CHAOS AND ARMED CONFLICTS: U.S. STRATEGY TO DISMANTLE RUSSIA IS ALREADY WORKING

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Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

In 2020, there have been several notable developments, that all seem to have been happening along Russia’s borders and in key regions developments in which influencing the Russian position on the international scene.

These include:

  • Ukraine’s refusal to seek peace in its East with the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and various questionable policies.
  • Western-backed protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, with a ‘school teacher-turned-politician’ challenging him with an insignificant share of the vote in the presidential election. She received wide support from the West, especially from heavily US-aligned states such as Poland and the Baltics.
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other groups in Syria are being supported openly, and not so openly, by the United States and sabotage the further diplomatic settlement of the conflict in Syria.
  • The situation in Central Asia is rather exacerbated, with an evident increase in ISIS activity in Afghanistan, alongside various terrorist elements appearing near its borders with Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) countries. The Russian Security Service – FSB – is hard at work in countering various ISIS and other terror cells on the territory of the Russian Federation, and reports such as these are frequent, meaning that there appears to be a network that is successful in either moving terrorist elements into the country, or recruiting them there.
  • There also was the Armenian-Azerbaijan War in Nagorno-Karabakh, which Russia didn’t directly involve itself in, since the fight was for the self-proclaimed independent republic of Artsakh, and Armenia never officially asked for assistance. Regardless, with the Peace Deal it brokered on November 10th, there have been numerous voices in Armenia blaming Russia for the defeat. And that is even though it essentially saved it from an even bigger fiasco and loss of territory. At the same time, despite being the victor, Azerbaijan simply received what it was promised with the Minsk agreements, with the addition of Shusha. There are protests against Russia in Azerbaijan, a country in which any non-government sanctioned protest is snuffed, violently. There are calls that Russia stole the “glorious victory”, while in Armenia there are calls to renew hostilities, while the Russian peacekeepers are there and somehow force their hand in the fight.
  • Turkey deployed thousands of Syrian militants to South Caucasus, and there are claims that it is even reportedly attempting to relocate families from Syria’s Afrin and other areas to the parts of Karabakh that were given to Azerbaijan. This is likely to also provide a fresh extremist presence in the region.
  • Turkey, once again, appeared to be shifting its gaze towards Crimea, but also cooperate with Ukraine in terms of selling UAVs to it and other military equipment.

All of these developments, somehow, almost entirely coincide with a report which the RAND Corporation released back in 2019.

The report is called “Extending Russia” with the subtitle “Competing from Advantageous Ground.” A short description of the report reads the following:

“The steps we posit would not have either defense or deterrence as their prime purpose, although they might contribute to both. Rather, these steps are conceived of as measures that would lead Russia to compete in domains or regions where the United States has a competitive advantage, causing Russia to overextend itself militarily or economically or causing the regime to lose domestic and/or international prestige and influence. This report deliberately covers a wide range of military, economic, and political policy options. Its recommendations are directly relevant to everything from military modernization and force posture to economic sanctions and diplomacy; consequently, it speaks to all the military services, other parts of U.S. government that have a hand in foreign policy, and the broader foreign and defense policy audience.”

Notably, the report suggests that the following “Geopolitical measures” need to be employed in order to counter Russia’s spreading influence and capabilities to provide an adequate answer to an extraordinary situation.

This chapter describes six possible U.S. moves in the current geopolitical competition:

  • providing lethal arms to Ukraine,
  • resuming support to the Syrian rebels,
  • promoting regime change in Belarus,
  • exploiting Armenian and Azeri tensions,
  • intensifying attention to Central Asia,
  • isolating Transnistria (a Russian-occupied enclave within Moldova).

There are several other possible geopolitical moves discussed in other RAND research but not directly evaluated here—including intensifying NATO’s relationship with Sweden and Finland, pressuring Russia’s position in the Arctic, and checking Russia’s attempts to secure its influence in Asia.

Ukraine

Between 2014 and 2016, the US provided $600 million in security assistance to Ukraine. These funds have been used to train Ukrainian military forces and provided nonlethal military equipment, including counterartillery and countermortar radars, secure communications, logistics systems, tactical unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and medical equipment.

According to RAND, the US could increase its military assistance to Ukraine, or increase its calls to allow Kiev into NATO.

“Expanding U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including lethal military assistance, would likely increase the costs to Russia, in both blood and treasure, of holding the Donbass region. More Russian aid to the

separatists and an additional Russian troop presence would likely be required, leading to larger expenditures, equipment losses, and Russian casualties. The latter could become quite controversial at home, as it did when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.”

Eastern Ukraine is already a significant drain on Russian resources, exacerbated by the accompanying Western sanctions. Increasing U.S. military aid would certainly drive up the Russian costs, but doing so could also increase the loss of Ukrainian lives and territory or result in a disadvantageous peace settlement. This would generally be seen as a serious setback for U.S. policy.

What’s going on in reality? There appears to be no conclusive peace settlement in Ukraine, and anti-Russian policy continues moving forward full speed. The Kiev regime, at large controlled from Washington, is intentionally sabotaging attempts to de-escalate the situation and publicly preparing for a new military operation in eastern Ukraine. Recently, pro-Kiev sources started laying great hopes on the Turkish military aid. For sure, the US is also involved. In August 2020, incoming US President Joe Biden promised to provide Ukraine with even more lethal weapons. In late 2019, the Trump administration also approved several sales of “defensive lethal weapons” to Ukraine.

As such this part of RAND’s suggestion appears to be moving, more or less, according to plan.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Syria

“In 2015, Russia’s intervention in Syria cost an estimated $2.4 million to $4 million a day, according to the Moscow Times and IHS Janes’ estimates. 34 Given the size of Russia’s defense budget ($50 billion that year), the sum might not be significant in and of itself.”

Increased U.S. support to the so-called ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition could perpetuate and intensify a civil war that had begun to wind down, thereby imposing attritional costs on both Russia and Iran.

RAND believes that such support should also reduce the “moderate opposition’s” reliance on the better-armed, more extremist groups and ultimately might improve the willingness and ability of moderate opposition forces to combat the “more extremist elements.” Now, first of all RAND doesn’t even deny that the most of “moderate opposition” is made up of extremists, who are fighting against even more extreme elements.

At the same time, the reality of the situation is this: the US, with all its claims of complete withdrawal from Syria, simply employed the SDF separatist leadership as a tool of sabotaging the peace settlement in Syria, while Washington is looting Syria’s oil fields. US companies exploit Syrian oil resources. Some of the money is used to bankroll the SDF.

The Russian side has repeatedly also claimed that ISIS and ISIS-affiliated fighters were being trained and received improved weaponry in the US-controlled areas of Syria.

Unlike Ukraine, the United States does not have a single actor to aid in the fight in Syria but rather faces a plethora of groups—often with murky affiliations—increasing the chances of weapons falling into the wrong hands.

“Supporting the rebels could run counter to the most prominent objective of the Trump administration’s Middle East foreign policy—fighting radical Islamist terrorism.”

In the highly unlikely event of total success—if Russia were to abandon the Assad government and the opposition were to somehow ‘defeat’ Damascus—the result would be a major geopolitical setback for Moscow but also a major contraction in its foreign commitments and associated expenditures, not to mention a huge responsibility for the United States and its allies to assume.

At the same time, it appears that supporting the “moderate rebels” isn’t proving effective enough and Israel is picking up the slack with targeting various Syrian and alleged Iranian positions in the areas under Damascus’ control.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Essentially, there were some attempts, but none of them are any significant, since the fight in Syria appears to be too far gone.

Likewise, according to RAND, this course of action might have been viable a few years ago, when the armed opposition was stronger and less radicalized. Under current circumstances, the most that expanded U.S. aid could likely do would be to perpetuate a conflict that has already destabilized an entire region. Russia might be forced to pay a bit more for its Syrian commitment but only at the cost of continued regional turbulence, societal radicalization, and increased civilian casualties and displaced personnel.

Belarus

Belarus is Russia’s neighbour and important ally. It provides a buffer between Russia and major NATO countries and is the initial link in Russia’s ground lines of communication between the mainland and Kaliningrad— the Russian enclave entirely encircled by Lithuania and Poland. Already host to Russian forces, Belarus features prominently in many notional conflicts among the United States, NATO, and Russia.

In a zero-sum world, denying Russia its one and only true ally would be a clear geopolitical and ideological gain for the West. It would bring an end to “Europe’s last dictatorship,” a long-standing U.S. policy goal.

“Starting revolutions is not easy, and the United States lending public support to opposition movements does not guarantee that they will be successful. In 2007, Gallup found that 60 percent of Belarusian respondents believed democracy was important and 47 percent believed it was “somewhat” or “very” important for Belarus to have an active opposition party.”

RAND considered regime change in Belarus as one of the most significant escalations, but the attempts have all but failed, and with Russia actually not having to lift a finger.

Even despite Lukashenko attempt to get some concessions from Russia prior to the protests in the country.

“Promoting regime change in Belarus is one of the most escalatory options considered in this report. Such an effort probably would not succeed and could provoke a strong Russian response, including the possibility of military action. Such a reaction might extend Russia by requiring the nation to commit resources to preserve its grasp over Belarus, thereby provoking the United States and its European allies to respond with harsher sanctions, but the result would be a general deterioration of the security environment in Europe and a setback for U.S. policy.”

Currently, protests in Belarus are still on-going, but they’ve barely achieved any real progress in the regime change agenda. However, the Western/NATO interference in the internal situation in Belarus is an undeniable fact.

Lukashenko may be making some interesting claims regarding Russia, or attempting to play tough in order to get a discount from Moscow on natural gas, or some other commodity, but at the same time is wise enough to continue actively communicating with Russian President Vladimir Putin and remain a formal ally.

Nagorno-Karabah: Armenia and Azerbaijan

The RAND analysis begins with reminding that in 2008, the Georgian-Russian relations with damaged severely, after a few days of war and the resulting South Ossetia and Abkhazia as separate countries.

Russia also plays a key role with Azerbaijan and Armenia, particularly over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ethnically Armenian but geographically located within Azerbaijan, Nagorno- Karabakh’s bid to join the Armenia Soviet Socialist Republic during the latter years of the Soviet Union was denied by the Soviet Politburo because of the risk of encouraging secessionist movements elsewhere.

According to RAND, the United States could extend Russia in the Caucasus in two ways. First, the United States could push for a closer NATO relationship with Georgia and Azerbaijan, likely leading Russia to strengthen its military presence in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Armenia, and southern Russia.

Alternatively, the United States could try to induce Armenia to break with Russia.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

“Increased U.S. involvement in the region could produce additional economic benefits as well. The Caspian Sea remains a key producer of both oil and natural gas. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that there are “48 billion barrels of oil and 292 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves in the Caspian basins. Almost 75 percent of oil reserves and 67 percent of natural gas reserves are located within 100 miles of the coast.”

According to the analysis, resolving Nagorno-Karabakh is likely a prerequisite to Armenia breaking with Russia, but it is unclear precisely how the United States or NATO could resolve the decades-old conflict without privileging one side and antagonizing the other. NATO has encouraged both parties to resolve the conflict through the Minsk Group—led by the Russians.

Currently, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the six-week war that started on September 27th, 2020 was due to several factors.

Notably, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, as an avid supporter of the West worked to the benefit of what RAND describes and distanced Armenia from Russia with questionable policy.

In turn, Turkey, in support of Azerbaijan saw a chance, prepared and began to largely pull the strings on Baku’s offensive on the region.

Still, Russia managed to somehow salvage the situation for Yerevan, by brokering a peace deal which saw Azerbaijan get what it was supposed to be given under the Minsk Agreements, with the addition of Shusha.

Pashinyan, however, continued blaming Russia, the Armenian population, foreign countries and such for the failure and the gross mismanagement of Armenia’s forces in the war.

Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev presents the war as “gloriously won” but there are some elements which are protesting and claiming that Moscow actually robbed Baku of its “glorious victory.”

There are anti-Russian protests, in a country in which all non-government approved protests are violently stopped.

The US made some claims for peace and so on, as did many Western countries, with France even attempting to somehow mediate the conflict, but only barely.

Paris attempted to prove itself as a valuable ally to Armenia, but in the end, it simply said “we are with you, our Armenian brothers” and all they provided were empty words.

In Armenia, in order for Pashinyan and the pro-Western leadership to remain, political arrests of the opposition began. As such, support for Russia still remains rather low, and it is playing to the measure that RAND outlined in April 2019. In the current conditions, pro-Western forces in the region would continue their efforts to destabilize the region creating chaos near the Russian border and setting conditions for the NATO expansion there.

Central Asia

Russia is part of two economic ventures related to Central Asia: the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative. Russia has benefited from both, although in the case of the former, partners might have been harmed economically. There might be steps the United States and allies could take to reduce Russia’s benefits from both of these.

Engaging more with Central Asia could have modest benefits. Expanding Central Asian connectivity to the rest of the world could reduce that area’s trade with Russia. It must be noted, however, that economic growth within these countries would likely have the opposite effect and increase their trade with Russia because economic size and trade are correlated.

Now, little of this has succeeded in the year. Notably, and not in the vein which RAND describes is that militant activity in Afghanistan, as well as along its borders with the CSTO countries has increased, which Russia sees as a threat.

There are frequent reports of the FSB arresting various terrorist elements that either came from Central Asian republics or were recruited from groups from there. There is little evidence that the US has anything to do with that, but there are some reports that unknown black hawks have been extracting militants from all around, and they’ve resurfaced in northern Afghanistan, after a while.

The US efforts to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and is attempting to counter various projects in the Eurasian Economic Union, which Russia is part of such as the Nord Stream 2, but they are unrelated to Central Asia. In conclusion, regarding this, RAND appears to be a bit far from what’s been carried out, or if such measures are being implemented – they’re not being effective.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Moldova

Transnistria is a Russian-speaking enclave within Moldova that currently hosts a Russian peacekeeping force and army base.

Officially, Russian policy toward Transnistria is ambiguous. Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept includes only a single, rather inarticulate statement:

Russia strongly advocates a political and diplomatic settlement of conflicts in the post-Soviet space, specifically, Russia works within the existing multilateral negotiating mechanism to find an inclusive solution to the Transnistrian issue, respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutral status of the Republic of Moldova in determining the special status of Transnistria.

The United States could encourage Transnistria’s youth (who, according to some journalistic accounts, might be more pro-West than their elders) to push their pseudo-state to leave the Russian orbit.

Moldovan cooperation in an effort to expel the Russians would not be easy to secure. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon stated, “A NATO office in Chisinau [Moldova’s capital], in a neutral country, is a provocation. I do not want this. I want neither NATO nor this Russia-led [military] alliance as far as armed forces are concerned.”

There’s been very limited movement throughout 2020, but it is likely that activities have been more focused on Belarus, Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, and Moldova has been left for sometime in the near (or far future). The pro-Western presidential candidate, Maia Sandu, won the 2020 election in Moldova, and she’s already promoting the ideal of the need of the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force from Transnistria. This move sets conditions for the increase of instability.

RAND’s General Recommendations

Extending Russia through geopolitical competition is a fundamentally difficult and dangerous proposition. One might bait Russia into extending its foreign commitments, but only at the risk of serious setbacks to local U.S. partners. Even if such efforts succeeded in generating Russian withdrawals, the result would be the opposite of an extension.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Any geopolitical moves to extend Russia would also need to consider other options that (for reasons of length and resources) were not considered here in depth—namely, intensifying NATO’s cooperation with Sweden and Finland, pressuring Russia’s claims in the Arctic, and checking its influence in the Arctic.

Many of these are not exactly spot on, and whether they’re entirely connected to what’s going on comes down to conspiracy theories. However, it is fact that within a year and a half of the publishing, many of these recommendations have been implemented.

There has been a regime change attempt in Belarus, which is still on-going. Armenia and Azerbaijan went to warn for Nagorno-Karabakh, and Russia had to mediate, deploy peacekeepers and further resources, as well as is being accused of both sides for either losing the war for Armenia, or stealing away a bigger victory for Azerbaijan.

Militants are being delivered to South Caucasus, and even families are being relocated there from Syria.

The US and the “moderate rebels” in Syria are still operating, albeit not as actively as before, but Israel is there to provide assistance by bombing Syrian and alleged Iranian targets.

Attempts to spread chaos in Central Asia are apparent, and the FSB continues arresting various extremist elements, but there are likely more who are roaming around and entering the country through various channels.

It is unknown what will happen in Moldova, as of yet, but the trend is alredy seen.

Another thing that could be added is cooperating with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, assisting in the forming of the autonomous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, making pushes to repeat that questionable “success” in other countries such as Montenegro, and more.

Regardless, pressure on Moscow is being exerted from quite a few directions, at the same time, and it is unlikely that under US President Joe Biden this will end. After all, his chosen aides all plan to improve relations with allies, while countering Russia’s spreading influence. Namely in Ukraine, since Biden appears to have a soft spot for the country from which he and his son allegedly funneled billions. Ukraine, and Eastern Ukraine, could also be the best direction from which to target Russia.

Things are still developing on many fronts, and the pieces are yet to fall squarely on the board.

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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

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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.

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

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

September 18, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sergey Lavrov: Not all of them.

