Andrei Martyanov: US Ambassador to Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, US-Russian relations, Soviet “Coast Guard”

June 07, 2022

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Russian Reset

February 26, 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

Osama Eltrabolsi 

Though American public opinion is cliche-filled with phrases and slogans of democracy, it seems that the American Dream fades into nothing but an echo of the media network and their propaganda.

Russian Reset

The relationship of the ordinary American citizen with politics is strange. It is based primarily on the principle of giving to Caesar what is for Caesar so long as he delivers upon the bright promises of individual liberty and human rights which would undoubtedly assuage many destructive foreign policy blunders around the world such as Iraq or Afghanistan being just two amongst many others. 

And when I talk to people from the other side of the world about international politics or even American politics in the world, the simple facts may seem shocking to many of them. Perhaps the most prominent of these issues is US-Russia relations. While Russia can influence any current conflict in its regions or say, Central Asia, the China Sea, the extent of Russian influence continues to arrive in US politics and is certainly confirmed by the policies of the current US administration. 

Though American public opinion is cliche-filled with phrases and slogans of democracy, it seems that the American Dream fades into nothing but an echo of the media network and their propaganda. However, from the local perspective, we see the world from the heart of the conflict where it is easier to see the true reality.

What is now very obvious and very surprising is that the American public does not read between the lines of obvious media propaganda. Mainstream news sources in the US continue to propagate a coming escalation hyped up by news cycles that an American-Russian conflict is imminent and bravely has a responsibility to respond to Putin accordingly. These media outlets claim Russian interference happened through Donald Trump being compromised by the Russian bear. The strange irony is that those who are issuing these rumors are the same ones who have in recent history championed a reset of the US-Russian relationship. 

Looking back, it is a true statement that a reset did happen, but it was the Russians who we know have reset America through the Biden administration & his predecessors. In fact, although it seemed a diplomatic joke, Hillary Clinton officially admitted in her memoir entitled “Hard Choices” that she and Obama’s administration were the owners of an American project to reset the Russian relationship, indicating that she gifted the Russian Foreign Minister a now-infamous red button with the word RESET. At the time, it seemed symbolic and somewhat hopeful or that the reset button in her meeting with Sergey Levrov was a kind of diplomatic joke, but now we know it was regarding what we currently see in US-Russia relations and what she already declared in her memoir! Putin was able to rebrand & sit with the Americans on a world stage; a monumental achievement by Russia to the United States since the Cold War. Putin stepped away from power for years, leaving the chair to one of his associates, President Medvedev, branded to the Americans as an easy-going person. It was under Medvedev the system was reset affording Putin the keys to everything from computers to secret emails.

As Hillary Clinton stated in his memoirs, “President Obama and I believed in 2009 that we could achieve key American national interests with Russia, by adopting an approach based on three elements: finding specific areas of cooperation where our interests converged, maintaining a consistent position where our interests differ, and continuous engagement with the Russian people themselves, this approach became known as the ‘Russia Reset’.”

The first area of ​​cooperation was the establishment of a high-tech corridor in Russia, similar to Silicon Valley in the United States, even suggesting a visit to the proposed site for America to inspect, and that is what happened in 2010. Skolkovo was established in 2010, and it is the most important technological project in the world. This was followed by cooperation in facilitating the supply process for American forces in Afghanistan. This directly led to Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

But in her memoir, Clinton admits in a very nonchalant, pseudo-diplomatic manner that it was all indeed a hoax. On how they were defrauded by the Russians, Clinton describes, “I have been bitterly disappointed by those who expected the reset approach to usher in a new era between the United States and Russia based on goodwill.”

We note her own words as if it absolves her for being the godmother of the project since its inception. This very strange reset pioneered by Hillary Clinton helped Russia advance & develop its technology projects and expand in Central Asia and enter the Crimea in exchange for allowing American forces to cross their territory. These arrangements were made with the executive assistance of William Burns, who was working during the Obama administration as an Ambassador of the United States of America to Russia. He previously served as the United States Deputy Secretary of State from 2011 to 2014. Today, Mr. Burns is Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Biden who adopts the same worldviews as Obama himself. 

This security breach in US intelligence confirms that all American threats to Russia are only a deflection away from President Biden and his Democratic failed policies which gave us Morsi. Burns himself had previously participated in the fake Russia reset. Rather, he said at the Munich Security Conference, “It is time to press the reset button and reconsider the many areas.” We can work with Russia and we have to work together, which is interesting because this was Trump’s diplomatic call to Russia. 

Skolkovo is technology
Russian interference is tech-based
Hillary lied about Russia then she is likely lying about the MB influences in the states. 

American politics today

The recently damming report called The Durham Report proved Hillary is a liar and she paid for tech information while accusing Russia & Trump only a few years after she initiated Skolkovo. It is an ironic reset, unlike we expected. 

Durham’s filing states that Joffe tasked a small group of university researchers to mine internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying Trump to Russia. Durham said that in doing so, Joffe “was seeking to please certain ‘VIPs’.” According to Durham, Joffe identified these VIPs as individuals at Sussmann’s law firm, Perkins Coie, and the Clinton campaign

Special counsel John Durham, who is probing the origins of the counterintelligence investigation against Donald Trump’s campaign, filed late Thursday a response to former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann’s motion to strike six paragraphs from Durham’s case against him. Sussmann filed a motion (pdf) on Feb. 14 to strike six paragraphs that comprise the “Factual Background” section in Durham’s filing on Feb. 11. Durham’s filing alleged that Trump’s residences and the White House were spied on by a tech executive aligned with the Democratic Party, who is identified in reports as Rodney Joffe.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Andrei Martyanov’s reaction to the West “reply” (MUST WATCH!)

FEBRUARY 02, 2022

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with radio stations, January 28, 2022

January 29, 2022

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Sputnik, Echo of Moscow, Govorit Moskva and Komsomolskaya Pravda radio stations, Moscow, January 28, 2022

Question: Will there be a war? We sent them our proposals, we waited for their response, and we got their response. Their answer did not suit us, which was to be expected. Before that, we said and made clear through different representatives that if their response does not suit us, we reserve the right to respond and protect our interests forcefully. Can you explain what that means and what are we going to do? We aren’t going to make McDonald’s illegal after all, are we? If I may quote my subscribers, they frame this question as follows: “When are we going to hit Washington?”, “Will there be a war?”, “How long are we going to procrastinate?”, “Will there be a war?”

Sergey Lavrov: If it depends on the Russian Federation, there will be no war. We don’t want wars, but we won’t allow anyone to trample on our interests or ignore them, either. I cannot say that the talks are over. As you are aware, it took the Americans and their NATO allies more than a month to study our extremely straightforward proposals that are part of the draft treaty with Washington and the agreement with NATO. We received their response only the day before yesterday. It is written in that typically Western style. In many ways, they are confusing the issue, but also providing kernels of rationality on secondary issues such as intermediate- and shorter-range missiles which were quite important for us at some point. When the Americans destroyed the INF Treaty, we urged them to listen to reason. President Vladimir Putin sent a message to all OSCE members suggesting that they join our unilateral moratorium when agreeing on verification measures. It was ignored. Now, it has become part of their proposals. Similarly, our initiatives that were introduced by the General Staff of the Russian Federation to conduct military exercises further away from the borders on both sides, to agree on a critical safe distance between approaching combat aircraft and ships, as well as a number of other confidence-building, deconflicting and de-escalation measures, were ignored. All of that has been rejected during the past two to three years. Now, they propose discussing this. That is, the constructive approach in these proposals has, in fact, been borrowed from Russia’s recent initiatives. I think that now, as we say in Russia, “we are getting somewhere.” To reiterate, most importantly, we should figure out the conceptual pillars that underlie European security.

In 2010 in Astana, and before that in 1999 in Istanbul, all presidents and prime ministers from the OSCE countries signed a package that contained interrelated principles to ensure the indivisibility of security. The West “ripped out” just one slogan from this package: each country has the right to choose its allies and military alliances. But in that package this right comes with a condition and an obligation on each country, to which the Westerners subscribed: not to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others. With its mantra that the NATO open door policy is sacred and no one can say “no” to Ukraine joining the Alliance and that it’s up to Ukraine to decide, the West is, deliberately and openly, refusing even to acknowledge the second part of the commitments. Moreover, when Josep Borrell, Antony Blinken and many other colleagues of ours talk about the importance of sticking to agreed-upon principles in the context of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, none of them ever mentions the Istanbul Declaration or the Astana Declaration. They mention the Helsinki Final Act and the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe, in which there is no obligation not to strengthen one’s own security at the expense of others. Russia insisted on including this commitment in subsequent OSCE documents.

Today, as I made clear earlier, I am sending official requests to all my colleagues asking them directly to clarify how they are going to fulfill, in the current historical circumstances, the obligations that their countries have signed onto at the highest level. These are the matters of principle. Before we proceed to discussing individual practical aspects of European security, we want to see the West wriggle out of it this time.

I hope they will give an honest answer about what they have in mind when they implement these agreements in an exclusively unilateral manner that benefits them – again, completely ignoring that fact that the right to join alliances directly hinges on recognising that it is unacceptable to strengthen the security of some states at the expense of the security of others. Let’s see how they respond.

Question: If they give us the answer many experts are discussing, it will most certainly not suit us. Can it lead to a breakdown in relations? Everything we have been hearing recently from the Americans, and they are going to introduce sanctions against the leadership of our entire country, even against you…

Sergey Lavrov: What do you mean “even”? Are you saying I am not worthy of them?

Question: It has never happened in history. There has never been talk of sanctions against the Foreign Minister and the President. This is beyond the pale. Look at what is happening with our diplomats against this backdrop. Yesterday our Ambassador to the United States said that ultimately this might lead to something close to severing relations. As Anatoly Antonov said, our diplomats are simply being expelled although this is presented in a somewhat different way. What should we do? How will it look?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a multilayered question. I will start with the main point: What will we do if the West does not listen to reason? The President of Russia has already said what. If our attempts to come to terms on mutually acceptable principles of ensuring security in Europe fail to produce the desired result, we will take response measures. Asked directly what these measures might be, he said: they could come in all shapes and sizes. He will make decisions based on the proposals submitted by our military. Naturally, other departments will also take part in drafting these proposals.

Now the interdepartmental analysis of the responses received from the US and NATO is underway. Practically everyone knows what these responses are. I have made some remarks. I will note in passing that the American response is all but a model of diplomatic manners compared to NATO’s document. NATO sent us such an ideologically motivated answer, it is so permeated with its exceptional role and special mission that I even felt a bit embarrassed for whoever wrote these texts.

Our reply will be prepared. The proposals contained in our reply will be reported to the President of Russia and he will make a decision. We are developing our line at this point, including the steps that I mentioned.

As for the threats of imposing sanctions, the Americans were told, including during the presidential meeting, that the package you have just mentioned, the one that includes completely cutting off Russia from the West-controlled financial and economic systems, will be equivalent to severing relations. This was said directly. I believe they understand this. I don’t think this is in anyone’s interests.

Now a few words about their treatment of our diplomats. When I was in Washington several years ago, or, to be more precise, in December 2019, a deputy US Secretary of State under Michael Pompeo told my deputy in passing, before saying goodbye, that they were thinking of ways to streamline the functioning of our diplomatic missions on a reciprocal basis. He said American diplomats work abroad for three years. Then they are replaced, sent to a different country or returned to the central office in Washington. So they decided that our diplomats should also observe this term of three years and that’s it. We asked why we were told this on the sly and whether we were the only ones to hear it. We asked whether they had similar thoughts as regards other states, the answer was “no.”  No other country was supposed to be subjected to this experiment, just the Russian Federation. This is when we started yet another round of our diplomatic tit-for-tat. We said okay, you have a practice of sending diplomats to serve abroad for three years, and we have a practice of not hiring local personnel to work in our embassies. The Americans hired over 400 people (nationals of Russia and other countries, mostly CIS).

You probably followed this discussion. They started moaning and groaning “How come? Are you ‘unplugging’ us?” You wanted to be guided by the principle that you can do everything and impose on us what you think is right. We will do the same. This is yet another escalation of the crisis that was triggered by Barack Obama who revealed his genuine character. Three weeks before his departure from the White House, he decided to bind Donald Trump’s hands before slamming the door on the way out. He deprived us of five diplomatic properties and expelled dozens of diplomats who had to pack up all their staff with their families in three days. This was the beginning of it all.

We spoke about this again with Antony Blinken in Geneva, completing our conversation on European security. It is necessary to get back to normal in some way. We suggested starting from scratch and resetting everything to zero, beginning with this disgraceful, piddling move by Nobel Prize winner Barack Obama and everything that followed after it. Let’s wait and see. Another meeting is supposed to take place in the next couple of weeks. The Americans are now in a bargaining mood. They are telling us that they need 12 people serving the ambassador alone.  They argue that we must therefore exempt them from the quota that we establish on a reciprocal basis. We have explained to them that the agreed-upon quota is 455 people, both for them and for us. On our part, this is a gesture of enormous goodwill. The figure of 455 includes not only the employees of the bilateral diplomatic missions: the Embassy and two general consulates but also 150 people who work at our mission at the UN, which has nothing to do with our bilateral ties or any sense of balance. This was a goodwill gesture. However, we warned them that if they continue their obnoxious behaviour (I don’t know how else to describe their statements that if we don’t accept the guards for their ambassador immediately, they will ask Mr Antonov to leave the US), we still have the option of truly equalising our diplomatic presence.

Question: You know perfectly well that my questions are largely based on our radio listeners’ questions. Since we are talking about Russia-US relations, our listener Michael McFaul of California, a Stanford University professor, has sent a question for you. Why didn’t Russia try at least to get UN Security Council authorisation for the use of force if needed in Ukraine? Doesn’t Russia believe in the UN Security Council any longer? Why hasn’t Russia recognised the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics if they are facing the same risk as South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008?

Sergey Lavrov: To be honest, the questions are absolutely ignorant. Take the question about the UN Security Council. Did I get it right?  Why didn’t (past tense) Russia go to the UN Security Council for authorisation to use force if necessary? I will not even try to explain the futility of the phrase. The word “if” does not belong in the diplomatic practice in any country.

Regarding recognition, I think Mr McFaul, who had made a tremendous contribution to destroying anything constructive in Russian-American relations, just did not have time to read the Minsk agreements approved in February 2015. They are about preserving the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics had already declared independence several months prior to the Minsk meeting. Germany and France, who endorsed the text of the Minsk agreements with us and the Ukrainians, begged us, with Pyotr Poroshenko joining those requests, to persuade the leaders of the two republics to sign the Minsk agreements thus, in essence, changing the results of the spring 2014 referendum in Donbass. Mr McFaul should probably learn the contemporary history of the region. The issue of recognition must be considered in the context of our firm line to get the West to compel Kiev to abide by the Minsk agreements. Then everything will be all right, just as envisaged by this document endorsed by the UN Security Council.

Question: I think that the document we delivered to the United States surprised many of those who read it. It left many, myself included, feeling that Russia won in some kind of a war, while America lost. What I mean is the radical proposals contained in it like returning to NATO’s 1997 borders, etc. My question is, what was all that? It is obvious that the arguments must be really strong for the Americans to return to the 1997 terms or withdraw from countries where they feel so good, confident and comfortable? By all means, you clearly had something in mind. What was that, and what kind of a response did you expect to this letter? After all, the withdrawal must be swift. They were required to respond quickly.

We did our math. You are now working with your fourth US administration, since you became Foreign Minister during George W. Bush’s presidency. Are there any major differences between these teams? Can specific individuals actually make a difference in history as we were once taught, or not? Which of your counterparts did you work better with, and how are you getting along with the current “guys” compared to the previous administrations?

Sergey Lavrov: The proposals we delivered to the United States and NATO on December 15, 2021, may seem excessive only if the expert assessing them proceeds from the premise that “the Americans have already taken away everything there was all around you, so it is too late to make a fuss about it. Just accept it and try to keep the bare minimum they left you.”

What we want is fair treatment. I cited the commitments we all accepted at the highest level within the OSCE. Let me emphasise that presidents, including the US President, signed under these commitments promising that no one would seek to bolster one’s security at someone else’s expense. The United States claims that the right to choose alliances is sacrosanct. But we say, provided it doesn’t worsen the security situation for any other country. This is what you signed, my dear sirs.

They are now trying to present our proposals as an ultimatum, but we are there to refresh their memories and make sure that instead of equivocating they set forth in all honesty their interpretation of what their president signed up for. If he signed these documents while being confident that Russia would never be able to get what they promised, they must acknowledge that. This will be yet another confession on their part. We already reminded them about the promises they made verbally in the 1990s not to expand NATO, but in response they claimed that we got them wrong, that they did not want to mislead us and had little time to think because there were more urgent issues to deal with at the time. This is how they explained it, literally.

We are on our own territory. Michael McFaul has referred to the UN Security Council where the United States intends to discuss what we are doing regarding Ukraine and why we are not working to de-escalate the situation. This is what we hear from a person representing a country with military bases spread around the world, encircling the Russian Federation and the CIS, a country doing who knows what in Iraq (who invited them there?) and so forth. If the Americans want to discuss troop deployments, there are things to talk about. Everywhere we deploy our military forces, we do so based on a request from the host country. We fulfil the agreements we reach with host countries strictly in keeping with international law. Both Josep Borrell and Antony Blinken have been whipping up hysteria on the topic of escalation in Ukraine, demanding that we de-escalate, which has become a mantra of sorts for them, saying that they do hope that Russia chooses the “path of diplomacy.” I take them at their word. For many years after the end of the Soviet Union, we opted for the path of diplomacy. The Istanbul and Astana arrangements I had mentioned are the major outcomes of these diplomatic efforts: everyone undertook not to reinforce one’s security at the expense of others. After all, this was a commitment, a declaration, the supreme act of diplomacy. Use any word you like: compromise, consensus, agreement – anything. If diplomacy is what you stand for, start by delivering on what we already agreed upon.

It is not my intention to discuss our partners on a personal level, though there is much that could be said. Our motto is that we have to work with everyone, and work we do. I can say that I had smooth relationships with all my colleagues. We could always speak candidly with each other at all times even on increasingly divisive matters and on the differences our countries have in their relations with one another.

Question: You are a diplomat. You will never put it the way I’m going to put it right now. But I am a journalist and I can afford to.

Sergey Lavrov: I have said a few undiplomatic things before.

Question: True. But you didn’t say those things into a microphone during an interview. It’s just that we keep an eye on you and print your brilliant sayings on T-shirts.

We recently saved Kazakhstan. We may have to salvage things between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We have also preserved the peace in Karabakh and, generally speaking, in Armenia, too. We are endlessly saving our “exes.” What do we get in return?

Reporters from Komsomolskaya Pravda – colleagues of editor-in-chief Vladimir Sungorkin who is joining us from their studio – have unearthed a great story. They have investigated school textbooks used in former Soviet republics, including those we continue saving, to find out what they say about Russia, about the Soviet Union and about the Russian Empire. Quite a fascinating story. If you haven’t read it, you’ll be amazed. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev reports to our President that Russian is widespread in Kazakh schools, and not only in schools. According to our information, this is not entirely true, or rather it is not at all true. Regarding Russians living in those countries, we have many, many harassment complaints. I’m not talking specifically about Kazakhstan, but about the former Soviet republics in general. We have heard many times that the Foreign Ministry is opposed to simplifying the procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship by Russians living in those countries. I know for sure that it is not. I discussed this with you, and I know your position. Moreover, you have recently played an active role in simplifying current laws. Can you tell us how long we will tolerate this kind of attitude towards our people? When will we start returning our people – the way the Greeks, Germans, Jews and many others are taking people back based on their ethnic identity? How will we defend the rights of our people who have found themselves stranded there after their country’s collapse, which was not something they wanted?

Sergey Lavrov: This is several questions in one. As for relations with our neighbours, CSTO allies, CIS partners – we have a problem. Nobody is hiding this. It largely stems from the fact that the newly independent states, which left the Soviet Union and which had been part of the Russian Empire before that, have been given the first chance in a long historical period, the first opportunity to build their own national (the key word) states. They sometimes overdo it because they want to assert their national identity as soon as possible. Nobody would deny this. This always happens when great empires fall apart.

The Soviet Union was heir to the Russian Empire. In fact, it was an imperial entity, although softer and more humane than the British, French or other empires.

Some of the imbalances you are talking about would be inevitable in the current historical period. We certainly wish to avoid them and curtail them. This must be done by all means, including so-called soft power, and we need to allocate significantly more resources for it than now. Our ministry is active in lobbying for appropriate Government decisions and streamlining the state’s activities on this track. But we are still far below the level that Western countries have reached in this respect. In addition to soft power, apart from diplomacy, bringing these problems up during meetings with our allies and partners – there is also reciprocity, which refers to considering our partners’ approaches to matters that are relevant to us when making decisions that affect them. This concerns labour migrants, economic assistance, and much more. Our economic systems are interconnected. The Eurasian Economic Union creates conditions, but it is up to the Russian Federation to make most of them a reality, and much more.

I do not see why this should rule out the development of friendly, allied, and very close – including personal – relationships with the elites of our neighbours. This whole situation is the result of a geopolitical catastrophe, the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said, 25 million people (maybe more) then found themselves abroad, outside their country overnight. We had no borders and no idea how to build ties. It took a titanic effort. Now the situation is more or less back to normal; it is clear who should be responsible for what. This is already a great achievement. But the problems you mentioned – our compatriots’ situation – should be addressed on a mutual basis.

I’ll make a couple of points now. The first point is we should be more active and open in discussing human rights within the CIS, including the rights of non-titular ethnic groups – Russians in Kazakhstan, Kazakhs in Russia, Azerbaijanis in Armenia and vice versa (although there are very few of them left there). We have reached the following agreement with our CIS partners. Back when the Commonwealth was being created, its Charter included a provision on the CIS Commission on Human Rights as one of its bodies. However, we never got around to actually setting it up. At first, the idea was simple – the West should see that we also address human rights. But over the past few years, we have proposed materialising this statutory provision. There is a general agreement to launch the commission and an understanding that we will primarily deal with human rights issues in the CIS. It should be up to us, to all CIS countries, to make judgments about the human rights situation in our countries, not to Western agencies or bodies like the European Court of Human Rights, which has long lost the ability to rely on the principles of justice and which increasingly politicises its decisions every year.

Last year, the number of regional programmes exceeded 80, that is, apart from the federal programme, including in the regions of the Far East and Trans-Baikal Territory which we see as priority areas for those willing to move to the Russian Federation. I listed the major benefits that have been approved. I will say straight away that we wanted more. I believe that one’s family, parents and relatives having roots not only in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic but also in other republics of the Soviet Union must have relevance for being entitled to preferential access to citizenship.

We have to consider a number of issues that we would like to settle as soon as possible. The work has not been finished yet. We have now “capitalised” what we have agreed on at the current stage. The President approved the consensus that was reached. We will continue to work to further improve the process and ease conditions for acquiring citizenship. The more so that at President Putin’s direction, the United Russia party, our leading political force, formed a commission on international cooperation and assistance to compatriots abroad. It involves not only helping compatriots come to Russia but also in the sense in which we discussed your first question – so as to make them feel as comfortable as possible upon arrival.

A couple of days ago the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper ran an article about history textbooks published currently in the former Soviet republics. I will not comment on what Estonians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Latvians are writing in them. However, regarding the CIS countries, we have repeatedly told them that nationalists should not be given pretexts by exploiting difficult moments in our common history. It ultimately helped all the peoples inhabiting this huge geopolitical space to lay the foundation for building their statehood. While we acknowledge the newly independent states’ aspiration to self-determination which I mentioned, overheated assessments should be avoided as they obviously, and maybe intentionally, play into the hands of extremists and nationalists.

Last year, a decision was signed within the Commonwealth of Independent States on establishing an international association (commission) of historians and archivists from CIS member states. It will focus, among other things, on discussing the issues of our common history with an eye toward a constructive consideration of all matters. I don’t think there will be unified history textbooks, but guidelines will be produced to reflect a consolidated point of view and a variety of perspectives. We have a commission of historians with Germany, Poland and Lithuania. They release joint documents. I believe that a similar mechanism within the Commonwealth will operate much more constructively in view of our closeness in many organisations – CSTO, EAEU, CIS and SCO.

Question: To follow up on our relations with the United States, you just said that we will continue to work with them. A meeting with Antony Blinken will take place soon. However, now that we have their answer, many analysts, in fact, almost all of them, are saying that the United States and the Alliance members are unlikely to change their position on the main issues. They are saying that “the ball is in Russia’s court now, and we are ready for any scenario.” You are saying our President said that we would respond, and that the response is in the works. The Foreign Ministry is involved in this. Can we have a sneak peek at the direction in which our Foreign Ministry is going to move in order to shoot the “ball” back at them? Is it Latin America? Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua? Could it be Europe? Serbia? Maybe we can do something with Iran? Can you give us a hint about what our response should be like for these guys to sit down, use their heads and try to give us different answers to our main questions, rather than secondary ones?

Sergey Lavrov: If they insist on not changing their position, we will not change ours, either. It’s just that their position is based on false premises and a flat-out misrepresentation of the facts. Our position is based on things that everyone has signed onto. I don’t see any room for a compromise here. Otherwise, what are we supposed to talk about if they openly sabotage and misrepresent previous decisions? This will be a key test for us.

As for the “ball,” we are playing different games. They may be playing baseball, while we may be playing tipcat. What matters is not to try to shirk responsibility, which is exactly what our American and other NATO partners are doing now.

They will not succeed in dodging the question of why they are not complying with what their presidents have signed onto, namely, that it is unacceptable to strengthen one’s security at the expense of the security of others.

