Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

April 22, 2019

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview for Glavnoye with Olga Belova programme on Zvezda network, Moscow, April 21, 2019

http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3622162?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw&_101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw_languageId=en_GB

Olga Belova: Mr Lavrov, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview today. Thank you for your time. We are recording this interview on the eve of the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election, so if you would allow me, we will begin with this subject, since it is currently making headlines. Against this backdrop we cannot fail but to recall the events that took place five years ago during the 2014 election in Ukraine. Since then the question of whether Russia had to recognise the outcome of the 2014 election resurfaces from time to time in the public space. What will happen this time around? Does recognising this election make any sense? We understand all too well that Russia has many formal and moral reasons to break up all contacts with the Ukrainian authorities.

Sergey Lavrov: Five years ago when the presidential election was called in Ukraine, it happened in the aftermath of an armed and anti-constitutional government coup that, for some reason, was carried out within a day after the signing of an agreement between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich. Moreover, foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France assumed the role of guarantors under this agreement that was also proactively backed by the US. But the next morning the opposition announced on Maidan Square that they had seized power and had formed a government of victors. This is when they began splitting their people apart. This agreement was signed on February 21, 2014, and if we recall its text, the first paragraph sets forth the need to form a “national unity government.” Instead, they established a government of victors, and started treating everyone else like losers. They put forward multiple requirements that ran counter to the interests of a significant part of people in Ukraine, including minorities such as Russians and Russian speakers. All this brought about serious problems and triggered a referendum in Crimea as a response to the threats made by nationalists to expel Russians from the peninsula and attempts to take over the Supreme Council building by force.

Let me mention one more event. In mid-April, that is before the election was called, but after the referendum in Crimea, Geneva hosted a meeting attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, yours truly, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, and then acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrey Deshitsa. At this meeting we agreed on a one-page declaration, and its key provision consisted of supporting the intention of the Ukrainian authorities to implement federalisation, that is to decentralise the country with the involvement of all regions. A representative of the new Ukrainian government that came to power in Kiev following a coup signed this document, guaranteeing federalisation with the involvement of all regions of the country.

But this commitment was instantly forgotten. Against this backdrop, when people started to state their intention to run for president, President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko was saying on every street corner that he was a “president of peace” and would settle the conflict in a matter of two or three weeks. It is for this reason that Western capitals, Paris and Berlin, urged Russia to refrain from making a statement rejecting the election outcome. We did refrain in order to give them a chance.

In early June 2014, President-elect Petr Poroshenko met with President of France Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of Russia Vladimir Putin, when they all attended celebrations of the allied Normandy landings. The very fact that Vladimir Putin took part in this meeting, proposed by France and Germany, attested to Russia’s commitment to peace in Donbass and protecting the rights of those who were firm in their refusal to accept an armed coup. We proceeded from the premise that Petro Poroshenko was primarily elected for this promise to resolve the problem peacefully. With this in mind, I would refrain from stirring up the past on this particular matter.

By the way, during the Normandy format meetings that followed, Petr Poroshenko proved that he was not a “president of the peace,” and was forced by the developments on the ground to sign the Minsk Agreements. Russia also believed that it was unacceptable for him to consistently fool his people, while also lying to his curators abroad, since they were irritated by Poroshenko “getting out of hand.” I am talking about the Europeans represented within the Normandy Format, namely France and Germany. When the Minsk Agreements were signed everyone let out a sigh of relief, considering that this created a clear path to peace, especially since the UN Security Council approved the Minsk Agreements, thus implementing them into international law. However, in this sphere as well Petr Poroshenko proved to be very apt in dodging responsibility, turning for protection to the US administration which does not encourage Ukraine to abide by the Minsk Agreements. The Europeans found themselves in an awkward situation.

This was a look at the past, but coming back to your question, we have seen electoral programmes released by Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky. We see how they approached the run-off. I have the impression that what matters the most for them at this point is to attract voters by some kind of a constructive agenda in order to secure victory. This is what their efforts are all about. I would rather not draw any final conclusions on what Vladimir Zelensky’s policy will look like if he is elected president, which is a done deal as far as observers are concerned. I would refrain from paying too much attention to declarations coming from his campaign. We have to wait for the second round results when they will have to deal with real things instead of campaign slogans and propaganda. Only then will we understand what this person as president thinks about the millions of his compatriots who speak Russian, love the Russian language and culture and want to live according to their values and the values of the winners in the Great Patriotic War, instead of being guided by values that extoll Roman Shukhevich, Stepan Bandera and other Petlyuras.

Olga Belova: You said we need to wait for the president-elect to take actual steps. Everyone realises that it is imperative to sit down and talk no matter what happens. What should Kiev’s first actions, statements and steps be so that, to use your words, Moscow “gives them another chance” to a peaceful resolution of the situation?

Sergey Lavrov: Most importantly, the new or old government should be able to talk and reach agreements and to respect international law and Ukraine’s international obligations. Such obligations include an international legal instrument which is the UN Security Council resolution, which approved the Minsk Agreements. A direct dialogue between Kiev, on the one hand, and Donetsk and Lugansk, on the other hand, lies at the core of these agreements. This will be the key to success. To reiterate, we heard about the plans to continue the settlement in the election statements, in particular, on the part of Mr Zelensky and his staff, but this time with the involvement of the United States and Great Britain and without direct dialogue with the proclaimed republics − DPR and LPR.

When contenders for a post make such statements, they will then be somehow tied in with such a position in the future. I hope that life will make them realise that there’s no alternative to implementing the Minsk Agreements and, in any case, that there’s no alternative to direct dialogue with the people who represent an enormous part of your nation, if you still consider them to be such, of course.