Question: Can you tell us more about this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuestionLibya, Syria. We stood for Syria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuestionBut they tried to revise it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: Microcredits.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

August 14, 2020

Source

Ladies and gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TURKEY’S POISONOUS HAND OF FRIENDSHIP

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Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

While the situation in Libya continues to escalate and the parties are preparing for a decisive battle for Sirte, Turkey, which actively supports forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), is negotiating with its strategic partners. On July 10, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar went on an official visit to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. During the visit, Akar checked the work of the diplomatic mission, had dinner with representatives of national minorities, namely Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks, with Ukrainian businessmen and the head of the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Taking into account the high tension of the situation in Libya, the defense minister’s dinner in Kiev was of great importance for the Turkish side.

According to Ukrainian Minister of Defense Andrei Taran, during the talks with Akar, they discussed ways to deepen cooperation in the defense sphere.

“The cooperation of defense companies of Ukraine and Turkey is of particular. The reached agreements will strengthen the defense potential of Ukraine. The potential and maneuverability of the Ukrainian army will significantly increase, what will contribute to the protection of peace in the region,” Taran said.

It cannot be excluded that one of the goals of the visit was to demonstrate to Kiev that Turkey favors provocative actions against Russia. Instability in the East of Ukraine or new provocations in Crimea are in Turkey’s interest at the moment. They allow to weak Russia’s position in the negotiation process on Libya at the very moment when GNA fores, supported by Turkey, are actively preparing for military action on the territory of their country.

In recent days, Kiev has become noticeably more active and has been pursuing a policy of discrediting Russia in all possible directions.

In the East of Ukraine the most recent incident happened on July 14 when 2 Ukrainian fighters died and another one received injures in a failed attempt to enter the territory controlled by self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic near the village of Zaitsevo. The sabotage and reconnaissance unit tried to attack positions of DPR forces but blew up on landmines in the area.

The Ukrainian side announced that one of the dead soldiers was a military medic, Mikola Ilin, who turned out to be a citizen of Estonia. His death was captured on video.

Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmitry Kuleba, called the murder of a medic an act of barbarism.

“I want to make it very clear that from a legal point of view, this murder has signs of a war crime, and from a moral point of view, it is nothing else but an act of barbarism,” Kuleba said.

He stressed that the diplomats will try to make the incident public.

“I will personally raise this issue. The response will be as tough as possible. We will attract all our partners. This situation will be made public,” the foreign minister said.

The death of Ilin led to the desired result, which was required by the Ukrainian authorities. The case was widely publicized. The accusations were immediately joined by the US Embassy, which previously rarely commented on the deaths of Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbass.

The European Union called the murder of a military medic a violation of the Minsk agreements, the agreements of the Normandy summit and international law.

Member of European Parliament, Michael Galer, blamed the Kremlin for the incident in eastern Ukraine on Twitter.

Besides the growing tension in the East of the country, Ukraine is increasingly speculating about Russia’s supposed intentions to conduct offensive operations in the South, which could be a response to the blocking of water supply to Crimea from Ukraine through the North Crimean channel. Water in Crimea is really critically scarce, but to solve this problem, Russia is completing the construction of a water pipeline, and is not preparing to seize the southern territories of Ukraine.

Despite the improbability of rumors about upcoming Russian attacks, on July 13, the head of the Kherson region (southern Ukraine), Yuri Gusev, appealed to the National Security Council to increase the number of military personnel in the region. Gusev also assured that Ukrainian military exercises will be held in autumn together with the Estonian military. However, the exact date of the exercise is unknown and depends on the conduct of large-scale military exercises of the Russian Armed Forces – “Caucasus – 2020”.

It is obvious that at the moment there are no signals that Russia is preparing for an offensive operation on the territory of Ukraine. Russia is currently experiencing quite acute domestic political problems, which the Putin administration is coping with worse. These include mass demonstrations in the city of Khabarovsk in the Far East and the introduction of constitutional amendments. Russian military forces are already involved in Syria, Moscow is actively participating in the negotiation process on the conflict in Libya, and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is escalating near its borders. For a number of internal and foreign policy reasons, Russia is currently unable to deploy a major military force in new theater of operations. Thus, there is no real threat to Ukraine, but there are more and more rumors and information noise created in order to discredit Russia.

Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

The tactical Turkish support pushes Kiev to continue its provocations against Russia. In the current situation, Erdogan has a number of levers to promote its own interests through Kiev.

Turkey and Ukraine are far from being equal partners. This fact is confirmed by the indicators of bilateral trade. Ukraine is much more interested in the Turkish market than vice versa. Ukraine is on the 27th place in the ranking of import countries to Turkey, while Turkey is one of the main importers of Ukraine.

Since 2012, Ukraine and Turkey have been negotiating the free trade zone agreement, but the document has not yet been signed. Economists note that the parties cannot agree on the terms of access for both industrial goods and agricultural products to each other’s markets.

Vladimir Volya, an expert at the Ukrainian Institute of policy analysis and management, claimed that it was difficult for Ukraine to defend its interests in negotiations with Turkey, because “Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world and the 6th largest in Europe”.

While the economic dimension is certainly important in Turkish-Ukrainian relations, the main tone of interaction between the two countries is set by the political dimension.

As part of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Kiev has special hopes for Ankara’s support. First of all, on the issue of Crimean peninsula. Turkey does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia, to a large extent it is connected with the Crimean Tatar population, which is presented by Kiev as allegedly oppressed by Russia. The policy of protectionism gave Turkey a broad influence on the peninsula until 2014. Before Crimea became part of Russia, the Turkish-backed Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people had notable political power in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Also, thanks to Turkey, various extremist religious organizations, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, felt blessed on the peninsula. Today Mejlis is banned in Russia and has been replaced by other representative organizations, and the cells of the terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami are consistently eliminated on the territory of Crimea. However, various sources indicate that there is still an extensive network of agents of the Turkish special services among the Crimean Tatars. Ankar still cherishes hopes

The important sphere is cooperation in the defense sphere. Recently, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak, announced that the Ukrainian Armed Forces troops deployed in Eastern Ukraine will be equipped with Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 UAVs. State-controlled Ukrainian company UkrSpetsExport and private Turkish UAV specialist Baykar Makina signed a $69 million strategic cooperation agreement. Baykar Makina company is the most prominent of new Turkish drone makers penetrating the domestic and foreign markets.

“Turkish-Ukrainian defense cooperation will potentially go beyond drone systems,” the Ankara-based expert forecast. “Promising businesses could be armored vehicle modifications and, most notably, the Altay.”

While only a few European countries have agreed to supply weapons to Ukraine, Kiev is increasingly dependent on US and Turkish military assistance.

The Ukrainian State Company Ukrspetsexport in December 2019 exported to the Turkish company K.B.A.T. Ithalat Ihracat Mumessillik Ve Danismanlik Ticaret Ltd. the first batch of military goods under a contract for the supply of two S-125M1 Neva-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems totaling $30 million. They were  subsequently delivered to the Government of National Accord in Libya.

Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

Apparently, in the conflict in Libya, Ukraine supports Turkey not only by supplying anti-aircraft missile systems. Shortly after Akar’s visit to Kiev, two ships left the Ukrainian ports of Nikolaev and Berdyansk in the direction of Libya. Perhaps Erdogan became more cautious after the French Ministry of Armed Forces accused the Turkish Navy of harassing an arm embargo on Libya.

Ukraine, in turn, is important for Turkey as a tool of maintaining influence in the Black Sea region and for balancing its own interests in relations with Russia. While relations between Turkey and its NATO partners have being deteriorating, and it cannot count on the military support of European countries in the Libyan conflict, Erdogan can rely on Ukraine, which has also been “betrayed” by NATO countries, because despite the protracted negotiation process and long-term promises, NATO is in no hurry to accept Ukraine into its structures.

Ukraine is not the only country of the former Soviet Union where Turkey is pursuing an active policy in order to promote its interests and weaken its ‘strategic partner’, Russia. Recently there has been an escalation of the conflict on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The moment of escalation is chosen perfectly. The current political leadership of Armenia has done everything possible to turn the Kremlin against itself. Yerevan has provided its territory and created a favorable political regime for the deployment of Western non-state companies whose goal is the destruction of Russia as a state. These organizations are backed by Western Democrats or the Brussels bureaucracy. As a partner of Russia, Armenia did not recognize the annexation of Crimea. And the President of Armenia, Pashinyan and his entourage have consistently given signals of following a Pro-Western policy. Today, the only state that can ensure the existence of Armenia as a state is Russia, but Pashinyan is doing everything possible to break their ties.

Turkey pursues a policy of incitement among partner countries. It is seen is not only by groundless provocations in Ukraine, but also in the unleashed conflict on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. While Russia does not hurrying to openly support any of the sides, Erdogan accused Armenia of starting the conflict and expressed support for Azerbaijan.

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

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

10 July 2020 15:55

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

July 11, 2020

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a ticking time bomb in the Ukraine

THE SAKER • MARCH 19, 2020 •



Between the fallout of the murder of General Soleimani and the coronovirus, the Ukraine has been somewhat forgotten, which is understandable, but also potentially dangerous. The “young and dynamic” President Zelenskii has more or less been forgotten, especially by the legacy corporate ziomedia. This does not, however, mean that the situation there did not evolve or, in fact, that it is not becoming extremely dangerous. So for those who did not keep an eye on the Ukraine, here is a short summary of what has been going on:

Summary of developments

First, Zelenskii has proven to be a total ZERO. Simply put, neither he not his team can get anything done, anything at all. I really mean nothing, nothing at all.
Second, while initially the victory of Zelenskii seem to indicate that the Ukronazis had suffered a crushing defeat, it now is completely obvious that Zelenskii lacks the will, or the means, or both, to tackle this huge problem. Now the Ukronazis are back in force, they provoke Zelenskii on a daily basis, but the man is simply unable to react and reassert his authority.
Third, in social and economic terms, the Ukraine is in free fall. Following years of chaos and corruption the Ukraine is now a deindustrialized country which can sell only three things: men (for menial jobs in Poland and in the EU), women (prostitution) and its “black soil” (chernozem). Once the land is sold, it will give the Ukrainian budget enough money to keep up the appearance of a state for a few more month, maybe a year or so. After that – it’s show over, curtain down, lights off and everybody go home…
Fourth, it is pretty clear who the kingmaker of the Ukraine is: Arsen Avakov, the “eternal” (by Ukrainian standards) Minister of the Interior. He not only has real firepower, he also seems to be able to turn the Ukronazi “spigot” on and off depending on his personal needs and circumstances. Unlike the bona fide nutcases, Avakov does not strike me as a Nazi at all, in fact, I would say that he is non-ideological – he is all about “pure power”. This makes him a much more desirable “partner” for the Empire than real nutcases.
Fifth, while the Minsk Agreements are still more or less on the agenda, at least officially, the Ukronazis have been vocal enough in their protests to basically completely stall any meaningful negotiations. Yes, prisoners will probably be exchanged, but beyond that I see any real progress as exceedingly unlikely. For all practical purposes, the regime in Kiev has made it very clear: there will be no negotiations with the Donbass, which simply means that there will be no negotiated solution. It’s that simple, really.
Six, COVID19 has hit the Ukraine very, very hard. The problem is that the authorities, which fully knew that they had no means to do anything meaningful began by thumping their chests and saying that there were no cases in the Ukraine only to then suddenly decree drastic quarantine measures. And yet, the true information is seeping out: Ukrainians hospitals are full of cases, mostly un-diagnosed, and many have already died. Officially, and as of right now, there are only 14 confirmed cases in the Ukraine, and only two fatalities. But absolutely everybody knows that these numbers are totally fictional and that the real number of cases remains unknown due to a lack of testing kits, not a lack of cases. MDs in Ukrainian hospitals are sounding the alarms, but nobody is listening.
Seventh, the situation is made even worse by the fact that there are not credible alternatives to Zelenskii. There IS an opposition in the Ukraine, the typical Ukronazis nutcases and the generally pro-Russian politicians who are categorically and absolutely unacceptable to the (much larger) Ukronazi opposition. Thus, there does not appear to be any political solution or alternative to the current regime. Right now, the two politicians who appear to be the most competent are Vadim Rabinovich and Elena Lukash. These two are very sharp and, frankly, very courageous, but they don’t have a power base powerful enough to take on the Nazis. Finally, there is Viktor Medvechuk whose main quality is also his biggest weakness: he is considered close to Putin. These are all rather smart and courageous figures, but compared to the power of an Arsen Avakov – they are just soap bubbles. Will that change in the future? Maybe, but not in the foreseeable future.

Possible scenarios

When a country enters a dramatic and deep systematic crisis, something must inevitably eventually give. Right now there are relatively few protests simply because there is no political force of personality which could inspire people to rally and struggle for change. Most Ukrainians are both absolutely exhausted and absolutely desperate. They are into the “survival mode” which history has taught them and they simply wait. Frankly, I can’t blame them. My advise to all my Ukrainian contacts has been “get out of there while you can”, but if you can’t get out, then going into a survival mode is the only option.
Right now, the Ukronazis feel energized and they are back with a vengeance demanding that the Ukraine finally be transformed into the Banderastan they have been dreaming about for generations (except they don’t use the word “Banderastan” but prefer the expression “Banderstat”. Their strength is in their unity and firepower. Their main weakness is that most Ukrainians hate them. A most dangerous combination.
Some observers have suggested that a coup might take place. I doubt it because I don’t see any person capable of leading such a coup. Avakov would be ideal, but he is *already* in power, he does not need a coup at all. Furthermore, if an openly Ukronazi regime replaces Zelenskii, this will only further deepen the distress of the general population.
The truth is both as simple as it is terrible: there is no solution for the Ukraine. None whatsoever.
So what could happen next?
The basic ingredients are pretty predictable: protests, civil unrest, violence and, eventually, a break-up of the Ukraine into several entities.
In theory, this could be avoided, but in order to do this, at the very least, the following basic conditions have to be met:
  1. The West and Russians must work together in a major reconstruction effort to rebuild the entire country, not only the war-devastated Donbass
  2. The regime in Kiev must be acceptable to all three: the West, Russia and the Ukrainian people
  3. The Ukronazis need to be disarmed and, when needed, either jailed or expelled
As you can immediately tell, this is not happening.
Yes, some have begun thinking about this issue, see, for example, this very interesting report from the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group (EASLG), in particular, take a good look at the “Economic Steps” and “Political Steps” suggested in this report. The fact that a guy like Gen (Ret) Breedlove, former SACEUR and rabid Russia-hater, could sign this document is, by itself, quite amazing.
However, with the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic AND a brutal oil war threatening most economies of our planet, I expect the western nations to simply lose interest in the Ukraine: they will be too busy scrambling to recover from the political fallout of the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. As for Russia, there is absolutely no way that she will agree to foot the bill for the reconstruction of the Ukraine, nor will she provide the forces needed to get rid of the Ukronazis. Which means that for the foreseeable future, the Ukraine will be mostly left on its own. Russia will, of course, continue to support Novorussia (for example, SARS-CoV-2 testing kits have already arrived from Russia) while distributing Russian passports to anyone wanting one (the vast majority of the people of Novorussia).

Conclusion

The SARS-CoV-2/COVID19 pandemic will have huge political repercussions worldwide because in this specific case, not only will the AngloZionist propaganda machine not be able to hide the truth from the people (if anything, all sorts of fake news and crazy rumors will have more “street cred” than what the politicians tell us), but the consequences of this crisis will be felt everywhere, including at home. So Trump can go on in each of his pressers about how everything in the USA is “the best”, “the greatest” and “the mightiest”, but the truth is that the this virus will reveal not only the total inability of the private sector to save the day, it will also reveal how utterly dysfunctional the US, along most other western states really are (no, Walmart and Amazon will not save the day). No wonder the western politicians are scrambling to show how “involved” they all are – they are simply trying to cover their rear end for the inevitable “lessons learned” moment coming for all. Maybe at some point in the future will see most US Americans reconsider what they think they know about Socialism and Libertarianism, especially when it becomes clear how different the reaction to the virus was in China and Russia compared to the EU or US.
The sad truth about the “indispensable nation” is not slowly coming out. First and trickle, but then the inevitable tsunami
The sad truth about the “indispensable nation” is not slowly coming out. First and trickle, but then the inevitable tsunami
Them Chinese commies not only beat the virus in a record time, they are helping the dying capitalists (who, by the way, are not helping each other!)
Them Chinese commies not only beat the virus in a record time, they are helping the dying capitalists (who, by the way, are not helping each other!)
But what will be only embarrassing for US politicians will, barring some kind of miracle, hit the Ukraine with consequences far worse than what we have seen up until now.
For the time being, the Ukronazis are explaining that the Nazi salute is just perfect for this situation: not only do hands not touch, but the palm of the saluting head is facing the sun, which is hygienically good (that, and a lot of Nazis are pagans, sun worship is common amongst them).
Right now, in what are still the early stages of the pandemic, almost nobody is paying attention (most folks in the West have yet to understand that security, any and all form of security, must always be collective to be effective). Right now, the bigger danger comes from the Ukrainians returning home from abroad. But this will soon change, and the danger will become Ukrainians leaving the Ukraine. At this point the EU countries will have to turn to the Kremlin for a common response to what promises to be a major disaster.

