FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

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FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

February 20, 2021

A good sub-title for this interview could be “Lavrov Unplugged”.

A quote from the transcript (which incidentally was available faster than any other transcript from the The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation ):

“… when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

….

All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.”

Video in Russian without subtitles or English voiceover as yet.

Question: There is a feeling that the West is very annoyed by the appearance of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. At first, they were very aggressive and wouldn’t let it go. When I talked with Minister of Trade and Industry Dmitry Manturov, he called it “the vaccine war.” Now the opinion has changed. Is this about the quality of the vaccine or is politics involved in this?

Sergey Lavrov: I think it is possible to use the logic of the Russian proverb that can be translated into English as “love it so but mother says no.” Western experts know that the Sputnik V vaccine is definitely one of the best, if not the very best. Otherwise, there would not be such a stream of requests for it, which is growing geometrically.

On the other hand, they realise that the spread of Sputnik V and other Russian vaccines that will soon enter the international market, will enhance our authority and status in the world. They do not want this to happen. But they have come to realise that their first response was simply outrageous in the context of the facts and medical science. When President Vladimir Putin announced the development of the vaccine in August 2020, the offensive was completely undiplomatic. Their response just betrayed their irritation, you are perfectly right.

And now many countries (the Czech Republic and others) are saying they can’t wait for the certification of the vaccine by the European Medicines Agency. In Hungary, they believe they are ready to start vaccination and supplies are now underway. The number of requests from Europe is steadily on the rise. Just the other day, Prince Albert II of Monaco sent a request for the vaccine for the entire population of his principality.

After independent agencies published their scientific evaluations, the West had to admit that the vaccine was good. Yet, attempts to discredit it continue.

Just yesterday I read a somewhat ambiguous statement by President of France Emmanuel Macron. He put us and the Chinese into the category of those who are trying to gain advantages in the world arena at the expense of their medical achievements. The day before yesterday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen spoke with an emphatically negative connotation about the supplies of the Russian vaccines to foreign countries.

We must follow the correct position of principle, first voiced by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, notably, that we were the first to develop the vaccine, and we will continue to increase its production. This is not easy, we do not have enough capacities, and this is why we are negotiating with India, South Korea and other countries. At the same time, he said we are open to the broadest possible cooperation.

There is one more important point. When this issue was discussed at the UN the other day, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the countries that have this vaccine or have the money to buy it, not to forget about the poor. In the meantime, attempts are being made to accuse us of trying to gain geopolitical favour by supplying it abroad. This is an obvious discrepancy. It is clear that the West is poorly prepared for this discussion.

Question: So, it’s about the same as when President Putin said at the Davos Forum that the world cannot continue creating an economy that will only benefit the “golden billion,” and we are actually accused of supplying the vaccine for the benefit of the “golden billion.” Still, are they talking about the vaccine like this just because it was made in Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see any other reason, because no one even tried to conduct a medical or a scientific test. They just said right away that it was impossible just because it’s impossible, meaning that “no one can do this that quickly.” It was only in October 2020, when the West said they would be able to report on their achievements. President Putin announced in August that the Russian-made vaccine was ready for rollout.

Unfortunately, I often see that the response to everything we do, say or offer is, at best, questioned right off the bat. Usually, they say that “the Russians are playing their geopolitical games again.”

Question: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who was here recently and met with you, said that Russia is distancing itself from the West. At the same time, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said we are open to cooperation with Europe. You said we are ready to break up, but we are not breaking off our relations. What really stands in the way of normal relations between the EU and Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: A biased attitude, by and large. I worked with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, a good colleague of mine, when he was Spanish Foreign Minister. Now many, in an attempt to give a controversial dimension to the High Representative’s visit to Russia, forget how it all began. In May 2019, Mr Borrell said: “Our old enemy, Russia, says again ‘here I am,’ and it is again a threat.” We then asked his protocol service to confirm what he said. We were told that it was a figure of speech and that he was misunderstood. However, this attitude shows.

We are seen as a stranger. In my interview with Vladimir Solovyov, replying to his question as to whether we are ready to break off with the EU, I gave an affirmative answer because there are no relations to talk about. As former US President Barack Obama once said (although he said it about the Russian economy), relations have been “torn to shreds.”

Indeed, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [between the EU and Russia] entered into force in 1997. It contained a number of declarative goals for moving towards common economic, humanitarian and cultural spaces. For many years, we used a mechanism of summits, which were held every six months in Russia and in the EU alternately. In fact, our entire Government held annual meetings with the European Commission to discuss the participants’ responsibilities in the context of over 20 sector-specific dialogues. We were building four common spaces and roadmaps for each of them. These were 100 percent substantive and specific projects. It was all destroyed, just like the Partnership and Cooperation Council, within which the Russian Foreign Minister and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy reviewed the entire range of relations. This disappeared long before the Ukraine crisis.

Many in our country are just waiting for a chance to pounce on the Russian Government’s foreign policy. We are being asked how we can say that we are ready to break off with the EU when it is our largest trade and economic partner. If we take the EU as a collective partner, it is our largest partner in terms of gross trade. For example, in 2013 (before the Ukraine events) Russia became a WTO member. From that moment, our trade relations were built on the principles advocated by that organisation rather than the EU’s principles. As a single trade bloc, the EU also participated in the WTO. We traded with member countries based on WTO guidelines. If you think the EU is a valuable trade and economic partner, here are some statistics for you: in 2013, the United States was the EU’s biggest trading partner with about $480 billion, followed by China with $428 billion and Russia with $417 billion. That is, these numbers are of the same order of magnitude. Where do we stand now? In 2019, EU’s trade with the United States stood at $750 billion, with China $650 billion, and with Russia at about $280 billion. In 2020, it was $218 billion, if counting with Great Britain, and $191 billion without it.

The reason? It’s the sanctions imposed by our “valued” and largest economic partner for reasons that have never relied on any facts whatsoever. At least, no facts have ever been presented to us. We understand Crimea. We understand Donbass as well. It’s just that the EU admitted its inability, or perhaps, unwillingness, to prevent the anti-constitutional coup with an open Russophobic slant and chose to turn things upside down. Brussels shifted the blame to us and imposed sanctions on Russia rather than the putschists, who, by and large, spat on the guarantees of the European Union, which signed the corresponding agreements, totally ignoring, as I said, the fact that the actions of the government, which they supported, were openly and violently anti-Russian.

Question: Without the events in Ukraine, would our relations with the West have sunk to where they are now?

Sergey Lavrov: It is difficult for me to talk about this. After all, later there were other events linked with the accusations of “the poisoning in Salisbury.” No facts were presented. We were not allowed to meet with our citizens. No evidence was offered. Everything was similar to what is happening now with the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny.

Question: It seems the West is looking for a pretext to spoil our relations.

Sergey Lavrov: They are looking but there are many pretexts: it’s always possible to use something as an excuse to put the relationship on the required track. But it’s not that they want to spoil relations. I don’t think this is their main goal. They want to bolster their self-esteem. Now they are starting to act like the US, revealing the mentality of an exclusive group of states. I quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. When asked why they continue discussing sanctions against Russia and what goals they had achieved by imposing sanctions, he replied that he didn’t believe sanctions should be used for any purpose. What matters is that they don’t leave any action by the Russian Federation unpunished.

The concealment of facts that could somehow confirm accusations against us started long before the crisis in Ukraine. We can recall 2007 – the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in the hospital. There was a coroner’s inquest. Later this trial was declared “public.” In George Orwell’s logic, in Britain this means a “secret trial” during which no inquisitorial procedures of the secret services may be presented. You know, these are system-wide problems.

I listed what we used to have in our relations with the European Union. Nothing is left now, not even sporadic contacts on some international issues. As regards the Iran nuclear programme, we are taking part in the work of the collective group of countries, which are trying to somehow put this programme back on track. This is not part of our relations with the EU proper. In the Middle East, we have a Quartet of mediators consisting of Russia, the US, the EU and the UN. In other words, this is multilateral cooperation rather than our relations with just the EU.

With regard to who is taking steps to prevent our relations from further decline, at least a little, we were thinking about that when Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was getting ready to visit Moscow. He suggested cooperating in healthcare and vaccines. We have already discussed this here. As a Brussels institution, the EU will hardly be allowed to contact Russian agencies or companies independently regarding the vaccines. We would sooner cooperate directly with the producers of AstraZeneca, as this is already taking place.

On the eve of Mr Borrell’s visit, we invited his experts to make a joint statement on the Middle East by the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Our positions are nearly identical on the matter and we thought it would be appropriate to urge the Quartet to resume its activities and call for direct Palestinian-Israeli talks, respect for the relevant UN resolutions, and so on.

We gave them a page and a half text that was easy to approve after the first reading. Several days prior to his arrival, we were told that “it did not work out.” I will reveal a secret because this is a blatant example. I asked Mr Borrell at the negotiating table: “What about this statement? Why didn’t it work out?” He started turning his head all around. It was clear from his reaction, and he confirmed this later, that nobody had even told him about it. These are the people that deal with what some of our liberals call “relations with the EU.”

Question: Concluding this theme, I’d like to say that as a man born in the USSR, I understand that during the Soviet-Western confrontation we had different ideologies, economies and so on. Later, I thought that everything was the same on both sides. They were for democracy and we were for democracy; they had a market economy and we had a market economy. So what are the differences? Why do we fail to find a common language to this day? I thought we found it in the 1990s? Why did we find it then?

Sergey Lavrov: We found it at that time because nobody in the Russian Federation disputed the answer to the question of who was ruling the show. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this many times. We decided that was it – the end of history. Francis Fukuyama announced that from now on liberal thought would rule the world. Now there are attempts to push this liberal thought to the fore again in a bid to gain international influence. But when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

Initially, having become President, Vladimir Putin and his team tried to convey this message through diplomatic signals that educated and smart people would be bound to understand. But nobody listened. Then the explanations had to be made politely but openly in the Munich speech. All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.

Question: Regarding the sanctions. Bloomberg posted a news item today that new sanctions against Russia are planned concerning the Nord Stream 2, however, they are not going to be tough but rather “soft.” On the other hand, they report that the Americans want to thwart the Nord Stream project but without irritating Germany. Where are we in this situation?

Sergey Lavrov: We are a country that completely complies with the contractual obligations undertaken by our companies that are part of the project, along with the EU companies that joined it. The current situation is largely due to a decision taken by what we call the European Union, a decision that proves beyond doubt what sort of alliance it is. A few years ago, when the Poles, and others sharing their attitude, attempted to impede the Nord Stream project, the Legal Service of the European Commission was asked for legal advice, official opinion. The service presented a document which stated in no uncertain terms that the investment project had been launched long before amendments were made to the EU’s gas directive, the Third Energy Package. That’s it. Period. This issue should be closed for any person who has respect for the law. But no, the European Commission took this opinion and launched its own quasi-legal procedure which resulted in the conclusion that the project had indeed been launched much earlier, yet it fell under this third energy package and the gas directive. That’s what kind of a partner we have in this “relationship.”

This is about how we can “pounce” on them and express readiness to break relations with them when they are our main economic partner – that’s what kind of a partner they are. Meanwhile, now Germany alone is fighting for the project.

And in fact, Joe Biden’s administration will not cancel anything which was done by Donald Trump except for leaving the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Democrats are returning there now.

The NATO defence ministers meeting has just ended. But there was no let-up in US demands to pay 2 percent of a country’s GDP for defence needs, i.e. for purchasing US weaponry. There was no backing off the demands on Europe regarding Nord Stream 2 – to stop participating in some matters that undermine European security. They see it better from across the ocean, right? This is about who is the boss. Europe also wants to run the house but it was taken down a peg. The situation around Nord Stream 2 is straightforward.

For now they are saying publicly that bargaining is underway and possible agreements between Washington and Berlin are being discussed, including that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may be allowed to be completed and even start operating. However, if at the same time gas transiting via Ukraine is going to be falling, then Nord Stream 2 must be shut off. I cannot decide for Germany, however, it is obvious to me that this proposal is humiliating. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his meeting with parliamentary party leaders, this is yet further evidence that they want Russia to pay for their Ukraine geopolitical venture.

Question: Do we have to pay for this geopolitical project?  Why do they think we have to pay for it?

Sergey Lavrov: Because they don’t feel like lashing out on it. They need the Ukrainian regime for the sole purpose of constantly irritating Russia and finding new reasons to support their Russophobic policy. They want to weaken anything around us – Belarus, Central Asia, and now also the South Caucasus, as they got nervous after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s successful mediation mission between Armenia and Azerbaijan: why was this done without them? They are now trying to infiltrate this region and step up their activities there. All of that has nothing to do with the Cold War-era ideology of a showdown between the two systems you talked about a few minutes ago. It has to do with the fact that our Western partners are unwilling, unprepared and unable to speak on an equal footing, whether with Russia, China, or whoever. They need to create a system where they will be the boss regardless. This is why they are taking an increasing dislike to the United Nations since they cannot have total control of it.

Question: Do you see the EU as a monolith, or as something more loose, with certain processes unfolding inside and some countries, no matter what, starting to talk about their willingness to be friends with Russia? In the case of the sanctions, the key figures behind them are, strange as it may seem, the Baltic States, which do not play a prominent role in the EU but, for some reason, everyone is listening to them.

Sergy Lavrov: It sounds inappropriate to refer to the EU as a monolith a mere couple of months after Brexit. This “monolith” is not the same as before. If you mean a monolith in a figurative sense, my answer is no. Quite a few countries are maintaining relations with Russia. The visit of Josep Borrell was the first trip by an EU official of this level to Russia in three years. In the same three years, about two dozen ministers from European Union member countries have visited Russia. We are having a great dialogue, without wasting too much time on confrontation and moralising. Indeed, all of them do have their assignments – a couple of sheets of paper from which they read a script approved by the “party committee” in Brussels.

Question: Do you mean they bring a notebook with instructions with them?

Sergey Lavrov: Certainly. They do not dare to veer off course. This, for example, goes for Alexey Navalny, or the Skripals as in the previous case, or human rights. Now scientist Yury Dmitriyev from Karelia is in the spotlight. They flatly refuse to accept evidence of his involvement in crimes, like pedophilia. They read from their notebook and I would adduce my arguments to the contrary and describe our vision of this or that situation and wonder why we cannot obtain evidence on the Navalny case or the Skripal case. In response they simply read again from their notebook. Apart from this discipline induced by the bloc member states’ solidarity, we discuss things normally. Yes, the EU sets the terms on which [its member countries] participate in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), while we are trading with these countries in the WTO on the terms that were agreed on for Russia to join this organisation. But the EU has nothing to do with this cooperation in trade and investment activity, except for its attempts to restrict trade and economic ties with the sanctions.

You mentioned the Baltic States. Indeed, they run the show in this respect to a great extent. I have talked to your colleagues about this on more than one occasion. When in 2004 there were hectic activities to drag them into the EU, Russia and Brussels maintained a very frank dialogue. The President of the European Commission at the time was Romano Prodi. In 2005, the objective was set to move to visa-free travel.

Question: Nobody has any memories of this today.

Sergey Lavrov: We remember this when we reply to those who ask how we dare say that we are ready to break relations with the EU. You mentioned the Baltic States. We had long been negotiating an updated version of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU, which the EU terminated in 2014. It was expected to go a bit beyond the boundaries of the WTO rules and allow us to negotiate additional trade preferences. At one time there was an objective to establish a free trade zone, but this has long since fallen into oblivion. However, there were plans to update the agreement in order to liberalise trade even more, in addition to the WTO rules. In 2014, they ceased to exist – another example of breaking down our relations.

A visa-free travel agreement was also finalised back in 2013. We had met all of the EU requirements: we agreed that only people with biometric passports would be eligible for visa-free travel and that those who violated EU entry rules or any other EU rules while in an EU country during a visa-free period would be subject to readmission. We signed the relevant agreement. Everything they asked for, and that suited us, was done. Later, when it was time to sign the agreement and then ratify it, the EU said: “Let’s wait.” It did not take us long to learn why they had said this, all the more so as they did not try to conceal their motives. This Brussels team decided that it was politically incorrect to approve a visa-free travel agreement with Russia prior to offering it to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Question: In other words, Russia was made dependent on other countries?

Sergey Lavrov: It sure was, at the Baltic States’ initiative. This is also important for understanding the nature of our relations. This is an attitude from people who decided that they were European, which is not at all the case. Russia sees Europe in all its diversity. If the “party committee” in Brussels does not like it, we cannot force them to.

Question: Europe stretches at least to the Urals.

Sergey Lavrov: Correct. In 2009, when Jose Manuel Barroso was President of the European Commission, we held a Russia-EU summit in Khabarovsk. Our European colleagues arrived later in the day. We went out for a walk along the embankment. We were showing them around the city and Mr Barroso said: “It’s amazing. It took us 13 hours to get here from Brussels, and it’s still Europe.” This is the key message behind the slogan “Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

Question: I’m going to ask you about one other country, Belarus. There will be a presidential summit on February 22. President Lukashenko will come to Russia. Recently, Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei gave an interview to the RBC media holding and mentioned Belarus’ multi-directional foreign policy. Do you think we have managed to work well with Minsk on integration? What should we expect from these talks?

Sergey Lavrov: The term “multi-directional” should not be used as a profanity. Most normal states want it. Russia, too, has used a multi-directional approach as the basis of its foreign policy since 2002. In our understanding, a multi-directional approach is possible only if based of equality, respect and a balance of interests, as well as mutual benefit. This is the only way it can work.

First, they threaten us with sanctions, and then the same people are saying that we “had it coming” and impose unilateral restrictions on us, and then say that we are “bad” because “we are looking to the East.” Everything has been turned upside down.

Russia is a Eurasian country. We have close contacts with Europe, which have been cultivated for centuries, before anyone even thought of a European Union, and the Europeans fought and competed against each other. By the way, we often helped them achieve peace and fair outcomes in wars.

Question: We even saved the monarchies?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they are aware of it. The republic in the United States, too, to a certain extent.

However, our European neighbours have severed almost all of our ties and left only sporadic contacts on international crises that are of interest to the EU in order to keep a profile on the international arena. In many ways, the EU is driven by a desire to be seen as an important operator in Syrian and other matters. If we are not welcome here, we will simply continue to work with our other neighbours who are not prone to whims like that.

Objectively, our trade with the EU is almost half of what it was in 2013. Our trade with China has doubled over the same period.

Question: Back to Minsk. What can we expect from talks between President Putin and President Lukashenko on February 22?

Sergey Lavrov: There are some who want to interpret Minsk’s words about the multi-directional nature of its foreign policy as proof of its “unreliability” as a partner and ally. I do not think so.

In the Council of Europe, of which Belarus is not a member yet, we advocate the CoE establishing relations with Minsk. We supported the accession of Minsk to a number of Council of Europe conventions. We have always been in favour of Belarus enjoying normal relations with its western neighbours. I’m not sure what the CoE will do next. Russophobia has swept over most of the EU countries, and the most “violent” ones are in charge of the agenda.

I read the remarks by President Lukashenko (not all his interviews, but they were cited) to the effect that he sees no obstacles to deepening integration. Progress will depend on how President Vladimir Putin and President Lukashenko agree on things.

There are two more days to go before the talks. I don’t think we should be speculating on the outcome of the summit. We will know everything soon.

Question: Recently, US President Joseph Biden said the United States will no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions” (ostensibly, Donald Trump did this). How can we build our relations now? Are there subjects we can discuss with Washington? Are they ready to talk with us?

Sergey Lavrov: These comments on who is rolling over or will be rolling over in the face of someone’s actions illustrate a very deep split in US society. It reached a level of personal enmity that is aggressive and contrary to American political culture. The politicians did not particularly mince their words during previous presidential campaigns or prior to elections to Congress, but I don’t remember anything comparable to what is being said now.

Our liberal media promote a tough pro-Western line. In looking for objects of criticism in Russia, they are infringing on the threshold of decency and getting personal. They are very crude, and behave not like journalists but like inveterate propagandists, accusing others of propaganda.

The fact that the New Start Treaty was extended in time is a very positive step. This shouldn’t be overrated, but it shouldn’t be underrated, either. In his election speeches Joseph Biden mentioned his willingness to extend it, but these were election speeches after all. His promise could be interpreted differently later, but he extended this important document for five years without any conditions, like we suggested. If this had not happened, there would not have been a single instrument of international law, not only in Russian-US relations but in the entire range of multilateral ties, that contained any restrictions in the sphere of disarmament, arms control and nuclear weapons non-proliferation.

It is very important that just a few days prior to February 5, 2021, the date the treaty was extended for five years, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Joseph Biden reaffirmed their intention to promote talks on strategic stability in these new conditions, in their first telephone conversation after the US presidential election. The situation has changed substantially since 2010: We and the Americans have acquired new weapons some of which are covered by the treaty. We announced this last year. We said that they must be taken into account. Some other weapons are not covered by the treaty – they are basically very different because of their physical characteristics.

Question: Are you talking about hypersonic weapons?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, the United States also has such weapons. Hypersonic weapons are partly covered by the New START Treaty, if these are ballistic missiles.

The New START Treaty already covers some weapons systems, so we now have to include these weapons systems in the Treaty for the next five years and see how all this will be verified. But it does not cover some weapons.

The United States has developed a new system called the Prompt Global Strike (PGS). By the way, this system implies a non-nuclear strike. We have suggested negotiating all issues without exception that have an impact on strategic stability and the legitimate interests of the contracting parties.

Question: Did they agree to this? Are they ready?

Sergey Lavrov: In October 2020, we submitted draft joint understandings to the Trump administration. This rough outline shows how we can sit down and start negotiating the agenda. We have received no reply from them. Instead of addressing this matter, Marshall Billingslea, the Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, mostly made vocal statements that the United States was all for it but that the Russians did not want to do this.

When I spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, I reminded him that Russia had submitted its proposals to the Trump administration, which dealt with this matter and many other issues, including cybersecurity and concerns over interference in each other’s domestic affairs. We would like to get back to them, and to hear the Biden administration’s opinions in this regard. We realise that they now need some time to settle down in the White House and the Department of State. I hope that this will not take too long.

There are still some questions on disarmament, for example, the lineup of participants in the disarmament process. The US position on China, approved by Donald Trump, remains unchanged; the same concerns a number of other matters.

Regarding multilateral talks, first of all, this should not annul Russian-US agreements because we have several times more nuclear weapons than other nuclear countries. Second, if we make this a multilateral process, then all prospective participants, primarily the five nuclear powers, should reach a voluntary agreement. We will never try to persuade China. We respect the position of Beijing, which either wants to catch up with us or proposes that we first reduce our arsenals to China’s levels and then start on the talks. All circumstances considered, if this is a multilateral process, then we will get nowhere without the United Kingdom and France. The Trump administration insisted that China should take part and at the same time said about its allies that they were the good guys, literally. This sounds funny. Apart from the complicated and lengthy disarmament process, we do not have so many promising spheres where we can cooperate constructively.

Question: Does this mean that their vision of the issue is entirely different or that they are reluctant to negotiate?

Sergey Lavrov: They think that they are the boss, and this mentality is still here and it determines the perception of their enemies. So far, they have not designated China as an enemy, but they have called us an enemy a couple of times. Democrats have an additional motivation for expanding this policy. Their position is that, supposedly unlike with Donald Trump, they will be “no Russian tail wagging the dog.”

Question: Don’t you think that Democrats have come to power with the intention of taking revenge against Russia, and that they will implement Donald Trump’s anti-Russia plans that he failed to accomplish in four years.

Sergey Lavrov: They made such statements during the election campaign. Joe Biden and his supporters said openly that the Trump administration had gone soft, that it was constantly making advances and working for the Russian intelligence. Donald Trump said that he was conducting the toughest policy with regard to Russia. He said that he liked Vladimir Putin, but he introduced more sanctions than all of his predecessors taken together.

We are also witnessing a cowboy-style showdown there. But this is normal for US politics, especially today. Disagreements between liberals who considered liberalism an irreversible trend have become aggravated to the greatest possible extent. Donald Trump, who did not like liberal principles and approaches, suddenly took over. He tried to think more about the basic interests of the American founders, the people who moved there (and it has always been a nation of immigrants), and who accepted its laws. So, the big question is whether people should remain loyal to the country that has accepted them, or do they want to erode its principles?

Question: Should they try to fit in?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they want to be the boss. Everything boils down to this once again.

Question: Karabakh, the subject of that. Fortunately, the war is over and a peace agreement has been inked. We covered extensively the role Russia and Azerbaijan played. I have a question to do with Turkey. I was in Azerbaijan during the war and heard many people say that the Azerbaijanis are supportive of the Great Turan idea (a state that covered the territory from Turkey to Central Asia). Is Moscow concerned by Turkey becoming a stronger state?

Sergey Lavrov: This opinion is entertained by a portion of the society. I’m not going to give a percentage of how many people support this idea. I’m not sure many of those who informed you about this really know what “Great Turan” is all about.

The relations between Turkic-speaking peoples have become an integral part of cooperation between Turkey and the corresponding countries, including Azerbaijan and a number of Central Asian states.

There is the Cooperation Council of the Turkic-Speaking States, in which we participate as observers. A number of our republics are interested in contacts with it and are promoting their specific projects.

There is TURKSOY  ̵  the International Organisation of Turkic Culture. There’s also the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries. All of them have been functioning for a long time now. They draft their own plans and hold functions. Their cooperation is mainly based on cultural, linguistic and educational traditions.

Speaking about the Great Turan as a supranational entity in a historical sense, I don’t think that this is what Turkey is after. I don’t see how former Soviet and now independent countries can be supportive of this idea in any form. On the contrary, their foreign policies and practices focus on strengthening their national states.

Turkey has its interests which include its fellow tribesmen who speak the same language. We also want the Russian World to communicate. We have created an extensive network of organisations of our compatriots living abroad; we are opening Russian World centres at universities in different countries with purely linguistic, educational and scientific goals.