Olga Belova: We see that so far no one has been talking to them, and there’s no direct dialogue with the republics. Recently, the DPR published the foreign policy concept which shows a certain dualism: on the one hand, there’s a commitment to the Minsk Agreements and, on the other hand, the Republic of Donbass recognises itself as an independent state. What does Moscow think about the dualism of this document? What is your vision of the future of that region following the elections?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see anything unusual here, because these republics proclaimed sovereignty five years ago, in May 2014, responding to what we just talked about, namely, radical nationalists who came out with strong anti-Russian statements and launched an attack on the language, cultural and religious rights of ethnic minorities. It started a long time ago. These republics responded by declaring independence. Let’s remind our Western colleagues, if they ever take any interest in these unpleasant facts from recent history, that these republics did not attack the rest of Ukraine. The rest of Ukraine declared them terrorists. This, of course, is a stunning phenomenon in modern diplomacy and politics.

The rest of Ukraine was represented by the putschists who seized power in Kiev and launched an attack on millions of their fellow citizens demanding that they submit to illegal authorities. So, as I understand it, independence was simply reaffirmed in these doctrinal documents adopted in Donbass. But after this independence was declared five years ago in May − returning to what we think about the then elections and the election of Poroshenko solely because he proclaimed that his goal was immediate peace and an immediate agreement on resolving the Donbass problem by way of talks, Russia talked these republics into agreeing to a political process.

Political and diplomatic efforts were interrupted by the military actions of Kiev, which did not respect the truce and ceasefire agreement. There was the August offensive which ended badly for the Ukrainian armed forces and, most importantly, claimed a huge number of human lives, followed by the January offensive in Debaltsevo. Only after receiving a rebuff, did Petr Poroshenko sit down at the negotiating table. That’s how the Minsk Agreements were signed.

I was in Minsk and saw how the leaders of the four countries spent 17 hours at the negotiating table taking short breaks, mostly talking between themselves, and sometimes inviting us as experts to clarify certain fine points. It took considerable effort to convince the leaders of the DPR and LPR who were present in Minsk to give the go-ahead to the Minsk Agreements. We did it. We convinced them to once again demonstrate their willingness, even determination, if you will, to achieve peace with the rest of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the way the current Ukrainian authorities see our efforts is disappointing. Despite provocations, we will push for these agreements to be implemented. We are a country that is capable of reaching agreements.

Olga Belova: That is, if I understood you correctly, Moscow is still capable and willing to continue to influence the leadership of these republics? Are we going to push them to sit down and talk as best we can, or not? I’m asking this because the leaders of the republics have made it clear that they have parted ways with Kiev.

Sergey Lavrov: You said there was a dual decision to reaffirm independence and commitment to the Minsk Agreements. To a certain extent (I will not frame it in terms of a percentage), this is the result of our influence on them and our call for them not to follow the example of the Ukrainian authorities which break down and trample upon their own promises. We will continue to exert this influence. We have long been calling, above all, the Germans and the French, to realise their responsibility for Kiev’s behaviour, because the Minsk Agreements involve, above all, proactive steps on the part of the Ukrainian authorities. The Contact Group is the only format where Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev sit down at one table with the representatives of the OSCE and Russia. It took an inordinate amount of effort to create it, primarily because Mr Poroshenko began to back pedal shortly after the Minsk Agreements had been signed, and refused to maintain direct dialogue with the republics. But we forced our Ukrainian colleagues do that. Although in practical work − the Contact Group meets every month −  and even more often than that the Ukrainian government outwardly sabotages everything that was agreed upon, be it security, separating forces and means, the political process, coordinating the formula for conducting elections or providing this region with a special status in accordance with the Minsk Agreements. There is an open and blatant sabotage. We need to understand how the election results will affect the Ukrainian delegation’s activities in the Contact Group, and what kind of people will be delegated there.

Olga Belova: Indeed, now everything depends on how the presidential election will end, including the situation in the Kerch Strait, which was endlessly brought up in the first part of the campaign, before the first round. How harshly are we ready to respond if another provocation is made, especially considering that NATO has declared its readiness to support Ukrainian warships if they undertake another breakthrough?

Sergey Lavrov: Morally and politically – maybe they will support it. But I do not see a situation where NATO ships will join these adventurers for a military provocation. I do not foresee such a situation, and, considering the information that we have, I have reason to believe that this has already been decided at NATO.

Olga Belova: So all the support they will be getting is just words?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably, as it was the last time, a condemnation, and once again they will come up with some new sanctions. As we have said many times, we have no problem with Ukrainian warships passing from the Black Sea to their ports in the Sea of ​​Azov. The only condition is to comply with the safety requirement for navigation along the Kerch Strait. It is a complex stretch of water, which is quite shallow and doesn’t go in a straight line and requires compulsory pilotage as well as coordination when it comes to the weather conditions. All ships — and there are thousands of them — stop at the entrance to the Kerch Strait, report to the channel operators, pilotage, recommendations, and, depending on the weather forecast, move on to the Sea of ​​Azov, as was done before Ukraine’s warships last November. They passed smoothly without any incidents.

In November 2018, Petr Poroshenko, obviously during the election heat, tried to create a scandal to have reason to appeal to the West again, complaining of Russia harassing him, and insisting on more sanctions. He is better at it than many others. So the warships tried to secretly pass through the Kerch Strait, trespassing into our territorial waters – the part that was Russia’s territorial waters even before the referendum in Crimea. What they did actually boiled down to probing the limits of those who ensure the security of the Kerch Strait and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

I must note that among the numerous arguments our opponents seem to forget is the fact that the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea actually implies a so-called unimpeded passage through the territorial waters of a foreign state, including military vessels, subject to several conditions. One of them is the mandatory fulfillment of security requirements, which in this case was grossly violated. The second is that a coastal state cannot allow military ships to maneuver through its territorial waters. That is, you either pass complying with the rules or you violate the Convention. What they did was military maneuvers, trying to hide from our border guards. This much is clear to all without exception. I have no doubt about it.