Merkel trod on holy Ukrainian toes

January 14, 2020

Rostislav Ishenko, 13 Jan 2020

Translated by Nikolai

The visit by the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to Russia and her negotiations with Vladimir Putin were full of negative signals for Ukraine.

Merkel busily carved on the crossroad milestone:

– go right – lose your head;

– go left – lose your life;

– go straight – be forever lost;

– stay in place – death will reach you;

– turn back – you will not reach home.

The fact alone that Berlin and Moscow discussed virtually all pressing topics of the global agenda (including Syria, Libya and Iran) should have put Kiev on notice. After all, if these two countries have so many areas of common interest, Ukraine cannot count on exclusive German support. The contrary is rather probable – if Berlin can agree with Moscow on all other key points of the international agenda, then it can quite easily sacrifice Ukrainian interests in favor of full understanding.

In addition, the chancellor also discussed the Ukrainian problem in separate with the president of Russia. By all appearances, they did not spend a lot of time on this discussion. As a result, during the press conference they were brief and clear in announcing their united position – Ukraine must fulfill the Minsk agreements. During the last year, such statements became common, so I will remind that it was not so long ago (in 2018) that Berlin usually stated in such cases that it expects Russia to constructively work with the DNR/LNR, who in turn must fulfill the Minsk agreements. And in 2015-2017 Berlin (in chorus with Paris) demanded that the Minsk agreements were Russia’s responsibility to implement.

France and Germany went over to Moscow’s point of view sort of casually and discretely. Moreover, being more involved in the Ukrainian crisis, Berlin was more stoic than Paris.

Zelensky, when striving for the “Normandy format” meeting, was clearly counting on that he would be accommodated (as a young, popular “new formation politician” as he was called in Ukraine) and allowed to at least partially rework the Minsk agreements, or even better – declare them null and void and begin prolonged, tedious and pointless negotiations on the new format for regulation of the crisis. It was not a coincidence that right after the meeting in Paris the Ukrainian media and diplomats attempted to propose their own version for the translation of Merkel’s words at the press conference and tried to attribute to the federal chancellor a statement supposedly saying that the Minsk agreements are not dogma and can be modernized. They broadcasted this so often and with such certainty, that they even convinced some Russian experts, who began to accept Merkel’s phrase as “ambiguous”.

And so now, the German leader says unequivocally that the Minsk agreements must be implemented without any modernization, that Russia and Germany, in fact, have the same view on this topic. The caringly constructed concept of zelensky diplomacy comes crashing down. The people at home can be still indoctrinated about the “great leap forward” achieved. But the concurring and unequivocal position of Berlin and Moscow means that there will not be a new meeting in Berlin in the “Normandy format” without corresponding steps made by Kiev (doing their homework, as they were told in Paris). Pity for Zelensky, who was so convincing in Paris, saying how he already did everything he could and that he is prevented from moving forward by evil radicals, so everyone should just “understand and forgive” him and get busy reconsidering the “Minsk” in the interests of Kiev.

This is a fiasco. Now, the minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine Vadim Pristaiko and company have to think on how to rationalize before the people taking it all in and frozen in expectations of further diplomatic breakthroughs that the April “Normandy format” meeting is cancelled or postponed to an unclear date. Remember, Kiev already voiced a wealth of demands for the “modernization” of the Minsk agreements, which they were planning on stating and pressing in Berlin. And the April meeting was presented by Ukrainian propaganda as 100% arranged. Mind you, April is very soon: February 23rd, March 8th, then the May holidays are already near – April will arrive suddenly.

Something has to be done and decided with this. But what? The fact is, it is very hard to move Merkel from a position taken in advance. However, if she did change her mind, it is even harder to bring her back around.

Well, Merkel changed her mind, seriously and decisively. This is indicated by another topic discussed by the two leaders. I think no one was surprised upon hearing at the press conference that the chiefs of the two countries discussed the fate of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. At this time Merkel again stated that the pipeline will be finished despite American sanctions. Putin in turn stated the probable timetable for the end of works: end of this year – first half of next year. This means that during 2022 the gas pipeline must reach its design capacity no matter what.

I will note that for the first time the federal chancellor did not say anything about the Ukrainian transit. This can be because the transit agreement has been signed. However, it has been signed only for five years. And by the end of 2022, when Nord Stream II reaches peak flowrate, three of these years will already have passed. Previously, in 2016, 2017, 2018 and in 2019 Merkel each time packed up the startup of Nord Stream II with the preservation of the Ukrainian transit. She was not talking about prolonging it for five years but about guaranteeing significant transit volumes through the Ukrainian gas transmission network (GTN).

In principle, Gazprom is interested in preserving the transit through the Ukrainian GTN (as is the GTN itself, which actually should be transferred under Gazprom’s control). First, demand for gas in Europe is rising, and the marine “Streams” are just not being built fast enough. Second, it is always better to use available infrastructure than build a new one. Third, Gazprom does not endeavor to move away from the Ukrainian monopoly on transit only to create a German or Turkish one. Of course, this does not mean that Gazprom is ready to start pumping 80-100 bln m3 yearly through the Ukrainian GTN, but it could quite do 30-40 bln.

However, Gazprom is not willing to tolerate Ukraine’s provocative behavior, who has been motivating “substantiated” (“market”) transit costs with its own need for cash and trying to block Gazprom from building gas pipelines going around its territory. Until now, this was a problem for Gazprom and Russia. However, after the frankly anti-European sanctions from the USA that were meant to put the brakes (if not stop completely) on the building of Nord Stream II, the position of Germany changed in a similar, almost unnoticed fashion, since Germany had determined this pipeline as one of the most important infrastructure projects both in concerning European energy safety and German economy.   

Statements by Berlin on the subject of Nord Stream II are now completely lacking mentions of the need to consider Kiev’s interests and provide guarantees of loading the Ukrainian GTN. It seems, the hard pro-American position accepted by Ukraine on this issue decidedly convinced Germany that Kiev is ready to completely irrationally make decisions that are harmful not only to itself (which is not a concern for Berlin), but also to Germany (which is a very strong concern) in order to protect the strategic interests of Washington.

As in the issue of the Minsk agreements, the positions of Moscow and Berlin are united and coordinated as never before concerning Nord Stream II. The fact that Ukraine is taking a pro-American orientation on this issue in only an additional push for Berlin to distance itself from Kiev. Especially since Germany has experience in dealing with Poland. The latter realized that the multi-billion giveaways from EU funds (mostly filled by German money) will soon end and started talking about receiving reparations for World War II (luckily they are not yet demanding Poland be returned to its borders of the times of Bolesław I the Brave and compensations from Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and Belarus for a millennium of “unlawful ownership” of “immemorial polish lands”).

All in all, Merkel’s visit to Russia does not bode anything good for Kiev. Rather it’s all bad. It seems, German politicians have finally understood the simple truth –support Ukraine or not, but you have to plan your future in such a way that the Ukrainian factor influences it as little as possible, or even better – does not influence it at all.

Source – https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20200113/1026284231.html

Ukraine Peace Hostage to Washington’s Russophobia

Image result for Ukraine Peace Hostage to Washington’s Russophobia

December 15, 2019

After Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky finished multilateral peace talks in Paris, the emphatic media message was that “no red lines had been crossed” in negotiations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It sounded like Zelensky was far more concerned with trying to reassure observers he hadn’t “capitulated” to Putin, rather than engaging in a genuine dialogue to resolve his country’s conflict.

The so-called Normandy Four format of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine is scheduled to meet again in four months. The meeting in Paris on December 9 was the first time leaders had convened after nearly a three-year hiatus. It is to be welcomed that President Zelensky, who was elected in April, shows a willingness to engage with Russia, unlike predecessor Petro Poroshenko, in order to bring peace to eastern Ukraine. The region has been mired in nearly six years of civil war.

During the Paris talks, there was agreement to uphold a ceasefire in Ukraine’s Donbas region, and to extend deconfliction zones by withdrawing troops and artillery. There was also agreement on the exchange of all prisoners between Ukraine government forces and the pro-Russia rebels in Donbas. All very good. But what about the full implementation of the Minsk Accord signed back in 2015?

That accord obliges the government in Kiev to permit elections and regional autonomy in the Donbas. It also obliges a full amnesty for rebels who took up arms against the Kiev administration, which came to power through an illegal US-backed coup in February 2014. The Kiev power grab ushered in an ultra-nationalist Russophobic regime intent on dominating the pro-Russian eastern region. The dramatic shift in power in Kiev towards Neo-Nazi demagogues and paramilitaries was the decisive factor in Donbas taking up arms and also in pro-Russia Crimea seceding in March 2014 and joining the Russian Federation.

Regrettably, President Zelensky appears unwilling to implement the Minsk deal which his predecessor signed up to. In fact, at the concluding press conference jointly held by the four leaders at the Paris talks, Zelensky was given to trying to re-write Minsk. He insisted on “security issues” being settled before political issues. That suggests he wants rebels in Donbas to disarm without Kiev recognizing the region’s autonomy. Zelensky also insisted on “not giving up Donbas and Crimea”, and of regaining control over all of Ukraine’s borders, including those adjacent to Russia.

The Minsk deal – which France, Germany and Russia are in concurrence on as being the only viable way forward to peace – does not say anything about Crimea “being returned” to Ukraine. The accord does not precondition autonomy in the Donbas on a prior disarmament.

In other words, Zelensky is going off script on the Minsk terms for finding a peace settlement. His position is still not adhering to the obligations his government signed up to. Perhaps over the coming months, the Ukrainian president may come round to fulfilling responsibilities as stipulated by the Minsk accord.

But there are, unfortunately, reasons to be skeptical. That’s because the relentless Russophobia residing in Washington leaves Zelensky with little room for maneuver. The shaky Kiev regime is totally reliant on Washington’s patronage for its IMF financial life-line, as well as for military support. Zelensky is the president of a vassal state. Washington calls the tune and the tributes.

As could be seen more than ever during the recent impeachment hearings on President Trump, the consensus in Washington is that Ukraine is “at war with Russia”. American politicians and media are convinced in their Cold War delusions that Russia has invaded Ukraine and is the “aggressor” against a “freedom-loving nation”. That propaganda narrative, of course, reinforces the delusions of the Russia-hating ultra-nationalists in Ukraine who have threatened Zelensky’s life if he “surrenders” to Russia.

Hence, the conflict in Ukraine is not being addressed as the internal one that it really is. Instead, it is being viewed through the Russophobic lens as an external problem, allegedly created by Russian aggression. That means the “solution” is about standing up to Russia with lots more US military aid, rather than addressing the core issues of Kiev’s toxic politics and policies towards its separatist regions.

Russia is a guarantor of Minsk, just like France and Germany are. It is not a party with obligations to fulfill. Those obligations are on the politicians in Kiev and the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

With Washington pressing Zelensky to stand up to non-existing “Russian aggression” that means the search for peace in Ukraine will remain elusive. Peace will only come to Ukraine when Washington stops kicking Kiev around like a political football to gratify its Cold War hostility towards Russia. That’s unlikely to happen in the near future.

When Zelensky seeks to reassure that “no red lines” have been crossed, his mind is not on genuine peace negotiations. Rather, he is seeking to placate Ukraine’s hostage-takers in Washington.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

مؤشرات جديدة في المشهد الدولي والإقليمي

ديسمبر 10, 2019

ناصر قنديل

تستعدّ باريس لعقد اجتماع دولي برعاية فرنسية أمميّة مشتركة لدعم لبنان، مخصّصة لتأمين جرعات مالية سريعة، ونفي وجود شروط سياسية خاصة بتشكيل الحكومة الجديدة في لبنان، منعاً للانهيار الذي بات الاعتراف الغربي جامعاً بوصفه كخطر ممنوع وليس كهدف مرتجى. والاجتماع يضمّ الدول الدائمة العضوية في مجلس الأمن ومعها الاتحاد الأوروبي والأمم المتحدة والجامعة العربية بالإضافة إلى ألمانيا وإيطاليا، وبالتوازي تنعقد قمة رباعية روسية ألمانية فرنسية أوكرانية لوضع اللمسات النهائية على تفاهمات جديدة بين روسيا وأوكرانيا، يرجّح تتويجها بتبادل للأسرى، كما قال الرئيس الأوكراني المنتخب الذي يلتقي الرئيس الروسي للمرة الأولى، وتبدي فرنسا آمالاً بالنجاح في السير قدماً بتطبيق تفاهمات مينسك التي تجمع المشاركين في قمة النورماندي الخاصة بالأزمة الأوكرانية التي افتتحت باب التصعيد الغربي بوجه موسكو، وشهدت ضمّ روسيا لشبه جزيرة القرم، رداً على التصعيد، وشكلت مع الحرب في سورية ثنائية الأمن القومي الروسي، وميمنة وميسرة الهجوم الغربي على روسيا، وتبدو وقد قاربت نهايتها في سورية وأوكرانيا لصالح تكريس دور المرجعية الروسية، مع وقائع محلية استقلالية وطنية تأقلم الغرب مع قبول الاعتراف بشرعيتها، سواء شرعية الدولة السورية أو شرعية ضمّ القرم إلى روسيا او شرعية الخصوصية في الأقاليم الشرقية لأوكرانيا.

يصل بالتزامن وزير الخارجية الروسية سيرغي لافروف إلى واشنطن بدعوة من نظيره الأميركي مايك بومبيو، ويلتقي لافروف في ختام زيارته الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب. ومن المحتمل أن يتفق الجانبان على عقد قمة روسية أميركية في العام المقبل، وهو عام الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية، الذي يريده الرئيس الأميركي عام الإنجازات السلمية، وليس عاماً للتصعيد، وفيما يبدو خصوم واشنطن مستعدين لمنح الرئيس ترامب الهدوء الذي يحتاجه لا يبدو ترامب متعنتاً بشروط تعجيزيّة لتحقيق ذلك. ففي الملفين السوري والأوكراني تبدو الصورة أقرب للتسليم الأميركي للمرجعية الروسية رغم كل الكلام الأرعن للرئيس ترامب حول مبرّرات بقاء قواته في سورية وعلاقة ذلك بالنفط، أو كلامه عن أوكرانيا والعقوبات على روسيا، بحيث يبدو الملف الرئيسي للمفاوضات الروسية الأميركية بعيداً عن هذين الملفين وبعيداً أيضاً عن ملف فنزويلا التي تتواصل مفاوضات الحكومة والمعارضة فيها وتتقدّم. فالاهتمام الأميركي والروسي هو بالبحث عن مخرج محدود الكلفة المالية للعودة إلى التفاهمات الخاصة بالأسلحة الاستراتيجية بدلاً من سباق تسلح سيُضعف فرص نمو اقتصادات البلدين اللذين لا يعيشان وضع ثمانينيات القرن الماضي عندما كانت واشنطن في بحبوحة وموسكو في حال شحّ في الموارد.

في الإقليم تتبلور مشاهد مشابهة على الجبهة الرئيسية للتوتر. فالعلاقات السعودية الإيرانية تتجه نحو التفاوض المعلن عبر منصة مؤتمر الخليج الذي دعت إليه عُمان، والذي يتوقع توسّعه ليضم تحت مظلة الأمم المتحدة بالإضافة إلى إيران وجوارها الخليجي، الدول الدائمة العضوية في مجلس الأمن الدولي، بينما يتحدث السعوديون علناً بقرب إنجاز تهدئة في اليمن تتحوّل إلى تسوية، وتنشر وثائق مسقط للتفاهمات الخاصة باليمن وتظهر فرصاً حقيقية للتوافق، بعدما تثبت موقع أنصار الله ميدانياً كلاعب إقليمي حاسم، وصار الأمن السعودي مرتبطاً بوقف حرب اليمن، وتشكل المساعي الإماراتية نحو إيران وسورية تعبيراً عما تستعد له السعودية. بينما تستأنف المحادثات الأوروبية الإيرانية حول الاتفاق النووي وسبل إنعاشه وتتقدم، رغم الخطاب الإيراني الذي يزداد قوة وطلباً للمزيد.

على خلفيةهذا المناخ المعاكس لمناخ ما قبل شهرين، تدور أحداث لبنان والعراق، وقد بدأت هذه الأحداث بينما كان يجري التحضير لتفجير الوضع في إيران. وتبدو اليوم أضغاث أحلام. ففقدت الأحداث في لبنان والعراق رغم أسبابها الوجيهة محلياً في البلدين، وظيفتها الدوليةوالإقليمية، لكنها خرجت عن السيطرة برفع السقوف وما رافقها عراقياً من تصعيد دموي، وما رافقها لبنانياً من تكسير لبيض التسويات، بهدف قلي عجّةالمواجهة،وصارت السياسةذريعة لتبرير الحاجة للوقت للنزول عن الشجرة.