Regarding our relations with Latin America, Serbia, Iran, China and many other states that act decently in the international arena, are not trying to unilaterally impose anything on anyone and are always willing to seek mutually acceptable solutions to any issues. Our relations are not subject to the vagaries of life. They are quite comprehensive and cover economic, cultural, educational, and sports contacts. They also include military and defence cooperation in full compliance with international law. I assure you that no matter how developments unfold with regard to European security, we will continue to consistently expand these relations.

I would like to underscore that we are studying their response and we have already provided our initial assessments. It is not satisfactory with regard to the main issue: the West fails to honour its obligations in terms of indivisibility of security and ignores our interests, although we laid them out in an extremely straightforward and clear way

With regard to issues of secondary importance, they were shocked by us presenting these documents publicly. This helped change their negative attitude towards our previous proposals, including medium- and short- range missiles and working out de-escalation measures during the exercises. This means that the West understands only this kind of language, and we should continue in the same vein that we did when we put forward our initiatives. We are now focused on getting explanations. We cannot accept evasive answers when it comes to the indivisibility of security. The West is shirking its commitments just as it failed to deliver on its commitment not to expand NATO. But then (as it is now telling us) it was a verbal commitment. Now, written commitments are available. Respond to us in writing to our written demands. Explain how you fulfill the written commitments signed by your presidents.

Question: When it is necessary to come to the defence of Russian journalists that are subjected to certain restrictions in the US or Germany, and we know the story with RT, the Foreign Ministry is forcefully intervening and defending them both on and off the record, and not only Maria Zakharova but also at the level of ambassador, deputy minister and at your level. When it comes to the countries with which we have closer relations, your department is quite modest. It is enough to recall the case of the Komsomolskaya Pravda journalists and the end of their news office that is practically closed. Its chief is behind bars.

I would like to remind you of the murders of journalists. When our journalists were killed in Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry took a very tough, assertive position that was hard to ignore, but it was silent when our journalists were murdered in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Here’s a question from our listener Dmitry Muratov from Moscow, a Nobel Prize winner and editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta. Without any additional investigation or operational measures, the new ambassador of Russia to the CAR named the murderers of the Russian journalists – the 3R group. The Foreign Ministry is aware of this but their families are not. The clothes of the journalists were burned as evidence, no investigation was conducted and the Foreign Ministry does not make any statements as regards the CAR leaders. Maybe, the Foreign Ministry should become more active in these cases with respect to both the Belarusian government and the CAR leaders?

Sergey Lavrov: You are right in saying that we must always defend the rights of Russian citizens, and not only journalists but every citizen, and the Americans have simply abducted dozens of them. We must also protect our journalists when there are obvious reasons for doing so.

We expressed our concern over what was happening with the Komsomolskaya Pravda news office. We talked with Mr Sungorkin about this. As I understand, the matter concerns Belarusian citizens and a specific Belarusian citizen. This is a somewhat different story. Any country that allows dual citizenship follows its own laws if something happens on its territory. I don’t want to go into details but there are issues that require silence. We did quite a bit to persuade the Belarusian authorities to be understanding. Now their position is what it is, and I cannot argue against it. They are ready to open any news office but its employees have to be citizens of the Russian Federation.

We could also look at how Russian journalists are treated in the West and how their working conditions are dictated there. I think a request to employ Russian citizens in Russian media is not beyond the pale. We believe the rights of journalists must be respected without exception everywhere, including Belarus or any other CIS country. If these rights are openly violated, we will continue to raise questions about this.

As for the CAR, we are willing to convey any information we have to the families of the dead journalists. As for the culprits, as you know, the CAR authorities are conducting an investigation. I don’t want to excuse the acts of these murderers. I can only say that journalists should take precautions. If they had at least notified the Foreign Ministry and our Embassy that they were bound for a country with a domestic armed conflict and a terrorist threat, the chances of avoiding this tragedy would have been a bit higher. This was all the more important since they went there as tourists, without declaring the purpose of their visit. Let me repeat again that this is not an excuse but this creates additional security risks in such cases.

Therefore, I’d like everyone to know that we do want journalists to work all over the world, including hot spots. I remove my hat and bow to all those who do such reporting in flak jackets and helmets, and let me say something, in passing, to your colleagues in eastern Ukraine. Once again I am addressing, through you, those who may have some influence on Western journalism and the media. Why do journalists appear sporadically, once every six months, at best, on the Kiev-controlled side of the contact line in Donbass? Why is their reporting so spotty? It would be very interesting to see them there. On the other side of the contact line, our journalists show the results of the atrocities committed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine that are bombing kindergartens, outpatient clinics and residential areas and killing people. According to the OSCE, civilian casualties on the side controlled by Donbass defenders are five times higher than on the opposite side. This speaks for itself.

Let’s return to the Central African Republic. We again sent an inquiry to the CAR government when the information about this 3R group emerged. We will do all we can to bring this investigation to completion. As you know, their government is dealing with this. Let me emphasise once again that we want to know the truth. I would like to impress upon our journalist colleagues and friends the importance of notifying us about trips to hot spots (if you don’t trust the Ministry, I cannot force you to do this). Please do it for the sake of your own safety. It will help.

Question: Thank you very much for your support to our service in connection with what happened to Gennady Mozheiko. Our thanks go to Alexei Venediktov for bringing up this issue. Gennady Mozheiko has been in police custody for four months now and not even once has he been questioned. He’s just sitting there. I appealed to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko [for assistance] but, so far, there has been no response.

You were right in saying that it is not only a matter of journalists. Today, according to the Russian Embassy in Belarus, 457 Russian nationals are behind bars in Belarus. This is only what the embassy says, and I suspect the real figure is even bigger. Yesterday, another person – Russian national Vera Tsvikevich – was added to this list. She was detained only for taking, during the protests, a photograph of herself, a selfie, in a beautiful red dress with a patrol in the background. She was taken to prison for that. Judging by the precedents, she will be sentenced to two years in prison. Something needs to be done about this.

As for Belarus, we should have a very different relationship with them, as this is the Union State. Today, our journalists believe their work to be the most difficult in Belarus and not in Georgia or America, or Israel, and so on. We are constantly talking about the Union State, saying that we need to synchronise our legislation. What is in store for us, with regard to what I just said? Do we stand any chance of becoming a true Union State?

Sergey Lavrov: As for the Union State, you know, there are 28 union programmes that were approved last autumn…

Question: They have not been published, which is an interesting fact.

Sergey Lavrov: These are framework documents. They contain no secrets. They provide for work that has already started to flesh out each of the 28 programmes with specific and direct legal decisions in the economy, financial activities, transport, communications and so on. It is an important step towards consolidating economic assets. According to the two presidents, this work has to be completed in the next two to three years. This means embarking on the path to the Union State with much broader powers.

Yesterday, we saw off the newly-appointed Ambassador, Boris Gryzlov who was leaving for Belarus. I handed him letters of credence signed by the Russian President. This ceremony was attended by Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko. I recalled that our joint work also includes efforts to align the rights of the people of the two countries. Much has already been done. I believe 95 percent of rights have been aligned; however, the remaining outstanding issues in some areas need to be addressed as soon as possible. In particular, this includes the terms on which healthcare services or hotel accommodation are to be provided to people travelling privately. This is all very important for the daily life of people.

But the question you asked is not about what the Union State will look like in the end. Even if the criminal legislation of the two countries has been unified in full, there will still be Russians detained in Belarus and Belarusians detained in Russia. Our embassy keeps a close eye on the course of legal proceedings involving detained Russian nationals. The law enforcement agencies and prosecutor general’s offices of the two countries stay in contact. I haven’t heard anything about Vera Tsvikevich. Is this today’s newspaper?

Remark: No. It was issued in 2020.

Sergey Lavrov: Why then did you say that she was added to this list yesterday?

Remark: She was detained yesterday. The newspaper is old but she was detained yesterday.

Sergey Lavrov: Is she on the staff of Komsomolskaya Pravda?

Remark: No, she is just a Russian national. I said that about 500 Russian nationals were serving sentence in Belarus.

Sergey Lavrov: Four hundred fifty-seven. So, she will be the 458th . We will be watching what happens to her, the way we do it in any other country. There are questions that require close cooperation between the law enforcement agencies. I would rather not talk about them now in public but such questions do exist. It is important that they are resolved in a manner characteristic of two allies or brotherly nations. We will invariably adhere to this line.

Question: Mine is not a question but an urgent request concerning the fate of the German RT channel. We have not faced such unprecedented and uncompromising pressure, actually not even pressure but a real ban on work, in any other country, not the US or the UK, as in the Federal Republic of Germany. It is all disguised with hypocritical statements by German leaders at different levels. Supposedly, they have nothing to do with the closure of the German YouTube channel. Even when we gained the largest audience in the history of the English-language YouTube among the world’s TV channels, we were not shut down. They didn’t dare. But the Germans did.  They pressured Luxembourg so as to have our licence denied even though practically everything had been agreed and done there. Ultimately, we were given the licence in Serbia. They pressured the European regulators – so we can’t broadcast with that licence either. Titanic efforts of hundreds of people who had been building the channel amid the pandemic, produced shows, won the audience – all that was in vain. The audience was sacrificed to interests. Nobody shows the German people what we show.

The only thing that can affect them (as was the case with the UK) is reciprocity, which you are more familiar with than we are. Deutsche Welle has not even been designated as a foreign agent, even though this status does not entail what it does in the US (criminal charges). In our country it is just a piece of paper and an occasion to shout about it. In fact, it does not entail anything. Foreign agents take interviews, they are invited to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press conferences. To say nothing about shutting down Deutsche Welle here the way they shut us down in Germany. This also concerns other German media outlets. Please, help us.

Sergey Lavrov: You don’t need to persuade me. Just yesterday the Russian Embassy in Berlin demanded an explanation. Procedures are underway. This is not within the competence of the federal agency but of the regulator of the German states Berlin and Brandenburg. The embassy’s lawyers looked into precedents. The Axel Springer concern had faced a similar situation but they quickly got a licence.

The key here is that the Germans are trying to place their internal regulations, which allegedly prohibit the registration of state-run channels, above their commitments under the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. According to our information, their regulators are using various pretexts to justify the primacy of their national law. This won’t do. The result will be the same as the NATO enlargement – this is what they want so they won’t do the things they had promised somewhere else. The Germans know that reciprocal measures will follow. I raised this issue when German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was here on a visit. I think she and her delegation heard it. I am going to have a telephone conversation with her today. I will definitely remind her.

Question: A scandal is unfolding in the United States. CNN published a report citing its own sources. In it, they alleged that the United States and Ukrainian presidents talked on the phone, with Joe Biden supposedly yelling at Vladimir Zelensky in an attempt to explain to him in a raised voice that unless he changes his position on Donbass, Kiev will fall and be pillaged, etc. CNN published this report on its website, but later removed it. Still, the scandal lives on. Both Joe Biden and Vladimir Zelensky are getting questions about this. In this telephone conversation, the President of the United States allegedly requested that the President of Ukraine urgently resolve the special status issue for Donbass.

If Kiev does decide to amend its constitution and grant Donbass a special status, will this affect Russia’s policy on Ukraine in any way? To be honest, you cannot trust these people. There are 720,000 Russian nationals there today, and in the future there could be even more of them. We do understand the threats they may face after obtaining a Russian passport. Are we ready for these eventualities? What will be Russia’s policy on the people’s republics?

Sergey Lavrov: We have always stressed the need to fully implement the Minsk agreements in good faith and following the sequence it sets forth. As my colleagues and I have been saying in our public statements, during the Geneva summit meeting in June 2021 between the Russian and United States presidents, Joe Biden said at his own initiative that he wanted to facilitate the implementation of the Minsk agreements, including in terms of granting an autonomous (this was the word he used) status to Donbass. He understands everything.

This is consistent with what the Minsk agreements say. The special status provisions they set forth cannot be subject to any equivocal interpretations. What needs to be done is clear. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured me that they want to help implement the Minsk agreements. His under-secretaries said that the US would not join the Normandy format but still wants to help. If they do force Kiev (nobody else can do it), this outcome would suit us. So far, I find this hard to believe. They are playing a game by continuing to supply weapons. Some tend to interpret these deliveries as a support for those ready to engage in a senseless armed conflict. This is something many have to factor into their projections. In fact, hardly anyone wants this, but there is still a small group of people who stand to benefit from it, in one way or another.

Why are the Americans the only ones that can force Kiev into compliance? The Normandy format met in Paris at the level of political advisors to the four leaders. Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak travelled there. They agreed to take two more weeks to understand how they can move forward in carrying out the Minsk agreements.

France, Germany and the European Union name Russia as a party to the conflict. What kind of agreement can we reach in these circumstances? They are saying we must comply with the Minsk agreements. President Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Kozak have repeatedly stated that no one has ever given us an answer to the question of which specific provision we must comply with. The implication is that everything depends on Russia. It’s like we snap our fingers and everything will come to pass.

Kiev realised that Berlin and Paris would not insist on it complying with the Minsk agreements. President Zelensky said he didn’t like the Package of Measures, but it was nonetheless important, because it keeps Western sanctions on Russia in place. That’s all there is to it: nothing but crude cynicism. Ukraine realises that it can do anything now. Vladimir Zelensky and his regime are being used (primarily by the Americans) to escalate tensions and to engage their underlings in Europe, who are playing along with the Americans as they pursue their Russophobic undertakings. The future of Ukraine is not Washington’s main goal in this particular case. It is important for the United States to escalate tensions around the Russian Federation in order to “close” this issue and then “deal with” China, as US political scientists are saying. How do they plan to “close” it? I have no idea. If there are any reasonable political strategists still out there, they must realise that this road leads nowhere.

The Americans are using Ukraine against Russia so openly and cynically that the Kiev regime itself is now scared. They are now saying there is no need to aggravate the discussion and are suggesting that the Americans keep down the rhetoric, and are also wondering why evacuate diplomats. Who is evacuating diplomats? The Americans and other Anglo-Saxons (Canada and the UK), meaning they know something others don’t. Perhaps, pending a provocation on their part, we should take precautionary measures with regard to our diplomats as well. We’ll see about that.

I have already answered the question about how we feel about the recently vocalised idea of recognising the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics. My answer is straightforward: we must push for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. There’s a host of people out there who are ready to grab any excuse to remove blame from Kiev for the sabotage which it has been involved in for eight years now with regard to the document approved by the UN Security Council.

Question: You said that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has lost touch with reality. Maybe you live in different realities? Today, he will give a live interview to Ekho Moskvy. Do you want to say hi to him or ask a question?

Sergey Lavrov: Serves him right.

Question: I looked through the list of the sanctions approved by the US Congress and Treasury last year. The absolute majority of them are associated with the name of Alexey Navalny, not Ukraine. The OPCW (independent German, French and Swedish labs) found traces of a poisonous substance in his blood, which clearly means that he was poisoned. The Foreign Ministry requested assistance. But Russia did not open a criminal investigation. Germany said in that case there would be no help. We are members of the OPCW. You have seen the report on Navalny. Do you continue to cooperate on this matter? We are in the minority in every single international European organisation. We are saying that the ECHR, PACE, the OSCE and the OPCW are Russophobes. Could it be that Russia is the one that is out of step?

Sergey Lavrov: I’ll start off by saying that I watched Euronews yesterday. There was a story about the village of Dvani in Georgia, near the South Ossetian border. It is located in an area that Georgia considers its territory. The reporter said he was in the village of Dvani at the separation line, with the administrative border that Russia keeps fortifying behind him. A house owned by a Georgian “was burned down during the war.” The new one “came into the Russian military’s surveillance zone.” A local resident said that we were “abducting people in unfathomable ways.” A Georgian journalist said that he has been “working in the villages near the conflict zone for several years now” and that “14 years have passed since the war that forced the people to live in difficult circumstances ended. They are losing their lands and forest allotments almost daily. People are being kidnapped. Russian troops are detaining them,” etc. Then the reporter continued to say that “after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia was the first among the former Soviet republics to experience an escalation of separatism and armed confrontation, and thousands of refugees are still unable to return home.”

He didn’t say, though, anything about what kind of separatism took root in Georgia even before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Zviad Gamsakhurdia was quite chauvinistic in his demands for Abkhazians to get out or to “georgify.” He believed South Ossetia residents did not deserve humane treatment. Nobody is saying anything about it. Then comes a brilliant phrase: “In 2008, when the conflict entered the hot phase, Russia took South Ossetia’s side.” This is Euronews, which touts itself as a channel of fair news and an epitome of diversity when it comes to presenting diverse viewpoints. They did not even mention how the fratricidal conflict began.

I’m saying this because you asked a question about the OPCW without mentioning the reference points that require clarification. If we state it the way you framed your question, then Michael McFaul and other unsophisticated listeners may get the impression that all of that is true. You are saying we asked the Germans to provide clarifications, and they wanted us to open a criminal investigation before they give us anything. What is that all about? Germany’s obligations under the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters are not dependent on whether a particular country opens a criminal investigation or not. Under our laws, a criminal case can be opened if there is corroborating evidence. This is in no way inconsistent with multiple instances of using this procedure in relations with many other countries. We have a lot of material which we circulate around the world. I’m sure reporters from Ekho Moskvy and other media outlets have access to it.

We are still waiting for an answer to our question about who flew in to pick up Alexey Navalny. Why the plane that flew to Omsk to pick him up was chartered the day before he fell ill. Why are there no answers to the purely specific and factual questions asked in the German Parliament: how come the pilot, who did not want Maria Pevchikh to take the bottle onboard, eventually let her do so? There was also a sixth passenger. These questions were asked at the Bundestag. Why is it impossible to question Ms Pevchikh? The Germans say she did not communicate with the blogger and did not visit him at the hospital. She wrote that she did. The bottle she brought along has not been shown to anyone. Our requests to run a joint examination of it are rejected. Allegations that illegal poisonous substances were found in Mr Navalny’s body began after no CWC-prohibited substances had been found by the Charité clinic, which is a civilian hospital. All of that was “discovered” at a clinic operated by the Bundeswehr in a matter of just three days. Before that, a similar scenario unfolded with the Skripal family. We insisted that the investigation must be grounded in hard facts, not “highly likely” assumptions. We cited facts that there are almost 150 patents for the infamous Novichok in the West, in particular, the United States. It was developed in Europe as well. Then Germany, France, Sweden and many other countries swore that they did not have this technology. Without the technology, it is impossible to detect this substance in the human body in three days. Any more or less experienced chemist is aware of that.

At first, the Germans told us that they would not give us the materials, because they constituted “classified military information.” How’s that? We are being accused of murder or attempted murder, and the information is classified. By definition, they should not have access to this technology if they are bona fide participants in the CWC. Then they began to say that they could give it to us, but Navalny says no. What’s next? At the same time, his lawyer criticised Dmitry Peskov for accusing the blogger of collaborating with the CIA and demanded proof. What kind of proof? US intelligence officers came to see him at the hospital, which Dmitry Peskov mentioned. We are demanding proof behind the accusation of attempted murder, but we are then told that he does not want to.

We asked the OPCW to provide the results but were told that they could do so only with the permission of the Germans. The circle closed. Read carefully the paper released by the OPCW. It says that some substances were discovered that are similar in composition to other substances that are on the OPCW’s banned chemicals list. Not a word about Novichok. Neither the Germans, nor the French, nor the Swedes gave us the formula. It’s classified. The formula is the proof of whether this is true or pure deception and lies.

I am inclined to believe that so far the West has no grounds to accuse us. This is done for the purpose of instigating a provocation. I mentioned the day when a special flight was chartered to fly to Omsk to pick up Mr Navalny. The day before the poisoning, the Germans (according to the OPCW report) asked The Hague for assistance in conducting the investigation of this case. Then they said it was a typo, and everything actually happened later. There are many interesting things there. In early September 2020, the Germans contacted the OPCW. The OPCW Secretariat concealed this from us for several days. In hindsight, they confessed that the Germans allegedly asked them not to tell anyone. Doesn’t it all look suspicious? It does to me, and suspicions run deep. I encourage Ekho Moskvy and other radio stations’ listeners to go the Foreign Ministry’s website and read the material containing a vast number of legitimate questions that remain unanswered by the West to this day.

Question: The most popular question: will there be a war with Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: This is what we started off with. If it’s up to the Russian Federation, there will be no war. I do not rule out the possibility that someone out there would like to provoke hostilities.

According to the West, there are about 100,000 troops on the line of contact. The Kiev regime does not control most of these armed men. A significant portion of the units that are stationed there include the former volunteer battalions, current territorial defence units, and militia. MANPADS are already being handed out to them. The media are reporting this information. They are encouraged to bring along hunting rifles with them, because there aren’t enough MANPADS for everyone. This is a militaristic frenzy. I cannot rule out the possibility of someone losing it, just like that soldier who shot and killed five of his fellow servicemen.

Question: Why aren’t we talking with Vladimir Zelensky? He is one of us, a former Komsomol member with a background in Channel One.

Sergey Lavrov: He is also a “piano player.” President Vladimir Putin answered this question. If President Zelensky wants to talk about normalising bilateral relations that were damaged by the unilateral actions of his regime, actions to which we responded, Russia stands ready to do so. Let him come to Moscow, Sochi, or St Petersburg, wherever they may agree. But if he wants to discuss Donbass – please go to the Contact Group, which, according to the Normandy format’s decision, is in charge of all settlement issues directly between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. When he says he won’t talk to us, this bodes ill for the domestic Ukrainian crisis. If he has something to offer in order to restore bilateral relations, the destruction of which Kiev, Vladimir Zelensky and his predecessor initiated, we are ready to consider his proposals. President Vladimir Putin has stated this in no uncertain terms.

Question: Another meme for a T-shirt from Minister Lavrov: “Please go to the Contact Group.”

Question: Are we going to evacuate our staff from Kiev as well?

Sergey Lavrov: We discussed this bout of insanity that is being fomented in Ukraine, primarily by the Anglo-Saxons and some Europeans. Dramatic claims that everyone must leave the place are part of this insanity. People who came there to tend to their business are urged to leave. Diplomats and their families are being taken home and non-core staff is being cut.

We cannot let it go unnoticed or turn a blind eye to it. If they are doing this (even though the Ukrainians haven’t asked them to), could it be that the Anglo-Saxons are up to something? The British particularly have a long track record in this area.

Question: This happened after you said something during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. What did you say or show to him? Immediately after the Geneva meeting, he started saying that diplomats should be evacuated. You must have done something.

Sergey Lavrov: You are mistaken if you think that I have lost the ability to understand what is happening around me. I didn’t say anything to him. In a one-on-one conversation (I hope this will not offend him) he told me that if something happens, their people would be there… It sounded rather strange to me. That’s what I told him.

Take my word for it, we discussed nothing but security guarantees. Then I raised the issue of the unacceptable state of affairs with our diplomatic missions. I made a proposal which we eventually agreed upon. In a couple of weeks, another meeting between experts will take place. I can assure you that no threats were uttered. However, we cannot leave things without analysis. We are analysing them to see what stands behind the Anglo-Saxons’ actions.

Russian FM Lavrov speaks in exclusive RT interview

December 22, 2021

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, December 18, 2021

December 21, 2021

20 December 2021 16:56

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, December 18, 2021

Question: Are our proposals to the United States and NATO regarding security guarantees an ultimatum to the West, the last attempt to reach out to them or a final warning to make them stop?

Sergey Ryabkov: We do not speak in the language of ultimatums with anyone. We have a responsible attitude towards our own security and the security of others. The point is not that we have issued an ultimatum, not at all, but that the seriousness of our warning must not be underestimated.

The security situation in Europe, the Euro-Atlantic region and Eurasia has indeed greatly deteriorated recently. This has happened because of a series of concerted actions by the United States and its NATO allies, which, generally speaking, can be described as an attempt to undermine Russia’s security and to create a hostile environment around us. We cannot accept this.

Ukraine is in the focus of this policy. Ukraine’s decisions are not independent but are subject to change in the situation. When the West provides unconditional and unqualified support to Ukraine, certain quarters in Kiev play up to the worst Western objectives and formulas. And the possibility of Ukraine eventually joining NATO, which some Ukrainian officials keep talking about, is categorically unacceptable to us. We will do our best to prevent this.

We reject the very presentation of the issue. We can discuss all the pros and cons, but we unequivocally demand that NATO withdraw the decision adopted at its Bucharest summit in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia become NATO members. That decision should be called off and revised, which will be seen as a small, not comprehensive, but small step in the right direction. The West does not appear ready to do this. This is why our comprehensive, all-encompassing proposals raise a number of outstanding issues, primarily for the United States but also for its allies, which should be settled urgently. We are monitoring their reaction, which is not encouraging so far. We are ready for talks on this basis, but so far we can only see that our proposals have been rejected under far-fetched pretexts.

The statement adopted by the North Atlantic Council on December 16 is vivid proof of this. Ninety percent of the text consists of time-worn ultimatums to Russia. We are not issuing any ultimatums to anyone, and we will not allow others to do this towards us. The statement goes on to say that what Russia demands, what it is demanding, is not an outstretched hand but a harsh demand, which allegedly has nothing to do with NATO. The alliance is free to decide which countries can join it, and NATO’s relationship with Ukraine is a matter only for Ukraine and the 30 NATO Allies.

No, this is much more a matter concerning Russia, as I am stating clearly now. The time of diplomatic parlance is over. We have to explain things at the elementary level, to spell them out. The potential NATO membership of Ukraine is above all a matter of concern for the Russian Federation.

Question: Have we set any deadlines for an answer? Do we have a Plan B, shall we say, in case the answer is no?

