Foreign Minister of Ukraine Kuleba is also saying this. They say there’s a need for the Minsk agreements and they cannot be broken, because these agreements (and accusing Russia of non-compliance) are the foundation of the EU and the US policy in seeking to maintain the sanctions on Russia. Nevertheless, such a distorted interpretation of the essence of the Minsk agreements, or rather an attempt to blame everything on Russia, although Russia is never mentioned there, has stuck in the minds of our European colleagues, including France and Germany, who, being co-sponsors of the Minsk agreements along with us, the Ukrainians and Donbass, cannot but realise that the Ukrainians are simply distorting their responsibilities, trying to distance themselves from them and impose a different interpretation of the Minsk agreements. But even in this scenario, the above individuals and former Ukrainian President Kravchuk, who now heads the Ukrainian delegation to the Contact Group as part of the Minsk process, claim that the Minsk agreements in their present form are impracticable and must be revised, turned upside down. Also, Donbass must submit to the Ukrainian government and army before even thinking about conducting reforms in this part of Ukraine.

This fully contradicts the sequence of events outlined in the Minsk agreements whereby restoring Ukrainian armed forces’ control on the border with Russia is possible only after an amnesty, agreeing on the special status of these territories, making this status part of the Ukrainian Constitution and holding elections there. Now they propose giving back the part of Donbass that “rebelled” against the anti-constitutional coup to those who declared these people terrorists and launched an “anti-terrorist operation” against them, which they later renamed a Joint Forces Operation (but this does not change the idea behind it), and whom they still consider terrorists. Although everyone remembers perfectly well that in 2014 no one from Donbass or other parts of Ukraine that rejected the anti-constitutional coup attacked the putschists and the areas that immediately fell under the control of the politicians behind the coup. On the contrary, Alexander Turchinov, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and others like them attacked these areas. The guilt of the people living there was solely in them saying, “You committed a crime against the state, we do not want to follow your rules, let us figure out our own future and see what you will do next.” There’s not a single example that would corroborate the fact that they engaged in terrorism. It was the Ukrainian state that engaged in terrorism on their territory, in particular, when they killed [Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic] Alexander Zakharchenko and a number of field commanders in Donbass. So, I am not optimistic about this.

Question: So, we are looking at a dead end?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, we still have an undeniable argument which is the text of the Minsk Agreements approved by the UN Security Council.

QuestionBut they tried to revise it?

Sergey Lavrov: No, they are just making statements to that effect. When they gather for a Contact Group meeting in Minsk, they do their best to look constructive. The most recent meeting ran into the Ukrainian delegation’s attempts to pretend that nothing had happened. They recently passed a law on local elections which will be held in a couple of months. It says that elections in what are now called the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics will be held only after the Ukrainian army takes control of the entire border and those who “committed criminal offenses” are arrested and brought to justice even though the Minsk agreements provide for amnesty without exemptions.

Question: When I’m asked about Crimea I recall the referendum. I was there at a closed meeting in Davos that was attended by fairly well respected analysts from the US. They claimed with absolute confidence that Crimea was being occupied. I reminded them about the referendum. I was under the impression that these people either didn’t want to see or didn’t know how people lived there, that they have made their choice. Returning to the previous question, I think that nobody is interested in the opinion of the people.

Sergey Lavrov: No, honest politicians still exist. Many politicians, including European ones, were in Crimea during the referendum. They were there not under the umbrella of some international organisation but on their own because the OSCE and other international agencies were controlled by our Western colleagues. Even if we had addressed them, the procedure for coordinating the monitoring would have never ended.

Question: Just as in Belarus. As I see it, they were also invited but nobody came.

Sergey Lavrov: The OSCE refused to send representatives there. Now that the OSCE is offering its services as a mediator, I completely understand Mr Lukashenko who says the OSCE lost its chance. It could have sent observers and gained a first-hand impression of what was happening there, and how the election was held. They arrogantly disregarded the invitation. We know that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is practically wholly controlled by NATO. We have repeatedly proposed that our nominees work there but they have not been approved. This contradicts the principles of the OSCE. We will continue to seek a fairer approach to the admission of members to the organisation, but I don’t have much hope for this. Former OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger made an effort with this for the past three years but not everything depended on him – there is a large bloc of EU and NATO countries that enjoy a mathematical majority and try to dictate their own rules. But this is a separate issue.

Returning to Crimea, I have read a lot about this; let me give you two examples. One concerns my relations with former US Secretary of State John Kerry. In April 2014, we met in Geneva: me, John Kerry, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and then Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrey Deshchitsa. We compiled a one page document that was approved unanimously. It read that we, the representatives of Russia, the US and the EU welcomed the commitments of the Ukrainian authorities to carry out decentralisation of the country with the participation of all the regions of Ukraine. This took place after the Crimean referendum. Later, the Americans, the EU and of course Ukraine “forgot” about this document. John Kerry told me at this meeting that everyone understood that Crimea was Russian, that the people wanted to return, but that we held the referendum so quickly that it didn’t fit into the accepted standards of such events. He asked me to talk to President Vladimir Putin, organise one more referendum, announce it in advance and invite international observers. He said he would support their visit there, that the result would be the same but that we would be keeping up appearances. I asked him why put on such shows if they understand that this was the expression of the will of the people.

The second example concerns the recent statements by the EU and the European Parliament to the effect that “the occupation” of Crimea is a crude violation of the world arrangement established after the victory in World War II. But if this criterion is used to determine where Crimea belongs, when the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic joined the UN after WWII in 1945, Crimea did not belong to it. Crimea was part of the USSR. Later, Nikita Khrushchev took an illegal action, which contradicted Soviet law, and this led to them having it. But we all understood that this was a domestic political game as regards a Soviet republic that was the home to Khrushchev and many of his associates.

Question: You have been Foreign Minister for 16 years now. This century’s major foreign policy challenges fell on your term in office. We faced sanctions, and we adapted to them and coped with them. Germany said it obtained Alexey Navalny’s test results. France and Sweden have confirmed the presence of Novichok in them. Reportedly, we are now in for more sanctions. Do you think the Navalny case can trigger new sanctions against Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I agree with our political analysts who are convinced that if it were not for Navalny, they would have come up with something else in order to impose more sanctions.

With regard to this situation, I think our Western partners have simply gone beyond decency and reason. In essence, they are now demanding that we “confess.” They are asking us: Don’t you believe what the German specialists from the Bundeswehr are saying? How is that possible? Their findings have been confirmed by the French and the Swedes. You don’t believe them, either?

It’s a puzzling situation given that our Prosecutor General’s Office filed an inquiry about legal assistance on August 27 and hasn’t received an answer yet. Nobody knows where the inquiry has been for more than a week now. We were told it was at the German Foreign Ministry. The German Foreign Ministry did not forward the request to the Ministry of Justice, which was our Prosecutor General Office’s  ultimate addressee. Then, they said that it had been transferred to the Berlin Prosecutor’s Office, but they would not tell us anything without the consent of the family. They are urging us to launch a criminal investigation.

We have our own laws, and we cannot take someone’s word for it to open a criminal case. Certain procedures must be followed. A pre-investigation probe initiated immediately after this incident to consider the circumstances of the case is part of this procedure.

Some of our Western colleagues wrote that, as the German doctors discovered, it was “a sheer miracle” that Mr Navalny survived. Allegedly, it was the notorious Novichok, but he survived thanks to “lucky circumstances.” What kind of lucky circumstances are we talking about? First, the pilot immediately landed the plane; second, an ambulance was already waiting on the airfield; and third, the doctors immediately started to provide help. This absolutely impeccable behaviour of the pilots, doctors and ambulance crew is presented as “lucky circumstances.” That is, they even deny the possibility that we are acting as we should. This sits deep in the minds of those who make up such stories.

Returning to the pre-investigation probe, everyone is fixated on a criminal case. If we had opened a criminal case right away (we do not have legal grounds to do so yet, and that is why the Prosecutor General’s Office requested legal assistance from Germany on August 27), what would have been done when it happened? They would have interviewed the pilot, the passengers and the doctors. They would have found out what the doctors discovered when Navalny was taken to the Omsk hospital, and what medications were used. They would have interviewed the people who communicated with him. All of that was done. They interviewed the five individuals who accompanied him and participated in the events preceding Navalny boarding the plane; they interviewed the passengers who were waiting for a flight to Moscow in Tomsk and sat at the same bar; they found out what they ordered and what he drank. The sixth person, a woman who accompanied him, has fled, as you know. They say she was the one who gave the bottle to the German lab. All this has been done. Even if all of that was referred to as a “criminal case,” we couldn’t have done more.

Our Western partners are looking down on us as if we have no right to question what they are saying or their professionalism. If this is the case, it means that they dare to question the professionalism of our doctors and investigators. Unfortunately, this position is reminiscent of other times. Arrogance and a sense of infallibility have already been observed in Europe, and that led to very regrettable consequences.

Question: How would you describe this policy of confrontation? When did it start (I mean during your term of office)? It’s simply so stable at the moment that there seems no chance that something might change in the future.

Sergey Lavrov: President of Russia Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken on this topic. I think that the onset of this policy, this era of constant pressure on Russia began with the end of a period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, a time when the West believed it had Russia there in its pocket – it ended, full stop. Unfortunately, the West does not seem to be able to wrap its head around this, to accept that there is no alternative to Russia’s independent actions, both domestically and on the international arena. This is why, unfortunately, this agony continues by inertia.

Having bad ties with any country have never given us any pleasure. We do not like making such statements in which we sharply criticise the position of the West. We always try to find compromises, but there are situations where it is hard not to come face to face with one another directly or to avoid frank assessments of what our Western friends are up to.

I have read what our respected political scientists write who are well known in the West. And I can say this idea is starting to surface ever stronger and more often – it is time we stop measuring our actions with the yardsticks that the West offers us and to stop trying to please the West at all costs. These are very serious people and they are making a serious point. The fact that the West is prodding us to this way of thinking, willingly or unwillingly, is obvious to me. Most likely, this is being done involuntarily. But it is a big mistake to think that Russia will play by Western rules in any case – as big a mistake as like approaching China with the same yardstick.

Question: Then I really have to ask you. We are going through digitalisation. I think when you started your diplomatic career, you could not even have imagined that some post on Twitter could affect the political situation in a country. Yet – I can see your smile – we are living in a completely different world. Film stars can become presidents; Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook can become drivers of political campaigns – that happened more than once – and those campaigns can be successful. We are going through digitalisation, and because of this, many unexpected people appear in international politics – unexpected for you, at least. How do you think Russia’s foreign policy will change in this context? Are we ready for social media to be impacting our internal affairs? Is the Chinese scenario possible in Russia, with most Western social media blocked to avoid their influence on the internal affairs in that country?

Sergey Lavrov: Social media are already exerting great influence on our affairs. This is the reality in the entire post-Soviet space and developing countries. The West, primarily the United States, is vigorously using social media to promote their preferred agenda in just about any state. This necessitates a new approach to ensuring the national security. We have been doing this for a long time already.

As for regulating social media, everyone does it. You know that the digital giants in the United States have been repeatedly caught introducing censorship, primarily against us, China or other countries they dislike, shutting off information that comes from these places.

The internet is regulated by companies based in the United States, everyone knows that. In fact, this situation has long made the overwhelming majority of countries want to do something about it, considering the global nature of the internet and social media, to make sure that the management processes are approved at a global level, become transparent and understandable. The International Telecommunication Union, a specialised UN agency, has been out there for years. Russia and a group of other co-sponsoring countries are promoting the need to regulate the internet in such a way that everyone understands how it works and what principles govern it, in this International Union. Now we can see how Mark Zuckerberg and other heads of large IT companies are invited to the Congress and lectured there and asked to explain what they are going to do. We can see this. But a situation where it will be understandable for everyone else and, most importantly, where everyone is happy with it, still seems far away.

For many years, we have been promoting at the UN General Assembly an initiative to agree on the rules of responsible behaviour of states in the sphere of international information security. This initiative has already led to set up several working groups, which have completed their mandate with reports. The last such report was reviewed last year and another resolution was adopted. This time, it was not a narrow group of government experts, but a group that includes all UN member states. It was planning to meet, but things slowed down due to the coronavirus. The rules for responsible conduct in cyberspace are pending review by this group. These rules were approved by the SCO, meaning they already reflect a fairly large part of the world’s population.

Our other initiative is not about the use of cyberspace for undermining someone’s security; it is about fighting crimes (pedophilia, pornography, theft) in cyberspace. This topic is being considered by another UNGA committee. We are preparing a draft convention that will oblige all states to suppress criminal activities in cyberspace.

QuestionDo you think that the Foreign Ministry is active on this front? Would you like to be more proactive in the digital dialogue? After all, we are still bound by ethics, and have yet to understand whether we can cross the line or not. Elon Musk feels free to make any statements no matter how ironic and makes headlines around the world, even though anything he says has a direct bearing on his market cap. This is a shift in the ethics of behaviour. Do you think that this is normal? Is this how it should be? Or maybe people still need to behave professionally?

Sergey Lavrov: A diplomat can always use irony and a healthy dose of cynicism. In this sense, there is no contradiction here. However, this does not mean that while making ironic remarks on the surrounding developments or comments every once in a while (witty or not so witty), you do not have to work on resolving legal matters related to internet governance. This is what we are doing.

The Foreign Ministry has been at the source of these processes. We have been closely coordinating our efforts on this front with the Security Council Office, and the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and other organisations. Russian delegations taking part in talks include representatives from various agencies. Apart from multilateral platforms such as the International Telecommunication Union, the UN General Assembly and the OSCE, we are working on this subject in bilateral relations with our key partners.

We are most interested in working with our Western partners, since we have an understanding on these issues with countries that share similar views. The Americans and Europeans evade these talks under various pretexts. There seemed to be an opening in 2012 and 2013, but after the government coup in Ukraine, they used it as a pretext to freeze this process. Today, there are some signs that the United States and France are beginning to revive these contacts, but our partners have been insufficiently active. What we want is professional dialogue so that they can raise all their concerns and accusations and back them with specific facts. We stand ready to answer all the concerns our partners may have, and will not fail to voice the concerns we have. We have many of them.

During the recent visit by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to Russia, I handed him a list containing dozens of incidents we have identified: attacks against our resources, with 70 percent of them targeting state resources of the Russian Federation, and originating on German territory. He promised to provide an answer, but more than a month after our meeting we have not seen it so far.

Question: Let me ask you about another important initiative by the Foreign Ministry. You decided to amend regulations enabling people to be repatriated from abroad for   free, and you proposed subjecting the repatriation guarantee to the reimbursement of its cost to the budget. Could you tell us, please, is this so expensive for the state to foot this bill?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, these a substantial expenses. The resolution that provided for offering free assistance was adopted back in 2010, and was intended for citizens who find themselves in situations when their life is at risk. Imagine a Russian ambassador. Most of the people ask for help because they have lost money, their passport and so on. There are very few cases when an ambassador can actually say that a person is in a life-threatening situation and his or her life is in danger. How can an ambassador take a decision of this kind? As long as I remember, these cases can be counted on the fingers of my two hands since 2010, when an ambassador had to take responsibility and there were grounds for offering this assistance. We wanted to ensure that people can get help not only when facing an imminent danger (a dozen cases in ten years do not cost all that much). There were many more cases when our nationals found themselves in a difficult situation after losing money or passports. We decided to follow the practices used abroad. Specifically, this means that we provide fee-based assistance. In most cases, people travelling abroad can afford to reimburse the cost of a return ticket.

This practice is designed to prevent fraud, which remains an issue. We had cases when people bought one-way tickets knowing that they will have to be repatriated.

Question: And with no return ticket, they go to the embassy?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, after that they come to the embassy. For this reason, I believe that the system we developed is much more convenient and comprehensive for dealing with the situations Russians get into when travelling abroad, and when we have to step in to help them through our foreign missions.

Question: Mr Lavrov, thank you for your time. As a Georgian, I really have to ask this. Isn’t it time to simplify the visa regime with Georgia? A second generation of Georgians has now grown up that has never seen Russia. What do you think?

Sergey Lavrov: Georgians can travel to Russia – they just need to apply for a visa. The list of grounds for obtaining a visa has been expanded. There are practically no restrictions on visiting Russia, after obtaining a visa in the Interests Section for the Russian Federation in Tbilisi or another Russian overseas agency.

As for visa-free travel, as you know, we were ready for this a year ago. We were actually a few steps away from being ready to announce it when that incident happened with the Russian Federal Assembly delegation to the International Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, where they were invited in the first place, seated in their chairs, and then violence was almost used against them.

I am confident that our relations with Georgia will recover and improve. We can see new Georgian politicians who are interested in this. For now, there are just small parties in the ruling elites. But I believe our traditional historical closeness, and the mutual affinity between our peoples will ultimately triumph. Provocateurs who are trying to prevent Georgia from resuming normal relations with Russia will be put to shame.

They are trying to use Georgia the same way as Ukraine. In Ukraine, the IMF plays a huge role. And the IMF recently decided that each tranche allocated to Ukraine would be short-term.

Question: Microcredits.

Sergey Lavrov: Microcredits and a short leash that can always be pulled a little.

They are trying to use Georgia the same way. We have no interest in seeing this situation continue. We did not start it and have never acted against the Georgian people. Everyone remembers the 2008 events, how American instructors arrived there and trained the Georgian army. The Americans were well aware of Mikheil Saakashvili’s lack of restraint. He trampled on all agreements and issued a criminal order.

We are talking about taking their word for it. There were many cases when we took their word for it, but then it all boiled down to zilch. In 2003, Colin Powell, a test tube – that was an academic version. An attack on Iraq followed. Many years later, Tony Blair admitted that there had been no nuclear weapons in Iraq. There were many such stories. In 1999, the aggression against Yugoslavia was triggered by the OSCE representative in the Balkans, US diplomat William Walker, who visited the village of Racak, where they found thirty corpses, and declared it genocide of the Albanian population. A special investigation by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found they were military dressed in civilian clothes. But Mr Walker loudly declared it was genocide. Washington immediately seized on the idea, and so did London and other capitals. NATO launched an aggression against Yugoslavia.

After the end of the five-day military operation to enforce peace, the European Union ordered a special report from a group of invited experts, including Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini. She was later involved in the Minsk process, and then she was asked to lead a group of experts who investigated the outbreak of the military conflict in August 2008. The conclusion was unambiguous. All this happened on the orders of Mikheil Saakashvili, and as for his excuses that someone had provoked him, or someone had been waiting for him on the other side of the tunnel, this was just raving.

Georgians are a wise nation. They love life, perhaps the same way and the same facets that the peoples in the Russian Federation do. We will overcome the current abnormal situation and restore normal relations between our states and people.


In addition, if you follow the Minister, follow up on this interview with Sputnik

Exclusive: Sergei Lavrov Talks About West’s Historical Revisionism, US Election and Navalny Case

US Deputy Secretary of State Was Afraid to Eat Russian Soup. Navalny and SWIFT (Ruslan Ostashko)

Source

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leonya.

During the US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun’s visit in Moscow the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov treated him to shchi [soup] with forest mushrooms. The journalists noted however that during the public part of the negotiations, the Americans did not touch the treat. They must have heard plenty of their media’s fairy tales about the supposed poisoning of Navalny.

The Rubber Duckies Führer’s overdose on unknown substances had an interesting side effect: while the Western tabloids shriek about poisoning of the fighter with the regime, the US State Department threatens Russia with horrible punishments if the German medics part with the remnants of their consciences and write what our opponents want.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“During his meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, ‘Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun declared a possibility of adopting by Washington of serious measures of the information about poisoning of the opposition figure Aleksei Navalny is confirmed,’” as the Russian Foreign Ministry informs: “Having qualified the event as an ‘incident’, the American party stressed that ‘in case of confirmation of the version about his poisoning as an oppositionist, Washington will put in place such measures, at whose background the reaction of the American society at the Russian interference in the presidential elections in USA in 2016 would grow dim.’ It was said in the message by the widespread Russian internal political department.”

I myself remembered this idiomatic expression: “You can’t scare a hedgehog with a naked butt.” The interesting side effect I mentioned above however is this. While trying to scare us, the representatives of the darned hegemon are themselves so frightened of us that while as a guest of Lavrov, they sat as if they’d ate manure. *Picture from Twitter* “’Shchi with forest mushrooms’: Sergei Lavrov treats the Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun to Russian cuisine.” Look at their faces in the photo, particularly in contrast to the satisfied expression of the Russian minister. *Twitter post by user Vladimir Kornilov* “I see the American distinguished guests do not risk trying Lavrov’s shchi with forest mushrooms. They even keep their hands away from the cutlery. They’d better cut to tea.”