مواضيع متعلقة

President Macron’s amazing admission

President Macron’s amazing admission

The Saker

September 11, 2019

[this column was written for the Unz Review]

I don’t know whether the supposedly Chinese curse really comes from China, but whether it does or not, we most certainly are cursed with living in some truly interesting times: Iran won the first phase of the “tanker battle” against the AngloZionistsPutin offered to sell Russian hypersonic missiles to Trump (Putin has been trolling western leaders a lot lately) while Alexander Lukashenko took the extreme measure of completely shutting down the border between the Ukraine and Belarus due to the huge influx of weapons and nationalist extremists from the Ukraine. As he put it himself “if weapons fall into the hands of ordinary people and especially nationalist-minded people, wait for terrorism“. He is quite right, of course. Still, there is a sweet irony here, or call it karma if you prefer, but for the Ukronazis who promised their people a visa-free entrance into the EU (for tourism only, and if you have money to spend, but still…), and yet 5 years into that obscene experiment of creating a rabidly russophobic Ukraine and 100 days (or so) into Zelenskii’s presidency, we have the Ukraine’s closest and most supportive neighbor forced to totally shut down its border due to the truly phenomenal toxicity of the Ukrainian society! But, then again, the Ukraine is such a basket-case that we can count on “most interesting” things (in the sense of the Chinese curse, of course) happening there too.

[Sidebar: interestingly, one of the people the Ukrainians gave up in this exchange was Vladimir Tsemakh, a native of the Donbass who was kidnapped by the Ukie SBU in Novorussia (our noble “Europeans” did not object to such methods!) and declared the “star witness” against Russia in the MH-17 (pseudo-)investigation. Even more pathetic is that the Dutch apparently fully endorsed this load of crapola. Finally, and just for a good laugh, check out how the infamous’ Bellincat presented Tsemakh. And then, suddenly, everybody seem to “forget” that “star witness” and now the Ukies have sent him to Russia. Amazing how fast stuff gets lost in the collective western memory hole…]

Right now there seems to be a tug of war taking place between the more mentally sane elements of the Zelenskii administration and the various nationalist extremists in the SBU, deathsquads and even regular armed forces. Thus we see these apparently contradictory developments taking place: on on hand, the Ukraine finally agreed to a prisoner swap with Russia (a painful one for Russia as Russia mostly traded real criminals, including a least two bona fide Ukie terrorist, against what are mostly civilian hostages, but Putin decided – correctly I think – that freeing Russian nationalists from Ukie jails was more important in this case) while on the other hand, the Ukronazi armed forces increased their shelling, even with 152mm howitzers which fire 50kg high explosive fragmentation shells, against the Donbass. Whatever may be the case, this prisoner swap, no matter how one-sided and unfair, is a positive development which might mark the beginning of a pragmatic and less ideological attitude in Kiev.

Urkoterrorists Sentsov and Kol’chenko

Some very cautious beginnings of a little hint of optimism might be in order following that exchange, but the big stuff seems to be scheduled for the meeting of the Normandy Group (NG), probably in France. So far, the Russians have made it very clear that they will not meet just for the hell of meeting, and that the only circumstance in which the Russians will agree to a NG meeting would be if it has good chances of yielding meaningful results which, translated from Russian diplomatic language simply means “if/when Kiev stops stonewalling and sabotaging everything”. Specifically, the Russians are demanding that Zelenskii commit in writing to the so-called “Steinmeier formula” and that the Ukrainian forces withdraw from the line of contact. Will that happen? Maybe. We shall soon find out.

But the single most amazing event of the past couple of weeks was the absolutely astonishing speech French President Emmanuel Macron made in front of an assembly of ambassadors. I could not find the full speech translated into English (I may have missed it somewhere), so I will post the crucial excerpts in French and translate them myself. If I find a full, official, translation I will post it under this column ASAP. For the time being, this is the link to the full speech transcript in French:

https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2019/08/27/discours-du-president-de-la-republique-a-la-conference-des-ambassadeurs-1

Let’s immediately begin with some of the most incredible excerpts, emphasis added by me: (sorry for the long quote but, truly, each word counts!)

L’ordre international est bousculé de manière inédite mais surtout avec, si je puis dire, un grand bouleversement qui se fait sans doute pour la première fois dans notre histoire à peu près dans tous les domaines, avec une magnitude profondément historique. C’est d’abord une transformation, une recomposition géopolitique et stratégique. Nous sommes sans doute en train de vivre la fin de l’hégémonie occidentale sur le monde. Nous nous étions habitués à un ordre international qui depuis le 18ème siècle reposait sur une hégémonie occidentale, vraisemblablement française au 18ème siècle, par l’inspiration des Lumières ; sans doute britannique au 19ème grâce à la révolution industrielle et raisonnablement américaine au 20ème grâce aux 2 grands conflits et à la domination économique et politique de cette puissance. Les choses changent. Et elles sont profondément bousculées par les erreurs des Occidentaux dans certaines crises, par les choix aussi américains depuis plusieurs années et qui n’ont pas commencé avec cette administration mais qui conduisent à revisiter certaines implications dans des conflits au Proche et Moyen-Orient et ailleurs, et à repenser une stratégie profonde, diplomatique et militaire, et parfois des éléments de solidarité dont nous pensions qu’ils étaient des intangibles pour l’éternité même si nous avions constitué ensemble dans des moments géopolitiques qui pourtant aujourd’hui ont changé. Et puis c’est aussi l’émergence de nouvelles puissances dont nous avons sans doute longtemps sous-estimé l’impact. La Chine au premier rang mais également la stratégie russe menée, il faut bien le dire, depuis quelques années avec plus de succès. J’y reviendrai. L’Inde qui émerge, ces nouvelles économies qui deviennent aussi des puissances pas seulement économiques mais politiques et qui se pensent comme certains ont pu l’écrire, comme de véritables États civilisations et qui viennent non seulement bousculer notre ordre international, qui viennent peser dans l’ordre économique mais qui viennent aussi repenser l’ordre politique et l’imaginaire politique qui va avec, avec beaucoup de force et beaucoup plus d’inspiration que nous n’en avons. Regardons l’Inde, la Russie et la Chine. Elles ont une inspiration politique beaucoup plus forte que les Européens aujourd’hui. Elles pensent le monde avec une vraie logique, une vraie philosophie, un imaginaire que nous avons un peu perdu

Here is my informal translation of these words:

The international order is being shaken in an unprecedented manner, above all with, if I may say so, by the great upheaval that is undoubtedly taking place for the first time in our history, in almost every field and with a profoundly historic magnitude. The first thing we observe is a major transformation, a geopolitical and strategic re-composition. We are undoubtedly experiencing the end of Western hegemony over the world. We were accustomed to an international order which, since the 18th century, rested on a Western hegemony, mostly French in the 18th century, by the inspiration of the Enlightenment; then mostly British in the 19th century thanks to the Industrial Revolution and, finally, mostly American in the 20th century thanks to the 2 great conflicts and the economic and political domination of this power. Things change. And they are now deeply shaken by the mistakes of Westerners in certain crises, by the choices that have been made by Americans for several years which did not start with this administration, but which lead to revisiting certain implications in conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, and to rethinking a deep, diplomatic and military strategy, and sometimes elements of solidarity that we thought were intangible for eternity, even if we had constituted together in geopolitical moments that have changed. And then there is the emergence of new powers whose impact we have probably underestimated for a long time. China is at the forefront, but also the Russian strategy, which has, it must be said, been pursued more successfully in recent years. I will come back to that. India that is emerging, these new economies that are also becoming powers not only economic but political and that think themselves, as some have written, as real “civilizational states” which now come not only to shake up our international order but who also come to weigh in on the economic order and to rethink the political order and the political imagination that goes with it, with much dynamism and much more inspiration than we have. Look at India, Russia and China. They have a much stronger political inspiration than Europeans today. They think about our planet with a true logic, a true philosophy, an imagination that we’ve lost a little bit.

Now let’s unpack these key statements one by one:

1) “ great upheaval that is undoubtedly taking place for the first time in our history in almost every field and with a profoundly historic magnitude”

Here Macron sets the stage for some truly momentous observations: what will be discussed next is not only a major event, but one without precedent in history (whether French or European). Furthermore, what will be discussed next, affects “almost every field” and with huge historical implications.

2) “We are undoubtedly experiencing the end of Western hegemony over the world”

When I read that, my first and rather infantile reaction was to exclaim “really?! No kiddin’?! Who would have thought!?” After all, some of us have been saying that for a long, long while, but never-mind that. What is important is that even a Rothschild-puppet like Macron had to finally speak these words. Oh sure, he probably felt as happy as the Captain of the Titanic when he had to (finally!) order a general evacuation of this putatively unsinkable ship, but nonetheless – he did do it. From now on, the notion of the end of the western hegemony on the planet is no more relegated to what the leaders of the Empire and their propaganda machine like to call “fringe extremists” and has now fully entered the (supposedly) “respectable” and “mainstream” public discourse. This is a huge victory for all of us who have been saying the same things for years already.

3) “by the mistakes of Westerners in certain crises, by the choices that have been made by Americans for several years”

Here, again, I feel like engaging in some petty self-congratulation and want to say “I told you that too!”, but that would really be infantile, would it not? But yeah, while the internal contradictions of western materialism in general, and of AngloZionist Capitalism specifically, have been catching up with the Western World and while an eventual catastrophic crisis was inevitable, it also sure is true that western leaders mostly did it to themselves; at the very least, they dramatically accelerated these processes. In this context, I would single out the following politicians for a nomination to a medal for exceptional service in the destruction of the western hegemony over our long-suffering planet: Donald Trump and Barak Obama, of course, but also François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron (yes, he too even if he now changes his tune!), Angela Merkel, of course, and then last but not least, every single British Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher (maybe with special commendation for Teresa May). Who knows, maybe they were all KGB/GRU/SVR agents after all? (just kiddin’!)

4) “ the emergence of new powers whose impact we have probably underestimated for a long time. China is at the forefront, but also the Russian strategy, which has, it must be said, been pursued more successfully in recent years”

Next, it’s not only China. Russia too is a major competitor, and a very successful one at that, hence the admission that in spite of all the efforts of the AngloZionist elites not only did the Empire not succeed in breaking Russia, but Russia has been very successful in defeating the western efforts. To those interested, I highly recommend this article by Jon Hellevig on the true state of the Russian economy. Finally, in military terms, Russia has achieved more than parity. In fact, I would argue that at least in terms of quality the Russian armed forces are ahead in several crucial technologies (hypersonic missiles, air defenses, electronic warfare etc.) even while she still lags behind in other technologies (mostly truly obsolete things like aircraft carriers). But most crucial is the political victory of Russia: five years after the Euromaidan and the liberation of Crimea from the Nazi yoke, the USA is far more isolated than Russia. It’s comical, really!

5) “real “civilizational states” which now come not only to shake up our international order

I have been speaking about a unique, and very distinct, “Russian civilizational realm” in many of my writings and I am quite happy to see Macron using almost the same words. Of course, Macron did not only mean Russia here, but also India and China. Still, and although the Russian nation is much younger than the one of China or, even more so India, 1000 years of Russian civilization does deserve to be listed next to these two other giants of world history. And what is absolutely certain is that China and India could never build the new international order they want without Russia, at least for the foreseeable future. In spite of all the very real progress made recently by the Chinese armed forces (and, to a lesser degree, also the Indian ones), Russia still remains a much stronger military power than China. What Russia, China and India are, is that they are all former empires which have given up on imperialism and who know only aspire to be powerful, but nevertheless “normal” nations. Just by their size and geography, these are “un-invadable” countries who all present a distinct model of development and who want a multi-polar international order which would allow them to safely achieve their goals. In other words, Macron understands that the future international order will be dictated by China, Russia and India and not by any combination of western powers. Quite an admission indeed!

6) “ Look at India, Russia and China. They have a much stronger political inspiration than Europeans today. They think about our planet with a true logic, a true philosophy, an imagination that we’ve lost a little bit.”

This is the “core BRICS” challenge to the Empire: China and Russia have already established what the Chinese call a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era”. If they can now extend this kind of informal but extremely profound partnership (I think of it as “symbiotic”) to India next, then the BRICS will have a formidable future (especially after the Brazilian people give the boot to Bolsonaro and his US patrons). Should that fail and should India chose to remain outside this unique relationship, then the SCO will become the main game in town. And yes, Macron is spot on: China and, especially, Russia have a fundamentally different worldview and, unlike the western one, theirs does have “much stronger political” goals (Macron used the word “aspirations”), “a real philosophy and imagination” which the West has lost, and not just a “little bit” but, I would argue, completely. But one way or the other, and for the first time in 1000 years, the future of our planet will not be decided anywhere in the West, not in Europe (old or “new”), but in Asia, primarily by the Russian-Chinese alliance. As I explained here, the AngloZionist Empire is probably the last one in history, definitely the last western one.

Now we should not be naïve here, Macron did not suddenly find religion, grow a conscience or suddenly become an expert on international relations. There is, of course, a cynical reason why he is changing his tune. In fact, there are several such reasons. First, it appears that the on and off bromance between Macron and Trump is over. Second, all of Europe is in free fall socially, economically and, of course, politically. And with a total nutcase in power in London dealing with Brexit and with Angela Merkel’s apparently never-ending political agony, it is only logical for a French head of state to try to step in. Furthermore, while I have always said that Russia is not part of Europe culturally and spiritually, Russia is very much part of Europe geographically, economically and politically and there is simply no way for any imaginable alliance of European states to save Europe from its current predicament without Russian help. Like it or not, that is a fact, irrespective of whether politician or commentator X, Y or Z realizes this or not. Macron probably figured out that the so-called “East Europeans” are nothing but cheap prostitutes doing whatever Uncle Shmuel wants them to do, Germany is collapsing under the weight of Merkel’s “brilliant” immigration policy while the UK under BoJo is busy trying to self-destruct at least as fast as the USA under Trump. Macron is right. If united, Russia and France could build a much safer Europe than the one we see slowly and painfully dying before our eyes today. But he is also wrong if he thinks that Russia can be “re-invited” back into the AngloZionist sphere of influence. In that context, Putin’s reply to the question of whether Russia was willing to return to the G8 is very telling: first he said that if the G7 wants to come back to Russia, Putin would welcome that, but then he also added that the G7/8 is useless without, yes, you guessed it, China and India.

It will be interesting to see if the current G7 will ever agree to mutate into a new G10 which would make Russia, China and India the most powerful block (or voting group) of this new forum. I personally doubt it very much, but then they are becoming desperate and Macron’s words seem to be indicating that this option is at least being discussed behind closed doors. Frankly, considering how quickly the G7 is becoming utterly irrelevant, I expect it to be gradually phased out and replaced by the (objectively much more relevant) G20.

Finally, there are Trump’s efforts into getting Russia back into the G8 which are very transparently linked to the current trade war and geostrategic competition between the US and China. The offer is useless to Russia, just like the return to PACE, but Russia does not want to needlessly offend anybody and that is why Putin did not publicly rebuff Trump or directly refuse to come to Miami: instead, he approved of the general concept, but offered a better way to go about it. Typical Putin.

Conclusion: Macron reads the writing on the wall

Whatever his political motives to say what he said, Macron is no idiot and neither are his advisors. Neither is this a “one off” thing. The French meant every word Macron spoke and they are putting everybody on notice (including the Ukrainians, the US, the EU and the Russians, of course). In fact, Macron has already invited Putin to participate in a Normandy Format meeting in Paris in the very near future. If that meeting eventually does take place, this will mean that the organizers gave Putin guarantees that this will not just be the usual kaffeeklatsch and that some serious results will finally be obtained. That, in turn, means that somebody – probably the French – will have the unpleasant task of telling the Ukrainians that the party is over and that they now need to get their act together and start implementing the Minsk Agreements, something which Zelenskii might or might not try to do, but which the real gun-toting Ukronazis will never accept. Thus, if the West is really serious about forcing Kiev to abide by the Mink Agreements, then the West has to finally give-up its self-defeating russophobic hysteria and substantially change their tone about the Ukraine. To invite Putin to Paris just to tell him again that Russia (which is not even a party to the Minsk Agreements) “must do more” makes zero sense. Therefore, all the other parties will have to come to terms with reality before inviting Putin. Apparently, this might be happening in Paris. As for Trump, he just offered to mediate (if asked to do so) between Russia and the Ukraine.

It shall be extremely interesting to see if this Normandy Format meeting does actually take place and what role, if any, Trump and the USA will play behind the scenes. We shall then know if Macron’s epiphany was just a one-time fluke or not.

The Saker

PS: the latest rumor from the Ukraine: Zelenskii supporters are saying that Poroshenko is preparing a coup against Zelenskii and that he is preparing a special force of Ukronazi deathsquads to execute that coup. Dunno about a real coup, but they have already blocked the Rada. Never a dull moment indeed… 🙂

G7 FORMAT IS DEAD

South Front

G7 Format Is Dead

US President Donald J. Trump speaks during a press conference on the closing day of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, 26 August 2019. (Photo: IAN LANGSDON, EPA-EFE)

The G7 summit took place in France’s Biarritz in the period from August 24 to August 26 involving leaders of the US, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the UK, as well as the top EU bureaucrat Donald Tusk.