Sergey Ryabkov: We have not set any deadlines. We proposed meeting and talking right now without dragging things out, without delay. Instead of talking to you here, I was actually ready to be in Geneva today for talks with Ms Karen Donfried, US Assistant Secretary of State, or with any negotiators Washington would assign for this purpose. The Americans were told that our interdepartmental delegation at these negotiations would be headed by a supervising deputy minister; they are aware of this. We are waiting for their response. We can be any place they name, at any time, starting tomorrow. Just a few hours to pack and we have it all ready. We have a clear approach, which we have worked on for quite some time, so there are no technical, political or organisational obstacles for starting such negotiations as soon as possible.

As for Plan B, we continue to expect the other side to show a serious approach. We understand they need time to read all this, discuss it and wrap their minds around it. As I understand it, certain discussions on this took place on December 16, at NATO and in the European Union. This is all clear. But by and large, if they confirmed their readiness to meet urgently and negotiate on the basis of our documents – our documents provide a framework for a certain negotiation process – this would be a good answer. True, we cannot be sure – we know this from the experience of many negotiations – that we will immediately reach an agreement in just a few days. Not at all; these are serious matters, but the process needs to start now. It cannot be delayed, given the situation in all its complexity and the totality of problematic aspects.

Question: You said that understandably it would be impossible to come to an agreement right away. Does this mean that we are ready to compromise to reach an agreement?

Sergey Ryabkov: This matter has been repeatedly discussed, including over the last few days, in contacts with US representatives and via other channels. We cannot understand the basics of the US position, when they say that we should, for example, with regard to the Minsk Package of Measures, do this or that. We have been urging them to put down on paper what they mean, for several months now. But they are not doing this. I don’t know whether they are unable or unwilling. They publish the same statements, sufficiently straightforward and tough statements, over and over again. If we go by what is written in these statements, it would certainly be impossible to come to terms. But any talks imply a search for compromise. The problem is not that there is no will to reach an agreement on our part but that we do not see this kind of will on the other side.

We are saying that there are no far-fetched things in the draft agreement with the United States or in the draft agreement on security guarantees with NATO, and, of course, we are saying this absolutely sincerely, firmly and confidently. This is the Russian Federation’s position on issues affecting our fundamental security interests, a position that is free of rhetoric and expressed in the language of a treaty. No more, no less, and it should be treated as such.

Therefore, when we say we need security guarantees, we naturally are proceeding from the assumption that the reply will be such as will make it possible to say: we have made headway in dealing with this package of key issues in such a manner as to see a substantial improvement in the security situation for us, to see a dramatic change for the better; we are no longer concerned about what may take place in the future in connection with the uninterrupted activities involving the buildup of military exercises, creation of infrastructure, redeployment of forces, reconnaissance flights, development of territories, and so on, practically in the entire Western sector, particularly in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea in recent time.

The situation here could be stabilised through documents of this kind and their conclusion. It could be made better. Without them, however, the situation will remain extremely difficult and tense. No one should underestimate Moscow’s resolve to defend its national security interests. No one should treat lightly our statements regarding the dangerous nature of current developments.

Question: Is this about mutual guarantees? Are we also ready to give them these guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: Are you suggesting we draft them for NATO? I am not sure at all that they need them. In terms of its approach to security, NATO has long settled on declaring the indivisibility of security for its own members. NATO officials have been saying for quite a while now that they are doing what is necessary to protect themselves against external challenges and threats – real or imagined. That said, they claim they are dealing with their security themselves.

We also plan our security ourselves. But the problem and the difference is that we are suggesting coming to terms on this issue. We would certainly not draft NATO’s position, trying to guess what its members would like to receive in return for meeting us halfway. That’s funny. We will not do this, it would be methodologically wrong. So far, the other side is not even indicating a willingness to start talks. We will have to wait and see. If they come up with a real position, it would lead to a real negotiating process that, I hope will start soon and take place behind closed doors.

Question: What about guarantees of non-aggression against Ukraine or other actions regarding this country?

Sergey Ryabkov: They want us to take actions in our own territory. Naturally, we are rejecting this demand in both its essence and form. This demand is unacceptable and inappropriate. They are not asking for additional security guarantees in this context. We provided guarantees when the Budapest memorandum was signed in 1994.

I would like to emphasise that, with complicity from their Western patrons, our Ukrainian colleagues are turning this memorandum upside down. The Budapest Memorandum guarantees the security of Ukraine as a non-nuclear state in the context of the NPT. Guarantees have been ensured and provided from this viewpoint. However, the Budapest Memorandum document does not mention a word about government coups in Ukraine or subsequent actions. To be clear, we must note that this memorandum does not say anything about the possibility that part of the Ukrainian population living in Ukraine at that time decides whether they should continue living there or return to the Russian Federation.

The Budapest Memorandum is not about that. It sets out security guarantees for Ukraine as a non-nuclear state, and nothing more. The Foreign Ministry has said this many times, and this situation provides us yet another opportunity to emphasise this point.

Question: But if we consider a worst case scenario, which apparently is still on the table, if the Americans refuse to provide security guarantees, that would give us a free hand, among other things, regarding President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s proposal on deploying our nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Is this so?

Sergey Ryabkov: We take all our obligations very seriously, under all the treaties to which Russia is a party. We have obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. However, please note that for many years we have been raising the issue with NATO members that the practice of deploying US nuclear weapons on the territory of NATO member states that the NPT deems as non-nuclear – not just deploying, but also holding training sessions involving those countries’ crews and equipment on how to use nuclear weapons – that that practice, in our opinion, grossly contravenes the treaty. They tell us no, it does not run counter to the treaty. They tell us, years ago, back when the NPT was under discussion, the Soviet delegation agreed with the Western interpretation. Well, they did not. We have searched the archives, and our approach was there. Back then, we – Moscow, the Soviet Union – expressed our approach, and it was reflected in the records of the talks. Still, for the sake of signing the Treaty, the matter was just left as it was, each with their own opinion. Well, here we are now – just like 50 years ago, each sticking to their position. I am not drawing any parallels with Belarus, just reminding you of the various attitudes to the other side’s claims in such matters.

Question: You mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis. That involved nuclear weapons as well, didn’t it?

Sergey Ryabkov: The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most difficult moment in the entire history of the Cold War, when the world was really teetering on the brink of a nuclear conflict. With so much done since that time with regard to arms control and not only that, with the progress made in comprehending the concepts and doctrines of the use of nuclear weapons, it is simply impossible to discard this experience and rewind back to 1962.

But we are concerned about the ease with which our NATO opponents treat matters like deploying nuclear weapons, using nuclear weapons in different situations, where things become increasingly uncertain and blurred, where the threshold is lower, including due to capacity – that is, thinking logically, what they are doing makes it easier to go about using nuclear weapons, including on the battlefield. This is noticeable, and it raises our concerns, not just objections. We urge them to choose a different path. For example, one that we tried with the Biden administration, issuing a joint statement on the unacceptability of a nuclear war.

But there are escalation risks; there is the risk of an incident, which cannot be ignored. These risks cannot be taken lightly, they need to be addressed, and we call for this, too. Instead, we have to read a lot of moralising statements by our opponents. These lectures cannot change our position, I would say; if anything, they are strengthening it. On the other hand, they reveal the other side’s unwillingness, primarily that of the United States, to address real security threats in a serious manner.

Question: Reportedly, the United States is trying to persuade the EU to synchronise tough financial and economic measures against Russia. Do we have the tools to respond to these measures, and will the sanctions affect our position during the talks on security guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: We run into this all the time. Clearly, we are used to it and have adapted to it. I don’t want to make fun of what’s happening, because these are all not very good developments. The Western community’s programmed and differently formatted policy actions on Russia simply strike the eye. One gets the impression that the people who participate in these discussions are overwhelmed by the idea of ​​collective responsibility for what is going on. That is, no one can or is willing to offer an alternative, and things are unfolding arbitrarily. We have to reckon with this and, in all appearance, this will continue into the future, because those who hope for a possibility for Russia to review the demands that the West puts forward as a condition for taking steps on the sanctions track are naive. I am not even saying there is almost no such thing as lifting the sanctions that were imposed earlier. But that’s okay; this is a separate major topic, which is also revealing. But I am on to something else here. Routine statements coming from the West about its willingness to develop constructive relations with Russia and maintain a constructive dialogue with us if Russia does what the West insists on are worthless. This is expressed in different ways; in the most terse and concise form it is expressed like it’s up to Russia, while we, the West, stand ready; it’s Russia’s choice.

Yes, all right, we re-read it, which made our eyes even sorer, and that’s all there is to it. That is all we got from it.

Question: Still, will the sanctions affect the talks on security guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: We suggest reaching an agreement on the aspects of the situation in the sphere of tough security that are currently causing the greatest concern. But this is all a product of NATO’s constant and steady eastward expansion, which has recently been accompanied and supplemented by the military and the military-technical development of the neighbouring countries that are not formal NATO members. In addition, this goes hand-in-hand with intensified and openly provocative actions designed to see our reaction, whether it will be tough, or whether we will be willing to adjust our approach to a certain extent. That is, if I did not engage in diplomacy, I would refer to it as teetering on the brink of war. I would not want to touch on this in my assessments and reasoning. We do not want this, and we do not need a conflict. We want to reach an agreement on a sound basis. We want to move these multi-pronged activities which are, to a large extent if not entirely, anti-Russia, harmful and pre-planned, where all the roles have been assigned, to move them away from ourselves in order to get certain guarantees for normal coexistence in this space and in this area.

So, sanctions or other tracks in our activities do not fit into this logic in any way. This is an independent, separate group of questions that we have created in a form that is fairly direct and clear for our opponents, thus showing, among other things, that this is no joking matter, but, instead, needs to be dealt with right now, starting tomorrow.

Question: What about the “sanctions from hell” which the Western countries are threatening to impose against us? Aren’t they a threat to our security?

Sergey Ryabkov: I would like to share one observation with you in this connection. Not long ago – a year or two ago, it seemed to us that some issues like the one you mentioned now were discussed in the West if not with some trepidation but at least with the understanding that they concern fundamental, serious things. Now the Bucharest Nine comes into play. This is the most anti-Russia wing in NATO and the EU, with which the White House conducted special consultations, apparently explaining its own interpretations of our proposals – I don’t know, this is just my supposition. Now the situation has changed. They are imposing on others its internal NATO and internal EU narrative that Dostoyevsky, whose 200th birthday we just observed, would have described as “anything goes,” absolutely anything. These people are simply removing the limits of what is possible and acceptable in discussing various issues. But they ignore the fact that following the same logic as NATO, we will take care of our security ourselves and will sooner or later start pushing the limits of what is acceptable for us. We have already expressed our opinion in a slightly different way and will continue speaking out. So, this is a serious issue.

Question: But if, say, they reject our proposal, will that untie our hands?

Sergey Ryabkov: We will use the appropriate methods and approaches we need to ensure our security. We do not want a conflict and we would like to come to terms on a reasonable foundation. Any diplomatic action, any initiative or any proposal is a test of negotiability for those who are being addressed. Before we come to any conclusion on what to do next we must make certain the answer is negative. It could be a flat “no,” or emotional to some extent, or neutral. It could be anything. I do not want to anticipate it but I hope the answer will be at least relatively constructive so we can start our dialogue and talks. It is unclear what will happen, but let’s wait and see. Later there will be many options in different areas. However, talking about them now is counterproductive because we are trying to focus on our own proposals.

Question: So, there will be separate talks on security guarantees, not as part of the dialogue on strategic stability?

Sergey Ryabkov: We suggest a separate negotiating track on security guarantees – bilaterally with the US – that would include interdepartmental delegations.

As for a strategic stability dialogue, two rounds are over and we are preparing for a third one. We are working on our position, hoping the other side will specify potential decisions. That said, it is clear we will have to talk and discuss security guarantees, all the more so since one of the two working groups is called “potential and actions that could have a strategic effect.” NATO’s actions are having a strategic effect and it’s negative for us. Something needs to be done in this respect. They should stop or we need to stop them. I hope we will discuss this through a separate channel but we will also work on this in the format of strategic stability dialogue. I mean with the United States, I don’t mean NATO.

Question: Do the Americans continue to insist on China’s involvement in our dialogue on strategic stability or do they want to discuss these issues via a separate US-China channel?

Sergey Ryabkov: I have read reports that influential experts, including retirees and analysts, have published several articles on the Chinese factor, and this certainly creates a certain background and context. However, this question did not come up during our meetings, discussions or in conversations with the Americans this year after the June meeting between the presidents. As I see it, the United States has certain channels for discussing arms control with Beijing, and there is a five-sided format as well – the nuclear Five that holds useful meetings. This work is intensive now, on the eve of the NPT review conference. I hope there will be results that we can announce at the conference or in that context. China is very active there. In other words, there is no lack of venues. As for our dialogue on strategic stability with the US, the China factor only appears at US initiative. However, our position remains the same: we respect China’s position and consider it its sovereign choice, as is the case with Britain and France. We are very interested in their participation in this process. A sovereign choice is based on the national interests of these states and these interests may coincide with different arms control formats. We will not coerce anyone to do anything. We urge Britain and France to show a responsible attitude towards the situation. Just as with NATO, we cannot ignore the opportunities that the US allies have in different areas, and we will deal with this, too.

Question: Should we expect consultations on visa issues be held before the year is out?

Sergey Ryabkov: We do not have any consultations scheduled for what remains of this year. These matters continue to be discussed by the embassies. I want to confirm what has been said on several occasions, our Ambassador Anatoly Antonov mentioned this, and we mentioned this here as well: there is some progress on matters of secondary importance. Some categories of travelers, such as guests of embassy employees, can obtain visas more easily. Making travel arrangements for the specialists who are temporarily posted for various assignments, including building maintenance, has somewhat improved. Even though the room for improvement is vast and a good deal of work remains to be done, we managed to fix certain things of secondary importance, but there are no signs of us getting any closer on issues that matter most.

If the Americans don’t stop and continue to demand that our employees leave the country before January 30, we will respond in kind, and later the same number of their diplomatic mission employees will have to leave our country as well. The most severe personnel shortages, both here and there, will ensue. I’m not sure why the United States would want this. From time immemorial, embassies and consulates have worked to maintain normal bilateral relations and to facilitate dialogue. Unfortunately, visas have become a problem in our relations.

We never relent in urging the Americans to try to get this off the ground, but so far to no avail. It is not very clear how to interpret their approach, and why it is so uncompromising and does not take into account obvious needs, including those of the United States. Do they really think that we will be willing to unilaterally meet them halfway when our people are not able to rotate or simply travel to the United States, and have to apply for visas in third countries, while Washington gets what it needs? This runs counter to the logic behind diplomatic relations, not to mention the state of relations between Moscow and Washington. They cannot count on anything like this. This is one aspect of the matter.

The other aspect is that sometimes it appears that our colleagues have at some point underestimated our resolve to respond asymmetrically to their endless anti-Russia moves. When, in April, Russia was on the receiving end, again, of a whole series of completely groundless illegal sanctions, it was, in my opinion, a balanced and reasonable decision to respond by introducing a ban on hiring local personnel. Since then, they have been tying their destructive moves, such as failure to make available the required number of consular officers, which lead to non-issuance of visas or other enormous difficulties, and much more, to this decision. And they have also ratcheted up the pressure on our embassy.

But we do not even propose figuring out who started it and who is responsible for what, even though the situation here is absolutely indisputable, when back under the Obama administration we waited for many months, without responding even to the initial expulsion of a large number of our employees. But now, right now, let’s not waste the time figuring out who did what, why and when. We just need to put the most problematic demands on hold and say: while this is not happening, let’s try to use the time to find solutions. Had this happened, I don’t think any Foreign Ministry employees who engage in relations with the United States would be here, because I would have been sitting in Geneva for the security guarantee talks, while my colleagues would have left, the next day, for Helsinki or Vienna in order to work on removing these visa irritants. Our wives would have forgiven us even if we hadn’t been able to make it back in time for the New Year.

Question: That is, there will be no consultations on visas before the year is out?

Sergey Ryabkov: No.

Question: We are saying that we are demanding or will demand that the United States compensate us for seizing our diplomatic property and denying us access there. Is a legal claim for compensation already being drafted? Has it been presented to the Americans? And if so, what is the approximate amount of damages?

Sergey Ryabkov: The issue of diplomatic property is not being addressed. No progress has been made due to the US stance. We put a very fine point on this with the Americans at all levels, to reiterate, literally at all levels, including the highest level with no effect, at least, not the effect that we need. At this point, we would like to especially emphasise the need for our maintenance teams to at least tour the grounds in order to inspect the premises, to take stock and assess damage and see what is still there and what is gone. We are in the dark about this, we are not allowed there. And then we will see what we can do with regard to the steps that you mentioned.

Question: Towards the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, we were saying that our relations had hit the bottom. Now, almost a year after Joe Biden has been in office, have we pushed off the bottom? Second, you told us in your interview last year that you were not expecting anything good in our relations with America, and that we should move to a two-track approach in our relations with the United States consisting of total deterrence, including military deterrence, and selective dialogue. Are we carrying out this policy now?

Sergey Ryabkov: With regard to whether we have reached the bottom, I think that thankfully we didn’t break through the bottom and, in some respects, we are still moving forward and everything is not hopeless. However, in some areas the potential for deterioration is clear. We must deal with it before things collapse even more.  Our proposals regarding security guarantees are a signal that there are many reasons for alarm in the western direction in general, from the point of view of military-political aspects of security. This needs to be addressed. Another area where we do not see much reason for being particularly optimistic are things related to bilateral irritants, such as visas, etc. The path forward here is obvious, though. There’s not even need for any talks. All you need to do is just make a political decision and have people get together and write down on paper a sequence of steps on either side which shouldn’t take more than several days. It is a very simple thing to do. The reluctance on the American side to do this clearly shows their lack of political will to improve relations. So, we have made some progress on some tracks and we will keep moving down that positive path, as best we can, being mindful of the risks.

I believe that the two-track approach is the only possible way to deal with the Americans at this point. But this is my subjective opinion. Our policy does not reproduce in the least what, for many decades, has been practiced and, moreover, officially declared by the West with regard to Moscow as the capital of the Soviet Union and then the capital of the Russian Federation.

The two-track approach was first stated in the report by Pierre Harmel, former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of Belgium, in the 1967 NATO report. And they have been sticking to it since then. You can call something by different names, but that doesn’t change what it is. Is the Higgs boson a particle or a field? Both.

I am not getting caught up in my own words about the two-track approach. I know one thing. We need to achieve, what the Biden administration’s top officials famously refer to as “stable and predictable relationship” with Moscow. What we need is a stable and predictable relationship with Washington. We can get there by demonstrating our serious approaches and intentions in a variety of areas, while remaining open to dialogue.  The other side often has a problem, and it appears that it will arise again following our proposals, which is that they are good at showing firmness bordering on rudeness, but they are rather unprepared for dialogue. So, just like the communicating vessels, we will also be balancing. You can call it a two-track approach or whatever you like. Our foreign policy is presidential policy, and we carry out the decisions that are made by the leader of our state.

U.S. Proxy War Against Russia in Ukraine: The Afghanistan-Syria Redux Option

December 18, 2021

By Finian Cunningham

Source

The escalation of violence by the Kiev regime with U.S. and NATO support means that there is a directive from Washington for widening the war.

The United States is planning to redouble its weapons supply to Ukraine. What is shaping up is an intensified proxy war against Russia in which the Russophobic Kiev regime acts as Washington’s catspaw. The objective is to debilitate Russia in the same way the U.S. sapped the Soviet Union with a quagmire war in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

U.S. media reports cite Pentagon and Ukrainian officials saying that the Biden administration is considering a massive increase in armaments to the Kiev regime. This is on top of the $2.5 billion in military support that Washington has already given over the past eight years. The Biden administration has overseen $450 million in weaponry to Ukraine this year alone with a further $300 million budgeted for the coming 12 months. A separate proposal going through the Senate is seeking to boost military support for next year by another $450 million.

What gives added significance to this weapons pipeline is where they are being sourced. U.S. media reports say the arms are from inventories the Pentagon had allocated for the American-backed army in Afghanistan before it collapsed with the sudden Taliban victory in August. The weapons include Black Hawk helicopters and anti-armor munitions.

Other weapons under consideration for supply to Ukraine include more Javelin anti-tank missiles as well as Stinger anti-aircraft munitions.

In addition to the inventories previously allocated for Afghanistan, the U.S. is also planning weapons supplies from covert stockpiles overseen by the CIA in Romania and Bulgaria. This is the dark supply route that the U.S. and NATO allies used for arming terrorist proxies in a failed bid to overthrow the Syrian government. Russia’s military intervention in Syria in late 2015 defeated Washington’s regime-change objective in Damascus.

The year before, in 2014, the U.S. and its allies succeeded in their regime-change operation in Ukraine when an elected government friendly with Moscow was overthrown by a CIA-backed coup d’état. That coup brought to power a Neo-Nazi Russophobic regime that has been waging a civil war against the ethnic Russian population of southeast Ukraine. U.S. and NATO weapons supplies have motivated the Kiev regime to persist in hostilities despite a formal peace agreement known as the Minsk accord signed in 2015. France and Germany, supposed guarantors of the accord along with Russia, have both turned a blind eye to Kiev’s systematic violations.

Since the Biden administration took office 11 months ago, the Kiev regime has stepped up its provocations in southeast Ukraine. These provocations are ultimately aimed at destabilizing Russia. As well as weaponry, American and other NATO special forces are on the ground in Ukraine acting as “military advisors”. The accelerator for aggression has been stepped on in recent weeks.

The Kremlin has warned that the Ukrainian forces are ratcheting up hostilities towards the southeastern region that borders Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently said that the siege on the region also known as Donbass resembles a genocide.

The stark fact is that there is already a proxy war going on in Ukraine against Russia. Arguably, that has been the U.S. objective since the coup in Kiev in February 2014. The current escalation of violence by the Kiev regime with U.S. and NATO support means that there is a directive from Washington for widening the war.

Paradoxically, or perhaps more accurately, cynically, the U.S. and its NATO allies are boldly inverting reality with a torrent of claims that they are “defending” Ukraine from “Russian aggression”. Recent weeks have seen a full-court media propaganda campaign to shift the blame on an alleged Russian force build-up. Moscow has vehemently denied it has plans to invade Ukraine. It points out that satellite imagery cited by the U.S. and its allies for claiming a Russian build-up actually shows forces in established bases hundreds of kilometers from the border with Ukraine.

Taking stock of the situation: Ukrainian forces are stepping up aggression against the Russian-speaking population under siege for nearly eight years in the Donbass region. The U.S., NATO and European Union are complicit in this criminal aggression by weaponizing, training and apologizing for the Kiev regime with spurious allegations against Russia. Furthermore, there is an unprecedented build-up of U.S. and NATO forces in the Black Sea region conducting unscheduled war drills on Russia’s border. That is inescapably acting to embolden the unhinged Kiev regime, even more, to take the war to Russia.

Moscow is earnestly warning Washington and its NATO partners of red lines. Russia has called for a formal agreement to prohibit NATO expansion for Ukraine’s membership of the military bloc as well as installation of American weapons systems on Ukrainian territory.

Washington and its NATO partners appear complacent to a degree that suggests criminal complicity in fanning the tensions.

The Biden White House has already signaled that it will not reciprocate with Russia’s request for these security guarantees. Even if Washington somehow manages to muster the political will to appear to give Moscow some security reassurances, the fact remains that the U.S. and its NATO allies are already deeply involved in waging a proxy war in Ukraine against Russia.

Plans for redoubling weapons flow to Ukraine from inventories allocated for Afghanistan and from covert CIA-run networks in Eastern Europe indicate the proxy war is set for a deliberate escalation.

Senior U.S. lawmakers have intimated that the preferred scenario for Washington is to create a quagmire for Russia similar to the trap set for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s. That proxy war in which the U.S. armed Mujahideen militants with Stinger missiles greatly sapped the Soviet Union leading to its demise. Those militants later evolved into Al Qaeda networks that were used in the failed U.S.-backed regime-change operation in Syria over the past decade.

The Russophobic Kiev regime is being driven to escalate its terror war against the Russian people in Donbas. The objective is to draw Russia into that war to defend people with whom it is culturally connected. The moral imperative on Moscow to act would be huge. Washington is calculating that the move turns into a quagmire that will debilitate Russia and tarnish its international standing.

But this nefarious plan – an Afghanistan-Syria redux – could so easily slide over the abyss into a full war between the United States and Russia. Moscow seems to be more cognizant of that possible disaster than Washington which is afflicted with the insouciance of arrogance.

The Russian website GEOFOR interviews the Saker

December 18, 2021

PUTIN-BIDEN: THERE ARE THINGS THAT RUSSIA WILL NOT TOLERATE

Translated from Russian into English by Lilia Shumkova

source: https://geofor.ru/4769-putin-bajden-est-veshhi-kotorye-rossiya-terpet-ne-budet.html

GEOFOR: Dear Mr. Raevsky, I recall how after the Geneva meeting with President Vladimir Putin, his American colleague President Joe Biden, in response to a question about the continuation of high-level contacts between our countries, said that we should wait until the end of the year, and after that time make an appropriate decision. And now, six months after Geneva, a new dialogue, albeit in a video format. Moreover, this time the initiator was the American side. What do you think this means? What did the White House want to achieve, and to what extent did it succeed?