I have a feeling these ferocious negotiators did not risk the tea either. They quite seriously believe over there that the polonium in Litvinenko’s tea was put there by the perfidious GRU, and not, for instance, by the man of a bright face named Berezovsky. Knowing Lavrov’s sense of humor, we can suppose that our diplomats deliberately chose a dish containing mushrooms as a treat. Perhaps they wanted to see the sour expressions of the sworn ‘partners’. Anyhow, the social networks audience appreciated the situation:

Russian Twitter users:

Oleg Ivanovich – “What can these savages understand about the Russian mushrooms. They should have waited in the corridor while Lavrov ate and didn’t spoil his appetite with their sour physiognomy.”

Svetlana Bezrodnaya – “Let them drink water from sealed bottles! While our man eats with pleasure. 🙂 ”

Aleksandr Kotov – “They probably don’t even know this dish at all. 🙂 ”

Natalya – “They think we will poison them with forest mushrooms… What is the tea for then? I’m just joking. In reality they are used to eating sandwiches from McDonald’s with their hands. They are not trained in etiquette. And so they are shy. Alright… let them wait for tea. Although neither do they drink tea – they swish Coca-Cola! Let them watch them eat then!”

Komandovat’ paradom budu ya – “Tea is the yummiest. From the Omsk airport.”

Prosta staraya sobaka – “They [the Americans] don’t eat anything in Russia except for McDonald’s. :)”

[bvxfyrf – “Ivan just listens and eats, while they have already shit themselves. Well done, Lavrov – you got to finish a meal in peace.”

Ekaterina Lavrikova – “Don’t feed these creatures. Let them bring their own hotdogs.”

dymkag – “Lyolik [Navalny] was poisoned by Lavrov. Let’s disperse.”

Viktor Domakur – “The highest master-class from a professional, most subtle… no unnecessary words and from the bottom of the heart! And gives them pears for dessert!”

I’m not sure about the dessert but I know another thing: the USA are far from being able to harm Russia with any sanctions. What will they do even if the German medics produce a lie that the Rubber Duckies Führer was poisoned by ‘Novichok’? [Ed. – The video was originally published on August 31st, 3 days before the Novichok story on Navalny! How predictable the MSM is…] Turn off the SWIFT, of which the stupid [liberal] creative class have been dreaming for years? That would be a shot in their own foot. As our spiteful fellow citizens rightfully note, they need this SWIFT more than we do.

Vkontakte DB:

“SWIFT is one of the systems (Russia and China already have their own and they are friends with each other) which allows money transfer between banks in different countries. If we suppose that the SWIFT is turned off then: Europe will not be able to receive either gas for heating nor fertilizers for the long depleted soils, or a multitude of essential goods. Because without the SWIFT it will not be able to pay for them in any other way but by pulling goods wagons with metal gold to the Russian border and signing barter acts. In the US, they will have to close down Boeing, for instance, and many similar enterprises which will be left and many similar enterprises which will be left without rolled titanium from Russia (which is physically irreplaceable, because the rerecapitalization of Apple doesn’t help to produce material value from numbers in bank accounts), or sapphire glass and other materials. The deliveries will not happen because there’ll be no payment mechanism.”

All the Western juridical persons’ branches and partner companies as well as owning stakes in Russian enterprises will become senseless, because there will be no way of exporting the profits. If any Russian company pays dividends in any way it will end up replenishing some account in a Russian bank. And it will be impossible to extract this money from there for export. There will no mechanism allowing transfer of the paid coupon profit from the account in Sberbank to Deutsche Bank. There will be no use for dealership networks or sales in general on the Russian territory. There will be no way of extracting the money.”

Just like that. Had they eaten the mushrooms offered by the Russian generosity, then they wouldn’t have started foaming at the mouth… Obama had already torn us into pieces for Crimea. Yet here we are, sitting and laughing. And where has that Obama gone?

Afterword of Ruslan Ostashko:

We have done it! It was hard, but the best Russian political channel on Runet is now with you again [on YouTube.] How this happened is talked about in an independent video. Right now, I want to mention those people who helped make it possible to bring this channel back. Of course, it’s thanks to you, our respectable subscribers. You didn’t leave us in such a hard moment. Aside from support, you gave us the strength. You didn’t allow us to put our hands down and sacrifice our hope for better times. And it was you who helped us with money. We collected the necessary sum the previous month and this month. It’s thanks to only your money, we saved the whole team that fought 24/7 against YouTube for the return of our channel. While at the same time not forgetting about the clips, compilations and publishing videos.

We developed a cool team of many different yet professional specialists who are recharged with the idea of our big community in PolitRussia. Thank you for helping keep it alive. Check out the links that are under each of our videos if you like what we do and you have the availability to make a translation. Together we can do anything.

Russia Affirms its Support to Syria Economically, Politically, and Militarily

September 9, 2020 Arabi Souri

Russia High-level Delegation in Damascus to Support Syria

Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs led a high-level delegation to the Syrian capital Damascus to affirm Moscow’s position towards its oldest continuous and reliable friend, and at times a close ally, in the face of an unprecedented dirty war of terror and attrition waged against it by the world’s superpowers and super-rich countries.

The delegation included the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and a host of business representatives, the visit included a meeting with President Bashar Assad and resulted in a number agreements covering the rebuilding of Syria’s infrastructure and emphasizing on Syria’s sovereignty, territorial unity and integrity.

In addition to facing the NATO-sponsored merciless terrorists, US proxy separatist militias, and the blockade, the COVID 19 measures added further burden to the Syrian economy, with sporadic forest fires in one of its remaining fertile regions not infested by the terrorists or occupation forces.

The following is a compiled report by the Lebanese Al Mayadeen news station covers the important outcomes of the visit and side of the press conference held by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, and the Syrian and Russian foreign ministers Walid al-Muallem and Sergey Lavrov:

https://videopress.com/embed/VzcBrQzD?preloadContent=metadata&hd=1The video is also available on BitChute.

Transcript of the English translation:

The work on the Syrian track depends on what was reached between the Russian, Iranian and Turkish presidents, with the support and approval of the Syrian leadership, and that what unites the three countries’ views is seeking to prevent the Iraqi and Libyan scenario despite the differences in viewpoints.

With regard to the issue of Syria’s sovereignty, territorial unity, and integrity, all the charters and documents issued through the Astana track, like all the Russian-Turkish bilateral agreements, literally stipulate the two countries ’commitment to the sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria, noting that the territories under the control of the Syrian government have expanded significantly after signing the additional Russian-Turkish memorandum.

Of course, there are significant differences in the positions of Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran on how to conduct the Syrian settlement, and we can see them in the statements of the representatives of these countries, but what unites Russia, Iran, and Turkey is the steadfast pursuit of preventing a recurrence of the Iraq or Libya scenario. Our joint action within the framework of the Astana process depends on the imperative of respecting the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria, the importance of preventing any external interference in its internal affairs, and the importance of preventing any external incitement to the separatist atmosphere.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said that the debate on the Syrian constitution will continue until an agreement is reached, indicating that what will come out of the constitutional committee will be submitted to a popular referendum.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem: With regard to the next constitution, this is up to what the members of the Constitutional Committee reach from both sides, if they want to amend the existing constitution or produce a new constitution, in both cases the product will be submitted to a popular referendum in order to ensure that it represents the widest popular representation.

There is no timetable for (preparing) the constitution. This constitution occupies special importance and a popular sanctity that cannot be completed in a hurry under pressure. This must be accomplished in a way that achieves the aspirations of the Syrian people. The debate on it will continue until they reach an understanding among themselves, and it has nothing to do with the presidential elections.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Yuri Borisov, said: Most of the areas rich in natural resources are outside the control of the Syrian government, which constitutes an obstacle to the Syrian trade, given that it is an important source of revenue.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Yuri Borisov: Unfortunately, we have to admit that most areas rich in oil and gas are currently outside the control of the Syrian government, bearing in mind that the gas and oil trade were an important source of revenue for the Syrian budget and the same is related to fertile agricultural areas, and this fact harms food security Syria is also forced to import oil and grains after it was exporting them. The draft of the new agreement on expanding commercial, industrial, and economic cooperation between Russia and Syria includes more than 40 new projects, including reconstruction projects for energy institutions and infrastructure for the energy sector, in addition to the reconstruction of a number of hydroelectric power stations that were built by the Union (USSR) or with the participation of Soviet experts, in addition, a work contract has been signed for a Russian company on the Syrian coast to extract oil at sea, and this contract is awaiting its ratification.

The tragic situation in Syria and these obstacles are caused by the destructive position of the American administration, in addition to the unwillingness of the Kurds to communicate with Damascus and hand over control to the legitimate government in Damascus over the agricultural areas and oil and gas fields.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in Damascus for the first time in eight years, accompanied by a large delegation, to strengthen relations between Moscow and Damascus.

Economically, Moscow seemed to continue to strengthen economic cooperation through agreements to be signed between Russia and Syria. Politically, regarding the Syrian presidential elections, Lavrov was clear by saying: The elections are the sovereign decision of the Syrian Arab Republic. While it was confirmed by Minister Al-Moallem that the Syrian presidential elections are taking place on schedule next year.

Minister Lavrov’s statements did not deviate from the expectations and readings prior to his arrival in Damascus. The Russian minister folded the eight years from the time of his first visit and the Syrian war with three titles as a way out that Damascus needs to get out of the complexities of the crisis, in the work of the Constitutional Committee, economic cooperation, and the completion of the war on terror.

It was not arbitrary that the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Yuri Borisov, sat on one platform with the Russian and Syrian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Al-Muallem. Giving the economic dimension a place in the visit to Damascus was one of its most important goals in the agreements to rebuild the infrastructure in the energy and economy sector and expand Russian investments to alleviate the consequences of Caesar’s sanctions.

The few hours in the presidential palace also carried many messages, and the presidential statement went beyond just pre-registering the points of agreement between the two parties, but turned into a message about a partnership to be held in the war on economic sanctions and overcoming the blockade.

President Assad Receives Visiting Russian Delegation Headed by Dy PM Borisov and FM Lavrov
Russian Delegation in Damascus Meet President Assad
Russian Delegation Meeting President Bashar Assad

The meeting confirmed the continuation of the political process through the Astana track, which set a horizon and an exit point for the war in the hands of Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus, and continues to neutralize the Western powers that seek to divide Syria, and in the work of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva without a timetable for rewriting or amending the constitution, and there is no political solution except from inside Syria. According to UN Resolution 2254, in conjunction with the elimination of the remaining hotbeds of terrorism, to prevent a recurrence of the Libya and Iraq scenario in Syria.

Moscow sends to Damascus a high-level political and economic delegation to re-establish the general lines of its strategy in support of the Syrian state, and Moscow realizes that its position in the Syrian file is an essential part of its rise again in the world, but it is also mainly in ensuring fundamental issues that confirm the unity of soil and the Syrian map.

Dima Nassif – Damascus, Al-Mayadeen

End of the report by Al Mayadeen

When the whole world’s economies struggle from the consequences of COVID 19 and the strict measures implemented to contain it, the western hypocrite and criminal officials doubled-down their sanctions on the Syrian people, who are still fighting ISIS which the west itself claim is the worst terrorist organization, claiming they are helping them by killing them slowly, Trump imposed his Caesar Act regime of sanctions, not applied to any other country on the planet, and the European Union renewed their draconian sanctions for a further year.

The Pentagon Threatening to Revive ISIS

Jaafari Demands UN Halt Terrorists without Borders, Looters of Syria

Hearing is Not Like Seeing: NATO’s Terrorists Burning Syrian Wheat Crops – Video

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Russian and Syrian Foreign Ministers Hold a Joint Presser in Damascus

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° on 

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other officials attend a meeting in Damascus, Syria September 7, 2020

Sputnik-Middle East
The Russian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in the Syrian capital of Damascus for talks on the state of affairs in the Syrian Constitutional Committee and the current situation in the Arab country.

A live broadcast shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem holding a joint press conference in Damascus.

The talks on various topics including the state of affairs in the Syrian Constitutional Committee and the current situation in Syria come after a third meeting of the committee wrapped up on 29 August.

This is Lavrov’s first visit to Syria since February 2012.

Related

Serbia SITREP: Kosovo – the endless game

Serbia SITREP: Kosovo – the endless game

August 15, 2020

by Mavro Orbini for The Saker Blog

Although expected, call for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at White House on 2nd of September[1] is suddenly getting on importance after Trump administration masterpieced (unexpected) Israeli-UAE Peace Deal.[2] It seems that US diplomatic coupe is on the way just before US presidential elections. Trump sent letters in 2018 and 2019 to Belgrade and Pristina urging them to reach a “historic accord” for a “comprehensive peace” that would include as its central element “mutual recognition”! [3] What did change from the first cancelled meeting between US mediator Grenel with Serbian/Kosovo parties on 27/08 and one that is just scheduled? Based on Vučic complain that Grenel announced negotiation while he expected talks on economic normalization, it seems that Trump administration is quite serious in its attempt to solve this Balkan dispute for good!

Maybe that was information conveyed by Lavrov to Vučić during June meeting? Vučić was pretty grim during press conference later on. Visit of FM of Russia Lavrov to Belgrade in June might brought warning note to President Vučić as opposition media and politicians claimed (such public statement or warning would be quite undiplomatic from grandmaster of Russia´s diplomacy!). That warning note made it clear that “Kremlin would only support solutions to the Kosovo question acceptable to Belgrade and approved by the UN Security Council.”[4] That note was also directed toward EU and US that there are two inseparable locks for which EU, US and Vučić should find keys. Even if they come to some agreement, on the end of that process is UN Security Council that will ultimately decide on the future of possible agreement.

So where are we?

Over 20 years there were several proposals on the table and the process of negotiation has clearly two phases:

1. Period from 2000-2012 marked Pristina success on all fronts! Everything went smoothly – in 2008 Pristina declared independence from Serbia, in 2010 the International Court of Justice issued its opinion which found that Kosovo’s declaration of independence “did not violate international law”[5] and finally Serbia, with a gun at its head, signed with Pristina on April 2013 Brussels agreement that was an inch from full recognition of Kosovo as sovereign state! Serbia was, then, weak after 12 years of full economic destruction (forced but uncontrolled, wild privatization that first of all, completely destroyed the most important parts of its industry). At that point, it resembled situation of August in 1995 when ethnically cleansing of 250 000 native Serb by Croatia did not gathered more then few thousands protestors in Belgrade! In 2013 population of Serbia was demoralized, with low income, without any hope for better future. It was right moment to force Serbia to recognize independence of Kosovo without any fear of possible public backlash or violent riots against selling of “cradle of Serbia”! By some divine intervention it did not happen! That divine intervention was brought new hardline government in Pristina that wanted to further humiliate Serbia…

2. Period from 2013 to present day marked stalemate that did not work well for Pristina. Suddenly from dead end Serbia, bit by bit, opened up more and more space to try to save what is possible to save. More then dozen of countries, cleverly motivated by Serbia, withdrew their recognition of Kosovo as a state. Kosovo did not get any new recognition (at the moment, at most 92 countries recognize independence of Kosovo). Serbia managed to block several attempts of Kosovo for acceptance at UNESCO, Interpol, etc. Those were painful moments for politicians in Pristina that provoked many irrational decisions that did not serve them well. Most importantly, for the first time Serbia did manage to break monolith Pristina political elites into conflicting parties. It was cleverly done by rising issues that divided Pristina political parties. One of those issues was floating of idea for swap of territories. On Albanian side, eager for such solution was Hashim Thaci[6], president of “Kosovo” and Democratic Party of Kosovo, at the moment indicted for war crimes. That started intra Albanian infighting between Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj[7], then PM of “Kosovo”, president of Alliance for the future of Kosovo, also indicted war criminal that was released from Hague due to lack of witnesses against him (more then 20 of them killed by unidentified executioners). That turmoil was also evident between EU and US making rift in, until then, unified front against Serbia. Another rift between Albanian political parties on Kosovo just surfaced, few days ago, when parliament in Pristina rejected proposed legislation which was intended to enshrine in law support for the Kosovo Liberation Army’s wartime values[8]. For the first time we have civilian political parties having majority in voting over ex- KLA veteran political parties. It is fair to expect that these infightings will serve confronting EU and US interests so at the end of the day Serbia also might have some benefit from it?

What is on the table for negotiation?

SERBIA WILL NEVER RECOGNISE KOSOVO!

It is clear from election in 2000 of the first government of Serbia (after demise of Milosevic) that no prime minister or president of Serbia was willing to sign declaration of independence for Kosovo! Even the most West leaning ruling parties declined to do it. Especially from 2012 until today, ruling party SNS and its supportive media persistently fueled public opinion that there is no way to recognize independence Kosovo! Even that there will be referendum that will decide instead of politicians. No compromise on Kosovo issue is presented every day in many newspapers, TV and radio stations inclining toward ruling party! Today, public outcry would be much louder then in 2012 in case of independence of Kosovo!

SERBIA WILL RECOGNIZE KOSOVO!

It is clear that Serbia is ready to recognize Kosovo but not what is considered Kosovo today, not its territory, nor its independence! Serbia’s political elite knows that it was wrong to incorporate the whole territory of Kosovo (today when speaking of Kosovo it includes two regions Kosovo and Metohija for simplicity) into Serbia in 1912! Unlike Metohija, Kosovo had parts without single Serb and for many years Serbia did not enter its, these de facto, territories![9]

In the last 20 years there were several suggested models for resolution of this conflict:

1. Nebojša Čović , Serbian vice PM, proposed in 2001 that two entities, a Serbian and an Albanian, be established on Kosovo and Metohija. The Serbian entity would be under the protection of the Yugoslav Army and police, while the Albanian entity would have the highest grade of autonomy and stay under the protection of international powers.

2. In 2002, Serbian PM Zoran Đinđić stated that “Serbia has neither the mechanism nor the resources to reintegrate Kosovo into its legal system, or to create a form in which it will be under its sovereignty. The division of the province, therefore, is nothing else than an attempt to rescue what can still be saved.”[10]

3. It seems that in 2008 Slobodan Samardžić, Minister for Kosovo and Metohija, proposed partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines, asking the UN to ensure that Belgrade can control key institutions and functions in areas where Serbs form a majority[11]. Existence of such proposal was strongly denied by then Serbian government.

4. In 2011 and in 2014, Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić proposed the partition of Kosovo as a solution to the Kosovo dispute.[12]

5. Hashim Thaci, president of “Kosovo” was eager for swap of territories with Serbia – taking south part of Serbia in exchange of northern Serbian enclave in Kosovo[13]

6. Special US envoy for Kosovo, Richard Grenel, dropped Molotov cocktail in June 2020 announcing plans “to create a “little mini-Shenzhen zone” between Kosovo-Serbia”![14] It was immediately dismissed by experts and international community, making laughing stock of illiterate Americano who actually meant mini Schengen!? Grenel never corrected himself and Vučić, in above mention reaction, that he ” expected talks on economic normalization not negotiation…” maybe confirms accuracy of Grenel statement?

Economic model of Shenzhen zone for Kosovo is the only viable option for this criminally infested region! Only rapid and from outside directed economic reconstruction gives hope for better future to young generations of local Albanians. Of course, it is difficult to see how part of political elite with background in drug and human organ trafficking could have any say in such process. For that reason it is of great importance recent distancing in Pristina parliament from KLA veterans and its past. It is time for clean start with new people!

But economic model must be followed by political one that will appease political aspirations of political elites of Pristina but also take in account political limitations of their political colleagues in Belgrade. Maybe this is where, otherwise unproductive, EU mandarins could come onboard with a modified

Cyprus model – despite joining the EU as a de facto divided island, the whole of Cyprus is EU territory. Turkish Cypriots who have, or are eligible for, EU travel documents are EU citizens. EU law is suspended in areas where the Cypriot government (Government of the Republic) does not exercise effective control. Cyprus has two official languages: Greek and Turkish; only Greek is an official EU language[15]

That offer on the table, as one of the (best) possible scenarios is an offer to Serbia for quick accession to EU together with Kosovo. Kosovo will have own state that will through Serbia be part of EU and their citizens will enjoy all privileges of other EU citizens. From black hole it will be place for booming economic development. Albanian side in Pristina was reminded who rules in Kosovo when US/Turkish solders invited and patrolled together with Serbian gendarmerie. Despite their protests, KFOR (mostly NATO) announced that such event was in accordance with UN 1244 resolution (that affirms Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo) and Kumanovo agreement with Serbian government (that Serbia has right to send up to 1000 soldiers to Kosovo)!!!