The Centre for the Russian Language and Culture created by the Russkiy Mir Foundation was recently closed in Krakow. This is an obvious step for Poland, as well as for the Baltic States, which are fighting everything that is Russian. Ukraine followed in their footsteps and shut down several media outlets and imposed a language ban. We are well aware of all this. We will keep raising this matter at the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the corresponding UN agencies. One cannot pretend that this comes with the “growth” and the “coming of age” of the Ukrainian nation, which, as they say, is an “ill-fated” one. The Ukrainians claim that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great. In that case, they should be responsible for the orders they introduce. The EU, and Germany and France as the Normandy format participants, avoid performing their duties when it comes to “educating” Ukraine in terms of making it comply with the Minsk agreements, and this has become a chronic behaviour pattern which does not reflect well on Germany or France.

Question: It was announced that Ukraine was recognised an unfriendly state. How will this affect relations between us?

Sergey Lavrov: This is just a descriptive attribute. What’s friendly about it? Russian schools are being closed, customers and shop assistants are not allowed to speak their native language, and the Nazis are burning Russian flags.

Question: This is reminiscent of the Baltic States 20 to 30 years ago.

Sergey Lavrov: Back when the Baltic States were about to be admitted to the EU, we asked the Brussels bureaucrats, the Eurogrands, whether they were sure they were doing the right thing. The problems that are at odds with the membership criteria persist, including non-observance of the rights of the Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia and Estonia. We were told that the Baltic States are phobic of Russia (war, the so-called occupation, etc.), the EU will bring it into its fold, it will calm down and ethnic minorities will be happy and contented. Things turned out the other way round. The Russians were not granted any rights, and statelessness is still there.

Question: Let’s go back to Turkey: Ankara’s stronger position, its active role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, President Erdogan’s visit to Northern Cyprus (which a Turkish leader has not done for quite a while). What does Moscow think about it?

Sergey Lavrov: As far as Turkey and Northern Cyprus are concerned, we see it as Ankara’s relations with its “fellow countrymen.” I have not heard about Turkey refusing to honour the UN obligations accepted by the conflicting parties. These obligations include seeking a mutually acceptable solution and creating a bicommunal bizonal federation. There is a discussion of whether the federation will be strong or weak. But there is no disagreement about the fact that it must be one state. Although not so very long ago, it was the common opinion that the entire project would fail and they would have to create two states. We understand that Ankara is interested in Cypriot Turks living in equality and their rights being observed. We support the idea that the same motives with which Turkey explains its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, including with respect to hydrocarbons, should determine its dialogue with Greece and Turkey.

On February 17, 2021, I spoke with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias who told me that on January 25, 2021, he had had a probing conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. They did not iron out all issues. But it is good news that a dialogue was established. They agreed to continue it. On February 18, 2021, I spoke with Mevlut Cavusoglu. We continued sharing opinions following the telephone conversations between President Putin and President Erdogan on Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and our bilateral relations. New power units of a nuclear power station are under construction; the TurkStream project is ongoing. There is much common ground between our countries when it comes to energy.

In October 2019, the first Russia-Africa Summit in history was held in Sochi. A record number of heads of state and heads of government attended. In the course of the preparations for the summit, we reviewed the development of our relations with African countries and the current state of affairs, including from the perspective of expanding our presence on the continent which political scientists consider to be the most promising in the long term. We reviewed other countries’ presence in Africa. Since 2002, the number of Turkish embassies in Africa has increased from 12 to 42. Turkey’s trade with the region is estimated at around 20 billion dollars a year and Russia’s trade is around 15 billion dollars. This is to say that Turkey has an eye for potential.

Question: Perhaps Turkey is disappointed with the EU because nobody accepted it?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe it could partially be the case. In its contacts with the EU, Ankara continues to insist that the EU promised it accession. Turkey is spreading its wings and gaining weight despite the existing economic problems at home. Turkey mainly goes on by accumulating its national debt but this model is widely common around the world.

Question: 2020 is the year of the pandemic. During such times, countries should join forces and help each other. Do you think that this was the case? Or did the world fail to put aside disagreements and rally together even when it came to the COVID-19 infection?

Sergey Lavrov: Now this conversation is back to square one. There are no ideologies anymore. But this ideology-based, politicised perception of the Russian vaccine was not a very good signal. The Sputnik V vaccine was announced in August 2020, many months after the G20 summit (March 2020) where Vladimir Putin strongly advocated cooperation in vaccine production. Even then, we were ready to create joint scientific teams. But Western countries and their companies, unwilling to help competitors, did not respond to that proposal. So much for unification in this purely medical field.

There is also the humanitarian sphere. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made calls during the pandemic to suspend all unilateral sanctions in fields directly affecting food, the supply of medicine and medical equipment, in order to alleviate the suffering of the population in countries that were under unilateral sanctions (regardless of their reasons). There was no reaction from the initiators of those sanctions (primarily the US and the EU). Also, there was no response to President Vladimir Putin’s proposal, at the G20 summit, to create ‘green corridors’ for the period of the pandemic, to move goods under the most relaxed rules – without tax, duties, tariffs, delays, or special customs inspections.

We are all in the same boat, and it’s not so big. Some forecasts say this situation will continue for a long time, and the coronavirus will be a seasonal infection, and it is not at all the same as the flu or other diseases, so we will have to use precautions permanently, use PPE. This realisation should somehow prod countries to more open cooperation, especially those that up until recently had some doubts.

True, there have been some good shifts. One of them is the United States’ return to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Some hotheads in Washington believe that, now that they have returned, they will make others do their bidding. There are fewer than 50 Chinese people in the WHO Secretariat, 25 Russians, over 200 Americans, and more than 2,000 NATO representatives. The past US administration said China was manipulating the WHO. That is not true. Otherwise, we are admitting the complete helplessness of 2,000 NATO members who should be the majority in the WHO Secretariat.

Nevertheless, there are some positive results though. This problem has been recently considered at the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. It is important now to focus on equitable collaboration within the WHO. Besides the attempts at carrying out “soft coups” and establishing their own rules in the organisation, hardly based on consensus, an idea has been suggested to move the main decision-making on global health policies outside the universal organisation. We have been pointing out this tendency for some time now – the one to replace international law with a rules-based world order. As it turns out in reality, those rules boil down to working out all decisions in a circle of those who agree with you rather than in a group with universal representation where you have to argue your case and search for balances and compromises. And then you just present the decision as ‘the ultimate truth’ and demand that everyone respect it.

This underlies the Franco-German initiative for a new multilateralism and some limited partnerships in the West. For example, Paris has launched an International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. Under this non-universal, non-UN partnership, the EU creates the so-called ‘horizontal’ regime of sanctions to be imposed on anyone that France-initiated partnership points at. A similar sanctions regime is being created for cybersecurity. Instead of any open-ended discussion, the French are promoting some partnership to defend freedom in cyberspace. This is another example of rules on which ‘order’ will be based.

There are attempts to start similar groups outside the WHO. But people’s health is not a field where one can play geopolitics. Unless there is a conspiracy behind this to reduce the population of the Earth. Many are now starting to develop such theories and concepts.

Russia holds the key to German sovereignty

Russia holds the key to German sovereignty

February 17, 2021

A more sovereign Germany closer to Russia and China may be the straw that breaks the US hegemon’s back

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Last week we traced the necessary historical and geopolitical steps to understand Why Russia is driving the West crazy.

And then, last Friday, right before the start of the Year of the Metal Ox, came the bombshell, delivered with customary aplomb by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

In an interview with popular talk show host Vladimir Solovyov – with the full transcript published by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Lavrov said Moscow “must be ready” for a possible “break with the European Union.”

The ominous break would be a direct result of new EU sanctions, particularly those “that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas.” And then, the Sun Tzu-style clincher: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov, afterwards, made sure to explain that Lavrov was taken out of context: the media, predictably, had seized on a “sensational” headline.

So Lavrov’s full, nuanced answer to a question about rocky EU-Russia relations must be carefully examined:

“We believe we would be ready for this. We are neighbors. Speaking collectively, they are our largest trade and investment partner. Many EU companies operate here; there are hundreds or even thousands of joint ventures. When a business benefits both sides, we will continue. I am sure that we have become fully self-sufficient in the defense sphere. We must also attain the same position in the economy to be able to act accordingly if we see again (we have seen this more than once) that sanctions are imposed in a sphere where they can create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas such as the supply of component parts. We don’t want to be isolated from the world, but we must be prepared for this. If you want peace, prepare for war.”

It’s quite clear that Lavrov is not stating that Russia will unilaterally cut off relations with the EU. The ball is actually in the EU’s court: Moscow is stating that it will not exercise a first-strike option to break relations with the Brussels eurocracy. And that in itself would also be quite different from breaking relations with any of the 27 EU member-states.

The context Peskov referred to is also clear: EU envoy Josep Borrell, after his disastrous trip to Moscow, had raised the issue that Brussels was weighing the imposition of further sanctions. Lavrov’s response was clearly designed to drum some sense into the thick heads of the European Commission (EC), run by notoriously incompetent former German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen and her foreign policy “chief” Borrell.

Earlier this week, Peskov was forced to come back incisively to the volcanic saga: “Regrettably, Brussels keeps talking about sanctions, so does the United States with maniacal persistency. This is something we will never welcome. It is something that we do not like at all.”

Talk about diplomatic euphemism.

So the stage is set for a raucous – to say the least – meeting of EU foreign ministers next Monday, where they will discuss – what else? – possible new sanctions. Those most probably would include travel bans and asset freezes on selected Russians, including people very close to the Kremlin, blamed by the EU to be responsible for the jailing earlier this month of right-wing blogger and convicted fraudster (a scam against Yves Rocher) Alexei Navalny.

The overwhelming majority of Russians see Navalny – with a popularity rate of 2% at best – as a lowly, expendable NATO asset. The meeting next week will pave the way for the summit of member state leaders at the end of March, where the EU could – and that’s the operative word – formally approve new sanctions. That would require a unanimous decision by the EU’s 27 member states.

As it stands, apart from the stridently Russophobic usual suspects – Poland and the Baltics – it doesn’t appear Brussels is aiming to shoot itself in the back.

Remember Leibniz

EU observers obviously have not been observing how Moscow’s pragmatic view of Brussels has evolved in the past few years.

Russia-EU trade will continue, no matter what. The EU badly needs Russian energy; and Russia is willing to sell it, oil and gas, pipelines and all. That’s strictly business. If the EU doesn’t want it – for a basket of reasons – no problem: Russia is developing a steady stream of businesses, energy included, all across East Asia.

The always relevant Valdai Discussion Club, a Moscow-based think tank, for instance, is carefully tracking the trade aspect of the Russia-China strategic partnership:

“US policy will continue to seek a split between China and Russia. Europe remains an important partner for Moscow and Beijing. The situation in Central Asia is stable, but it requires the building up of Russian-Chinese cooperation.”

Putin, laterally, also weighed in on the EU-Russia saga, which is a subtext of that perennial battle between Russia and the West: “As soon as we began to stabilize, to get back to our feet – the policy of deterrence followed immediately… And as we grew stronger, this policy of deterrence was being conducted more and more intensely.”

I hinted last week at the intergalactic-distant possibility of a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis
Media and telecoms analyst Peter G. Spengler in a lengthy email to me elegantly qualified it as belonging to Robert Musil’s sense of possibility, as described in his masterpiece The Man Without Qualities.

Peter Spengler also called attention to Leibniz’s Novissima Sinica, and particularly to an essay by Manfred von Boetticher on Leibniz and Russia, represented by Tsar Peter the Great, in which the role of Russia as a bridge between Europe and China is emphasized.

Even though Leibniz, in the end, never met Peter the Great, we learn that “it was always Leibniz’s goal to get practical application for his theoretical findings. Throughout his life, he was looking for a ‘great potentate’ who was open to modern ideas and with whose help he could realize his ideas of a better world. In the age of absolutism, this seemed to be the most promising perspective for a scholar for whom the progress of science and technology as well as the improvement of education and economic conditions were urgent goals.”

“Tsar Peter, who was as powerful as he was open to all new plans and whose personality fascinated him anyway, must therefore have been an extraordinarily interesting contact for Leibniz. Since Western Europe had come into closer contact with China through the Jesuit mission and Leibniz had recognized the importance of the millennia-old Chinese culture, he also saw in Russia the natural link between the European and Chinese cultural spheres, the center of a future synthesis between the Orient and the Occident. With the emerging upheavals in the Russian Empire, his hopes seemed to be fulfilled: Full of expectation, he followed the changes in Russia, as they were emerging under Peter I.”

Yet to evoke Leibniz at this stage is to dream of heavenly spheres. The pedestrian geopolitical reality is that the EU is an Atlanticist institution – de facto subordinated to NATO. Lavrov might want to behave like a Daoist monk, or even pull a Leibniz, but it’s hard when you’re forced to deal with a bunch of dummies.

It’s all about sovereignty

Rabid Atlanticists argue that non-entity Navalny is directly related to Nord Stream 2. Nonsense: Navalny was built (italics mine) by the usual suspects as a battering ram to undermine Nord Stream 2.

The reason is that the pipeline will consolidate Berlin at the core of the EU’s energy policy. And that will be a major factor in the EU’s overall foreign policy – with Germany, at least in theory, exercising more autonomy in relation to the US.

So here’s the “dirty” secret: it’s all a matter of sovereignty. Every geopolitical and geoeconomic player knows who does not want a closer Germany-Russia entente.

Now imagine a hegemonic Germany in Europe forging closer trade and investment ties with not only Russia but also China (and that’s the other “secret” inbuilt in the EU-China trade-investment deal).

So whoever is lodged in the White House, there’s nothing else to expect from the US Deep State apart from the “maniacal” push towards perennial, accumulated sanctions.

The ball is actually in Berlin’s court, much more than in the court of eurocratic nightmare Brussels, where everyone’s future priority amounts to receiving their full, fat retirement pensions tax-free.

Berlin’s strategic priority is more exports – within the EU and most of all to Asia. German industrialists and the business classes know exactly what Nord Stream 2 represents: increasingly assertive German sovereignty guiding the heart of the EU, which translates as increased EU sovereignty.

An immensely significant sign has been recently delivered by Berlin with the approval granted for imports of the Sputnik vaccine.

Is Musil’s sense of possibility already in play? It’s too early to tell. The hegemon has unleashed a no-holds-barred hybrid war against Russia since 2014. This war may not be kinetic; roughly, it’s 70% financial and 30% infowar.

A more sovereign Germany closer to Russia and China may be the straw that breaks the hegemon’s back.

Crucial statement by Foreign Minister Lavrov

The Saker

Crucial statement by Foreign Minister Lavrov

Foreign Minister Lavrov just made the following statement that Russia is willing to sever her ties with the EU if the EU introduces new sanctions.  He said:

“Мы исходим из того, что мы готовы [к разрыву с Евросоюзом]. Если мы еще раз увидим, как мы уже почувствовали не единожды, что в каких-то областях накладываются санкции, которые создают риски для нашей экономики, в том числе в самых чувствительных сферах, — да. Хочешь мира — готовься к войне”

“We proceed from the fact that we are ready [to break with the European Union]. If we once again see, as we have already felt more than once, that sanctions are imposed in some areas that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas, – yes. If you want peace, prepare for war“.

This is exactly what I have been advocating for and predicting.

Not a moment too soon.

The Saker

Russia Needs To Realize That EU Diplomacy Is Based On Deception

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Russia Needs To Realize That EU Diplomacy Is Based On Deception

Russia was left embarrassed after EU foreign policy chief Borrell suddenly flipped the script on his views about bilateral relations upon returning back to the bloc after what Foreign Minister Lavrov had previously thought was his constructive visit to Moscow just days earlier, though this incident might hopefully provide the long-overdue impetus for Russia to finally realize that EU diplomacy is based on deception and that no remarks from any of its representatives should ever be accepted at face value even if they were considered to be “candid” ones made behind closed doors.

Russia’s learning a much-needed and long-overdue lesson after being embarrassed by EU foreign policy chief Borrell following the surprise comments that he made after his visit to Moscow that Foreign Minister Lavrov had previously considered to have been a constructive exchange of ideas. Borrell flipped the script on what he had earlier implied during the press conference with his Russian counterpart just days prior by writing on his blog that he now believed that Moscow has no desire to improve relations with Brussels. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by noting that he “had all opportunities to immediately deliver (his) personal evaluation” during the press conference, “No one restricted him either in time or in format”, but that “Perhaps, the EU foreign policy chief received explanations upon his arrival to Brussels on how to lay emphases, but in this case, it only proves who and how is shaping up the EU policies in reality.”

In other words, Russia feels deceived since it sincerely thought that its diplomatic counterparts’ views were sincere, especially those comparatively “candid” ones that were shared behind closed doors as is the norm in this profession. Nothing that Borrell said in public or private made Lavrov or his deputies think that he was giving them the runaround. After all, his public playing down of sanctions over Navalny and praise of Sputnik V were impressive goodwill gestures that they assumed he wouldn’t have done if he wasn’t sincere in his desire to improve bilateral relations. It therefore naturally follows that his remarks behind closed doors were probably very similar in spirit to the ones that he shared in public since it wouldn’t make sense for him to give them a tongue-lashing in private only to flip the script in public for the global audience’s sake. Russia’s diplomats are world-class and this is how they expect their counterparts to conduct their honorable profession.

Be that as it may, Russian diplomats were played for fools by Borrell, though they didn’t realize it until he returned back to the bloc and started blogging. There’s no doubt that the visit went smoothly, both in public and in private as was explained, so they had no reason to suspect any foul play until he surprised them with his online remarks. It might comfort Russia and/or help it “save face” to think that someone in Brussels or perhaps even further abroad pulled Borrell’s strings, but the argument being made in this analysis is that he was the one trying to pull theirs. To be absolutely clear, Russia did everything by the book during his visit and there wasn’t anything else that they should have done at the time considering all the positive signals that they received from him in public and in private, but at the end of the day, he seems to have just been faking them out. An analysis of his provocative blog post hints at what he might have been thinking at the time.

Borrell claims that his interactions with Lavrov were sometimes very intense even though he didn’t show it during their press conference. About that, he described it as “aggressively staged” and condemned the expulsion of some EU diplomats who violated their professional code of conduct by joining in unauthorized pro-Navalny rallies, though if that’s truly how he felt, then he did an excellent job disguising it. In hindsight, he should have made his feelings known right then and there in order to clear up any ambiguity created by his positive press conference with Lavrov. For some reason, despite Russia repeatedly — and in the eyes of some of its most passionate supporters abroad, almost embarrassingly — reminding its European counterparts of its deep-seated desire to enter into a rapprochement and reset their relations back to their pre-2014 halcyon days, Borrell wrote how convinced he now is that “Russia is progressively disconnecting itself from Europe”.

Truth be told, many Non-Russian Pro-Russians (NRPR) have publicly pleaded on the internet for years that this is exactly the course of action that Russia should have commenced seven years ago, with many expressing their frustration every time that Moscow obsequiously talks about what it still continues to this day to describe as its so-called “Western partners”. Instead, the learning experience of the past week taught by none other than Borrell himself should imbue Russian strategists with a fresh impetus to accelerate the “recalibration” of their Great Power’s “balancing” act towards China after its recent high-profile diplomatic disagreements with India, double down on its “Ummah Pivot” to Muslim-majority countries, and comprehensively expand relations with Africa. That doesn’t mean that they should abandon the Western vector of their diplomatic outreaches, but just that it mustn’t continue to take precedence over all others like it hitherto has.

As interesting of an observation as it may be, non-Western diplomats still tend to practice diplomacy in the classical way that it’s intended unlike their Western counterparts. The former are more sincere behind closed doors than the latter are, as proven by the embarrassing Borrell episode. The EU is trying to humiliate Russia by manipulating its diplomats’ professional expectations in order to turn them into fools on the world stage, something that Russia’s non-Western partners aren’t interested in doing. The bloc is doing this because of the power trip that it’s been on with American backing over the past seven years, believing (whether accurately or not) that Russia needs them more than the reverse since it’s always Moscow that’s requesting (or as critics claim, begging for) a rapprochement and never Brussels. Moscow was just practicing diplomacy in its classical way, but Brussels misinterpreted it as political desperation that it subsequently sought to exploit at every turn.

There’s truth to the Russian perception that the EU is mostly controlled by the US, but the former’s diplomats mustn’t rely any longer on that train of thought as an excuse for dismissing every blatantly disrespectful action that the latter’s commit. It’s time for Russia to recognize that the EU must take responsibility its actions, including its willingness to continue remaining mostly controlled by the US. Blaming America might score some rhetorical points with at home and among Western dissidents, but clinging to that belief and actually acting upon it by looking the other way whenever the EU diplomatically slaps Russia around risks leading to a loss of respect for this proud Great Power. Thankfully, Moscow’s recent expulsion of EU diplomats hints that it’s regaining its self-respect and belatedly recognizing that the bloc isn’t its friend. It can only be hoped that this is followed up by Russia confirming Borrell’s worst nightmare and finally distancing itself from the West.

Will Russia Challenge the West at Last?

Image result for Stephen Lendman

By Stephen Lendman

Source

Confronting unacceptable US-dominated Western policies is long overdue by Russia and other countries free from its control.

Is Moscow ready to go where it hasn’t gone before?

Will the Kremlin no longer tolerate being pushed around and otherwise mistreated by the West?

Will it finally step up to the plate and do the right thing?

The nation’s sovereignty and future demand confronting what no nations should tolerate.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks this week were encouraging.

In response to unacceptable EU meddling in Russia’s internal affairs and threat of sanctions over what the bloc wants reversed, Lavrov said the Kremlin is ready to cut ties with the EU if unlawful new sanctions harm Russia’s economy.

Tough talk by Lavrov and other high-level Russian officials is long overdue and welcome.

“The assumption is that we are ready,” said Lavrov, adding:

“If we see again that there are sanctions that may create risks for our economy, including its most sensitive sectors.” 

“We do not want to isolate from the world, but we have to be ready. If you want peace, prepare for war.”

“These are sanctions for the sake of sanctions, for one’s own pleasure to “punish.’ ” 

“However, the sanctions do not bring fruit and cannot divert us from our policy of protecting the nation’s interests.”

Russia seeks cooperative relations with other nations, confrontation with none.

Lavrov called on EU nations to treat Russia the same way. His spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added the following:

“We would want to warn our EU partners against a new incautious step,” adding: 

If taken, a tit-for-tat response “will follow inevitably. It is absolutely unacceptable to use human rights and refer to democratic principles as a geopolitical instrument.”

“Globally, this is fraught with growing arbitrariness in international relations and basically with an erosion of international law.”

“Once again, we reaffirm our fundamental position that it is unlawful to impose unilateral restrictions in bypassing the UN Security Council.”

“We urge the EU to return to equitable constructive dialogue and to look for workable compromises that would ensure the balance of interests through the existing diplomatic channels that always remain open.”

Brussels reportedly may unlawfully  sanction Russia over its legitimate sentencing of Navalny to 2.8 years imprisonment for multiple  for multiple breaches of his suspended sentence for embezzling millions of dollars.

Along with grand theft, he’s guilty of sedition and serving as an unregistered agent of a foreign government that’s hostile to Russian sovereignty.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned against misinterpreting Lavrov’s remarks, saying:

“Media outlets present this scandalous headline without any context, and this is a big mistake, as this mistake actually changes the meaning.” 

“The meaning is we do not want it. We want to develop relations with the EU, but if the EU chooses (unlawful sanctions). then we will be ready (to respond accordingly) as one should always be ready for the worst.”

“Of course, if we face this extremely destructive policy that affects our infrastructure and our interests, Russia must certainly prepare in advance for such unfriendly steps.”

Lavrov also explained that the EU is Russia’s largest trade and investment partner.

Many Russian companies operate in bloc countries along with thousands of joint ventures.

“If business is mutually beneficial, we will continue” them, he said.

His remarks challenging the bloc came in response to EU foreign policy chief Borrell telling the European Parliament that he’ll present “concrete proposals” for sanctions on Russia.

Time and again in recent years, Russia was unacceptably sanctioned by the US and EU — for its sovereign independence, its freedom from Western control.

The Security Council alone may legitimately impose sanctions on member states, not individual countries on others.

When the US and EU impose them on Russia and other countries unwilling to sacrifice their sovereign rights to Western interests, they’re illegal and politicized.

Failure to strongly challenge this unlawful policy and other hostile actions encourages more of the same.

Hopefully Russia will translate Lavrov’s warning into action if the EU or US unacceptably cross the line illegally again.

Why Russia is driving the West crazy

Why Russia is driving the West crazy

February 10, 2021

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted on Asia Times

Future historians may register it as the day when usually unflappable Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov decided he had had enough:

We are getting used to the fact that the European Union are trying to impose unilateral restrictions, illegitimate restrictions and we proceed from the assumption at this stage that the European Union is an unreliable partner.

Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, on an official visit to Moscow, had to take it on the chin.

Lavrov, always the perfect gentleman, added, “I hope that the strategic review that will take place soon will focus on the key interests of the European Union and that these talks will help to make our contacts more constructive.”

He was referring to the EU heads of state and government’s summit at the European Council next month, where they will discuss Russia. Lavrov harbors no illusions the “unreliable partners” will behave like adults.

Yet something immensely intriguing can be found in Lavrov’s opening remarks in his meeting with Borrell: “The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.”

The two largest players in the Eurasian space (italics mine). Let that sink in. We’ll be back to it in a moment.

As it stands, the EU seems irretrievably addicted to worsening the “unhealthy situation”. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen memorably botched the Brussels vaccine game. Essentially, she sent Borrell to Moscow to ask for licensing rights for European firms to produce the Sputnik V vaccine – which will soon be approved by the EU.