Raevsky: Under Biden, the United States turned to Russia five times with a request for negotiations – three times by phone, once in person and now via a video conference. Why did they need it? Here, you just need to look at the general context from the point of view of the United States and Biden himself. He has several “fronts,” not only the problem of Russia and Ukraine. I would even say that this is not the main “front” for him. There are two main ones. First of all, there is an internal “front”: he has a very low rating; The social, economic, and political crisis in the United States is now total and, in many ways, resembles the Soviet Union in the 1980s. American armed forces have already proved many times their total inability to conduct combat operations and achieve anything with them. Iraq is a disaster. They are afraid of Iran and do not even want to compete with it. You have seen the disgrace in Afghanistan. Now the mood is very depressed and angry. This internal “front” of President Biden is undoubtedly the most dangerous.

The second very dangerous “front” he has is the issue of China. The Americans say that in two years they will no longer be able to gain the upper hand in the war against China; something needs to be done urgently.

People who understand the principles and timing of the reform of the armed forces and the development of new weapons systems, the principles of tactics and military art in general, understand that nothing can be done in two years. It takes a decade, and maybe more than one.

China and the United States are moving towards a confrontation. Beijing definitely occupies the position of the stronger player. And the Americans are weak on all fronts.

Then they have the Middle East, where Iran is now, in fact, ruling the ball. Israel is trying to maintain the appearance that it is very strong and very dangerous, but in reality the United States is now losing the entire Middle East.

This was an open goal of the Iranians. This is a country that is an order of magnitude smaller or weaker than Russia or China, now – in general, successfully – expels the United States from the Middle East, or at least from many parts of the Middle East.

And, of course, another “front” is Ukraine and Russia plus Europe. And in Europe – and this needs to be pointed out – there is an economic crisis.

For all these reasons, Biden was in an extremely difficult situation.

Russia has been retreating on all fronts over the past 20 – if not 30 – years. And now the situation resembles the one when German tanks were near Moscow. The time is now to say, “Not a step further.”

I think that [Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Valery] Gerasimov and Putin conveyed exactly this to the Americans: “Say what you want, we will not practice the same belligerent rhetoric. But in reality we have the means to repel any provocation or strike from you, and we will have to do it if you don’t change course.”

I think that the realization of how dangerous the situation is today has reached the “collective Biden.”

Now about whether he achieved what he wanted in this video conference.

Sure. To some extent, yes. Because he will be able to say that it was he who stopped Russia in Ukraine, that it was he who stopped China, and no attack on Taiwan happened on his watch.

But this, of course, is fiction. Everyone understands perfectly well that neither China nor Russia need these wars. All these fears were fanned by the Americans themselves.

And, that’s where they really scared themselves, which was the right thing to do, because they are absolutely not tough enough to “butt heads” with Iran, China, and Russia at the same time.

But there is a certain specificity of American politics in this. Very often, American diplomats come to Moscow and say one thing, then when they come back, they are attacked by the media and Congress. Both the media and the Congress are totally in the hands of the “War Party” here. Accusations of weakness, softness, cowardice, etc. follow and here they need to show their “coolness”.

So, for example, Trump acted when he negotiated with the Russian side, and then declared: “There were no agreements.”

Therefore, it remains to be seen whether Biden will be able to withstand the onslaught of the “War Party” now. If he can do it, say, in the next 2-3 weeks, then I would say that for him this conversation was a clear and undoubted success.

And if the “War Party” breaks it, as Trump was very quickly broken, then everything will return to normal, and we will return to the same threshold where Russia and the United States will be on the verge of a full-scale war. This, in general, is not necessary for anyone, and maybe it has come to the American side that it is one thing to talk about world domination, to fight with weak incapacitated forces. And it’s quite another thing to wage war against a real military superpower.

GEOFOR: The meeting was preceded by a strong propaganda attack against Russia, during which Washington clearly tried to “raise the stakes.” President Biden even said that he does not see and does not accept any “red lines” outlined by Moscow. And yet, just before the meeting, Congress lifted a number of sanctions against Russia from the defense budget, including on the Nord Stream-2. Clearly under the influence of the administration. How do you explain such a metamorphosis?

Raevsky: Of course, firstly, it was necessary to “raise the stakes” in order not only, as they like to say in the West, “to negotiate from a position of strength,” but also to convince both public opinion and the “War Party” that we are in no way making concessions to Russia. And Biden said: “We will not recognize any red lines!” [NATO Secretary General] Stoltenberg said: “We do what we want and Russia does not order us!” and so on.

It’s all PR.

In reality – the fact that they have already asked for negotiations with Russia for the fifth time shows who is in a position of strength, and who is not.

And this lifting of the sanctions you are talking about from the defense budget is, in general, a small step, rather, a diplomatic step of goodwill. But, in fact, the issue with the Nord Stream-2 has already been resolved. The only thing that can close it is a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine – or something worse. They have already sanctioned Russia so that there is nowhere else to go – they say it themselves.

So, if you no longer have the opportunity to impose other sanctions, then you can “sell” this “non-imposition” of sanctions as a gesture of goodwill.

This is Realpolitik, and nothing more.

The Americans have never abandoned their strategic goals – containing and encircling Russia, forcing it to submissive obedience and surrender of its sovereignty, and this is their ultimate goal which the Americans have never agreed to abandon.

This is a strategic goal. And everything that is being done now, for Americans, is the level of tactics, not strategy.

They have not discussed the strategy yet, because to revise the strategy means to revise the entire ideology on which this country is built. They are not ready for this yet.

GEOFOR: Could Putin’s visit to Delhi have influenced the position of the American side, and if so, what kind? Recall that during this bilateral meeting with the Indian leadership, a number of documents were signed, including an agreement on military issues until 2030. Moreover, this document concerns not only military-technical cooperation.

Raevsky: Here you need to understand a very subtle game that the Indians are playing. They are friends with the United States, they will even go to this Summit of Democracies. But they are friends not against Russia, but against China, which for them is a regional enemy.

But in order to emphasize how friendly they are with the United States not against Russia, Putin’s trip to India was organized and giant contracts were signed there, including contracts for weapons, including S-400 air defense, which the Americans categorically forbade Indians to buy, and the Indians did not care about this ban.

In fact, India’s attitude towards Russia is a slap in the face of the United States. This shows that the Indians will look very selectively at what is beneficial to them and act in their own interests, and not be a submissive puppet in the hands of anyone, and certainly not the United States.

I would also like to add that, in my opinion, the confrontation between China and India is the main current problem of the Eurasian continent. I see only one side that can help these two countries to change relations and switch to a different quality. This is, of course, Russia.

And the strategic task of the Americans, on the contrary, is to incite further conflicts between China and India at any cost.

And it is clear that the parties will continue to bend their own line. Moscow stands for peace in Eurasia, and the United States – if not for war, then, in any case, for military tension and confrontation between these two great countries.

GEOFOR: One of the main priorities of Moscow in these negotiations was the issue of ensuring the security of the Russian Federation, which was stated long before the meeting. As it became known, the American side confirmed its readiness for dialogue on this issue. In particular, to discuss the issue of the deployment of offensive weapons along the Russian borders from Norway to Romania and possibly Turkey. This also automatically includes Ukraine. How does this relate to the belligerent and harsh statements on the eve of the meeting?

Raevsky: Officially, right before the meeting, the Americans said that they categorically refuse to recognize Moscow’s red lines. Stoltenberg also said that “Russia is not a law for us, let it behave correctly and keep quiet, and we will do whatever we want.”

But in reality, expert groups will meet. And what will they discuss? Yes, of course, just these red lines. This is the only subject of real bargaining that is possible between these two countries.

So, in fact, the United States says one thing and does another.

Yes, they are now making concessions to Moscow. The growing power of the Russian Armed Forces, and the forces of the Russian economy and political “soft power” forced the Americans to make concessions.

From the Americans’ point of view, Ukraine itself in its current state is a “404 country”, and I would say, in general, the whole of Europe turned out to be such a “suitcase without a handle.” And Americans are no longer able to drag around with them – neither economically nor politically.

So what can they do? If it has already been decided to leave the suitcase without a handle, then you can set it on fire and hope that this arson can achieve something.

And what to achieve? Yes, it’s very simple – the dream of Americans is for Russia to really grab as much Ukraine as possible. First, because this is a “black hole” that would become a headache for Russia, not America. Second, it will create ideal conditions to block the Nord Stream-2 and even other energy projects between Europe and Russia. And, third, it will create – finally! – the next “cold war,” without which the American and, in general, western politicians and generals are so sad.

Everyone understands that in the event of a war, Russia will win quickly and convincingly. But after that, a situation will arise that will resemble, perhaps, the “Berlin crisis” with a similar level of confrontation. And the “War Party” in the West wants this for a number of reasons.

For example, if the supply of energy carriers from Russia is cut off, then whose fuel and energy sector will be able to compensate for the outgoing resources? American, of course. Their liquefied gas.

The same is true in the sphere of political influence. If, say, an open war happens, and Russia liberates even just a part of Ukraine from Nazi rule, it will be presented as proof that only NATO can save Europe from Putin’s “mordor”.

It would be very beneficial for the Americans to have a full-scale war unleashed. This is the interpretation of the “War Party”. But there are other people – sane people – who understand that such a situation is fraught with a very rapid escalation and direct confrontation between the United States and Russia. And they don’t want that.

And so, on the one hand, we are seeing “cool” statements. On the other hand, there are a number of concessions that the Americans are ready to make so far.

And the offensive weapons systems that they have now deployed in other countries is a purely political, not military, issue. When Putin says that for a Western hypersonic missile from the territory of Ukraine, the approach time will be five minutes to Moscow, this is a fact. But, on the other hand, the time of approach of a preemptive strike by Russian hypersonic weapons will also, by definition, be five minutes. And in this area, Russia has overtaken the United States for a long time and very significantly. Russia also has the opportunity to place missiles in the Atlantic Ocean outside the zone of operation of possible anti-submarine means of the United States and “swoop” from there.

These offensive systems are dangerous for Russia not so much from a military point of view as from a political one, since this is really a political provocation. It shows what, as Americans like to say, “they send a message”.

This is the message: “We don’t care about you! We do what we want and where we want.” This means that Russia is not an equal party to the negotiations, that there is a great Hegemon and Suzerain of the whole planet, who does everything he wants and how he wants, and Russia is invited to shut up, sit quietly, and not slack off.

This political problem is very real for Russia. Therefore, the current situation will force Russia at some point to draw red lines and say that there are things that we will not tolerate.

Obviously, both Putin and General Gerasimov have very successfully brought these realities to the consciousness of the “collective Biden.”

GEOFOR: The information that comes to us after the meeting suggests that the tone of the conversation between the Russian and American presidents is similar to the tone of Biden’s remote talks with Comrade Xi, which also took place recently. For example, during a conversation with the Chinese leader, the US president stressed the need to refrain from seizing Taiwan by force, which essentially meant that Washington did not object to economic and political methods. As for the Russian-American negotiations, in part of Ukraine, for example, issues related to its territorial integrity, Crimea and the notorious “Russian aggression” were not discussed at all. And at the briefing following the conversation, Assistant to the President J. Sullivan called on Kiev to stop the escalation of tensions in the Donbas and referred the Ukrainian leadership to the Minsk agreements. What is the reason for this position: the desire to maintain the status quo for a while? Then – for what purpose and for how long?

Raevsky: In this area, the situation can be said to have turned completely upside down.

Russia needed these decades of concessions in order to strengthen the Russian society itself, strengthen the information sphere, the Russian economy, establish import substitution, create new ties with other countries and, most importantly, to develop the Armed Forces to such a level that they can cope with any threat to Russia.

The Americans’ situation is flipped. They have the deepest internal crisis – political and economic. The state of the American armed forces is very fraught.

Of course, the current status quo is beneficial to them. The alternative is to continue on the path of escalation, and then there is only one way – to military confrontation. There’s nothing else left. Everything below the level of military confrontation has already been done. And it is completely unprofitable for them to go to an open military confrontation with Russia.

For how long is such a status quo beneficial to them? It is necessary to clearly distinguish two sides. On the military side, the reform of the armed forces is a very long and difficult process, very complex, and the armed forces have a huge inertia, which is very difficult to deploy in another direction, considering that the American political calendar is two years ahead; one year ahead, well, four years ahead at most.

On the political side, Biden’s rating is now catastrophically low. The situation inside the country is very bad. Therefore, it is more profitable for him to maintain the status quo for a year or two rather than to have a direct confrontation with Russia during his presidency. Plus, it is still unknown what benefits the Chinese and Iranians could find for themselves in such a confrontation.

Thus, Americans need the status quo. On the political side, two years, even one year, is much better than a war.

In the long run, the current status quo, I think, is just a screen put up to hide the fact that they will continue to self-destruct. In my opinion – and I know this country quite well – it is absolutely impossible to rebuild it. Reforms are impossible here, because this country is based on imperialism, on the ideology of world domination, and it is simply impossible for it to abandon this. Speaking “in American language,” “it’s not American.” That is, to recognize, for example, just the possibility that the United States is “one of the countries of the world”, but not “the leader of all mankind”, is something that is literally unthinkable for most Americans, and certainly for American politicians. For them, this is simply unacceptable.

The whole “crazy kindergarten” – there is no other way to say it – that we hear now from a local congressman about Russia, about China, about others, is a reflection of this type of thinking and worldview.

Unfortunately, in the United States, being an open supporter of the “War Party” looks patriotic. And since this country did not have any real war in defense of its homeland, and they lost all the other wars after World War II, this is a country that simply cannot abandon its imperial ideology, and now it lacks the tools that it needs to impose its imperialist ideology on the entire planet.

Therefore, realistically speaking, they need the status quo for as long as possible. But it is impossible to define this “longer”.” There are too many variables, too many scenarios.

GEOFOR: About protocol problems in relations with the White House. In preparation for the meeting, it was widely announced that the conversation would be “one-on-one.” And now we see President Biden negotiating surrounded by four of his advisers. Does such a transformation of the format of the meeting contribute to the establishment of an atmosphere of trust in negotiations and, more broadly, in bilateral relations in general?

Raevsky: First of all, you need to understand that when it comes to Biden, of course, we are talking about “collective Biden.” Biden himself is not able to delve into all the problems facing him, nor to negotiate. And, certainly, not with a man like Putin, who can talk for four hours without a piece of paper and remember all the numbers on all topics.

Naturally, there should be advisers around him; there is nothing new here.

When George Bush’s son was interrogated about the events of September 11 [2001], he was not trusted to answer questions alone. Dick Cheney was sitting next to him, who had to make sure, as the “senior supervisor,” that Bush would not blurt out anything superfluous. It’s the same here.

These advisers surround him, naturally, to advise, but also to keep an eye on him. They are the watchers, and he is their official representative.

Moreover, I would even say that this is a very good sign – just as I welcomed the trip of Victoria Nuland and the CIA director to Moscow. This shows that “serious people” are talking to the Russian side. Now if they sent Kamala Harris to talk to someone, that would be a sign of total disregard. Or, say, how Blinken calls Zelensky to tell him what happened at the negotiations.

There is no such contempt here. On the contrary, there are serious people who know what they are talking about and who are able to make decisions. This shows that the negotiations were not symbolic and that there really was a shift. In my opinion, this can only be welcomed.

But! There can be no question of any atmosphere of trust. This is what journalists think: there is an atmosphere of trust in the negotiations between Russia and the United States.

Such negotiations only develop confidence-building measures – those that are verifiable.

There can be no question of any trust.

Most likely, in general terms, the parties agreed to some steps, and expert groups will work on specifics – who, how and when will check the measures mutually agreed during the negotiations.

Here we can recall President Ronald Reagan, who said: “Trust, but verify”.

This is exactly what we are seeing now: both sides will check to the maximum, because the stakes are very high. When there is a risk of military confrontation between two nuclear superpowers, there can be no trust. There can only be absolutely verifiable mutually obligatory steps of the two sides.

GEOFOR: And now a few words about the affairs of Washington. The further away, the more noticeable the discord in the White House foreign policy team. If the aggravation of the situation in bilateral relations, harsh criticism of Russia, etc. comes from the Secretary of State and his team, then a certain constructive approach comes from the national security assistant. This became especially noticeable after Mrs. Nuland, whose work results apparently did not satisfy the White House much, an experienced diplomat, a former ambassador to Russia, and now the director of the CIA, William J. Burns, whom a number of Russian analysts write down in the “Sullivan team,” arrived in Moscow. Will President Biden be able to continue to stay above the fray of his closest aides? How subjective is he in making and implementing his political decisions? After all, it is still impossible to ignore the opinions of both parties on Capitol Hill… In short, how much can Russia trust the agreements that were reached during the dialogue at the highest level? Will the decisions on joint study of issues of interest to both sides go beyond expert consultations and translate into concrete binding agreements? Or is it still an attempt to get a respite in time in order to settle their internal problems, reformat relations with allies, and then return to the period of confrontation?

Raevsky: There are undoubtedly two parties here. There is a very serious struggle going on within the ruling classes of the United States and in the so-called “deep state.”

Imagine some kind of gangster group – one of those organized criminal groups, each of which controls some part of the city. As long as things are going well, they sit quietly. But as soon as the crisis begins, then they start fighting among themselves.

And so the election of Trump four years ago brought such a split in the ruling American elites that now a very strong battle is going on at the top in different groups, clans of the American government. And the divide is not between Republicans and Democrats. Relatively speaking, on the one hand there is a “War Party,” and on the other hand there is a “Peace Party.” This is very conditional, but not wrong.

First, the “War Party” members are pure ideologists. Second, it is the fuel and energy sector of America, which is very interested in “cutting off” Europe from Russia. It would be very beneficial for the American economy as a whole if Europe were both weaker and more dependent on the United States. Any cooperation between Russia and the EU is a direct and clear threat to the economic and political interests of the United States. There are still those who retain nostalgia for the Cold War. There are so-called “Neocons,” there are “Neoliberals,” and there are various lobbies that are hostile to Russia for various reasons. The Israeli lobby, the Polish lobby, the Ukrainian lobby. All of these groups lumped together can be called the “War Party”.

And there is a “Peace Party”, which, I think, consists of those people who understand that, going further along this path, you can only come to one point – war. This party does not want to pay such a price. This party probably understands that it is simply too much for the United States to go into a total confrontation with Russia, Iran and China at the same time.

Even if they wanted war, they realize that in this position it is better for them to present themselves as a “Peace Party”.

This is probably what Biden wants to achieve. He wants to demonstrate that with his “coolness” and disregard for any demands of Russia and China, he has succeeded, stopped both “Russian aggression” against Ukraine and “Chinese aggression” against Taiwan.

That there is absolutely no reality under this rhetoric, it does not matter at all. This is all for domestic consumption and for domestic policy. And also to preserve the image of the World Hegemon, which, unfortunately, it is absolutely impossible for Americans to abandon, since this ideology is “embedded” in the national identity of many – if not all – Americans. In addition, all politicians, in order to show that they are patriots, must be supporters of the “War Party,” supporters of wars and “cool” unilateral measures. In this country – alas! – this is interpreted not as a sign of insanity or irresponsibility, but as a sign of “coolness”. And if the president demonstrates these qualities, then he is a strong and serious president.

How to reform such a country and give it the opportunity to become just a normal country, and not an Empire, I can’t imagine. I don’t see how this system can be reformed. The only way out, which I unfortunately see, is that it should collapse. Collapse either quickly during a military confrontation, or – God forbid! – through some kind of agreement to “hit the brakes.” This is the best we can all hope for.

GEOFOR: So, how do you see the future of relations between Moscow and Washington?

Raevsky: First of all, I have always believed and written that for at least seven years – if not more – the American Empire and Russia have been at war. This is an ideological war, this is an informational war, a political war,  and an economic war. And-thank God! – there have not been any major military actions yet.

But this does not negate the fact that, in fact, there can be only one winner in this war.

Russia, Iran, China and other countries want a multipolar world in which there would be a place for sovereign states that treat each other with respect and in accordance with the principles of international law.

The American vision of the future is world hegemony, “the USA is ahead of the whole planet,”  the USA governs everything and everyone, and there are no equals.

This is a very important point – “We have no equal.” It’s an idea that generations of Americans have been raised on.

But suddenly [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General Milley said that, in general, from a military point of view, the world already has at least three poles – the United States, Russia and China. There are actually more of these poles. For example, in the Middle East, the strongest regional power is no longer Israel – it is Iran.

The situation is changing, and not to the benefit of the United States.

Russia plays for a long time. She has been yielding, stepping aside, and giving way for a long time, because it was necessary to create such Armed Forces that could really guarantee the security of Russia in any threats. Russia has finally achieved this.

For Russia, the idea of Anglo–Saxon domination over the planet, when everyone else should serve them, is fundamentally unacceptable – and I would even say civilizationally. Russia sees herself to be an equal player among the great of this world.

What will be the relations between Moscow and Washington? One side will lose the war, and the other will gain the upper hand in it.

Not necessarily, by the way, a war with military operations. This could be a purely political war only, God willing!

But only one of the two boxers in the ring will remain standing. The second one will have to accept a real defeat.

For Russia, such a defeat would mean the loss of sovereignty and destabilization. Which will once again put her in a dangerous position.

And for the United States, simply giving up world domination is already a total defeat, because it will force this country to completely reformat itself and recreate itself on a new basis. Which they are absolutely not capable of, at the moment. In order to reform the country, it takes decades – if there is no external force. And since Russian tanks will not appear on the streets of Washington, no purge like the one that was against the Nazis after World War II in Germany, here – alas! – it won’t happen.

It means that all this will take a long time, and this process will not only be long, but also dangerous for this country.

——-

Andrei Raevsky was born in Zurich, Switzerland, his father is Dutch, his mother is Russian from a family of White Russian immigrants.

In 1984, he entered active military service in the electronic warfare unit, and then was transferred to the military intelligence service as a language specialist, to work in the interests of the Swiss Air Force. Then he moved to the USA, where he received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the School of International Service (SIS) American University (American University) and a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies (Strategic Studies) at the School of Advanced International Studies. Paul N. Nitze of Johns Hopkins University (Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University). Upon returning to Switzerland, he worked as a civilian consultant (in a position corresponding to the military rank of “major”) in the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service (SND), preparing strategic analytical materials, primarily about the Soviet/Russian armed forces. He worked as a specialist in “enemy operations” (“Red Team” in American military jargon) to train personnel at the operational level of the General Staff of the Swiss Armed Forces. Later he worked at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), where he specialized in peacekeeping tactics and operations. He wrote a book about psychological and intelligence operations in peacekeeping and four books of collected works “The Essential Saker” (The Essential Saker). Speaks Russian, English, French, Spanish and German.

Raevsky holds a Licentiate in Orthodox Theological Studies (PhD in Orthodox Theology) from the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies at the Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas in Etna, California (the “Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies” (CTOS) at the Saint Gregory Palamas monastery in Etna, California).

Swiss citizen.

Lives in the state of Florida.

The questions were asked by Sergey Dukhanov, an international journalist and an Americanist. He worked as his own correspondent for the NOVOSTI Press Agency in Canada (Ottawa, 1990-1992) and as the chief of the American Bureau (Washington, 1996-2001) of the newspapers Business MN, Delovoy Mir and Interfax-AiF.

Washington’s Crime and Punishment

December 18, 2021

By Dmitry Orlov and posted with permission

Just yesterday Russia Foreign Ministry published a couple of documents that people have been struggling to interpret ever since, to little useful effect. I would like to offer my own explanation of what these documents mean, which will probably differ a great deal from most other explanations you are likely to hear. Time will tell how close they are to the truth; for now, I am happy to simply add to the spectrum of ideas that are available to it.

The two documents describe in detail what Washington must do to avoid the consequences of breaking its verbal agreement entered into with Mikhail Gorbachev to not expand NATO eastward toward Russia’s borders—essentially, to freeze NATO forces where they were in 1997, before NATO expanded farther east. The documents also address other aspects of de-escalation, such as removing all US nuclear weapons from foreign territory and confining US forces to waters and airspace from which they cannot threaten the territory of Russia.

One line of explanation, most recently expressed in Washington and elsewhere, is that these documents are a negotiating gambit (not an ultimatum), to be discussed privately (to avoid complete loss of face by the US) and in consultation with NATO members and partners, plus, maybe, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, Amnesty International and Greenpeace (to avoid making their combined irrelevance apparent to all). I agree that there is little to be gained from public discussions; after all, Moscow has already achieved the required bombshell effect through the public release of these documents and in forcing Washington to acknowledge their receipt and to consent to “negotiations”.

I disagree that there is anything to be negotiated: these documents are not intended to be used as a starting point for negotiations; they are an invitation for Washington to acknowledge and remedy its transgressions. Washington broke the deal it made with Moscow not to expand east. It could do so because in the years following the breakup of the USSR Moscow was too weak to resist and run by people who thought it possible for Russia to integrate into the West, perhaps even to join NATO. But that era has ended some time ago and the collective West now has to put its collective toes back behind the red line—whether voluntarily or not—and that is the only thing yet to be determined. That is the only choice to be made: stand down voluntarily and make amends or refuse and be punished.

I also disagree that this choice—between making amends and accepting punishment—has anything to do with the EU, or NATO, or various “members” or “partners”. Moscow has no relationship with NATO, seeing it as a mere piece of paper that grants Washington rather questionable legal authority to deploy its military forces in countries around the world. Moscow has some vestigial diplomatic representation with the EU, but doesn’t see it as important and concentrates on bilateral relations with EU members. As for its Eastern European neighbors, the Ukraine is, viewed from Moscow, a US colony and thus entirely a US concern, Poland can go and partition itself again (or not), and, as far as those tiny yet politically annoying statelets of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, so sorry, but the Russian army is equipped with binoculars, not microscopes.