Of course, all experiences so far tells us that it is rational to expect irrational outcome and that we might go back to partition table of Kosovo! Serbian negotiation party will have eyes wide open on outcome of election in Montenegro on 30th of August! That outcome will be closely related with territories that Belgrade will demand. Bear in mind that Vučić, so far, although mentioned border correction, never said that Serbia wants (only) Serbian enclave in the North of Kosovo. Other eye and hand will embrace Republika Srpska without any doubt. Serbian public is prepared for such outcome as well. White house meeting has all potentials for great resolve but then again seeing faces of Lavrov and Vučić in June…

Mavro Orbini

  1. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/08/14/grenell-announces-meeting-between-kosovo-and-serbia-leaders-on-2-september/ 
  2. http://thesaker.is/israeli-uae-peace-deal-marks-tectonic-shift-in-middle-eastern-balance-of-power/ 
  3. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/24/kosovo-serbia-summit-white-house-catastrophe-balkans-peace-process/ 
  4. https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-serbia-kosovo-lavrov-grenell/30679106.html 
  5. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-serbia-kosovo/kosovo-independence-declaration-deemed-legal-idUSTRE66L01720100722 
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashim_Tha%C3%A7i 
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramush_Haradinaj 
  8. https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2040085412775/kosovo-mps-fail-to-pass-law-to-protect-klas-values 
  9. http://www.kosovo.net/sk/rastko-kosovo/istorija/sanu/map3.html 
  10. https://www.blic.rs/vesti/politika/moguca-podela-kim-u-dve-faze/fc68tv0 
  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/world/europe/24iht-kosovo.4.11380269.html 
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20110516154348/http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2011&mm=05&dd=15&nav_id=74342 
  13. https://exit.al/en/2020/06/09/kosovos-president-and-ambassador-lobbied-for-land-swap-deal-with-serbia-birn-reports/ 
  14. https://exit.al/en/2020/06/23/us-envoy-grenell-wants-special-economic-zone-between-kosovo-and-serbia/ 
  15. https://ec.europa.eu/cyprus/about-us/turkish-cypriots_en 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Heiko Maas, Moscow, August 11, 2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Heiko Maas, Moscow, August 11, 2020

August 14, 2020

Source

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held constructive, trust-based and detailed talks with Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Heiko Maas. We discussed the bilateral agenda and cooperation on international issues both at the UN and in Europe.

Mr Maas is visiting Moscow on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Moscow treaty between the USSR and West Germany on mutual recognition and respect for the European territorial and political realities established after World War II. The original treaty was shown here today. Mr Maas and I looked at it. On August 12, 1970, when it was signed, the Soviet Union confidently, and from an emphatically peaceful position, made a conscientious strategic choice in favour of peaceful and mutually respectful partnership with the West despite the overpowering atmosphere of mistrust and tough ideological pressure. Credit should also go to Chancellor Willy Brandt’s pragmatic “eastern policy.” At that time Bonn took into account the fact that long-term stability in Europe largely depended on normalisation of relations with Moscow.

The treaty facilitated the establishment of the principles of peaceful coexistence in Europe and improved the international situation as a whole. It objectively facilitated the holding of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the signing of its Final Act in Helsinki. It also made it easier for the GDR and West Germany to join the UN simultaneously.

During today’s consultations, we reaffirmed our mutual desire to further promote cooperation in the economy, science, education, culture and humanitarian exchanges. The cross year of science and academic partnership is coming to a close with serious practical results. This year will be replaced with another cross event, the Year of the Economy and Sustainable Development. In addition to this, on September 26, our German partners will launch in Moscow the Year of Germany in Russia. We expect it will take place in Pushkin Square with due account for the epidemiological situation.

We welcome the fact that despite the difficulties related to the pandemic, our German partners have embarked on the practical implementation of the humanitarian gesture of the German government as regards the survivors of the siege of Leningrad. The first equipment designated for the war veterans’ hospital is already in St Petersburg. Later today, Federal Minister will hold a number of meetings in St Petersburg. In part, he will meet with the survivors of the siege of Leningrad. We appreciate the attention given by our German friends to this problem.

Regarding the economy, we focused on completing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 project. Needless to say, we took into account the US sanctions pressure. We appreciate Berlin’s position of principle in support of this essentially economic initiative that will help diversify natural gas supply routes, and help enhance the energy security of Europe based on the estimates of European countries rather than those from overseas.

We expressed to the Germans our concerns over our cooperation in cyber security. We noted that in the past and this year we have recorded many cyberattacks against Russian facilities and organisations that were made from the German internet.

We cooperate with Germany on the Ukrainian issue as well. We have a common understanding that there is no alternative to the Minsk Package of Measures and that it is necessary to implement it as soon as possible. We again urged our German colleagues to use their influence on the Kiev leaders to encourage them to fulfill their commitments in the Minsk process as soon as possible. We regularly exchange opinions on the further possibilities for cooperation in the Normandy format as an important instrument that stimulates the activities of the Contact Group in which Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk are supposed to act directly in fulfilling the Minsk agreements that they signed.

In addition, we also reviewed the issues linked with the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa. We have a common position on the need to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on the settlement in Syria, which implies confirmation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We discussed preparations for resuming the activities of the editorial commission of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva (I hope this will take place this month if the epidemiological situation permits). We consider it important for our European partners to pay more attention to the practical alleviation of the humanitarian situation in Syria, which affects ordinary people.

We also share an interest in settling the situation in Libya. We reaffirm the commonality of approaches of Russia and Germany on the need to settle this conflict on the principles that were set forth in the final documents of the Berlin Conference on Libya and confirmed by the relevant UN Security Council resolution. The need to fulfill the Berlin agreements in full remains current. We agree with this. The further escalation of violence in Libya threatens to destabilise the situation not only in that country but also in the Middle East and North Africa as a whole. We believe that the final goal of our efforts must be the restoration of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and statehood of Libya, which were crudely violated as a result of NATO’s venture in 2011 in circumvention of the relevant UN Security Council resolution.

Other issues on which Russia and Germany cooperate include the situation on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on settling the Iranian nuclear programme.  Our European colleagues have put forth many ideas in this regard. In turn, Russia also made some proposals that we believe would help resume the cooperation of the JCPOA signatories without exception. We hope to discuss these initiatives in more detail.

We are willing to cooperate on other issues of international politics, including the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other venues.

I am grateful to Mr Maas for his visit to Moscow. We have agreed on a schedule for future meetings, which will be fairly full through the end of this year.

Question: On behalf of Russian journalists, we would like to thank you for taking the situation with the detention of journalists in Belarus under personal control. Several people have been released, but correspondents from Rossiya Segodnya and Meduza have not been in touch yet. You held telephone talks with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makey. What were the results? Was the topic of Belarus raised? Yesterday German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas said he did not rule out that this topic would be discussed today.

Sergey Lavrov: Naturally, we are concerned about the situation with our journalists, our citizens. Yesterday, Russian Ambassador to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs represented by the Information and Press Department, and I addressed this issue in a conversation with Mr Makey and insisted on the speedy release of our journalists. At the same time, we realise that many of those who were detained did not have accreditation, although we know that it was requested in a timely manner, in compliance with all the rules and procedures.

The current situation must be resolved proceeding, first of all, from humane considerations. We know that today there was again information about the lack of contact with some of your colleagues (they got in touch and then contact was lost again). The Meduza correspondent is important to us primarily as a Russian citizen. Meduza is not a Russian media outlet, but as a Russian citizen, of course, he has our protection. In our contacts with our Belarusian colleagues, we will seek an early resolution of this situation.

Unfortunately, when mass protests take place (and they take place in many countries, including the EU, for example, the yellow vests riots were held in France recently), your colleagues who strive to objectively report on what is happening very often find themselves in dangerous situations and are exposed to violence, as it happened with the RT correspondent. Therefore, in bilateral contacts with all our partners, in countries where Russian journalists work, we will strive to ensure they are not discriminated against. Of course, it goes without saying that everyone must comply with the relevant legislation. Within international agencies, including the OSCE, we will also defend an equal attitude towards all journalists without attempts to mark some media outlets as “propaganda media” and journalists as “propagandists who do not reflect the goals of their profession.” This is very unfortunate.

This issue should be addressed not only because it happened and is happening in Belarus, but because it is a common problem. You know Europe’s attitude towards riots (yellow vests; and also in Germany in 2017, during the G20 summit in Hamburg, anti-globalists rallied and violated German laws). We could see how law enforcement agencies operate, including special forces. Today we did not discuss the Belarusian topic, but I am sure that we will be able to exchange views on this matter during the working breakfast.

Question: The distinct role of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is always emphasised in the context of settling the Ukrainian domestic crisis. Do you think the observers can properly fulfil their mission? Do they objectively describe what is happening in the east of Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: We mentioned this earlier today. We closely cooperate with Germany in the Normandy format. As for the OSCE SMM, we actively support this mechanism that has a clear mandate for working in all of Ukraine, not only in Donbass, but also in other regions, monitoring respect for human rights and national minorities, as well as any attempt to promote neo-Nazi activity. Regrettably, the SMM has not paid due attention to this part of its mandate, and we have brought this up with the chief monitor of the SMM, Yasar Halit Cevik.

We also have some questions about certain aspects оf its activities, which primarily draws the attention of the international community (I’m referring to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements in Donbass). Thus, the SMM prefers to report on ceasefire violations and the shelling of civilian buildings in an abstract manner, that is, many cases of shelling reportedly take place in such and such period without mentioning which side attacked; a certain number of civilians are affected and a certain number of civilian structures are destroyed. We have insisted for more than a year that the SMM be more specific in its evaluations and report who is actually more to blame for shelling, who starts them and who responds to them. Using our representative office at the OSCE we have meticulously analysed SMM daily reports that become public. The analysis showed that over 80 percent of civilian facilities are shelled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Over 80 percent of the civilian victims, on both sides of the contact line, are among Donbass defenders. In other words, the Ukrainian Armed Forces bear the lion’s share of responsibility for ceasefire violations. I believe that to enable the OSCE member states and the entire international community to have an objective picture of how the Minsk Agreements are being implemented, the OSCE SMM must fulfil its commitment that it has failed to fulfil for more than a year now, and present a detailed, thematic, analytical report on who initiates ceasefire violations, who is shelling primarily civilian facilities and who is to blame for the death of civilians. We have sent the relevant reports to the Albanian OSCE Chairmanship, the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) on ceasefire, the OSCE Secretariat, and Mr Cevik who heads this mission and is personally responsible for the scrupulous observance of its mandate, objective presentation of information and any attempt to conceal the truth. All of us must be guided by facts rather than guesswork.

In his opening remarks Mr Maas mentioned the Paris summit. We fully support the need to fulfil the agreements reached but this is not at all the case at this point. I agree that all sides must take steps towards this goal – Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. In this context we would like to draw the attention of our German and French colleagues in the Normandy format, the co-authors of the Minsk Agreements, to statements made by Kiev. Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Reznikov, who represents Kiev in one of the structures in the Contact Group, said the Minsk Agreements have become obsolete. President Vladimir Zelensky said that he wants someone to explain to him what they mean and noted that each provision must be decoded. The newly appointed chief negotiator in the Contact Group, Leonid Kravchyuk, publicly regrets that Petr Poroshenko signed them but nonetheless agrees to lead the process on implementation. Many irregular things are happening in this context.

I agree, it is necessary to encourage the specific positive steps on the ground in every way. But these are only a limited number of agreements and we shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees. The main point is Kiev’s philosophical and conceptual approach to the Minsk Agreements and their status. We are hoping that Germany and France will still bring this home to their colleagues in Kiev and explain to them that there is no alternative to fulfilling what is written in the Minsk Agreements.

Question: You mentioned that the US is toughening its threats on sanctions against Nord Stream 2. Last week, a German company faced the imposition of sanctions for the first time. The political appeal for response measures in the US is becoming louder.

Do you expect Germany to take response measures against the US? If so, what measures could be taken?

A question to both ministers: Considering that the construction of Nord Stream 2 has slowed, do you believe it will be completed late this year or early next year?

Sergey Lavrov (answering after Mr Maas): I agree with what was said by the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Mr Maas. We consider exterritorial sanctions, as well as unilateral sanctions which not only the US and the EU resort to, inappropriate. The EU is implementing its own unilateral sanctions but as distinct from the US, it refrains from exterritorial use.

Then United States does not see any red lines or boundaries. While not bothering with diplomatic formalities, it pursues one simple goal – to have an opportunity to do anything it wants in world politics, the global economy and, in general, any field of human endeavour. This is what we are seeing. Washington has walked away from most multilateral treaties and any agreement or association that it may consider restricting its freedom of action. I think this is obvious. This is what we have to proceed from.

We continue to meet with the United States for pragmatic reasons. We are well aware of how Washington operates in the world, and they are not shy about it, something that is evident in the developments around Nord Stream 2. US officials say on the record that they will stop Nord Stream 2 at all costs because the US is ostensibly committed to ensuring Europe’s energy security.

If our European partners are willing to let the US decide their security issues, in energy or any other area, if the countries whose companies are involved in implementing Nord Stream 2 with a view to ensuring their energy security want the US to decide for them, this is their choice.

We see that Germany’s response is completely different. Germany has its position and it promotes it. I hear what is said in Washington at the top level: “It’s appalling! The US ensures Germany’s security and Germany is paying billions of dollars to the Russian Federation.” This is a serious distortion of facts. German Federal Minister Heiko Maas has confirmed that the link to NATO is important for German security. These are allied relations. Not that long ago, the German Chancellor, Ms Merkel said that NATO guarantees German security. We asked from whom Germany is defending itself, whether with NATO or on its own. We did not receive an answer, but in general this is part of the discussion of the principles on which it is necessary to conduct dialogue on security issues and the entire security system in the Euro-Atlantic region. I would like to emphasise again that Russian, German and other participants in Nord Stream 2 believe that the project must be completed. As I see it, there are grounds to believe that this will be done very soon.

Question: You mentioned attacks against Russian infrastructure facilities from German territory. Can you be more specific?

Sergey Lavrov: In Russia, the National Coordination Centre for Computer Incidents deals with computer affairs and cyber security. It has been operating for a fairly long time. It has a number of partners, including in Germany. From January of the past year to the end of last May this centre recorded 75 cases where Russian resources, including over 50 government institutions were attacked by hackers from the German internet segment. Notifications on all cases were sent to the relevant German organisations. Of 75 cases, we received only seven formal answers that had nothing to do with the substance of the matter. We suggested a professional analysis of each episode when we recorded hacker attacks against out structures, including government resources.

Today, we drew the attention of our German colleagues, who voiced concern over cyber security and declared an interest in developing a professional dialogue on settling cyber security issues, to the fact that disregard for our requests does not correspond with the desire they express at the political level. We have given them the statistics on these cases.

We recalled that we have conducted bilateral interdepartmental consultations with Germany on cyber security and information security in its political, military-political and applied dimensions. In 2018, a regular round of these consultations was cancelled by Germany, and they have not indicated a desire to resume them since. True, today we discussed the activities of the High-Level Working Group on Security Policy (this bilateral group exists and does a fairly useful job). In this context, we spoke about an opportunity to resume the dialogue on cyber security. I hope we will move from words to actions and will start a professional conversation.

As for the murder in Tiergarten, we would like to know the truth. Our relevant departments have sent their German colleagues everything they have. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that this information is not enough. But we would also like to receive some confirmation, some evidence regarding the statements of the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office that the Russian state is directly involved in this murder. We have not heard any specific reply so far.

Question: Prime Minister of Slovakia Igor Matovic has just commented on the expulsion of three Russian diplomats from his country by saying that Slovakia and Russia are friends, but Slovakia is a sovereign state, not a “banana republic” where the diplomatic rules can be ridiculed. How would you comment on the expulsion of the Russian diplomats?

Sergey Lavrov: I agree that Slovakia is a country friendly to Russia. We have never had any political problems.

I think that this is not about Slovakia. You have just quoted [Mr Matovic] as saying that Slovakia is a sovereign state. Quite unexpectedly, I read earlier today that the US State Department Spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, had commended the Slovak authorities for expelling the Russian diplomats. I believe no other foreign spokespersons have commented on the situation in this way. Draw your own conclusions as to who may be implicated in or has a stake in sovereign Slovakia taking this decision with regard to the three Russian diplomats.

Question (translated from German): Do you share your German colleague’s opinion that German-Russian relations would benefit if disputed issues like the assassination in the Tiergarten were discussed openly?

There is another case of interest to the German judiciary which can also be traced to Russia. Could you confirm that the former Wirecard COO, Jan Marsalek, is currently in Germany?

Sergey Lavrov: I know nothing about Mr Jan Marsalek. You asked whether he is in Germany, but your question should certainly be addressed to someone else. I am not aware of his activities because he is not in the focus of foreign policy discussions.

As for an open discussion of any issues, be it the Tiergarten or something else, we have always been ready for this.  It was not at our initiative that our Western partners (including Germany) cut a number of channels for contacts after 2014. Everyone knows this well. Among other things, the EU has discontinued all sectoral dialogues. We are taking a philosophical approach to this. If our partners are not ready, love cannot be forced.

Today, we were saying that the European Union intended to take another look at its Russia policy. When and if it evinces this desire, we will not be found wanting. We will be ready for an equal, honest and open dialogue on any issues of mutual interest, especially since there are quite a few of them. It is worth pointing out again that when we are told that the German Federal Public Prosecutor General has declared the Russian state as implicated in the Tiergarten assassination, we would like to get a confirmation of precisely this point. We have no proof whatsoever.

Where requests are concerned, as Mr Maas said, we have replied to a number of requests for legal aid, while on others we simply have no information, as the relevant Russian authorities tell us. Speaking about cybersecurity, I would like to remind you (I hope that the correspondent who asked the last question heard my answer to the previous question) that in 2018 there was a mechanism for consultations on cyber security, which the German side dismantled two years ago.  Today we have heard that there is an interest in resuming this dialogue in some or other format. We will be ready to discuss such a possibility. We have a stake in this, especially as we would also like our German colleagues to say something in response to the 75 requests regarding hacker attacks on Russian institutions, including government agencies, launched from the German segment of the internet, requests we sent to Germany over the past year and a half.

I am glad that today we are not just openly discussing matters of much interest for the public but are at last beginning to comprehend the need for having relevant professional channels, where the conversation will be held just because Russia and Germany are partners and good friends and do not want their cooperation to be overshadowed by anything, rather than in the context of home policy interests of this or that country, or in the context of certain electoral considerations. I am confident that it is in our power to cut short any attempts to undermine this cooperation. Russia, at any rate, is ready for this.

Why empty can makes the most noise? Or how visible is hidden deep in invisible?

Why empty can makes the most noise? Or how visible is hidden deep in invisible?

August 11, 2020

Note by the Saker: I want to express my deepest gratitude to Zoran for taking up my (always standing) invitation to express a point of view different than the one expressed by Johnny-on-the-spot in Serbia.  And, just in case, I want to remind everybody that I take NO personal position on this issue.  I hope that with Zoran’s column we can now have a discussion of substantive issues even if we vehemently disagree with each other.  Kind regards, The Saker

by Zoran Petrov for The Saker Blog

I was also one who has sent complaints to Saker on reporting from Belgrade and the one who refused his request to write something about situation in Serbia. There are many reasons for my refusal – one of them is that I am a biodynamic farmer and right now is high season for us in the fields. But Saker´s open letter did make change of my mind! Even if it means being accused as one of “tyrant’s trolls and bots”.

In younger days I was deputy editor in chief of small Yugoslav weekly in Australia and one of the first rules for every journalist was to avoid in their articles attributes like the one in reporting from Belgrade – “Serbian tyrant”, “psychopath” or having statements like “the board of medical charlatans”, “illegitimate, fraudulently elected deputies” without giving argumentation for such statements. Or better to say – without substance.