And yet Eurocrats prefer to dabble in hysteria, promoting the antics of NATO asset and convicted fraudster Navalny – the Russian Guaido.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, under the cover of “strategic deterrence”, the head of the US STRATCOM, Admiral Charles Richard, casually let it slip that “there is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.”

So the blame for the next – and final – war is already apportioned to the “destabilizing” behavior of Russia and China. It’s assumed they will be “losing” – and then, in a fit of rage, will go nuclear. The Pentagon will be no more than a victim; after all, claims Mr. STRATCOM, we are not “stuck in the Cold War”.

STRATCOM planners could do worse than read crack military analyst Andrei Martyanov, who for years has been on the forefront detailing how the new hypersonic paradigm – and not nuclear weapons – has changed the nature of warfare.

After a detailed technical discussion, Martyanov shows how “the United States simply has no good options currently. None. The less bad option, however, is to talk to Russians and not in terms of geopolitical BS and wet dreams that the United States, somehow, can convince Russia “to abandon” China – US has nothing, zero, to offer Russia to do so. But at least Russians and Americans may finally settle peacefully this “hegemony” BS between themselves and then convince China to finally sit as a Big Three at the table and finally decide how to run the world. This is the only chance for the US to stay relevant in the new world.”

The Golden Horde imprint

As much as the chances are negligible of the EU getting a grip on the “unhealthy situation” with Russia, there’s no evidence what Martyanov outlined will be contemplated by the US Deep State.

The path ahead seems ineluctable: perpetual sanctions; perpetual NATO expansion alongside Russia’s borders; the build up of a ring of hostile states around Russia; perpetual US interference on Russian internal affairs – complete with an army of fifth columnists; perpetual, full spectrum information war.

Lavrov is increasingly making it crystal clear that Moscow expects nothing else. Facts on the ground, though, will keep accumulating.

Nordstream 2 will be finished – sanctions or no sanctions – and will supply much needed natural gas to Germany and the EU. Convicted fraudster Navalny – 1% of real “popularity” in Russia – will remain in jail. Citizens across the EU will get Sputnik V. The Russia-China strategic partnership will continue to solidify.

To understand how we have come to this unholy Russophobic mess, an essential road map is provided by Russian Conservatism , an exciting, new political philosophy study by Glenn Diesen, associate professor at University of Southeastern Norway, lecturer at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, and one of my distinguished interlocutors in Moscow.

Diesen starts focusing on the essentials: geography, topography and history. Russia is a vast land power without enough access to the seas. Geography, he argues, conditions the foundations of “conservative policies defined by autocracy, an ambiguous and complex concept of nationalism, and the enduring role of the Orthodox Church” – something that implies resistance to “radical secularism”.

It’s always crucial to remember that Russia has no natural defensible borders; it has been invaded or occupied by Swedes, Poles, Lithuanians, the Mongol Golden Horde, Crimean Tatars and Napoleon. Not to mention the immensely bloody Nazi invasion.

What’s in a word? Everything: “security”, in Russian, is byezopasnost. That happens to be a negative, as byez means “without” and opasnost means “danger”.

Russia’s complex, unique historical make-up always presented serious problems. Yes, there was close affinity with the Byzantine empire. But if Russia “claimed transfer of imperial authority from Constantinople it would be forced to conquer it.” And to claim the successor, role and heritage of the Golden Horde would relegate Russia to the status of an Asiatic power only.

On the Russian path to modernization, the Mongol invasion provoked not only a geographical schism, but left its imprint on politics: “Autocracy became a necessity following the Mongol legacy and the establishment of Russia as an Eurasian empire with a vast and poorly connected geographical expanse”.

“A colossal East West”

Russia is all about East meets West. Diesen reminds us how Nikolai Berdyaev, one of the leading 20th century conservatives, already nailed it in 1947: “The inconsistency and complexity of the Russian soul may be due to the fact that in Russia two streams of world history – East and West – jostle and influence one another (…) Russia is a complete section of the world – a colossal East West.”

The Trans-Siberian railroad, built to solidify the internal cohesion of the Russian empire and to project power in Asia, was a major game-changer: “With Russian agricultural settlements expanding to the east, Russia was increasingly replacing the ancient roads who had previously controlled and connected Eurasia.”

It’s fascinating to watch how the development of Russian economics ended up on Mackinder’s Heartland theory – according to which control of the world required control of the Eurasian supercontinent. What terrified Mackinder is that Russian railways connecting Eurasia would undermine the whole power structure of Britain as a maritime empire.

Diesen also shows how Eurasianism – emerging in the 1920s among émigrés in response to 1917 – was in fact an evolution of Russian conservatism.

Eurasianism, for a number of reasons, never became a unified political movement. The core of Eurasianism is the notion that Russia was not a mere Eastern European state. After the 13th century Mongol invasion and the 16th century conquest of Tatar kingdoms, Russia’s history and geography could not be only European. The future would require a more balanced approach – and engagement with Asia.

Dostoyevsky had brilliantly framed it ahead of anyone, in 1881:

Russians are as much Asiatics as European. The mistake of our policy for the past two centuries has been to make the people of Europe believe that we are true Europeans. We have served Europe too well, we have taken too great a part in her domestic quarrels (…) We have bowed ourselves like slaves before the Europeans and have only gained their hatred and contempt. It is time to turn away from ungrateful Europe. Our future is in Asia.

Lev Gumilev was arguably the superstar among a new generation of Eurasianists. He argued that Russia had been founded on a natural coalition between Slavs, Mongols and Turks. The Ancient Rus and the Great Steppe, published in 1989, had an immense impact in Russia after the fall of the USSR – as I learned first hand from my Russian hosts when I arrived in Moscow via the Trans-Siberian in the winter of 1992.

As Diesen frames it, Gumilev was offering a sort of third way, beyond European nationalism and utopian internationalism. A Lev Gumilev University has been established in Kazakhstan. Putin has referred to Gumilev as “the great Eurasian of our time”.

Diesen reminds us that even George Kennan, in 1994, recognized the conservative struggle for “this tragically injured and spiritually diminished country”. Putin, in 2005, was way sharper. He stressed,

the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. And for the Russian people, it was a real drama (…) The old ideals were destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or simply hastily reformed…With unrestricted control over information flows, groups of oligarchs served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty started to be accepted as the norm. All this evolved against a background of the most severe economic recession, unstable finances and paralysis in the social sphere.

Applying “sovereign democracy”

And so we reach the crucial European question.

In the 1990s, led by Atlanticists, Russian foreign policy was focused on Greater Europe, a concept based on Gorbachev’s Common European Home.

And yet post-Cold War Europe, in practice, ended up configured as the non-stop expansion of NATO and the birth – and expansion – of the EU. All sorts of liberal contortionisms were deployed to include all of Europe while excluding Russia.

Diesen has the merit of summarizing the whole process in a single sentence: “The new liberal Europe represented a British-American continuity in terms of the rule of maritime powers, and Mackinder’s objective to organize the German-Russian relationship in a zero-sum format to prevent the alignment of interests”.

No wonder Putin, subsequently, had to be erected as the Supreme Scarecrow, or “the new Hitler”. Putin rejected outright the role for Russia of mere apprentice to Western civilization – and its corollary, (neo) liberal hegemony.

Still, he remained quite accommodating. In 2005, Putin stressed, “above all else Russia was, is and will, of course, be a major European power”. What he wanted was to decouple liberalism from power politics – by rejecting the fundamentals of liberal hegemony.

Putin was saying there’s no single democratic model. That was eventually conceptualized as “sovereign democracy”. Democracy cannot exist without sovereignty; so that discards Western “supervision” to make it work.

Diesen sharply observes that if the USSR was a “radical, left-wing Eurasianism, some of its Eurasian characteristics could be transferred to conservative Eurasianism.” Diesen notes how Sergey Karaganov, sometimes referred to as the “Russian Kissinger”, has shown “that the Soviet Union was central to decolonization and it mid-wifed the rise of Asia by depriving the West of the ability to impose its will on the world through military force, which the West had done from the 16th century until the 1940s”.

This is largely acknowledged across vast stretches of the Global South – from Latin America and Africa to Southeast Asia.

Eurasia’s western peninsula

So after the end of the Cold War and the failure of Greater Europe, Moscow’s pivot to Asia to build Greater Eurasia could not but have an air of historical inevitability.

The logic is impeccable. The two geoeconomic hubs of Eurasia are Europe and East Asia. Moscow wants to connect them economically into a supercontinent: that’s where Greater Eurasia joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But then there’s the extra Russian dimension, as Diesen notes: the “transition away from the usual periphery of these centers of power and towards the center of a new regional construct”.

From a conservative perspective, emphasizes Diesen, “the political economy of Greater Eurasia enables Russia to overcome its historical obsession with the West and establish an organic Russian path to modernization”.

That implies the development of strategic industries; connectivity corridors; financial instruments; infrastructure projects to connect European Russia with Siberia and Pacific Russia. All that under a new concept: an industrialized, conservative political economy.

The Russia-China strategic partnership happens to be active in all these three geoeconomic sectors: strategic industries/techno platforms, connectivity corridors and financial instruments.

That propels the discussion, once again, to the supreme categorical imperative: the confrontation between the Heartland and a maritime power.

The three great Eurasian powers, historically, were the Scythians, the Huns and the Mongols. The key reason for their fragmentation and decadence is that they were not able to reach – and control – Eurasia’s maritime borders.

The fourth great Eurasian power was the Russian empire – and its successor, the USSR. A key reason the USSR collapsed is because, once gain, it was not able to reach – and control – Eurasia’s maritime borders.

The US prevented it by applying a composite of Mackinder, Mahan and Spykman. The US strategy even became known as the Spykman-Kennan containment mechanism – all these “forward deployments” in the maritime periphery of Eurasia, in Western Europe, East Asia and the Middle East.

We all know by now how the overall US offshore strategy – as well as the primary reason for the US to enter both WWI and WWII – was to prevent the emergence of a Eurasian hegemon by all means necessary.

As for the US as hegemon, that would be crudely conceptualized – with requisite imperial arrogance – by Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski in 1997: “To prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and keep the barbarians from coming together”. Good old Divide and Rule, applied via “system-dominance”.

It’s this system that is now tumbling down – much to the despair of the usual suspects. Diesen notes how, “in the past, pushing Russia into Asia would relegate Russia to economic obscurity and eliminate its status as a European power.” But now, with the center of geoeconomic gravity shifting to China and East Asia, it’s a whole new ball game.

The 24/7 US demonization of Russia-China, coupled with the “unhealthy situation” mentality of the EU minions, only helps to drive Russia closer and closer to China exactly at the juncture where the West’s two centuries-only world dominance, as Andre Gunder Frank conclusively proved , is coming to an end.

Diesen, perhaps too diplomatically, expects that “relations between Russia and the West will also ultimately change with the rise of Eurasia. The West’s hostile strategy to Russia is conditioned on the idea that Russia has nowhere else to go, and must accept whatever the West offers in terms of “partnership”. The rise of the East fundamentally alters Moscow’s relationship with the West by enabling Russia to diversify its partnerships”.

We may be fast approaching the point where Great Eurasia’s Russia will present Germany with a take it or leave it offer. Either we build the Heartland together, or we will build it with China – and you will be just a historical bystander. Of course there’s always the inter-galaxy distant possibility of a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis. Stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, Diesen is confident that “the Eurasian land powers will eventually incorporate Europe and other states on the inner periphery of Eurasia. Political loyalties will incrementally shift as economic interests turn to the East, and Europe is gradually becoming the western peninsula of Greater Eurasia”.

Talk about food for thought for the peninsular peddlers of the “unhealthy situation”.

The Headless Chicken and the Bear

THE SAKER • FEBRUARY 9, 2021 

Introducing the headless chicken

The EU has a major problem: it is run by a comprador class which is entirely dependent on the United States. Okay, that by itself is not the problem I am referring to. The problem I am referring to is one we could call the problem of the decapitated chicken: a decapitated chicken can run without a head, but it sure does not know where it is running or why. This happens to all comprador classes when their beloved masters suddenly vanish. This is exactly what happened to the European ruling classes when Trump came to the White House: they “lost their head” and they began running all over the place, obviously achieving nothing. Now that the Neocons gave Trump the boot, the EU rulers are desperate to show the new US leaders that they only hated Trump, not the US, and what better way to show your complete submission than by barking at the Asiatic Mordor of the East known as “Russia”?

This latest PSYOP was apparently organized in the US last fall, while Trump was still in power, at least nominally. This makes sense, just like the huge “Patriot Act” was carefully prepared months, if not years before 9/11 happened. This time around, some US intelligence agency (probably the CIA) then passed the baby to the German BND which was supposed to act as an intermediary to give the US “plausible deniability”. The big problem is that the Germans apparently screwed things up, and the plan was a flop: the latest sacral victim failed to die (again!). As for Putin, he used his executive power to allow Navalnyi (who was on parole) to immediately fly to Germany for treatment as soon as the Russian medics stabilized him. From there on, everything went south and Navalnyi’s curators scrambled to save whatever could be saved.

They produced a movie about Putin’s palace in Crimea, only to have Russian reporters film the location and prove that this movie was a total fake. Then they sent Navalnyi back to Russia figuring that if the Russian authorities arrested him huge protests would follow or, alternatively, if the Russians did nothing, Navalnyi would be able to create chaos during an important election year in Russia. This resulted in another flop, not only were the crowds in Russia small, their behavior was deeply offensive and even frightening to most Russians who have seen enough Maidans and color revolutions to know how this stuff ends. As for Navalnyi, he was arrested immediately upon landing, and his parole was revoked.

Of course, all this was reported very differently in what I call Zone A, but while this made it possible for the authors of this PSYOP to conceal the magnitude of their failure, in the rest of the world and, especially, in Russia, it was pretty clear that this ridiculous buffoonery had failed. That outcome presented the EU headless chicken with a major problem: on one hand, we protest about “Putin murdering his own people with combat gasses” while on the other we are about to complete North Stream 2 (NS2), which we need to remain competitive; if we continue, we will lose NS2 and we will alienate Russia even further, but if we stop acting like an idiot on suicide watch, our overseas masters will make us pay. EU leaders obviously failed agree on a plan so, just like a headless chicken, they ran in all directions at the same time: they publicly protested, but also sent as top official, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell, to try to appease the Russians. Borrell actually did a decent job trying to placate the Russians, but this time something went very wrong. Not only was Foreign Minister Lavrov very blunt in his public comments, the Russians also expelled 3 EU diplomats for participating in the demonstrations even while Borrell and Lavrov were talking. This is when the proverbial bovine excreta hit the fan, at least in EU whose “watchdog media” (here I use the term “watchdog” as meaning “immediately barking at anybody daring to stray from the official propaganda line”) went crazy and accused Borrell of caving in to the Russians. Some even demanded Borrell’s resignation. As for Borrell himself, he did what all western officials do after a visit to Moscow: he changed his tune as soon as he came back home. Finally, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, added that “The task [of Borrell] was to carry out a public flogging, which, I think, they planned very carefully, it was a cascade of topics: talks about rallies, talks about journalists, and making [Alexey] Navalny the main theme of the discussion”. According to Zakharova, this plan failed because Russia insisted on discussing the “real issues“.

Interestingly, the Russians did not expel any US diplomats (at least not yet) in spite of the fact that these officials all agreed that the origin of the PSYOP was from overseas and in spite of the quasi-certainty that US officials must have been present, at least in the Moscow and Saint Petersburg protests. To its credit, the US embassy in Moscow did recommend to all US citizens that they stay away from illegal demonstrations. This is an ongoing crisis and by the time this analysis is posted, things might have changed dramatically. My purpose today is not to look at the US or the EU, but at what I believe is a major shift in Russian policy.

At this point, we should not see the expulsions of the 3 EU diplomats as anything more than just a “shot across the bow”, a way to indicate that the winds have changed. But these expulsions are not big enough to qualify as a real, painful, retaliation. Why?

Because the real slap in the collective face of the EU was the press conference of Lavrov and Borrell in which Lavrov was truly uniquely direct and candid. For example, Lavrov bluntly said ” We are proceeding from the assumption that the EU is not a reliable partner, at least at the current stage. I hope that in future strategic attention will be given to the EU’s fundamental interest in its closest neighbours and that the talks we have held today will promote movement to a more constructive trajectory. We are ready for this“.

Translated from diplospeak into plain English, this means 1) we are fed up with you and 2) we don’t need you.

This blunt statement is what triggered all the subsequent hysterics in Brussels about Borrell being ill treated by the Russians and Borrell’s subsequent declaration that “Russia does not want a constructive dialog” and that the EU must now decide if it still wants to get closer to Russia or if it wants to distance itself from a country slipping into authoritarianism.

In western parlance the degree of “democratism” or “authoritarianism” is solely defined by the willingness of a country to be a satrapy of the Empire. Under this definition, all sovereign countries are “dictatorships” and all AngloZionist satrapies are paragons of democracy.

Has the Russian bear had enough?

Just two weeks ago I wrote that With “Biden” in the White House, the Kremlin Now Needs to Change Gear and I believe that this is exactly what we are seeing today. Here is my evidence:

  • The tone of the Russian has changed and is much more direct and blunt
  • The fact that the three EU diplomats were expelled while Borrell was in Moscow was a very deliberate slap in the EU’s collective face
  • The tone of the Russian media has also changed, journalists and experts are all expressing their utter disgust with the EU and are calling for less words and more actions
  • The NS2 lobby in Russia (who advocated a policy of total non-confrontation at least until NS2 was completed) is rather absent from the public discourse. This might mean that this lobby has thrown in the towel or, alternatively, that the block I call “Eurasian sovereignists” does not consider NS2 as vital for Russia (they are correct, by the way) and that putting the squeeze on the EU is much more important (again, I agree with them here too).
  • The EU’s other anti-Russian vendetta, I am referring to the recent attempt at overthrowing Lukashenko, has also failed. However, this PSYOP was so rude and crude, and the EU acted with such arrogance that it really gave Russia no other option than to take action, not only by flying Tu-160s along the Belarussian border or by selling S-400s, but also by using highly symbolic diplomatic countermeasures.
  • The Russian Aerospace Forces (2 Su-24M, 2 Su-27s and 2 Su-30SM) have conducted mock missile strikes against USN ships as soon as they entered the southern waters of the Black Sea. Note: the same day Chinese aircraft conducted a mock attack on a US carrier in the Pacific.
  • Russia has now deployed both the Bal and even the formidable Bastion coastal missile defense systems. This, combined with the formidable capabilities of the Southern Military District and the Black Sea Fleet which turns the entire Black Sea into a shooting range and any hostile ship into an easy target for the Russians. Clearly, the Russians are fed up with the arrogance of the USN.
  • Defense Minister Shoigu has just announced a major increase in the production of high-precision and hypersonic weapons.

These are just a few examples of a much longer list of changes which are taking place before our eyes.

So far, the EU did not get the message at all. At least officially. But witnessing the infighting taking place not only over Borrell’s trip, but also about what to do about vaccines (The Lancet has just posted a major article entitled “Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine candidate appears safe and effective” which basically said that all the western nonsense about Sputnik-V being BOTH 1) unsafe AND 2) ineffective were lies) I can clearly see that the EU rulers are seriously worried. Right now it sure looks like the EU is losing the “COVID propaganda war” and that all these russophobic states (except the hardcore nutcases of 3B+PU) will have to now ask Russia for her vaccines. So far the only official EU reaction was to expel 3 Russian diplomats and somewhat protest. But these are clearly the opening shots of a much longer confrontation between Russia and the EU.

The crucial factor to consider here is this: while the aggregate power of the US+NATO+EU+5EYES is bigger than Russia’s, the mental paralysis of the EU leaders makes the EU alone already much weaker than Russia. Of course, since Biden’s administration is a who’s who of the most hysterical russophobes imaginable, chances are that the US will interfere and attempt to back the anti-Russian factions in the EU. Considering the tone used by Russian officials over the latest USN provocations in the Black Sea and the Sea of Japan, I don’t doubt the Kremlin’s determination to act both in words and with actions.

And then there are the subtle threats which the general public is rarely exposed to. The latest example is a highly specialized article entitled “Rationale for the combat use of aviation to disrupt an integrated massive air strike during a multi-domain operation of the enemy” which explains how Russia could disrupt and defeat a NATO attack. I won’t go into all the (very interesting) details here, but I will just say that the authors declare that Russia can go from a policy of deterrence by nuclear forces to a policy of (conventional) deterrence by having the means to “inflict comprehensive defeat (upon NATO countries) using all types of weapons within the deterrence of inflicting an unacceptable complex defeat on it with all types of weapons within the framework of preventive actions under the conditions of the danger of local war threatening the Russian Federation“. In truth, this is not the only Russian specialized article discussing the future of warfare, and what makes this one truly unique is that RT, of all places, decided to post an article about it entitled “Russian Air Force experts publish plan to neutralize NATO forces in all-out war with bombing strikes“. This really looks like the Kremlin wanted to make absolutely sure that western politicians (as opposed to western military analysts who read that stuff on a daily basis anyway) would think long and hard about what US military plans for NATO really would mean for the EU.

Then there is the outcome of the Polish military command staff exercise Winter-20 which resulted in, I kid you not, Russia completely defeating the Polish military in 5 days only! (For details, see herehere or here). Again, there is nothing really new here, the US and/or NATO have conducted plenty of exercises which had the “Russian hordes” defeating the “forces of democracy and progress”. And, again, the real difference was in the Russian coverage of this news: for the first time the Russians openly made fun of NATO and of the (always paranoid and insanely russophobic) Poles. In truth, the Russians always knew that the Polish military is as good on pompous ceremonies and parades as it is inept on the battlefield, but that kind of open contempt is something new, at least from the state supported media.

So far, the EU clearly is not coming to terms with this new reality. The latest (breathtakingly stupid) EU plan to try to scare “Putin” (here “Putin” is the collective Kremlin boogeyman, not necessarily VVP): Svetlana Tikhanovskaia has appealed to the wife of Navalnyi, Iulia, to become the “she president of Russia”. Yes, seriously. Iulia Navalnaia as President of Russia!

As for Navalnyi’s supporters in the EU, they have decided to create a Russian government in exile. Again, this is not a joke. By the way, the “Minister of Foreign Affairs” of this “Russian Government in Exile”, Leonid Volkov, initially declared that the illegal riots should be halted, only to be told otherwise by his handlers. He immediately made a required 180 and declared that protests will resume. This is how Maria Zakharova bluntly, and very officially, reacted on Facebook to his “change of mind”: (minimally fixed machine translation)

NATO doubles down

On February 4, 2021, Volkov declared that the protests in Russia were canceled and will resume in the spring and summer. “We will not hold a rally next weekend…The wave of protest must end at a high point. Because if we continue to decline, it will be terribly demotivating and frustrating for everyone… We will prepare well and hold something big both in the spring and in the summer. We will never give up our demands.” Then, on February 9, 2021, Volkov changed his mind and announced that the campaign will continue in February. “We’ll make it much trickier” he added. What happened between February 4 and 9 and forced the “opposition” to radically change tactics? Everything is quite simple – on February 8, 2021, an online meeting with Volkov and Ashurkov took place at the Permanent Mission of Poland to the EU in Brussels, in which EU countries, the United States, and Britain took part. And in fact-this was a meeting of the NATO countries. The NATO members instructed the “opposition”, and in fact their agents of influence, how to continue “more cunning” to conduct subversive work. Too much money and resources have already been invested by the West in this story to wait until spring. They clearly understand: in the spring, the information campaign pumped up by Westerners will be blown away. They can no longer juggle the topic of “chemical weapons” without presenting the facts – they are pinned to the wall. So they double down.

As for Navalnyi and his supporters, Zakarova was even more direct, saying “stop calling them opposition, they are NATO agents!”.

As I have explained many times, western politicians double down not when they feel strong, they double down when they feel weak and when they place their hopes in the willingness of the other side not to seriously further escalate.

And, just to make sure that the Empire can win the battle for the “hearts and minds” of the Russian people, the Brits are now counting (again) on Pussy Riot to release a song in support of protests. Again, while this does sound like a joke, it is not.

Now comes the best part: there are a lot of signs that the EU will, again under the pious pretext of “solidarity” follow the 3B+PU politicians and, if not recognize such a government in exile, at least treat its members as real officials. That is also supposed to also terrify the Kremlin, I guess. But if that is the best the EU can come up with, VVP and the people of Russia, can sleep in peace.

So where do we go from here?

Making predictions is a tricky thing when dealing with both 1) countries with limited agency/sovereignty and 2) countries led by incompetent/delusional politicians. The many theories of deterrence out there all assume what is called a “rational actor” and a truly sovereign state. What is certain is that the Empire and its EU protectorates will only increase what I call “petty harassment measures” to try to offend and humiliate Russia (stuff like this crap). In response to such “ankle biting” Russia will do two things: drop any pretense of diplomacy and denounce these “ankle bites” for what they are (provocations) and further turn to Zone B (aka “reliable partners”) for partnerships. Russia will also bluntly spell out to the Europeans the risks they are taking with their ill-conceived sabre rattling along the Russian border. Sadly, this probably means that, just as the Chinese Navy recently, the Russian Aerospace Forces and Navies will have order to engage any aircraft or vessel threatening Russia (so far these are only rumors, but they are persistent and seem to have strong backing in the Duma). This is a very dangerous development as western politicians, being primarily ideological (and, therefore, delusional) creatures will always prefer to play a game of (headless) chicken hoping that the other guy will back down. The fact that the “other guy” (both Russian and Chinese) in the past did, indeed, back down and show restraint only further encourages western politicians to double down forever no matter what. For these reasons I would call the probability of an actual military clash between US/NATO and/or Russia/China as “likely in 2021”. As for the future of NS2, I always assumed that EU politicians can count their Euros and realize that the EU needs that project way more than Russia. Frankly, I am not so sure now: counting on the mental abilities of a headless chicken is probably not a good idea! Neither is counting on the courage of the type of politicians whom Boris Johnson once called “supine invertebrate protoplasmic jellies“.