The G7 participants released a surprisingly short joint statement adressing a very limited number of global questions:

The G7 Leaders wish to underline their great unity and the positive spirit of the debates. The G7 Summit organized by France in Biarritz has successfully produced agreements by the Heads of State and Government themselves on several points summarized below:

Trade

The G7 is committed to open and fair world trade and to the stability of the global economy.
The G7 requests that the Finance Ministers closely monitor the state of the global economy. 
Therefore, the G7 wishes to overhaul the WTO to improve effectiveness with regard to intellectual property protection, to settle disputes more swiftly and to eliminate unfair trade practices.
The G7 commits to reaching in 2020 an agreement to simplify regulatory barriers and modernize international taxation within the framework of the OECD.

Iran

We fully share two objectives: to ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons and to foster peace and stability in the region.

Ukraine

France and Germany will organize a Normandy format summit in the coming weeks to achieve tangible results.

Libya

We support a truce in Libya that will lead to a long-term ceasefire.
We believe that only a political solution can ensure Libya’s stability.
We call for a well-prepared international conference to bring together all the stakeholders and regional actors relevant to this conflict.
We support in this regard the work of the United Nations and the African Union to set up an inter-Libyan conference.

Hong Kong

The G7 reaffirms the existence and importance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 on Hong Kong and calls for violence to be avoided.

After the G7 in 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew its signature from the final declaration, the 2019 was shown by some mainstream media outlets as a success. However, it’s just another indication that the format is dying after the exclusion of Russia.

No surprise that the return of Russia in fact became one of the key topics during the G7 summit. The Guardian even reproted that there was a kind of scandal on this topic with the US leader openly arguing that Russia should be returned.

G7 Format Is Dead

U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrive for a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

“Russia be readmitted to the group, rejecting arguments that it should remain an association of liberal democracies, according to diplomats at the summit in Biarritz.

The disagreement led to heated exchanges at a dinner on Saturday night inside the seaside resort’s 19th-century lighthouse. According to diplomatic sources, Trump argued strenuously that Vladimir Putin should be invited back, five years after Russia was ejected from the then G8) for its annexation of Crimea.

Of the other leaders around the table, only Giuseppe Conte, the outgoing Italian prime minister, offered Trump any support, according to this account. Shinzo Abe of Japan was neutral. The rest – the UK’s Boris Johnson, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the EU council president, Donald Tusk, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron – pushed back firmly against the suggestion,” The Guardian reported.

 

The report was followed by an official statement by Trump that having Russia in the group “is better than having them outside” the G7. So, The Guardian’s report part regarding Trump’s stance on the topic was true. At the same time, the newspaper claimed that all others were against. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Italy supported the idea.
  • The report claimed that Japan was neutral. However, in fact, Japan is interested in the expansion of diplomatic formats for the dialogue with Russia, especially regarding the Kuril Islands question. The bilateral talks on this topic is a dead end for Japan because Russia is not going to make any consenquences. The only chance of Shinzo Abe to make some progress is wider formats with help from his Western allies.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron allegedly was against this move during the G7. However, other French statements clearly indicate that Paris will act in the framework of its Big Brother, the US. It is not up to France, that lost a large part of its influence under the new presidency, to decide.
  • German’s Angela Merkel officially linked the return of Russia to the implementing the Minsk agreements related to the situation in eastern Ukraine. Crimea is for a long time beyond the diplomatic rhetoric of Merkel.
  • In fact, the UK and Canada were the only powers really standing against the return of Russia. Since the start of Trump’s first term, the  UK has been the key power representing interests of the Euro-Atlantic establishment. So, there is no surprise in this. At the same time, Canada is not a really independent state that can provide a really independent foreign policy. It’s an open secret that the UK still appoints a Governor General of Canada that has a wide range of options to impact the Canadian policy – for example, to dissolve the Parliament.
  • The EU council president Donald Tusk was also against, according to The Guardian. However, it remains unclear what did he do there. It’s the G7, not the G7 + “EU buerocrats”. If there is a decision to invite various persons to summit to make fun, SouthFront recommends to invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2020. He would use his comedian skills  to make a great show for the participants.

G7 Format Is Dead

David Lipton (IMF), Moussa Faki (AUC), David Malpass (World Bank), Scott Morrison (Australia), Antonio Guterres (UN), Narendra Modi (India), Guy Ryder (ILO), Pedro Sanchez (Spain), Angel Gurria (OECD), Akinwumi Adesina (African Development Bank). Front: Boris Johnson (UK), Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Abdel Sisi (Egypt), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Justin Trudeau (Canada), Donald Trump (US), Emmanuel Macron (France), Angela Merkel (Germany), Macky Sall (Senegal), Roch Marc Christian Kaboré (Burkina Faso), Sebastián Piñera (Chile), Guiseppe Conte (Italy), Donald Tusk (EC) Photograph: Andrew Parsons/PA

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Ukie nationalism vs Otto von Bismarck

Source

August 14, 2019

Ukie nationalism vs Otto von Bismarck

[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]

When Zelenskii came to power, there were two fundamental options he could have chosen. These options were, roughly:

Option one or pragmatism above ideology: to make a determined effort to address Ukraine’s most urgent problems. At the very least, Zelenskii could have ordered his forces to stop firing and have them withdraw to a safe distance (Zelenskii had the full authority to do so, as soon as he was inaugurated and he did not need anybody’s help to do so). Obviously, such a move would have to be coordinated with the LDNR forces. And that, in turn, means that at the very least, Zelenskii should have opened a channel of direct communications with the two republics. This option could be described as “beginning to implement at least the very first steps of the Minsk Agreements.”

Option two ideology above pragmatism: to make a determined effort not to address Ukraine’s most urgent problems. The priority here is to declare that the Ukraine will not honor the Minsk Agreements: no talks with the LDNR, no ceasefire, no withdrawal of forces, no amnesty and, most definitely, no discussions about any kind of special status for the Donbass. This option could be described as “more of the same” or “Poroshenko reloaded.”

Prince Otto von Bismarck once famously said that “politics is the art of the possible” and I think that this is an excellent rule to keep in mind when trying to figure out what is going on and what might happen next. There is a lot of hyperbolic rhetoric out there, but no matter how delusional Ukie politicians can be, the reality remains something objective, and that objective reality is what will shape the future, not the empty ideological nonsense spewed by politicians (whether Ukrainian ones or AngloZionists).

As of right now, the overwhelming majority of experts have agreed that Zelenskii is not going for Option #1. This strongly suggests that the Ukraine is going for Option #2. But, as I have indicated above, Zelenskii’s Option #2 is nothing more than, well, “more of the same.” And this makes sense, especially if we consider that:

Even his own presidential website does not work!

1) the same causes produce the same outcomes (after all “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over expecting a different result) and

2) the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior

So what really happened? Why is Zelenskii apparently dead set on repeating all the same mistakes Poroshenko made?

As I have indicated in a recent article, the Ukraine is not a democracy but an oligarchy: ever since 1991 the most prosperous Soviet republic was mercilessly plundered by an entire class (in the Marxist sense of the word) of oligarchs whose biggest fear has always been that the same “horror” (from their point of view) which befell Russia with Putin, would eventually arrive at the Ukraine.

Here we need to make something clear: this is NOT, repeat, NOT about nationality or nationalism. The Ukrainian oligarchs are just like any other oligarchs: their loyalty is to their money and nothing else. If you want to characterize these oligarchs, you could think of them as culturally “post-Soviet” meaning that they don’t care about nationality, and even though their prime language is Russian, they don’t give a damn about Russia or Russians (or anybody else, for that matter!). Since many of them are Jews, they have a network of supporters/accomplices in Israel of course, but also in the West and even in Russia. In truth, these guys are the ultimate “internationalists” in their own, toxic, kind of way.

The other significant force in the Ukraine is the West Ukrainian (Galician) Nazi death-squads and mobs. Their power is not a democracy either, but an ochlocracy. These guys are a minority, a pretty small one even, but they have enough muscle and even firepower to threaten any nominal Ukrainian leader. Furthermore, these folks have profoundly infiltrated all the police and security forces which, in theory, would have been able to control or disarm them (the SBU, especially, is chock full of Urkonazi thugs).

Some fine specimens of “ochlocrats”

Now let’s begin by looking at the oligarchs: their number 1 priority is to continue to plunder the Ukraine. For that, you need the opposite of “law and order”: you need lawlessness, chaos, violence and, most importantly, you need the tiny figleaf of “the Moskal aggression” to hide behind. In other words, while these oligarchs probably do not want an open a full-scale war with the LDNR (or, even less with Russia herself), they simply cannot allow peace to break-out.

The Ukronazis don’t want peace to break out either, lest their influence and power shrink back to something roughly proportional to their share of the population of the Ukraine. Besides, since their entire ideology and worldview is all about hating Russia and being anti-Russia, any peace with Russia is literally unthinkable for them. They and their Polish supporters want Russia to break apart in numerous small state-lets which they (or, in their delusional dreams, the Chinese) could dominate. These folks will always perceive Russia as an existential threat. In their own way, they are absolutely right: Russia will always remain the reality check on their delusions. This was as true in the distant 13th century as it is nowadays.

Finally, let’s keep in mind that neither the oligarchs nor the Ukronazis genuinely want the people of Crimea and the Donbass to be part of “their” Ukraine since the overwhelming majority of these people would categorically oppose both the oligarchs and the Ukronazis. Yes, for prestige and ideological reasons, all these Galician Nazis will always declare that “Crimea is forever Ukrainian” and “we shall reconquer the Donbass,” but what they are genuinely fantasizing about is the territory, and only the territory. As for the 2 million-plus virulently anti-Nazi people currently living on these lands, they simply want them either dead or expelled).

So, while about 70% or so of the people of the Ukraine want peace to return and the horrors of the civil war to finally stop, the only two groups who have real power want the civil war in the East to continue. There are even quite a few Zelenskii nominees who have declared that war with the LDNR is the only way to solve the crisis. Some even want war with Russia!

Reality, however, is a pesky thing and, as the expression goes, if your head is in the sand, your butt is in the air and the collective Ukronazi “butt” has been exposed in the air for several years now. This is also true for the supposed “reforms” of the Ukronazi forces.

Quite a few signs are indicating that most of the so-called “reforms” and “reorganization” of the Ukronazi forces were more about corruption (what else!?) and window dressing than anything else. Galicians are generally famous as world-class torturers and executioners of civilians, but not really military commanders (this is why Ukronazi “historians” are now desperately parsing every year in the history of what is called the Ukraine today to find some kind of “Ukrainian” victory; all they came up with so far are very small, completely irrelevant, local battles). In contrast, the LDNR forces seem to be doing pretty well, and their morale appears to be as strong as ever (which is unsurprising since their military ethos is based in 1000 years of Russian military history). Last, but certainly not least, there is Putin’s rather striking warning during the Olympics when he declared that any Ukronazi attack would have, quote, “very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood.”

This warning was apparently heeded both in Kiev and in Washington, DC.

The mood of the Russian public opinion seems to be one of total disgust and frustrated anger. It’s not like Zelenskii was ever very popular in Russia, but at least he was no Nazi, and he seemed to be willing to take at least the very first steps towards finally stopping the insanity. That hope is now totally shattered (the Russian media reports all the anti-Russian statements of the various Zelenskii nominees daily).

While the Kremlin more often than not sticks to its traditional diplomatic language, most Russian experts appear to be fed-up with Zelenskii and his antics and are now all pushing for some kind of hardening of the Russian stance towards this 5-year long Banderastan. And the Kremlin has paid attention: Russia is now handing out passports to pretty much any Ukrainian wanting to get one. This is the first step in a time-tested sequence, the next one which would be the recognition of the LDNR as sovereign states (as was done in Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

Many wonder what in the world Putin is waiting for and why Russia has not officially recognized these republics yet?

The reasons for this are as simple as they are compelling:

First, any premature recognition would further fuel the western fairy-tale about “Russia” having “invaded” the Ukraine to grab land. If the AngloZionists did not shy away from making such claims while Russian forces were still in their barracks, you could imagine the hysterical shrieks we would have heard from the “collective West” if Russia indeed had decided to move her forces into the Donbass to stop the Ukronazi aggression!

Second, to the degree that the Empire created an “anti-Russia” with its Ukronazi Banderastan, Russia created an “anti-Banderastan” with the LDNR. This is very important and must never be overlooked: yes, Nazi-occupied Ukraine is a never healing wound in the side of Russia, but Novorussia also is a never healing wound in the side of Nazi-occupied Ukraine. The big difference is that Russia is strong enough to cope with her wound, whereas the Ukronazi Banderastan never had a chance and has already collapsed beyond any hope of survival.

Third, Russia simply cannot afford to pay by herself the immense bill for the eventual reconstruction of devastated Ukraine. Just fixing Crimea is already an enormous and extremely costly task for Russia, especially after decades of Ukie neglect, but at least down the road, it is obvious that Crimea is headed for prosperity and that the returns on investment will be huge. But single-handedly rebuilding the entire Donbass is probably beyond the Russian means. Currently, Russia is already providing vast amounts of aid to the Novorussians, and she is basically maxed out.

Finally, let’s remember here that the UNSC approved the Minsk Agreements and that, as such, they are not an elective: the Minsk Agreements are obligatory under international law. And here is the beauty: Russia is not a part of the Minsk Agreements, only the Ukraine and the LDNR are. Thus while the AngloZionists mantrically repeat that “Russia must be sanctioned for not abiding by the Minsk Agreements” or “Russia must do more” – they all do secretly realize that this is empty, hot, air. Besides, even the duller western leaders now are beginning to realize which side truly does not want to abide by these agreements.

These agreements are even less popular in Novorussia than they are in Kiev: it is an open secret that the Novorussians will never agree to be ruled from Kiev again. Ever. And, sooner or later, they will join Russia in some shape or form. But that is in the future. For the time being, the Novorussians are smart enough to realize that they should go along and let the Ukronazi idiots openly sabotage these agreements. And since Zelenskii and his nominees are now declaring that they will never negotiate with the LDNR (which the Minsk Agreements require), it is not Russia or the LDNR which destroyed these agreements, but the Ukrainian government, quite officially so.

The sweet irony of Ukie politics: a Ukronazi vandalizes the portrait of the man who created the Ukraine in the first place!

One striking development since the election of Zelenskii is the number of Ukrainian political figures which have openly declared that the Ukraine should simply militarily re-capture the Donbass (some even suggested Crimea). It is thus probably a good idea to revisit the military options on all sides.

Let’s begin with the Ukronazi dream: this is pretty straightforward, and plenty of Ukrainian officials have mentioned the “Croatian option” which refers to the surprise attack of the Croats (fully backed by NATO) against the Serbian UN Protection Areas in Croatia (see “Operation Storm” on Wikipedia). The model is simple: pretend to negotiate in good faith, get (sympathetic) peacekeepers to disarm all the locals, then attack them with everything you’ve got. If the LDNR were all alone, cut off from Russia, there could be a theoretical (if somewhat unlikely) chance of success of such an attack. But we need to remember here that the Krajina-Serbs (and the Bosnian-Serbs too) were betrayed by Slobodan Milosevic who did nothing to protect them. In fact, Serbia even slammed sanctions against the Republika Srpska. Finally, NATO had complete and total air supremacy.

The case of the LDNR could not be more different because far from betraying the Donbass or imposing sanctions as Milosevic did, Putin gave the LDNR the full support of Russia. If the Ukrainians do attack, Russia will have a very wide array of options to chose from including:

  1. Sending in more humanitarian aid
  2. Sending in more military equipment (the “Voentorg”)
  3. Sending in more volunteers (the “northern wind”), especially highly trained professionals
  4. Sharing intelligence and reconnaissance data with the LDNR forces
  5. Deploying forward air controllers (FACs) in special forces teams to coordinate artillery strikes on Ukronazi targets from across the border
  6. Shooting down Ukrainian missiles and aircraft (including UAVs)
  7. Engaging Russian electronic warfare units to disrupt Ukie signals (radars, including counter-battery, GNSS signals, audio, and video communications, data links, etc.)

So far, this is what Russia has already done in the past (options #5-6-7 only in a few specific instances).

Now what people usually see as the next escalatory option for Russia would be to send ground forces into Novorussia to directly engage the attacking Ukronazi forces.

In truth, Russia has plenty of other options before a ground operation. For example, one further Russian option could include:

  1. Officially declaring a “humanitarian no-fly zone” à la Libya, in which “all means necessary” will be used to stop the aggression and then immediately send in Russian fixed-wing and rotary-wing close air support & strike aircraft (under cover of interceptors and multi-role fighters, of course) and even bombers to destroy advancing Ukie units.

Russia could very easily declare a no-fly zone over the Donbass without moving a single air defense unit across the border: Russian long-range air defenses are more than enough to “lock” that entire airspace, especially if combined with AWACS and interceptors (with long-range missiles).