That we have nothing to hide can be confirmed by a very simple fact.

In mid-December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to allow German specialists to observe the process to better understand what the hitch was and to study the conditions for passing through the Kerch Strait. Vladimir Putin immediately agreed. We reaffirmed the agreement and asked for their names and dates that would suit them. They made a pause, and then suddenly my colleague, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said at a meeting in January when I reminded him of this that they wanted to bring French experts along.

I said that was new, but I was confident that our President would also agree to French specialists being on this study tour. But after some time, the Germans sent us the concept of their visit, which was not a single visit at all but involved establishing a kind of permanent observation mission, which would be associated with the OSCE mission in Donbass, and would also include Ukrainians. All of them would be staying in our territory doing I do not know what.

Olga Belova: You mean they actually wanted to come and stay there?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they certainly wanted to stay. The Germans are usually very punctual and precise people. When Angela Merkel asked Vladimir Putin whether their experts could come and see, he said yes… Apparently, after that, they consulted with their big brothers.

Olga Belova: So they just thought it would be a good reason to enter and station their ships there?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, but this is an absolutely hopeless story. At the same time, I can assure with all responsibility that if the Germans and the French still have an interest in visiting and seeing it firsthand, so as not to rely on the gossip that the Ukrainian side spreads, they are very welcome.

Olga Belova: You believe that Russia will not directly clash with NATO ships in the Kerch Strait because NATO will not have the courage to sail there.

But there is another place where Russian interests clash with those of its Western partners, which is Venezuela. Will Washington decide to stage a military intervention there? What do you think of this? If yes, how far is Russia ready to go in this region? Are we prepared for a direct and tough stand-off in the region that would culminate in a peace enforcement operation against those who don’t want this, provided that all legal formalities are complied with?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t want to bring up this scenario. I am convinced that Washington does not yet completely understand that its line regarding Venezuela has become deadlocked. They believed that the people of Venezuela would rebel against the incumbent government from the very outset, that they would be disappointed with the government’s inability to ensure the normal operation of the socioeconomic sector. Our Western colleagues took care of this: The United States froze the Venezuelan oil company’s accounts, and the United Kingdom impounded the country’s gold reserves. They hoped to stifle Venezuela using economic methods. When the crisis was in its early stage, they also organised humanitarian relief aid deliveries and tried to cross the Venezuelan border. Obviously, that was a very cheap show. Yes, they said all the options were on the table, but they obviously expected a blitzkrieg. However, they admit that no blitzkrieg took place. Indeed, the country faces a very complicated economic situation which was complicated and continued to deteriorate even before all this began. We repeatedly advised the government of Venezuela, at its request, how to launch economic reforms. Quite possibly, someone did not like this, and they also decided to halt this process, so as to prevent the situation from working in favour of the Maduro government. They decided to further stifle Venezuela by economic and financial methods. When the blitzkrieg petered out, when it became clear that the people of Venezuela had their own pride and a feeling of national dignity, when they became obviously insulted by a situation when, speaking from abroad, US Vice President Mike Pence noted that he was appointing Juan Guaido as Acting President, one should be very far from historical experience while hoping that the people of Venezuela would “swallow” this.

Today, when the Americans continue to say that all options are on the table, I don’t doubt the fact that they are assessing the consequences of an audacious military undertaking. It is highly unlikely that anyone in Latin America will support them. To the best of my knowledge, they are counting on one or two countries. I have no doubts, and I know that the Latin Americans have a great feeling of personal dignity. This would pose a challenge to all of them, all the more so as a righteous rejection of such a dictate has been accumulating for several months already, especially when the Americans de-mothballed the Monroe Doctrine and said it was quite appropriate to use this doctrine in the current situation.

On April 17, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States was bringing its own version of freedom to the region. And what version of freedom does the region prefer? Would you like to ask them how they perceive their own freedom?

I hope very much that a line which stipulates talks and which is conducted by Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay and the Caribbean Community will prevail. President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro is ready for such talks, and he has repeatedly confirmed this in public. Juan Guaido emphatically and ostentatiously refuses, comprehending Washington’s support and counting on this support alone. It appears that he has copied the bad example of President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko who also behaved in the same way with regard to the need for conducting a national dialogue that would involve all political forces, and he hoped that Washington would shield him whatever the situation.

Olga Belova: Washington says it is bringing freedom to the region. But what is it that we are bringing to the region?

Sergey Lavrov: We want international law to be respected in the region as well as in the world at large. This means that states build their relations via dialogue and a balance of interests takes shape. This also means that we listen to each other and want to negotiate mutually beneficial security, economic and humanitarian projects as well as projects in any other spheres, where countries and peoples operate. Our relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) rest precisely on this basis. We are finalising talks with the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR). There is an agreement with the Central American Integration System (CAIS) and a number of other sub-regional organisations.

We have even-handed and good relations with practically all the Latin American countries. We don’t force anyone to do things we would like to get as unilateral advantages. The entire US policy towards Russia comes down to the US ambassador in any country visiting, with envious regularity, government agencies and demanding that they don’t receive Russian delegations, nor send delegations to Russia, nor trade with Russia, nor buy anything from Russia, particularly military products, and the like.