Instead manipulative “the people of Belgrade” good journalist would write (small or large) group of people, huge crowd, etc. and poetic expressions like “Serbia has now sunk to the darkest depths of the Middle Ages…”, “it is the descent of a proud country and noble nation into the malodorous septic tank…” would never be printed…

But what is happening in Serbia? Although everything seems quite obvious to Johnny-on-the-spot in Belgrade, questions must be raised about true influences and powers play in Serbia.

Good starting point could be series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1916 and firstly published as “Karma of Untruthfulness “in 1948. Steiner gave many lectures on nature of political events of his time. Quite interesting is his remark in 1918 that “Russian revolution was a social experiment that will last 70 years”! There are nice insights in his lectures into events that happened before WWI and background info on real causes that led to WWI.

Macintosh HD:Users:katarinapetrov:Downloads:200px-Mehmed_talaat_pasja.jpg

Steiner claimed that there was quite obvious clear intention of secret Anglo-Saxon brotherhoods to destroy 4 empires based on strong religious impulses – German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empire!

Back in 1893, an elusive Englishman named Charles George Harrison delivered a series of six lectures to the Berean Society, a London based association of Christian esotericists. Harrison, described as a “mysterious and unknown figure,” was an English occultist and Anglican Christian. In his second lecture Harrison spoke of “the next great European war” and of how the “national character” of the Slavic peoples would “enable them to carry out experiments in Socialism, political and economical, which would present innumerable difficulties in Western Europe.”[1]

These brotherhoods took active roles after WWI, from forming new states to establishing new borders like the one between Serbia and new countries of Hungary and Romania (free masons even published a book about how demarcation line was settled among them for newly established Yugoslavia). What is less known is their role in Ottoman empire destruction – major figures in Young Turk movement were at least Freemasons. The role of Dönmeh[2] members is quite intrigant and hard to follow due to their secrecy. The fact is that direct responsibility for Armenian genocide does not lay on some, of those days religious fanatic Al Kaida, but on western educated and western leaning, young Turks like Talaat Pasha (one of 4 feared Pashas) that ruled during last days of Ottoman Empire. Talaat Pasha comes from Dönmeh environment in Salonika, 33rd Scottisch Rite Freemason, minister of interior, etc., masterminded genocide of Armenian people. Today whole Turkish nation is blamed for this genocide! “Good thing” was Young Turks decision to turn Aja Sofia into museum as today is “bad thing” by Erdogan to turn in back into mosque!

With these hints in mind maybe we could start to check what is happening in Serbia right now! Is Serbia better place now then 8 years ago? I remember when several Serbian governments unsuccessfully tried to sell 2 black holes of Serbian budget – Bor copper mine[3] and Smederevo Foundry[4]. Roughly 500 millions of euros went to cover wages and maintenance costs of these two unproductive companies. No one wanted to buy any of these companies even when the sale for 1 euro for each of them (There was short episode with US company that bought Smederevo Steel Mill for 1 euro but returned it back to Serbian state after they melted surplus of tanks and artillery pieces from Serbian army)! During Vucic rule he managed to bring Chinese companies that paid good money for these companies with commitment to make further investments into modernization as well in environmental protection. Serbian state is minority shareholder and more importantly it has 500 euros more in annual budget!

Long overdue modernization of Serbian army did take place (but we are not going into this topic) and it might have some connection with interesting events:

1. in 2018 Chinese president XI and Vucic discussed possible purchase of FK3 (frankensteined S-300 and Patriot missile defence system);

2. in 2019 and 2020 Serbian solders took training in Russia on S-400 missile defence system;

3. in 2020 Russia brought S-400 missile defense system to Serbia for a joint military exercise.

4. This month it became public information that Serbia actually bought FK – 3 from China[5]

How do we connect all these dots, are Russians and Chinese so stupid to play Vucic games, Western puppet? Why would Serbian soldiers spend nearly 2 years in Russia on training how to use S-400 when government already bought FK-3!?

Even more interesting events took part in the last 60 days! But Johnny-on-the-spot in Belgrade, somehow overlooked it. Instead, of all 2 million something Belgrade citizens, he focused his attention on handful (at most 1000) active protestors?!

Chain of events started with sudden visit of FM Lavrov to Belgrade on 18th of June. After meeting with Lavrov, grim Vucic warned of “difficult times ahead”[6] :

1. protests started by small group of people (because “fraudulent election”) eventually swelled on one day to maybe 6-7000 people. But after violence by some, number of protestors decreased rapidly in the matter of 48 hours! Interestingly, police arrested young men from Ukraine and Turkmenistan (with Israel passports), from Great Britain, etc. fully prepared for fight with police.

It is hard to believe that security services in Serbia were not aware of preparation for protests. It could be even that Lavrov brought those information? It is obvious to me that firecracker was prematurely ignited (aikido scenario) and gave Vucic nice pretext for negotiation in Brussels to show his counterparts that he is not at peace at home because Kosovo but also to get some more space for maneuver after uncomfortable complete majority in Serbian parliament!

2. US mediated Serbia/Kosovo negotiation was postponed as a blow to Trump[7]

3. Brussels mediated Serbia/Kosovo negotiation came “back on track”[8] whatever it means.

4. Serbia contacted US to buy 20 bombers[9] but if US refuses it, Serbia will find someone else where to buy it (Russia).

5. Serbian army entered Kosovo in joint border with NATO KFOR[10]. Press statement from KFOR confirmed event adding that everything was in accordance with UN resolution 1244 and Kumanovo Agreement (The Military Technical Agreement signed between the International Security Force (KFOR) and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia) !?!?[11]

And, yes, Corona did something to Serbian government that started frantically to invest hundreds of millions of euros in health system of Serbia that was devastated during last 30 years. Many new hospitals are going to be built as a matter of urgency, complete restructuring of microbiological labs in Serbia, state owned Torlak (in older days major vaccine provider for Asia and Afrika) was resurrected amid claims that it was sold. Veil of silence was lifted and we know now that Torlak still produces influenza vaccine among others. State of art new labs were bought or donated from China…

So many news in so few days! Chess game is in full swing and we need good and thoughtful reports from Belgrade!

It is important to remember – when Vucic came to power he was immediately accused of being Western pawn that should finalize Kosovo independence. He might be a Western man in Serbia but he did not give Kosovo independence yet!

Notes:

  1. https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/brothers-of-the-shadows-overlords-of-chaos 
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%B6nmeh 
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zijin_Bor_Copper 
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesteel_Serbia 
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/08/03/world/europe/03reuters-serbia-arms-china.html 
  6. http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a611225/Belgrade-additionally-worries-about-Kosovo-after-Moscow-s-estimatesBelgrade-additionally-worries-abo.html 
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/world/europe/serbia-kosovo-trump-hashim-thaci.html 
  8. https://www.rferl.org/a/leaders-of-kosovo-serbia-to-hold-talks-in-eu-effort-to-reboot-dialogue/30721718.html 
  9. https://www.voanews.com/europe/serbia-seeks-purchase-more-warplanes-strengthen-its-armed-forces-potentially-russia 
  10. https://exit.al/en/2020/08/09/serbian-army-entered-kosovo-in-joint-border-patrol-with-natos-kfor-mission/ 
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumanovo_Agreement 

قدرات إيران الدفاعيّة تجاوزت مستوى التهديدات

ظريف يؤكد استعداد بلاده لتطوير العلاقات مع السعوديّة والإمارات

أكد وزير الخارجية الإيراني محمد جواد ظريف، استعداد بلاده إلى «تطوير العلاقات مع السعودية والإمارات على قاعدة الاحترام المتبادل».

ورأى ظريف أن «السعودية تريد الاعتماد على قوى أجنبية عدة بدلاً من الاعتماد على جار واحد سيبقى دائماً هنا»، مشيراً إلى أن إيران «دائماً على استعداد لإجراء محادثات بناءة مع السعودية ولا توجد لديها أي مشكلة».

ظريف قال إنه «تمّ التوصل إلى اتفاقات جيدة جداً بين إيران والعراق خلال زيارة رئيس الوزراء العراقي إلى طهران».

ووصف ظريف خلال مؤتمر صحافي مع نظيره الروسي سيرغي لافروف، في موسكو أول أمس الثلاثاء، العلاقات الإيرانية مع روسيا بـ»الاستراتيجية»، منوهاً إلى أن «الحوار المستمر مع الدول الصديقة في الوضع الراهن أمر ضروري».

وعقب مغادرة موسكو، كتب وزير الخارجية الإيراني تغريدة، قال فيها إنه «سلم رسالة مهمة إلى الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين واتفق مع وزير الخارجية الروسي أيضاً على وضع اللمسات الأخيرة على اتفاق التعاون طويل الأمد مع روسيا».

وأضاف ظريف «لدينا وجهات نظر واحدة بشأن الاتفاق النووي وضرورة الالتزام بالقانون الدولي. واتفقنا على وضع اللمسات الأخيرة على اتفاق التعاون الشامل الاستراتيجي طويل الأمد».

​كما، أجرى وزير الخارجية الإيراني محمد جواد ظريف، أول أمس محادثات مع نظيره الروسي سيرغي لافروف حول الاتفاق النووي والمستجدات الإقليمية والدولية وذلك بعد تقديم رسالة من الرئيس حسن روحاني إلى الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين.

على صعيد آخر، قال القائد العام للجيش الإيراني، اللواء سيد عبد الرحيم موسوي: «إننا تمكنا من تطوير قدراتنا الدفاعية في مجال تعبئة القوى البشرية وتطوير الأجهزة المتقدمة، بما يتناسب ومستوى التهديدات، بل اجتيازه».

ونقلت وكالة «إرنا»، مساء أمس، عن موسوي أن «قوة الدفاع الجوي الإيرانية تضطلع بمهام رئيسية، لكونها تقف في الخط الأمامي لساحات الدفاع عن البلاد»، مشيراً إلى أن «قدرات إيران الدفاعية تخطت مستوى التهديدات في شتى المجالات التعبوية، وامتلاك الأجهزة والمعدات العسكرية الحديثة».

وأفادت الوكالة بأن «تصريحات موسوي جاءت خلال الزيارة التفقدية التي قام بها اليوم، مرافقاً بقائد قوة الدفاع الجوي في الجيش الإيراني، العميد صباحي فرد، للأقسام المختلفة بوحدة الرد السريع التابعة لهذه القوة المسلحة في طهران».

وبدوره، قدم العميد صباحي فرد، قائد قوة الدفاع الجوي للجيش الإيراني، تقريراً حول الإجراءات المتخذة من أجل الارتقاء بالمستويين، الدفاعي والقتالي، وإعادة تأهيل الأجهزة والمعدات لدى هذه القوة.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

10 July 2020 15:55

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World,” held as part of the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, July 10, 2020

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for inviting me to once again speak at the Primakov Readings. This is a young, but also one of the most respected platforms for discussing international matters. Unfortunately, we cannot meet in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, thanks to modern technology we could keep it on schedule. I am glad that my colleagues were able to take part in the preceding sessions of these readings. Judging by their feedback, this was a useful experience.

I will not delve into the question of how the coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives, and what it will bring in the future. We already feel its effect on the economy and in personal contacts, from official visits and talks, to humanitarian, cultural and education exchanges. There seems to be a consensus that it will take quite some time for things to get back to normal. How long it will take and what the new norm will be is anybody’s guess. That said, all tend to agree that things will change.

By the way, I cannot fail to mention that our foreign service has had to face serious challenges. There were confirmed cases both at the Foreign Ministry head offices and our representative offices in the regions, as well as in our affiliated institutions. Thank goodness, we did not face a massive outbreak or severe cases. There were also people in our missions abroad affected by the pandemic. When borders closed, all our foreign missions without exception were mobilised to assist Russian nationals stranded abroad. Along with other agencies represented in the Emergency Response Centre, primarily the Transport Ministry, the Federal Air Agency, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare and the Communications Ministry, we complied repatriation lists. This was a lot of work, fraught with many mistakes, mostly unintentional rather than deliberate, that had to be rectified. At the same time we had to make arrangements to pay support allowances to those stranded abroad without funds. We have already done a great deal on this front, although there are still people asking to be repatriated, and some have come forward only recently. It seems that looking at the developments in the countries where they are staying and considering the uncertainty as to when all this will come to an end, they finally opted to return home.

Speaking of other ways in which the pandemic influenced our work and the way we perform our professional duties, the virus has aggravated other pre-existing challenges and threats. They have not gone away, including international terrorism. As you know, some speculate that terrorists are thinking about somehow using the strain of this virus, or maybe even creating new strains to achieve their malicious ends. Drug trafficking, cybercrime, environmental issues, climate and, of course, the many conflicts around the world – all these problems are still with us. And all this overlaps with the specific nature of the Trump administration and its deliberate policy of undermining all legal and contractual frameworks without exception on arms control and international cooperation, for example, regarding UNESCO, the WHO, the UN Human Rights Council, etc.

Of course, we keep a close eye on all these developments and analyse them. We still believe that sustainable solutions to various crises, conflicts and problems in the interests of all countries, and taking into consideration each and everyone’s concerns can only result from collective efforts based on the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, by respecting UN Security Council prerogatives, mobilising consensus-based associations, including the G20, as well as BRICS, the SCO and associations on the post-Soviet space. Unfortunately, not everyone has been ready to work together during the pandemic, to engage in collective efforts and approaches. We are witnessing attempts to push through narrow-minded agendas, and use this crisis to continue strangling unwanted regimes. The call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to suspend unilateral sanctions, at least during the pandemic, that impede the distribution of medial and other humanitarian goods, and other essential items to the corresponding countries, was completely ignored. The same goes for attempts to assign blame for the infection in the midst of the pandemic, when what we need is to think about how we can help medical workers, doctors and virologists. You know very well what I am referring to.

Like 75 years ago, when Victory over a common enemy was won only by working together and rising above the ideological differences of the time, we now also need to realise that we will resolve these issues only if we cooperate. I’m sure we’ll talk about the future of the WHO later. We are in favour of resolving any issues based on the UN Charter, which is a collective security platform.

Our Western colleagues – I’ve already mentioned this many times – are trying to actively introduce the concept of a “rules-based order” into diplomatic, political and practical usage. This is not international law. This is something else (we can also talk about this in more detail during the discussion). Clearly, this is an attempt to regain the dominance that the historical West has enjoyed for almost 500 years now. This attempt takes the form of convening a “group of interests” and various partnerships, where convenient countries are invited that either share the attempts to adopt unilateral approaches to international affairs, or will yield to pressure and join these initiatives. Not everyone is invited. Those who have their own outlook on things and are ready to defend it are left out. Later, when a concept, say, on chemical weapons, is fabricated, or an attempt is made to create a club of the select few who will decide on who is to blame for violating cybersecurity, they will start selling it as universally applicable norms. We are witnessing this now as it’s happening. These are very serious problems.

I would like to conclude my opening remarks. Our main goal, as before, is to protect our national interests and create the most favourable external conditions for the country’s development. You may have noticed that we come up with ideas that unite. Convening a summit of the UN Security Council permanent members is our top priority. This effort is ongoing. We are now focusing on the substantive part of the event, because, of course, it will play the decisive part.

The current hardships in international relations increase the importance of these discussions and, in general, the contribution of the expert community, and academic and political circles, into the efforts to analyse the situation and make reasonable realistic forecasts. I’d be remiss not to mention the case study concept that Yevgeny Primakov introduced into our foreign policy and political science. We appreciate the fact that the participants and organisers of the Primakov Readings always help us draw from a rich well of ideas, from which we then pick the ones that we submit to the President to determine our policies in specific circumstances.

Question: Five years ago, an IMEMO strategic forecast assumed that a new bipolarity might emerge as one of the four scenarios for the future world order.   At that time, this hypothesis was based on the relative dynamics of the synergetic power of China and the United States.  The COVID-19 pandemic has provided plenty of evidence of this theory. Of course, a different – asymmetrical – bipolarity is emerging, where the strategic parity is between Russia and the US, and the economic parity is between China and the United States, which is distinct from what was the case in the 20th century.

Do you think that the US-PRC conflict has passed the point of no return? It is obvious that any exacerbation of this confrontation is not in Russia’s interests. Will Russia be able to act as a swing power in order to maintain stability of the world system, including based on your unique experience of multilateral diplomacy?

Sergey Lavrov: I remember the forecast you have mentioned. I would like to say that, certainly, a lot has changed over these past five years, primarily in terms of confirming that the confrontation, rivalry, antagonism, and the struggle for leadership between the United States and China have, of course, been mounting. Before I pass directly to an analysis of this bipolar process, I would like to note that the real situation in the world as a whole is much more complicated. After all, the world is growing more polycentric than it was previously. There are numerous players apart from the US and China, without whom it is very difficult to promote one’s interests, if some or other capital suddenly decides to do this single-handedly.  I think we will yet discuss some other possible options in this sense. Let me mention the fact that Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics   Sergey Karaganov has commented on this subject in an article for Russia in Global Affairs, a journal published by Fyodor Lukyanov.

It is quite clear that we should take into consideration, in our practical work, the entire diversity and totality of political, economic, military, historical, and ideological factors that are manifesting themselves in the multipolar world, a world that Yevgeny Primakov predicted. We are assessing the US-Chinese controversy against this backdrop and through this prism.  That it is not existing in a vacuum is, as a minimum, confirmed by the fact that each of the sides is seeking to recruit as many supporters of their approaches as possible to the WHO or any other subject that in some way or other is associated with Washington and Beijing as defining contradictions in their approaches.

The Americans are certainly perceiving the growth of the PRC’s total state power as a threat to their claims to retaining the world leadership against all odds. Back in 2017, the US National Security Strategy listed China, along with Russia, among the main threats. It was for the first time that China was put before Russia as a threat to the United States.

Russia and China were directly accused of seeking to challenge the American influence, values and prosperity.  It is quite clear that the US is waging a struggle by absolutely unsavoury methods, as is obvious and clear to everyone. They are putting forward unilateral demands that take into account solely the US interests. If demands are turned down, they say the refusal is unacceptable and introduce sanctions.

If a discussion is suggested, the discussion rapidly degenerates into delivering an ultimatum and ends up in selfsame sanctions – trade wars, tariffs, and lots more.

A highly indicative fact is how the Americans and the Chinese managed to come to terms on phase one of the trade talks in January and what the fate of this agreement is now. The US authorities are accusing Beijing of drawing off jobs and glutting the market, while showing reluctance to buy US products. According to the Americans, China is implementing the Belt and Road project intended to steamroll all world economy mechanisms, production chains, and so on.  China allegedly was concealing information on COVID-19 and is engaging in cyber espionage. Notice how zealously the Americans are forcing their allies and others to give up any collaboration with Huawei and other Chinese digital giants and companies. China’s hi-tech companies are being squeezed out of the world markets.  China is being charged with expansionism in the South China Sea, problems on the actual control line with India, human rights violations, and [misbehaviour with regard to] Tibet, the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. All of this is taking place simultaneously. A powerful wave of fault-finding, a perfect storm is being raised. I hope, of course, that common sense will prevail and the situation will not pass the point of no return mentioned by Mr Dynkin.

We hope that there are people in the United States, who are figuring out how to reassure the world of the dollar system’s reliability in the post-election period. The US Secretary of the Treasury is speaking about this all but openly. He is warning that they should be wary of overstepping the red line, after which people will just start fleeing from America, saying that the dollar is no good anymore because it is being brazenly abused.

There is, of course, hope that the Chinese possess a political, diplomatic and foreign policy culture that always seeks to avoid various imbroglios.  But there are also some very alarming signs that, despite these rays of hope, which must be nurtured and cherished, US and Chinese officials start getting personal, occasionally in a very harsh form. This bespeaks a high degree of tension on both sides. And, of course, this is really alarming.

I do hope that our Chinese and US partners have some diplomatic methods, ways of classical diplomacy tucked up their sleeve. People should not insult each other in public or accuse each other of all sins, as the Americans are doing on every street corner. A better option is to sit down [to the negotiating table] and recognise that your opposite number is a great power and that every state, be it a great power or otherwise, has interests that must be respected.  The world certainly should seek to function based on a search for a balance of these interests.

Now let me pass to the second question – that this aggravation is not in Russia’s interests. I think that it is totally at variance with our interests, the interests of the European Union, and those of other countries as well. If you take the EU, China-EU trade is absolutely comparable with trade between China and the US. I think it is also necessary to pay attention to the EU’s increasingly publicised aspirations as regards a strategic autonomy not only in the military-political and security sphere but also in trade and the economy. Incidentally, the EU also wants to start repatriating its industries and localise as many trade and distributive chains as possible on its territory. In this regard, it is entering direct competition with the Americans.