The choice, really, is between facing an increasing risk of a nuclear exchange between two nuclear superpowers—one that is rapidly fading in strength and one that is growing stronger all the time—and reducing that risk as much as possible. Only the two nuclear superpowers need to come to an understanding; everyone else can simply do as they say so that nobody gets hurt. In the case of the Europeans, they should be quite interested in doing so (if they still know what’s good for them) because NATO’s eastward expansion has left them with huge nuclear target signs painted all over them which they would do well to try to remove. Not only that, but NATO’s encroachment on Russia’s borders has increased the risk of a nuclear confrontation breaking out accidentally: all those nuclear-armed bombers, ships and submarines could make a wrong turn somewhere and then—kaboom!—no more Europe.

You might think that those bombers and ships and submarines must loiter around Russia’s borders in order to “contain” Russia, but this is false. Russia does an acceptably good job of containing itself, and the little territorial disputes that are likely to crop up here and there periodically are certainly not going to be solved by increasing the risk of nuclear war. The Russian Federation has land borders with over a dozen countries, most of which have Russian citizens living on both sides of them, and that makes land disputes inevitable, but none of them will ever be worth blowing up the planet over.

You might think that NATO forces need to show activity and act dangerous in order to justify their existence and their ridiculously bloated defense budgets. Also, if they didn’t get a chance to be threatening toward Russia, they might become despondent and just sit around drinking, doing drugs and having gay sex, and that would be bad for morale. (But then what’s wrong with a little gay sex between consenting off-duty gender-ambiguous servicepersons?) I’d think that these are all rather minor, if not trifling, concerns, considering that what’s on the other side of the scale is the risk of a planetary conflagration.

You might also think that Washington’s eastward expansion is not a crime because, you see, Gorbachev failed to get its promise not to expand east committed to in writing. Well, let me offer you a tiny insight into the inner workings of Russian civilization. If you enter into a verbal agreement with the Russians, break it, and then taunt them by saying “But you didn’t get it in writing!” you have just made the problem much worse for yourself. We all make mistakes and must sometimes break our promises, in which the proper course of action is to be contrite, apologize sincerely and offer to make amends. If, instead, you claim that the promise is null and void because a certain piece of paper cannot be located, then you have compounded your dishonorable conduct with willful disregard and have singled yourself out for exemplary punishment. This punishment may be slow to arrive, taking decades, perhaps even centuries, but you can be sure that you will be punished eventually.

Once upon a time Moscow was weak and Washington strong, but now the balance has shifted in Moscow’s favor and the time for Washington’s punishment has finally come. The only remaining question is, What form will this punishment take? The one proposed by Moscow is in the form of submission to public humiliation: Washington signs the security guarantees drafted in Moscow, drags itself back to its kennel and lies quietly like a good doggo licking its balls to console itself. And that’s the more pleasant alternative, a win-win sort of thing, offered in good faith.

The less pleasant alternative would be, I can’t help but imagine, much less pleasant, very confusing and quite dangerous. Think about Poseidons—undetectable nuclear-powered torpedos—endlessly cruising in thousands of feet of water off the continental shelf along the US coasts, ready to wash them off with entirely accidental and perfectly deniable tsunamis, their sporadic pings causing the Joint Chiefs of Staff to soil their diapers every time. Think about NATO planes, ships and submarines quietly going missing for no adequately explored reason, their crews later turning up on some faraway beach very drunk and wearing Speedos in the colors of the Russian flag. Think of hypersonic something-or-others periodically doing zigzags in low Earth orbit over the US mainland, causing every cable TV channel to broadcast Russia Today and causing CNN’s talking heads to explode in impotent fury.

I would think that, in their own enlightened best interest, right-thinking Americans, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, would want to clamor for their elected representatives to quit making any more trouble and to just sign the damned security guarantees! But that’s just my own, private opinion.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Izvestia, December 13, 2021

December 13, 2021

Russian media is discussing this interview actively today.

https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4992391

Question: Mr Ryabkov, is there any predictability in relations with the United States today?

Sergey Ryabkov: There is one-sided negative predictability, in fact. As for any prospects for improvement, everything is completely unpredictable. This is a sad conclusion based on the results of the long journey that we have travelled with the current US administration, with Donald Trump, and with Barack Obama. These problems did not emerge yesterday. They have to do with the US tendency, by and large, to deny Russia the role of a major independent player in international relations while trying to impose its own approaches to a whole range of issues, including how we should live in our own country.

All of the above certainly limits our prospects for straightening out relations – at least at the present stage, I would not risk giving any optimistic forecasts. We can definitely say there is predictability in that we will have to continue to deal with just this kind of America and this kind of American policy. And we are ready for this.

Question: Does this mean we cannot expect any transformation of the US approach to relations with Russia?

Sergey Ryabkov: We cannot see any progress, with the exception of the launch of several structured dialogues in areas that are certainly important as pivotal aspects of international security – I am referring to strategic stability and ICT security. Even so, we have just created channels for dialogue, and it would be premature to say that we are going to reach some global, significant, breakthrough decisions in the process. We are working towards this; we are striving for this, calling on the Americans to take a responsible approach to international security. We hope that our calls and signals will be heard. At the same time, we will not try and add issues that are not related to strategic stability, ICT security to the mix – such as our bilateral difficulties regarding visas and the activity of foreign missions. These are important questions as well, but we must not allow one to become dependent on the other. We will work where opportunities arise, where the Americans at least try to heed common sense and listen to our approaches.

Question: Can you tell us about progress on the New START Treaty?

Sergey Ryabkov: New START has been extended for five years. However, the first of these five years will expire on February 5, 2022. We have launched a dialogue on strategic stability, which will hopefully lead to the signing of a document or several documents that would be a good replacement for New START, which expires in four years.

We are working quite well within the framework of New START, holding meetings of the Bilateral Consultative Commission. The practice of mutual inspection visits will resume as the sanitary situation improves. Meanwhile, we are exchanging information in full measure and issuing notifications in accordance with the treaty. In short, work is proceeding well.

As for the other areas, there have been some wrinkles, which we are working to remove.

Question: How would you explain the growth in tension over Ukraine?

Sergey Ryabkov: It is primarily Washington’s geopolitical project, an attempt to expand its sphere of influence by getting new instruments for strengthening its positions, which Washington hopes will eventually allow it to dominate this region. It is also a way of creating problems for us by endangering our security. We have openly pointed out that there are red lines which we will not allow anyone to cross, and we also have certain requirements, which have been formulated exceedingly clearly. I believe everyone is aware of the signal President Vladimir Putin issued that Moscow needs maximally reliable legal guarantees of security. The President has instructed the Foreign Ministry to thoroughly address this matter. We are doing this. In particular, we are preparing definitive proposals and ideas, which we will submit for consideration by the Americans, and possibly their allies.

Question: Is it possible to mark red lines jointly with the United States?

Sergey Ryabkov: I believe that this is inherently impossible. There is such a wide gap in our approaches to international affairs and priorities in the so-called Euro-Atlantic that common red lines are unthinkable. There is only one red line we have marked jointly, which is very good. I am referring to the unacceptability of a nuclear war. By adopting the relevant statement issued by our leaders last June, Russia and the United States pointed out that they are aware of their joint responsibility. There will be no winners in a nuclear war, which must never be waged. This has been emphasised most definitely. I believe that this is a major positive factor during the current alarming period in international relations.

As for geopolitical red lines, no, we are rivals and opponents in this sense, and we will not suggest that the Americans do anything like this. We will demand that they do not cross our red lines, which we mark based on our national interests.

Question: Russia has mentioned the unacceptability of NATO’s eastward expansion. The bloc has replied that it has an open-door policy, and that any country complying with its membership principles can join it. What is Moscow’s attitude to this?

Sergey Ryabkov: This is really one of the biggest problems in the Euro-Atlantic region. NATO’s unrestrained expansion over the past decades has shown that Western advances, promises and commitments are of little value unless they are legally formalised. Soviet and later Russian leaders were told by responsible officials that NATO would not expand eastwards. We see that the situation is diametrically opposite.

NATO says that every country is free to decide how to guarantee its security, up to and including by joining military-political alliances. I would like to point out that the freedom to join alliances cannot be absolute. It is as it is in human societies, your freedom ends where the freedom of others begins. There must be clear boundaries and mutual obligations and responsibilities. This is why the phrase about the freedom to join alliances is always balanced by the phrase that this must not be done at the expense of the security of other states. This is the underlying principle of the OSCE, for example.

Regrettably, NATO’s expansion has long come into a dramatic conflict with this principle. We will continue to tell our opponents, both NATO states and the non-members, which would like to join the alliance, that it is impossible to do both things simultaneously. Therefore, there should be no further expansion of NATO. The attempt to present the matter by saying that Russia has no right of veto here is a futile attempt. We will continue to say that if our opponents act contrary to this truth, they will not strengthen their security but will instead face grave consequences.

Question: How does the alliance explain the need to move eastwards?

Sergey Ryabkov: There are no arguments. Moreover, they are trying to deny the validity of the very question of NATO’s eastward expansion. They are rejecting the opportunity to discuss this issue ostensibly as a matter of principle. But this is a mistake that could weaken their own security.

Question: Joseph Biden announced his readiness to discuss with Russia its concern over NATO’s expansion. When and in what format might consultations on this issue take place?

Sergey Ryabkov: We see the US readiness to continue discussing this issue, and this is a good sign. We have well-established channels – our dialogue with the United States is conducted in various areas. For one thing, there are the consultations on strategic stability, which I mentioned. Two working groups are involved in this.

One of them will be dealing with actions that exert a strategic effect. Understandably, security guarantees and non-crossing of red lines is exactly what we are talking about now. These are actions with a strategic effect.

We have channels of political dialogue with the United States as well. There are also formats of cooperation and discussion of these issues with NATO countries – albeit, not with all of them but with some, they are active, and we will probably use these formats eventually, as well.

Finally, the OSCE Forum for Security is operating as a pan-European venue in Vienna. After all, the venue of our dialogue doesn’t matter as much. What matters is the gist of our discussion.

For the time being, we do not quite understand how serious our opponents are. Therefore, we still need to conduct some probing surveys to find this out.

I would like to express the hope that this process will lead to a dramatic improvement in the entire strategic stability situation. We are talking about global security, including Russia’s. NATO and the US have now focused on the allegedly threatening concentration of our troops and hardware along the border with Ukraine.  But permit me, in the first place, they are talking about our actions on our own territory. Is there a limit to geopolitical audacity, not to say, the impudence of those who are trying to dictate to us regarding what we can and cannot do within our own borders?

There is a second, no less important point: they are concentrating on specific developments in certain areas whereas we lay emphasis on the need to ensure security on a broad scale for decades to come. They are using a microscope whereas we are looking forward through binoculars in an effort to prevent unfavourable developments in the future.

Question: Do you know the date for talks on visa issues with the United States? What objectives is the Russian Federation pursuing in its consultations with Washington on this? Is there a chance to make any progress in this area by the end of this year or the beginning of the next?

Sergey Ryabkov: I sympathise with those who are having difficulties with US visas, and I would like to emphasise that the current situation in this area reflects the reluctance of the US to take obvious and very simple decisions. That is, to send the personnel necessary within the quota to Russia, a quota that has been in place for a long time and which has not been filled – neither in Moscow at the Embassy’s Consular Department, nor at the Consulates General in Yekaterinburg or Vladivostok – so they can restore regular service for Russian citizens. Instead, they maintain their absurd accusations to the effect that we are allegedly putting obstacles in the way of this. We haven’t done this; we just cannot unilaterally issue visas to Americans while our personnel cannot enter the United States because visa issuance to diplomatic personnel and holders of service passports has, in fact, been frozen.

It is a vicious cycle. We continue to suggested to the Americans a mutual resetting to restart normal operations at foreign missions. Instead they have ever more requests and ultimatums. The most questionable among them was the request that our diplomatic mission staff who have been in the United States for over three years need to leave. Why, on earth, three and not five years? We are forced to mirror their actions.

Unless the situation in this area changes, US staff here will have to leave here after the same time period. This may simply result in our foreign missions becoming unable to operate any more.

As for meetings, we expect the Americans to regard our proposals seriously – we have made a lot of them. As soon as they respond, we will be ready to arrange the consultations within the shortest notice possible: by the end of this year, by the end of December. So far the United States has yet to give a proper response. We call on them again to resolve this issue and this intolerable situation. It hurts not only our compatriots but also US citizens themselves, who also cannot get timely consular services.

Question: After the last Russian-US video summit we heard that contacts will continue in a different format. Are there any timeframes or understanding as to when such a meeting can take place?

Sergey Ryabkov: So far, no. However, the main thing is that we achieved an understanding about the need to maintain contact whether it is in a video format, by telephone or, of course, a face-to-face meeting. Still, it is too early to talk about specifics. Let’s first move at least toward implementing what the leaders talked about on December 7. Once again: the Foreign Ministry is working on this very closely, in accordance with our instructions.

CIA Chief Comes to Moscow. Russia Gets the US Deep State to Pay Attention

November 9, 2021

By Finian Cunningham

Source

Russia is not going to tolerate any further provocations to its national security. The question now is: can the United States power elite change its belligerent behavior?

The “rare” visit to Moscow last week by CIA chief William Burns signaled a remarkable development. The U.S. political establishment seems to have had a wake-up call to hear directly from Russia’s leadership about its concerns for international peace.

On one hand that indicates how badly bilateral relations have deteriorated. On the other, however, a direct line of communication between Moscow and Washington could help clarify points of conflict and avoid escalation.

CIA director William Burns was sent last week to Moscow in a surprise visit. He was reportedly dispatched by President Joe Biden. During his two-day shuttle tour, Burns held separate talks with the head of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, and with Burns’ counterpart, Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR). Both men represent the highest level of Russian state security.

In addition, during his stay, the CIA chief also had a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such a call is thought to be extremely unusual. The normal protocol is for Putin to delegate Kremlin aides to conduct discussions with foreign dignitaries.

But Burns is no ordinary foreign dignitary. The 65-year-old is a seasoned diplomat having previously served as U.S. ambassador to Russia (2005-2008). His long career in the State Department combined with his latest posting as director of the Central Intelligence Agency make Burns the embodiment of Washington’s foreign policy establishment – the so-called Deep State.

Thus his visit to Moscow can be seen as a moment when the leadership of the two nuclear-armed states engaged in direct and robust talks. More so than when President Biden met Putin in Geneva earlier in June for only a few hours and a lot of accompanying media hype. Note, too, how, Biden sent Burns as his representative for this serious occasion, not Secretary of State Antony Blinken nor national security advisor Jake Sullivan.

U.S. media reports of Burns’ Moscow mission were no doubt pitched as a distraction from the real agenda. It was reported that Burns issued warnings about Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine. The Kremlin dismissed those claims and the purported satellite images of military movements as groundless fabrications. Even the Ukrainian defense ministry – normally all too alarmist about imminent Russian “invasion” – said there was no Russian build-up as claimed by the U.S. media reports.

More plausibly, the Kremlin said the high-level conversations with Burns were about “bilateral relations” and “regional conflicts” without giving further details on the discussions. That suggests the Russian side was telling the United States in no uncertain terms of its vital national security concerns and, just as importantly, how it would respond kinetically if red lines were violated.

Only a few weeks ago, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Ukraine during which the Pentagon chief reiterated the possibility of future membership of the NATO alliance. The Kremlin has repeatedly warned that such a development would be a red line provoking a response. Austin’s insistence on Ukraine’s NATO membership must have rankled deeply in Moscow. How could these Americans be so crass?

Moscow has also recently highlighted the build-up of American and NATO forces in the Black Sea as being another red line. It seems no coincidence that President Putin announced that over the next few months Russian warships will be armed with new hypersonic missiles.

There are other important contextual factors. Last month, the Biden administration sent senior diplomat Victoria Nuland to Moscow for a three-day visit. Nuland embodies U.S. regime-change policy, most memorably for her role in orchestrating the 2014 coup d’état in Kiev. She was greeted in Moscow by deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. It was reported that the U.S. side was tone-deaf to Russia’s concerns about Ukraine, as well as NATO’s increasing offensiveness on Russia’s borders and the growing tensions in the bilateral relationship.

Then Moscow announced it was cutting off diplomatic channels with the NATO alliance. The move was prompted by the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Brussels who were alleged without substantiation to be working as spies. That move was seen by Moscow as the last straw in a series of provocations by NATO. The diplomatic channels had become redundant long before largely due to reluctance by NATO to engage in a mutual dialogue.

In any case, Moscow was letting it be known that it had had enough of dealing with ciphers and anti-Russia cacophony. By walking away from NATO, the Kremlin was telegramming that the United States better start taking its red lines seriously.

State Department deputies – even of the hawkish Nuland variety – are not sufficient for the serious purpose of grave communications. Neither are nominally senior diplomats like Blinken or apparatchiks like Sullivan who, for all their apparent seniority, operate on scripted talking points like message boys. Secretary of Defense Austin – the titular head of the Pentagon – also revealed himself as nothing more than a script-monger during his robotic tour of Ukraine and Georgia. Such people are not worth dealing with in terms of getting to the heart of conflict.

Sometimes the most effective way to make a point is to reduce communications to a bare minimum. And in that way, declutter the noise and echo by stripping out the channels that don’t have any real consequence.

Russia has made it clear that the U.S. and NATO are pushing a potential confrontation over Ukraine, the Black Sea, the Balkans and the wider region. Having done that, and having expressed red lines, it seems the U.S. Deep State decided it better start paying attention to what Russia was saying.

The urgent visit to Moscow by William Burns was the occasion for some serious talking about how to prevent tensions spiraling further into war. The U.S. Deep State got the message directly. Russia is not going to tolerate any further provocations to its national security. The question now is: can the United States power elite change its belligerent behavior?

Russian Foreign Ministry on No-Summit/Summit, the G7, NATO and Venezuela

June 20, 2021

By Stephen Lendman

Source

A previous article called talks between Putin and Biden’s double farcical and tragic.

Despite remarks by both sides suggesting otherwise, no improvement in dismal bilateral relations was achieved — nothing suggesting a shift by Biden regime hardliners toward more normalized relations with Russia.

Commenting on Geneva talks, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (MZ below) said little.

Assessments were made by Russia’s leadership, she said — putting a brave face on a dismal situation with no prospect for improvement.

MZ also drew attention to remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

Posted on Russia’s Foreign Ministry website, he discussed strategic stability and prospects for cooperation with Biden regime hardliners on this issue.

Beyond the above she said Russia’s envoy to the US Anatoly Antonov will likely return to his Washington post next week — no further comments on Geneva talks.

On the June 11-13 G7 summit of Western regime heads preceding Geneva talks, she noted that neither Russia or China is part of the US-dominated club.

Nor are so-called G7 “values” universal, she stressed, far from it.

“G7 leaders are drawing a new dividing line in international affairs,” she noted, adding:

“(T)he divide lies between a small group of (fantasy) democracies and the rest of the world” on major issues.

MZ: “We doubt that this approach is capable of producing stable positive results and is a contributing factor in enhancing the genuine versatility epitomized in the UN and its Charter, including, primarily, the principles of equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation among all countries.”

“(W)e did not see anything new” in its final communique. “It was just as we expected.”

G7 values are confrontational over cooperation with other nations.

Notably, “endless exercises in anti-Russia rhetoric (by its member states) are doing nothing to improve the atmosphere in relations between the West and Russia.”

The same holds for increasingly bashed China by the West.

NATO summitry followed G7 talks. Once again, issues discussed “were expected and predictable,”MZ explained, adding:

“We heard threats to use Article 5 on collective defense in the event of an attack in outer space or cyberspace attacks.” 

“We hear about cyberspace regularly.” 

“What do…NATO (regimes) expect from attacks in outer space?”

They’ll clearly be none by 

Russia or China.

Invented threats by the US-dominated alliance “lowers the threshold for the use of force, worsens the security situation for all countries, and seriously complicates the prospects for reaching universal agreements aimed at preventing the use of outer space and the cyber environment for non-peaceful purposes,” MZ stressed.

As for invented Russian and Chinese threats that don’t exist, “the alliance remains in a ‘reality’ that it made up itself,” she added.

They need invented enemies to unjustifiably justify NATO’s existence.

At a time when no real threats exist against alliance members, no justification exists to maintain it.

Since the 1990s, it’s been a machine for manufacturing of nonexistent enemies to wage war against.

In stark contrast, Russia is a model nation for waging peace, abhorring war, cooperating with other nations, and complying fully with international law.

Claims otherwise by hegemon USA and its imperial partners are bald-faced Big Lies.

Repetition gets most people to believe almost anything, no matter how untrue.

Not only does Washington need enemies to maintain and seek new NATO members, they’re required to unjustifiably justify its monstrously bloated war budget.

MZ knows that “mov(ing) from fictional images to facts” is off-the-table for the US and its imperial partners, adding:

“(H)ow can NATO do without a ‘threat from the East?’ Judging by the outcome of the summit, it can’t…”

Separately, MZ explained that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza on June 22 in Moscow.

Both nations are strategically partnered “based on equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation, friendship and mutual empathy between the two nations,” MZ explained, adding:

Last year, both nations commemorated “the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and this year is the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation.”

Both ministers “will discuss the developments in Venezuela and around it, and a broad range of bilateral issues…”

Both nations foster cooperative relations in full compliance with international law, “including the principles of protecting sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs,” MZ explained.

Statements after Putin / Biden summit

June 16, 2021

Source

Statements after Putin / Biden summit

Russian-American consultations began with a restricted-format meeting that included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

After that the talks continued in an expanded format.

Following the summit, the US – Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability was adopted.

U.S. – Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability

June 16, 2021

We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.

The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.

http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5658


President Putin: News conference Q&A following Russia-US talks

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am at your service. I think there is no need for long opening remarks since everyone is familiar with the topics of discussion in general: strategic stability, cyber security, regional conflicts, and trade relations. We also covered cooperation in the Arctic. This is pretty much what we discussed.

With that, I will take your questions.

Question: Good evening,

Perhaps, you can name the topics that were discussed especially closely? In particular, Ukraine is of great interest. In what context was it touched upon, was the situation in Donbass and the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO discussed?

One more thing: before the talks, there were great expectations about the ambassadors of the two countries returning to their stations in the respective capitals. In particular, your assistant, Yury Ushakov, said that this was possible. Have these decisions been made? How did the talks go in general?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: With regard to the ambassadors returning to their stations – the US ambassador to Moscow, and the Russian ambassador to Washington, we agreed on this matter, and they will be returning to their permanent duty stations. When exactly – tomorrow or the day after tomorrow – is a purely technical issue.

We also agreed that the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation and the US State Department would begin consultations on the entire range of cooperation on the diplomatic track. There are things to discuss, and an enormous backlog [of unresolved issues] has piled up. I think both sides, including the American side, are committed to looking for solutions.

With regard to Ukraine, indeed, this issue was touched upon. I cannot say that it was done in great detail, but as far as I understood President Biden, he agreed that the Minsk agreements should be the basis for a settlement in southeastern Ukraine.

As for Ukraine’s potential accession to NATO, this issue was touched upon in passing. I suppose there is nothing to discuss in this respect.

This is how it was in general terms.

Question: Mr President, you said strategic stability was one of the topics. Could you tell us in more detail what decisions were made on this issue? Will Russia and the United States resume or start talks on strategic stability and disarmament, and, in particular, on the New START Treaty? Do they plan to start talks on extending New START, perhaps revising its parameters or signing a new treaty altogether?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: The United States and the Russian Federation bear special responsibility for global strategic stability, at least because we are the two biggest nuclear powers – in terms of the amount of ammunition and warheads, the number of delivery vehicles, the level of sophistication and quality of nuclear arms. We are aware of this responsibility.

I think it is obvious to everyone that President Biden made a responsible and, we believe, timely decision to extend New START for five years, that is, until 2024.

Of course, it would be natural to ask what next. We agreed to start interdepartmental consultations under the aegis of the US Department of State and the Foreign Ministry of Russia. Colleagues will determine at the working level the line-up of these delegations, the venues and frequency of meetings.

Question: Hi, Matthew Chance from CNN. Thank you very much for giving me this question.

First of all, could you characterise the dynamic between yourself and President Biden? Was it hostile or was it friendly?

And secondly, throughout these conversations did you commit to ceasing carrying out cyberattacks on the United States? Did you commit to stopping threatening Ukraine’s security? And did you commit to stop cracking down on the opposition in Russia?

Vladimir Putin: I will begin with a general assessment. I believe there was no hostility at all. Quite the contrary. Our meeting was, of course, a principled one, and our positions diverge on many issues, but I still think that both of us showed a willingness to understand each other and look for ways of bringing our positions closer together. The conversation was quite constructive.

As for cyber security, we have agreed to start consultations on this issue. I consider this very important.

Now about the commitments each side must make. I would like to tell you about things that are generally known, but not to the public at large. American sources – I am simply afraid to mix up the names of organisations (Mr Peskov will give them to you later) – have said that most cyberattacks in the world come from US cyberspace. Canada is second. It is followed by two Latin American countries and then the United Kingdom. As you can see, Russia is not on the list of these countries from whose cyberspace the most cyberattacks originate. This is the first point.

Now the second point. In 2020 we received 10 inquiries from the United States about cyberattacks on US facilities – as our colleagues say – from Russian cyberspace. Two more requests were made this year. Our colleagues received exhaustive responses to all of them, both in 2020 and this year.

In turn, Russia sent 45 inquiries to the relevant US agency last year and 35 inquiries in the first half of this year. We have not yet received a single response. This shows that we have a lot to work on.

The question of who, on what scale and in what area must make commitments should be resolved during negotiations. We have agreed to start such consultations. We believe that cyber security is extremely important in the world in general, for the United States in particular, and to the same extent for Russia.

For example, we are aware of the cyberattacks on the pipeline company in the United States. We are also aware of the fact that the company had to pay 5 million to the cybercriminals. According to my information, a portion of the money has been returned from the e-wallets. What do Russia’s public authorities have to do with this?