You can’t conceal information in today’s world. We learn this the moment these “visits” occur, the more so that the Americans are not particularly hiding the fact. They publicly say: Don’t communicate with Russia. It is Russia along with Iran and Cuba that are to blame for what is going on in Venezuela. They demand that not a single Russian soldier be found in Venezuela because the US wants it this way: no one located outside of the Western Hemisphere has the right to be there at all. Our explanation that the Russian military are performing contractual obligations servicing military equipment that was supplied on fully legitimate terms way back in the 2000s are simply disregarded. The fact that the US military and other NATO personnel – Britons and Canadians – have filled Ukraine is not mentioned. It looks like they proceed from logic suggested by the saying “What is allowed to Jupiter, is not allowed to the bull.” This is rotten logic, very much so, and it will not help our US colleagues. I am quite hopeful that they will come to understand this. Yes, within some historically very brief period preceding the next electoral cycles in the US, they are likely to reap certain benefits because they are brazenly putting pressure on countries that are unable to resist them. But in the long term, increasingly more countries will proceed from the assumption that America is just an unreliable and impolite partner that is abusing its influence in the world. The UN Charter insists on sovereign equality of states. We build our relations precisely in this way.

I cannot refrain from mentioning the fact that the United States has recently added a frontal attack on Orthodox Christianity to the arsenal of its policy towards Russia. Given that the Russian Orthodox Church was a world Orthodoxy leader, the crazy gamble involving the conferral of autocephality on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, known today as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a gamble undertaken by the Istanbul Patriarch Bartholomew, has been – we have enough facts to claim this – inspired and supported by Washington. Today Washington is engaged in tough diplomatic action as it works with other Orthodox Churches that have refused to support the Istanbul Patriarch’s self-willed decision. Its aim is to somehow make them recognise what has happened. This unceremonious and gross interference in church affairs is at odds with all diplomatic norms and international law in general. And this is deplorable.

We would like the United States to be a decent member of the world community. We are open to dialogue but their approach to relations is highly utilitarian and selfish.

They suggest that we and the Chinese cooperate with them when it comes to Afghanistan and North Korea because they are unable to operate successfully on their own there. And we accept this because a settlement in Afghanistan, on the Korean Peninsula and in Syria, on which we can communicate usefully, is also in our interests. We don’t dig in our heels and say that we will not negotiate on these issues if they don’t want to discuss other ones. Our position is more pragmatic. Russia is ready to work with all influential parties who see eye to eye with us and can help to achieve a settlement.

But generally their policy towards Russia is based solely on the wish to make us accept their unilateral domination and renounce international law. This is deplorable and cannot last ad infinitum. The Americans will be unable to sustain this course for long. They are antagonising a huge number of countries. So, it is in their best interests to come back to square one and start talking to all countries respectfully. Currently, they are doing this arrogantly, something that cannot help their interests.    

Olga Belova: We do need to talk, but so far talking to these Western partners of ours has been quite challenging. There is a saying: Those who do not want to talk with Sergey Lavrov will have to deal with Sergey Shoigu. This echoes what you have been saying. In your opinion, who is the main guardian of peace now, the military or the diplomats? What enables Russia to maintain parity: state-of-the-art armaments or the power of words? Who has priority at present?

Sergey Lavrov: When the Soviet Union was being dissolved, pro-democracy forces both here in Russia and in the West were ecstatic. There was a theory whereby the factor of strength in international relations was no longer relevant now that the bipolar world order was no more, the Cold War became a thing of the past, ideological differences faded away and we all came together on a strong democratic footing. This euphoric state persisted for several years. The situation was far from rosy of course, but as you may remember, in the 1990s Russia was young and proactive in its commitment to working with the US and NATO, all but deciding to join the alliance. However, disillusionment came very quickly. It dawned on everyone that behind the veil of these beautiful words the West meant only one thing: Russia was to give up on using the factor of strength in its policy, while the West would continue relying on it. Why was NATO still around after the Warsaw Pact was dissolved? How come we did not come together within the OSCE to transform it into a pan-European, Euro-Atlantic organisation without any western or eastern variants in order to address all questions without exception based on consensus? It did not happen. Of course, the plan they nurtured was to use Russia’s weakness in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in order to achieve an overwhelming military and strategic advantage.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this on numerous occasions. It became clear to us that our positive attitude towards the West was not reciprocal. The West continued to push NATO further east in violation of all possible promises, moving its military infrastructure to our borders, and there was no end in sight, especially when the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty. At this point, everything was clear. Decisions were taken, paving the way to the development of the weapons the President presented during his address last year to the Federal Assembly. Of course, it is highly regrettable that in today’s world no one will talk to you, unless you have a strong army and cutting-edge weapons.

Olga Belova: Has it become easier to talk?

Sergey Lavrov: When I was appointed to this post, the situation was already beginning to change. However, I would not say that talking was a challenge before, and that now things are easier. Unfortunately, the US, as our main partner, labelled Russia its “high-priority adversary,” as you have said. Later the US backtracked, and propelled China to this position. Later Russia was again on the list, and after that we were accompanied by China and Iran. They want to set their policy straight. They want to be in total control, but have yet to understand how this can be done. Sanctions work in some cases, but definitely not with Russia. They will not work with other countries that respect their history and identity.

We have no problems talking with the Europeans when it comes to relations with each specific country. There are challenges in our dialogue with NATO, since the US decided to convene meetings of the Russia-NATO Council with the sole purpose of lecturing us on Ukraine and other matters or criticising us for allegedly violating and dismantling the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. We do not intend to attend any meetings of this kind in the future. If they want to have a serious conversation, they have to convene a Russia-NATO Council meeting at the military level. The outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, General Curtis Scaparrotti, recently voiced regret over the lack of military-to-military interaction with Russia that existed even during the Cold War. Better late than never. Let us hope that his successor in this position is receptive to this advice. This is what we hope for.