It appears that Russia and the EU are on a direct collision course. Frankly, I welcome it, in spite of the obvious dangers. Why? Because nothing except a real confrontation can bring EU politicians down to the real world back from the La-La land they currently live in. The Russian bear needs to smack down the headless chicken. Hard.

Compare, Contrast and Analyze – Mr Lavrov and Mr Borrell

Source

February 08, 2021

Compare, Contrast and Analyze – Mr Lavrov and Mr Borrell

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell, Moscow, February 5, 2021 – https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4553286

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I had a substantive discussion with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell.

We reviewed in detail the state of relations between Russia and the EU. Clearly, they are going through a rough period, partly related to the unilateral illegitimate restrictions imposed by the EU under far-fetched pretexts. We expressed this openly today.

Importantly, both sides confirmed their interest in maintaining and expanding our dialogue, including on matters where our positions differ, which are numerous. We noted a mutual willingness to maintain pragmatic cooperation in areas of common interest that may be beneficial for both parties.

We share the opinion that further degradation of our ties may lead to negative and unpredictable consequences. We hope that during the strategic review of relations with Russia at the next EU summit scheduled for March 2021, its participants will opt for constructive, professional and pragmatic interaction. Our differences may not go away, but it is better to have as few as possible. We are neighbours and we are responsible for maintaining stability on our common European, or rather Eurasian continent, for ensuring most comfortable lives for our citizens in this vast geopolitical space. Russia and the European countries share common centuries-old history, culture and people-to-people contacts. We have a lot in common in the economy, although trade is almost half of what it was in record-high 2012 and 2013. We are witnessing a positive trend now where the EU remains our largest trade and economic partner. EU businesses are the biggest, or at least among the biggest, foreign investors in the Russian economy. Despite the pandemic, the bilateral trade numbers continue up. Our relationship, especially energy interdependence, must be used for the benefit of both sides. We have an understanding that we will look for other areas to apply our joint efforts as part of building renewed relationships.

Today, we covered healthcare, climate change, science and education as areas in which the experts and ministers from both sides can come up with significant agreements. We will do our best not to delay this effort if our European colleagues are ready for it. At least, we heard them say they were, during the talks.

We want to continue the political dialogue. Today’s talks are proof that it is useful regardless of everything else. There are preliminary agreements to expand cooperation in a number of promising areas, including combating terrorism and the drug threat that continues to come from Afghanistan, and other areas.

We paid special attention to the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. We also discussed the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We see eye to eye on the need to resume the activities of the Quartet of international mediators, given that the new administration in Washington is disposed favourably to this idea. We both realise the need to use the Quartet’s capabilities to create conditions for resuming direct dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis in order to help the parties find a solution that will fit into the two-state formula approved by the UN and as part of the Arab Peace Initiative.

We discussed other crisis-ridden regions, including Syria and Libya. We understand that continuing instability continues to weigh down the situation in Europe, including in the context of the inflow of migrants and refugees to the EU. We believe it is necessary to overcome the existing problems, but not to forget about the events that preceded everything that we are now witnessing. Clearly, there would be much fewer of the problems had many Western states refrained from reckless geopolitical gambles in the Middle East and North Africa.

We will continue implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on settling Iran’s nuclear programme. A critical moment is coming. We hope that in this area, too, the US administration that held the talks and signed the JCPOA, will decide to what extent it will be ready to return to this major international document that is acknowledged as an achievement of multilateral diplomacy and shows what efforts must be made to ease tensions in various hot spots and to consolidate the nuclear arms non-proliferation regime.

We are willing to cooperate on other conflicts as well and regional issues in general. We will continue to inform each other on the approaches that are taking shape in the European Union and the Russian Federation.

I would like to express our regret that during the coronavirus pandemic when it would seem that all countries in the world should unite and act as one, some forces in the EU have used this issue to accuse Russia of disinformation. Russia has proved by deeds its willingness to help all of its interested colleagues, including in the EU, to counter this dangerous virus. If we really want to stop these information wars and false rumours, we must agree with the European Union to create one more channel and to buttress our talk about disinformation with facts that will allow us to consider mutual grievances at the professional level. Our proposal remains valid.

We are willing to discuss issues linked to the EU’s plans on the post-Soviet space (the South Caucasus and Central Asia) in which the EU displays substantial interest. We hope that in drafting its policy, the European Union will consider Russia’s lawful interests near its borders and in its relations with its next door neighbours and allies. It would be right to agree on principles that would include commitments not to interfere in the affairs of sovereign states, be it in the post-Soviet space, West Balkans or anywhere else.

This was an honest discussion. We did not conceal our differences but were motivated to discuss them in the open rather than harbour a grudge against each other. At the same time, we tried to promote our contacts wherever it was beneficial to both sides. We are ready for this. Today, we heard assurances that the same opinion is forming in the EU.

I would like to thank Josep Borrell and his team for the good talks.

Question (addressed to Josep Borrell): A third meeting of the Joint Cuba-EU Council, which you co-chaired, took place recently. What can you tell us about EU-Cuba relations today? Can this format help reduce the differences between Cuba and the US?

Question (to Sergey Lavrov): What can you tell us about current EU policy towards Cuba?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Josep Borrell): Josep, I see no surprise in that you were asked about Cuba. When I travel to various countries, I am always asked about Ukraine. You were asked about Cuba because you have fairly obvious and important relations with this state. I think this is a positive example of being guided by common sense, avoiding unilateral unlawful pressure, not to mention any form of blockade or embargo.

We have the same approach with the European Union: international partners must resolve their problems exclusively through dialogue. Power pressure, ultimatums, sanctions and penalties through exterritorial restrictions on those who want to develop normal relations are methods and instruments from a colonial past.

Unfortunately, the European Union increasingly resorts to these instruments, which are a US invention. This is sad. I hope upcoming international events, including the UN Security Council Permanent Members’ summit, which was proposed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and supported by others (President of France Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed his willingness to take part in it yesterday), and other conferences will be used to figure out what king of world we are building. Will it be a multipolar world that ensures equality for all major actors, including the EU, or will it be a so-called multilateral world which is a cover to justify the methods of a unipolar world arrangement?

Today, we have started talking about the nature of genuine multilateralism and I hope we will continue this discussion. We are convinced that this is a format in which all states are represented. In other words, the United Nations. When initiatives on effective multilateralism are proposed, for example, by France and Germany, we begin to look into this slogan. It appears that the European Union is assumed to be an ideal of multilateralism, while others must follow in its wake.

These are philosophical issues, but they are related in practice to real politics. I am happy that today we talked honestly about them as well as about the questions that our European colleagues have for the Russian Federation. I believe this is the only constructive approach.

The example of Cuba graphically reveals the malignity of unilateral approaches and the need to revise them.

Question (retranslated from English): Regarding shared interests that can bring together the European Union and Russia rather than divide them, I want to ask you if you see the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine as a tool for rapprochement or as the opposite influence that will sow even more seeds for discord between the two blocs?

Sergey Lavrov: We are not talking about whether the Sputnik V vaccine might play a positive role but about establishing cooperation between all vaccine producers on an equal footing.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Sputnik V vaccine had been created, this news received a negative response – opinions varied from the skeptical “it is too early and nobody knows anything as yet” to “the Russians have rushed it for geopolitical advantages.” However, as the vaccine started to be given, the perception of it has changed, largely because at the very beginning Russian President Vladimir Putin, while announcing this achievement by Russian scientists, called for the broadest possible cooperation in this field with our foreign partners.

Yesterday, during the conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken we talked about the Sputnik V vaccine. Mr Blinken congratulated us on the vaccine being effective. We agreed to promote contacts between our laboratories, scientists and producers and see if there is the potential for cooperation in this area.

We are maintaining contact with our European colleagues on a wide scale regarding this issue. A number of countries are interested in buying and producing the vaccine domestically. In her recent telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the idea to see if there is a possibility for cooperation between Russia and Germany.

The Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology has established contact with AstraZeneca to see if a mixed version of the vaccine that combines the positive effects of both vaccines might be produced.

I believe that not only can cooperation in this area play a positive role but it is already doing so. We welcome this in every way.

Question: You said a revision in the European Union’s attitude towards Russia is in the offing but for now, as I see it, the EU is proceeding from the five principles of Federica Mogherini. Does Russia have principles we are guided by in building our relations with the EU? I must also ask you about the videos that were given to High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and your Swedish colleague Ann Linde earlier. Doesn’t this move remind you of the old Soviet joke: “And you are lynching Negroes”?

Sergey Lavrov: I have expressed my view on “the five principles of Federica Mogherini” more than once. I’ll just mention one principle, the one that says relations with us will be normalised as soon as Russia fulfils the Minsk Agreements. In parallel, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky says he doesn’t like the Minsk Agreements but will have to keep them because this will allow him to maintain the sanctions against Russia. This trap into which the EU has put itself is indicative. We have asked Berlin and Paris, as the co-authors of the Minsk Agreements in the Normandy format, what they think about such statements by President Zelensky but our questions remain unanswered. Any more or less sensible person will understand that this condition is absolutely artificial.

Therefore, I would rather not invent counter principles but suggest relying on international law, the norms and principles of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents adopted at top level. These documents provide for respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and free access to information (something we do not see being ensured by our Western colleagues). They also envisage many other principles, such as equitable dialogue, mutual respect and the search for a balance of interests. These principles underlie any dialogue that is aimed at achieving results rather than deriving some geopolitical advantage. Of course, reciprocity is a must. You recalled the Soviet saying “And you are lynching Negroes.” But this is not the point. This is just a witty interpretation of the principle of reciprocity.

If you are so concerned about human rights and the treatment of protesters, it is necessary to also look at the images we gave our Swedish colleagues as well as to Brussels on the eve of the current visit. Look at them. They show how a policeman drives his jeep over the demonstrators lying on the ground and many other things. The entire world saw footage how a young woman was squeezed against the wall by a stream of water from a fire hose in the Netherlands, after which she left the place covered in blood.

We had nothing like this. The police were repeatedly attacked during the recent demonstrations in Russia but did not use any special force. Demonstrators used teargas against the police.

Yesterday I talked with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. He mentioned the situation around Alexey Navalny and the demonstrators. I asked him if he had any information that would clear up the location of those who were detained during the events at the US Capitol. In some estimates, there are about 400 people. Several dozens of them are charged with attacking the police. Under US law, this is punishable by a term in prison from one to 20 years. There were numerous attacks against the police during the recent demonstrations in Russia and all of them are documented. These facts are being processed now.

There are many cases in Europe where the courts are suspected of passing politicized verdicts. I would like to draw your attention to what has never been mentioned in our public statements, notably, the case of three prisoners in Spain who were sentenced to 10 and more years in prison for organising referendums in Catalonia, something we were accused of provoking without any evidence. I recall this because our court was accused of passing a politicised verdict. The judicial authorities in Germany and Belgium urged the Spanish leaders to revoke the sentences for these three Catalonians. This is what Spanish government authorities replied: “You know, we have our own judicial system. Don’t even think of calling into doubt the decisions that we adopt in our courts under our laws.” This is exactly what we want from the West as regards reciprocity.

As for transparency in our relations, we have simply become stuck on an issue that the West is trying to push into the background for some reason, drawing all attention to the protests and demonstrations in the Russian Federation. I am referring to the issue of finding the truth of what happened with Navalny, when and where. I have spoken about this many times. Neither Russian nor civilian German doctors have found what supposedly went into his body. This was discovered only by German military doctors. This is a tell-tale fact. Our numerous requests to receive the results of these tests from Germany, France, Sweden or the OPCW Technical Secretariat, which has become so tame and obedient, have remained unanswered. They simply do not answer our questions. All they say is “You know everything yourselves.” But this is simply disrespectful, to put it mildly.

I think this arrogance on behalf of a supposedly cultured Europe is absolutely unacceptable and inadmissible. But if our partners believe that we do not deserve to have information that would confirm their accusations against Russian leaders, let this be on their conscience. We favour honesty and transparency. No need to count these principles again. A mathematical approach is unnecessary. I think we all understand what we are talking about.

Question (for Josep Borrell): Which messages did you convey to Mr Lavrov regarding the sentence against Alexey Navalny and the repression of the peaceful demonstrations? Do you think it is possible that the European Union will adopt in the near future sanctions against the eight people named in the list of oligarchs elaborated by [Alexey] Navalny?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Josep Borrell): I have already spoken about this issue. I will not speak at length about Navalny, the demonstrations and protest rallies or, most importantly, about the double standards when it comes to the media coverage of these events. Western media outlets mostly report on police response without showing what they were responding to, whereas their coverage of demonstrations in the West is focused on the riotous behaviour of protesters.

We believe that there must be double standards here. It seems they are beginning to hear us. However, the EU countries’ allied collective stand is that no facts are provided to us. We understand that this stand is formulated in Berlin. It has decided that this should be so from the very beginning and has announced this decision to the others.  It was followed by France and Sweden. I am not surprised by this, considering the EU’s principle of solidarity. I am sure that the majority of European politicians are aware of the absurdity of this stand. This is obvious, provided there is respect for international law. Roman law, which has survived in a large degree and is applied in Europe, says that “the burden of proof rests on who asserts, not on who denies.” This is exactly what we want.

As for sanctions, we regard them as an internal affair of the European Union. We have grown used to Brussels applying unilateral sanctions without any legal substantiation more and more often. We are proceeding from the assumption that the EU is not a reliable partner, at least at the current stage. I hope that in future strategic attention will be given to the EU’s fundamental interest in its closest neighbours and that the talks we have held today will promote movement to a more constructive trajectory. We are ready for this.

In conclusion I would like to say a few words to journalists. This concerns the problem, or the deadlock created by the results of the tests made in Germany, France and Sweden. I am surprised that journalists, who often show interest in less significant events, making them part of their reports and the questions they put to politicians, have been incredibly passive this time. I cannot understand the reason for this. I hope that the intrinsic features of journalists – inquisitiveness and a desire to get to the truth – will prevail, after all.

Maybe you will conduct a journalistic inquiry (not an investigation). Has it ever happened anywhere in the past that a politician, or someone claiming to be one, called on foreign states to adopt sanctions against his homeland?  If any journalist looks into this matter, this will produce an interesting brief, which all of us will accept with interest.

As it is said in media circles, good news don’t sell; everyone needs a scandal. However, we can offer you positive results in the spheres we have mentioned, that is, healthcare, science, education and climate change. These issues are of fundamental interest for large neighbouring players on the Eurasian continent. There is no doubt that we will try to translate these interests into practical agreements, which will help address global problems in a way that is comfortable for all participants.

I would like to thank Josep Borrell and his team once again.


Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission – My visit to Moscow and the future of EU-Russia relations – https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/92722/my-visit-moscow-and-future-eu-russia-relations_en

Short Extract – please read on the site itself from the link provided.

“I have just returned from a very complicated visit to Moscow, on which I had embarked to discuss the fraught state of EU-Russia relations. They have been  low for a number of years, and deteriorated even further after recent developments linked to the poisoning, arrest, and sentencing of Alexei Navalny as well as the related mass arrests of thousands of demonstrators. The purpose of this mission was to express directly the EU’s strong condemnation of these events and to address, through principled diplomacy, the process of a rapid worsening of our relationship with Russia, and to help prepare the forthcoming European Council discussions on EU-Russia relations.

“The Russian authorities did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU. This is regrettable and we will have to draw the consequences.”

US Hostility Toward Russia Unchanged Under Biden

Image result for Stephen Lendman

by Stephen Lendman

Source

US war by hot and/or other means rages against all nations free from its control — notably against China, Russia and Iran.

During his Thursday address, Biden signaled continued US dirty business as usual against invented enemies — not a new course toward cooperative relations with other countries.

He falsely accused China and Russia of “advancing authoritarianism…to damage and disrupt our ‘democracy (sic),’ ” adding:

“(T)he days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russian aggressive actions (sic), interfering with our elections (sic), cyberattacks (sic), poisoning its citizens (sic) are over.”

“We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people, and we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like minded partners.”

Aggression and other dirty tricks reflect how US ruling regimes operate.

Under Vladimir Putin, Russia is governed by higher standards, ones the US and its imperial partners long ago abandoned.

The same goes for China, Iran, and other nations the US seeks to transform into pro-Western vassal states.

The more forcefully it tries, the more greatly its decline is hastened, the sooner it arrives in history’s dustbin where it belongs.

It’s long past time for the Kremlin to abandon diplomatic outreach to hegemonic USA that’s hellbent for eliminating its sovereign independence.

Toughness is the only language the US understands. 

Giving it a taste of its own medicine is the only way to counter its hegemonic rage for dominating other nations.

On Friday, Moscow acted properly by declaring German, Polish and Swedish “diplomats” persona non grata for support of and participation in violent po-Navalny/anti-Russia rallies on January 23, a Foreign Ministry statement saying:

“In compliance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961, ‘diplomats’ who took part in unauthorized rallies have been declared persona non grata.” 

They’re hostile toward Moscow and “must leave Russia as soon as possible.”

Revoking their credentials requires their swift departure.

“The Russian side expects that” these nations and officials respect Russia’s sovereign rights and the rule of law.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called on these and other nations to cease “meddl(ing) in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry’s said it “considers this entirely unjustified (sic), which we have also conveyed to the Russian side.” 

“The ministry regrets Russia’s actions and reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.”

Poland’s Foreign Ministry said it “reserves the right to take adequate steps,” in response — vowing to expel a Russian diplomat.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel falsely called Russia’s action “a step away from the rule of law,” suggesting a retaliatory action to follow.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry slammed what it called a “coordinated global campaign to contain Russia and interfere in its internal affairs.”

Suggesting US dirty hands behind it, Zakharova said Moscow intends having “a serious talk” with Biden regime officials on the issue.

Separately, Sergey Lavrov slammed fake news claims about Navalny’s alleged poisoning by novichok, a bald-faced Big Lie, stressing:

“Today we simply bogged down in a topic that for some reason the West is now trying to sideline, focusing all of its attention on protests and demonstrations in the Russia.” 

“I am referring to the topic of finding the truth about what happened to Navalny and when and where it happened.”

Despite “numerous requests” by Russia to Germany, France, Sweden and the OPCW for information they have on Navalny’s illness, “(t)hey just won’t give us any answers,” said Lavrov — calling their behavior “categorically unacceptable.”

In response to Biden’s hostile rhetoric toward Russia, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the following:

“This is very aggressive and unconstructive rhetoric, to our regret.”

“We have already said that we will not heed such statements, which are some kind of mentoring lectures.”

US hostility toward Russia and other nations free from its control is unbending, diplomatic outreach by their ruling authorities to their US counterparts a waste of time.

Throughout the post-WW II period, the US waged endless wars by hot and/or other means on nations unwilling to subordinate their sovereign rights to its interests.

Looking ahead under Biden/Harris and whatever US regimes succeed them, no evidence remotely suggests a new leaf turned for cooperative relations with these countries over endless confrontation.

Biden supports the overthrow of Vladimir Putin, and lean years between the two sides await بايدن يؤيّد الإطاحة بفلاديمير بوتين وسنوات عجاف بين الطرفين بانتظار العالم

**Please scroll down for the English Machine translation**

بايدن يؤيّد الإطاحة بفلاديمير بوتين وسنوات عجاف بين الطرفين بانتظار العالم

باريس – نضال حمادة

 مشروع أميركيّ لتغيير النظام في روسيا بدأ يظهر مع عودة الناشط السياسي أليكسي نافالني إلى موسكو، ويبدو أنّ خطة الغرب في صناعة نافالني من شخص غامض إلى نجم خلال الأشهر الماضية وصلت الى نهايتها وانتقلت الى مرحلة المواجهة والتنفيذ، وذلك مع توقيت وصول المعارض الروسي إلى موسكو على متن طائرة آتية من ألمانيا قبل أيام من وصول إدارة بايدن الى الحكم في واشنطن، وكانت موسكو قد حذرت من أنه سيتمّ احتجازه للاستجواب لكونه على قائمة المطلوبين.

من المقرّر إجراء الانتخابات الرئاسية في روسيا في آذار/ مارس 2024، وسيكون العامان المقبلان حاسمين لسياسة الكرملين. السؤال الكبير هو ما إذا كان الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين سوف يسعى إلى فترة ولاية أخرى مدّتها ست سنوات أم لا… يترك بوتين الأمر للوقت من دون إعطاء أيّ جواب او إبداء أية إشارة في هذا الأمر في وقت لا تتوقف فيه شعبيته عن الاستمرار في الارتفاع، وهو يمكنه البناء على سجل قويّ من الإنجازات في تعزيز القوة الوطنية الشاملة لروسيا، وقيادة عودة روسيا الى المسرح العالمي وتحسين مكانتها الدولية وضمان التوازن الاستراتيجي العالمي.

شكّل بوتين قارب النجاة لروسيا منذ وصوله إلى الحكم وقد أعادها خصماً قوياً للولايات المتحدة بعد غياب عشر سنوات، ويتوقع المحللون الروس أن يحاول بايدن تحويل المثلث الأميركي ـ الروسي ـ الصيني لصالح واشنطن من خلال إشراك الصين وعزل روسيا.

 في الأساس، من وجهة نظر بايدن العالمية، تعتبر الصين منافساً، لكنها واقعية ومنفتحة على عقد الصفقات، وستظلّ محايدة في المواجهة الأميركية مع روسيا.

وبشكل عام، فإنّ بايدن والمسؤولين الذين يشكلون فريق الأمن القومي الخاص به وغالبيتهم كانوا معه في عهد أوباما متأصّلون في اعتقادهم أنّ حساب السلطة في روسيا هشّ بطبيعته. من هذا المنظور، تصبح عودة نافالني إلى روسيا عملية اختبار لمدى إمكانية حصوله على شعبية أم لا.

من الناحية الدبلوماسية، فإنّ اعتقال نافالني في موسكو أصبح مادة خبريّة في الغرب في وقت تعمل فيه أوروبا على استقلالها الاستراتيجيّ تجاه الولايات المتحدة، وقد رفضت ألمانيا الضغط الأميركي لإفشال مشروع خط أنابيب الغاز ستريم 2. من هنا يبدو أنّ التقارب الألماني الروسي لا يسير وفق رغبة أميركا وبريطانيا، وقد تكون قضية نافالني الذريعة التي يتمّ من خلالها إيقاف التقارب الروسي الألماني.

الاتحاد الأوروبيّ سوف يناقش يوم 25 قضية توقيف نافالني في روسيا.

لطالما قادت وكالة المخابرات المركزية الأميركية السياسة الأميركية تجاه روسيا. وللمرة الأولى، سيترأس الدبلوماسي السابق ويليام بيرنز، وهو من المناهضين لروسيا من ذوي الخبرة، الوكالة داخل إدارة بايدن. وقد انتقد روسيا علناً وكتب «نحن في الأساس نواجه روسيا لاعباً كبيراً جداً في العديد من القضايا المهمة التي لا يمكن تجاهلها. إن اهتمامها بلعب دور القوة العظمى خارج حدودها قد يتسبّبان أحياناً في مشاكل كبيرة».

يتبنّى بيرنز موقفاً متشدّداً من روسيا مع قليل من العقلانية، وننقل هنا ما قاله حرفياً عن العلاقة مع روسيا: إنّ إدارة العلاقات مع روسيا ستكون لعبة طويلة، تلعب ضمن نطاق ضيّق نسبياً من الاحتمالات. إنّ الإبحار في مثل هذا التنافس العظيم يتطلب دبلوماسية دقيقة – المناورة في المنطقة الرمادية بين السلام والحرب؛ إظهار فهم حدود الممكن؛ زيادة النفوذ؛ استكشاف الأرضية المشتركة، حيث يمكننا العثور عليها؛ وندفع إلى الوراء بحزم وثبات حيث لا يمكننا… يجب أن نسير من خلاله من دون أوهام، وأن ندرك مصالح روسيا وحساسياتها، من دون عذر لقيمنا، وان نكون واثقين من قوتنا الدائمة. يجب ألا نستسلم لبوتين – ولا نتخلى عن روسيا خلفه.

باختصار، يرى بيرنز العلاقة المضطربة مع روسيا على أنها شيء تجب إدارته بدلاً من تعزيزه أو رعايته، وهو متشائم للغاية بشأن احتمالات التحسين طالما ظلّ بوتين في السلطة. يمكن للمرء أن يتخيّل أنّ بايدن يشارك أيضاً مثل هذا المنظور، وأحد الاعتبارات الرئيسية من بين أمور أخرى في قراره بتعيين بيرنز كرئيس لوكالة المخابرات المركزية هو أنّ الدبلوماسية الأميركية في الفترة المقبلة ستمرّ بمرحلة مضطربة في العلاقة مع روسيا، حيث تكمن المصالح الأميركية في تشجيع تغيير النظام في الكرملين، والذي سيعتمد بالطبع في المقام الأول على مدى نجاح العمليات السرية لوكالة التجسّس في زعزعة استقرار روسيا.

زعم مسؤولون كبار في الكرملين في سبتمبر/ أيلول الماضي أنّ موسكو لديها معلومات محدّدة تفيد بأنّ عملاء وكالة المخابرات المركزية كانوا يعملون مع نافالني في ألمانيا. إذا كان الأمر كذلك، فإنّ نافالني أداة استراتيجية لن تتنازل عنها وكالة المخابرات المركزية بسهولة. لكن كلّ شيء يشير إلى أنّ موسكو تعمل أيضاً على المدى الطويل. وأنّ وزير الخارجية الروسي سيرغي لافروف قد وبّخ شركاء روسيا الغربيين وحثهم على «التحلي بالأدب واستبعاد أساليب الفظاظة الدبلوماسية والوفاء بالتزاماتها الدولية في الوضع» المتعلق بنافالني.