Still, these steps, while very visible, would still be limited to the Donbass area of operations. But Russia could take this one step further and strike very specific targets in the rest of the Ukraine. Specifically,

  1. Russia could sink the entire (tiny) Ukrainian “fleet” in port or on the high seas. That would not be militarily significant, but politically it would send the correct message.
  2. Russia could decide to also destroy the Ukrainian air force by destroying the main Ukrainian airfields. Russia could very easily do this with long-range cruise missiles. Once enough runways, ATC towers, radars, fuel and oil storage facilities, etc. are destroyed, the Ukrainian airforce as such would cease to exist (even if individual aircraft could be hidden and survive the Russian strikes).
  3. Next, Russia could get serious with the Ukrainian ground forces and begin striking key command posts, communication nodes, fuel and ammo dumps, bridges, etc. The goal here would not be to kill as many Ukrainian servicemen as possible, but to hit in the right places to make it impossible for the Ukrainian military to engage in coordinated offensive operations.
  4. Finally, Russia could decide to open the hunting season on key officials and begin executing some of the most odious Nazi officials (just to scare the rest). Again, cruise missiles are probably the most obvious option here, but other options can be very successfully used including the “Dudaev trick” (an antiradiation missile aimed at a Satphone signal) or even go “full NATO” and begin hitting politically symbolic buildings.

I mention these last four options because these are doable, but they are also total overkill.

The truth is that should Russia ever truly intervene, most Ukrainian servicemen will run or surrender (they did not vote Zelenskii for the privilegeto die for a sick, Nazi, ideology and worldview). Again, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and the case of the Crimea has shown that once the (relatively small!!) Russian forces intervened, nobody had the courage (or the motivation) to resist.

[Sidebar: the popular joke about this goes like this: ask a Ukrainian nationalist why the Ukrainians are fighting in the Donbass, and the obligatory politically correct answer is “because the Russians are there!”; and if you then ask him why the Ukraine is not fighting in Crimea, he will reply “because the Russians are really there!“. This is very true. The Urkonazis have tried to engage in low-level forms of terrorism (planting bombs, mostly), but with very little success. As for really attacking Crimea (probably one of the best-defended locations on the planet by now!) – that would be a suicide mission for an entire US Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), never-mind the derelict Ukie military!]

Furthermore, for the Russians, they have been intensively preparing for a major war against NATO for at least five years now (for details, see here) and they are quite ready to take on the united West (that is what Guards Tank Armies are designed to do), so for them to take on the decrepit, corrupt, demoralized, disorganized and generally “mangy” Ukronazi forces would not even represent a significant effort. Every halfway competent military analyst out there knows that. Even the Ukronazi ones.

What this all means for the Zelenskii administration is simple: if you try the “Croatian scenario” you will end up not with a “Croatian outcome” but a “Georgia 08.08.08 outcome”: obliteration of your armed forces in 48 hours, followed by the net loss of 20% of your national territory (probably more in the case of the Ukraine!).

[Sidebar: for many years now I have been explaining that the real goal of any Ukronazi attack on Novorussia would not be to really win, but to force Russia to openly intervene. However, this strategy has failed while the balance of forces, including in political terms, has changed. It is one thing to start a war with the LDNR only to force Russia to intervene, and quite another to expose your entire country to “very serious consequences” for its entire “statehood.” Putin’s (truly quite extraordinary) threat has explicitly raised the bar of the potential Russian retaliation much higher than it was before.]

So is there anything even vaguely resembling *any* kind of solution in sight?

Well, in theory, there would have been the Minsk Agreement solution. The Novorussians would not like it, but Russia could probably impose it upon them. Russia herself sure could live with such an outcome (no, Russia has absolutely no need of any additional territories, especially devastated ones!). But since the Ukronazis are too ideological and delusional to ever accept that option, then there is an obvious Plan B: Russia unilaterally recognizes the LDNR Republics who then vote to join the Russian Federation. In theory, the rest of the Ukraine could realize that there are advantages to this situation, including getting rid of 2 million anti-Nazis. But their ideology (really a local uniquely Galician brand of ultra-nationalism – similar only to the WWII Ustashe regime in Croatia – imposed upon the entire country) makes it absolutely impossible for these rabid nationalists to accept such a loss of territory, particularly in a humiliating civil war against their own people (or so they claim). Simply put, you cannot claim to be the descended of the 200’000 year old “Ancient Ukrs” who built the pyramids, who dug the Black Sea, who gave birth to the Aryan civilization and whose language is the basis of Sanskrit and, at the same time, admit that a big chunk of your own population prefers death to life under your rule. In reality, not only are these folks not willing to accept any loss of territory (whether de jure or de facto), some of them are even claiming territories inside the Russian Federation.

Thankfully, their delusions really make no difference: Novorussia and Crimea are gone, forever, no matter what anybody says.

Frankly, I believe that even without Crimea and even without Novorussia current Nazi-occupied Ukraine is still not viable, if only because the southern regions (Odessa, Nikolaev, Mariupol) will never agree to become Nazi-occupied protectorates of the very same Galician Urkonazis who have already burned people alive in Odessa. The truth is that the Galicians would be much better off severing their (entirely artificial) ties to what is known as “the Ukraine” nowadays and fallback to their true historical lands. Ideology, however, will never allow most of them to see that. The process of disintegration of the rump-Ukraine will probably continue in one form or another.

Conclusion: how one slogan can lead to a very different one

The entire Ukronazi worldview can be summarized in their well-known slogan: “to drown all the Kikes and Polaks in Moskal blood” (or some variations thereof). The problem with this slogan is that there is simply no way the (relatively small) Galician population can ever succeed in permanently defeating their much bigger (and, frankly, much smarter) Jewish, Polish or Russian neighbors. Thus time and again, the policies which begin with this famous Ukie slogan inevitably result in a rather painful variation on another very famous Ukie slogan: “suitcase, railway station, Russia” but, crucially, in a fundamentally different combination: “suitcase, railway station, and back to Canada/Israel!” 😉

I personally don’t care what happens to these folks or to the lands which they historically inhabited. If the Austrians, the Poles, the Hungarians or the Germans want them – they are welcome to have them. After all, these are the folks who, along with the Papacy, created the Ukraine and the Ukronazi phenomenon. So, bien du plaisir!, as the French say: let them enjoy their offspring!

If the people of some future rump-Ukraine are strong and wise enough to get rid of that Nazi rot – good for them, they can count on Russian help and support for reconstruction. But if they are not – then that’s their problem.

When humans go out of their way to ignore reality, they deserve whatever comes their way.

The Saker

Vladimir Putin Interview With Oliver Stone

Vladimir Putin Interview With Oliver Stone

South Front

22.07.2019

Vladimir Putin answered questions from American film director, screenwriter and producer Oliver Stone. The interview was recorded on June 19, 2019 in the Kremlin (source):

Oliver Stone: So, I interviewed Mr Medvedchuk. It was in Monte Carlo. He gave us a very interesting interview. He gave us his view of the Ukraine. I gather that you’re close with him.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I would not say that we are very close but we know each other well. He was President Kuchma’s Chief of Staff, and it was in this capacity at the time that he asked me to take part in the christening of his daughter. According to Russian Orthodox tradition, you can’t refuse such a request.

Oliver Stone: Oh, you cannot refuse it?

I thought it was a big honour for you to be the godfather of his daughter.

Vladimir Putin: It is always a great honour to be a godfather.

Oliver Stone: Well, how many children are you godfather to?

Vladimir Putin: I will not give a number but several people.

Oliver Stone: Wow. Is it like a hundred or three hundred?

Vladimir Putin: No, no, are you serious? Certainly not. Just a few.

Oliver Stone: Otherwise I would ask you to be the godfather for my daughter.

Vladimir Putin: Does she want to become an Orthodox Christian?

Vladimir Putin Interview With Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone: Ok, we’ll make her that.

Vladimir Putin: You have to ask her.

Oliver Stone: As long as she stands in church, right?

Vladimir Putin: Of course. How old is she?

Oliver Stone: She is 22 now.

Vladimir Putin: Is she a believer?

Oliver Stone: Yes, she is a believer. She is raised Christian.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Oliver Stone: You know, young people in America sometimes, they are different.

Vladimir Putin: Young people are different everywhere.

Oliver Stone: They are spoiled to some degree in the western world.

Vladimir Putin: It depends. The older generation always says that about the younger generation.

Oliver Stone: Yeah, I know, I know. That’s true. But I don’t know what is going on with the American culture. It’s very strange right now.

Vladimir Putin: Is there an American culture?

Oliver Stone: As you know, I’ve been very rebel all my life. Still am. And I have to tell you, I’m shocked by some of the behaviours and the thinking of the new generation. It takes so much for granted. And so much of the argument, so much of the thinking, so much of the newspaper, television commentaries about gender, people identify themselves, and social media, this and that, I’m male, I’m female, I’m transgender, I’m cisgender. It goes on forever, and there is a big fight about who is who. It seems like we miss the bigger point.

Vladimir Putin: They live too well. They have nothing to think about.

Oliver Stone: Yeah, but it’s not a healthy culture.

Vladimir Putin: Well, yes.

Oliver Stone: Years ago when we were talking about homosexuality, you said that in Russia we don’t propagate it.

Vladimir Putin: Not exactly. We have a law banning propaganda among minors.

Oliver Stone: Yes, that’s the one I’m talking about. It seems like maybe that’s a sensible law.

Vladimir Putin: It is aimed at allowing people to reach maturity and then decide who they are and how they want to live. There are no restrictions at all after this.

Oliver Stone: Ok. Mr Medvedchuk proposed recently, you know, a plan for solving the tensions in Ukraine between east and west. You know about this?

Vladimir Putin: To be honest, we do not talk so often. He has more free time than I do. But we meet from time to time, especially in connection with his efforts to get detainees released. He devotes much time to this.

He also told me something about his plans on Donbass but I do not know the details. At any rate, I consider it absolutely correct that he calls for direct dialogue with the people who live in Donbass. There is not a single example in recent history when a crisis was settled without direct contact between the sides to the conflict.

He says he thinks it is necessary to fully implement the Minsk agreements and I cannot help but agree with this as well. So, I know the elements of his proposals. He speaks about them in public and I agree.

Oliver Stone: Ok. They have a new president now. Has anything changed in Ukraine? Or still the same?

Vladimir Putin: Not yet. After all, the recent election was clearly a protest vote. A fairly large number of people supported the newly-elect President in central Ukraine, in the east and the south. And these are all people who sincerely seek a settlement in any event. During his election campaign President Zelensky continuously spoke about his readiness to do everything to solve this crisis. And then literally just yesterday, while in Paris, I think, he said suddenly he does not believe it is possible to hold talks with what he called separatists. This is clearly at odds with what he said during his election campaign.

Oliver Stone: So no change?

Vladimir Putin: Unfortunately, none for the time being.

Oliver Stone: Do you think there’s any revulsion? I mean, you were telling me about Ukraine and Russia. Do you think there is any reason for this hatred of Russia in Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin: You know, our relationship is not easy at the moment. This is the result of the grievous events linked with the coup d’état. The other part of this story is propaganda by the current government in Ukraine, which blames Russia for all the tragic events that ensued.

Oliver Stone: Well, historically, do you see these two countries coming together again?

Vladimir Putin: I think this is inevitable. At any rate, the cultivation of normal, friendly and, even more than friendly, allied relations is inevitable.

Oliver Stone: Yeah. Mr Medvedchuk would be a good liaison.

Vladimir Putin: I believe so. But our positions, our points of view, differ on many things. Mr Medvedchuk was born in the family of a man that was said to be convicted during the Soviet times for nationalist activities. He was born in Siberia, where his family and his father virtually lived in exile.

Oliver Stone: What’s the connection?

Vladimir Putin: Connection between what?

Oliver Stone: All this story to my question?

Vladimir Putin: The connection is that he has his own ideas about Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. For example, I believe that Russians and Ukrainians are actually one people.

Oliver Stone: One people, two nations?

Vladimir Putin: One nation, in fact.

Oliver Stone: You think it is one nation?

Vladimir Putin Interview With Oliver Stone

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Vladimir Putin: Of course. Look, when these lands that are now the core of Ukraine, joined Russia, there were just three regions – Kiev, the Kiev region, northern and southern regions – nobody thought themselves to be anything but Russians, because it was all based on religious affiliation. They were all Orthodox and they considered themselves Russians. They did not want to be part of the Catholic world, where Poland was dragging them.

I understand very well that over the time the identity of this part of Russia crystallized, and people have the right to determine their identity. But later this factor was used to throw into imbalance the Russian Empire. But in fact, this is the same world sharing the same history, same religion, traditions, and a wide range of ties, close family ties among them.

At the same time, if a significant part of people who live in Ukraine today believe that they should emphasise their identity and fight for it, no one in Russia would be against this, including me. But, bearing in mind that we have many things in common, we can use this as our competitive advantage during some form of integration; it is obvious. However, the current government clearly doesn’t want this. I believe that in the end common sense will prevail, and we will finally arrive at the conclusion I have mentioned: rapprochement is inevitable.

Oliver Stone: I don’t think Mr Medvedchuk would agree. He would say: two nations, similar people. That what he would say, take a strong line on that.

Vladimir Putin: He doesn’t. That is what I am saying.

Oliver Stone: That’s what I’m saying. He does not agree.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course. This is what I am saying: our positions on some things, important ones, are different. But at the same time, he speaks in favour of establishing good relations with Russia in order to use these competitive advantages in the economy. He shows how today the Ukrainian economy is completely destroyed because it has lost the Russian market and, most importantly, cooperation in industry. Nobody needs Ukrainian industrial goods on Western markets, and that goes for agriculture too: very few goods are purchased. Round timber is in demand, but soon there will be no timber in Ukraine at all. It’s not like the vast expanses of Siberia.

For example, Europe often takes some steps towards Ukraine – or did so until recently – with, say, permitting purchases of round timber. And this is just one example. In fact, there are many more.

Oliver Stone: Well, someone told me today that Mr Medvedchuk’s party, For Life Party, is up 12 percent in the polls. So he is building a party that has a following, it seems to me.

Vladimir Putin: If so, that is good. To be honest, I don’t know. But if kit is true, that is good.

If so, we can only welcome this because he and his partners in the party stand for restoring relations with Russia. How could we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it. I have known him for a long time. He keeps his word. If he says something, he does it.

Oliver Stone: So, he is a very courageous man, I think. His villa was bombed, his offices were bombed. He is under threat all the time. He is hanging in there, staying in his country.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is true because he has convictions. I mentioned that his father was a Ukrainian nationalist and was convicted by a Soviet court for this. Strange as it may seem but the founders, many founders of Ukrainian nationalism advocated good relations with Russia. They said good relations were necessary for the development of Ukraine itself.

Oliver Stone: When was that?

Vladimir Putin: This was in the 19th century. They came out for Ukraine’s independence but said that Ukraine must preserve good, friendly relations with Russia. Mr Medvedchuk adheres to similar ideas. This is why he has convictions. I may not agree with his position on something but I always respect it.

Oliver Stone: Yeah, two nations he says. When I hear the words “Ukrainian nationalism,” I get worried, because I think of Stepan Bandera and people who have convictions too.

Vladimir Putin: Me, too.

Oliver Stone: Ukrainian nationalism is dangerous too.

Vladimir Putin: In general nationalism is a sign of narrow-mindedness but I do not want to offend Mr Medvedchuk.

Oliver Stone: It’s words.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, but in any event, he is in the category of people who advocate independence, the consolidation of an independent Ukraine, but at the same time believe that it is easier to achieve this by pursuing cooperation with Russia. And I think he is largely right.

Oliver Stone: You’re very clear.

You talked about the coup d’état. Just want to revisit that because there has been a lot more research done. It seems that research has revealed that there were shooters, snipers at the Maidan. The forensics with the angle of shooting, bodies of the police and the protestors. It was all very badly investigated. Not at all really. But what evidence we have seems to point to there being, they say, Georgian shooters, people from Georgia. And I’ve heard that. Have you heard anything more on the Russian front?

Vladimir Putin: No but I know what you are talking about. I know that the authorities headed by President Yanukovych at that time did not use the army and were not interested in giving any excuse to the opposition to use force. And, as Mr Yanukovych told me repeatedly, it did not even occur to him to use force and the military against civilians, even against those who had already taken up arms. I completely rule out that he could have done this, but those who were looking for a pretext to stage a coup could have well done it, of course.

Oliver Stone: I remember you were telling me about the Obama phone call, Obama and you had an agreement that there would be no firing on the last day. And he gave you a promise that he would…

Vladimir Putin: You know, while Obama is no longer President, there are certain things we do not discuss in public. At any rate, I can say that the US did not follow through on the agreements that we reached during this phone call. I will stop there without going into detail.

Oliver Stone: Yes. So recently, you know Russia has been obviously accused and accused over and over again of interference in the 2016 election. As far as I know there is no proof, it has not turned up. But now in the US there has been an investigation going on about Ukraine’s interference in the election. It seems that it was a very confusing situation, and Poroshenko seems to have been very strongly pro-Clinton, anti-Trump.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is no secret.

Oliver Stone: Do you think there was interference?

Vladimir Putin: I do not think that this could be interpreted as interference by Ukraine. But it is perfectly obvious that Ukrainian oligarchs gave money to Trump’s opponents. I do not know whether they did this by themselves or with the knowledge of the authorities.

Oliver Stone: Where they giving information to the Clinton campaign?

Vladimir Putin: I do not know. I am being honest. I will not speak about what I do not know. I have enough problems of my own. They assumed Mrs Clinton would win and did everything to show loyalty to the future US administration. That is nothing special. They wanted the future President to have a good opinion of them. This is why they allowed themselves to make unflattering statements about Trump and supported the Democrats in every possible way. This is no secret at all. They acted almost in public.