We have a very good dialogue with each country of the European Union. Yes, we sometimes happen to disagree. We have problems with the Baltic countries, with Poland, but we are ready to talk about them. Especially because the Baltic states are our neighbours, and we have good trade and investment cooperation in business. There are also security issues, because NATO is pushing its units into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It is too close to our borders. At the same time, NATO is moving away from implementing the understandings we reached following the initiative of President of Finland Sauli Niinisto concerning flight safety over the Baltic. We responded to it; our military proposed ideas that would help allay concerns. It is possible to talk with everyone. On a bilateral basis, even the Baltic countries show interest: President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid has visited Moscow. We are talking in a neighbourly way about what we can do so that people can live comfortably and there would be no security concerns. But the collective platforms – NATO and the EU – are dominated by mutual responsibility: the Russophobic minority in the EU imposed sanctions on Russia, punishing us for supporting the will of the people of Crimea. This position of the European Union is now extended every six months, and no one can do anything, although individually, they assure us that the majority already understands that this is a dead end and something needs to be done. We are patient people, but as long as the EU as an organisation is not ready to restore all the mechanisms of our strategic partnership – we used to have summits twice a year, a ministerial council that oversaw more than 20 sectoral dialogues, four common spaces … All that was frozen because someone decided to try to “punish” us. Funny, honestly.

We are always open to honest, equal and respectful dialogue both through the military and through diplomatic channels. We have a very good tradition with a number of countries, in particular, with Italy and Japan, the 2 + 2 format, when Sergey Shoigu and I meet with our colleagues, the four of us. This is a very interesting format. It enables us to consider security issues through the prism of diplomacy and vice versa – purely military issues in foreign policy. We had such formats with the Americans and the British – but they froze them on their own initiative. But with the Italians and the Japanese, we continue these processes.

Olga Belova: I seem to understand why they froze them. Because when you two come to the negotiations, it’s simply impossible to resist you in such a duo.

Sergey Lavrov: Oh, don’t say that. We are modest people. Modest and polite.

Olga Belova: You’re modest and polite – but are you ready to give everyone a second chance, as with Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: Some do not need to be given a chance – they already rely on their national interests, not on what some foreign brother tells them. But if someone digs in their heels and expects an apology from us – well, we have nothing to apologise for. Our actions are guided by international law, and the UN Charter. We respect the right of any nation to determine its own future. This also applies to the rights of national minorities, in Crimea or anywhere else. We are always ready for dialogue.

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The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

April 13, 2019

by Le Saker Francophone for the Saker blog

Macron, the French president, always eager to take the center stage to show his dynamism, has received the two outsiders of the presidential election of Ukraine, Zelenski and Poroshenko, on the same day with 3 hours interval. On april 12th Zelinski is convened at L’Elysée at 3 pm then Poroshenko at 6 pm.

Le Monde, one of the few French newspaper to speak about that visit says: “It is Zelenski team who took the initiative for the meeting. For the young candidate, who see himself as an ‘Ukrainian Macron’ the interest is clear : to show its closeness with a president that is appreciated by the people of Ukraine, to show its international stature, and after being described as a puppet manipulated by the Russian, to show that his loyalty goes for the West… Mr Poroshenko has requested too an invitation and l’Elysée accepted it not to look as favoring one upon the other”.

The other media speaking about that visit is Sputnik France.

The French presidency said that the talks will be about bilateral relations and the cooperation in the frame of the Normandy agreement. No more details has been added. This vague declaration may hide some kind of “talks” that could be not politically correct enough to be publicly announced. One could think that the anglosionist system, whose Macron is a slavish representative, wants to “suggest” its instructions and conditions to the future Ukrainian president, especially Zelinski who got 30% of the votes for the first round while Poroshenko got only 16%.

Zelenski did not say anything about that planned meeting. Porochenko said that «the fate of the State, of security in Ukraine and in Europe too, in the whole continent, are at stake…and it is necessary to consider for some more sanctions against Russia”. Before coming to France, Poroshenko paid a visit to Merkel. But the spoke person of the German chancelier took the precaution to precise that it should not be seen as a support for the Ukrainian candidate.

The Western backers of Poroshenko looked puzzled by the high score of Zelenski, a guy they did not choose.

Johann Wadephul, vice president of the main party at the German parliament said “Ukraine cannot afford to bend on an unexperienced government, especially because of its conflict with Russia and difficult economic and social situation”.

After first saying that the USA will not interfere in Ukrainian election, Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine, said “today the people of Ukraine has to choose. Do they want somebody who just oppose the system and promise huge reforms or somebody who may have disappoint them but who has done more reforms for Ukraine than anybody else since 20 years, and is able to face Poutine”.

Even with this backing, the chance for Poroshenko to win look weak and “the West could insist for the two contender to get an agreement. If Poroshenko falsify the results, Zelenski will have to stay quiet. It is one of the option. But if they consider that Zelenski could make a suitable president for Ukraine they could try to convince him to give a good political position to Poroshenko” thinks Rostislav Ichtchenko, president of a Russian think tank.

“Macron want to evaluate Zelenski and the potential consequences if he becomes president. Especially for his relation with Russia. Poroshenkko has been invited only to be polite with him as the European Union has been backing him those last years”, says Bogdan Bezpalko another Russian expert.

After the meeting, Zelenski declared to the Ukrainian media «What pleased me with Macron, what characterize him on the contrary of many politicians is that he has an excellent sense of humor. Then I am now not the only one”. And that they talked about “the most important problems in Ukraine, especially how to stop the war with Donbass”.

Of course The Kremlin reacted with irony to that convocation. Dmitri Peskov is curious to know how Arsen Avakov will denounce that French interference in an Ukrainian election with the same virulence as he denounces Russian interference. On her side, Maria Zakharova reminded that French and Western interference are not new in Ukraine, and that “…foreign ministers, including the French one, personally gave support to the Maidan demonstrators, in the very centre of Kiev». Then, to tease Macron she added “For some months we observe the Yellow Vets movement. Did you see Foreign ministers of other countries – europeans, arabs or americans – coming in the middle of the crowds to push them to take over the Elysée palace or to ask for the destitution of the government?”