من هنا يبدو أنّ وكالة الاستخبارات الأميركية مستعدة للقيام بخطوة افتتاحية شديدة العدوانية ضدّ روسيا على أمل أن تنجح في عملية استخدام نافالني للإطاحة بفلاديمير بوتين.

انتظروا عودة الانقلابات الأميركية حول العالم…

Biden supports the overthrow of Vladimir Putin, and lean years between the two sides await

Paris – Nidal Hamadeh

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A U.S. project to change the regime in Russia began to appear with the return of political activist Alexei Navalny to Moscow. The West’s plan in the making of Navalny  from a mysterious person to a star during the past months has come to an end and moved to the stage of confrontation and implementation, with the timing of the arrival of the Russian dissident to Moscow on a plane from Germany days before the biden administration came to power in Washington. Moscow had warned that he would be detained for questioning for being on the wanted list.

Russia’s presidential election is scheduled for March 2024, and the next two years will be crucial to Kremlin policy. The big question is whether President Vladimir Putin will seek another six-year term… Putin leaves it to time without giving any answer or any indication of this at a time when his popularity continues to rise, and he can build on a strong record of achievements in strengthening Russia’s overall national strength, leading Russia’s return to the world stage, improving its international standing and ensuring global strategic balance.

Putin has been Russia’s lifeboat since his accession to power, and he has brought it back as a strong opponent of the United States after a 10-year absence. Russian analysts expect that Biden will try to transform the US-Russian-Chinese triangle in favor of Washington by involving China and isolating Russia.

Basically, from Biden’s global point of view, China is a competitor, but it is realistic and open to deals, and will remain neutral in the U.S. confrontation with Russia.

In general, Biden and his national security team, the majority of whom were with him under Obama, are deeply rooted in  their belief that Russia’s power is fragile.

Diplomatically, Navalny’s arrest in Moscow has become a news item in the West at a time when Europe is working on its strategic independence toward the United States, and Germany has rejected U.S. pressure to thwart the Stream II gas pipeline project.

The EU will discuss on 25 th case of Navalny’s arrest in Russia.

The CIA has long led U.S. policy toward Russia, but for the first time, former diplomat William Burns, an experienced anti-Russian, will lead the agency within the Biden administration. Burns publicly criticised Russia, writing, “We are basically facing Russia with many important issues that cannot be ignored. Russia’s interest in playing the role as superpower outside its borders may sometimes cause major problems.

Burns takes a hard line on Russia with a bit of rationality, and we quote here literally what he said about the relationship with Russia: Managing relations with Russia will be a long game, playing within a relatively narrow range of possibilities. Navigating such great rivalry requires delicate diplomacy – manoeuvring in the gray zone between peace and war; Demonstrate an understanding of the limits of the possible; Influence increase; Explore the common ground, where we can find it; We are pushing back firmly and steadily where we cannot … We must walk through it without illusions, realise Russia’s interests and sensitivities, without an excuse for our values, and be confident of our permanent strength. We must not give in to Putin – and let us not abandon Russia behind him.

In short, Burns sees the troubled relationship with Russia as something to be managed rather than nurtured, and is very pessimistic about the prospects for improvement as long as Putin remains in power. One can imagine that Biden  also shares such a perspective, and one of the key considerations in his decision to appoint Burns as CIA chief is that U.S. diplomacy in the coming period will go through a turbulent period in the relationship with Russia, where U.S. interests lie in promoting regime change in the Kremlin, which will, of course, depend primarily on how successful the spy agency’s covert operations are in destabilising Russia.


Senior Kremlin officials claimed in September that Moscow had specific information that CIA agents were working with Navalny in Germany. If so, Navalny is a strategic tool that the CIA will not give up easily. But everything indicates that Moscow is also working in the long term. And that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rebuked Russia’s Western partners and urged them to “display politeness, exclude methods of diplomatic rudeness and fulfil its international obligations in the situation” related to Nafalni.

The CIA therefore seems ready to take a very aggressive opening step against Russia in the hope that it will succeed in using Navalny  to overthrow Vladimir Putin.

Wait for the return of U.S. coups around theworld…

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – annual Q&A press conference in Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – annual Q&A press conference in Moscow

January 18, 2021

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s annual press conference in Moscow, summing up the results of Russian diplomacy and foreign policy during 2020.

Please forward the video to time marker 19:40.  Transcript now being loaded up below as it becomes available:

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

This is our traditional news conference on the foreign policy outcomes of 2020. It is traditional, but remote. We opted for a format that was widely used over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions imposed in almost all countries, including Russia.

Despite the pandemic, our Ministry kept in close contact with you and your colleagues at all levels. I myself had the pleasure of speaking to you following talks, which did take place several times in Moscow, and will continue to do so. I also spoke to you in a video format. My deputies regularly talk with agencies. The Ministry’s official spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, conducts regular weekly briefings and, in between them, interacts with most of you. I am sure you are aware of the facts and information about what Russian foreign policy is currently promoting in the international arena.

The pandemic has dealt a severe blow to all forms of communication, particularly contacts between people in culture, research, sports and tourism. This caused major shifts in public consciousness in many countries. We know this from daily reports coming from European and other countries. In Russia, we are also trying to minimise the inconveniences caused by objective sanitary restrictions on everyday life. However, certain and not too positive changes are still being felt. You are probably following the discussion focusing on Russia’s epidemiological policy, including the Sputnik V vaccine, EpiVacCorona and the third vaccine, which is on its way.

We reiterate what President of Russia Vladimir Putin said in August 2020 when announcing the registration of the world’s first coronavirus vaccine: we are wide open to cooperation in these matters. We had a positive response to the proposals that the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) had made to its foreign partners with regard to organising licensed production. This topic is being discussed with our colleagues in Asia, the Arab East, Africa and Latin America. Not long ago, President Putin and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel also briefly discussed the prospects for Russian-German and Russian-European cooperation in producing and improving vaccines. I think this is the right path to take based on the desire to consolidate our efforts and the solidarity of humankind. Unfortunately, not everywhere and not always has this quest for solidarity and joint work manifested itself during the pandemic. Some of our Western colleagues, primarily the United States and its closest allies, tried to take advantage of the situation and to ratchet up pressure, blackmail, ultimatums and illegitimate actions while introducing unilateral restrictions and other forms of interference in the internal affairs of many countries, including our closest neighbour Belarus.

The West unanimously ignored the calls by the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to suspend, at least for the duration of the pandemic, unilateral and illegitimate sanctions regarding the supply of medications, food and equipment needed to fight the virus while Russia was ready to back up this approach. President Putin put forward a parallel initiative during the G20 summit to create green corridors in the economy that are free from sanctions and other artificial barriers. Unfortunately, these sensible appeals – both ours and those of the UN leaders – were left hanging in the air.

Last year we observed the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, the birth of the United Nations and the entry into force of its Charter. Against the backdrop of these anniversaries, we are very concerned about the continuous arrogant actions of the United States and most of its Western allies, which are aimed at undermining international security, which is based on the UN, its Charter and its agencies and replacing the traditional norms and standards of international law with a “rules-based international order.”

Some exclusive mechanisms – groups of so-called co-thinkers began to be set up in this context outside the UN and its universal agencies. These narrow groups are trying to impose their decisions on all members of the international community. One of the manifestations of these rules on which the West would like to establish a new international order is the concept of multilateralism, which our German and French colleagues have started promoting in the past two years. The descriptions of this concept in the public statements of the German and French foreign ministers make it very clear that the EU wants to present itself and everything it does as a foreign policy ideal. The EU views the establishment of specific rules as its exclusive right in the belief that all others must follow these standards. Examples are many.

The EU has held special events on cybersecurity, freedom of the media and international humanitarian law outside UN agencies. These events have been attended by several dozen countries. Holding them outside the UN framework is very indicative. It is based on the understanding that in the UN the advocates of this concept will have to meet people with somewhat different views on ensuring cybersecurity, freedom of the media, especially in today’s world, and on how to ensure the equal application of the standards of international humanitarian law. In my opinion, unless I am convinced of the opposite, these are apprehensions of competition and the understanding that in today’s world the West can no longer dictate its own orders to others as it has over the last five centuries. History is moving forward, it is developing. This has nothing to do with ideology. This is just a statement of fact. It is necessary to consider the views of the countries that now have a much greater weight in the world arena (completely incomparable with that of the colonial era) and the countries that want to preserve their civilisational  identity and that do not see in the West the ideals for their societies. Tolerance of diversity is another characteristic that the West is losing very quickly.

There are situations where half a dozen people that have created their own technological empires do not even want to know what rights they have in their own states. They determine their rights themselves proceeding from so-called corporate standards and completely ignore the constitutions of their states. We have seen this clearly in the US and this is a source of deep concern. Much has been said about this recently in television reports and special analytical materials. We are not pleased by the attempts of the Western elites to find external enemies to resolve their internal political problems. They find these enemies in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. The list of these countries is well known.

We all see the response to the news of Alexey Navalny’s return to the Russian Federation. Carbon-copy comments on this event are coming in one after another. They are full of joy because they allow Western politicians to think that in this way they can divert public attention away from the deepest crisis of the liberal development model.

I am convinced that it is necessary not to seek outside excuses to justify one’s own actions or sidetrack attention from one’s deepest problems and crises. On the contrary, it is essential to play an honest game and look for opportunities to resolve domestic problems via fair and equitable international cooperation. No one can expect to resolve its own problems outside multilateral formats any longer.

Russia strives to act as constructively as possible in the international arena. We are convinced that we must sit down and discuss all existing grievances rather than wrangle with each other. We have always been ready to do so: back when Russia was accused of “interference” in the US elections, in Barcelona, ​​during Brexit, the Skripal case, the Malaysian Boeing, which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014, and with regard to Alexey Navalny. I can later cite in more detail the arguments that you are well aware of. In every above case and in other cases where we were accused of something specific, we have never been given evidence that would corroborate these unfounded accusations. We’ve only heard “highly likely,” “no one else has these motives” or “only you have such capabilities, so you are guilty, so we don’t need to prove anything.” They just don’t provide the facts, which is what decent people always do in order to justify their discussions.

We are interested in addressing problems through a dialogue. However, “forcing a closed door” that the West keeps “under lock and key” is beneath our dignity. Your governments are well aware of our proposals that we have made repeatedly, starting with the dialogue on strategic offensive arms, arms control and nonproliferation to interaction on cybersecurity and non-deployment of weapons in space. There are many such areas. For each of them, Russia has proposals for establishing honest cooperation on key threats that are common to all countries around the world instead of using these threats to achieve unilateral geopolitical advantages by means of unscrupulous competition. President Putin’s initiative to hold a summit of the five UN Security Council permanent members is a manifestation of such a desire to start a dialogue. All other leaders of the Group of Five responded positively to this proposal. Unfortunately, the pandemic made holding such a meeting impossible. We are convinced that the leaders must meet in person. We hope this summit will take place the epidemic situation permitting.

With regard to promoting a positive agenda, we invite our Western partners to return to common sense and to consider under the UN umbrella their ideas on cyber security, freedom of the media and many other problems that they are trying to resolve among themselves.

We will introduce similar approaches in other organisations of which Russia is a member, including the SCO, BRICS, the CSTO, the CIS and the EAEU.

President Putin’s initiative, which we are promoting, is to form the Greater Eurasian Partnership that is open to all Eurasian countries without exception by way of an equal collective dialogue. This covers the EU countries along with the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN members. Generally speaking, it covers countries that are not part of any regional organisations, but are located in Eurasia. I would like to note the importance of the G20, an association that unites the Western G7, which is no longer able to overcome global challenges all by itself. The G20 also brings together the BRICS countries and the like-minded nations which share our common philosophy: to say no to confrontation and to address existing problems on a balance of interests.

Today we will discuss ongoing conflicts as well. We are working with other countries to advance a settlement in Syria, to break the deadlock of the intra-Libyan conflict that erupted after NATO countries’ aggression had undermined the Libyan statehood almost 10 years ago.

We will also talk about other hot spots in the Middle East and North Africa, primarily the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which they are undeservedly trying to put on the back burner.

Quite recently, we released a multi-page document on the main foreign policy results of 2020. It contains a lot of hard facts. I hope you have had a chance to read it.

Today, we will focus on challenges facing the world which quickly change our daily lives.

Question: In what direction are relations between Russia and Italy developing, especially in the coronavirus pandemic year?

Sergey Lavrov: Relations between Russia and Italy are good.  Italy is one of those EU countries that follow the discipline and principles of solidarity in the EU, but that still do not consider it appropriate to take an aggressive position against the Russian Federation. Conscientiously, in joining the consensus on certain sanctions, Italy does not consider them to be effective tools for influencing anyone, in this case the Russian Federation. Not without objections from Brussels, Italy insists on its right to develop bilateral relations with Russia and does so sincerely. This policy reflects a correct understanding of the national interests of the Italian Republic, the interests of its business and its citizens seeking to continue humanitarian, sport, cultural and other contacts between people.

We have a good tradition with Italy with our cross cultural years. They are dedicated to topics that interest citizens of both countries, primarily in areas of culture, language, literature and regional contacts. This is a very good tradition. It actually helps respond to the needs of people and businesses, which is important.

Russia and Italy have a 2+2 mechanism where the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries meet and review the key issues in the world, in the Euro-Atlantic area and other regions where both Italy and the Russian Federation have interests.

Information on the specific events we held last year and what are scheduled for the future is available in the Results of Foreign Policy Activities in 2020. All this is described in detail there.

Question: I am one of the seven journalists in Latvia who were detained in December by local security service officers for cooperation with Sputnik Latvia and the Baltnews agency. In December, they carried out a search of our office and took away our office equipment, computers and dictaphones, bringing criminal charges against us over the violation of international sanctions. During the six weeks that have passed since then we have not heard of any reaction from international human right organisations to this out of the ordinary event, to put it mildly, including from the leaders who yesterday vehemently reacted to the detention of Alexey Navalny only five minutes after it happened.

Why do you think international officials say nothing about this outrageous, in my view, incident – the detention of seven journalists in Latvia? Can the Russian Foreign Ministry throw its weight behind the journalists representing Russian media abroad?

Sergey Lavrov: We are doing our best. I do not use these words to give you the runaround. We are really taking important measures. We discuss this issue at the meetings I hold weekly with my deputies and Foreign Ministry Collegium members. Not only must we voice our disapproval of a flagrant violation of the national law and international commitments like this, but we must also resort to international mechanisms. We spoke about this incident at the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We will continue this work.

Whenever we have incontestable and hard facts that freedom of the media has been flagrantly violated coupled with threats to bring criminal charges, the mechanisms existing in the UN human rights formats – and there are plenty of speakers there reporting on various aspects of human rights violations; they have the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media – cannot justify what they are doing to you. Quite a few incidents like this happen now and then in the neighbouring Baltic States. Usually, they write letters to us. But we want to use mechanisms provided for in relevant conventions that require that a country in question rectify this type of violation. These mechanisms must – pardon me for the parlance that is not altogether diplomatic – put a squeeze on the violator until things are put right. Our colleagues at multilateral institutions show much less zeal seeking to establish the truth when it comes to a Russian-language media outlet. Although in the case of Latvia, Russian is a native tongue, as about half of the population in this country – no less than 40 percent – think in Russian and use this language in their daily life. One should have a very specific political orientation to want to show complete disrespect to one’s own compatriots in this way.

We will continue to seek reasonable actions from international agencies, but at the same time we want to involve NGOs in these efforts. They have every reason to appeal to the courts, but a denial in a court allows them to address the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). It has dealt a few times with the subject of the media. Such precedents did not exist before but they have been created in connection with Western reproaches concerning the Russian media. So at this point the ECHR has to consider a situation that does not allow for any dual interpretation. It is so obvious, and I don’t think the court should take a long time to pass a ruling.

At the same time, we are working and will continue working with international lawyers. We will also use the Russian Fund for the Support and Protection of the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad that is willing to help journalists among others.

I confirm our support for Sputnik and not just because it’s a Russian media outlet. Citizens of any country, including Latvia, have the right to alternative information sources. Access to information is provided for by the numerous decisions of the OSCE. It is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This principle of access to information was recently trampled underfoot in the United States to the accompaniment of perplexed silence or indistinct comments by US allies. Now attempts are being made to hush it all up by saying that Donald Trump’s Facebook account has been restored (but not his Tweeter account). But this is not about Trump but about the big failure of the state to comply with its commitments to ensure access to information. They said it was not the US Government that has shut out all those that were recognised by these platforms as sources of unreliable information. After all, corporations have not signed any pacts. All this comes “straight from the devil.” The Pacts and top-level decisions of the OSCE, which the West never tires of quoting (at least this was the case until recently), oblige the state to ensure free access to information for every person on its territory. So, Sputnik enjoys our full support. I know it is also popular with my Western colleagues. They consider media like Sputnik and RT important because their views differ from the common opinion that is being imposed by the Western media at every more or less important instance.

Question: Antony Blinken will probably become the next Secretary of State and Victoria Nuland, whom we all know, will be his deputy. What can you say regarding these candidates? What are your expectations with respect to working with them further in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: I try not to have any expectations on any subject. As for what to expect from the new US Administration, so much has already been said about it that I don’t want to take up your time with that.

We know these people. On the one hand, this makes it possible, given their reciprocal wish, to respond to many of our proposals on the Russian-US agenda, which are still on the table, and start talks without a large pause and preparations. On the other hand, we can easily imagine what line will the “new old” members of the incoming US Administration’s foreign policy team take; moreover they do not conceal their intentions and plans. From regular interviews, articles and advice given by US think tanks, including NATO’s North Atlantic Council and other entities, we can see that the line will continue to pursue the goals of US state and way of life, without understanding other countries’ patterns of life. The containment of Russia and China will undoubtedly be present on the foreign policy agenda. They are already discussing how to prevent Russia and the PRC from joining forces to such a degree that they could become more powerful than America. There are proposals of playing on the confrontation between Russia and China. All of this has long been a part of US policy.

Possibly, their manners will be more polite with respect to Russia, but the essence of their policy will hardly be different. When the Americans find it beneficial, when they realise that they cannot achieve anything without Russia and China, then they will have to be ready for agreements. This concerns combatting infections (by all appearances, it is a long-term topic); climate change, which also implies specific and practical interaction between many countries, including Russia and China; fighting terrorism and other forms of organised crime – drug trafficking and human trafficking. Most importantly, they should deal with the situation in arms control which is absolutely abnormal. We have heard about the intention of Joe Biden’s Administration to resume the dialogue with us on this subject, including trying to agree on the extension of the New START  treaty before it expires on February 5. We will wait for their proposals. Our position is known very well and remains in force.

We have heard about the plans to revise the decisions of the outgoing US administration to withdraw from quite a number of other multilateral agreements and organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNESCO, and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

We harbour no illusions. We are realists. We have our proposals on all agenda items that are important for all humankind, and a number of them are being implemented. I would mention the UN work on international information security and curbing cybercrime, which our Western colleagues do not want to continue in a universal format, but rather to concentrate it within a close circle of likeminded parties and work out the rules, and then demand that everyone observes them.

In brief – we do not expect any radical changes. However, the methods of promoting US “leadership” will be somewhat different.

Question: What move by the Biden Administration do you think could indicate its readiness to reset relations with Russia? What is Russia ready to do to display a desire to improve relations with the United States?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not have to do anything to indicate our desire to have good relations with the United States, relations that would reflect the responsibility of the world’s two largest nuclear powers for security at the global, regional and any other level. We have put forth proposals to this effect, and the Biden Administration is well aware of them.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in the presidential election, he reaffirmed our commitment to cooperation with the United States on all issues of mutual interest and importance for the world. This can be interpreted as invitation to dialogue.

The most important thing is that our proposals on cybersecurity and on investigations into our alleged interference in US affairs, as well as on space projects and arms control, are on the table. As recently as in September 2020, President Putin publicly invited the United States – not President Trump or anyone else, but the United States as a power which, we hope, has retained at least a degree of respect for continuity and compliance with foreign policy agreements – to reboot our relations in the sphere of cybersecurity and non-intervention into internal affairs of each other. He proposed exchanging guarantees of such non-intervention and restoring a regular full-scale bilateral dialogue on all aspects of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) related to the military-political security of states and the possible use of cyberspace by all kinds of criminals, including terrorists, paedophiles and human traffickers. We have not received any response to that proposal, just as to our initiative put forth two years ago for reaffirming the statement made by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan to the effect that a nuclear war is unacceptable, cannot be won and so must never be fought.

I don’t know how the new US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control will formulate President Biden’s position, but Marshall Billingslea, who will leave the post in two days, cannot let up but continues to give interviews and write for the media. He said openly in one of his statements that the new administration must not fall into the Russian trap by making a statement on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war. This is not a whim of Mr Billingslea or any other American official, who consider it unacceptable for the United States to agree that a nuclear war must never be fought. This position reflects the US doctrinal provisions on the use of military force and nuclear weapons. Lowering the yield of nuclear charges so that they can be used on the battlefield, and refusal to formalise a provision on the no-first use of nuclear weapons – these nuances of the US doctrines speak volumes. We would like to know who will ultimately determine the US position on strategic offensive armaments (not only nuclear ones) and how this will be done.

New technologies can be used to boost the US Prompt Global Strike project designed to create powerful conventional precision weapons that can deliver an airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour.

We called on the outgoing US administration to consider formulating a new arms control document, to extend the New START treaty so that we have at least one effective arms control document, and in the meantime to coordinate a new document that would cover all types of weapons, including not just those mentioned in New START but also strategic armaments that could be considered a threat to our national territories. I believe that this is an understandable consideration, and a much more important one than the idea of recounting all warheads of any type, which we are being encouraged to accept, while our US partners reject our proposal to focus on the current and very probable threats.

Let’s wait and see. Joseph Biden is an expert on disarmament and arms control. I think he would rather have a team of professionals than propagandists.

Question: Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi has said recently that China and Russia would continue to provide an example of the development of neighbourly and friendly relations between world powers, boost the revitalisation of the global economy and maintain global strategic stability. What possibilities do you envision for the further development of ties between our two countries? What can Russia and China do to hinder foreign interference and attempts to drive a wedge between their cooperation?

Sergey Lavrov: We have very close strategic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Our leaders are good friends who maintain regular trust-based communication. Their personal contacts were complicated last year, yet they managed to have at least five detailed telephone conversations and videoconferences. We have held a regular, 25th meeting of our heads of government, contacts between the five subcommissions set up under the guidance of our prime ministers, and a meeting of the Russian-Chinese Inter-Parliamentary Commission. We held joint celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. A Chinese delegation led by Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and a Chinese Honour Guard company attended the parade held on Red Square on June 24, 2020. We appreciate this.

We are now implementing a major project, the Year of Russian-Chinese Scientific, Technical and Innovative Cooperation. It is currently the most important matter designed to give a second lease of life and a new quality to our trade and economic interaction. Unlike many other countries, we managed to prevent our mutual trade from decreasing during the pandemic. It is developing quite sustainably. We are implementing major infrastructure, industrial, agrarian, energy and investment projects.

We have been collaborating closely to stop the spread of the COVID-19 infection and to overcome its impacts since the start of the pandemic. When our Chinese friends identified the problem at Wuhan, they collaborated closely and effectively with us to help repatriate Russian citizens. We are working together to provide humanitarian assistance to each other. There are such examples on both sides. We are working on the vaccines at present. I have no doubt that we will succeed.

We are cooperating within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS. The People’s Republic of China and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) have signed a cooperation agreement. We are aligning integration within the EAEU and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Last December, we signed a protocol on extending the agreement on notification of the launch of ballistic missiles and space carrier rockets for another 10 years. Also in December 2020, the Chinese Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted the second joint patrol mission over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea. This is evidence of the trust-based and forward-looking nature of Russian-Chinese relations and our mutual commitment to maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Some of our other colleagues, for example, the United States, have been trying to build up tension by conducting military activities that are openly spearheaded against China and are aimed at isolating Russia, as well as within the framework of practical US plans to deploy the components of the US ballistic missile defence system in Asia Pacific. These components have the capacity to reach the territory of both China and Russia.

A lot more can be said about Russian-Chinese cooperation. It is ongoing in a wide range of spheres, in fact, in nearly all spheres of human and state endeavour. I would like to mention our close coordination at the UN on many practical matters. It is based on Russia’s and China’s commitment to protecting international law and preventing the erosion of universal structures and the replacement of the UN with extraneous formats and partnerships, which Western countries are using to formulate rules suiting their own purposes  and subsequently force them on the rest of the world. Russia and China firmly stand for protecting the achievements set out in the UN Charter, which are based on the principles of equality, respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in their internal affairs and a peaceful settlement of disputes.

This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Russian-Chinese Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. We have huge plans for celebrating this memorable occasion.

Question: Several days ago now, the entire world was amazed by how easily, virtually with a snap of a finger, corporations banned Donald Trump from social networks. In your opinion, how does this “digital GULAG,” that is holding captive politicians and their supporters, journalists and ordinary people all over the world, align with the concept of American democracy? Is it possible that in the future, such selective blocking of accounts becomes a fundamental of international policy and common practice?

Sergey Lavrov: Everybody is talking about it on all the television channels and social networks. I heard that Telegram was threatened with blocking their services. It will be rather interesting.

I have already mentioned the topic of states’ obligations and now want to remind you about them. The US is a member of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Interestingly (however, this issue is often omitted) there have been two international treaties, one for civil and political rights, and the other the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Having signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (it was in the 1960s), the US flatly refused to sign the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This is a refusal to take any responsibilities related to providing adequate quality of life to its population and solving social and economic problems. But the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is an obligatory document for the US. The Helsinki Final Act and an entire series of OSCE documents (the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the Charter for European Security adopted in Istanbul in 1999) say that every person has the right to freely express their opinion. This right includes the freedom to search, receive and distribute various kinds of information and ideas regardless of state borders, by mouth, in writing, using the press, creative forms of expression or other means. “Other means” meant the visionary prediction that social networks would appear. There is no exception to this. It is said that each person has the right to access information. The state signed under it. So, claiming that Google, Facebook, YouTube and other corporations have no responsibilities is childish nonsense. The state has to assume responsibly for them, and if they misbehave, the state must bring them to order and to its legal obligations.