The EU is unlikely to support the United States on every count in its desire to bleed the Chinese economy white by “pumping over” all development-friendly processes to its territory. There will be a lot of wrinkles, tension and clashes of interests.

Today, unlike in 2014, when the EU, under atrocious US pressure, introduced sanctions against Russia, it is showing signs of sound pragmatism towards our country. Specifically, they have publicly announced that they will revise the notorious “five principles” that Federica Mogherini formulated several years ago to guide relations with Russia.  They also say that it is necessary to overhaul their entire approach so that it should be more consistent with EU interests.

Incidentally, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell gave a talk recently on EU and China and on EU and Russia. Asked, why not impose sanctions on China for Hong Kong and human rights, he said that sanctions were not a method to be used in relations with China. We inquired whether sanctions were, in his opinion, a method that could be used in relations with Russia?  Our European friends will be thinking about this. It is a tough question.

I think that the European Union and Russia have a stake in cooperating, but not to the detriment of anyone else.  Basically, we do not ally with others to organise some actions against a third party.  We prefer pragmatism and shared benefit. I think Brussels will be doing something to overcome the myopia of the recent period.  The survey of EU policy vis-à-vis Russia will give more heed to an analysis of the real benefits inherent in promoting relations with Russia and the EAEU.

I do not see any benefits that Russia could derive from a trade war between Washington and Beijing. We will not benefit from relations with the EU and India either. Relations with India are traditionally friendly and other than time-serving. I do not envisage any changes in this area. We have proclaimed a “specially privileged strategic partnership” with India. I do not see any reasons why our Indian friends should sacrifice the gains that exist in the context of our partnership and prospects that it opens.

Question: You have mentioned Russian-US relations. Of course, international security and strategic stability depend on them. The situation is rather alarming now because of a deep crisis in the arms control regime. It is possible that the last key treaty in this sphere will expire in six months. There are many reasons for this, both geopolitical and technological. I believe we have to admit that public opinion is not pressuring the political elites to maintain arms control as much as during the Cold War, when large-scale demonstrations were held, as we well remember. The highest priority threats for the public now are the pandemic, climate change and terrorism. The fear of a nuclear war has receded into the background. What can be done to change this, or will it take a new Cuban crisis for the public to become aware of the nuclear conflict threat and to start expressing its opinion?

Jointly with our academic community we are now holding many videoconferences with American experts. You have said that there are rational people in the United States. It can be said that these conferences offer an opportunity to coordinate a number of new proposals, which could be used to formulate our initiatives. Of course, we update the Foreign Ministry and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov about our activities. But it seems that today we need to think about some radical action, possibly in connection with the proposed summit of the five nuclear states, in order to create conditions that will help prevent the dismantling of the arms control regime and launch the creation of a new system of international security and strategic stability suited to the conditions of the 21st century.

Sergey Lavrov: I fully agree with you. Nuclear risks have increased dramatically, and the situation in the sphere of international security and strategic stability is visibly deteriorating. The reasons for this are obvious to everyone.  The United States wants to regain global domination and attain victory in what it describes as great-power rivalry. It has replaced the term “strategic stability” with “strategic rivalry.” It wants to win, whatever the price, as the saying goes. It is dismantling the arms control architecture so as to have the freedom to choose any instrument, including military force, to put pressure on its geopolitical opponents, and it wants to be able to use these instruments anywhere around the world. This is especially alarming in light of the changes in the doctrines of the US military-political authorities. These changes have allowed the limited use of nuclear weapons. It is notable that, like in the case of other strategic stability topics, the Americans have once again alleged that it is the Russian doctrine that permits the limited use of nuclear weapons and escalation for the sake of de-escalation and victory. They have recently issued comments on our doctrines, claiming that there are some secret parts where all of this is stipulated. This is not true. Meanwhile, we can see that the United States has adopted a number of practical programmes to support their doctrines with military and technical capabilities. This concerns the creation of low-yield nuclear warheads. American experts and officials are openly discussing this.

In this context, we are especially alarmed by the Americans’ failure to reaffirm – for two years now – the fundamental principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that therefore it must never be unleashed. Early in the autumn of 2018, we submitted to the American side our written proposal that has been formulated as the confirmation of what People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov and US President Franklin Roosevelt had coordinated and the notes they exchanged. We have reminded them about this proposal several times. They have replied that they are analysing it. Of course, we will raise the issue of the inadmissibility of fighting a nuclear war and winning it at the upcoming summit meeting of the five nuclear powers. It is important for our arguments to be no weaker than the arguments in the relevant Soviet-US documents. The slackening of these formulations has shown that the Americans would like to dilute the fact that there is no alternative to this principle and it cannot be repealed.

You have said that civil society is not paying sufficient attention to these threats, and I fully agree with you on this count. It is vital to attract public attention to this problem, to tell the people about the risks in understandable terms, because technicalities are often difficult to understand, and the form in which the analysis of this situation is presented to people is very important. Of course, we should count not only on official establishments but also on civil society and its politically active part – the NGOs and the academic and expert community.

I have said that I agree with you on this count, but I would also like to caution against going too far with raising public awareness of nuclear risks, so as not to play into the hands of those who want to prohibit all nuclear weapons and not to raise other concerns. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons openly contradicts the Non-Proliferation Treaty, creating confusion and problems. The necessary balance can be found with the help of top quality professionals, and I believe that we have more of them than any other country.

As for public sentiments, they do not always determine the reality. During the election campaign of US President Donald Trump, public sentiments were largely in tune with his declared plans and his calls for normalising Russian-US relations. Since then, the public has calmed down, and nobody is staging any riots over this matter.

Of course, it is vital to continue to interact directly with the nuclear powers and their authorities. We would like reasonable approaches to take priority.

You have mentioned that political consultations are underway between you, your colleagues and American experts. We appreciate this. Your contribution and assessments, as well as the information we receive following such consultations are taken into account and have a significant influence on the essence of our approaches, including in situations when we submit several alternatives to the leadership; this helps us analyse the possible scenarios and all their pros and cons.

The United States, as well as Britain and France, which are playing along with it, would like to limit the summit’s agenda to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. China sees this as an attempt to press through the idea of expanding the number of negotiating parties at the talks on nuclear weapons by one means or another. China has put forth its position on the idea of multilateral talks clearly and more than once. We respect this position. By the way, the Americans are clever at twisting things. They use only the parts of our statements and those of the Chinese that suit their position. The Chinese have said recently that they will join the arms control talks as soon as the Americans reduce their capability to the level of China’s arsenal. A day later, Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea announced that the United States welcomed China’s readiness to join the multilateral talks and invited Beijing to Vienna. The next round of Russian-US consultations at the level of experts will be held in late July, following on from the late June meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, when the Americans made a show with Chinese flags. The Americans have once again stated publicly that they would like to invite the Chinese to Vienna but it would be better if Russia met with China before that so as to tell Beijing what Washington expects from it. I think everyone can see that this is impolite and undiplomatic. When we say that we proceed from the assumption that China is free to take whatever stand it deems necessary, it shows our respect for China’s position. I would like to add that the Americans have not put on paper anything of what they said about the need for transitioning to a multilateral format. Let them at least document what they have in mind. But they seem to be categorically averse to this.

We are ready to take part in multilateral talks, but it should be a voluntary and independent decision of everyone. Only voluntary participation can be effective.

None of the reservations are being taken into account. They say that Russia supports their call for multilateral talks. What do we hear when we add that multilateral talks must also include Britain and France? Special Envoy Billingslea didn’t blink when he said the other day in reply to a question about the possible involvement of Britain and France that they are sovereign states who are free to decide whether to join the talks or not, and that the United States will not make the decision for them. Why has it actually made the decision for China then?

Knowing the US negotiating party, I am not optimistic about the New START, for example, but it’s good that we have started talking. Sergey Ryabkov and Marshall Billingslea have agreed to set up three working groups within the framework of the process they are supervising. They will hold a meeting of the working group on space, nuclear and weapons transparency plus nuclear doctrines in Vienna between July 27 and 30. We’ll see what comes of it. We never refuse to talk, and we will try to make negotiations result-oriented.

Question: Extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is one of the critical items on the agenda of Russia-US relations, primarily in the sphere of arms control. If Russia fails to reach an agreement with Washington to renew this treaty before February 2021, what will it do next? If there’s a pause in the dialogue with Washington in the sphere of arms control, and if the treaty is not renewed, what will the arms control system become and will the multilateral formats that we are talking about now be possible in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: It appears that the United States has already decided not to renew this treaty. The fact that it insists that there’s no alternative to taking the deal to the trilateral format suggests that everything has been already decided. In addition to this, they want the latest Russian weapons to be part of the deal which, by and large, is nothing short of trying to force an open door. We told the Americans earlier on that when Avangard and Sarmat become fully deployed, they will be subject to the restrictions established by the treaty for as long as it remains valid. The other systems are new. They do not fit into the three categories covered by START-3, but we are ready to start talking about including the weapons that are not classical from the START-3 perspective in the discussion, of course, within the context of a principled discussion of all, without exceptions, variables that affect strategic stability that way or another. This includes missile defence, where we are now able to see that the once existing allegations that it was designed solely to stop the missile threat coming from Iran and North Korea, were lies. No one is even trying to bring this up anymore. Everything is being done solely in terms of containing Russia and China. Other factors include high-precision non-nuclear weapons known as a programme of instant global strike, openly promoted plans by the Americans and the French to launch weapons into space, the developments related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a number of other factors too. We are ready to discuss new weapons, but to do so not in order to humour someone or to respond to someone’s initiatives, but to really reduce the threat to global stability and security.

To this end, we need to look at all the things that create these threats, pushing us to create antidotes, as was the case with our hypersonic weapons, which were developed in response to the global deployment of the US missile defence system.

Speaking specifically about the START-3 Treaty, we need an extension as much as the Americans do. They see some kind of a game in our calls to extend it for five more years without any preconditions. Russia, they say, has modernised its entire nuclear arsenal, but we are just beginning the modernisation, so they want to “tie our hands.” This is absolutely not so. We need to extend the START-3 Treaty as much as the Americans. If they refuse to do so, we will not insist. We know and we firmly believe that we will be able to ensure our security in the long run, even in the absence of this treaty. I think it is premature to discuss our actions if this treaty expires without any further action, but we are indeed ready for any turn of events. If the renewal is turned down, our options may be different, but I can assure you that overall we will continue the dialogue with the United States on strategic issues and new weapons control tools based on the facts that underlie strategic stability, as I just mentioned.

With regard to the multilateral talks, we already said back in 2010, when we were signing START-3, that the signing of this treaty puts an end to the possibility for further bilateral reductions and that, talking about future reductions, I emphasise this term, we will need to take into account the arsenals of other nuclear powers and start looking for other forms of discussions, if we’re talking about reductions. If we are talking about control, I think the bilateral Russian-American track has far more to offer. Losing all forms of control and transparency would probably be an unreasonable and irresponsible thing to do in the face of our nations and other nations as well. I believe the fact that there’s a transparency group (this is a broad term that includes measures of trust and verification) among the Russian-American working groups which will be meeting in Vienna soon, is a good sign.

Question: The Eurasian countries regard Russia as a mainstay that can connect the EU and Asian countries. How do you see Russia’s role in this space?

Sergey Lavrov: The situation on the Eurasian continent is fully affected by almost all global factors. This is where a number of the most important world centres are located, including China, Russia, India and the European Union if we are talking about the continent as a whole. For various reasons, each of these actors is motivated to pursue a foreign policy independent from the United States. This includes the EU.

Calls for strategic autonomy extend to the development area as such. We in Eurasia feel the influence of forces that would like to put together interest-based blocs and try to introduce elements of confrontation into various processes. We increasingly see centripetal tendencies. I am referring to ASEAN in the east and the EU in the west of our continent.

Located in the centre is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Union. We would like to promote unifying, not divisive approaches in this space  and intensify trans-regional collaboration based on equality, mutual benefit, and most importantly, we would like to realise the obvious comparative advantages of cooperation on the continent via integration entities created in the West, East, and Centre, with respect for each of these unions and the search for natural forms of collaboration. This is the goal of what we call the Greater Eurasian Partnership that President Vladimir Putin suggested establishing at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi a few years ago. We think this is an absolutely realistic action plan.

Let me note parenthetically that there are opposing approaches. They are mostly promoted by the United States through so-called Indo-Pacific concepts aimed at undermining the central systematic role of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region. I am referring to an attempt to put together a group of countries that would openly – this is not even hidden – contain China’s development.

I would favour identifying points of contact among all integration processes. Of course, there is China’s Belt and Road concept. The EAEU has an agreement with China that includes identifying points of contact and the harmonisation of any project that will be implemented as part of Eurasian integration and China’s project. Of course, there is a clash of economic interests in a number of cases, but the sides’ willingness to be guided by international legal principles, respect for each other, and mutual benefit makes it possible to agree on these economic interests based on the search for balance. It is in this way that our relations with our EAEU partners, China within the SCO, and ASEAN, are built. We invite the European Union, as has been repeatedly stated, to consider how it can become part of the development of our common geopolitical and primarily geo-economic space with benefits for itself and for others.

Question: The Middle East and North Africa remain a troubled region. New divides continue to crop up there; the potential for conflict remains and the old conflicts that everyone knows about persist. The humanitarian situation is aggravated due to the West’s unfair sanctions against a certain part of the region. Various asymmetries are growing deeper. What are Russia’s strategic interests in the region today? What do we want to achieve there, given the post-COVID nature of the era we are now entering?

Sergey Lavrov: We have very good relations in this region, possibly the best in the history of relations between this country, in its various capacities, and the region. I mean relations with all sides: the Arab countries, regardless of the conflict potential within the Arab world, and Israel. We will proceed from the need to promote positive contact with all these countries and seek to understand their problems and needs, and take this into account in our relations not only with a specific country but also with the countries that this particular partner has problems with.

In the beginning, I was asked whether Russia was ready to perform as a balancing influence in relations between the United States and China. If they ask us to, if they are interested, we would not decline this. We have established contacts with both sides and our historical development record enables us to see that we have potential.

If there is interest in mediation services that we can offer in this region or elsewhere, we are always ready to try to help, but of course, we will not push ourselves on anyone. Our own interest is primarily in precluding new military crises and in settling old crises so that the Middle East and North Africa become a zone of peace and stability. Unlike certain major countries outside the region, we have no strategic interest in maintaining controlled chaos. We have no such interest whatsoever.

We are not interested in engineering head-on clashes between countries in the region so as to create a pretext and a motive for continuing, and sometimes expanding, our military presence there. We are interested in promoting mutually beneficial trade, economic, investment and other ties with these states. In this respect, we would not like any other country in the region to have the same fate as Libya, which was robbed of its statehood and now no one knows how to “sew it together.” This is why we will be actively involved in efforts to reestablish an international legal approach to avoid any further toothpowder-filled test tubes passed off as VX and lies about weapons of mass destruction in other countries in the region as is now happening in Syria. Some have already started talking about “undiscovered” chemical weapons in Libya. All of these are inventions. How they are concocted is no secret.

We would like to derive economic benefits from our relations with the countries in the region. For this, we primarily have much in common in our approaches to problems in the contemporary world: international law, the UN Charter, and inter-civilisational dialogue, something that is also important, considering the Muslim population in the Russian Federation. Russia’s Muslim republics maintain good ties with the Gulf countries and other countries in the Arab world. We would like to support and develop all this. We will not gain anything from the chaos that continues in the region. As soon as the situation stabilises, the Russian Federation’s reliability as a partner in economic cooperation, military-technical cooperation, and the political area will always ensure us important advantages.

Question: My question is related to the recent changes in Russia. The new wording of the Constitution, which has come into effect, includes a provision according to which any actions (with the exception of delimitation, demarcation and re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation with adjacent states) aimed at alienating part of the Russian territory, as well as calls for such actions, shall be prohibited. This provision is understandable. This brings me to my question: Does this mean that our years-long talks with Japan on the so-called territorial dispute have become anti-constitutional because they contradict our Fundamental Law? As far as I recall, the terms “delimitation” and “demarcation” have never been applied to the Kuril Islands, or have they?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, you are spot on. Our relations with Japan are based on a number of agreements. The Russian Federation as the successor state of the Soviet Union has reaffirmed its commitment to all of the agreements signed by the Soviet Union. President Vladimir Putin has confirmed this more than once. This includes the 1956 Declaration under which we are ready to discuss and are discussing with our Japanese colleagues the necessity of signing a peace treaty, but not a treaty that would have been signed the next day after the last shot, that is, immediately after the termination of the war, as some of our Japanese colleagues would like. The state of war between the Soviet Union and Japan was terminated by the 1956 Declaration, which provides for the end of the state of war and for the restoration of diplomatic relations. What else do we need? In other words, a peace treaty we are negotiating should be modern and comprehensive, and it should not reflect the situation of 60-70 years ago but the current state of affairs, when we believe that we should develop full-scale ties with Japan. This document must be essential and inclusive, that is, it should include issues of peace, friendship, neighbourliness, partnership and cooperation, and it should cover all spheres of our relations, including economic ties, which are improving but not in all economic sectors. It should be remembered that our Japanese neighbours have imposed sanctions on Russia, although they are not as all-embracing as the US restrictions, but anyway.

A peace treaty should also cover security topics, because Japan has a close military alliance with the United States, which has essentially declared Russia to be an enemy. Of course, a comprehensive peace treaty should also include our views on foreign policy interaction, where, to put it simply, we disagree on all disputable matters, as well as humanitarian and cultural ties and many other factors. We have offered a concept of such a treaty. Our Japanese colleagues have not responded to this concept so far.

It is clear that the outcome of WWII is the fundamental issue that should determine our relations. Japanese officials have stated more than once that they recognise the results of WWII excluding the decision concerning the South Kuril Islands, or the “Northern Territories,” as they say. This position contradicts the law. Japan’s position must be based on the fact that the country ratified the UN Charter, which essentially means that the actions taken by the winner countries with regard to the enemy countries are beyond discussion.

Of course, our Japanese neighbours keep saying that they would sign a peace treaty as soon as the territorial dispute is settled. This is not what we have agreed to do. We have agreed to focus on signing a peace treaty as stipulated in the 1956 Declaration.

Question: Russia often criticises the US for promoting non-inclusive associations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to isolate “uncomfortable” states. I am primarily referring to the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. Obviously, the very existence of such formats turns the region from a zone of cooperation into a zone of confrontation. We are certainly not interested in that. However, for all its minuses, the Quad concept is obviously finding understanding from Russia’s strategic partners, for instance, India. The Quad Plus project, where the US plans to invite Vietnam, our strategic partner as well, is also under discussion. Apparently, there is a need to enhance security in the region. Can Russia offer an alternative to such formats to prevent our two strategic partners from being in a position where they have to deter a third one?

Sergey Lavrov: I talked about the appearance of concepts and strategies on forming what US diplomats call “a free and open Indo-Pacific” several years ago. When some initiative calls itself free and open, I always have the impression that this includes a tinge of PR because how can it be called open if every state the region without exception is not invited to join?

When the term “Indo-Pacific strategies” appeared we inquired if they did not deal with the Asia-Pacific Region the contours of which are clear: the APEC, and the mechanisms that were established around ASEAN (the ASEAN regional security forum, the meeting of the ASEAN defence ministers and the partner countries, which is very important and, of course, the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum that will be a decade old this year). We asked why the established term, Asia-Pacific Region, was replaced with this “Indo-Pacific strategies.” Does this mean that these strategies will embrace more countries, including all Indian Ocean coastal states? We received a negative answer. But what does “Indo” mean then? Will the Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean, take part in the new format? We got a negative answer again. The Gulf has too many problems to be involved in these initiatives.

As for the ideas pursued by this Quad, as I have said, they are not really hiding them. These ideas come down to attempts to deter China. Our specially privileged partner India is fully aware of this. Pursuing its multi-vector policy, India is certainly interested in developing relations with the US (and who isn’t?), Japan and Australia. We are also interested in this. But India does not want to benefit from this cooperation at the price of further aggravating its relations with China. They had sad incidents on the Line of Actual Control but we welcome their immediate contacts between militaries, which are ongoing. They reached agreements on de-escalating tensions. Their politicians and diplomats also met. We can see that neither India nor China want their relations to get worse. Therefore, before talking seriously about Indo-Pacific strategies as a future for our large region, it is necessary to explain the choice of wording. If this was done to please India because of the Indian Ocean, just say so.