Coincidentally, Hubert Fayard, the Donbass representative in France, has been arrested and put in custody for “procurement”. The story is unclear as “an Ukrainian woman he just met proposed to lend him some money”. The day after police searched his house and arrested him for procurement.

Gone with the Wind: The Disastrous Passion of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Gone with the Wind: The Disastrous Passion of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

MARTIN SIEFF | 06.03.2019 | WORLD / EUROPE

Gone with the Wind: The Disastrous Passion of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron of France have run their once great nations into the ground as rage, frustration, poverty and fear erupt across the streets of Western Europe. But Merkel and Macron are not concerned: They have eyes only for each other. Their mutual regard and unlimited support for each other’s catastrophic policies continue unabated.

Merkel has been in power for more than 13 years and is old enough to be Macron’s mother. Macron is a neophyte of less than two years in power, though with an inflated sense of self-regard as ridiculous as the comic character of Mr. Toad in the British children’s book, “The Wind in the Willows.”

Merkel and Macron share the same assumptions, were raised up by the same forces and are endless feted and fraudulently praised by the same worthless pundits.

Both are arrogant elitist intellectuals. Both believe in stripping and shrinking the social functions and responsibilities of the state towards the weak and the poor. Both agree that the state should help and protect large national corporations and that ordinarily people rate a poor second to this: In fact they do not rate at all.

Both believe that they and their regimes represent the absolute perfections of human achievement and therefore must be replicated around the world, instantly if possible. Merkel looks to advance regime change to the east, across all of Eurasia. Macron in his faux-Mussolini style dreams of being the neo-Napoleonic wise leader of the Mediterranean, orchestrating the remaking of the Maghreb across North Africa and of the Arab Middle East.

Both leaders see themselves selfless, visionary internationalists and regard Presidents Donald Trump in the United States and Vladimir Putin in Russia with fastidious distaste because they presume to put the interests of their own peoples first.

Both Merkel and Macron have condescending contempt for their own peoples and believe the native populations of their countries need injections of millions of immigrants from around the world as quickly as possible. Neither of them cares a fig for the values of the Christian civilizations that built and embodied their nations for more than a millennium. Instead, they openly despise those who take their national heritage seriously.

Yet there is also a strange, even creepy mutual attraction between the aging German chancellor and the (supposedly) young and dynamic French president.

Neither of them ever had any children. Merkel likes to play the wise and experienced stateswoman to younger, callow world leaders who share her superficial fashionable assumptions. Barack Obama of the United States filled that role for her and Obama, whose ignorance of affairs outside the borders of the US was proverbial, eagerly appreciated her condescension.

As Obama left office, he memorably praised Merkel as his closest friend among world leaders. This comment, farcically, stunned British Prime Minister David Cameron whose spin machine had for six years pumped out the reassuring fairy tale that Cameron was the closest confidant to Obama and his trusted sidekick on the world scene.

Macron has always gravitated to older women. His wife is 24 years older than he is and they met when she was his teacher in high school.

In the United States and Britain, this kind of misalliance would have been fodder for the tabloid newspapers. The National Enquirer and the Daily Mail could have run with prurient speculations on the nature of their relationship for years. In France, where no human proclivity surprises people they take this kind of thing in their stride.

Still, for Macron the progression from his wife to Merkel is as consistent as Merkel replacing Obama with Macron as her admiring young disciple and/or favorite nephew.

However, the most enduring image that the strange Merkel-Macron pairing conjures up is an older one. Before World War II, the most enduring popular romantic movie of all time was made in Hollywood – “Gone with The Wind,” a tear-jerking melodrama of passionate love between privileged white racists in the Antebellum South before the US Civil War.

It is not at all too much of a stretch of the imagination to see Macron farcically replacing the chiseled features of Clark Gable as unscrupulous, rather fraudulent but always dashing gambler Rhett Butler and the imperious Kaiserin (Lady Empress) Merkel instead of British fiery, imperious beauty Vivien Leigh as the movie’s riveting pain-in-the-neck heroine Scarlett O’Hara. Like Kaiserin Angela, Scarlett, always, always had to have her own way.

In “Gone with the Wind” the tempestuous, virtually insane passion between Rhett and Scarlett survives as the entire society of the racist Southern Confederate Slave State crashes to ruins around them. In the end, the city of Atlanta burns, but the fiery passion of Rhett and Scarlett survives, even when they are apart.

The cities of France and Germany may well be burning soon as testament to the disastrous policies of “Rhett” Macron and “Scarlett” O’Merkel. But it is a safe bet that they will be even more oblivious to the consequences of their own actions. In the words of Rhett Butler that end the movie, neither Merkel nor Macron really gives a damn.

Photo: Flickr

Munich Conference Showed That America Is Losing Ground

Source

February 18, 2019

Munich Conference Showed That America Is Losing Ground

by Ruslan Ostashko

Translated by Scott and captioned by Leo.

The annual Security Conference, traditionally hosted by Germany in Munich, this time was not attended by neither the leader of Russia nor by the head of the United States. The latter was replaced by Vice President Mike Pence, who tried to convince the audience that America is strong. This came out not very convincing.

It has been 12 years since Vladimir Putin delivered his famous “Munich speech.” It was dubbed the starting point for a new “Cold War” between Russia and the West. A year and a half later an “Olympic war” commenced and ended with bringing Georgia to its senses despite it being pumped up by the “most advanced” American weapons. And going on further, everything following was deepening of the conflict.

Now, after 12 years, we can sum up some results. The first and the main result: a “unipolar world” has been destroyed. Flown in from Washington, the Vice President of the United States, of course, puffed up his cheeks. But his demands weren’t concerning Russia, but the European vassals of America, who reacted to Pence’s demands without usual enthusiasm. Here’s what was written on this by my friend and colleague Ivan Danilov.