I do not know what will happen next. There have been many different forecasts. There is a state, private capitalism. Who will be changing the rules of the game now? Many recalled Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and other analysts of capitalism and imperialism as its last stage. I do not know. The only thing I am sure about is that if the US fails to make the violators comply with the freedom of speech and its own Constitution (let alone international covenants), the US will present itself to the world as something other than a champion for democracy.

Speaking of the freedom of speech. Every year, the UN General Assembly at our initiative adopts a resolution on inadmissibility of glorification of Nazism and other forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and the US votes against it saying that the voting for prohibiting neo-Nazi movements is a violation of the First Amendment. They state this openly. By the way, only one country, Ukraine, votes against this resolution alongside the US. And for obvious reasons: neo-Nazis freely march there and hold torchlight processions and in addition to all that really influence the practical policy of this, so to speak, state. In the US, the situation is slightly different, but they also do not want to violate the First Amendment.

Let us hope that American society will not allow the elites in their fight against each other to use blatant censorship in violation of the Constitution and international obligations. But this is their problem. If the American society fails to cope with it, we cannot do anything about it. But then everybody should be ready for the ramifications of this failure of the American state. And these ramifications will be grave on the global stage. I think everybody understands this. It is no coincidence that Europe is preparing EU documents about how to start a dialogue that takes into account all possible scenarios immediately following Joe Biden’s inauguration.

I would suggest paying attention to how the US has found itself in a position that bears risks to undermine the American state if it fails to bring private corporations that are fewer than 12 to order so that they would comply with the state mechanisms, legislation, and first of all, its own Constitution.

Question: A politician and Russian citizen has alleged that Russian security services attempted to poison him. Alexey Navalny has provided facts which nobody has reliably invalidated so far. He has decided to return to his home country, where no criminal case of his poisoning had been opened. The plane he boarded was diverted to another airport. The people who came to welcome him home, including journalists, and Navalny himself have been detained. How does this make Russia look? Don’t we care about our image any longer?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, one should care for one’s image, but we are not a young girl preparing for a ball. We must first of all do our job, which is to implement Russia’s foreign policy. A foreign policy aspect has been added to the Navalny case artificially and without any justification. Everything associated with his return and detainment is the competence of the law enforcement authorities. There is a detailed statement by the Federal Penitentiary Service, which provides facts and violations and explains why the complaints have been put forth. This is not something that can be placed on the Foreign Ministry’s doorstep. The matter concerns compliance with Russian laws. As we pointed out, if some countries regard respect for their own laws to be of secondary importance compared to their geopolitical goals, that is their problem. In our case, the law enforcement agencies have clearly formulated their position. And they spent a long time doing this, since August, several days after the blogger left the Omsk hospital.

Alexey Navalny has said that he is returning home with a clear conscience, because he had not left Russia of his own free will. He inferred that he was well-nigh forced to leave. In fact, he was unconscious; it was a dramatic life-or-death situation. It was his wife who insisted that he must be allowed to leave Russia and who was responsible for putting him on a German plane, as well as the German authorities, who demanded quite aggressively that we hand him over without delay. We did so.

Euronews broadcast a story today. Correspondent Galina Polonskaya, who was on the plane with Alexey Navalny, said that according to Charité doctors Navalny had been poisoned with a chemical warfare agent, which the OPCW later confirmed. She added that the Russian authorities repeatedly denied the allegation. According to the initial information provided by Germany, doctors at the civilian Charité hospital, just like their colleagues in Omsk, had not found any traces of warfare agents in Navalny’s samples. They were later found at the Bundeswehr hospital. First Germany refused to provide test results to us, claiming that this would enable us to learn about Bundeswehr technologies for identifying chemical weapons. How do you like that? Actually, they should not supposedly have such technology at all, because after the alleged poisoning of the Skripals with Novichok the West claimed that it did not have the relevant knowledge or technology.

However, in the case of Navalny it took the Bundeswehr barely a few days to determine that he had allegedly been poisoned with Novichok or a similar agent (we don’t know for sure to this day, because they have not provided any materials to us). The French and even Swedes have reaffirmed that it was a Novichok-class agent even though it was not on the list of substances prohibited by the OPCW. In accordance with their numerous commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), both bilateral and European ones, we requested to see the results of these tests. First they told us that it was a multilateral matter and that all materials had been sent to the OPCW. OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias refused to answer our questions, but later he admitted that they had taken samples from Navalny but could not provide them to us because they “belong” to Berlin.  It was Berlin that requested the analysis, so we should ask Berlin for its results. Berlin told us that it was not a bilateral matter and redirected us back to the multilateral organisation. I believe this is sheer mockery. There is no question about the OPCW, which has long been privatised by the West. It has been trying to do the same with other organisations, but it has been especially successful in the case of the OPCW. Only after a long time, during which we were directed from Berlin to The Hague and back, were we told that there was another reason for their refusal to give us the test results: Alexey Navalny does not want Russia to have this information.

Several days ago, Germany happily announced that it had answered the four requests it received from the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia. The reply consisted only of answers they had received from Navalny and his wife. That is all we got. No factual evidence, nothing about water bottles with traces of poison, copies of toxicology results, biological samples or test results. Navalny claims that he has been poisoned by the Russian state and by President Putin personally. The West accepts this without asking any questions. The Western countries only provide facts as they had been presented by Navalny himself during his interviews with the law enforcement authorities. I regard this as total contempt for the procedure.

The German parliamentary party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is widely seen as being cultivated by Russia, has officially requested relevant information from the German government. They have not received any reply. They asked concrete questions: Who had the water bottle during the flight from Omsk to Berlin? Was it known before the flight that its organisers allowed the bottle to be taken? The answer was that the German government had no information regarding this. How can this be? There were not only doctors but also representatives of German special services on board the plane that delivered Navalny from Omsk. Everyone knows this. If they don’t know who took the bottles on board the plane, this is on their conscience.

First it was said that Navalny had tea at Tomsk airport; this version had been planted in the public space at the very beginning. Later it was removed. It turned out that a close associate poured tea for Navalny. Then they presented the version with the water bottle. It fizzled out as well. The next version concerned clothes, and then they revived the bottle version again. It has been said recently, several months after it all happened, that attempts to poison Navalny had been made before that, but as a result it was Yulia Navalny who was poisoned. When increasingly more surprising news is made public, we as a foreign policy agency have a question for our German, French and Swedish colleagues: Ladies and gentlemen, please act on your international obligations and present the results of the tests which, as you claim, contain an unidentified toxic substance that is not on the OPCW lists. We have not received any replies in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, which was kept secret, or in the alleged poisoning of the Skripals. Those who expelled Russian diplomats at Britain’s request said they would provide the facts later. They have not provided a single fact, any information one can get is in the public sphere. “Highly likely” and that is it. Those who trusted the British may be sorry now, but they will never admit this out of a misguided sense of solidarity.

Neither do they say anything about interference in the US elections now. Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has refused to provide the “irrefutable proof” he had said publicly they have. They will not provide any proof, full stop. The same is true about the Navalny case. If you want to know the truth, just be polite and respect the law, honour your obligations and do not resort to diplomatic insolence by saying that you would not give anything to Russia, which is a poisoner by default. That is no way to talk to us. This is the foreign policy dimension for which the Foreign Ministry has been responsible throughout its history. This is not how our partners should behave.

Question: Will Russia send another request to Germany regarding the case of Alexey Navalny, since Moscow wasn’t happy with the previous answer they got? Did I understand correctly from your previous answer that without Navalny’s permission Russia will not get access to his test results from Germany and no criminal case will be opened?

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the Prosecutor General’s Office’s inquiry, this is its prerogative. I think that an additional request must be sent so that our German colleagues do not feel like they have already performed their functions. It was a perfunctory reply, which is unworthy of a department in charge of the law enforcement cases’ legal aspects.

Doctors in Omsk, who saved Mr Navalny’s life before he was literally ripped away from their hands unconscious, asked his spouse to sign a paper to the effect that she insists on taking him away. They made their findings and test results available to German doctors, who also gave a receipt thereof. In August, the Charite Clinic reported that nothing had been found. This is a civil clinic, just like the one in Omsk. The samples were made available to a Bundeswehr clinic, which detected traces of a chemical agent. Since nothing was found in Mr Navalny’s tests in Russia which would indicate poisoning with warfare agents, there’s no reason, under our legislation, to initiate a criminal case, no matter what someone may tell us.

If there’s something that makes someone suspicious, the matter could have been settled long ago as follows. The Germans say that this is no longer a bilateral, but a multilateral issue, and sent it to the OPCW. We suggested that the OPCW Director-General use the CWC article, which provides for according assistance by its Technical Secretariat to the participating country. They were offered to come to Russia. They have samples of Navalny’s biomaterials. We also have them. They are being kept in the Omsk hospital (maybe they have already been transported to the corresponding laboratory). There’s an OPCW-certified lab in Russia. Their and our doctors first examine one set of samples, then another, or vice versa. They will perform these tests together so as to be able to establish mutual trust. The lab is adequately equipped to conduct such tests. If they believe they need innovative sophisticated equipment, they can bring it in, we have no objections. The only condition is to do it together. After a number of episodes involving the alleged use of chemical agents in Syria, and after the Secretariat’s reports, we said outright that we have no trust in that. So, we want to use Ronald Reagan’s paraphrased principle “trust but verify.”

For a very long time they tried to avoid providing a direct answer. They said they were internationally recognised and asked for our samples, saying that “they will let us know afterwards.” This will not happen again. There will no longer be a one-way street approach. There will be no trust in the Bundeswehr clinic, the French or Swedish clinics, or the one that the OPCW may choose for its internal purposes without our participation until we are convinced that these people are honest researchers and specialists. I don’t see how anything can be done until we see the requested materials, or until they carry out the experiment that we asked for. They chickened out, probably, meaning that their conscience is not clear. It is not for nothing that the organisation, which the Germans mentioned saying that they now own it, is saying that it is Berlin’s property. The circle is complete. As Vladimir Putin said, don’t try to make retards out of us.

Question: The future of prisoners in Baku is what concerns Armenia’s public opinion most. As we understand it, this matter remains unresolved. Azerbaijan is manipulating the prisoner issue. Armenia is hoping that Russia will help. What is being done to get the prisoners of war back home? Is there an understanding of the time frame within which a positive decision on this matter can be made? Armenia has released all the prisoners of war, but its move was not reciprocated. Processes are underway that do not quite fit into the framework of the declarations signed on November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021. Are there any classified attachments to these declarations that we are unaware of? Is there any progress in determining the status of Nagorno-Karabakh? How delayed is it? There are rumours in Karabakh that since Russia has helped it out so much in this situation, perhaps it may become part of Russia? Is this option on the table?

Sergey Lavrov: The issue of prisoners of war was indeed discussed. It is part of the agreements signed in the early hours of November 10, 2020. It was further discussed during telephone conversations between President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and in my conversations with Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan and Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. It was also part of rather lengthy discussions during the visit of the leaders of the two countries to Moscow on January 11.

Summing up the developments, indeed, the Armenians had more problems initially. First of all, both countries needed to get together lists of the missing people who they want to rescue from captivity. Azerbaijan provided such lists, which were fairly short. Not right away, but everyone mentioned on the Azerbaijani lists were released. There were no more questions to Azerbaijan about missing, captive or involuntarily held persons. The lists provided by Armenia were incomplete and overdue.

Subsequently, there were exchanges of the participants in the events that ended on November 9, 2020. Now, the focus is on the issue that arose already in early December 2020. In late November 2020, a group of 62 Armenian servicemen was sent to the Hadrut region and captured within a week. Azerbaijan then stated that since they came to the area after the ceasefire had been announced and the hostilities had ended, they should be considered separately, rather than falling under the Declaration of November 9, 2020. Nevertheless, during our contacts with our colleagues, President Putin and I promoted the need to continue to consider this matter in order to bring it to a closure based on the “all for all” principle. I spoke with Mr Ayvazyan in an effort to clarify the final lists of those missing. It turned out that there are many more than 62 of them.

In a collaborative effort with their colleagues from Armenia and Azerbaijan, our military are checking the lists person by person in order to locate these people’s whereabouts. Of course, the issue is there. If it were not for the Russian peacekeepers, the matter would probably be even more complicated. Commander of the peacekeeping contingent Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov maintains direct contact with his Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues.

I did not quite understand the assertion that the processes “on the ground” do not quite follow the agreements of November 9, 2020 and January 11, and whether there are any secret protocols or annexes in this regard. Where specifically do events “on the ground” “not follow” the agreement? I believe that the Declaration of November 9, 2020 is being implemented quite effectively. This is what both Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan are telling us. That is, with the exception of the POW issue, which remains unresolved for reasons I already mentioned and which, in its current form, arose in early December 2020, a month after the signing of the agreements. The issue concerning the peacekeepers’ mandate is in the process of being settled. It should be the subject of a trilateral agreement as discussed in Moscow on January 11. There are no secret annexes. I don’t understand what topics might be classified.

Regarding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, it is not mentioned in the agreements of November 9, 2020. This was done deliberately. The territory where the Russian peacekeepers are deployed is the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. We operate on this premise in our contacts with Yerevan and Baku. The nuances and details related to organising transport routes, delivering supplies to the peacekeepers’ area of responsibility and providing humanitarian aid to returnees (50,000 already) are being worked through. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been working there for a long time now in coordination with the Russian peacekeepers. International organisations, including UNESCO, the United Nations Office for Refugees and Humanitarian Affairs, are now coordinating the format of their assessment mission with Baku and Yerevan. There are issues primarily related to differences concerning the status. Exactly because the problem of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is controversial, if we take the positions of Yerevan and Baku, the three leaders decided to leave it be for future consideration.

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs should also be involved in this. They have renewed their contacts with the parties and are going to visit the region again. The faster Baku and Yerevan comply “on the ground” with their assurances that the most important thing is to improve the daily life of the ethnic and religious communities that coexisted in Karabakh and to restore peaceful and neighbourly life, the sooner the status issues will be resolved.

As for the exotic proposal to make Nagorno-Karabakh part of Russia, as far as I understand it, the independence of Karabakh is not recognised by anyone, including the Republic of Armenia. We are not even close to having thoughts like that. We believe that all matters in this region must be resolved between the countries of the region, primarily, Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are ready to help look for and find solutions which will ensure peace and stability in this region. The safety of the people who have always lived here and should live in the future is of paramount importance.

Question: Azerbaijan protested against the visit of Armenian officials to Nagorno-Karabakh. Why are Armenian officials unable to obtain Azerbaijan’s permission while visiting Nagorno-Karabakh? How will the Russian peacekeepers resolve this issue? Have you taken note of Azerbaijan’s protest on this matter?

Sergey Lavrov: All agreements, especially those made on November 9, 2020, stipulate the parties’ agreement that Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh will communicate via the Lachin corridor, which will be controlled by Russian peacekeepers. No one has ever denied ties between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. During the decades of talks, there has never been any discussion of cutting off Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia. This is why no one has rejected the Lachin corridor as a concept. The parties still agree on this matter, and this includes the consent of our Azerbaijani neighbours. In addition to the Lachin corridor, which will be run along a new route, reliable and permanent lines of communications will be established between western districts of Azerbaijan’s main territory and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have formalised this agreement. Everyone agrees that Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and those in Armenia should maintain communications, and I see no reason for hampering contacts at this level.

Armenian officials are involved in providing humanitarian assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh, and this has not caused any negative reaction in Baku. It would be strange if things were different. Certain Armenian officials make sufficiently politicised statements in Nagorno-Karabakh, and this causes tensions. I believe that it would be better to avoid this. Prior to the 44-day war, we saw how emotional statements from Nagorno-Karabakh or about the region and dealing with a new war and new territories became a reality. Words become a material force. In this event, words from different sides became a highly negative material force. Consequently, we pay so much attention to establishing contacts between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia and creating an atmosphere of trust. This became yet another important essence of the Moscow meeting between President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. I hope that these emotions will now be relegated to the background.

Now is not the best time to prioritise Nagorno-Karabakh’s status. This subject will be discussed in the future. I guarantee that the zone of Russian peacekeepers’ responsibility (and this is how this status is defined in practical terms) will guarantee the interests of both Azerbaijan and Armenia. We will review this matter later on. There are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group; but, most importantly, future discussions between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be specific and calm, and they must be based on law and on neighbourly relations that all of us together should restore in the region.

Question: Your Greek counterpart, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has recently singled out Russia as the only power recognising Greece’s right to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles. Despite such positive aspects, I would say that Russian-Hellenic relations are developing painfully. For the first time in many years, opinions are being expressed in Greece and Cyprus that Russia is pursuing destabilising activities in the Mediterranean region. This is what American diplomats openly say. Others say that Moscow is abandoning its historical partners and changing its policy for an alliance with Turkey alone. Is this true? Is cooperation possible between Greece, Cyprus and Russia in today’s conditions? Or do we have diverging interests?

Sergey Lavrov: You have said that in Greece and Cyprus they say more often that Russia is playing a destabilising role in the region and then you added that it was American diplomats who were saying this. If American diplomats are saying this in Greece and Cyprus, they also say it in every other country. So don’t be surprised about this. In any country an American diplomat would openly, against all rules and traditions, take a microphone and say that the state where they serve as ambassadors should stop communicating with Russia. Sometimes China is also added, for example when US State Secretary Mike Pompeo was touring Africa, he demanded Africans stop trading with Russia and China, because the Russians and the Chinese had some “hidden agenda” while the US would trade with Africa selflessly. Fairly primitive, but this is the diplomatic way today.

I have recently visited Greece and Cyprus. Moreover, I have recently talked with Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides by telephone. I can see no reason why these countries should be persuaded that Russia is an enemy of theirs or has carried out an unfriendly policy towards them. Someone is trying to convince them, but politicians with common sense can see the whole truth: that they are only trying to make an enemy out of the Russian Federation and saying that our presence in the Balkans prevents these countries from moving into NATO, hinders their Euro-Atlantic integration.

There is no diplomacy here, only crude public leverage. Not everyone in such countries as Cyprus and Greece can publicly respond to such battle cries because they are scared to offend “Big Brother.” There is no underlying enmity between anyone in Russia, Greece and Cyprus.

We have very warm and close relations, a spiritual connection. Our American colleagues are actively trying to undermine this spiritual connection: they made Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follow the path of schism, undermining centuries-old traditions of Orthodox Christianity, the path called Popery. It has always been rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is a reason that there is no analogue of the Pope in the Orthodox world. There is the Ecumenical Patriarch, who until recently was revered as the first among equals. Under the gross and open pressure from Washington, he chose schism in Ukraine creating a puppet Orthodox Church of Ukraine and deceived the Church by cutting off the rights promised to it. Now, together with the Americans, he is trying to work on other Orthodox churches, including the Greek Orthodox Church and the Primate of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, in order to continue deepening these subversive anti-canonical actions against Eastern Orthodoxy. The Pandora’s Box Bartholomew opened has already led to a split in the Cypriot Orthodox Church and unrest in other Orthodox churches. The mission the Americans have assigned to him (they do not even hide that they are actively working with him under the slogan of “freedom of religion and confession”) is to bury Orthodoxy’s influence in today’s world. I can see no other explanation for his actions.

As for the disputes that you indirectly mentioned asking if Russia recognises the 12 nautical mile zone of Greece’s territorial waters. It is not Russia who recognises it, it follows from the universal 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention, which everyone (except the United States) signed, states that a country has the right to establish territorial waters of 12 nautical miles.

When Greece announced that, we said the same thing I have said now: this is an absolutely legitimate solution. It is a different thing when territorial waters chosen by a state challenge the interests of a neighbouring state. If these interests are identified as legitimate, considering the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is necessary to search for a solution through dialogue and a balance of interests. We call for all the problems related to the exclusive economic zones of both Greece and Cyprus to be addressed via a dialogue.

I hear that my colleague, Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Dendias has agreed to have a meeting with Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu in late January. I believe this is the right format for discussing and finding solutions to such issues. Of course, no one wants the use of any kind of force in the Eastern Mediterranean. As for Russia, it is ready to use its good relations with counties involved in these disputes if it might be helpful. We will be ready if we receive any such request.

Question: You spoke about the strategic partnership and great relationship between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. How do you see the evolution of India-Russia ties in the changing geopolitics, particularly in the context of the threat of sanctions from some countries on India-Russia defence trade, including the S-400 missile system?

Sergey Lavrov: The partnership between Russia and India is called slightly differently. You called it a strategic partnership. This was the original title. Some years later, the Indian side proposed to call it a privileged strategic partnership. And a few years ago, when Prime Minister Modi became the head of the Indian government, we changed it to a specially privileged strategic partnership.

I believe there is room for further improvement, but the current terminology indicates a special kind of relationship. India is our very close, very strategic and very privileged partner. Take the economy, take innovations, high technology or military and technical cooperation, India is one of our closest partners in all these areas. We have close political coordination in the United Nations and within BRICS. We did a lot to make sure that India and Pakistan join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation where, I think, we now have a configuration which is very representative, to promote constructive, positive and stabilising ideas both for the Eurasian region and, in broader terms, for the Asia-Pacific.

We discussed with our Indian friends, at the level of the president and the prime minister, at the level of ministers, experts and consultants, we discussed, in a very open way, both practical things and conceptual issues, including issues emanating from the new concept which is called the Indo-Pacific Strategy. We do not believe that this is just a terminological change. Because if you take it literally from the geographical point of view, then “Indo” means the entire Indian Ocean, all littoral states of the Indian Ocean. But East Africa, we were told, is not included in the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean, is not included. What is included? As the American sponsors of this concept say, the US, Australia, Japan and India, which is the backbone of, as US State Secretary Mike Pompeo recently said, the free and open Indo-Pacific Region. We have reasons to believe that when the Australians, the Japanese and the Americans promote this format and, well, they almost openly say that this is important to ensure stability in the South China Sea and this is important to contain China. We discussed this with my good friend, Foreign Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and our Indian colleagues fully understand that some countries would like to use the Indo-Pacific Strategy in a manner that is not inclusive and that is confrontational. ASEAN, by the way, feels the same way. They are concerned that this aggressive promotion of the Indo-Pacific concept will undermine the central role of ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific Region, the East Asian Summits (EAS) and other formats, the center of which has been ASEAN for many years.

I know that in India this issue is very actively discussed. And I know that India is not going to move this Indo-Pacific cooperation in a way that would be not positive and not constructive. I say so in much detail because some of my previous statements on this issue have been widely discussed in the Indian media which I belieive is not very friendly towards the Indian government, but we don’t want any misunderstanding with our friends, the Indian people: we are friends with India. We are doing our utmost to make sure that India and China, our two great friends and brothers, live in peace with one another.

This is our policy which we promote not only in the context of the SCO or BRICS. We have a special trilateral format, a “troika” or RIC – Russia, India and China. It was established in the late 1990s, and it is still functioning. The last meeting at the level of ministers took place in Moscow in September 2020. We adopted a joint communiqué recognising the role of the three countries in promoting peace, stability and security in Asia and the world and confirming the cooperation between our countries.

I am glad that, besides the political dialogue between the three countries, we have plenty of formats that involve people-to-people contacts, including academic formats, youth formats and many others. We all are wise enough to see that if a  strategy is indeed intended to be not inclusive but rather divisive, then the wisdom of our countries will certainly prevail. And in no way will our closest cooperation and partnership with India be affected. The most sincere and honest dialogue, even on the issues where we do not one hundred percent see eye to eye, is the key to the further development of our partnership.

Question: The next question has to do with the situation in Northeast Asia. Japan is seriously concerned about the nuclear build-up in North Korea, which has forced it to strengthen its security, or more precisely, buy a missile defence system. Russia does not seem to share our concern, but regards our efforts to protect our security as a threat. The problem has been complicated with the US intention to deploy its medium-range missiles in Asia Pacific. Several media outlets have reported that Russia and China are considering joint countermeasures if the United States does deploy its missiles. Is this true? It appears that two military blocs are being created in the region, one comprising the United States, Japan and South Korea, and the other made up of Russia and China. I believe that current relations between Japan and Russia are relatively good and neighbourly. What should be done to prevent their deterioration or even a confrontation, in light of the current situation in the region? Do you think we can maintain our positive ties amid the deteriorating Russia-US relationship?

Sergey Lavrov: Tension between the United States and North Korea and between the two Korean states has persisted during the past 18 months. We hope that the parties will refrain from taking any dramatic moves in the military sphere that could aggravate tension around the Korean Peninsula. The parties have not abandoned their previous commitments. At the beginning of last year, North Korea, followed by South Korea, reaffirmed their readiness to honour the agreements reached between the leaders of the two Korean states in 2018. A military parade held in North Korea to mark its anniversary attracted considerable attention. In general, no actions that could lead to the development of a material basis for escalation have been taken so far.

Let’s wait and see what policy the Biden administration adopts in this sphere. We would like to see stable peace on the peninsula. Together with our Chinese colleagues we prepared a roadmap of our common vision of movement towards peace back in 2017. We discussed it with the other members of the six-party talks, that is, with Japan and the United States, as well as with North Korea and South Korea. Based on our common views and that roadmap, we and our Chinese partners prepared an action plan, which we are ready to submit for discussion as soon as contacts are resumed. I would like to once again express our sincere desire to promote the achievement of a lasting peace and agreement in the region.

As for our relations with Japan, we regard them as positive. The Russian President and his Japanese colleagues, the prime ministers, have always maintained friendly ties based on personal sympathy. I am sure that such personal contacts will be established with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as well.