Oliver Stone: You do not want to go any further on that because you do not have any information?

Vladimir Putin: You know, this would be inappropriate on my part. If I said something more specific, I would have to put some documents, some papers on the table.

Oliver Stone: You understand that it has huge implications because Mr Trump would be very grateful?

Vladimir Putin: I did not interfere then, I do not want to interfere now, and I am not going to interfere in the future.

Oliver Stone: But that is a noble motive. Unfortunately, the world has degenerated in these two years, with all this backbiting and accusations, dirty fighting. Anyway…

Vladimir Putin: There are no rules at all. It is no holds barred.

Oliver Stone: Well, you have rules. You say no interference.

Vladimir Putin: I have principles.

Oliver Stone: Ok. But you seem to have rules based on those principles.

Vladimir Putin: Well, yes.

Oliver Stone: Ok. Well, you are fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

Vladimir Putin: Why? You mean, because of these principles?

Oliver Stone: Yes. If you knew something about the election, it would tilt the balance in a very weird way.

Vladimir Putin: I think this is simply unrealistic. I have said so many times.

Oliver Stone: What is unrealistic?

Vladimir Putin: To change anything. If you want to return to US elections again – look, it is a huge country, a huge nation with its own problems, with its own views on what is good and what is bad, and with an understanding that in the past few years, say ten years, nothing has changed for the better for the middle class despite the enormous growth of prosperity for the ruling class and the wealthy. This is a fact that Trump’s election team understood. He understood this himself and made the most of it.

No matter what our bloggers – or whoever’s job it is to comment on the internet – might say about the situation in the US, this could not have played a decisive role. It is sheer nonsense. But our sympathies were with him because he said he wanted to restore normal relations with Russia. What is bad about that? Of course, we can only welcome this position.

Oliver Stone: Apparently, it excited the Clinton people a lot. The Clinton campaign accumulated the “Steele dossier.” They paid for it. It came from strange sources, the whole “Steele dossier” issue. Some of it comes from Ukraine. They also went out of their way, it seems to me, with the CIA, with Mr Brennan, John Brennan, and with Clapper, James Clapper, and Comey of the FBI. They all seem to have gotten involved, all intelligence agencies, in an anti-Trump way.

Vladimir Putin: They had levers inside the government, but there is nothing like that here. They applied administrative pressure. It always gives an advantage in countries such as the USA, some countries of Western Europe, about 2 percent on average, at a minimum.

Oliver Stone: Two percent? What are you talking about?

Vladimir Putin: Yes. According to experts, those with administrative pressure they can apply always have a 2 percent edge. You can look at it differently. Some experts believe that in different countries, it can vary, but in countries such as the United States, some European countries, the advantage is 2 percent. This is what experts say, they can be wrong.

Oliver Stone: I do not know. I heard of the one percent, but it seems to get more like 12 percent.

Vladimir Putin: That is possible, depending on how it is used.

Oliver Stone: Well, you are not disagreeing. You are saying that it was quite possible that there was an attempt to prevent Donald Trump from coming into office with a soft, I will call it a soft coup d’état?

Vladimir Putin: In the USA?

Oliver Stone: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: It is still going on.

Oliver Stone: A coup d’état is planned by people who have power inside.

Vladimir Putin: No, I do not mean that. I mean lack of respect for the will of the voters. I think it was unprecedented in the history of the United States.

Oliver Stone: What was unprecedented?

Vladimir Putin: It was the first time the losing side does not want to admit defeat and does not respect the will of the voters.

Oliver Stone: I would disagree. I would say it happened in 2000, that the Republicans lost the popular vote, they lost Florida, and they did not accept that, and they had a coup d’état in their way, a soft coup d’état also. And they put Bush in.

Vladimir Putin: But this was a court decision, as far as I remember.

Oliver Stone: Yeah, in a way, but the court decision was blocked. There was a vote going on. And if you remember the Brooks brothers’ riot, all those Republicans rushed to electoral offices in Miami, and they prevented the vote from going through in a county, in one of those major counties. It was a key factor. It was not like the Russian revolution. It was a minor event, but it was big. It shifted the momentum, totally. I remember that night. Then they referred it to the Supreme Court. Also, and the same thing in January 2017, when the intelligence assessment was released, what was it, January 7th,, a few days before Trump was to be inaugurated, the intelligence assessment actually said that the intelligence agencies suspected Trump would have been colluding with Russia. That is even bigger. That is an attempt at a coup d’état, because the electors in America still had the right to overturn the election vote.

Vladimir Putin: This is what they call unscrupulous application of administrative pressure.

Oliver Stone: Ok, ok, ok. Well, listen, it seems to be going on a lot more than we know. Talking about America and Russia, I have not seen you since the Kerch Strait. Any comments on that?

Vladimir Putin: No, I do not, as we have repeatedly said. The former President, Mr Poroshenko, staged this provocation intentionally during the election campaign. He was aware that people in the country’s east and south would not vote for him, and he used this provocation to escalate the situation and then declare a state of emergency there. I have reason to believe that he was going to declare a state of emergency in the entire country, and possibly to postpone the election as a result. Generally speaking, he was trying to hold on to power at all costs, and he was seeking any means to execute this plan. This was the regime’s death throes.

As far as I remember, recently the newly appointed Chief of the Ukrainian army’s General Staff has made a statement that offers roughly the same interpretation of events but perhaps using milder language.

Oliver Stone: Who gave that interpretation?

Vladimir Putin: Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Oliver Stone: Ok, but beyond Poroshenko, the United States has a shadow here. The United States knows what he is doing, and supported it.

Vladimir Putin: Absolutely.

Oliver Stone: It is the creation of a strategy of tension that worries me enormously. I have seen this happen in so many places now. I think I read on Monday, the Russian bombers, the Russian SU-57 escorted, what was it, the B-52 bomber, a nuclear bomber, US bomber, close to the Russian borders.

Vladimir Putin Interview With Oliver Stone

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Vladimir Putin: The Su-57 aircraft are just entering service. This is a fifth-generation jet fighter. It was the Su-27 that was mentioned.

Oliver Stone: Do you think that is normal?

Vladimir Putin: Actually, it is sad, probably, but this is common practice. US aircraft did not enter our airspace, and our aircraft did not conduct any high-risk maneuvers.

But generally speaking, this is not great. Just look where the Baltic or Black seas are located, and where the USA is. It was not us who approached US borders, but US aircraft that approached ours. Such practices had better stop.

Oliver Stone: In this continuing strategy of tension, there was a report in The New York Times last week that the Obama Administration, before they left office, put in what they call a cyber warfare device. It was inserted in Russian infrastructure in January 2017.

Vladimir Putin: This is being discussed almost openly. It was said Russia would be punished for interfering in the election campaign. We do not see anything extraordinary or unexpected here. This should be followed closely. That is the first thing.

The second is I believe that we only need to negotiate how we are to live in this high-tech world and develop uniform rules and means of monitoring each other’s actions. We have repeatedly proposed holding talks on this subject to come to some binding agreement.

Oliver Stone: Continuing that theme of strategy of tension, how is Russia affected by the US-Iranian confrontation?

Vladimir Putin: This worries us because this is happening near our borders. This may destabilize the situation around Iran, affect some countries with which we have very close relations, causing additional refugee flows on a large scale plus substantially damage the world economy as well as the global energy sector. All this is extremely disturbing. Therefore we would welcome any improvement when it comes to relations between the US and Iran. A simple escalation of tension will not be advantageous for anyone. It seems to me that this is also the case with the US. One might think that there are only benefits here, but there will be setbacks as well. The positive and negative factors have to be calculated.

Oliver Stone: Yeah. Scary.

Vladimir Putin: No, this is not scary.

Oliver Stone: You sound very depressed, much more depressed than last time.

Vladimir Putin: Last time the situation concerning Iran was not like this. Last time nobody said anything about getting into our energy and other networks. Last time the developments were more positive.

Oliver Stone: The situation is worse now?

Vladimir Putin: Take North Korea, they have also rolled back a bit. Trade wars are unfolding.

Oliver Stone: Venezuela.

Vladimir Putin: Venezuela as well. In other words, regrettably, the situation has not improved, so there is nothing special to be happy about. On the other hand, we feel confident. We have no problems.

Oliver Stone: Well, you are an optimist, and always have been?

Vladimir Putin: Exactly.

Oliver Stone: You are a peacemaker.

Vladimir Putin: Absolutely spot on.

Oliver Stone: So obviously, you have to get together with the Americans, and the Chinese, and the Iranians. I know.

Vladimir Putin: Just do not put the blame on us. Lately no matter what is happening, we always get the blame.

Oliver Stone: Well, the irony is that Mr Trump came to office promising that he was not going to interfere in other countries. He made this overall strategy, he was against the wars that we have started, and ever since he has been in office, it has got worse. Why, one wonders? Is he in charge, or are other people pushing these agendas?

Vladimir Putin: I think he is against this now, too. But life is complicated and diverse. To make the right decision it is necessary to fight for what you believe in.

Oliver Stone: Yeah, conviction.

It is your fourth term, are you getting tired?

Vladimir Putin: No, if I had been tired, I would not have run for the fourth term.

Oliver Stone: Ok. Listen, can I find out something? Let’s take a pause. I just want to ask my director if he wants to ask any more things about Ukraine. Five minutes?

Vladimir Putin: The director always has the final word; after all, he is the one calling the shots.

Oliver Stone: Thank you.

I think we are fine.

Vladimir Putin: Very well. Are we done?

Thank you so much.

Oliver Stone: Thank you, sir.

Vladimir Putin: Are you going back to the States?

Oliver Stone: I am very worried about you.

Vladimir Putin: Why?

Oliver Stone:I can see there are so many problems. It weighs you down. It is sad to see. It is a tough situation.

Vladimir Putin: It is all right. We have seen worse.

Oliver Stone: Russian bombes in Syria. What has happened to Skripal? Where is he?

Vladimir Putin: I have no idea. He is a spy, after all. He is always in hiding.

Oliver Stone: They say he was going to come back to Russia. He had some information.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I have been told that he wants to make a written request to come back.

Oliver Stone: He knew still and he wanted to come back. He had information that he could give to the world press here in Russia.

Vladimir Putin: I doubt it. He has broken the ranks already. What kind of information can he possess?

Oliver Stone: Who poisoned him? They say English secret services did not want Sergei Skripal to come back to Russia?

Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I do not quite believe this. I do not believe this is the case.

Oliver Stone: Makes sense. You do not agree with me?

Vladimir Putin: If they had wanted to poison him, they would have done so.

Oliver Stone: Ok, that makes sense. I don’t know. Who did then?

Vladimir Putin: After all, this is not a hard thing to do in today’s world. In fact, a fraction of a milligram would have been enough to do the job. And if they had him in their hands, there was nothing complicated about it. No, this does not make sense. Maybe they just wanted to provoke a scandal.

Oliver Stone: I think it is more complicated. You know, you think I am much too much of a conspiracy guy.

Vladimir Putin: I do not believe this.

Oliver Stone: I have seen things. I do.

Vladimir Putin: You should not. Take care of yourself.

Oliver Stone: Can we get a picture?

Remark: This is a great honour for us. Can we take a picture with you?

Vladimir Putin: With pleasure.

Ukraine will be coerced into making peace in Donbass

June 17, 2019

By Petr Akopov
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
Source
https://vz.ru/world/2019/6/15/982529.html

Ollie's MacBook:Users:O-RICH:Downloads:D8-QWNWXYAAOUez.jpg

Ukraine is important for the US only in the context of their relationship with Russia, and blocks the path to their improvement. The latest statement of the national security adviser to the US President John Bolton became yet more proof of this. On the eve of Putin and Trump’s meeting in Osaka, Kiev ought to prepare for the US playing the Ukrainian card without paying attention to the interests of the Kiev authorities.

Washington tries to defreeze American-Russian relations – but in such a way that it does not look a concession made by the US. Donald Trump is not constrained by the case of “Russian ties” any more, however the Ukrainian crisis remains the main problem for his dialogue with Putin.

It arose during Barack Obama’s reign and is in many respects connected with the objective process of returning to Russia the status of a major world power. The events of 2014 became the most convenient reason for the US to transition to an active phase of “deterring Russia”. The policy of sanctions and attempts to isolate Russia on the world scene not only failed – their results were opposite to American expectations.

Having sustained pressure and not having changed course, Russia strengthened its reputation in the world. Everyone perceives it as the main geopolitical opponent to America’s attempts to hold onto world hegemony.

Trump’s election gave a chance to revise America’s tactics and even strategy. The new president was inclined to reorienting the US from the useless and losing policy of global domination to a policy of strengthening the US via strengthening the economic power of the superpower. The resistance that was shown to Trump by American globalists showed how the fate of the US as a national state is not important for them. But they managed to block the possibility of forming relations between Trump and Putin.

The “Russian case” regularly served this for more than two years. But now Trump received the opportunity to act much more freely. Now, in order to establish cooperation with Putin (and this is necessary for the American president in order to create a new configuration of US foreign policy), Trump “only” needs to deal with the Ukrainian crisis. I.e., remove the Ukrainian stone from the road of American-Russian relations. How can he do this?

Of course, the US is not going to “give” Ukraine back to Russia: the tearing of Ukraine off the Russian world remains the important aim of any American strategist. But the question of the speed and price of this process has principal importance. If the “hawks” consider that Ukraine must be Europeanised and Atlanticised as fast as possible – i.e., included not only in the sphere of influence, but also in the structure of the “western zone of responsibility”, then the “realists” point out that Russia will never agree with the “kidnapping of Ukraine”, and that the haste of the West will only provoke Moscow into solving the problem by force – a campaign to Kiev.

That’s why they consider the neutralisation of Ukraine as the optimum scheme, transferring it into a condition of a no man’s zone, a buffer state that is not used to put pressure on Russia. And after all, it is precisely this that is considered to be favourable by those “hawks” who, without trusting in the possibility of the Atlanticisation of Ukraine, support its use as a constant irritant against Moscow.

Such a neutral Ukraine would be more in the zone of influence of the West than in Russia’s. And although everyone understands that it is a temporary and suspended option, for the US it would be an undoubted success (even to suspend the situation for 20-30 years – it is all the same to deprive Russia of its historical cradle, to stop the reintegration of the Russian world, the Russian revanche). And the most important thing – this option would remove the Ukrainian topic from the agenda of relations between the US and Russia, allowing the US to count on searching for mutual understanding with Moscow in other international problems.

How to achieve this? To portray peace and progress in the Ukrainian settlement. Because in reality it is currently impossible to solve the Ukrainian crisis.

Implementing the Minsk Agreements, i.e., to return Donbass to the structure of Ukraine, is impossible as long as the Ukrainian elite continues to not realise that the road to Europe is closed and does not start to restore relations with Russia. This is a process for the next decade. And even in the event of its acceleration, returning Donbass to Ukraine is possible only after a full turn of Kiev towards Moscow and the inclusion of Ukraine in the structure of the Eurasian Union.

That’s why all that’s left to do is to give the illusion that there is a settlement process. Kiev will opt to really stop firefights on the border and to withdraw troops under the pressure of the West; to really adopt laws on amnesty in Ukraine as one more point of the implementation of the Agreements. And the most important thing – to really do it so that the topic of repulsing “Russian aggression”, as well as the topic of “returning Donbass”, in fact, leaves Ukrainian domestic politics, remaining a prerogative of the opposition.

Zelensky’s election is a step in precisely this direction. The cynical and cunning Ukrainian elite best of all understands that there won’t be any return. And all the game of Poroshenko on the topic “Ukraine is an outpost of the West in deterring Russian Aggression” was built on the conviction that the West waits for precisely this from Ukraine.

But the matter is that the West hasn’t wanted anything as such from Kiev for a long time. Europe very much groans from the need to play the “Ukrainian game”, which prevents it from doing business with Russia. And the US under Trump also does not want to raise the stakes in the “Ukrainian game”, or to in general pay much attention to it. The West needs Ukraine to know its place, i.e., to become imperceptible and silent, giving the illusion of a “road to peace”; to not get in the way of the big boys; to not go back to Russia, but also to not sit at the table with the real players.

It is precisely for this reason that Kiev will be shown its place. This will happen during the next month when Zelensky will go to see Trump in Washington. It will be done tenderly, but insistently: through coercion to negotiations with Russia and with Donbass, to reduce aggressive rhetoric (it has already subsided). But the most important thing – through an explanation of the expectations: “progress in the peace process”, allowing the US to remove the Ukrainian topic to a place more fitting for it – a place that does not prevent the establishment of American-Russian dialogue.

As a matter of fact, the national security adviser to the US President John Bolton wrote about precisely this on Thursday:

“[US] Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and I met today to discuss Ukraine negotiations and agreed that President Zelensky’s election creates new opportunity to push for peace in Donbass – a key step to improving US-Russia relations – but it’s critical that Russia do its part and engage seriously”.

Peace in Donbass is a key step for the improvement of relations between the US and Russia. Simply put, they want to hear from Ukraine that its relations with Donbass are if not very good, then they at least gradually improve. And there is no doubt that they will hear this – Kiev has nowhere to disappear to, simply.