“By and large, on the Munich stage, the world was shown a completely different America, its new image only seen so far by very few people: it’s an image of a Hegemon affronted by the entire world, which is experiencing mental suffering from the fact that its desires are no longer fulfilled like before. Pence presented Germany in particular and the European Union as a whole a fairly large list of grievances that cause irritation in Washington. Vice President of the US criticized the Nord Stream 2 and virtually accused Germany that support for this project, Berlin contributes to the increasing dependency of the EU on Russia.’We cannot protect the West if our allies depend on the East,’ he said. The European Union was required to immediately abandon attempts to circumvent American sanctions against Iran and possibly join them.”

The fact that Pence did not want to talk about cooperation, and demanded submission, has been noticed even by the American media. The New York Times wrote  that the Vice President of the United States “focused on the list of requirements for American allies.”

How exactly these same allies took Pence’s demands is clearly demonstrated in the title of the German magazine Spiegel: Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz Trumps Bauchrednerpuppe. l

“America is not the leader, it is losing ground,” the newspaper writes in response to Pence’s words that ‘the US has become the leader of the free world.’ If we translate from politically correct into Russian, the German journalists actually declared that the “king of democracy” is naked.

The Russian delegation, that had enough of the slogan “America is the strongest,” was adding fuel to the fire. This is what Deputy foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said:

“The West, with its self-conceit, self-aggrandizement, and its belief in the infallibility of its own approaches to civilization, world development, values, should stop and think for a moment: if you value your world order so much, can you increase the risks of your existence for the sake of the pursuit of ephemeral establishment of a universal, God forbid, New Order for the rest of the world?”

It sounds sarcastic and in its form and in its content. Actually, our delegation headed by Sergey Lavrov, focused on shaking the “Euro-Atlantic unity” in Munich. For example, the Russian Foreign Minister sarcastically pointed to the duality of the behavior of representatives of the EU. They were publicly stigmatizing Moscow, but in private whined about the fact that they needed the normalization of relations with Russia.

“Apparently, while this has not happened, they somehow have to be guided by their mutual responsibility and follow the course, which is fixed in the European Union under the pressure of an aggressive Russophobic minority. But we patiently explain our readiness to resume relations on an equal basis to the extent and with such speed in which it will be convenient to our partners.”

That is, the second result of the “Cold War 2.0” can be formulated as follows: “the US sustainable sovereignty over the EU is no more.” Sergey Lavrov used constructive terms to describe the situation:

“The common European house needs major repairs. The tasks are really large-scale. They can only be effectively addressed together, on a universal basis.”

The participants of the conference who listened to these words burst into thunderous applause. They only applauded more to Angela Merkel, while Mike Pence did not receive any applause at all.

*Clip plays*

I thank you for your attention, and I’m ready to answer your questions.

*Loud applause*

Finally, about the third result of the Cold War 2.0. It’s the fact that the plan to strangle Russia with the notorious “isolation” failed. Moreover, as admitted by the same Lavrov before leaving for Moscow, Russian diplomats would not mind a bit of “isolation.”

“We would even like to see some isolation, because the negotiations went back-to-back for more than two dozen meetings. Our entire delegation worked without a break.”

What is 12 years on the historical scale? Nothing. To destroy in such a short period of time all that the United States has built up over the decades since the creation of NATO and to the peak of its power at the beginning of the XXI century – is something remarkable. It will take another 12 years to compare the “overhaul” of the world order with the situation today. Do you have any predictions about what our country will achieve by February 2031?

«بلطجة» ترامب.. هل توقف التراجع الأميركي؟

يناير 25, 2019

د. وفيق إبراهيم

يوجِّه الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب ضربات عسكرية واقتصادية وسياسية في كل الاتجاهات. فما أن يحل عليه الوهن في سورية حتى يظهر في اوروبا موجهاً لرؤسائها دروساً في الإخلاف وعلى طريقة الكاوبوي، مُحدثاً دوياً إعلامياً قليل الفاعلية على المستوى العملي..

لكنه لم ينسَ حديقته الخلفية أميركا الجنوبية مُستشعراً تحسناً في علاقات بعض دولها بروسيا والصين مسترجعاً صور التنافس التاريخي مع الاتحاد السوفياتي فينتابه اكتئاب مقرراً تعيين رئيس مجلسها النيابي صديق السياسة الأميركية، غوايدو رئيساً لفنزويلا وبديلاً عن رئيسها الحالي مادورو الذي يمارس سلطاته الرئاسية استناداً إلى انتخابات شعبية فاز بها مؤخراً. وهذا لم يعجب ترامب الذي يهدد بغزو عسكري لفنزويلا إذا لم يرحل طوعاً رئيسها الحالي، ويختفي إلى الأبد للإشارة فإن واشنطن تحاصر فنزويلا اقتصادياً وتمنع عنها كل أنواع المساعدات، فيما تحرض المخابرات الأميركية المعارضة الفنزويلية لإسقاط بادورو وتزوّدها بالسلاح والمال والمعلومات.

هذه عيّنة عشوائية من سياسات ترامب «العالمية» ويبدو أولها سببان: احساس الرجل أن إمبراطورية بلاده في حالة متفاقمة من التراجع في الدور السياسي وبالتالي الاقتصادي، أما السبب الثاني فرغبته في التحول قائداً تاريخياً ينقذ الامبراطورية فينتخبه الأميركيون لولاية ثانية. وقد يستطيع بهذه الطريقة أن يقود الحزب الجمهوري أو بعض الاتجاهات اليمنية المحافظة الجامعة بين مسيحية متطرفة وعبرية قديمة كما يردد في مجالسه الضيقة، وكذلك كقيادة تاريخية متواصلة.