Touching upon the military situation in the region, it is true that Russia and China are working together, including in the form of military exercises. Russian-Chinese military exercises are nothing new at all. We have held several army exercises within the framework of the SCO and at the bilateral level. We have held joint exercises of our aerospace forces. They are not spearheaded at Japan but are held to check the combat readiness of our air forces, which are guarding the safety of Russian and Chinese borders. What is threatening them? There are quite a few threats, including the one you have mentioned, the US plans to deploy ballistic missile defence systems and ground-launched medium and shorter-range missiles, which were prohibited by a treaty from which Washington has withdrawn, in Japan and South Korea.

We have forwarded to Tokyo a list of our practical security concerns, which are directly related to the possibility of continuing constructive talks on a peace treaty. We are still waiting for a reply. The deployment of a US BMD system and the potential deployment of US ground-launched medium- and shorter-range missiles in Japan are among our concerns. When it comes to BMD systems, our Japanese colleagues assure us that they would control the Aegis Ashore systems they would buy, and that the Americans would have no connection to their management. With all our respect for our Japanese friends, this is impossible. They will be unable to prevent the Americans from controlling these systems. As for medium- and shorter-range missiles, the Japanese government is not happy with this US idea, as far as I am aware, and it has attempted to turn the talks around from ground-launched to sea-launched missiles. But this will hardly change the essence of the matter, because medium- and shorter-range missiles, even if deployed on warships in the Sea of Japan, will be able to target a substantial part of the Russian territory.

We are ready to continue dialogue, but first of all we would like to receive answers to our security concerns about which the Japanese partners are well aware. In addition to the material aspect of the planned weapons deployment in Japan in one format or another, there is also a military-political dimension, that is, Japan’s union with the United States, in accordance with which the United States may deploy its weapons in any part of Japan. As far as we know, Tokyo has reaffirmed its full commitment to this military union on numerous occasions, including last year, describing the Americans as its main allies. This is taking place at a time when the United States describes Russia as its main adversary and even enemy, as Mike Pompeo noted recently. When our Japanese friends reaffirm and promote their union with a country that considers Russia an enemy, we see this as a specific situation that should be clarified.

Question (retranslated from Spanish): I am a journalist from a public television channel in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is an important subject for our Latin American region and particularly for the Argentine Republic. I am referring to the sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas. I would like to ask you about the Russian Federation’s position on this score and on changes following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union?

Sergey Lavrov: We support all resolutions of the UN General Assembly on the Islas Malvinas. We have been voting for them ever since the UN started reviewing this subject, and we will continue to demand that these resolutions be fulfilled. There is such a notion as double standards. The problem of the Islas Malvinas came into being a long time ago. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland insisted very sternly that the residents of the Islas Malvinas (that London calls the Falkland Islands) have a right to self-determination. We reminded the UK’s representatives about this when they became overexcited about the March 2014 referendum in Crimea. We asked them whether the Islas Malvinas, located 10,000 miles away from the UK, had the right to self-determination, and whether the people of Crimea who have been part of this country all their life were denied this right. The answer was very simple; they replied that these were two different matters. Let this rest with their conscience. We are convinced that it is necessary to settle the dispute through dialogue, as stipulated by the UN General Assembly’s resolution.

Question: On January 12, 2021, Berlin hosted this year’s first meeting of the advisers of the Normandy Four leaders. As Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, Dmitry Kozak, said they failed to come to terms on a single issue. What do you see as a way out of the deadlock in the Ukraine crisis?

Sergey Lavrov: In our opinion, the only way out is to implement the Minsk agreements. What were the advisers of the Normandy Four leaders doing at this meeting? They were trying, once again, to put together a roadmap for moving towards this goal. Our participation in compiling or trying to compile this roadmap is a serious concession on our part. A concession was also made by Donetsk and Lugansk with whom we closely coordinate our position before every meeting in the Normandy Four format.

The Normandy format merely accompanies the main work that is being conducted by what the Ukrainians call the trilateral group. We call it a contact group. But it can be called a trilateral group since there are three sides— Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk, while Russia and the OSCE are the mediators. The roadmap that the Germans and French suggested drafting three or four years ago has now reappeared. At that time, the idea was to synchronise movement along the security track: the disengagement of forces, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and usable checkpoints for civilians. It was also necessary to move towards a political settlement by making progress on the status of the regions in question, preparing for an election, announcing amnesty, etc. However, at that time these goals were not achieved because Ukraine adamantly rejected this parallel progress and insisted that security issues must be resolved first and political problems settled later. At one point, the election issue faced a similar stumbling block.

According to the Minsk agreements (if they are not politicised or viewed through the prism of ideology), it is first necessary to ensure the special status of Donbass and then hold an election on this basis. But Ukraine had a different position: “Let’s first hold the election and if we like those who are elected, we will give it special status. If not, we won’t give them this status.” At that time, the sides reached a compromise with the participation of President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine – the so-called Steinmeier formula that synchronised the election and the granting of the special status to the region. All this was confirmed at the summit in Paris in December 2019. President Vladimir Zelensky committed himself to introducing this formula into legislation.

Few decisions from the Paris summit were carried out. The disengagement of forces and weapons took place in some sections, and a small exchange of prisoners and other detainees was carried out. Attempts to come to terms on another exchange of prisoners, which were going on all these months, ended in failure due to Ukraine’s position of introducing more and more contrived demands.

The DPR and the LPR announced, with our support, that they planned to unilaterally transfer to Ukraine some of its citizens that were detained on their territory as a goodwill gesture. Let the Ukrainian authorities at least feel ashamed that an “all for all” exchange, as agreed on earlier, was delayed for reasons that had nothing to do with humanitarian considerations. Now, at the recent meeting, the leaders’ advisers made another attempt to compile a roadmap. If the Minsk agreements are presented as the accords of indirect action, let’s specify each and every step they envisage. As for Ukraine, its position is completely obstructionist.

Here’s one example. The Minsk agreements read: forces and weapons must be withdrawn to a certain distance from the contact line. Thus must be done all along this line. On the eve of the December 2019 summit, the negotiators harmonised a final statement from the leaders that contained an item on the disengagement of forces and arms all along the contact line by a certain deadline. The statement was signed by the negotiators, ministers and advisers. President Zelensky said he could not do this but was only willing to agree to the proposed disengagement at three new check points. The German and French leaders were taken aback. Ukraine was saying at every instance that its priority is to achieve security on the ground. All of a sudden, the president that inspired so many hopes for progress to peace, and made the goal of peace in Donbass the main slogan of his election campaign, said “no” to the disengagement of forces and weapons except in three villages. This makes you think twice. It is possible to lament this approach but the bottom line is the inability or reluctance of Berlin and Paris to compel their protégés in Kiev to stop undermining the Minsk agreements.

According to President Zelensky, Ukraine needs the Minsk agreements to maintain the sanctions against Russia. Otherwise, he would have withdrawn from them. Paris and Berlin remain completely silent. The Kiev representative in the contact group, former President Leonid Kravchuk, declared that the Minsk agreements were the main obstacle to settling the Donbass problem. This means only one thing: these agreements stand in the way of Kiev’s attempts to impose its own rules. Another member of the Kiev delegation in the trilateral group, Alexey Reznikov claims that the Minsk agreements are not so bad, but they are not legally binding and simply amount to a political wish… This is total lack of competence. The Minsk agreements have been approved by the UN Security Council’s unanimous resolution and have therefore become part of international law. He also said “it is possible to change the priority of some measures; the main goal is to first introduce Ukrainian border guards to occupy the entire border with the Russian Federation, thereby surrounding the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics; then the Ukrainian defence and law enforcement agencies will encircle them and in this case the election will become unnecessary.” They will appoint their own governors-general and imprison the leaders of these republics because they will be labelled terrorists.

Now, the main task for me is to understand what the French and Germans think about themselves. In response to our numerous appeals, including my own letters, to bring Kiev’s representatives to reason at the talks with Donbass, they are simply retreating into the shadows and refraining from public statements. If there is an instruction not to offend the country (or Ukraine’s leaders, to be more precise) in order to realise a desire to deter Russia, let them be straight about this. In this case, we will have a different policy in this area.

Question: Here is a question from SANA news agency and the people of Syria who have been suffering from Israel’s aggressive actions all this time. Israel continues to bomb our cities, our villages, and it has now considerably expanded the territory of its operations in Syria. At the same time, the people of Syria are suffering from aggressive sanctions, imposed on them by the United States and its allies. The people of Syria are experiencing hard times. Tell me, please, what can you say about this situation?

Sergey Lavrov:  We have repeatedly expressed our assessments of the developments in Syria. Everyone signed the unanimously approved UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that calls for respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the Syrian Arab Republic. US actions in Syria blatantly violate this resolution. Washington’s line to block humanitarian relief aid distribution to Syria in any way they can, including blackmail and ultimatums, also crudely violate this resolution. UNSC Resolution 2254 calls for providing humanitarian relief assistance to the people of Syria. The United States is doing everything it can to prevent this from happening. It has declared extremely tough sanctions, the so-called Caesar Act. It has also forbidden international organisations and other parties to take part in the November 2020 Damascus conference for repatriating Syrian refugees and temporarily displaced persons. Nevertheless, the conference gathered about 20 countries, including five Arab states that did not fear the domineering United States.

At the same time, while forbidding everyone to even send humanitarian goods to Syria, the United States occupied substantial territories on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. It ruthlessly exploits Syrian hydrocarbon deposits, Syrian national wealth, plundering and selling it and using the money to support its proxies, including Kurdish separatists, and to persuade the Kurds not to hold a dialogue with Damascus while encouraging a separatist atmosphere. This is also causing problems in Turkey. But the main thing is that all this is happening in the Syrian Arab Republic, and no one invited the United States or its Western allies there.

We, including the President of the Russian Federation, have repeatedly expressed our position on this. Yes, we maintain contacts between the military with the United States but we are not doing this because we recognise the legitimacy of their presence there but simply because the United States must act within certain boundaries. We cannot expel it, and we will not clash with US forces. Now that US forces are deployed there, we are conducting a dialogue with US representatives on so-called deconfliction. During this dialogue, we demand compliance with certain rules, and also sternly note the unacceptability of using force against Syrian state facilities.

Regarding Israel, we maintain close contact with Tel Aviv. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly discussed this subject with Benjamin Netanyahu. We strongly noted the need to honour UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the resolution on Lebanon. Israel also violates this while using Syrian air space to hit facilities in Lebanon. This is a serious aspect of our relations. Israel insists that it is forced to respond to national security threats emanating from Syrian territory. We have repeatedly told our Israeli colleagues: “Please give us the relevant information if you see these threats.” We absolutely don’t want Syrian territory to be used against Israel or as an arena for an Iranian-Israeli confrontation, as many people would like. To our Israeli colleagues: please notify us immediately of any facts that a threat to your state emanates from some part of Syrian territory. We will act to neutralise this threat. So far, we have received no specific reply to this appeal, but we continue to press the point.

Question: If possible, I would like to go back to the developments in the United States. They were quite dramatic, especially in Washington. All of us remember the footage of the Capitol and the violence we saw happening there. But the subsequent events, the reaction to these events are notable as well. Many people in the United States are now using the old rhetoric we remember from our own history. They are talking about purging the Republican Party of extreme Trumpists, which actually amounts to a cleansing campaign. You have mentioned that some people, including the US President, have been deprived of access to social media platforms. Mr Lavrov, isn’t this reminiscent of anything to you personally? Also, do you expect new political and information attacks against Russia considering that many people in America continue to believe that Donald Trump came to power four years ago with the help of Russia? Thank you.

Sergey Lavrov: We have already spoken, in part, about this subject. As for whether this is reminiscent of anything to me, I will not answer this question, because this may be reminiscent of different things to different people. There have been different periods and forms of persecution in different periods of human history. I don’t think people can easily forget this. Although people tend to have a short memory, we have history textbooks and we must teach historical truth to our young people. Otherwise, future generations may decide that there has never been anything apart from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, which have a monopoly on the truth. Like all other normal people, I take no pleasure in watching problems come to a head in the United States.

Some people could be tempted to say, “The Americans have been lecturing the world, and have tried to lecture us, driving us into all kinds of corners, and now they are on the receiving end.” The United States is a huge country, and we cannot steer clear of it, because whatever happens there is bound to have global consequences, if only because the so-called digital giants are global corporations. Unlike the global corporations of the past, when Ford and other industrialists moved production to developing countries, these new corporations are producing ideas. As the classic saying goes, “A thought expressed becomes a lie.” This explains the risks we are facing.

If we look back on history, customs and manners of US foreign policy activities, it is always “America is Number One,” “America must prevail, “American democracy is an example to be emulated by others” and “democracy must be spread everywhere.” They have tried and continue trying to spread American democracy in the Middle East contrary to the region’s civilisation, traditions and culture. They have tried doing this in Afghanistan and Iraq and are trying to do this in Libya with complete disregard for the traditions, history, and ethnic and religious aspects of the countries concerned. They have changed the government in a European country, Ukraine. In which of the countries I have mentioned, or any other country where the Americans have tried to spread democracy has life become better for people?  There are no such countries.

During the past few years President Donald Trump has been saying that there would be no wars during his term. No new wars have been launched indeed. But US interference in the internal affairs of others went on very energetically. The physical methods of interference are giving way to interference through social media. Reliance on NGOs and the nursing of opposition forces loyal to the West are complemented with a dramatic increase in the power of social media and their capabilities. The American state is now facing the issue of whether they should be taken under control or left with regulation “standards” based on the liberal ideology and world outlook.  No restrictions are being placed on the US’s freedom of expression, freedom that has been set out in corporate standards that gives the Americans the right to restrict the others’ freedom of expression. This is a serious problem, and I sincerely hope that the Americans will settle it. After all, it is their country where they will have to live.

This shows once again how important it is to take multilateral decisions. I hope that those who have tried for years and even decades to hinder discussions on making internet governance more democratic, and those who have been putting spokes in the wheels of the Russian initiative set out in the UN General Assembly resolution on advancing responsible state behaviour in cyberspace and in the draft Convention on Cooperation in Combating Cybercrime will see the problem in a different light, especially when it comes to more democratic internet governance. This subject has been under discussion for years at a specialised UN body, the International Telecommunication Union. Nearly all countries are willing to coordinate universally acceptable forms, but the Americans are categorically against this.

Touching upon the events that have led to this situation, it would be worth recalling – a lot has been said about this – how the social media reported on voting during the US presidential election and how they worked to form a lop-sided public opinion of the developments in the United States and across the world.

Many people are talking now about the things that were obvious from the very beginning but have been glossed over. Two months before the actual election day, ballot papers were mailed to voters in several states for casting postal votes. They mailed 95 million ballots. Two-thirds of them turned out to be filled in prior to the election day. One-third of the ballots were not completed despite aggressive encouragement. This campaign of forcing people to cast their ballots by postal vote did not fit in with the US election standards. When both candidates got more than 40 percent of the vote, postal voting became a serious problem. As I have already said, those who received ballots by mail could send them back, take their ballots to the polling stations or cast them in some other way. This went on for weeks and was reported on social media as a normal practice and accepted by those who had criticised our voting on constitutional amendments. Curbside voting is child’s play compared to what has been done to the voting mechanism in the United States. Social media played the decisive role in covering the process. They openly supported one of the two parties and did not make any secret of their desire to have a system of government based on one ruling party. American society’s problem is their own election system and the way they hold political debates. This is a war on dissent, something which our Western colleagues have always claimed to be against. But they have taken up this banner now and are unlikely to cede it to anyone in the near future.

Question: Thank you, Maria and thank you, Mr Minister, for taking my question. I need some clarification on Alexey Navalny, on what you are saying about the findings because the Germans have said that they have given you the blood and tissue and clothing samples, that you would need to carry out a proper criminal investigation. I am not entirely clear on what would hold you back?

We are also at the police station where he currently is and he said there is a hastily convened court hearing which is not part of the standard legal procedure. Why is he not receiving normal recourse through Russian law like a normal citizen would?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know where you received the information that the Germans have given us tissue samples and other bio materials. This is not true.  The reply that the German authorities sent us three days ago, obviously preparing for Navalny’s return on January 17, only quotes the information provided by Navalny himself and his wife Yulia. To say nothing about bio materials or the bottles involved in this case, we don’t even have the results of his tests or a toxicological conclusion! We don’t have any of these. If you were told we were given his clothes, bottles and biomaterials, you were misled.

As for the legal procedure, let me repeat that biomaterials were taken and tests made at the Omsk clinic (a civilian clinic). Nothing like a chemical warfare agent was discovered in them. The Charite Clinic (also a civilian clinic, as the Germans reported) has not identified anything like a toxic chemical agent. The Omsk and Charite clinics are civilian clinics. The Germans, as they said themselves, transferred Navalny’s samples, taken at the Charite Clinic, to a Bundeswehr clinic. Its military staff who evidently possess the required knowledge discovered a prohibited chemical warfare agent, but of some new modification. Where did the Bundeswehr and the Germans in general receive this information? This is an interesting question. We asked this in the queries sent by the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office to the German Ministry of Justice. It is necessary to find this out.

Recently they told us almost in unison in Germany, and in Britain after the Skripal case, that they did not conduct any research on the so-called Novichok. Hence, researchers in Germany, France and Sweden couldn’t have the relevant markers and technology for identifying Novichok, albeit of a new version, in a matter of three to five days.

To initiate a criminal case in our judicial practice, we must have justification in the form of evidence that a crime was committed or an attempt to commit it was made. Since no chemical warfare agent was detected in Navalny’s samples taken by our doctors, we have asked for the OPCW tests made in Germany, France and Sweden. I hope you heard that I described in detail our proposal to this organisation to conduct a joint investigation. I find it hard to believe that our Western colleagues are so high-handed and arrogant that they deem it possible to demand explanations from Russia without presenting us any evidence. You (I mean the West) say you have evidence that he was poisoned and this is beyond doubt. But when we are told that we won’t be given this evidence, allow us to at least remain skeptical as regards to what happens with Navalny.

If you have nothing to hide, if you are not afraid to put the truth on the table and submit these facts to us, why aren’t you doing so? As soon as we see this, and if the attempt to poison him with chemical warfare agents is confirmed, we will start criminal proceedings. The pre-trial investigation conducted here in conformity with Criminal Procedure Rules has not revealed any grounds for opening a criminal case. I understand that you do many things on the sly. I have mentioned that the investigators in the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning in Britain have suddenly decided to classify this case and many details remain classified. We have received no information on the Skripals. Nothing has been disclosed to Britain’s allies in NATO or the EU. The case with the Malaysia Airlines crash (flight MH-17) is the same.

In accusing us, the Dutch have organised a trial with 13 witnesses, of which 12 are anonymous. They are refusing to reveal the names of 12 out of 13 witnesses. First, bother British and other European law-enforcement bodies and ask them why they are playing in the dark, what they are concealing and what they are afraid of. Then I will be ready to answer your questions if you receive sensible answers from them.

To be continued…

Dr.. Shaaban to “Al-Mayadeen Channel”: Looking forward to Biden’s policy, the most important for us is US withdrawal from our land. د. شعبان لـ “قناة الميادين”: نتطلع لسياسة بايدن والأهم انسحاب القوات الأميركية من أرضنا

**Please scroll down for the English Machine translation**

 د. شعبان لـ “قناة الميادين”: نتطلع لسياسة بايدن والأهم انسحاب القوات الأميركية من أرضنا

سوريا الآن

2020-12-19

المستشارة الخاصة في الرئاسة السورية بثينة شعبان تقول إن هناك تطابق في وجهات النظر بين سوريا وروسيا. وتلفت إلى أنه “تم الاتفاق على بعض النقاط مع قسد بشأن علم البلاد ووحدتها وسلامة أراضيها لكنهم لم يوقعوا الاتفاق”.

قالت المستشارة الخاصة في الرئاسة السورية بثينة شعبان، إن زيارة الوفد السوري إلى موسكو إيجابية.

وأكدت شعبان للميادين أن “الاجتماع مع لافروف استمر 4 ساعات وناقشنا كل المواضيع وهناك رؤية مشتركة للأوضاع، وهناك تطابق في وجهات النظر بين سوريا وروسيا”.

كما لفتت إلى أن العالم يشهد تحولاً تاريخياً ومستقبله يعتمد على الفاعلين فيه ورؤيتهم له. وتابعت “ناقشنا الوضع في سوريا والإجراءات القسرية الأحادية التي تفرضها واشنطن في المنطقة”، سائلةً “كيف يمكن لواشنطن أن تخرق قرارات الأمم المتحدة بشأن سوريا وتحتل أرضها وتنهب نفطها؟”.

شعبان قالت إن “هناك معارك كبرى تخوضها الدولة السورية وروسيا وأطراف دولية لمحاولة وضع العالم على مسار صحيح”، مشددة على أنه “لم نطلب أي مساعدة لأن التعاون الاقتصادي مع روسيا يسير بشكل ممتاز”.

وبحسب شعبان، “بعد تحرير معظم الأراضي السورية حولوا الحرب من الميدان إلى الاقتصاد، وهناك حلول نضعها مع حلفائنا”، معتبرةً أن هناك آليات وخطط وعمل لمواجهة الحصار المفروض على الشعب السوري”.
 
المستشارة الخاصة في الرئاسة السورية رأت أن “الحليف الروسي ينشط في كل مجال ممكن لرفع العقوبات وفتح المسار لإعادة الإعمار في سوريا”، معربةً عن أملها بأن تشارك دول عربية وغير عربية في إعادة الإعمار “وهناك جهود حثيثة تبذل في هذا الإطار”.

شعبان للميادين: لن نفرط بسيادة سوريا وشروط جيفري لا تساوي الحبر الذي كتبت به
وفيما يخص ملف عودة اللاجئين، اعتبرت شعبان أن منع الخبراء الأمميين من المشاركة في مؤتمر اللاجئين يكشف حجم المفارقة بين كلام الغرب وأفعاله، مؤكدةً في هذا السياق أن الحكومة السورية ستوفر كل ما تتطلبه عودة اللاجئين السوريين إلى بلدهم.
 
وأكدت أن “ما تخطط له الولايات المتحدة ليس قدراً والشعوب قادرة على تخطي مخططات واشنطن”، موضحة أنه “نحن لم نفرض القطيعة مع واشنطن ولكن هي التي اعتدت علينا”.

واعتبرت أن “كلام جيمس جيفري وشروطه لا تساوي قيمة الحبر الذي كتبت به وسوريا لن تفرط بسيادتها”، مؤكدةً أنه لا أحد يقرر لدمشق كيف يجب أن تكون علاقتها بإيران وحزب الله والمقاومة الفلسطينية.

وحول سياسة إدارة بايدن، لفتت إلى أن بلادها تتطلع كيف ستكون سياسية الإدارة الأميركية الجديدة، والأهم وفقاً لشعبان “انسحاب القوات الأميركية من سوريا”.
 
وتابعت شعبان قائلةً: “لا نتوقع الكثير من الإدارة الجديدة فمنطقتنا عانت من الإدارتين الديموقراطيين والجمهوريين”، معتبرةً أن العلاقة بين سوريا وروسيا مختلفة عن علاقة بعض الدول مع الولايات المتحدة.

إلى ذلك أوضحت في حديثها إلى الميادين أن العلاقة بين دمشق وموسكو علاقة “ندية وقائمة على الاحترام، فروسيا والصين تحترمان حلفاءهما”، قائلةً “لا يمكن لروسيا أن تطلب من دمشق إخراج إيران أو حزب الله من أراضيها فهذا أمر غير مطروح بتاتاً”.
 
أما بالنسبة للضغوط الأميركية والأوروبية بشأن الانتخابات المقبلة، قالت شعبان “لا تعنينا”. لافتةً إلى أن “الروس لم يفتحوا معنا موضوع الانتخابات الرئاسية المقبلة في سوريا أبداً”.

ودعت شعبان كيلي كرافت إلى “الاعتراف الحقيقي بالقرار رقم 2254 الذي يتناقض مع احتلال بلادها لأراضينا”. 

كما اعتبرت أن الوفود التي تأتي من الخارج للمشاركة في أعمال اللجنة الدستورية، “تعبر عن مرجعياتها وأسيادها، ولا تعبر عن مصلحة الشعب السوري بل عن مصالح خارجية وهذا سبب بطء عمل اللجنة الدستورية”.

شعبان للميادين: ليس هناك أي ثقة بما يمكن أن يقوم به إردوغان 
شعبان أشارت للميادين إلى أن روسيا تتوقع استمرار تركيا بسحب قواتها من النقاط التي تم الاتفاق عليها بين بوتين وإردوغان، مضيفةً “ليس هناك أي ثقة بما يمكن أن يقوم به إردوغان ولكننا نتابع ما يجري على الأرض”.

ووفقاً لها، تم الاتفاق على بعض النقاط مع قسد بشأن علم البلاد ووحدتها وسلامة أراضيها لكنهم لم يوقعوا الاتفاق، مؤكدةً أن بعض قوات قسد مرتهن للإرادة الأميركية والخلاف بينه وبين تركيا هو صراع على نهب الأرض.

وفي الختام، أكدت أن “ما يجري في العالم العربي ليس في صالح الدول التي طبعت مع العدو الصهيوني”، قائلةً إن “إرادة الشعب العربي ما زالت حية من أجل صنع مستقبل أفضل وإرادة الغرب ليست قدراً”، مشددة على أنه “لا خيار سوى التمسك بالقضية الفلسطينية وبأراضينا المحتلة”.

Dr.. Shaaban to “Al-Mayadeen Channel”: Looking forward to Biden’s policy, the most important for us is US withdrawal from our land

Syria now

2020-12-19

Syrian Presidential Special Adviser Buthaina Shaaban says there is a similarity of views between Syria and Russia. “Some points were agreed with Qasd on the country’s flag, unity and territorial integrity, but they did not sign the agreement,” she said.