 

بويتن وترامب: عندما ينضج التفاوض

مايو 11, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– الأكيد من النص المعلن في البيت الأبيض حول المحادثة الهاتفية المطوّلة بين الرئيسين الأميركي دونالد ترامب والروسي فلاديمير بوتين حول نتائج تحقيقات المدعي العام الأميركي في الاتهامات الموجّهة للرئيس ترامب بالإفادة من تدخل روسي استخباري في الانتخابات، أن الرئيس ترامب كان يريد للتحقيقات أن تنتهي بتبرئته لتطلق يديه في الذهاب لأي تفاوض ممكن أو لازم مع موسكو، وأن بعض المواقف التصعيدية السابقة بوجه روسيا كان إثباتاً لهذه البراءة أكثر مما هو تعبير عن مقتضيات المصلحة السياسية الأميركية، وأنه وقد تخفف من أثقال الاتهامات فقد صار بمستطاعه استعادة الموضوعية التي يجب أن يتصرف من خلالها الرئيس الأميركي مع الرئيس الروسي.

– هذا التوقيت ليس أحادي الحضور في الحديث عن نضج التفاوض بين موسكو وواشنطن، فيما تتزاحم محطات التلاقي بين أركان إدارتي موسكو وواشنطن. فالمحادثة الهاتفية الاستثنائية في مدتها التي بلغت ساعة ونصفاً واتسمت بالتفاهم الكبير، كما قال الرئيس ترامب مغرداً، تلاها لقاء بين وزيري الخارجية الأميركي مايك بومبيو والروسي سيرغي لافروف على هامش اجتماعات مجلس القطب الشمالي امتد ساعة خرج بعدها الوزيران يتحدثان عن إيجابيات كثيرة وفرصاً كبيرة للتفاهم، تمهيداً للقاء سيجمعهما في سوتشي بعد أيام، وقد استبقه بومبيو بالإعلان عن وصوله إلى موسكو قبل يومين من موعد سوتشي للقاءات تمهيدية سيتوّجها ويتوّج زيارته بلقاء الرئيس بوتين، ليتم اللقاء التاريخي بين بوتين وترامب في اليابان على هامش قمة العشرين الشهر المقبل.

– في الطريق إلى لقاء الرئيسين بوتين وترامب، إعلان أميركي للمرة الأولى عن «تفهم العملية المحدودة لروسيا في إدلب»، وحديث علني لبومبيو عن ملفات للحوار تمتد من سورية إلى أوكرانيا وإيران وفنزويلا وكوريا الشمالية. وبالتدقيق سيتبين أنه في كل منها حاولت واشنطن لسنوات التفرّد ووصلت لطريق مسدود، بدءاً من أوكرانيا التي فقدت رأس الرهان على استخدامها منصة تصعيد بوجه روسيا مع الفشل الانتخابي للرئيس السابق المدعوم من واشنطن كرأس حربة بوجه روسيا، وروسيا تدعو لتطبيق تفاهمات مينسك. وفي فنزويلا فشل مزدوج للانقلاب النيابي فالانقلاب العسكري، وروسيا حاضرة للتعاون التفاوضي. وفي سورية تحتاج واشنطن لتغطية قرار انسحابها بتسليم روسيا إدارة الملف وضمان مستقبل الأكراد من ضمن تفاهمها مع الدولة السورية وتركيا بعدما صار نصر الدولة السورية الشامل تحصيل حاصل ومسألة وقت. وفي كوريا الشمالية انتهى الرهان الأميركي على مفاوضات ثنائية من وراء ظهر روسيا إلى مهزلة، وتساقطت الوعود الأميركية بقرب التوصل لتفاهم الواحد تلو الآخر، بينما أنتج لقاء الرئيس بوتين مع زعيم كوريا الشمالية كيم جونغ أون ما يمنح روسيا صفة الوسيط القادر.

– يشكل الملف الإيراني العقدة الأهم، خصوصاً بعدما سقطت النظرية الأميركية بالقدرة على الحصول على تطمينات التفاهم النووي وحرمان إيران من مكتسباته، فالردّ الإيراني عملياً يقول إن إيران حصلت من التفاهم على سقوط لا رجعة فيه لعقوبات أممية، ولم تعد بحاجة للتفاهم وهي تستطيع تحميل أميركا وأوروبا مسؤولية إفشاله، وقادرة على التعايش مع عقوباتهم وقد فعلت من قبل لسنوات ما قبل العام 2015 موّلت خلالها اقتصادها وقوى المقاومة ومستلزمات صمود سورية بوجه الحرب الأميركية، وجاءت الحشود العسكرية الأميركية تحرشاً بديلاً بإيران يعترف ضمناً بفشل العقوبات في جلبها للتفاوض، وتشكل إشارات ترامب لتمايزه عن مستشاره للأمن القومي جون بولتون وإعلان رغبته بحوار مباشر بلا شروط مع إيران، كما الدعوات الأوروبية لتفاوض مباشر أميركي إيراني، مقدّمات لا يمكن لغير روسيا تحويلها إلى مناسبة لتفاوض تقبل به إيران من موقع يحفظ صورتها ومصالحها، وترامب أكثر مَن يدرك أن حديثه عن صفقة القرن حول القضية الفلسطينية بلا أفق، وأنه يفيد في ابتزاز أموال الخليج، لكنه لا ينفع في زرع الخوف في إيران وقوى المقاومة.

– ترامب المهتم بالتمهيد لترشحه لولاية ثانية من موقع النجاح، لا يملك ذلك بالتصعيد الذي يذهب إلى المجهول ولا يجلب له إلا صورة المتهوّر العاجز، بينما صورة القوي والقادر على صناعة التفاهمات هي ما يحتاجه في العام الذي يسبق بدء الموسم الانتخابي، ويعنيه كثيراً أن يذهب للانتخابات وهو يقول إنه نجح في التأسيس لمفاوضات جادة حول ملفات كوريا وفنزويلا وأوكرانيا والسلاح النووي وسورية وإيران بمقدار نجاحه في رسم صورة القوة الأميركية، وشرط هذا هو التشارك مع موسكو الذي رفضت واشنطن الإقرار به كحاجة وضرورة لعقود طويلة منذ سقوط جدار برلين، وشكلت الدعوة له أحد عناوين الحملة الانتخابية للرئيس الذي يُقال أنه يفي بوعوده الانتخابية ولو عطلته رياح الداخل الأميركي والرهانات الخاطئة وأوهام القوة إلى حين.

Donbass – Military-Political Aspects

Source

February 19, 2019

Donbass – Military-Political Aspects

By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with 
https://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-donbass-military-political-aspects/ 
source:
 http://alternatio.org/articles/articles/item/67719-donbass-voenno-politicheskie-aspekty

 

Donbass, like any frontline territory with a non-determined status, is periodically covered by waves of rumours – the most improbable and the most absurd rumours, which nevertheless are spread with the speed of a virus. Despite their regular repetitiveness and regular falsifiability, they, appearing again and again, invoke trust again and again. The number of people living in Donbass who have a “friend who personally heard from Putin” the latest “artful Russian plans” concerning the fates of the People’s Republics concedes only to the number of those who “heard personally from Pushilin” the same thing.

Recently, in connection with the Ukrainian elections, rumours (which have periodically appeared over five years) became more active again that right now there is the desire to return the DPR/LPR into the structure of Ukraine. This rumour is absurd, since right now (before elections) it’s not only politically unprofitable (Russia doesn’t support Poroshenko) to return Donbass to Ukraine, but it is also technically impossible (there isn’t enough time to implement the necessary procedures).

It is obvious that the activisation of this rumour is partially connected to the recent statement of Medvedchuk, who proposed to Kiev, for the sake of ending the war and preserving Donbass as a part of Ukraine, to change the Constitution for the purpose of creating wide autonomy in Donbass. However, since Medvedchuk plays up to Tymoshenko against Poroshenko, it is clear that Kiev could start the implementation of these ideas no earlier than the elections will conclude if Tymoshenko becomes the president.

At the same time, it is necessary to consider that Yuliya Tymoshenko angrily condemned Viktor Medvedchuk’s proposal, because now she acts from a more radical nationalist position than Poroshenko in order to win the favour and support of nationalist radicals, who will indeed decide the outcome of elections. Therefore, nobody will be able to integrate Donbass anywhere either before presidential elections or immediately after them. And after this parliamentary elections will start. Thus, if there were indeed such plans, then starting their implementation earlier than a year and a half later would be practically unrealistic. For this, as a minimum, the position of Kiev must cardinally exchange. And what will happen to Donbass, Ukraine, and the world in a year’s time only God knows, and even this is with a known amount of conditionality, because he granted every person the right to make a free choice between good and evil, and the fates of countries and civilisations consist of millions of these free choices.

However, the constant sense of danger accompanying the inhabitants of Donbass is based not only on such inadequate interpretations of the bright speeches of Kiev or Moscow politicians. The main irritating factor is the non-determined status. People can’t understand why Russia didn’t take them following the example of Crimea, why the Kiev authorities were recognised in 2014, and for what purpose were the Minsk Agreements reached? Hence the wavering when the rumour about handing over Donbass “already tomorrow” is replaced by the rumour that right now Russia will not recognise the 2019 elections, will capture Kiev, and Donbass will at last enter the structure of the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, the military-political situation that predetermined the fate of Donbass for the nearest years developed in 2014 and hasn’t yet changed. In 2014 a window of opportunities was indeed opened and was far from being exhausted by the return of Crimea to the structure of Russia and the declaration of DPR/LPR.

Before the February coup of 2014 the possibility of the entry of all of Ukraine into the Customs Union was quite real. For this purpose Yanukovych needed to only disperse Maidan and jail all prominent politicians who supported the coup attempt. This decision completely depended on a subjective factor – the personal will of Yanukovych, the level of his intelligence, and his adequacy in his job.

After the coup, during February-April a campaign to Kiev of the uprising Southeast was possible, with the informal support of Russia. In such a variant, Western Ukraine, most likely, would’ve already been lost, Crimea would’ve left for Russia (as it already happened), and the other territories, with a new pro-Russian government, would’ve joined the process of Eurasian integration. A key role in the failure of this opportunity was played by both a subjective factor (the absolute lack of readiness of new, put forward by a popular uprising, leaders of the Southeast to think not in the scale of their region {Kharkov, Donetsk, Odessa}, but in the scale of the country), and an objective factor – the idealistic idea of the masses of a revolt based on the thought that it “will be like it was in Crimea” (we will stand two days, and then “polite tanks”will come and we will go home to go about our own business).

None of the representatives of the uprising mass of the Southeast and their new elites understood that the victory of any revolt is in Kiev (in the capital). Nationalists, by the way, understood well that until they take the capital, they are just rebels, but as soon as they capture government buildings – they are already the authorities, and the mutineers – their opponents. Every region of the Southeast hoped, having marked the revolt and having hid behind Russia, to solve the issue independently and let the neighbour decide for themselves.

Here, of course, a question arises that is often asked not only in Donbass, but also in all of Ukraine: and what, Russia couldn’t liberate Russian lands with Russian people from nominally Banderists, but in reality an American occupation? Evidently, it could. But Russia can “liberate” all of Europe up to the Atlantic (which, by the way, is also under American occupation).

Does this mean that Russia must urgently start “a liberating campaign” in Europe? The question seems to be absurd, but the topic of “a liberating campaign” in Ukraine, which according to its status differs little from Serbia, is constantly discussed by the Russian and the pro-Russia Ukrainian public. Yes, in Ukraine there was a coup. But international law doesn’t provide the possibility of an incursion into an independent state only because of a violent change of power. Yes, our western “partners” often carry out coups and/or interfere in independent states under the pretext of eliminating the consequences of the coup. Nevertheless, even now, when not only the spirit, but also the letter of international law is consciously ignored in most cases by the majority of countries, such invasions/interventions are outwardly given shape in accordance with international law. For example, some local oppositionist is found (or brought, like how the USSR brought Babrak Karmal from Czechoslovakia to Afghanistan), a real or fake resistance movement is formed around them, it then establishes control over some territories, provides the transition of some officials and military personnel to its side, and only after this do foreign troops appear in the country “for the purpose of stopping bloodshed”. The appearance of “polite people” in Crimea was given shape precisely like this. Civil standoff, the threat of mass bloodshed, the non-recognition of the Kiev coup by local parliament – only after this did Russia appear there officially. And everything that was unofficial was already in play.

The corresponding conditions didn’t develop anywhere else across the entire territory of Ukraine. Yes, there were rallies that gathered 1,000/2,000 people. Yes, the regional state administrations were taken by storm. Yes, “people’s governors” were proclaimed. But at the same time, except in Crimea, in no region did the official authorities refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the coup in Kiev. Thus, Russia found itself in front of the formally monolithic unity of a 45-million state, all the authorities of which, including regional ones in the Southeast, refused to recognise Yanukovych as legitimate. But counteraction was demonstrated by several tens of thousands of people over all the country. This counteraction was unorganised, they weren’t able to either reach an agreement among themselves or formulate their aims clearly.

So from the point of view of international law, in 2014 Russia had nobody to stand up for. Those abstract “we were waiting [for Russia to liberate us]” – who indeed were in the millions – couldn’t be considered, counted, and their non-publicly expressed will presented as a justification of a right to intervene by anyone.

Of course, there was an option to spit on the legal justification of actions and to act by the right of might. But for the sake of what? An overland corridor to Crimea? This issue was solved with the help of the Crimean Bridge. Meanwhile it was clear that it won’t be possible to capture all of Ukraine in 2014. In the West (and even in the center) most of the population would be against it. And an appeal to the US, EU, and NATO with a request for help will surely be expressed. And it will be heard.

I.e., the partition of Ukraine was possible, and it’s not a fact that it would be succeeded to take all of Novorossiya and to punch a corridor up to Transnistria. It is rather on the contrary – neither Kiev, nor western “partners” were obviously going to hand over Odessa, the strangling of Transnistria in a situation of military-political chaos was quite real, and it was possible to do it quickly, during a couple of days (so that Russia has no time to react). The most sad thing in this chapter is that a part of the gas pipelines + gas storages would all the same remain under the control of the Banderist government. Only it would speak rightfully about Russian aggression, and for our friends in the EU it would be almost impossible to defend the idea of “Nord Stream-2”.

Russia would thus receive a small territorial accretion with a population that is far from being ready to fit into the Russian political system (this is seen even in the example of the small and most Russian in Ukraine Crimea), but its economic partnership with the EU would be interrupted and political relations would reach a level close to a military confrontation. Those same US bases that so far have appeared in Europe in a very moderate quantity only because most Europeans are against the deployment of new American forces would appear there without problem.

It would be necessary to manyfold strengthen the Western grouping of troops, including in the attached territories. And besides this, for the creation of an effective system of management and control it would be necessary to send a large number of administrative staff from Russia to the attached territories, and also forces of the police and FSB (Ukrainian statehood was almost destroyed, the remaining officials in their majority are incompetent, and the system of management has been destroyed).

It would be a question of the need to resettle in Ukraine hundreds of thousands of people (1-2 million, if to count them with their families) for the long term. These people would be perceived there as “Varangians” who were sent to govern (but after all, we can do it ourselves) and who “prevents us from living” in the way that “we got used to”. Since this moment any problem would be a problem “caused by Russia”, which didn’t give, do, or provide something. After all, the governors are Russian. Soon the era of “European integration” would start being remembered with nostalgia, especially since sharply increasing the standard of living of 20 million people is almost impossible, but forcing everyone to pay taxes (only the lazy in Ukraine didn’t avoid paying them) is actually very easy. Besides this, the freezing in the Ukrainian (and in general in the Western) direction of a considerable (from a third to a half) of the entire military capacity of Russia would block the possibility of pursuing an active foreign policy (including in Syria). There wouldn’t be simply anything left that could offer support.

A hypothetical Ukrainian campaign didn’t correspond to the principle, according to Liddel Hart, requirement of a successful war: “Victory is such a post-war peace that is better than the pre-war one, at least for you”.

But maybe it was possible to integrate at least Donbass into Russia following the Crimean example? No, it wasn’t. As was already said, legitimate regional authorities didn’t support the revolt. Only about a third of the total area of two regions and a half of that territory on which an independence referendum was held appeared in the hands of the revolters. To recognise and integrate them into Russia (and they can’t survive independently) is possible only within the framework of the territory under its control today. Supporting an offensive of the DPR/LPR up to the borders of regions means to start a war that leads to the partition of Ukraine, but Russia will receive even less than the biggest part of Novorossiya – it will be just two regions. The other consequences, perhaps, are a little more soft, but in general they are the same. Besides this, it is necessary to understand that by making peace on the condition of the integration of Donbass, Russia would practically reconcile with the loss of the rest of Ukraine forever (or as far as it is possible to speak about “forever” in politics in principle). I.e., the losses are the same, and the profit is even less, if we avoid saying that there isn’t any in general.

In fact, this situation of a military-political stalemate that developed in the Ukrainian direction by the summer of 2014 forced Russia to opt to freeze the situation in this direction, having transferred the center of gravity of its efforts to more promising, from the point of view of the global standoff with the US, regions – in order to return to the Ukrainian question in general, and to Donbass in particular, in more favourable conditions.

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