للتذكير هذا، فترامب هو الرئيس الأميركي الوحيد الذي يتدخل في أكثر من ثلاثين دولة في أول سنتين من ولايته وبشكل صدامي مركزاً على بلدان الشرق الأوسط واوروبا والصين وروسيا وجنوب شرق آسيا واليابان، وكندا ومجمل أميركا الجنوبية، إلا أن استراليا بمفردها نجت حتى الآن من تحرشاته.

آخر إبداعات ترامب، قانون «قيصر» لمعاقبة سورية بشكل صارم بذريعة أن عسكرياً سورياً متمرداً نقل الآن الصور إلى المخابرات الأميركية التي تسجل تعذيب السجناء السوريين وقتلهم من قبل عسكريي النظام في سجونه.

للتنبيه فإن ترامب لم يفعل هذا الأمر حتى مع منظمة داعش التي أبادت علناً وبنقل مباشر من المحطات الأميركية والغربية عشرات آلاف الأسرى واغتصاب مئات آلاف الأسيرات.

لا بدّ أن ترامب نسي مدى تقدم التصوير التلفزيوني والسينمائي المفبرك في قطر وتركيا وبلاده، ومداها الأوروبي.. أما إعلانه تحويل العراق قاعدة لتحرك قواته في منطقة سورية وجزيرة العرب وحصار إيران، فبدا مدهشاً، ومثيراً لحيرة العراقيين أنفسهم الذين لم يخبرهم بهذا التطور، قبل مغادرته بلادهم خلسة، أي تماماً كما دخل إليها.

كما يحاول تحشيد الشرق الأوسط في قمة وارسو الشهل المقبل «لتدمير إيران» داعماً السيسي في مصر لتمرير صفقة القرن وإنهاء القضية الفلسطينية على أساس حلف عربي ـ إسرائيلي.

ولا يتأخر عن تزويد بعض القوى السياسية لضرب حزب الله والحشد الشعبي العراقي وأنصار الله اليمني فاتحاً مفاوضات مع طالبان في افغانستان وهي «ابنة القاعدة بيولوجياً»، وللتضييق على جارتها، روسيا. زارعاً أسلحة صاروخية وغير تقليدية في مجمل أوروبا الشرقية والبلقان باستثناء بلدين صديقين لروسيا هما أرمينيا وصربيا.

لكن هذه الاهتمامات لم تجعله ينسى منافسيه، روسيا التي يفرض عليها عقوبات والصين التي يعاقبها ويفاوضها. كذلك كوريا الشمالية التي يحاول إرضاء بكين بالتفاوض معها، بأسلوب عقد المهرجانات لا المباحثات اما عدوته إيران فلا يدخر وسعاً لإسقاط جمهوريتها بالحصار والتحشيد والتهديد بحرب، وتحريض الإيرانيين على إسقاط ما يسمّيه الغرب «جمهورية الملالي».

ولإظهار مشروعه بالسيطرة على الاقتصاد العالمي، رفع العصا بوجه ادواته في الخليج، منتزعاً آلاف مليارات الدولارات منها، وعارضاً عليها الاستيراد الحصري من بلاده، مع بعض الاستثناءات الاوروبية والتنسيق الإلزامي مع روسيا في أسواق الطاقة.

تركيا بدورها هي العضو في الحلف الأطلسي والأداة الاميركية منذ خمسينيات القرن الفائت يعاقبها اقتصادياً ويهددها سياسياً.

فهل نجا أحد من سياسات ترامب الضاربة في كل مكان؟

هناك دولة واحدة لم يقترب منها الرئيس الاميركي إلا من اتجاه تأكيد تميزها عن الآخرين وعمق صداقة الأميركيين لها وهي «إسرائيل».

والدليل أن ترامب هو الرئيس الأميركي الوحيد الذي نقل عاصمة بلاده الى القدس معترفاً بها عاصمة لـ»إسرائيل» لاغياً الاونروا واللاجئين الفلسطينيين في العالم ودافعاً باتجاه صفقة قرن لإنهاء قضية فلسطين والتأسيس لحلف عربي ـ اسرائيلي يستهدف إيران وروسيا والصين.

بالنتيجة أدت هذه السياسات الى استنفار اوروبي يحاول التميز عن الحلف الاطلسي بدليل ان المستشارة الألمانية ميركل نسفت كل مساعي ترامب لمنع تراجع امبراطورية بلاده، ودعت بعد اجتماعها بالرئيس الفرنسي ماكرون الى «عالم متعدّد القطب»، والحفاظ على مكتسبات التجارة المفتوحة وإصلاح المنظمات الدولية، وتأسيس جيش إوروبي مستقل.

هذا الكلام للمستشارة هو الاجابة الشافية لفشل دور ترامب العالمي، فاعترافها بالتعددية القطبية، إقرار بتراجع الإمبراطورية الاميركية، أما مبدأ التجارة المفتوحة أيضاً رفض لمفهوم الحمائية الذي يتبناه ترامب واعياً فيه الى إقفال الحدود الاقتصادية.

لجهة تأسيس جيش اوروبي فهو انقلاب كبير على الحلف الأطلسي الذي يشكل اداة الهيمنة الاميركية على العالم.

وبذلك تكون تصريحات ميركل هي الرد البليغ على استمرار تراجع الأحادية الاميركية مهما بالغ الرئيس الاميركي في الاعتداء على دول العالم. فالمسألة اقتصاد وسياسة وتحالفات ـصبحت تعبر عن نفسها بالصعود الصيني الاقتصادي والتقدم الروسي العسكري واتساع الدور الإقليمي لإيران الى جانب إصرار أوروبي على احتلال موقع في نظام تعددية القطب، أي تماماً كما قال وزير الخارجية الروسية لافروف منذ أعوام عدة عن نظام قوة عالمي يضم نظاماً رباعياً يجمع بين الولايات المتحدة وروسيا والصين وأوروبا.

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

FEDERICO PIERACCINI | 09.12.2018 |

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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