We face the same threats. For example, there was an attack on the public healthcare system of a large region in the Russian Federation. Of course, we see where the attacks are coming from, and we see that these activities are coordinated from US cyberspace. I do not think that the United States, official US authorities, are interested in this kind of manipulation. What we need to do is discard all the conspiracy theories, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and the Russian Federation. In principle, we have agreed to this, and Russia is willing to do so.

Give them a microphone – part of the question remained unanswered.

Remark: That’s correct and thank you very much for coming back to me, sir.

So, there were two other parts to the question. The first one is: did you commit in these meetings to stop threatening Ukraine? Remember the reason this summit was called in the first place, or the timing of it, was when Russia was building up lots of forces close to border. And the second part of the question, third part of the question was: did you commit to stopping your crackdown against the opposition groups inside Russia led by Alexei Navalny?

Vladimir Putin: I did not hear that part of the question – either it was not translated, or you just decided to ask a second question.

With regard to our obligations regarding Ukraine, we have only one obligation which is to facilitate the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. If the Ukrainian side is willing to do this, we will take this path, no questions asked.

By the way, I would like to note the following. Back in November 2020, the Ukrainian delegation presented its views about how it was planning to implement the Minsk Agreements. Please take a look at the Minsk Agreements – they are not a confidential document. They say that, first, it is necessary to submit proposals on the political integration of Donbass into the Ukrainian legal system and the Constitution. To do so, it is necessary to amend the Constitution – this is spelled out in the agreements. This is the first point. And second, the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine along the Donbass line will begin to be occupied by the border troops of Ukraine on the day following election day – Article 9.

What has Ukraine come up with? The first step it proposed was to move Ukraine’s armed forces back to their permanent stations. What does this mean? This means Ukrainian troops would enter Donbass. This is the first point. Second, they proposed closing the border between Russia and Ukraine in this area. Third, they proposed holding elections three months after these two steps.

You do not need a legal background or any special training to understand that this has nothing to do with the Minsk Agreements. This completely contradicts the Minsk Agreements. Therefore, what kind of additional obligations can Russia assume? I think the answer is clear.

With regard to military exercises, we conduct them on our territory, just like the United States conducts many of its exercises on its territory. But we are not bringing our equipment and personnel closer to the state borders of the United States of America when we conduct our exercises. Unfortunately, this is what our US partners are doing now. So, the Russian side, not the American side, should be concerned about this, and this also needs to be discussed, and our respective positions should be clarified.

With regard to our non-systemic opposition and the citizen you mentioned, first, this person knew that he was breaking applicable Russian law. He needed to check in with the authorities as someone who was twice sentenced to a suspended prison time. Fully cognisant of what he was doing, I want to emphasise this, and disregarding this legal requirement, this gentleman went abroad for medical treatment, and the authorities did not ask him to check in while he was in treatment. As soon as he left the hospital and posted his videos online, the requirements were reinstated. He did not appear; he disregarded the law – and was put on the wanted list. He knew that going back to Russia. I believe he deliberately decided to get arrested. He did what he wanted to do. So, what is there to be discussed?

With regard to the people like him and the systemic opposition in general, unfortunately, the format of a news conference precludes a detailed discussion, but I would like to say the following. Look, I think I will not say anything complicated, it will be clear for everyone. If you find it possible to objectively convey this message to your viewers and listeners, I would be very grateful to you.

So, the United States declared Russia an enemy and an adversary. Congress did this in 2017. US legislation was amended to include provisions that the United States must maintain democratic governance rules and order in our country and support political organisations. This is in your law, US law. Now let’s ask ourselves a question: if Russia is an enemy, what kind of organisations will the United States support in Russia? I think not the ones that make the Russian Federation stronger, but the ones that hold it back, since this is the goal of the United States, something that has been announced publicly. So, these are the organisations and the people who are instrumental in the implementation of the United States’ policy on Russia.

How should we feel about this? I think it is clear: we must be wary. But we will act exclusively within the framework of Russian law.

Transcript to be continued.


Remarks by President Biden in post-summit Press Conference

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/06/16/remarks-by-president-biden-in-press-conference-4/June 16, 2021 • Speeches and Remarks

Hôtel du Parc des Eaux-Vives
Geneva, Switzerland

7:20 P.M. CEST

(There is some French bleedthrough at the start of the audio for a few moments)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s been a long day for you all.  (Laughs.)  I know it was easy getting into the — the pre-meeting.  There was no problem getting through those doors, was it — was there?

Anyway, hello, everyone.  Well, I’ve just finished the — the last meeting of this week’s long trip, the U.S.-Russian Summit.

And I know there were a lot of hype around this meeting, but it’s pretty straightforward to me — the meeting.  One, there is no substitute, as those of you who have covered me for a while know, for a face-to-face dialogue between leaders.  None.  And President Putin and I had a — share a unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries — a relationship that has to be stable and predictable.  And it should be able to — we should be able to cooperate where it’s in our mutual interests.

And where we have differences, I wanted President Putin to understand why I say what I say and why I do what I do, and how we’ll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America’s interests.

Now, I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else; it’s for the American people: fighting COVID-19; rebuilding our economy; reestablishing our relationships around the world with our allies and friends; and protecting our people.  That’s my responsibility as President.

I also told him that no President of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view.  That’s just part of the DNA of our country.

So, human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him.  It’s not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it’s about who we are.  How could I be the President of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?

I told him that, unlike other countries, including Russia, we’re uniquely a product of an idea.  You’ve heard me say this before, again and again, but I’m going to keep saying it.  What’s that idea?  We don’t derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we’re born — period.  And we yield them to a government.

And so, at the forum, I pointed out to him that that’s why we’re going raise our concerns about cases like Aleksey Navalny.  I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that’s what we are, that’s who we are.  The idea is: “We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women…”  We haven’t lived up to it completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.

And I raised the case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens: Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.

I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to operate, and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech.

I made it clear that we will not tolerate attempts to violate our democratic sovereignty or destabilize our democratic elections, and we would respond.

The bottom line is, I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.

I also said there are areas where there’s a mutual interest for us to cooperate, for our people — Russian and American people — but also for the benefit of the world and the security of the world.  One of those areas is strategic stability.

You asked me many times what was I going to discuss with Putin.  Before I came, I told you I only negotiate with the individual.  And now I can tell you what I was intending to do all along, and that is to discuss and raise the issue of strategic stability and try to set up a mechanism whereby we dealt with it.

We discussed in detail the next steps our countries need to take on arms control measures — the steps we need to take to reduce the risk of unintended conflict.

And I’m pleased that he agreed today to launch a bilateral strategic stability dialogue — diplomatic speak for saying, get our military experts and our — our diplomats together to work on a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response, that raise the prospects of accidental war.  And we went into some detail of what those weapons systems were.

Another area we spent a great deal of time on was cyber and cybersecurity.  I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack — period — by cyber or any other means.  I gave them a list, if I’m not mistaken — I don’t have it in front of me — 16 specific entities; 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.

Of course, the principle is one thing.  It has to be backed up by practice.  Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory.

So we agreed to task experts in both our — both our countries to work on specific understandings about what’s off limits and to follow up on specific cases that originate in other countries — either of our countries.

There is a long list of other issues we spent time on, from the urgent need to preserve and reopen the humanitarian corridors in Syria so that we can get food — just simple food and basic necessities to people who are starving to death; how to build it and how it is in the interest of both Russia and the United States to ensure that Iran — Iran — does not acquire nuclear weapons.  We agreed to work together there because it’s as much interest — Russia’s interest as ours.  And to how we can ensure the Arctic remains a region of cooperation rather than conflict.

I caught part of President’s — Putin’s press conference, and he talked about the need for us to be able to have some kind of modus operandi where we dealt with making sure the Arctic was, in fact, a free zone.

And to how we can each contribute to the shared effort of preventing a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.  It’s very much in — in the interest of Russia not to have a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.

There are also areas that are more challenging.  I communicated the United States’ unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

We agreed to pursue diplomacy related to the Minsk Agreement.  And I shared our concerns about Belarus.  He didn’t disagree with what happened; he just has a different perspective of what to do about it.

But I know you have a lot of questions, so let me close with this: It was important to meet in person so there can be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate.

I did what I came to do: Number one, identify areas of practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world.

Two, communicate directly — directly — that the United States will respond to actions that impair our vital interests or those of our allies.

And three, to clearly lay out our country’s priorities and our values so he heard it straight from me.

And I must tell you, the tone of the entire meetings — I guess it was a total of four hours — was — was good, positive.  There wasn’t any — any strident action taken.  Where we disagreed — I disagreed, stated where it was.  Where he disagreed, he stated.  But it was not done in a hyperbolic atmosphere.  That is too much of what’s been going on.

Over this last week, I believe — I hope — the United States has shown the world that we are back, standing with our Allies.  We rallied our fellow democracies to make concert — concerted commitments to take on the biggest challenges our world faces.

And now we’ve established a clear basis on how we intend to deal with Russia and the U.S.-Russia relationship.

There’s more work ahead.  I’m not suggesting that any of this is done, but we’ve gotten a lot of business done on this trip.

And before I take your questions, I want to say one last thing.  Folks, look, this is about — this about how we move from here.  This is — I listened to, again, a significant portion of what President Putin’s press conference was, and as he pointed out, this is about practical, straightforward, no-nonsense decisions that we have to make or not make.

We’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.  We’ll find out whether we work to deal with everything from release of people in Russian prisons or not.  We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.

Because, look, the countries that most are likely to be damaged — failure to do that — are the major countries.  For example, when I talked about the pipeline that cyber hit for $5 million — that ransomware hit in the United States, I looked at him and I said, “Well, how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?”  He said it would matter.

This is not about just our self-interest; it’s about a mutual self-interest.

I’ll take your questions.  And as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on.

So, Jonathan, Associated Press.

Q    Thank you, sir.  U.S. intelligence has said that Russia tried to interfere in the last two presidential elections, and that Russia groups are behind hacks like SolarWinds and some of the ransomware attacks you just mentioned.  Putin, in his news conference just now, accepted no responsibility for any misbehavior.  Your predecessor opted not to demand that Putin stop these disruptions.  So what is something concrete, sir, that you achieved today to prevent that from happening again?  And what were the consequences you threatened?

THE PRESIDENT:  Whether I stopped it from happening again — he knows I will take action, like we did when — this last time out.  What happened was: We, in fact, made it clear that we were not going to continue to allow this to go on.  The end result was we ended up withdrawing — they went withdrawing ambassadors, and we closed down some of their facilities in the United States, et cetera.  And he knows there are consequences.

Now, look, one of the consequences that I know — I don’t know; I shouldn’t say this; it’s unfair of me — I suspect you may all think doesn’t matter, but I’m confidence it matters to him — confident it matter to him and other world leaders of big nations: his credibility worldwide shrinks.

Let’s get this straight: How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries, and everybody knew it?  What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he is engaged in?  It diminishes the standing of a country that is desperately trying to make sure it maintains its standing as a major world power.

And so it’s not just what I do; it’s what the actions that other countries take — in this case, Russia — that are contrary to international norms.  It’s the price they pay.  They are not — they are not able to dictate what happens in the world.  There are other nations of significant consequence — i.e. the United States of America being one of them.

Q    Mr. President, just a quick follow on the same theme of consequences.  You said, just now, that you spoke to him a lot about human rights.  What did you say would happen if opposition leader Aleksey Navalny dies?

THE PRESIDENT:  I made it clear to him that I believe the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia.

I’ll go back to the same point: What do you think happens when he’s saying, “It’s not about hurting Navalny,” this — you know, all the stuff he says to rationalize the treatment of Navalny — and then he dies in prison?

I pointed out to him that it matters a great deal when a country, in fact — and they asked me why I thought that it was important to continue to have problems with the President of Syria.  I said, “Because he’s in violation of an international norm.  It’s called a Chemical Weapons Treaty.  Can’t be trusted.”

It’s about trust.  It’s about their ability to influence other nations in a positive way.

Look, would you like to trade our economy for Russia’s economy?  Would you like to trade?  And, by the way, we talked about trade.  I don’t have any problem with doing business with Russia, as long as they do it based upon international norms. It’s in our interest to see the Russian people do well economically.  I don’t have a problem with that.

But if they do not act according to international norms, then guess what?  That will not — that only won’t it happen with us, it will not happen with other nations.  And he kind of talked about that — didn’t he, today? — about how the need to reach out to other countries to invest in Russia.  They won’t as long as they are convinced that, in fact, the violations —

For example, the American businessman who was in house arrest.  And I pointed out, “You want to get American business to invest?  Let him go.  Change the dynamic.”  Because American businessmen, they’re not — they’re not ready to show up.  They don’t want to hang around in Moscow.

I mean, I — look, guys, I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill that somehow is, sort of, like a secret code.  Pract- — all foreign policy is, is a logical extension of personal relationships.  It’s the way human nature functions.

And understand, when you run a country that does not abide by international norms, and yet you need those international norms to be somehow managed so that you can participate in the benefits that flow from them, it hurts you.  That’s not a satisfying answer: “Biden said he’d invade Russia.”  You know, it is not — you know.  By the way, that was a joke.  That’s not true.

But my generic point is, it is — it is more complicated than that.

David Sanger.  I thought I saw David.  There he is.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In the run-up to this discussion, there’s been a lot of talk about the two countries spilling down into a Cold War.  And I’m wondering if there was anything that you emerged from in the discussion that made you think that he —

THE PRESIDENT:  With your permission, I’m going to take my coat off.  The sun is hot.

Q    — anything that would make you think that Mr. Putin has decided to move away from his fundamental role as a disrupter, particularly a disrupter of NATO and the United States?

And if I could also just follow up on your description of how you gave him a list of critical infrastructure in the United States.  Did you lay out very clearly what it was that the penalty would be for interfering in that critical infrastructure?  Did you leave that vague?  Did he respond in any way to it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me answer your first — well, I’ll second question, first.

I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability.  And he knows it.  He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s significant.  And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.  He knows.

Q    In the cyber way.

THE PRESIDENT:  In the cyber way.

Number two, I — I think that the last thing he wants now is a Cold War.  Without quoting him — which I don’t think is appropriate — let me ask a rhetorical question: You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China.  China is moving ahead, hellbent on election, as they say, seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world.

You’re in a situation where your economy is struggling, you need to move it in a more aggressive way, in terms of growing it.  And you — I don’t think he’s looking for a Cold War with the United States.

I don’t think it’s about a — as I said to him, I said, “Your generation and mine are about 10 years apart.  This is not a ‘kumbaya’ moment, as you used to say back in the ’60s in the United States, like, ‘Let’s hug and love each other.’  But it’s clearly not in anybody’s interest — your country’s or mine — for us to be in a situation where we’re in a new Cold War.”  And I truly believe he thinks that — he understands that.

But that does not mean he’s ready to, quote, figuratively speaking, “lay down his arms,” and say, “Come on.”  He still, I believe, is concerned about being, quote, “encircled.”  He still is concerned that we, in fact, are looking to take him down, et cetera.  He still has those concerns, but I don’t think they are the driving force as to the kind of relationship he’s looking for with the United States.

Jennifer.  Jennifer Jacobs.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Is there a particular reason why the summit lasted only about three hours?  We know you had maybe allotted four to five hours.  Was there any reason it ran shorter?

Also, did — President Putin said that there were no threats or scare tactics issued.  Do you agree with that assessment, that there were no threats or scare tactics?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    And also, did you touch on Afghanistan and the safe withdrawal of troops?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Yes, yes, and yes.  Let me go back to the first part.

The reason it didn’t go longer is: When is the last time two heads of state have spent over two hours in direct conversation across a table, going into excruciating detail?  You may know of a time; I don’t.  I can’t think of one.

So we didn’t need, as we got through, when we brought in the larger group — our defense, our intelligence, and our foreign — well, our — my foreign minister — wasn’t the foreign minister — my Secretary of State was with me the whole time — our ambassador, et cetera.  We brought everybody in.  We had covered so much.

And so there was a summary done by him and by me of what we covered.  Lavrov and Blinken talked about what we had covered.  We raised things that required more amplification or made sure we didn’t have any misunderstandings.  And — and so it was — it was — kind of, after two hours there, we looked at each other like, “Okay, what next?”

What is going to happen next is we’re going to be able to look back — look ahead in three to six months, and say, “Did the things we agreed to sit down and try to work out, did it work?  Do we — are we closer to a major strategic stability talks and progress?  Are we further along in terms of…” — and go down the line.  That’s going to be the test.

I’m not sitting here saying because the President and I agreed that we would do these things, that all of a sudden, it’s going to work.  I’m not saying that.  What I’m saying is I think there’s a genuine prospect to significantly improve relations between our two countries without us giving up a single, solitary thing based on principle and/or values.

Q    There were no threats issued?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  No.  There were no threats.  There were — as a matter of fact, I heard he quoted my mom and quoted other people today.  There was — it was very, as we say — which will shock you, coming from me — somewhat colloquial.  And we talked about basic, basic, fundamental things.  There was a — it was — and you know how I am: I explain things based on personal basis.  “What happens if,” for example.

And so, there are no threats, just simple assertions made.  And no “Well, if you do that, then we’ll do this” — wasn’t anything I said.  It was just letting him know where I stood; what I thought we could accomplish together; and what, in fact — if it was — if there were violations of American sovereignty, what would we do.

Q    Can you share what you asked him about Afghanistan?  What was your particular request for Afghanistan and the U.S. troops?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, he asked us about Afghanistan.  He said that he hopes that we’re able to maintain some peace and security, and I said, “That has a lot to do with you.”  He indicated that he was prepared to, quote, “help” on Afghanistan — I won’t go into detail now; and help on — on Iran; and help on — and, in return, we told him what we wanted to do relative to bringing some stability and economic security or physical security to the people of Syria and Libya.

So, we had those discussions.

Yamiche.

Q    Thanks so much, Mr. President.  Did you — you say that you didn’t issue any threats.  Were there any ultimatums made when it comes to ransomware?  And how will you measure success, especially when it comes to these working groups on Russian meddling and on cybersecurity?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s going to be real easy.  They either — for example, on cybersecurity, are we going to work out where they take action against ransomware criminals on Russian territory?  They didn’t do it.  I don’t think they planned it, in this case.  And they — are they going to act?  We’ll find out.

Will we commit — what can we commit to act in terms of anything affecting violating international norms that negatively affects Russia?  What are we going to agree to do?

And so, I think we have real opportunities to — to move.  And I think that one of the things that I noticed when we had the larger meeting is that people who are very, very well-informed started thinking, “You know, this could be a real problem.”  What happens if that ransomware outfit were sitting in Florida or Maine and took action, as I said, on their — their single lifeline to their economy: oil?  That would be devastating.  And they’re like — you could see them kind of go, “Oh, we do that,” but like, “Whoa.”

So it’s in — it’s in everybody’s interest that these things be acted on.  We’ll see, though, what happens from these groups we put together.

Q    Can I ask a quick follow-up question?

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  The third one, yes.  Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, when President Putin was questioned today about human rights, he said the reason why he’s cracking down on opposition leaders is because he doesn’t want something like January 6th to happen in Russia.  And he also said he doesn’t want to see groups formed like Black Lives Matter.  What’s your response to that, please?

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  My response is kind of what I communicated — that I think that’s a — that’s a ridiculous comparison.  It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer, and be held unaccountable than it is for people objecting and marching on the Capitol and saying, “You are not allowing me to speak freely.  You are not allowing me to do A, B, C, or D.”

And so, they’re very different criteria.

Steve.  Steve Holland, Reuters.

Q    President — sorry — President Putin said he was satisfied with the answer about your comment about him being a “killer.”  Could you give us your side on this?  What did you tell him?

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s satisfied.  Why would I bring it up again?  (Laughs.)

Q    And now that you’ve talked to him, do you believe you can trust him?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, this is not about trust; this is about self-interest and verification of self-interest.  That’s what it’s about.  So, I — virtually almost — almost anyone that I would work out an agreement with that affected the American people’s interests, I don’t say, “Well, I trust you.  No problem.”  Let’s see what happens.

You know, as that old expression goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  We’re going to know shortly.

Igor, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  Hello, Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT:  You want to go on the shade?  You can’t — can you see?

Q    Thank you.  Yeah.  Yeah, yeah.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.

Q    Yeah.  So, I think you know attacks in civil society and the free — free press continue inside Russia.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    For example, Radio Free Europe —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    — Radio Liberty; Voice of America; Current Time TV channel, where I work, are branded foreign agents — and several other independent media.  So, we are essentially being forced out in Russia 30 years after President Yeltsin invited us in.

My question is: After your talks with President Putin, how interested do you think he is in improving the media climate in Russia?

THE PRESIDENT:  I wouldn’t put it that way, in terms of improving the climate.  I would, in fact, put it in terms of how much interest does he have in burnishing Russia’s reputation that is not — is viewed as not being contrary to democratic principles and free speech.

That’s a judgment I cannot make.  I don’t know.  But it’s not because I think he — he is interested in changing the nature of a closed society or closed government’s actions relative to what he thinks is the right of government to do what it does; it’s a very different approach.

And, you know, there’s a couple of really good biogra- — I told him I read a couple — I read most everything he’s written and the speeches he’s made.  And — and I’ve read a couple of very good biographies, which many of you have as well.

And I think I pointed out to him that Russia had an opportunity — that brief shining moment after Gorbachev and after things began to change drastically — to actually generate a democratic government.  But what happened was it failed and there was a great, great race among Russian intellectuals to determine what form of government would they choose and how would they choose it.

And based on what I believe, Mr. Putin decided was that Russia has always been a major international power when it’s been totally united as a Russian state, not based on ideology — whether it was going back to Tsar and Commissar, straight through to the — the revolution — the Russian Revolution, and to where they are today.

And I think that it’s clear to me — and I’ve said it — that I think he decided that the way for Russia to be able to sustain itself as a great — quote, “great power” is to in fact unite the Russian people on just the strength of the government — the government controls — not necessarily ideologically, but the government.

And I think that’s the — that’s the choice that was made.  I think it — I — I’m not going to second guess whether it could have been fundamentally different.  But I do think it does not lend itself to Russia maintaining itself as one of the great powers in the world.

Q    Sir, one more question —

Q    One more on COVID — on COVID-19, Mr. President —

Q    Sir, could we ask you one more question, please, sir?  Thank you, sir.  Did military response ever come up in this conversation today?  Did you — in terms of the red lines that you laid down, is military response an option for a ransomware attack?

And President Putin had called you, in his press conference, an “experienced person.”  You famously told him he didn’t have a soul.  Do you now have a deeper understanding of him after this meeting?

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Q    Mr. President —

Q    But on the military — military response, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, we didn’t talk about military response.

Q    In the spirit, Mr. President, of you saying that there is no substitute for face-to-face dialogue, and also with what you said at NATO that the biggest problems right now are Russia and China — you’ve spoken many times about how you have spent perhaps more time with President Xi than any other world leader.

So is there going to become a time where you might call him, old friend to old friend, and ask him to open up China to the World Health Organization investigators who are trying to get to the bottom of COVID-19?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s get something straight.  We know each other well; we’re not old friends.  It’s just pure business.

Q    So, I guess, my question would be that you’ve said that you were going to press China.  You signed on to the G7 communiqué that said you — the G7 were calling on China to open up to let the investigators in.  But China basically says they don’t want to be interfered with anymore.  So, what happens now?

THE PRESIDENT:  The impact — the world’s attitude toward China as it develops.  China is trying very hard to project itself as a responsible and — and a very, very forthcoming nation; that they are trying very hard to talk about how they’re taking and helping the world in terms of COVID-19 and vaccines.  And they’re trying very hard.

Look, certain things you don’t have to explain to the people of the world.  They see the results.  Is China really actually trying to get to the bottom of this?

One thing we did discuss, as I told you, in the EU and at the G7 and with NATO: What we should be doing and what I’m going to make an effort to do is rally the world to work on what is going to be the physical mechanism available to detect, early on, the next pandemic and have a mechanism by which we can respond to it and respond to it early.  It’s going to happen.  It’s going to happen.  And we need to do that.

Thank you.

Q    Any progress on the detained Americans, sir?

Q    What did Putin say about Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed?

Q    Sir, what do you say to the families of the detained Americans?

Q    President Biden, why are you so confident Russia —

THE PRESIDENT:  The families of the detained Americans, I have hope for.

Q    Say it again; we can’t hear you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I said the families of the detained Americans came up and we discussed it.  We’re going to follow through with that discussion.  I am — I am not going to walk away on that issue.

Q    Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior.  Where the hell — what do you do all the time?  When did I say I was confident?  I said —

Q    You said in the next six months you’ll be able to determine —

THE PRESIDENT:  I said — what I said was — let’s get it straight.  I said: What will change their behavior is if the rest of world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world.  I’m not confident of anything; I’m just stating a fact.

Q    But given his past behavior has not changed and, in that press conference, after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyberattacks; he downplayed human rights abuses; he even refused to say Aleksey Navalny’s name.  So how does that account to a constructive meeting, as President — President Putin framed it?

THE PRESIDENT:  If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.

Thank you.

A little less conversation, a little more action

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, Reykjavik, May 19, 2021
A little less conversation, a little more action

May 20, 2021

by Pepe Escobar and first posted at Asia Times

So Sergey Lavrov and Tony Blinken met for nearly two hours at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, on the sidelines of the ministerial session of the Arctic Council.

Frosty? Not really. Even if the get together may not have been a throwback to a Reagan-Gorbachev funfest in the good old Cold War days. After all, there was a NATO warship parked right outside the windows of Harpa Hall – like a prop in a Marvel blockbuster.