There are things that have already been established. I mentioned a diverse network of institutions and mechanisms around ASEAN. ASEAN brings together a group of countries that promote unifying approaches in the context of their civilisations and cultures. Everything is aimed at searching for consensus based on a balance of interests. For decades, the members have been absolutely content with developing relations in this venue with its regional security forum, defence minister meetings and East Asia Summits. There is even an expression: “ASEAN-way.” They always emphasise that they want to handle matters in “the ASEAN-way.” This means never to seek confrontation or launch projects that will create problems for other members. Regrettably, Indo-Pacific strategies may pursue different goals, at least under their initial concept.

In the beginning of our conversation, I mentioned the tough claims made by the US against China. They sound like an ultimatum. This is a mechanism for exerting and intensifying pressure. We do not see anything positive in this. Any problems must be resolved peacefully, through talks. Let me repeat that ASEAN is an ideal venue where every participant can discuss its problems with another member without polemics or tension. We are actively forming bridges with ASEAN (I mentioned the EAEU and the SCO). Their secretariats have already signed related memorandums. We will continue promoting ASEAN’s core role in the South Pacific Region.

We will only welcome Indo-Pacific strategies if they become more understandable, if we are convinced that they lean towards joining the ASEAN-led processes rather than try to undermine its role and redirect the dialogue against China or someone else. However, we are not seeing this so far.

Question: A week ago, experts were polled on US allegations that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, had offered rewards to the Taliban for killing US troops in Afghanistan. All of the analysts agree that the allegation could be rooted in domestic, primarily political reasons. Your subordinate, Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, has pointed out that one of the factions in the United States is against the planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan because US security services have become deeply involved in the drug trade over the past few years. We have not asked you about this situation yet. What do you think about this uproar?

Sergey Lavrov: We have already responded to the hype in the United States over Russia’s alleged connection with the Taliban, who were allegedly financed to fight US troops and even offer bounties for the murder of American military personnel. I can only tell you once again that all this is a dirty speculation. No facts have been provided to prove anything. Moreover, responsible officials in the US administration, including the Secretary of Defence, have said that they know nothing about this.

These allegations fit in very well with the political fighting during an election year in the United States, as if they were invented – and it appears that this is so – for this purpose. The objective is to disgrace the US administration and to discredit everything it has been doing, especially with regard to Russia. I would like to repeat that there are no facts to prove these allegations. But there were facts in the late 1970s and 80s, when the US administration did not make a secret of helping the Mujahedeen, of supplying them with Stingers and other weapons, which they used against Soviet soldiers.

As I have said, we would like both Russia and the United States to draw lessons from the experience they have accumulated in that long-suffering country and to help launch an intra-Afghan dialogue together with the other countries that could help allay tensions there, primarily China, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan’s other neighbours. We have been working actively towards this end.

As for the United States, we have been acting within the framework of this political process under the agreements being advocated by the United States in its dialogue with the Taliban and the Afghan Government. We are using our channels to make these agreements possible. There is a mechanism for consultations between Russia, the United States and China, which Pakistan sometimes joins and to which Iran has been invited. However, Iran has not acted on the invitation because of its problems with the United States and the actions Washington has been taking against Iran around the world. These consultations are a mechanism for cooperation that is being used to define the spheres where signals could be sent to the sides. This is being done within the framework of the logic of the so-called Moscow format, which brings together all of Afghanistan’s neighbours without exception, as well as the United States, Russia and China. This is more than adequate.

Now, regarding Afghanistan’s drugs and the possible involvement of the US military in the drug business. We have received numerous reports, including through the media, according to which NATO aircraft are being used to smuggle Afghan opiates to other countries, including to Europe. The governors of the concerned Afghan provinces have stated more than once that unmarked helicopters are flying in the area. It should be noted that the sky over Afghanistan is controlled by the NATO coalition. Other reports have mentioned other forms of smuggling opiates.

Of course, we cannot verify such information to the dot, but it has been reported so regularly that we cannot ignore it. If combat aircraft were used in Afghanistan (as I mentioned, it could only be NATO aircraft), the flights could only be made by military or intelligence personnel. These circumstances should be investigated, first of all in the United States. The Americans have agencies that are in charge of monitoring compliance with American laws. Second, investigations should also be held in the country where military personnel are deployed, that is, Afghanistan. This is exactly what Zamir Kabulov said. By the way, established facts show that over the 20 years of the deployment of the US and other coalition members in Afghanistan the volume of drugs smuggled into other countries, including in Europe and our neighbours, as well as into Russia, has increased several times over. Neither the United States nor the other members of the NATO coalition are seriously fighting this drug business. By the way, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko noted in a recent report that there are opium poppy plantations right next to NATO bases. This is an established fact. And this is possibly not right from the viewpoint of the US stand on the drug business.

We have regularly tried to attract the UN Security Council’s attention to this issue when we listened to reports on NATO coalition operations in Afghanistan, and we also did this via bilateral channels when we urged our partners to combat the drug industry. They replied that the mandate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan did not include drugs, that it only stipulated counterterrorist activities. But it is a well-known fact that the drug business is used to finance terrorism and is the largest source of funds for terrorist organisations. You can reach your own conclusions. As I have pointed out, we take this problem very seriously.

QuestionA few hours after this meeting of the Primakov Readings is over, an extraordinary UN General Assembly session on combating the pandemic will begin at 10 am New York time. This session was convened by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). How important is this session? Who will represent Russia? Do you think the UN is late in responding to the pandemic? What do you think about the Non-Aligned Movement’s principles in these conditions?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we are aware that a special session of the UN General Assembly on the subject of COVID-19 will be convened upon the initiative of the Non-Aligned Movement chaired by Azerbaijan this year. It will take place a little later. Today, on July 10, the procedural registration of the rules to be used for convening the session begins, since amid the coronavirus infection, all remotely held events are subject to coordination in terms of their organisational and procedural aspects. Only this matter will be discussed today. The date for convening the special session itself has not yet been determined.

I don’t think we have any reason to believe that the UN is slow or late in responding to the coronavirus infection challenges. The UN General Assembly met twice some time ago at an early stage of this situation. Two resolutions were adopted which were dedicated to the international community’s goals in fighting the coronavirus infection. Most recently, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on COVID-19. We were unable to do this for a long time because the Americans strongly opposed mentioning the role of the World Health Organisation in the document. Eventually, we found words that allowed us to mention this role and to ensure consensus approval.

Let us remember that the World Health Assembly, by the way, with the participation of the Americans, held a special session in May. The WHA adopted a resolution supported by the US in which the WHO’s role was objectively reflected. It was agreed at that session that as soon as the pandemic and all major programmes are completed, an international assessment of the lessons we learned from the WHO’s work in this area would be made, but without pointing a finger at anyone. It is an objective scientific evaluation of independent professionals.

Of course, the Non-Aligned Movement is our close partner. We are a guest country that is regularly invited to NAM summits and ministerial meetings in this capacity. This body was created in a wholly different historical context at the height of the Cold War, when the developing countries that formed this movement wanted to emphasise the principle of neutrality with respect for the two military blocs. Nevertheless, the Non-Aligned Movement remains a significant factor in international politics even after the Cold War. I think this is good, since the attempts to cobble up certain blocks again (we have already discussed this today) continue. It is important that this neutrality, non-commitment and focus on advancing the principles of international law be preserved at the core of NAM activities.

By the way, another NAM summit was held in Baku in October 2019. We attended it as a guest. Important joint statements were agreed upon. We confirmed our support for strengthening multipolarity in the international arena and respect for the UN Charter principles. NAM statements in support of Palestine and Bolivia were adopted as well. Back then, these were important topics. We are interested in seeing our status in NAM help us actively work on issues of common interest.

Question: Did Dmitry Kozak give an ultimatum at the talks on the Minsk agreements, telling Kiev to draft amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on the special status of Donbass as soon as possible? If so, why has this demand become so tough only now that these agreements are already five years old?

Sergey Lavrov: There were no demands or ultimatums. Working as Normandy format advisors, the assistants of the four leaders that are part of our Contact Group, we are trying to ensure, in cooperation with the OSCE, the direct dialogue that Kiev is required to conduct with Donetsk and Lugansk. Conceptually, we are striving for only one goal – we are asking our Ukrainian partners to reaffirm their full commitment to the Minsk agreements as they were drafted, signed and approved by the UN Security Council. When we are told that Kiev is committed to the Minsk agreements but that it is necessary to first establish control of the Ukrainian Army and border guards over the entire border, this has nothing to do with the Minsk agreements. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. When we are told, at the top level, that the Minsk agreements must be preserved to continue the sanctions against Russia, we would like to know if Ukraine is primarily interested in these agreements because of the sanctions, why it signed them and whether it is still committed to what is written in them rather than this absolutely artificial and inadequate link with sanctions. The majority of EU members consider this link incoherent. This is an approach of principle. I talked with the foreign ministers of France and Germany. Mr Kozak spoke with his counterparts as well. We would like our French and German partners to continue to express their views about this as participants in the Normandy format. Every day, we hear Kiev’s official statements that simply discard the agreements that were reaffirmed by the UN Security Council after the talks in Minsk.

For all this, we continue to hold pragmatic conversation with a view to coordinating specific steps on promoting all aspects of the Minsk agreements: security, socio-economic, humanitarian and political issues. At the recent, fairly productive meeting of the leaders’ assistants of the Normandy format states, the participants reached a number of agreements on yet another detainee exchange, and the Contact Group’s security arrangements, including reconciliation of the texts of the orders that must be adopted by the parties to the conflict (Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk) and describe in detail the actions to be banned by these orders. These issues were agreed upon. The third negotiated item on the political agenda is the presentation by Ukraine of its vision of the document that will contain amendments to the Constitution to reflect the special status of Donbass fully in line with the Minsk agreements.

Understandings were reached in these three areas and were supposed to be formalised in the decisions of the Contact Group that ended its session the other day. In Minsk, the Ukrainian delegation disavowed everything that was agreed upon in Berlin. We noted this, and Deputy Chief of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak sent a related message to his colleagues. So, this is no surprise at all. We have always insisted that the Minsk agreements must be carried out in full and with the due succession of actions. It’s not that we are losing patience, but patience helps when there is a clear understanding of what comes next. President Vladimir Zelensky came to power under a slogan of quick peace in Donbass. However, at this point, we have no idea what the attitude of his administration is to the actions that must be taken under the Minsk agreements.

Question: Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton writes in his memoirs that US President Donald Trump was unhappy about the sanctions over Salisbury and Syria. Did you hear about this? Is the agreement with the US on the exchange of top level visits still valid? Is Russia’s participation in the extended G7 format being considered?

Sergey Lavrov: I haven’t read John Bolton’s memoirs but I’m familiar with some parts of his book. Clearly, Mr Bolton has his own view of Russia-US relations, the US mission in the world, and America’s vision of the world order and what it should be. Apparently, every author wants his or her book to sell well (and in America practically every person writes a book after serving in the government for one or two years). To achieve this, it is necessary to make it interesting, and “hot issues” are helpful in this respect. I’ll leave all this on the conscience of Mr Bolton: both his presentation of this material and the spicy and sensitive details. I’ll also leave on his conscience his obvious embellishment of US actions in different situations.

Nobody has signed any agreements on exchanging top level visits because such an agreement implies a certain date for a visit, and the name of the city and geographical location. But nobody is discounting the possibility of such meetings, either. We are willing to work with the Americans at all levels and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has good relations with US President Donald Trump. From time to time, I talk with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Our deputies also maintain a dialogue. So, if the Americans are interested, we do not see any obstacles. We don’t want our relations to be seen as some appendage to the election campaign and the tough actions taken by the sides as regards each other on the eve of the US election.

As for the G7, I think we have already said everything we wanted to say on this issue. Russia was a full member of the G8. The G8 did not meet in 2014 and not due to any action on our part. Our partners — Europe, North America and Japan — decided not to hold this event in full. This is their choice. President Vladimir Putin said in one of his comments that as before we will be happy to host the entire G8 in the Russian Federation. If our colleagues do not want this, love cannot be forced.

As for the G7, the list of countries invited to attend, as mentioned by US President Donald Trump, shows that the G7 can no longer accomplish much on its own. But even the countries that were mentioned will not make any radical change because the list is incomplete. We are convinced that the serious issues of the world and global finances can hardly be resolved effectively. Apparently, these reasons — the need to involve the main players in world financial, economic and commodity markets — have prompted the resumption and upgrade of activities in the G20. This is an inclusive mechanism that relies on consensus and the principles of equality. We believe the G20 format must obviously be preserved, encouraged and actively used if we want to talk about the underlying causes of current economic problems rather than their use in foreign policy disputes or any other sort of rhetoric.

Question: In Russia, they always say that they are ready to work with any president that is elected by the American people. Can you predict potential development of bilateral relations if former US Vice President Joe Biden wins? Do you think some analysts are correct in believing that he could revise some of President Donald Trump’s decisions, which do not benefit Russia, such as withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not comment on election campaigns. This is done by the media in all countries. The election campaign in the US is creating much interest in the entire world. This is understandable, but officially we proceed from the correct assumption that the choice of the head of state is up to the American people. This is a domestic US affair.

As for how this or that outcome might affect Russia-US relations, if we reason in a perfectly abstract way, we can quote some analysts that have commented on how this will influence disarmament talks. There is an opinion that is probably buttressed by some facts, that the Democrats are less prone than the Republicans to destroy the agreements on strategic stability and disarmament that had been reached over the past few decades. But we have not forgotten that a major anti-Russia campaign was launched during the Democratic administration of Barrack Obama. Many elements of this campaign, including sanctions, are now an element of bipartisan consensus. I don’t want to guess. This situation is unpredictable. Let me repeat, let the American people make their decision.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights that is in charge, among other things, of monitoring elections, has conducted such monitoring remotely and distributed a report that was recently presented at the OSCE Permanent Council. The report contains many critical remarks about the correlation of election processes to American laws. I will not go into details. You can read this report yourself. But the report mentions, in particular, that for a variety of reasons at least 2 million US citizens are deprived of the right of the vote to which they are entitled by law. Interestingly, the report notes such a congenital defect in US election legislation, notably, a two-stage election process.

At first, people elect the Electoral College that later on chooses the president. The report also noted that the creation of the electoral districts is unfair to different ethnic groups. This is an indicative observation on behalf of the OSCE. We have spoken about this for a long time. I also recall that when Condoleezza Rice was US Secretary of State, she complained about our elections. I replied that if she had specific grievances, we had international and domestic observers and many other mechanisms and the entire process would be analysed. I reminded her that in the US a nominee can win a popular vote but a different candidate can be elected president because of different shares of votes in the electoral districts and the Electoral College. This is what happened in 2000 when the Florida votes were recounted for such a long time. Eventually, this process was stopped by the Supreme Court. George Bush Jr became US President and Alexander Gore accepted his defeat. Ms Rice told me then that they know this is a problem but this is their problem and they will settle it themselves. They probably will respond to the OSCE report in the same way.

As for the prospects and the projection of this or other decision on treaties, including the Open Skies Treaty, in line with the current schedule and its own announced decision on withdrawal, the US is supposed to end its participation in the treaty on November 22 or two and a half weeks after the election. No matter who becomes president, the new administration will assume its duties on January 20. Therefore, this decision will not likely be revised if the treaty expires. If the new administration, Democratic or Republican, decides to return to the treaty, the talks will have to be started from scratch. Therefore, at the extraordinary conference of the signatories of the Open Skies Treaty that was held online on July 6 of this year, we urged all remaining parties to the treaty to try and preserve it. We are prepared to continue with it but will take our final decision on whether we should remain part of it after analysing all consequences of the US decision on withdrawing from it, that is unlikely to be revised. It is final and irreversible as we are seeing, in my opinion. This is also confirmed by what happened with the INF Treaty. The decision was announced. This was followed by attempts at persuading them to keep it but to no avail.

But let me return to what I said in replying to one of the questions. We are ready for a situation where nothing will be left of arms control due to the US’s persistent line to throw all of these agreements out. But we are also prepared not to start from scratch but continue our contacts with the Americans on all strategic stability issues. I am confident that all members of the international community will support this approach. That said, we will keep the door open for multilateral talks as well. Let me repeat that these talks must rely on common understanding, voluntary participation and a balanced lineup of participants.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions

Source

July 11, 2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a news conference following political consultations between the foreign ministers of Russia and three African Union countries (South Africa, Egypt and the Congo) via videoconference, Moscow, July 8, 2020

Colleagues,

Today, we held the first political consultation meeting at the foreign minister level between Russia and three members of the African Union. This mechanism was established after the first Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi last October. These countries are the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are the former, current and next presidents of the African Union.

Russia and Africa are linked by traditional friendly relations, strong political dialogue and extensive trade, economic and investment ties. We have even more ambitious plans in all of these areas. Today, Russia and these African countries expressed their reciprocal interest in further building up cooperation in all areas, including the economy, humanitarian ties and political consultations.

We discussed the priorities of developing cooperation through the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum established by the Russian Foreign Ministry. It was set up for daily contact with the foreign ministries of various African countries and the mechanisms of the African Union and other integration associations in Africa. The Secretariat will oversee the organisational and practical preparations of new initiatives for the next Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022 in accordance with the Sochi agreements.

Having met in Sochi, the heads of state decided that it was expedient to hold these summit meetings once every three years.

We also discussed the energy requirements of the African states. They are growing fast given the African countries’ development rates. We reviewed opportunities for enhancing the energy security of African countries, in particular, by supplying them with hydrocarbon resources and especially by developing the nuclear power industry. Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev gave a relevant presentation. Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Alexey Gruzdev spoke about industrial cooperation at our videoconference.

The issues formulated by our African partners today and initiatives on the best ways to develop investment, trade and economic ties will be discussed at the Association of Trade and Economic Cooperation with African Countries. This was established last month by the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. Large Russian companies are members of this association. They are interested in developing cooperation with African states. In addition to Rosatom, it brings together ALROSA, Gazprombank, Transmashholding, and the Innopraktika development institute, to name a few. As I mentioned, the association will be used as a platform for helping Russian companies that want to work in individual African countries or with the integration associations on the African continent.

We also discussed humanitarian issues focusing, for obvious reasons, on the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic has made a tangible impact on many aspects of interstate relations and has done harm to the economy. This is also being felt in Africa. Our African colleagues expect this damage to be heavier than it is now.

They expressed gratitude to the Russian Federation for the assistance that our departments have rendered to African states. We continue receiving requests for additional aid. Over 30 countries have sent requests. We are reviewing them as quickly as possible. Deputy Head of Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare) Alexander Simanovsky talked about this in detail today.

We agreed to continue our assistance in countering the coronavirus infection, in part, via African and global multilateral associations. We will support the adoption of decisions that favour the African nations at the UN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

We emphasised our mutual interest in further cooperation in developing vaccines against such pandemic threats, in particular, by using the very helpful and effective experience of our cooperation (several years ago) in combatting the Ebola virus.

As part of our political dialogue, we focused on the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. This anniversary is marked this year. It is a historically meaningful document that played a critical role in breaking down the world colonialist system. It was the Soviet Union which played the lead role in adopting that declaration. We stressed the need for preserving the historical truth about colonial times. Now, many of our Western colleagues, who have a colonial past on the African continent, prefer to forget where the problems of contemporary Africa largely come from. We believe it is unacceptable to forget about that period or turn a blind eye to the neocolonial practices that continue in Africa, the harmful effects of which were mentioned by our interlocutors today.

We agreed that the establishment of the UN played a decisive role in the upcoming process of decolonization, and the UN itself appeared as a result of defeating Nazism and the Victory in WWII. There is an interesting connection: the countries that try to rewrite the history of World War II try, at the same time, to forget the consequences of the colonial past on the African continent.

We shared the opinion, and Russia made it a point, that decolonisation cannot be declared completed. UN General Assembly resolutions and the International Court of Justice demand the completion of this process, specifically, with respect to the Chagos Archipelago. Mauritius’ sovereignty over it should be restored. The sovereignty of Madagascar should be restored over the Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean and Comoros’ sovereignty over the island of Mayotte. This French territory preserves its status despite numerous UN General Assembly resolutions.