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Syrian Presidential Special Adviser Buthaina Shaaban said the Syrian delegation’s visit to Moscow was positive.

“The meeting with Lavrov lasted four hours and we discussed all the topics and there is a common vision of the situation, and there is a similarity of views between Syria and Russia,” Shaaban told Al-Mayadeen.

She also pointed out that the world is undergoing a historic transformation and its future depends on its actors and their vision. “We discussed the situation in Syria and the unilateral coercive measures imposed by Washington in the region,” she said. “.

“There are major battles being waged by the Syrian state, Russia and international parties to try to put the world on the right track,” Shaaban said, stressing that “we did not ask for any help because economic cooperation with Russia is going well.”

“After the liberation of most of The Syrian territory, they have turned the war from the field into the economy, and there are solutions that we are putting with our allies,” Shaaban said, adding that there are mechanisms, plans and action to confront the siege imposed on the Syrian people.

“The Russian ally is active in every possible area to lift sanctions and open the path to reconstruction in Syria,” she said, adding that she hoped arab and non-Arab countries would participate in reconstruction and “there are active efforts being made in this context.”

Shaaban said that preventing UN experts from participating in the refugee conference reveals the extent of the paradox between the words and actions of the West, stressing in this context that the Syrian government will provide whatever it takes to return Syrian refugees to their
country.

“What the United States is planning is not destiny and people are capable of overcoming Washington’s plans,” she said.

“James Jeffrey’s words and conditions are not worth the ink he used and Syria will not overstate its sovereignty,” she said, stressing that no one decides for Damascus how it should have its relationship with Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance.

On the Biden administration’s policy, she said her country is looking forward to what the new U.S. administration’s policy will be, and most importantly, according to Shaban, “the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria.”

“We don’t expect much from the new administration because our region has suffered from the Democratic and Republican administrations,” Shaaban said, adding that the relationship between Syria and Russia is different from that of some countries with the United States.

“Russia cannot ask Damascus to remove Iran or Hezbollah from its territory, which is totally unthinkable,” she said.

As for U.S. and European pressure on the upcoming elections, Shaaban said, “It doesn’t concern us.”

She called on Kelly Kraft to “truly recognize Resolution 2254, which contradicts her country’s occupation of our territories.”

She also considered that delegations coming from abroad to participate in the work of the Constitutional Committee “reflect their references and masters, and do not reflect the interests of the Syrian people but of outside interests, and that is why the work of the Constitutional Committee is slow.”

Shaaban: There is no confidence in what Erdogan can do, and she noted that Russia expects Turkey to continue withdrawing its troops from the points agreed between Putin and Erdogan, adding that “there is no confidence in what Erdogan can do, but we are following what is going on the ground.”

According to her, some points were agreed with Qasd on the country’s flag, unity and territorial integrity, but they did not sign the agreement, stressing that some of Qsed’s forces are dependent on the American will and the dispute between Qasd and Turkey is a struggle over the looting of the land.

“What is happening in the Arab world is not in the interest of the countries that have been printed with the Zionist enemy,” she said, adding that “the will of the Arab people is still alive in order to create a better future and the will of the West is not destiny,” stressing that “there is no choice but to stick to the Palestinian cause and our occupied territories.”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the 28th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, December 10, 2020

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the 28th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, December 10, 2020
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11 December 202000:22

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the 28th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, December 10, 2020

Colleagues, friends,

Fyodor Lukyanov spoke about the role of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. Who would have thought at the time when the Council was created, and I was invited to join in as a co-founder, that the Council would live to this day. The experience gained over the decades of its functioning is instrumental in our work and makes it possible to bounce ideas off the expert community, which is deeply versed in international matters and is keenly interested in them. This is important.

This year was truly challenging and pivotal. Humanity was unprepared for the differences and mixed trends that had been piling up on the agenda over years and exacerbated confusion in international affairs. The habitual way of life of hundreds of millions of people and states, as well as ordinary citizens, has been upended, many sectors of the economy found themselves on the verge of collapse, business activity has significantly decreased, global cooperation chains were disrupted and the unemployment rates went up. Closed borders abruptly reduced the chances for maintaining multifaceted contacts between the countries and the people.

The scale and inertia of the events that we are witnessing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic make it impossible to say when life will get back to normal. I hope Mr Lukyanov was right when he confidently stated, albeit with reservations, that we will be able to meet in person in the spring. So far, humanity and its best representatives in the person of healthcare professionals are just trying to understand where we are and when this might end. Many people are saying that this will never end, and we will have to live with it just like the annual flu, but with much more severe consequences. One of the key lessons of the pandemic is that no one can secure themselves against these cross-border threats.

The pandemic affected literally everyone. Clearly, this kind of global cataclysm can only be overcome by uniting and rising above fleeting differences. President Putin has repeatedly stated this firm position adopted by Russia. Unfortunately, a number of countries, primarily the United States and its allies, are trying to take advantage of this situation in their geopolitical interests and ignore the needs that are common to humanity.

The term “common to humanity” does not at all mean an average, consensus-based or accommodating understanding of how the inter-civilisational diversity should be respected. This manifests itself in way too many areas of modern international life, including the interpretation of multilateralism energetically promoted and propagated by our Western colleagues. This is also happening in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, despite the fact that people in America and Europe are suffering from COVID-19 as badly as people in other countries.

The need for conducting a mutually respectful dialogue and rejecting artificially created confrontational schemes is nowhere to be seen. Just think of the indiscriminate accusations against China regarding the spread of the disease. There was an attempt to blame the PRC for everything that happened. This undermined the efforts to achieve unity, including of the research capacities, in order to come up with effective responses. In addition to healthcare aspects, we must take a closer look at the international bodies in charge of the health and well-being of the people. The WHO-related developments are quite telling in his regard. Ideas are being put forward to create some non-governmental institutions mandated to determine the international community’s policy. This is a clear attempt to sideline the World Health Organisation. These developments are reminiscent of neo-colonial approaches and habits and show the attempts to restrain the formation of new global centres and to punish those who pursue an independent foreign policy. This can also be seen in the “vaccine race.” We are well aware of attempts to oppose the new concept of the so-called rules-based international order to everything that has been created after establishing the UN and forming a large block of universal international legal instruments.

Russia believes it is imperative to look for ways to unite countries and governments, to look for a constructive agenda relying on the principles of collegiality and equality, which should contribute to de-escalating international tensions and ensuring the predictability of global processes. Later, we will discuss the initiatives that Russia has been promoting to this end. A CSTO summit and a Collective Security Council meeting took place on December 2. Among other decisions, the participants adopted a statement by the heads of state on forming a just and sustainable international order. Among other initiatives, this document proposes setting up a meeting of authorised representatives of the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, the OSCE, NATO and the EU and seeing if these organisations can sit down and form a common agenda, jointly identify problems and, ideally, outline ways to overcome them. This is not something radically revolutionary. In 1999, the Platform for Co-operative Security was adopted at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul. It proclaimed the unification of the efforts of the OSCE and other sub-regional organisations in the Euro-Atlantic space. Some time ago, before the pandemic, we told our Western partners that it would be nice to take advantage of that consensus and try to build bridges between these organisations, instead of watching them build up confrontational potential, but our Western colleagues chose to step aside. Cooperative security and engagement of the bodies created in the post-Soviet space were important in the 1990s (in this case, in 1999), when the West still hoped that we would follow the path charted by the winners of the Cold War. Now, we have officially submitted a proposal on behalf of the CSTO heads of state. Let’s see how the West will respond to it.

Our goal is clear. We seek stability, fair opportunities for all states, including, of course, Russia. Gunboat diplomacy or democratic or any other sort of messianism is hardly an option if we want to accomplish this. I mentioned the rules which the West wants to base the international order on. There’s an “effective multilateralism” initiative which is openly opposed to multilateralism within the UN. There’s a tendency to interpret it as the need to return to Euro-Atlantic solidarity without exemptions. We are seeing this. I believe that more positive and sustainable results can be achieved through joining efforts based on the observance of the norms and principles of the UN Charter. We are upholding this consistently. President Putin’s initiative to hold a summit of the UN Security Council’s permanent members is part of our policy. It is imperative that they realise their responsibility under the UN Charter and act upon this responsibility. We must do our best to defuse this tension acting together. Heads of all UN Security Council permanent member states gave their consent. The coronavirus pandemic thwarted our efforts to agree on specific dates. However, we are working on it and agreeing on the concept and the potential outcomes of this summit.

We realise that the UN is not a static structure. It needs reform, including the reform of the UN Security Council. Our position is absolutely clear and consistent. It is necessary to increase the representation of the developing countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa if we want to make this body more representative. Only this approach will add value to reforming the UN Security Council. Everything else is up for discussion, but it is unlikely that an increase in Western representation on the Security Council will add diversity of opinions to this central body, which is in charge of peace and security on the planet. In any case, it is necessary to strive for the broadest possible agreement between the member states, so everything will depend on compromises. We are ready to discuss these compromises based on a balance of interests. In principle, this is the key to what needs to be accomplished if we want to ensure stability and harmony in the world inasmuch as this harmony is possible.

We believe that respect for the cultural and civilisational specifics of the modern world and refusal to impose one development model and values on everyone is an absolutely necessary step if we want to calm down the current situation. We see that this approach is shared by the overwhelming majority of participants in international communication. We disagree with the Western attempts to portray Russia as a country in isolation or a geopolitical loner. The viewpoint of our Western colleagues whereby everyone who disagrees with them is a lonely state probably has the right to exist.

However, we can see how the positions that we share are promoted within BRICS, the SCO, the CSTO and the CIS. The EAEU is actively working to align its plans with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. There is the G20. It has been in existence for quite a while, but was brought to the highest level and its meetings were made regular after the 2008 crisis. At first they met twice a year, then once a year. The G20 is the recognition of the fact that the G7 (and even the G8 in its old format) is not capable of resolving all international problems. The G20 includes the G7, the BRICS countries and a number of other like-minded states. The recognition that the G20 is necessary in order to develop generally acceptable approaches based on the balance of interests is a highly symptomatic trend.

Reviewing peace problems should not be driven by ideology, but rather be approached on the basis of equality. President Putin’s initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership is going in the same vein. The partnership is supposed to unite continental efforts with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN and be open to all countries of our vast continent, including the EU states in the long run. This is a long process, but it is crucial to set this goal.

Russia’s proposals regarding strategic stability, arms control and European security are indicative of our constant readiness to achieve mutual understanding. You are aware of our position on renewing the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (START), a moratorium on deploying ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles and de-escalating tensions along the Russia-NATO contact line. We came up with a proposal to agree on an arrangement that the exercises on both sides are conducted at a distance from the contact line, and also agree on the minimum distances that may not be violated by military aircraft and warships of Russia or NATO.

Conceptually, we came up with a proposal a long time ago (and failed to see any reciprocity on the part of the United States) to confirm, in the statement made by our countries, and perhaps in the Russia-NATO format, the unacceptability of nuclear war. Many of you have probably seen the recent remarks by US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, where he almost ridiculed our proposal and called on any future US Administration to never agree with the statement on the unacceptability of nuclear war.

We believe that implementing these initiatives or, at least, a professional straight-to-the-point and substantive discussion of the subject, possibly along with other steps, would help improve the overall atmosphere in Russia-West relations.  Dialogue itself on these matters would improve it. But so far these ideas have been hanging in the air.

Leaving behind almost everything that has been achieved so far, including our proposals, Mr Billingslea puts forward confrontational ideas, including sanctions against all buyers of military products from Russia and China. This is a fairly telling philosophy, which, unfortunately, has not met any serious opposition in Washington so far.

If we take a close look at what we have heard from the North Atlantic camp so far, we can come to a conclusion that it has consciously opted for not just a policy of containment, but confrontation. Perhaps this approach underlies its unwillingness to admit that the world must change. We are now witnessing two opposite trends in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron is strongly promoting the EU’s strategic autonomy. The trend embodied by Germany is based on the assumption that defending Europe without the United States is impossible. We have already asked about whom they want to defend it from, but haven’t received a clear answer yet. Given this, multipolarity, which Yevgeny Primakov foresaw many years ago, has shown its objective nature. In an effort to stop it, they are doing whatever it takes in order to minimise the number of potential poles that have the strength and courage to uphold national interests.

One of Washington’s primary goals is to make the EU lose its strategic independence and return to the fold of Euro-Atlantic unity, where everyone is aware of who pays the piper and calls the tune.

Despite the above, we are open to an equal dialogue. Most importantly, our counterparts must be willing to engage. We will keep the communication channels open until they are. Our proposals and initiatives remain on the negotiating table. They have been reiterated many times. It is enough for our partners to know that they remain valid. However, in order to move ahead, we need our Western colleagues to respond to them.

Keeping open the channels for a dialogue on all matters, we will continue to work on the newly available opportunities in the economy, culture, science and people-to-people contacts. We do not fence ourselves off from this. Those who want to impose their agenda on us and ignore our status of a subject in international affairs must understand that we are not going to either make excuses or seek approval for our actions. Threats, sanctions or attempts to come up with other punishments are absolutely pointless and counterproductive. It is strange that the West has not realised this so far.

We do not need interaction with the West any more than the West needs Russia and what it has to offer. If our Western colleagues prefer to stick to certain rules and concepts that they themselves invented when they talk with each other, this is up to them. They can build a dialogue with other participants in international life, including Russia, solely on the basis of a generally accepted code of conduct. You can call it the rules enshrined in the UN Charter, namely, respect for the sovereign equality of states, the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We are pursuing our own foreign policy, which has taken shape over the past two decades. It is aimed at ensuring the country’s security and creating the most favourable external environment for achieving our internal development goals. We are aware that the goal of the West is to prevent us from creating this particular external environment that is beneficial for our internal development. Everything that is being done to contain Russia is clearly done to this end. Attempts to destroy external opportunities that can be used to promote Russia’s growth continue unabated, but, in any case, there’s more to the world than the West. In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we wanted to become part of something, but we now realise that there isn’t much we can become part of. At least, the West is not building anything of its own. Indeed, President Macron has come up with a proposal to conduct an analytical and philosophical dialogue about whether modern capitalism can meet the needs of the people and resolve related problems.

If we take Western development models, we have no place to fit in. The coronavirus, as if everything else wasn’t enough, showed it very convincingly. We need to build something ourselves. This is a fairly ambitious and complex goal, but it calls for immediate action.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

November 27, 2020

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

While this press conference contains a shorter Belarus update, it has a wider context and is posted to illustrate Foreign Minister Lavrov’s clear expression of irritation with the west, which he now covers in each of his routine press conferences.  In this one, he handles among other topics, protests across the world, Heiko Maas, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE), International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner being silent and not doing their jobs, as well as strategic stability.

Joint session of the collegiums of the Russian and Belarusian Foreign Ministries, November 26, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held a joint session of the collegiums of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. By tradition, it took place in a confidential and truly friendly atmosphere.

Using this opportunity, I would like to thank again our Belarusian friends for their traditional hospitality and excellent organisation of work. We highly value these annual meetings in the format of members of the collegiums and other representatives of the two ministries’ top management. They allow us to discuss in detail the most urgent international issues that involve the interests of our countries and need to be addressed.

Despite the complicated epidemiological situation, we managed to meet offline and talk face to face. We had four items on our agenda: relations of our countries with the European Union, participation in UN peacekeeping missions (in part, in the context of the prospects of the CSTO’s involvement in the UN peacekeeping activities), cooperation in the EAEU on forming the Greater Eurasian Partnership and ways of ensuring international information security.

We achieved specific agreements on all of these issues. They are reflected in a resolution that we signed in addition to the plan of consultations between our foreign ministries in 2021. We also spoke about broader cooperation in international organisations, including the CIS, CSTO, EAEU, UN and OSCE.

We and our Belarusian colleagues had to state that unfortunately our US-led Western partners continue persistently promoting their narrow selfish interests in a bid to preserve their hegemony in the world arena. They are using the concept of the “rules-based” world order, setting it directly against universal, commonly recognised standards of international law, including the UN Charter.

We are concerned about the attempts by the Western countries to establish control over international organisations, up to and including privatisation of their secretariats. When this fails, they try to replace collective work in universal formats with private get-togethers where all those who agree with the Western policy make decisions that are later presented as multilateral and binding. It is hardly possible to make us follow these rules. The overwhelming majority of countries are firmly committed to the old, tried-and-tested principle – respect for international law, primarily the UN Charter.

We noted numerous facts of crude interference by the US and those who follow in its wake (I am referring to some European capitals) in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The dirty methods of colour revolutions continue to be used. These include manipulation of public opinion, instigation and support of overtly anti-government forces and contribution to their radicalisation. We are seeing how these methods are being applied to the Republic of Belarus. We spoke about this in detail today both with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who received us before this meeting.

We were informed in great detail about the current developments in Belarus. We are not indifferent to them. The Republic of Belarus is our ally and strategic partner and also a fraternal nation. We are interested in a calm and stable situation in that country. This will be facilitated by the Constitutional reform that was launched by the Belarusian leadership as a major transformation of the political, economic and legal systems.

We believe the Belarusian people are wise and always act in a balanced manner. They are capable of resolving their problems without any outside prompting or obtrusive proposals on unwanted mediation. It is obvious that attempts to jeopardise normalisation are being made. There are many examples of this: a desire to radicalise the protesters, encouraging people to engage in subversion and high treason, which are made, in part, from abroad.

Today we again reviewed in detail the entire range of our ties and ways of protecting the interests of each of our countries, as well as the interests of the Union State of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation.

I would like to emphasise again that we are content with our joint discussion. We will carry out everything we have agreed on today.

Question (addressed to both ministers): On November 18, 2020, your German counterpart Heiko Maas accused the authorities of Belarus of violently suppressing peaceful protests. Having said this, he urged the Council of Europe to use its instruments for monitoring the situation even in those European countries that do not want to join the organisation. Could you comment on this, please?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Vladimir Makei):  We took note of how Germany took over the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE). German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas first made a speech at a closed CMCE meeting and then held a news conference. His speech was unconventional for the presidency of this pan-European body because the main goal of the Council of Europe, which is recorded in its statute, is to promote greater unity of all European countries. By definition, the President, all the more so in the Council of Europe, must focus on enhancing unity in his future work rather than stir up confrontation.

It is no secret that at the CMCE meeting prior to that news conference, Heiko Maas presented his programme for the next sixth months in a politicised vein and unacceptable tone, in a crude, undiplomatic manner. He made a number of Russophobic statements. He had grievances not only as regards the Republic of Belarus but also made groundless Russophobic accusations in respect of Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and southeastern Ukraine. His opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh agreement also sounded rather strange.

At the news conference Mr Maas urged everyone “to respect the rules-based order.” Our Western colleagues are not going to respect international law as a matter of principle. He did say that the principles of the Council of Europe must be imposed by using relevant instruments, including on those countries that are not members of the Council of Europe. I consider this absolutely unacceptable.

It is indeed strange that of all countries it is Germany that has recently decided to act as a driver of aggressive approaches to the countries that are not NATO or EU members.

Those who are objective and pay attention to double standards will note that neither Mr Maas, nor other Western representatives or UN human rights agencies have said a word about rather serious incidents in France and Germany. There were protests by yellow vests in France, demonstrations against COVID restrictions in Germany and some other countries, and protests against a ban on abortions in Poland. They were dispersed in a very tough manner.

International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, stayed silent. Human rights champions in France covered the yellow vests protests in a completely different manner than they cover events in Russia and Belarus. Only in the beginning did they cautiously urge the sides to overcome their differences. But later the yellow vests began to encounter a tough police response. In the estimate of French human rights activists, almost 15,000 rubber bullets were shot at the protesters; 2,500 people were wounded and 12,000 detained, including 2,000 who were sentenced, in part, to real prison terms. But nobody speaks about this. This is considered normal because these are their compatriots. It is necessary to get rid of this attitude, especially for those who head the Council of Europe.

About a month ago, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric asked us in Moscow about our assessments of the events in the Republic of Belarus. She received our answers and inquired whether the Council of Europe can contribute to normalisation there in some way. We promised do convey her wish to those concerned. She emphasised that this will be possible only if the Republic of Belarus makes this request itself. But as you can see, the German Presidency has different plans in this respect. This is regrettable.

We will try to compel the Council of Europe, all the more so under the German Presidency, not to forget about the issues that the West is trying to hush up in many different ways. This applies to discrimination against Russian speakers in the Baltic states, the disgraceful lack of citizenship, and the so-called reforms in the field of education and language in Ukraine that are aimed only against the Russian language, as distinct from the languages of other national minorities because they are EU languages. We will not accept the efforts of the Council of Europe (or some of its members) to hush up the facts of the purposeful harassment of the Russian media, not to mention the glorification of Nazism. The German Presidency must remember all this and must not divert the Council of Europe to the discussion of issues that are more comfortable for the West and justify its positions, while ignoring the problems that have become chronic for our Western colleagues.

Question: What are the prospects for concluding new strategic stability treaties with the United States once the new administration is in office? Last year, President Trump mentioned a new trilateral document involving Russia, the United States and China. What will happen now?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a long-standing matter. True, the Trump administration was consumed (I can’t come up with any other word) by a desire to involve the People’s Republic of China in disarmament talks. Initially, they talked about the need to include the PRC in the START Treaty which is still in force, although this is impossible by definition. Then, they proposed creating a new treaty and not renewing the current one, because it’s outdated and bilateral, whereas they would like to take a step towards multilateral disarmament and arms control. Their position was erratic. As a result, they came up with a proposal to extend the treaty for another year, but on the condition that we recount each other’s warheads and put in overseers at the defence plants’ checkpoints. Counting warheads and ignoring carriers and innovative technologies that directly affect strategic stability is a frivolous and unprofessional approach.

Earlier this year, we made proposals to our US colleagues about structuring our future dialogue on arms control and non-proliferation. They stood their ground and insisted on warheads alone. They have long been interested in Russian tactical nuclear weapons, hence their interest in warheads at the expense of everything else. We say we will be ready to discuss non-strategic nuclear weapons, including warheads, when the Americans withdraw their tactical weapons from other countries. In Europe, these weapons are deployed in five NATO countries. Also, NATO structures conduct training in handling nuclear weapons for military personnel from non-nuclear countries in flagrant violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

With regard to the People’s Republic of China, President Putin has repeatedly stated that we have nothing against it, but the decision is up to the PRC. China has officially and publicly stated on several occasions that it is not going to join the talks with Russia and the United States, since its nuclear arsenal is an order of magnitude smaller than the corresponding arsenals of Moscow and Washington. We respect this position. If and when the Americans persuade China to join multilateral talks, we will have no objection to that. We will be willing to participate in them if the PRC agrees to this of its own accord. But we are not going to persuade Beijing to do so just at the whim of the Americans. But if and when a multilateral format in disarmament and arms control talks is created, we will push for France and the United Kingdom to join it as well.

When we told the Americans about this, they told us that these counties are their allies and they vouch for them. Precisely because they are allies of the United States, we would like to see them at the negotiating table, if the talks become multilateral. Washington’s absolutely hostile doctrine towards Russia cannot but raise questions about the motives of the US allies, whether in Europe or Asia. When they enter into a military alliance with a country that declares us a hostile state, we must draw our own conclusions regarding these allies.

I don’t see how we can seriously discuss anything related to the continuation of the arms control process with the Trump administration. We do not know yet what kind of administration will move into the White House or what kind of policy it will conduct. The voting results have not yet been announced officially, but there’s already an understanding that the change-of-command process is underway. Let’s wait and see what kind of assessments will eventually form in the minds of those who will shape the US strategic stability policy after January 21, 2021.

Question (addressed to both ministers): Popular protests have been growing around the world for various reasons, including political ones. The law enforcement reaction is the same everywhere, going as far as the use of force and special equipment. At the same time, such events in Belarus are receiving heightened attention from foreign politicians. What do you think is the reason?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already cited examples of protests being suppressed in France. Those drastic figures are rarely revealed to the general public. Human rights agencies in the UN system, as well as numerous human rights rapporteurs are trying their best to avoid any topics that are uncomfortable for Western representatives.

Speaking of the protests in Paris, there is a huge wave of protest against the global security bill, which includes a ban on photographing, filming or otherwise identifying law enforcement officers. I can imagine the kind of racket a bill like that would have sparked if it were proposed in Russia or Belarus. The French public and human rights groups are concerned, yet we can see no reaction from international bodies. The police used water cannons and noise grenades during rallies against the bill. The protesters, too, provoked the police, using stones and sticks. One police officer was injured. And yet, I repeat, this does not prevent the West from lecturing anyone who is not their ally.

Voting processes in Russia and Belarus have been scrutinised through a magnifying glass. When a similar story happens in the United States, it is declared “normal, it’s democracy, and everything is just fine.” Though, even respected and influential think tanks in the United States openly write about “the problems with the US electoral system.” To put it mildly, that system does not fully comply with the principles of democracy or the rule of law. They write these things themselves, but our international partners prefer to ignore them and concentrate on the countries whose “regimes” they find undesirable.

When UN rapporteurs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, describe violent clashes in Western capitals, they urge everyone to find a solution through dialogue. When they criticise us or Belarus, they demand a change of the system. This difference is visible to the naked eye. We have long lost any illusions about what kind of standards the West is promoting and how they use double standards. We will fight, and will defend our position at the UN bodies, where these issues should be considered. We will not allow the vices that the Western community is demonstrating to be forgotten.

Question (addressed to both ministers): How can you comment on Pavel Latushko’s last interview, where he spoke about the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow?

Sergey Lavrov: Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has just shown me part of that interview. Not only did he mention the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow – he said such contacts were underway and were coordinated. He shamelessly declared he could not cite any names, but mentioned “contacts at a sufficiently high level.” He speculated whether I will be allowed to tell my Belarusian friends about it. I will answer briefly: this is a blatant lie, and it once again says something about those trying to make some kind of career with foreign handouts.

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.

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