Self-described “amateur guitarist” Blinken may have been relatively swayed by the charms of the 1968 Elvis stunner A Little Less Conversation.

Well, at least there was some conversation. As for “a little more action”, as Elvis sang it, it remains to be seen. A good sign is that they addressed each other as “Sergey” and “Tony”. Blinken even attempted a “Spasiba”.

Let’s start with Lavrov – who routinely dwells in the Valhalla of diplomacy, unlike average apparatchik Blinken.

We agreed to continue our joint actions, which are developing quite successfully, on regional conflicts where the interests of the United States and Russia coincide. This is the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, and the situation with efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program. This is Afghanistan, where the expanded troika consisting of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan is actively working. We discussed how at this stage we can make all our joint actions more effective.

So there was “a very useful conversation” (Lavrov again) on what they do coincide (revival of the JCPOA), don’t coincide (Afghanistan) and hardly coincide (North Korea).

More than useful, actually: “constructive”. Lavrov again: “There is an understanding of the need to overcome the unhealthy situation that developed between Moscow and Washington in previous years.”

Lavrov made it very clear what we are at a stage of mere “proposal” to “start a dialogue, considering all aspects, all factors affecting strategic stability: nuclear, non-nuclear, offensive, defensive. I have not seen a rejection of such a concept, but experts still have to work on it.”

So Blinken did not reject it. The devil is how the “experts” will “work on it”.

Those pesky “laws of diplomacy”

It’s quite useful to compare what they said to each other – at least according to what was leaked.

Lavrov stressed discussions must be “honest, factual and with mutual respect”. Most important area of cooperation is “strategic stability”. He crucially invoked the “laws of diplomacy” – something that the Hegemon has not exactly been fond of lately: they “call for reciprocity, especially when it comes to responding to any kind of unfriendly action.” Implied is Moscow’s willingness to solve problems “inherited from previous US administrations.”

Blinken said the US wants a predictable and stable relationship: “It’s our view that if the leaders of Russia and the United States can work together cooperatively, our people, the world can be a safer and more secure place.” Areas where interests “intersect and overlap” include battling Covid-19 and climate change, apart from Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

“Russian aggression” though could not simply be thrown into the Arctic Sea: “If Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we will respond… not for purposes of escalation, not to seek conflict, but to defend our interests.”

So “experts” will have a field day – actually, days, weeks and months – figuring out how which brands of “Russian aggression” attack “our interests.”

As it stands, it looks like the bilateral Putin-Biden summit next month in a “European diplomatic capital” – as rumors swirl in Brussels – may be a go. To hope that it would take place, for instance, in Nursultan – the diplomatic capital of Eurasia – is a long shot.

Lavrov: “We will prepare proposals for our presidents both on these issues [the work of diplomatic missions] and the matters related to our dialogue on strategic stability.”

It’s quite enlightening to consider two parallel developments to Reykjavik.

The State Dept. confirmed it will waive sanctions against the Swiss-based company overseeing the construction of Nord Stream 2. And SWIFT confirmed to the Russian Central Bank that business continues as usual, and Moscow won’t be cut off from the system.

These may be interpreted as goodwill gestures ahead of the possible June summit. Afterwards, no one knows.

It’s also enlightening to note what Lavrov and Blinken did not discuss: vaccine diplomacy.

Sergey Naryshkin, the director of the SVR foreign intel, is now on the record saying that the registration of Sputnik V vaccine at the EU is being stalled by “signals from the corridors of power” in Brussels – something I confirmed weeks ago with relatively independent diplomats. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) still sustains that the vaccine may be registered before the end of the month.

And then there are glaring cases like Brazil, the target of tremendous pressure by Washington to prevent Sputnik V’s approval. Sputnik V has been registered by 61 nations, overwhelmingly in the Global South.

Let’s assume that Cold War 2.0, in theory, may have been put on hold. Now it’s time then for a “little more action”. Will it come to the point that Sergey and Tony will agree on “a little less fight, a little more spark” and dance to the rhythm of “all this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me”?

Related

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

We have available video in Russian and transcript in English.

Transcript:

Dmitry Kiselev: Our relations with the United States are really “hell”. Personally, I don’t recall them being at such a low ebb ever before. This is even worse than the Cold War times, in my opinion. Ambassadors have returned back to their home countries. What’s going to happen next? What is the possible scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: If it depended on us alone, we would gladly resume normal relations. The first possible step towards this, which I regard as obvious, is to zero out the measures restricting the work of Russian diplomats in the United States. It was as a response measure that we restricted the operations of American diplomats in Russia.

We proposed this to the Biden administration as soon as it had taken the oath and assumed office. I have mentioned the idea to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I did not try to press it; I just said that an obvious way to normalise our relations would be to zero out the measures initiated by Barack Obama. Several weeks before leaving office, he was so annoyed he virtually slammed the door by seizing Russian property in violation of all the Vienna conventions and throwing Russian diplomats out. This has caused a chain reaction.

We patiently sat back for a long time, until the summer of 2017, before taking any response measures. The Trump administration asked us to disregard the excessive measures taken by the outgoing Obama administration. However, Donald Trump’s team failed to normalise the situation, and so we had to take reciprocal measures. But the Americans have not stopped there.

We can see that the Biden administration continues to go downhill, although US President Biden said during his conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin soon after his inauguration, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me that they are thoroughly reviewing their relations with Russia, hoping that this would clarify many things. However, instead they adopted new sanctions, which triggered not simply a mirror response on our part. Our response was asymmetrical, just as we had warned them on numerous occasions. It has to do, in part, with a considerable disparity in the number of diplomats and other personnel of the US diplomatic missions in Russia, which is way above the number of Russian diplomats in the United States.

As for the strategic picture of our relations, I hope that Washington is aware, just as Moscow is, of our responsibility for global stability. There are not only the problems of Russia and the United States, which are complicating our citizens’ lives and their contacts, communications, businesses and humanitarian projects, but also differences that are posing a serious risk to international security in the broadest possible meaning of the word.

You remember how we responded to the outrage that took place during Joe Biden’s interview with ABC. You are also aware of how President Putin reacted to President Biden’s proposal of a meeting. We have taken a positive view of this, but we would like to understand all aspects of this initiative, which we are currently analysing.

Nothing good will come out of this, unless the United States stops acting as a sovereign, as President Putin said during his Address to the Federal Assembly, accepts the futility of any attempts to revive the unipolar world or to create an architecture where all Western countries would be subordinate to the United States and the Western camp would work together to “rally” other countries across the world against China and Russia, admits that it was for a purpose that the UN Charter sealed such principles as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and sovereign equality of states, and simply honours its commitments and starts talking with us, just as with any other country, on the basis of respect for each other and for a balance of interests, which must be established. President Putin said this clearly in his Address, pointing out that Russia is always open to broad international agreements if they suit our interests. But we will harshly respond to any attempts to cross the red line, which we ourselves will determine.

Dmitry Kiselev: Would it be realistic to expect them to become aware of this and stop acting as a sovereign? Hope is fine, but the reality is completely different.

Sergey Lavrov: I have not expressed any hope. I just mentioned the conditions on the basis of which we will be ready to talk.

Dmitry Kiselev: And what if they refuse?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be their choice. This means that we will be living in conditions of a Cold War, or even worse, as you have already mentioned. In my opinion, tension did run high during the Cold War and there were numerous high-risk conflict situations, but there was also mutual respect. I believe that this is lacking now.

There have been some schizophrenic notes in the statements made by some of the Washington officials. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said just a while ago that sanctions against Russia would be continued, that they are producing, by and large, a desired effect, and that their objective is not to “escalate” with Russia. Even I am at a loss about how to comment on this. I hope anyone can see that such statements are doing no credit to those who are upholding and promoting this policy.

Dmitry Kiselev: I had a chance to hear an opinion – perhaps even a commonplace opinion, to some extent, in certain circles – to the effect that diplomats are doing a poor job, that we are constantly digging in our heels, that our position is inflexible and non-elastic, and this is the reason why our relations are poor.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you alluding to circles inside this country?

Dmitry Kiselev: Yes, inside this country.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I also read these things. Thankfully, this country protects freedom of speech much better than many Western countries, including the United States. I read the opposition’s online resources and newspapers, and I think that perhaps these people have a right to express their point of view that consists in the following: “If we refrained from disputing with the West, we’d have Parmesan cheese and lots more things that we are sincerely missing; but for some reason, they have cut short food purchases in the West [they do not even explain that this was done in response], they have stopped buying food and gone into import substitution, thus increasing the price of food.”

You know, this is a narrow, lopsided view taken entirely from the standpoint of creature comforts, a choice between a television set and a fridge. If they think it essential to accept US values, I would like to remind them about what US President John Kennedy, the greatest US President to my mind, once said: “Don’t think what your country can do for you. Think what you can do for your country.” This is a radical distinction from today’s liberal views, where personal wellbeing and personal feelings alone are the things that matter.

The promoters of these philosophical approaches, as I see it, are not just unaware of what our genetic code is all about, but are trying in every way to undermine it. For, apart from the desire to live well, to be well-fed, to be confident that one’s children, friends and relatives are well too, a feeling of national pride always played an equally important role in what we did throughout our one thousand years’ history. If someone thinks that these values are of no importance for him or her, as it is [politically] correct to say now, it is their choice, but I am certain that the overwhelming majority of our people have a different opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: Are you counting on a meeting with Antony Blinken? When can this meeting be held, and will it take place at all in the foreseeable future?

Sergey Lavrov: When we were talking over the phone, I congratulated him in keeping with the diplomatic etiquette. We exchanged a few appraisals of the [current] situation. The talk was, I feel, well-meaning, calm and pragmatic. When our US colleagues have completed staffing their Department of State, we will be prepared to resume contacts – naturally, on the understanding that we will engage in a search for mutually acceptable arrangements on many problems, starting from the functioning of the diplomatic missions and ending with strategic stability and many other things. US and Russian business communities are concerned with expanding their cooperation, something that the American-Russian Chamber of Commerce has recently told us. We have concluded by stating that there will be some joint multilateral events, on whose sidelines we will be able, as chance offers, to talk. But no signals have come from the US so far. Speaking about the schedule of events, Russia will be taking over the Arctic Council chairmanship from Iceland three weeks from now. An Arctic Council ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place in Reykjavík on May 20-21. If Secretary Blinken leads the US delegation, I will, of course, be prepared to talk with him, if he is interested.  Given that we will chair the Arctic Council for the next two years, I have informed our Iceland colleagues that I will attend this ministerial meeting.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is there any certainty as to who will definitely join the list of unfriendly states?

Sergey Lavrov: The Government of Russia is attending to this on instructions from President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We are participating in this work, as are other respective agencies.  I would not like to jump the gun right now.  We are reluctant to be indiscriminate and put on that list just any country that will say somewhere “something wrong” about Russia. Our decision will be based, of course, on a deep-going analysis of the situation and on whether we see opportunities to have a dialogue with that country in a different way. If we come to the conclusion that there is no chance of this, then, I think, the list will, of course, be periodically extended. But this is not a “dead” paper. As is only natural, it will be revised in tune with how our relations develop with this or that state.

Dmitry Kiselev: When will the public be able to read this list?

Sergey Lavrov: Soon, I think. The Russian Government has concrete assignments. We understand the criteria that are guiding us in this work. So, I think, the wait will not be very long now.

Dmitry Kiselev: Will the unfriendly states be banned from hiring local workforce?

Sergey Lavrov: There will be a ban on hiring any physical persons whether Russian or foreign.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is this the only measure with regard to unfriendly states or some others are in the offing?

Sergey Lavrov: At this stage, this is the concrete aim set in the executive order signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Kiselev: Donbass is another subject. Tensions have continued to escalate there since early 2021, and it appears that they have subsided a little since US President Joe Biden called President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. In my show News of the Week, I noted that US military guarantees to Ukraine had turned out to be a bluff. Nevertheless, shootouts continue, and they are using banned large-calibre weapons. It seems like this peace is not very different from war, and that the balance is highly unstable. Over 500,000 Russian citizens now live in Donbass. Will there be a war?

Sergey Lavrov: War can and should be avoided, if this depends on us and on the self-defence fighters, as far as we understand their principled approaches. I cannot speak and make guesses on behalf of the Ukrainian party and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky because, by all indications, his main goal is to stay in power. He is ready to pay any price, such as pandering to neo-Nazis and ultra-radicals who continue to brand the Donbass self-defence fighters as terrorists. Our Western colleagues should reassess the developments that have taken place since February 2014.  None of these districts attacked the rest of Ukraine. They were branded as terrorists, and an anti-terrorist operation was launched against them and then another operation involving “joint forces.”. But we do know for sure that they have no desire to make war on representatives of the Kiev regime.

I have repeatedly told our Western colleagues, who are totally biased in their assessment of current developments, and who unconditionally defend Kiev’s actions, that Russian journalists and war correspondents working on the other side of the demarcation line show an objective picture. They work in trenches there almost without respite, and they provide daily news reports. These reports show the feelings of the people living in these territories that are cut off from the rest of Ukraine by an economic blockade, where children and civilians are being regularly killed, and where the civilian infrastructure, schools and kindergartens are being destroyed. I asked our Western colleagues why they don’t encourage their media outlets to organise the same work on the left side of the demarcation line, so that the scale of damage there can be assessed and to see which facilities have been the hardest hit.

As for the recent developments, when we openly announced the military exercises in the Southern and Western military districts – we made no secret of that, you remember the shouts about the alleged Russian build-up on the border with Ukraine. Just take a look at the terms used: we speak about drills in the Southern and Western military districts, while they say that Russia is amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. And when the drills ended and we made the relevant announcement, the West claimed maliciously that Russia had to back off, to withdraw. This is an example of wishful thinking.

This is reminiscent of the situation with the G7: every time they meet they announce that Russia will not be invited to the group. We have stated on numerous occasions that we will never re-join it, that there will not be any G8, and that this is a thing of the past. However, continued references to this subject, as well as claims that Russia has “rolled back” and has ordered its troops to “return to their barracks” shows, of course, that in this instance the West wants above all to take advantage of this situation to prove that it has the last word and the dominant place in modern international relations. This is regrettable.

The subject of a settlement in Ukraine has been discussed by President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The other day President Putin spoke about it with President of France Emmanuel Macron. The issue was also raised during a recent conversation with US President Joe Biden. The situation is clear, as I see it. The patrons of President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky and his team refuse to make him honour the Minsk Agreements, even though they are aware of the futility of trying to use military force; they have heard the signals sent from Donetsk and Lugansk about their readiness to defend their land, their homes and their people who refuse to live by the laws being enforced by neo-Nazis.

President Putin has said clearly that we will never abandon the people of Donbass, who are standing up to the openly radical neo-Nazi regime. President Zelensky keeps saying in his interviews that there are no problems with the Russian language or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that he is willing to discuss all these subjects with President Putin. It is a shame perhaps that a person I have always regarded as clever says that the Russian language and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have no problems in Ukraine. I have no doubt that he is very well aware of the situation. Maybe nothing at all is being reported to him, but in that case he is living in a dream world. But the West has definitely sent its signals to Zelensky.

As you have mentioned, it would be senseless to pin hopes on US military assistance. This has always been clear to everyone. If anyone entertained such illusions, such advisers are good for nothing in any government, including the government of Mr Zelensky. Regrettably, the West continues to try to convince us that the Minsk Agreements should be mitigated and the sequence of the actions set out in them changed. Zelensky says he likes the agreements, but only if it is all the other way round, that they first take full control of these territories, including the border with Russia, and only then deal with the elections, amnesty and a special status for these territories. It is clear that if they did this, if they were allowed to do this, there would be a massacre. The West is unable or unwilling to force Zelensky to comply with the Minsk Agreements strictly in accordance with the sequence set out in them, which does not permit any double interpretation and has been formulated unambiguously from the first to the last step. Control of the border is the very last step to be taken after these territories receive a special status, which must be sealed in the Constitution of Ukraine, after free elections are held there and their results are recognised as such by the OSCE.

Of course, there must also be total amnesty. Not in the way envisaged by the Poroshenko government or the current regime, which only want to approve an  amnesty on an individual basis for those who are proved to have committed no crime. This is yet another misinterpretation. The Minsk Agreements stipulate an amnesty for those who took part in fighting on both sides, without any transitional justice process, which our Western colleagues are now beginning to discuss.

I believe that the brunt of responsibility lies with the West, because only the West can make President Zelensky honour the commitments which his predecessor signed and he himself signed in Paris in December 2019 when he, the presidents of Russia and France and the Chancellor of Germany reaffirmed the absence of any alternative to the strict observance of the Minsk Agreements, and he pledged to amend the legislation and the Ukrainian Constitution to formalise the special status of Donbass on a permanent basis.

Dmitry Kiselev: Many people are wondering why Russia fails to recognise Donbass. It did recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is an inner “lobby” in Russia, even among my fellow journalists, who are demanding that we recognise Donbass – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. Why are we failing in this?

Sergey Lavrov: You are right that there is an analogy with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But there is just one exception: no agreements similar to the Minsk Package of Measures were signed in those countries, when Saakashvili’s aggression against Tskhinval and the positions of peacekeepers, including Russian peacekeepers, occurred. The Medvedev-Sarkozy document was discussed there, and it implied a number of steps. But it was not signed by Georgia. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, after reaching an agreement with us in Moscow, took a plane to Tbilisi to ensure Saakashvili’s support for the document. Saakashvili signed it, but he deleted all the key provisions.  Mr Sarkozy attempted to represent this as a compromise, but everyone understood everything. It had a preamble saying that the Russian Federation and the French Republic, desirous of normalising the situation in South Caucasus, propose to Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia the following:  a ceasefire. Saakashvili crossed out the heading, leaving just the first and subsequent items. Since then, the West has been demanding that we comply with these agreements. This is just an example.

In the case of Donbass, the situation was different. The 17-hour long negotiations in Minsk involving the Normandy format leaders (President Franсois  Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Petr Poroshenko of Ukraine, and President of Russia Vladimir Putin) produced a result, which was endorsed, two days later, by the UN Security Council without any amendments or doubts that it should be implemented.

Today, the moral and international legal truth is on our side and on the side of the Donbass militias.  I think that we must not let Mr Zelensky and his entire team “off the hook,” writhing as they might. Mr Zelensky’s statement is a fine specimen (made when he had all but given up hope of turning the Minsk Agreements upside down) to the effect that they are no good, albeit necessary, because the saving of the Minsk Agreements guarantees that the sanctions against Moscow will be preserved as well. We asked the West, what they think about this. They just look aside shamefacedly and say nothing.  I think it is a shame and a disgrace, when an international legal document is held up to mockery in this manner.  The West, which has co-authored this document and supported it at the UN Security Council, is demonstrating absolute helplessness.

Dmitry Kiselev: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky cannot get a call through to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who is not picking up the receiver. Your Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, cannot get a call through to you. What does this mean? Why is this?

Sergey Lavrov: This means that they are seeking to revise the Minsk Agreements and represent Russia as a party to the conflict even in this area of their activities.

Requests that came in until recently both from my counterpart Kuleba and President Zelensky dealt with the topic of settlement in Donbass. We replied that this [topic] should be discussed not with us, but with Donetsk and Lugansk, as you agreed under the Minsk Agreements.   The agreements say in black and white that the key stages of settlement should be the subject of consultations and coordination with Donetsk and Lugansk. When they say that a “nasty situation is looming large” at the line of contact and want to talk to Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, they are barking up the wrong tree. Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in the Kremlin the other day, President Putin made it amply clear that if they wanted to talk about this, the address should be different.  If our colleagues, including President Zelensky, want to discuss how to normalise bilateral relations, they are welcome. We are always ready to talk about this.

Dmitry Kiselev: There is no reply or acceptance so far, is there?

Sergey Lavrov: I heard that Mr Zelensky instructed the chief of his office, Andrey Yermak, to come to terms on the timeframes. The location is of no importance, because each day of delay means new deaths.

Incidentally, let us take the fact that people are dying and what is happening at the line of contact. Over the last couple of weeks, Kiev has been insisting quite aggressively on the need to reaffirm the ceasefire. All of its Western patrons have also been urging us to influence Donbass so that the ceasefire takes hold in earnest. Speaking on the phone with President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, President Putin reminded them of the facts. And the facts are as follows: In July 2020, the Contact Group reached what was perhaps the most serious and effective ceasefire agreement, because it contained a verification mechanism.  It implied a sequence of actions, primarily each side’s commitment not to return fire immediately on the spot but report the violation to the top command and wait for its order on how to act, to wit, whether to respond in kind or to negotiate an arrangement under the mechanisms created for commander-to-commander liaison on the ground.   This agreement, as it was implied, was translated into military orders issued by the DPR and the LPR. These orders were published. Kiev pledged to do the same, but did nothing. Instead it started fiddling with words again. Instead of performing the obligation to report each shelling attack to the top command and get orders from them, they began replacing this clear-cut arrangement with confused formulas, although they were blamed for this by Donetsk and Lugansk at all subsequent meetings, and Russian representatives in the Contact Group, too, repeatedly said as much. The same happened in the Normandy Format.  This is what Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak has been doing all these months in contacts with his French and German colleagues. The head of President Zelensky’s Office, Andrey Yermak, was representing Ukraine. I read transcripts of their talks. It was like talking to a brick wall. They were at cross purposes: the Ukrainian leaders had obviously decided that it was necessary to revive the ceasefire story. It was shameful and unseemly.

It was a great pleasure to watch the Servant of the People series, when no one suspected that its main character would follow this path in real life. But he took the wrong path. If Mr Zelensky watched the series again today and tried to fathom the convictions of the person he had impersonated so well on screen, and later compared those convictions with what he is doing now, he would, perhaps, have achieved one of the most effective transformations.  I do not know when he was himself and when he underwent a transformation. But the contrast is striking.

Dmitry Kiselev: Another subject is the Czech Republic. What was it? How are we to understand it?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot speculate on this because I do not understand intellectually what they wanted. One can watch it like a not too elegant television series.

This story is full of schizophrenic components. Czech president Milos Zeman says it should be sorted out, not denying the possibility of a subversive act by foreign agents, but suggesting taking into account the story told by the Czech leadership, including the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babis (the then Minister of Finance, in 2014), that it was the result of negligence by the depot owners. President Zeman only suggested that consideration should be given to the case that has never been disproven over the seven years. He is accused of high treason now. President of the Senate Milos Vystrcil said that by stating the need to investigate all the leads President Zeman had disclosed a state secret. Is this not schizophrenia? A pure case, I think.

There needs to be an investigation into what was stored in the depot. The German media said that they kept antipersonnel mines prohibited by the convention signed, inter alia, by the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. A lot of questions remain.

Dmitry Kiselev: Indeed, how could it happen that a certain Bulgarian citizen supplying antipersonnel mines (by all appearances they were found there), controlled a depot in the Czech Republic which was not then under the control of the government?

Sergey Lavrov: It so happens.

Dmitry Kiselev: Maybe the Czechs would be better to start with themselves?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. Or follow the example of Ukraine where too a vast number of armed people, weapons and ammunition are controlled not by the Ukrainian armed forces, but by “volunteer battalions.” It is a trend where the state proves its inability to ensure, if you like, its monopoly over the use of force.

Dmitry Kiselev: Ukraine is one thing but the Czech Republic is a member of the EU. It is bound by other international commitments than those of Ukraine and presents itself differently.

Sergey Lavrov: Above all, in addition to the aforementioned conventions (Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the so-called Arms Trade Treaty, they are all parties to it), the EU has its own quite strict rules that do not encourage but rather prohibit any actions like supplies and sending forces to regions where there are conflicts.

Dmitry Kiselev: What do you think about the so-called British files? This looks like an orchestrated information campaign against Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: As before, the British continue to play a very active, serious and subversive role in relations between Russia and Europe. Britain has withdrawn from the EU but it has not slackened its activities there. On the contrary, it has been trying to exert maximum influence on the EU countries’ positions towards Moscow. This is not surprising at all.

You don’t even need to go very far back in history. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium. The inquest began in one way, and then the process was classified because it was necessary to analyse the materials of intelligence services. And then they announced the verdict, but the materials involved in the case have never been made public. As Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say, “Trust me.” I would rather side with Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify.” But they don’t allow us to verify; they only demand that we trust them.

In 2014, the Malaysian Boeing was downed. They formed a team comprising a narrow group of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine. They did not even invite Malaysia, the country that lost the plane. These four countries have agreed, as it has since transpired, that any information would only be revealed on the basis of consensus. Ukraine, where the disaster took place, was given the right of veto, while Malaysia was invited to join the group only six months later. The black boxes, which the self-defence forces provided to Malaysia, were analysed in London. I don’t recall them making the information public.

In 2018, there were the Skripals and the “highly likely.” Nobody knows to this day how the Skripals survived the alleged poisoning, why the police officer who worked with them did not display any symptoms of poisoning, and why the woman involved died while her partner did not get sick. There are very many questions.

In 2020, we had the case of Alexey Navalny. He was flying from Tomsk to Moscow, but the plane landed in Omsk. Nobody on board the plane or in the Omsk hospital got sick. A bottle of water [from his hotel room] was taken by Maria Pevchikh to Germany on the plane that transported Navalny – nobody knows anything. Doctors at the Charité hospital did not find any traces of poison, but they were found at the Bundeswehr. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer demanded transparency in connection with our recent military drills in the southern and western regions of Russia. But we announced the drills beforehand, whereas the Bundeswehr, whose experts allegedly found traces of Navalny’s poisoning, is keeping information from us. Our request for the results of tests and biomaterials has been denied.