We think it is important to continue these discussions at the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonisation. Together with our African and other partners we will promote implementation of the existing decisions made by the world community.

In general, the talks were very useful. We agreed to draft relevant proposals that would let us start working on the agenda for the next summit, which, as I have said, is scheduled for 2022 pursuant to the understandings reached in Sochi last October. I mean that the next summit will be held in Africa.

We have adopted a joint statement following our discussions which will be distributed to the media. You are welcome to read the document.

Question: I would like to ask you about the situation in Libya. This is a source of constant concern for the international community because of the differences between the confronting parties and the discord among their supporters. Moscow keeps talking about the need to conduct a direct dialogue based on the Berlin Сonference. Russia has also backed Cairo’s initiative – recently the Foreign Ministry has started talking about the need to enhance the UN role in a Libyan settlement. How can this be done in practice when nothing really changes?

Sergey Lavrov: In practice this can be done in only one way – both sides must immediately stop the hostilities and their attempts to move armed units westward and eastward, respectively, or in any direction. Regrettably, the statement of obvious fact by our partners, notably, that the Libyan conflict has no military solution, is not leading to practical actions. At some point, last January before the Berlin conference, we invited the main parties to Moscow: Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar, Head of the Presidential Council and the Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, and Speaker of Parliament in Tobruk Aguila Saleh. At that time, the LNA believed in its superiority on the ground and did not want to sign a document that suited al-Sarraj. In our estimate, the LNA is now willing to sign a document on an immediate ceasefire but the government in Tripoli is now reluctant to do so in the hope of a military solution once again. This is the main reason for what is happening there.

In the framework of a dialogue as sanctioned by our presidents, we and our Turkish colleagues are coordinating approaches that would make it possible to immediately announce a ceasefire and embark on resolving the other issues, including those mentioned at the Berlin Conference and reaffirmed at the meeting in Cairo in the so-called Cairo Declaration. This is the main problem now.

Recently, we spoke in Moscow with Speaker of the Libyan Parliament in Tobruk Aguila Saleh. We stay in touch with Fayez al-Sarraj who heads the Government of National Accord in Tripoli and, of course, with Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the LNA commander. We express to them that an announcement of the complete cessation of hostilities must be the first, indispensable step and that this has no alternative. Our Turkish colleagues are working with the National Transitional Council towards the same end. I hope they will manage to achieve the only correct solution under the circumstances.

As for the UN’s role and the need to increase it, we do want the UN to be more active here. Unfortunately, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya Ghassan Salame resigned soon after the Berlin Conference, almost half a year ago. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been unable to appoint a successor so far. His first proposal to appoint Foreign Minister of Algeria Ramtane Lamamra was supported by most countries except our American colleagues. They refused to support his nomination. Almost two months ago a proposal was put forward to appoint former Foreign Minister of Ghana Hanna Tetteh but for some reason Mr Guterres has failed to have her nomination approved. We tend to think that the US representatives are trying to “hobble” him.

Now the situation is like this. After Salame resigned, the UN mission was headed by the acting special representative. By circumstance, this position is now occupied by an American citizen. We don’t want the US to hold the UN Secretariat by the hand and prevent the appointment of a full special representative in the hope that their compatriot will resolve some objective that we fail to understand.

I say this in the open because it is no secret. I am hoping that commitment to multilateral principles will still prevail in this case, and that the UN Secretary-General will fully display his responsibility for the functioning of this mechanism. I am convinced that this position must be occupied by a representative of the African Union.

Question: Can you comment on the UN commission report that says Russian and Syrian aircraft strikes against civilian infrastructure in Idlib are equated with military crimes?

Sergey Lavrov: You, probably mean the commission that calls itself an international independent commission of inquiry on Syria. This commission was not set up by consensus decision, and its mandate raises many questions as does its methodology. The decision to establish this commission was pushed through primarily by the Western countries, which wanted to change the Syrian regime. They didn’t hide this. Using a vote at the UN Human Rights Council, they provided a mechanism with the established purpose of searching for evidence against and discrediting Damascus and those whom they call its allies.

The commission never went to Idlib like many other entities employed by the West in the non-government sector to gather information compromising the activities of the legitimate Syrian authorities. This so-called independent commission uses facts taken from social networks, from some sources they ask to remain anonymous referring to security considerations. These are the same methods as are currently used by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Our Western colleagues are trying to jam through a resolution based on the report prepared in gross violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention based on information taken from social networks, civil society partners, whose names and addresses they refuse to give saying that it would subject their security to risk and threat. This is why we proceed from the exclusive need to resolve and consider any issue concerning the Syrian or any other conflict based on hard facts alone, and on information for which the relevant entity is ready to be responsible. This independent commission just cannot be responsible for its statements, as has been proven on many occasions.

Question:  Mark Esper has said that in the year since he became head of the Pentagon the US Department of Defence successfully restrained Washington’s main strategic rivals – Russia and China. How would you comment on this statement?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not see that there is anything to comment on here. If he thinks the Pentagon’s main objective is to “restrain” Russia and China, then this is the philosophy of the current US administration. It is really burning with a desire to “restrain” everyone except for themselves, and is seeking to get rid of everything that could restrain its freedom to act with impunity on the international stage, such as the INF Treaty, the TOS, the CTBT, UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council and the WHO. If this is the case, this is rather regrettable. We believed that the military act much more carefully than politicians in situations that can erupt into a conflict, especially a hot conflict.

This mood and this philosophy of the Pentagon chief are really regrettable, because we are interested in developing a normal dialogue with all countries, including the United States. Telephone contacts between Mark Esper and Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu were highly professional and based on mutual respect.  We would like the foreign policies of all countries not to be aimed at “restraint” but at strategic stability based on a balance of interests of all states, including the world’s leading powers. The phrase “strategic stability” is being replaced with “strategic rivalry” in our dialogue with the Americans. In other words, this philosophy shows that the Americans are preparing for conflicts with any country that will attempt to defend its interests.

This is bad for the United States itself. Maybe Washington is using the alleged threats coming from Russia and China to distract the Americans from the incredible problems we see unfolding in that country. Maybe this is part of the election campaign, for the contenders need to gain points. It would be regrettable if they did this by removing all checks and balances on the international stage and by taking the freedom to venture into risky projects in the hope of getting more votes. We stand for dialogue and strategic stability, as President Putin has noted, including when he proposed a summit meeting of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Question: It has been reported today that Ukraine plans to withdraw from the 2012 memorandum on counterterrorism cooperation with Russia. The interpretative note reads that “this decision will allow for the creation of additional legal and political grounds for protecting the national interests of Ukraine in conditions of Russia’s armed aggression and enhancing Ukraine’s prestige.” Will you comment on this, please?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not aware of our Ukrainian neighbours’ decision to withdraw from the memorandum on counterterrorism cooperation. They are withdrawing from many documents now, which they have a right to do. They also have a right to present their decisions to terminate cooperation in any way. If they think this will help them to protect their national interests more effectively, be that as it may. But it is obvious to us that counterterrorism must not be a victim and hostage of geopolitical games. Any more or less well-read person can see that the Ukrainian authorities are playing geopolitical games. Just look at the statement made by President Vladimir Zelensky, who has said that the Minsk Agreements are only needed to ensure Western sanctions against Russia. This statement is self-explanatory. I leave this on the conscience of the Ukrainian leadership.

We continue our contacts in the Normandy format. The advisers and political aides of the Normandy format leaders have recently had a meeting. It has reaffirmed that the Ukrainian side categorically refuses to honour the Minsk Agreements, which have been approved by the UN Security Council. It has refused to answer the direct questions of our representatives to this effect. We hope that Germany and France as the parties of the Normandy format will take their share of responsibility for Kiev’s position regarding the vital document titled the Minsk Package of Measures.

Question: Is there any chance of a ceasefire in Libya and that the forces of the Government of National Accord will not cross the Sirte – Al Jufra red line, given yesterday’s reports of attacks in Al Jufra, which neither side in the conflict has confirmed?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot say if the ceasefire has a chance or not. There is always a chance, but it is difficult to say if it will be used. There was such a chance half a year ago, as well as two, three and four years ago when conferences on Libya were held in Paris, Palermo and Abu Dhabi. A conference was also held in Berlin half a year ago, and before that there was a meeting held in Moscow. A document was adopted, an open and simple document that was only a page and a half long, which stipulated a ceasefire in the first place. One of the sides invited to Moscow and Berlin did not use that chance. Now the other side does not want to use this chance, which still exists. As I have mentioned, it is not simply a chance but a demand which has no alternatives and which must be implemented if we want to start settling the situation in Libya.

As for the military situation on the ground and which side’s forces are preparing to cross any lines, this is of secondary importance. If we agree – and it appears that all sides agree that there is no military solution in Libya – the only thing to do is to stop fighting now. Next we can use the tried and tested mechanisms such as the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission and the proposals sealed in the Cairo Declaration, including the proposal recently advanced by the head of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives Aguila Saleh, who has recently visited Moscow. I am referring to the establishment of truly collective and equal bodies of power where all the three historical regions of Libya will be represented based on a balance of interests. I regard this as an absolutely reasonable proposal.

Question: Is Russia ready to act as a mediator in the conflict around the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam?

Sergey Lavrov: We have offered our assistance, including in the form of technical support, to the conflicting parties. We can do useful things. They know this. The United States has offered its assistance as well. Several meetings have been held in the United States. We welcome the progress achieved so far.

It is encouraging that the sides have recently agreed to stimulate contacts between the concerned ministries. This topic has been discussed at the UN Security Council upon Egypt’s initiative. During the discussion held there, we proposed accelerating the coordination of mutually acceptable approaches based on the existing norms of international law and the interests of the parties involved in this dispute.

أشبعناهم شجباً واستنكار وفازوا بالأرض

سعاده مصطفى أرشيد

أقام الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس رهانه في معركته الراهنة مع الحكومة الإسرائيلية على مجموعة من التقديرات، وبنى عليها خطابه الذي ألقاه عشية التاسع عشر من أيار الماضي وأعلن فيه أنّ منظمة التحرير والسلطة الفلسطينية قد أصبحتا في حلّ من جميع الاتفاقيات والتفاهمات المعقودة مع كلّ من الإدارات الأميركية والحكومات الإسرائيلية، وبغضّ النظر عن القناعة بمدى جدية هذا الإعلان والقرارات المنبثقة عنه أو انعدام القناعة بها، فإنّ هذه الخيارات تحتاج إلى فحص واختبار، وكنت قد أشرت في مقال سابق إلى أنّ تصوّرات القيادة الفلسطينية التي أسّست لخطاب الرئيس ترى أنّ نتائج الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية وتذهب باتجاه تغليب فرص جو بايدن للفوز بالرئاسة، وللدور الذي سيلعبه بني غانتس وغابي اشكنازي في معارضة عملية الضمّ، وهي رهانات ضعيفة ليس لها ما يدعمها على أرض الواقع، فلا أحد يستطيع التنبّؤ بخيارات الناخب الأميركي العادي (باستثناء جماعات الافانجليكان الذين سيدعمون دونالد ترامب)، واستطلاعات الرأي دائمة التغيّر والتبدّل عند كل حدث ولها مفاجأتها في الأيام الأخيرة السابقة للانتخابات، وحزب «أزرق أبيض» هو حزب العسكر والجنرالات الذي يؤمن بانّ السيطرة على الأغوار وأراضي المستوطنات تمثل مسألة أمن قوميّ من الدرجة الأولى.

بالطبع كان لدى الرئيس والقيادة تقديرات أخرى داعمة وذاهبة في الاتجاه ذاته، ففي زيارة وزير الخارجية الفلسطيني الأخيرة لموسكو، طلب من نظيره الروسي أن تكون روسيا حاملة للملف الفلسطيني التفاوضي مع «إسرائيل»، لكن الردّ الروسي جاء سريعاً، واضحاً ومختصراً: لا يمكن أن يحدث أي تقدّم في هذا الملف بمعزل عن واشنطن، اذهبوا إلى هناك أولاً، تلك كانت نصيحة لافروف وهي تصدر عن دولة لطالما كانت مهتمّة باستعادة مكانتها السابقة عالمياً، وبتمدّدها في شرق المتوسط وسائر المنطقة العربية. هذا التمدّد الذي سيكون حكماً على حساب الدور الأميركي، الردّ السلبي والمتحفظ من موسكو له أسبابه، منها طبيعة العلاقات الأميركيّة ـ «الإسرائيلية» وتطابق وجهات نظرهم تجاه عملية الضمّ، ومنها عدم رغبة موسكو بأن تزجّ بنفسها في هذا الملف الشائك في ظلّ تواجدها الكثيف في سورية، الذي قد يرتب عليها دفع أثمانٍ للإسرائيليّين هي في غنى عنها ومن شأنها الإضرار بعلاقتها بطهران ودمشق، ومنها ما تختزنه الدبلوماسية الروسية من خبرات وتجارب مع العالم العربي منذ أيام الاتحاد السوفياتي، التي ترى أنّ العلاقة ليست استراتيجية فهؤلاء يريدون مخاطبة واشنطن من خلال استعمالهم موسكو كمحطة ومنصة ليس إلا، فيما واشنطن هي مربط خيولهم ومحطتهم النهائيّة. يُضاف إلى كلّ ما تقدّم أنّ الانخراط الروسي في الأزمة السورية جعل من روسيا راغبة أو مضطرة لعقد بروتوكولات واتفاقات مع تل أبيب تضمن عدم الاشتباك بينهما، فهما وإنْ تصارعتا في السياسة أو اختلفتا في الرؤى، إلا أنّ صراعهما ليس صراعاً وجودياً، وهوامش التفاهم واللقاء بينهما متسعة، من هنا تتضح حدود الموقف الروسي الذي قاد سوء التقدير للبناء عليه: روسيا تحذّر من عملية الضمّ لأنها قد تدخل المنطقة في دوامة عنف وتدعو جميع الأطراف (بمن فيهم شركاؤنا الإسرائيليون) إلى تجنّب الخطوات التي قد تؤجّج العنف وتحول دون تهيئة الأجواء لمفاوضات مباشرة، وتؤكد استعدادها للعمل والمساعدة في استئناف المفاوضات باعتبارها عضواً في الرباعية الدولية .

راهن الرئيس الفلسطيني على أوروبا التي هي أصل البلاء، وقد ذكرها في خطابه بالنص، حيث قال إنه يتوقع منها موقفاً حاسماً يحول دون إقدام الحكومة الإسرائيلية على تنفيذ الضمّ، كما يتوقع بمن لم يعترف بدولة فلسطين أن يسارع بالاعتراف. أوروبا العجوز لم تعد تملك القدرة والحيوية وقد تكشفت قدراتها إثر تفشي وباء كورونا، فبدت هشة، مرتبكة، منقسمة كلّ دولة تبحث عن خلاصها في معزل عن الاتحاد الأوروبي، انجلترا صاحبة المدرسة العريقة في السياسة والاقتصاد والتي لم تكن تغيب الشمس عن مستعمراتها وأساطيلها وعساكرها، أصبح رئيس وزرائها الأسبق، يتلقى الرشا من موظفين وضباط أمن في مستعمراتها السابقة، فيما فرنسا بلد القوانين والدساتير والأنوار، يقبل رئيسها العمل في خدمة رجل أعمال ورئيس وزراء إحدى مستعمراتها السابقة فيما يقبض خلفه في الرئاسة الأموال من العقيد الراحل القذافي. ألمانيا التي تخلت عن شركائها في الاتحاد خلال أزمة كورونا لن يتجاوز موقفها الإدانة والشجب .

منذ أيام اختتم اجتماع دول الاتحاد الأوروبي وقد ورد في بيانه أنّ ضمّ الأغوار وأراضٍ في الضفة الغربية مخالف للقانون الدولي، وأنّ حلّ الدولتين هو الحل الأمثل للصراع، وأن الاتحاد يسعى للتعاون مع الحكومة الإسرائيلية الجديدة وإلى الحوار مع الولايات المتحدة والدول العربية حول الأوضاع في الأراضي الفلسطينية، فيما اجتمع بعض سفراء دول الاتحاد عبر الفيديو كونفرنس مع نائبة رئيس قسم أوروبا في وزارة الخارجية الإسرائيلية آنا ازاراي، وأبلغوها قلق حكوماتهم من الخطوة الإسرائيلية، لكن السيدة ازاراي لم تقلق لقلقهم لا هي ولا وزاراتها. هذه هي حدود الموقف الأوروبي.

الموقف العربي لم يخرج عن هذا الإطار، فلكلّ من العرب همومه، وكما كشفت أزمة الكورونا هشاشة الموقف الأوروبي، نراها فعلت ما يفوق ذلك في كشف الموقف العربي، بالطبع مع الانهيار في أسعار البترول ولجوء دول البترودولار لتخفيض نفقاتها وما قد يتبع ذلك من انهيارات وتداعيات، الموقف الأكثر لفتاً للانتباه هو موقف العاهل الأردني الملك عبد الله، والذي جاء في تصريحاته لمجلة دير شبيغل الألمانيّة، محذراً الإسرائيليين من خطوة الضمّ وملوّحاً بقرارات ومواقف حادّة، وقد جاء ذلك بعد مكالمة هاتفيّة بينه وبين الرئيس الأميركي. افترض الأردن إثر توقيع اتفاقية وادي عربة أنه قد ضمن وجود الأردن كوطن نهائي للأردنيين وأنه قد ثبت حدوده الغربية، ولكن نتنياهو واليمين الإسرائيلي لا يبدو أنه مقرّ للأردن بذلك، فقد قرّر نتنياهو التخفف من أعباء وادي عربة والإبقاء على مغانمها فقط، وبالقدر الذي يفيده في الدخول في مرحلة صفقة القرن التي سترث أوسلو، فتلك الاتفاقيات (أوسلو ووادي عربة) قد استنفدت وظيفتها، ثم أنها من تركة حزب العمل المنقرض، وقادته الذين يريد أن يخرجهم اليمين من التاريخ كما أخرج أولهم من عالم الحياة (إسحاق رابين) وطرد ثانيهم (شمعون بيريس) من عالم السياسة .

إذا كانت تلك تقديرات القيادة الفلسطينية التي بُني على مقتضاها الردّ الفلسطيني الوارد في خطاب الرئيس، فإنّ ذلك أمراً لا يدعو للتفاؤل، ويؤشر باتجاه مجموعة من المسائل أولاها هي في قصور الرؤى والتقديرات، وغلبة التفكير بالأماني ومحاولة إسقاطها على واقع غير مطابق لتلك التمنيات، وثانيها أنّ قيادة السلطة لم تستحوط لهذا الأمر ولم تعدّ له عدّته، فلم يكن لديها الخطة «ب» البديلة، والثالثة أنّ الحال الفلسطيني والعربي والدولي لن يستطيع أن يقدّم دعماً للفلسطيني لا سياسي ولا مالي لتستطيع أن تقوم بأود الشعب الفلسطيني، فوقفة عز ورجال الأعمال القائمين عليها قدّموا مبالغ زهيدة لا تقارَن بثرواتهم وما يجنونه من أرباح وبما هو أقلّ من عشرين مليون دولار أميركي، جزء منها تمّ خصمه من رواتب موظفيهم دون استشارتهم وهي ستخصم من ضرائبهم، وقد تردّد كثير من الحديث عن الطريقة غير الموفقة التي تمّ بها صرف بعض تلك الأموال، والعالم العربي النفطي يخفض نفقاته ومصروفاته بشكل كبير ويعاني من تراجع مداخيله النفطية والاستثمارية الأخرى، والعالم لديه من مشاكل الكساد والوباء واللاجئين والبطالة ما يكفيه، وبالتالي لن تجد السلطة من مورد يبقيها على أجهزة الإنعاش، إلا ما يأتي به عمال المياومة العاملين في الداخل، أو في المستوطنات الإسرائيلية، أو ما تجود به الحكومة الإسرائيلية من قروض، فتلك الحكومة ترى ضرورة إضعاف السلطة والمسّ من هيبتها ولكن مع بقائها مترنحة، هذا الحال يجعل من أيّ فعل إسرائيلي يمرّ بسهولة بما في ذلك عملية ضمّ الأغوار والمستوطنات وما هو أكثر من ذلك، ويجعل من السلطة الفلسطينية تتراجع عن تهديداتها، ربما سراً في البداية ولكن علناً في مرحلة لاحقة مبرّرة ذلك بضرورات الاستمرار والبقاء، إذ ما يهمّ الإسرائيلي هو الأفعال لا الأقوال.

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سياسيّ فلسطيني مقيم في جنين – فلسطين المحتلة.

Minister Lavrov’s Remarks on Conflict Between the US & China

May 18, 2020

عريضة إلى الخارجية الروسية ولجنتي العلاقات العامة والمعلومات في مجلس الدوما ولإدارة قناة روسيا اليوم

البناء

بعد سلسلة من التقارير والحوارات التي استضافتها وسائل إعلام روسية أثارت استياء في الشارع العربي لما وجدت بها أنها استهداف لسورية مبرمج للإيقاع بين طرفي العلاقة الروسية السورية، قامت مجموعة من الإعلاميين والمفكرين والكتّاب من سورية ولبنان وفلسطين ومصر وسائر البلدان العربية المهتمة بالشأن الوطني، بتوجيه بيان إلى الخارجية الروسية ولجنتي العلاقات العامة والمعلومات في مجلس الدوما ولإدارة قناة روسيا اليوم الناطقة باللغة العربية، معربين في بيانهم عن حرصهم على «الصداقة مع روسيا الاتحادية»، ومحبتهم وتقديرهم لـ»الدور الروسي الهام في المنطقة والعالم»، مؤكدين على إيمانهم بـ»حرية الفكر والرأي والتعبير وحق الوصول الحر للمعلومة، والعدل في إتاحة المجال وتكافؤ الفرص بين المتنافسين في الممارسة السياسية»، منوّهين إلى أنّ «تكرار الأخطاء المهنية، عن جهل أو قصد، يجعل الإعلام الصديق إلى حدّ بعيد في خندق الإعلام المعادي الذي يعتمد التضليل والافتراء والتجييش الشعبي وتشكيل الرأي العام بما يخدم مشاريعه الاستعمارية الخبيثة».

ولفتت العريضة النظر إلى «بعض الإساءات والافتراءات الموثّقة التي وردت على عدد من وسائل الإعلام الروسية في الآونة الأخيرة، وسببت امتعاضاً وتجييشاً في الشارع السوري خصوصا والعربي المقاوم عموماً، باستهداف شخص السيد الرئيس بشار الأسد والإساءة إليه لا سيّما في ما جاء في حلقتين من برنامج (قصارى القول) على RT العربية»، (لاستضافتهم في البرنامج المذكور لأشخاص دعموا المسلحين ووجهت بحقهم مذكرات تتهمه بدعم الإرهاب في أكثر من دولة أوروبية)، مؤكدين على الاحترام الشديد لميثاق الشرف الإعلامي وأخلاقيات المهنة وحرية التعبير، على أن لا يستخدم الإعلام الصديق منبراً للعب على أوتار الدين وإثارة العصبيات العرقية والإثنية والطائفية المقيتة»، متأملين بأن «تلقى هذه الملاحظات القبول والتشديد على ضوابط العمل الإعلامي وأخلاقياته، وتجنّب ازدواجية المعايير والمزاجية في التعاطي مع رموز الشرعية الدستورية بين دولة ودولة».

وقام بتقديم نسخ من العريضة موقعون عليها لكل من سفارات روسيا في بيروت ودمشق ورام الله وسواها.

وفي بيروت قدم رئيس تحرير صحيفة البناء والنائب السابق الأستاذ ناصر قنديل رسالة مرفقة بالعريضة إلى السفير الروسي ألكسندر زاسبكين أوضح فيها عن «سبب تقديم العريضة الموجهة لإسناد موقف القيادة الروسية في السعي لوضع القانون والسلوك المهني أساساً في مواصلة حماية الإعلام الحر في ظل ديمقراطية تعتز بها روسيا ويساندها الموقعون على هذه العرضة»، آملاً بأن «يتسع صدر القيادة الروسية للتعامل مع هذه العريضة المرفقة كتعبير صادق عن الصداقة».

كما نقلت وسائل الإعلام الروسية الخبر وتفاعلت معه النخب الروسية قائلة إنه « تمّ نشر رسالة مفتوحة على الإنترنت لوزير الخارجية الروسي سيرجي لافروف، وبعض ممثلي دوما الدولة وقيادة قناة RT فيما يتعلق بالمقالات الأخيرة في بعض وسائل الإعلام الروسية التي داهمت حرفياً بشار الأسد والقيادة السورية. ويطالب الموقعون عليها الانتباه إلى هذه الرسائل، ويشيرون إلى أنه بهذه الطريقة، تقف بعض وسائل الإعلام الروسية في الواقع على قدم المساواة مع موارد الدعاية المعادية لسورية وروسيا. واستضافة بعض الأشخاص ممن لهم سمعة مشكوك فيها للغاية إلى برامج RT وفي الوقت الحالي ، وقع عدة مئات من الأشخاص بالفعل على الرسالة المفتوحة. من بينهم سياسيون وعلماء وأساتذة جامعيون وشخصيات سورية بارزة وعربية سورية. بعضهم، بصراحة، يعتبرون أبطالاً وطنيين أو لهم تأثير كبير على صنع القرار في بلدانهم».

السيد المحترم سيرغي لافروف وزير خارجية روسيا الاتحاديّة الصديقة

السيد المحترم رئيس لجنة المعلومات في مجلس الدوما

السادة إدارة قناة روسيا اليوم الناطقة باللغة العربية المحترمين

بعد التحية،

نحن الموقعين أدناه على هذا البيان، مجموعة من الإعلاميين والمفكرين والكتّاب من سورية وبلدان الوطن العربي المهتمين بالشأن الوطني، العارفين بحساسية وأهمية وخطورة الدور الذي يقوم به الإعلام، والمدركين أيضاً مخاطر سعي بعض المغرضين إلى استخدام الإعلام واستغلاله للإساءة المتعمدة والمتكررة للعلاقات الاستراتيجية والتاريخية بين روسيا من جهة، وسورية والبلدان العربية من جهة ثانية، نضع بين أيديكم هذا الكتاب آملين منكم الإطلاع واتخاذ ما ترونه مناسباً لدرء تكرار بعض الأخطاء المهنية المؤذية والإساءات المتكررة لأواصر الصداقة التاريخية بيننا.

نخاطبكم بكل محبة واحترام وتقدير للدور الروسي الهام في منطقتنا والعالم، مؤكدين إيماننا بحرية الفكر والرأي والتعبير وحق الوصول الحر للمعلومة، والعدل في إتاحة المجال وتكافؤ الفرص بين المتنافسين في الممارسة السياسية. إن تكرار الأخطاء المهنية، عن جهل أو قصد، يجعل الإعلام الصديق الى حد بعيد في خندق الإعلام المعادي الذي يعتمد التضليل والافتراء والتجييش الشعبي وتشكيل الرأي العام بما يخدم مشاريعه الاستعمارية الخبيثة.

ما تمّ نشره وبثه على بعض المواقع والمنابر الرسمية الروسية أدى إلى تأليب قطاع واسع من الشارعين العربي والروسي وإثارة توترات وردود ومهاترات نحن جميعاً في غنى عنها، وحرف البوصلة عن حربنا المشتركة ضد الإرهاب والمخططات الغربية التي تستهدفنا معاً.

السادة المحترمين:

نخاطبكم كأصدقاء وحلفاء مؤكدين أن كتابنا هذا منبعه الحرص والتنبيه إلى مواطن الخلل لنعالجها معاً، وليس من باب التدخل في السياسات الإعلامية الروسية أو التضييق على حرية الرأي والتعبير، مع التأكيد على ضرورة الالتزام بالتمثيل العادل والمتوازن لوجهات النظر والمواقف على المنابر الإعلامية، لا أن نتركها مسرحاً مستباحاً لإساءات متعمّدة ومتكررة لا تخدم قضايانا ومصالحنا المشتركة.

إننا أيها الأصدقاء نثمن عالياً ما تقوم به جمهورية روسيا الاتحادية بقيادة الرئيس فلاديمير بوتن والوزير لافروف والجيش الروسيّ من جهود جبارة وتضحيات جسام في الحرب على الإرهاب وتحقيق التوازن في النظام العالمي ودعم القضايا العادلة، لا سيما في سورية التي تحارب الإرهاب نيابة عن العالم أجمع في السنوات العشر الأخيرة، والتي تربط رئيسها الدكتور بشار الأسد علاقة خاصة وقوية قائمة على الندية والاحترام المشترك وعدم استباحة القرار السيادي والحفاظ على وحدة الأراضي السورية وتحريرها من الارهاب والاحتلال، وحق الشعب السوري في تقرير مصيره.

السادة المحترمين، لقد استبشرنا خيراً عندما أطلقت روسيا الصديقة قناة فضائية روسية ناطقة باللغة العربية، ولاقت القناة قبولاً عالياً بين المشاهدين العرب على ضوء السُعار الإعلامي الغربي والمستعرب ضد سورية وروسيا وحلفائهما من الدول والقوى المناهضة للاستعمار والإرهاب. فكما تعلمون، كان الإعلام المعادي رأس حربة في الهجمة غير المسبوقة على سورية والمنطقة بهدف تمزيقها ونهب ثرواتها. كمااستبشرنا خيراً بالقفزة النوعية التي حققها الإعلام الروسي الذي يحقق توازناً في وجه «الإرهاب الإعلامي» الذي مورس ضدنا ولا يزال.

ومن هذا المنطلق، نودّ لفت نظركم إلى بعض الإساءات والافتراءات الموثّقة التي وردت على عدد من وسائل الإعلام الروسية في الآونة الأخيرة، وسببت امتعاضاً وتجييشاً في الشارع السوري خصوصا والعربي المقاوم عموماً، باستهداف شخص السيد الرئيس بشار الأسد والإساءة إليه لا سيّما في ما جاء في حلقتين من برنامج (قصارى القول) على RT العربية استضاف فيهما الصحافي سلام مسافر، شخصاً يتباهى بدعمه للجماعات المسلحة منذ 10 سنوات (فراس طلاس) وبحقه مذكرات تتهمه بدعم الإرهاب في أكثر من دولة أوروبية.

السادة المحترمين، مرة أخرى، نؤكد احترامنا الشديد لميثاق الشرف الإعلامي وأخلاقيات المهنة وحرية التعبير، على أن لا يستخدم الإعلام الصديق منبراً للعب على أوتار الدين وإثارة العصبيات العرقية والإثنية والطائفية المقيتة، كما جاء في البرنامج أعلاه، (والذي حذفته RT لاحقاً عن موقعها) لِما أثاره من لغط واستياء كبيرين، ولكن كان الضرر قد وقع وتفاقم

ختاماً، نرجو أن يتسع صدركم لهذه الملاحظات آملين منكم التشديد على ضوابط العمل الإعلامي وأخلاقياته، وتجنّب ازدواجية المعايير والمزاجية في التعاطي مع رموز الشرعية الدستورية بين دولة ودولة، ولا يجوز أن تسمح المنابر بالتهجم على الرئيس الأسد دون غيره من الزعماء العرب (حتى أولئك الذين يصفون الوجود العسكري المشروع لبلدكم في سورية بـ»الاحتلال والاستعمار الروسي»)!!

وإننا إذ نثمّن عالياً ما صدر في موسكو عن المتحدث الرئاسي ديميتري بيسكوف وعن بعثتكم الدبلوماسية في جنيف ومسؤولين ومثقفين من روسيا الصديقة، يتبرؤون ويدينون ما ورد من إساءات للقيادة السورية وعلاقاتها المتينة مع القيادة الروسية، نتمنى عليكم التأكيد على ضرورة عدم تكرار ما حدث، وتجنب سوء استخدام منابركم من قبل البعض واستغلالها لأغراض وغايات تضرّ بجوهر الدور المحوري الذي يلعبه الإعلام الصادق ورسالته في الحرب والسلم، وبطريقة تشوّه العلاقات وتقوّض الأواصر التاريخية القوية التي تربط بلداننا مع روسيا الصديقة..

تقبلوا منا، نحن الموقعين أدناه، خالص الود والتقدير لروسيا الاتحادية الصديقة رئيساً وجيشاً وشعباً.

عاشت الصداقة الروسية – السورية، والروسية –العربية.

أما الموقَعون على البيان فهم مجموعة من الإعلاميين والمفكرين والكتّاب من سورية ولبنان وفلسطين ومصر وسائر البلدان العربية المهتمة بالشأن الوطني وجاءت تواقيعهم من حرصهم على روح الصداقة مع روسيا الاتحادية وهم:

الموقعون

عبد الحكيم جمال عبد الناصر، معن بشور، بشارة مرهج، د. عدنان منصور، خالد العبود، د. بهجت سليمان، ناصر قنديل، د. نضال قبلان، صدقي سليمان المقت، مجدي المعصراوي، د. نارام سرجون، د. ربيع الدبس، د. وضاح الجندي، عامر التل، الارشمندريت عبد الله يوليو (الأب الروحي لكنيسة الروم الكاثوليك في القدس المحتلة)، د. هاني سليمان، د. زياد الحافظ، أنيس نقاش، ميخائيل عوض، ديمة ناصيف، زياد غصن، فيصل عبد الساتر، شوقي عواضة، د. جمال على زهران، د. أحمد المناعي، فادي بودية، د. سمير ابوصالح، علي محسن، غالب قنديل، حيدرة بهجت سليمان، د. قاسم حدرج، د. أسد شرف الدين، رمزي عبد الخالق، أحمد بهجة، د. نضال الصالح، د. هالة الأسعد، وائل المولى، أ. صابرين دياب، باسل ديوب، د. باسم سليمان، د. شادي أحمد، د. عبد الخالق محفوض، عبد المجيد عبد اللطيف، عبد القادر خليفة، د. المهندسة ميادة رزوق، د. بسام أبو عبد الله، د. خليل تعلوبة، سماهر الخطيب، سهى الخطيب، د. سليمان الربضي، ربى يوسف شاهين، يوسف جابر، مازن سليمان، د. آزن وقاف، د. جان ميخائيل، تركي حسن، سامي يوسف، عبد الله نعواس، نزيه الدبس، ديانا عبد الوهاب، عدنة خير بيك، أحمد برهو، بشار نجاري، د. عبد الحميد دشتي، العميد ناجي الزعبي، د. عبد الجبار الخضر، عبد الناصر حموية، د. وضاح الجندي، طارق السليمان، باسل شعبان، سرالختم أحمد الحاج علي، لاناصر الدين خلفي، نداء حرب، د. زهير الفتيح، عامر أبو فراج، عبير محمد، فهد ملحم، د. أحمد مسرابي، منذر عبار، د. حسين راغب، حسان الحموي، أمجد بري، د. بدر السماوي، فريدة الشوباشي، د. رشا شعبان، فارس الجيروي، راميا الإبراهيم، د. أحمد الدرزي، هزار النوري، أسامة عدنان القادري، جمانة محمد مأمون النوري، د. محمد رقية، د. علي حمزة، جورج السعود، محمد حسن العلي، جميل مزهر، د. حسن نافعة، خالد خزعل، إياد حسن، انتصار سليمان، د. علي دياب، بلال الطيان، طارق حقي، سومر سلطان، شادي حجازي، محمود الشربيني، أمجد دوبا، فطيم الأحمد، نبيل نجم أبو حمد، د. سحر شبيب، ياسر نحلاوي محمد علي مليكي، فاضل عباس مهدي، أغنار مرشد، د. أكثم سليمان، سامر السباعي، الوليد صالح، ياسر نصار، نبيل نجم، عصام أبو فخر، هلال خليل عون، رفيق لطف، د. محمد سيد أحمد، د .إباء عبد الرحمن، د. خالد المطرود، حاتم الشلغمي، نبال مدحت بدر، جهاد الجوجو، حسين أبو خضر، د. سليم بركات، محمد زهير، كمال فياض، وصال سلوم، حيان نيوف، فاضل حمود، إلياس أسعد، عبد الكريم أبو نزال، د. حسن أحمد حسن، يزيد جرجوس، د. يوسف أسعد، محمود الحارس، عبد المعين زريق، د. نزار سليمان، د. أحمد أديب أحمد، د. بسام رجا، د. تميم عزاوي، د. عبد الهادي نصري، عصام عزوز، علي سلمان، علي شكري، العميد عمر معربوني، محمد السعيد، معن عبد الحق، نبراس مجركش، جنان أحمد، مباركة براهيمي، قتيبة حسن، د. عدنان جرعتلي، سعيد الصباح، سيطان سليمان عيد، د. إبراهيم علوش، د. عماد أمير مرشد، هاني العيساوي، حسين مطاوع، سعود قبيلات، نسرين الصغير، حسين معروف عون، ناريمان زهير الروسان، ابي حسن، محمد العمري، وفاء وقاف، د. ونسة سليمان الأسعد، رفيق فضة، ولاء محمد عون، نوفل بدر زودة، أمير ونوس عون، ثائر سليمان، ريم شيخ حمدان، عدنان خليل عون، أنطوان أسعد، جمال علي محفوض، ربى يوسف أدريس، فخري سليمان عون، محمد خليل زودة، أكرم حمصي، زياد الحموري، زهيرة كمال، د. تمام فاكوش، جمال علي محفوض، حميد عبد القادر عنتر، عبدالرضا الحميد، محمد قرش، جمال عيسى، علي يوسف، د. أسعد تركي سواري، عبدالإله باحي، سونيا عدرة، معتز منصور، نبيل حلاق، د. علي محمد أحمد، وسيم كوثراني، رشيد أبو شاشيه، محمود النقيب، حسن علي كريم، د. هيام محمد سلامه، غسان مقدسي، لينا جوني، مازن عابدين، سعيد السعيد، سليم تابت، هيام صالح، يحيى صلاح الدين، عبد الحسن مستراح، غسان إخلاصي، لطيفة المحاميد، فؤاد قاسم الشاعر، محمد زين، رشا عبيد، أمان حاج موسى، عباس زكي، منير منصور، أحمد خليفة، خالدة جرار، محمد أبو أسعد كناعنة، د. عادل سمارة، محمد ميعاري، م. أماني ابراهيم، عبد عنبتاوي، لؤي خطيب، جريس بولس، د. سهيل دياب، سامي مهنا، شوقية منصور، سعيد حسنين، سعيد نفاع، يعقوب حجازي، د. عدنان بكرية، طاهر سيف، أحمد جلاجل، خالد الفقيه، زهير اندراوس، أم أحمد وشحة،

د. حسان النوري، هديل حسان النوري، وفاء الكبسي، القاضي عبد الكريم الشرعي، هشام عبد القادر عنتر، الشيخ عبد الله المنصوري، حسن إبراهيم صالح ، عبد الرحمن حميد الدين، أمجد عبدالعالم غالب الأسودي، عدنان نقول، جمال خليل، علي بن مسعود المعشني، بهزر البارودي، محمد شريف الجيوسي، حسن حردان، زينب العياني، د. عامر الربيعي، د. محمد عباس، فدوى عبد الساتر، إيهاب حسن، مصطفى سواس، خالد المنصوب، إبراهيم محمود زين الدين، عصام بكر، جمال الطيراوي، نضال الشكعة، ناصر اللحام، نهلة السوسو، د. رياض عواد، د. وائل جنيد، د. بسام الشلبي، البروفيسور عمر صابر فلحوط، البروفيسور عبد الوهاب الجبوري،

د. مصطفى الترك، د. علي اسماعيل، المهندس عدنان شاويش،

د. فايز حوالة، مريم كاسوحة، المهندس منذر حسين، د. المهندس يوسف وطفة، د. زياد حيزان، د. نصر قاسم، د. مصطفى موفق، د. فواز محفوض، المهندس نعيم شعبوق، د. فارس عردوس، د. سامي سبسبي، الدكتور محمد سليمان عون، د. دلال السلطي، د. حين إبراهيم، د. هيثم ابراهيم عون، محمد غزالة، المهندس المنجي مقني، إلياس نصر الله، عصام حنفي، خالد يوسف، مراد السوداني، ديما أمين، اللواء عبد الله الأتيرة، عمر عساف، د. ايناس عبّاد، المهندس هيثم عيد، توفيق جزوليت، عبد اللطيف غيث، نبيل عبد الله، عوني ابو غوش، سليمان شقيرات، ناصر ابو خضير، صفاء ناصر الدين، زياد الشمالي.

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