After that there was a long story involving the OPCW. It allegedly took part in collecting samples from Navalny. According to the remarkable information from Berlin, German experts were present during the collection of the samples, but OPCW experts are not mentioned at all. We are trying to sort this information out. Nobody wants to explain anything. Germany is directing us to the OPCW, which says that the request came from Germany and so we should ask them. It is a conspiracy of silence. We have seen this happen in crime movies about bandit groups operating all over the country after the war. This is regrettable.

Getting back to Britain, we can see that London is continuing its anti-Russia policy. Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Richard Moore said a few days ago that Russia is “a declining power” whose allegedly “reckless behaviour” needs to be dealt with. This is inherent arrogance and a belief that they continue to rule the world. They are sending “signals” to us and propose establishing ties. In other words, they are not against communicating with us, but they are trying to discourage others from doing the same. This could be an aspiration for a monopoly of contacts and a desire to prove that they are superior to others.

Dmitry Kiselev: Speaking about decline, Britain is a perfect example of a declining empire “on which the sun never sets,” a small island in the North Sea with clouded prospects. To return to the Czech Republic, opinions within the country on the latest developments are totally inconsistent. There is no consensus, and nothing has yet been proven, but diplomats have been expelled. There has already been a result.

Sergey Lavrov: They claim that this is not the reason why our diplomats were expelled.  Two statements were made on the same day. They appeared to be interconnected. Prague is now trying to prove that there is no connection between them. They have announced that the explosions were organised by Petrov and Boshirov, the ubiquitous Russian suspects. It’s like blaming them for the sinking of the Titanic. The same day it was announced that 18 diplomats would have to leave the country. The majority of people accepted this as “punishment” for the 2014 explosions. After that, the Czech authorities said they would track down Petrov and Boshirov and issue an arrest warrant for them. As for the 18 diplomats, they identified them as spies. They expelled them because they turned out to be intelligence agents. No proof that any of these 18 diplomats are guilty of illegal activities has been provided. It is not surprising that former Czech President Vaclav Klaus said that the country’s authorities were like a tiny pooch barking at a huge dog, hoping that the big boys (the United States and Britain) would throw their weight behind them. Do you remember a time from your childhood when local bullies waited until dusk to demand 15 kopeks from a smaller kid, and if he refused they summoned the “big boys.” The logic is very similar. This is regrettable.

We never schemed against our Czech colleagues. Why would we need to blow up that warehouse? Some people say that the Russians were angry that the Bulgarian planned to send munitions to Ukraine. This is a completely schizophrenic view of the situation. This is impossible to imagine. But the machinery has been set in motion. I hope our Czech colleagues will come to their senses after all and will take a look at what they have done. If reason prevails, we will be ready to gradually rebuild the conditions for our diplomatic missions to function normally.  If not, we will make do. We know how we will be working. We don’t have to ingratiate ourselves with anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: Working on what?

Sergey Lavrov: We know how we will be working in the Czech Republic and other countries. Pinpoint attacks are being made against Russia in the Baltics, Poland and, recently, Romania. Bucharest has added, though, that its decision was in no way connected to the EU’s position. This came as a surprise. They just decided to send that Russian diplomat back home. Why? They have not explained.

Dmitry Kiselev: It is notable that Germany has not supported the Czech Republic.

Sergey Lavrov: I have read the relevant statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He spoke like a responsible politician. It is not always that the German Foreign Ministry takes such a balanced and astute position. Many of its other statements have indiscriminately supported injustice, for example when Ukraine adopted sanctions against the Opposition Platform – For Life political party, its leader Viktor Medvedchuk and several of his associates, all of them Ukrainian citizens.  The German Foreign Ministry expressed its approval, saying that this was fully in keeping with OSCE principles. This is absurd.

Therefore, what Heiko Maas said the other day is a responsible political statement. It has not smoothed over differences but pointed out the importance of maintaining dialogue and looking for agreements, since we live side by side.

Dmitry Kiselev: Recently in China, you said we needed to look for alternatives to the SWIFT international payment system, and Russia was preparing for this. Is there a specific timeframe, and what stage of the preparations are we at?

Sergey Lavrov: Many have already spoken about this. This is happening because in recent years, the West has been looking for more ways of infringing on Russia’s legitimate interests. Now they are openly mentioning the possibility of disconnecting our country from SWIFT. Responsible politicians just have to think of ways to play it safe.

In addition to these statements, the United States is increasingly abusing the role of the dollar in the international monetary system, using certain countries’ dependence on dollar settlements to limit their competitive opportunities – China and other states they dislike. China, Russia, and Turkey are now looking for opportunities to reduce their dependence on the dollar by switching to alternative currencies, or even better – by making settlements in their national currencies. The responsible agencies, including in our country, are thinking about how to prevent damage to the economy and the financial system if some hotheads actually disconnect us from SWIFT. Russia launched a national payment card system a few years ago; MIR cards have been in use in Russia since then. The system is already developing ties with its foreign counterparts, as similar cards are being issued in China and Japan. It is also building ties with the internationally accepted payment card Maestro.

As regards the SWIFT system, specifically, the Central Bank of Russia recently introduced and continued to develop a system for the transfer of financial messages. It is quite popular. I think we need to support and strengthen this in every possible way to ensure we do not depend on anyone. Let me emphasise that we are not trying to self-isolate. We want to be part of the international community. Part of a community where justice and democracy work. We have discussed the problems of democracy with the West. But once they are asked to come to an agreement, to declare that democracy should triumph in international relations, too, they lose their enthusiasm. They are full of lectures on internal democratic processes, but when it comes to the international arena, we get raised eyebrows. Here, allegedly, there are established ‘practices’ that ‘Russia and China are trying to implement’ (it’s about this). But in reality, Moscow and Beijing only want to preserve the principles of the UN Charter, according to which everyone is equal and must seek agreement.

One needs to have a safety net in terms of payment systems and transfer of financial messages. We have one. I hope it will grow stronger and be able to provide a guarantee if suddenly, contrary to our desire to cooperate with everyone, the West discriminates against Russia, abusing its current position in the international economic and monetary systems, in this situation, we really cannot afford to depend on anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: So the Central Bank’s system for transfer of financial messages is the budding alternative to SWIFT?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert. I don’t know how reliably and effectively it provides a full warranty. But the groundwork is already there. I am confident that the Government and the Central Bank must do everything to make it reliable and guarantee us complete independence and protection from more damage that might be inflicted on us.

Dmitry Kiselev: In a conversation with your Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, you proposed an initiative to create a coalition of countries affected by illegal sanctions. To what extent has this project progressed? What countries could join it?

Sergey Lavrov: I would not put it like that. We have been working at the UN for a long time to end the practice of unilateral illegitimate sanctions such as embargoes, blockades and other restrictions. We have been working for a number of decades to lift the embargo the United States declared on Cuba. The respective resolution is supported by more than 190 votes annually, with only the United States and one small island nation voting against it.

However, since this practice of unilateral restrictions began to be widely used (started by Barack Obama, expanded by Donald Trump, and applied to this day), a large group of countries voted in the UN to establish the position of Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and their impact on the civilian population and the socioeconomic situation in a particular country. Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan is a citizen of Belarus. This institution, created by the UN General Assembly, is working and circulating reports. I think it is a very useful step.

Another specific course of action is now being developed in New York to the same end, as you mentioned, to counter illegal unilateral measures. It is a group in support of the UN Charter. Nothing revolutionary – just in response to our Western colleagues forming flagrantly non-universal groups.

US President Joe Biden has put forth the idea of ​​holding a Summit for Democracy. Naturally, the Americans will recruit the participants and will judge who is worthy to be called a democracy and who is not.

Also, in recent years, our French and German colleagues have being making calls to ensure freedom of the media through the Alliance for Multilateralism, a group they announced outside the framework of universal institutions. They rallied more than thirty states under its banners even though there is UNESCO, where the same topic is discussed by everyone.

Or, there was an appeal in support of international humanitarian law. Law is universal. It is the responsibility of the UN bodies. But again, they recruited about 50 states.

Such appeals have nothing to do with universal bodies, but they cover the agenda that is discussed at a universal level. They place that agenda into a framework where they are more comfortable negotiating with those who obey, and then they present it as the ultimate truth.

This movement against illegitimate unilateral actions is much broader than just sanctions.

Dmitry Kiselev: Can this movement be formalised by membership?

Sergey Lavrov: The membership is in the UN. This is the difference: we are not creating anything against anyone. In the Asia-Pacific region, we would like to leave everything as it is. ASEAN has its partners, while anyone else can join security discussions. The logic of the West acts against this. They are implementing the Indo-Pacific Strategy with its declared goal of containing China and isolating Russia.

The same is happening at the UN. They create various partnerships on topics that need to be discussed as part of the UN agenda. We insist that everyone must fulfil their obligations under the UN Charter, not scatter the global agenda across their compartments, only to present it later as the international community’s opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: A recent update: the Americans confirmed they had made efforts to prevent Brazil from buying the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Brazil indeed refused, even though the coronavirus situation in that country is simply awful. What is your assessment?

Sergey Lavrov: This does not surprise me. The Americans are not even embarrassed to do things like that; they are not hiding it.

When former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Africa, he openly and publicly called on his colleagues at a press conference to cut off trade with Russia and China because these countries pursue selfish goals. Right, the United States trades with African states for the sole benefit of their peoples, of course.

As for the vaccine issue, a protest movement kicked off in Brazil against that decision. If the Americans have admitted they were behind it, that means they are true to their logic and believe everything is possible and permitted, and they can now openly dictate their will.

Not so long ago, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of a new type of world war, and that Russia and China were using vaccines as a weapon and means of propaganda. That rhetoric is now receding. Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, is already seriously talking about the possibility of using the Russian vaccine.

We are not going to force anyone. I think life itself will set things straight. Vladimir Vysotsky said: “I always try to find the good in people. They will show the bad themselves.”

Dmitry Kiselev: A year ago, in an interview with our agency in the midst of the pandemic, you said you missed football. Are you back to sport yet?

Sergey Lavrov: In fact, I am. I did miss playing for a couple of weeks. We took a break and kept it low-key. But later, when we realised what precautions we could take, the games resumed. We play every Sunday.

Interview of Paul Craig Roberts with Russia’s “Free Press”

See the source image

April 27, 2021

Note: as many of you know, I very much disagree with much of what is said in this interview.  However, I do think that this point of view deserves a careful listening to, and this is why I wanted to share it with you. 

The Saker

Russian official statements about counter-actions to US sanctions

Russian official statements about counter-actions to US sanctions

16 April 202119:28

Foreign Ministry statement on measures in response to hostile US actions

The latest attack by the Biden administration against our country cannot go unanswered. It seems Washington is unwilling to accept that there is no room for unilateral dictates in the new geopolitical reality. Meanwhile, the bankrupt scenarios for deterring Moscow that the US myopically continues to pursue only promise to further degrade Russian-US relations.

In this context, the appeals from across the ocean to refrain from escalation and essentially accept this attempt to talk to us from a position of strength sound hypocritical. We have repeatedly warned and demonstrated in practice that sanctions and any other pressure will never succeed and will only have dire consequences for those who dare attempt such provocations.

We will introduce the following countermeasures in response to anti-Russian sanctions in the near future:

  •  Employees of US diplomatic missions will be expelled on a reciprocal basis in numbers proportional to the actions taken by the US authorities against Russian diplomats.
  • Incidentally, we noted how quickly Warsaw played up to the US administration by demanding the departure of three Russian diplomats from Poland. In turn, five Polish diplomats will be expelled from Russia.
  •  The US Embassy’s practice of using short-term trips by State Department staff to support the functioning of diplomatic missions will be restricted. The issuance of visas to them will be reduced to a minimum: up to 10 people per year on a reciprocal basis.
  •  In strict conformity with the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations and Russian law, including the Labour Code, measures will be taken to discontinue completely the practice of US diplomatic missions employing citizens of the Russian Federation and third countries as administrative and technical staff.
  •  The bilateral 1992 memorandum of understanding on open ground is declared invalid due to systematic violations of rules for trips in the Russian Federation by employees of US diplomatic missions.
  •  Plans are in place to halt the activities in the Russian Federation of American foundations and NGOs controlled by the Department of State and other US government agencies. These consistent, long-term efforts will be brought to an end, all the more so since the United States shows no intention of scaling back its systematic subversive efforts underpinned by a wide array of laws.
  •  Obviously, this very tense situation objectively requires the ambassadors of our countries to be in their respective capitals to analyse developments and hold consultations.

These steps represent just a fraction of the capabilities at our disposal. Unfortunately, US statements threatening to introduce new forms of punishment show that Washington is not willing to listen and does not appreciate the restraint that we have displayed despite the tensions that have been purposefully fuelled since the presidency of Barack Obama.

Recall that after a large-scale expulsion of Russian diplomats in December 2016 and the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the US, we did not take any response measures for seven months. We responded only when Russia was declared a US adversary legislatively in August 2017.

In general, compared to the Russian diplomatic missions in the United States, the US Embassy in Moscow operates in better conditions, enjoying a numerical advantage and actively benefitting from the work of Russian citizens hired in-country. This form of disparity frees up “titular” diplomats to interfere in our domestic affairs, which is one of the main tenets of Washington’s foreign policy doctrine.

Incidentally, soon the Foreign Ministry will publish on its website the names of eight incumbent and former high-ranking US officials and other figures involved in drafting and implementing anti-Russia policy. They will be permanently banned from entering the Russian Federation. This is our equivalent response to the sanctions against Russian officials that the US blacklisted last month.

Now is the time for the United States to show common sense and pull back from this confrontational course. Otherwise, the US will face a host of painful decisions, for instance, an order for US diplomatic missions to reduce personnel in Russia to 300 people. This will establish real parity at bilateral foreign offices because the US quota of 455 employees still includes the 155 people sent to the Russian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. However, this has nothing to do with our bilateral mission.

There are also other options. Of course, we realise that we are limited in our ability to squeeze the Americans economically as they have us. However, we have some resources in this respect and they will also be used if Washington chooses to follow the path of spiraling sanctions.

None of this is our choice. We would like to avoid further escalation with the US. We are ready to engage in calm and professional dialogue with the US in order to find ways of normalising bilateral ties. However, the reality is that we hear one thing from Washington but see something completely different in practice. There must be no doubt – not a single round of sanctions will go unanswered.

We have obviously heard President Joe Biden express interest in stable, constructive and predictable relations with Russia, including a proposed Russian-US summit. When this offer was made, it was received positively and is now being considered in the context of concrete developments.

Press release on a ban on entry of certain US citizens into the Russian Federation

In response to the sanctions against Russian officials imposed by the US administration on March 2 of this year, the following incumbent and former US high-ranking officials and figures complicit in pursuing the anti-Russia policy, are denied entry to the Russian Federation:

  1. Merrick Brian Garland, United States Attorney General;
  2. Michael D. Carvajal, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons;
  3. Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, United States Secretary of Homeland Security;
  4. Susan Elizabeth Rice, Director of the United States Domestic Policy Council, former US Permanent Representative to the United Nations and National Security Advisor;
  5. Christopher Asher Wray, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation;
  6. Avril Danica Haines, Director of US National Intelligence.

In addition, entry is denied to John Robert Bolton, former National Security Advisor to the United States President, former US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and Robert James Woolsey Jr., former director of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

In view of the unprecedented complications in Russia-US relations provoked by Washington, it was decided to deviate from the usual practice of not making public the response measures taken by the Russian side.

The US warplans for the Ukraine (OPEN THREAD # 12) UPDATED

The US warplans for the Ukraine (OPEN THREAD # 12) UPDATED

April 16, 2021

Frankly, Biden’s address to the US nation (the first one in his life) was probably the lamest most clueless political speech I ever heard.  And I am not referring to Biden calling Putin “Clutin” or confusing “deescalation” with “vaccination”, I am talking about the actual contents of his speech.  I would sum it up as so: we will continue to constantly hurt and humiliate you, we will treat you like a misbehaving 10 year old in need of a good spanking, but we do want peace and good relations.  Clearly, Biden has zero understanding of things Russian.  But for “Biden” (collective “Biden”, no the confused veggie) does have a plan.  What could it be?

I already explained what the US plan for the Ukraine is: to encourage the Ukronazis to attack Russia while not involving the USA in a shooting war with Russia.

How would the US do that?  One example:

First announce with great fanfare that the US is sending 2 (according to some version 5!) USN ship into the Black Sea to “deter” Russia, show “support” to the Ukies and give them the feeling that when they attack they would be under US “cover”.  This is not unlike what the USA did with Saakashvili in 08.08.08 or what the USA did during the “Prague Spring”.  Frankly, this is an old trick the West has used innumerable times in its history.  And once the Ukies feel elated from being under Uncle Shmuel’s protection, quietly withdraw your plan to send any ships into what is de facto a Russian lake.

The US is walking a fine line here – they need to egg on the Ukies to attack, but the Ukies are terrified, so they have to give them as sense of “the world is with you!!”, “we will protect you”, “we will fight with you” and then when things appear to be coming to a head, ditch the Ukies and run to safety.  Of course, the united West will support the Ukronazis politically and economically (just to keep the Ukie economy barely alive), but most definitely not militarily as that would create a risk of a devastating war which the US+NATO would either lose or decide to go nuclear, which would be simply suicidal.

There is a chorus profoundly misguided opinions in both Russia and the West which now declares that Biden “blinked”, Russia won and peace will now break out.  That is a very naive point of view which mostly comes from not understanding the nature of modern warfare and psychological operations.

Again, what some can see as a zig-zagging “Biden” policy towards Russia mistakenly think that since “Biden” did not promise fire and brimstone for Russia that means that “Biden” folded.  That is an extremely dangerous misconception and I am confident that the Russian decision-makers see through this ruse (even while they say nothing about it, at least, those in office and, at least, so far).

Putin has still not announced what counter-measures (I prefer that notion to the idea of counter-sanctions, which are symmetrical) Russia will take next (against the US, UK and Poland primarily).  I have no idea what the Kremlin might decide, but I do observe very high levels of outrage and determination in the Russian media (both in the traditional media and the Runet).  The Russian society is clearly fed up and, again, Putin if facing a mounting levels of criticisms for being too soft and indecisive.  I hope and expect that Russia’s response this time around will be much less meek (and, therefore, ambiguous) than in the past.   We will soon find out.

The Saker

UPDATE: just as I was posting this, I saw the Sputnik article about the Russian counter-measures.  Frankly, I am utterly unimpressed and I believe that most Russians will feel the same way.  Of course, we don’t know what is going on behind the scenes and the Russians are under no obligation to divulge what else they might be doing.  However, I believe that measures such as closing the Kerch strait is a much better approach.  Let’s wait a few days before passing a final judgement on the quality of the Russian counter measures.

Relations with Washington Have ’Hit the Bottom’ – Lavrov

Relations with Washington Have ’Hit the Bottom’ - Lavrov

By Staff, Agencies

Moscow’s relations with Washington have “hit the bottom” and no decision has been taken so far to send back the country’s envoy to the US, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday.

Relations between the two long-time adversaries have worsened in recent weeks following the US President Joe Biden’s remarks in a television interview, calling his Russian counterpart a “killer.”

Lavrov termed Biden’s remarks “appalling,” which he said has forced Moscow to review its relationship with Washington.

The top Russian diplomat also decried Washington’s refusal to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer of holding direct public call with Biden in an attempt to diffuse simmering tensions.

“The confrontation has hit the bottom,” Lavrov said in televised remarks. “But on the other hand, there is a hope that they are all grown-up people who realize the risks linked with inciting more tensions. I hope that common sense will prevail.”

Without specifying the date for the return of Russian envoy to the US, Lavrov said it is up to President Putin to take a call on it.

The envoy had been called back to Moscow for consultations following Biden’s recent remarks, and to ensure bilateral ties “did not degrade irreparably.”

While relations between the two countries remained affected during the tenure of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, under the new US administration, the two sides appear to have moved further apart.

Biden recently said the days of the US “rolling over” to Putin are done, as his administration moves to adopt a more confrontational approach toward the Kremlin, something Trump had avoided.

The Biden administration has warned that Moscow would face sanctions over the massive SolarWinds hacks and alleged attempts to influence last year’s US presidential vote to help keep Trump in power. Moscow has rejected the accusation.

Lavrov, however, dismissed the threats and stressed that the US pressure on Russia “has absolutely no chance for success.”

He also castigated the European Union for breakdown in Russia-EU ties, denying that Moscow has ever tried to sow discord among the bloc’s member nations.

“We are interested in the EU being strong and independent,” he said, decrying what he described as the EU’s keenness to follow the US approach on Russia.

“We will always be ready to restore our relationship, to raise it from the ashes,” Lavrov said. “But we won’t knock on the closed door.”

“The one Who Accuses is the One Who Is” – President Putin’s Response to Biden’s Calling him a “Killer”

“The one Who Accuses is the One Who Is” – President Putin’s Response to Biden’s Calling him a “Killer”

March 24, 2021

By Peter Koenig for the Saker Blog

On March 16, 2021, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos held an exclusive interview with President Joe Biden. In the context of the United States’ chief intelligence office releasing an unclassified report on foreign meddling in the 2020 US election, concluding that Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw sweeping efforts aimed at “denigrating” President Joe Biden’s candidacy, Biden told Stephanopoulos that he had warned Putin about a potential response during a call in late January.

This is verbatim the ABC News Report of March 17, 2021:

“He will pay a price,” Biden said. “We had a long talk, he and I, when we — I know him relatively well. And the conversation started off, I said, “I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”

Stephanopoulos then asked: “So you know Vladimir Putin. You think he’s a killer?”
“Mmm hmm, I do,” Biden replied
.

Stephanopoulos: “So, what price is he going to pay?”
Biden: “The price he is going to pay, well, you’ll see shortly.”

Stephanopoulos also asked Biden, when you met him (Putin, in the past), you told him that he didn’t have a soul… and Biden retorted: yes, I told him. And Putin responded, “we understand each other.”

When President Putin spoke later to the media in Moscow, answering a question about his reaction to Biden’s accusing him to be a “killer”, Putin just said, “I wish him good health, and I mean it without irony.”

Speaking on television, reflecting philosophically, Putin said, “I remember when we were young, playing in the playground and accusing each other of little things, we always see ourself in the mirror and project our own image of ourselves on to the other, like “the one who accuses is the one who did it”.

President Putin last Thursday (18 March) challenged Biden to talk, I invite President Biden to talk on Friday or on Monday publicly online live… to which Biden did not respond. Presumably Given Biden’s often confused mind, to put it benignly, he was advised to abstain from such a conversation with President Putin.

The tension between the US and Russia has hardly been stronger and the diplomatic relation between the two countries is at its lowest in the past decades. President Putin recalled immediately the Russian Ambassador from Washington for “consultation” – a euphemism for declaring a serious rupture in the relationship of the two countries.

Later in a small media gathering in Moscow, Mr. Putin said he would deal with America on his terms. He also philosophized about Biden’s thoughtless slandering, when he talked to ABC’s anchor Stephanopoulos. He referred to children accusing one another, the going saying is, “the one who accuses is the one who is”. This is equally valid for adults.

When later asked at a Press Conference whether Biden regretted having suggested Putin was a “killer”, the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, replied, “No. The President gave a straight answer to a straight question.” – That reflects all too well the intellectual and diplomatic level of US Presidents and their entourage. Though Biden may be a special case of being a blind-folded bully, previous US Presidents’ track record is not much better.
——

President Putin is one of the world’s most brilliant Statesman. The other one is China’s President Xi Jinping. Together, their alliance, their vision and diplomacy, their conflict avoidance – and constant search for peaceful solutions to world disorders – have kept our planet out of a nuclear Armageddon for the last couple of decades. That’s quite an achievement, given the warmongers in Washington and by extension in Europe – and given the over two-dozen NATO bases in Europe, inching ever closer to the gates of Moscow and surrounding China – all the way through the South China Sea.

Obama once promised he would station more than half of the US Navy fleet in the South China Sea, making sure China was surrounded from everywhere. He made true on his promise. Its Obama’s infamous “Pivot to Asia”. And so, he did with Russia. That included and still includes deadly economic sanctions on countries that once-upon-a-time counted with Washington – and Europe – as partners.

How many people were killed by these sanctions in North Korea, Russia, China? How many were – and still are – being killed by the totally illegal sanctions – illegal by any standards of international law – in Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Iran, Pakistan, DPRK (North Korea) – and by extension through Israel in Palestine – and many more nations of our planet? – Let alone the “eternal war on terror” – an invention to keep killing people for the good of the United States, for their control over humanity – and not least for the enormous profit bonanza of the US military industrial complex.

Shall we mention the mass killing caused by President Clinton’s initiated NATO intervention in former Yugoslavia; or the six still ongoing wars, initiated by President father Bush with the first Gulf war in 1991, then officially expanded by son Bush in 2001 and 2003 with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then further expanded by four more wars in the Middle East – Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen – under the Obama Administration. And how about the explicitly Obama-approved massive extra-judiciary drone killings around the world, with focus on the Middle East?

Aren’t we talking about tens and tens of thousands of deaths, assassinated people, a genocide by US presidents with the complicity of so-called European leaders (sic)?

Did President Putin and President Xi ever call them “killers” or murderers? – They could have, but they didn’t. However, that is what President Putin meant when he referred to Biden’s call him a “killer” – “It takes one to know one”, or rather “the one who accuses is the one who is”. The emperor and the emperor’s servants are a cabal of “killers” – a better fitting term is mass murderers.
——

Now President Biden, then VP to Obama was an intimate part of it, of clamping down on Russia and China. Biden was also part of the intensification of the Iraq war, as well as of the destruction of Libya and the brutal murder of President Qadhafi. Though Hillary’s initiative (then Obama’s Secretary of State), Biden fully supported her.

So, President Putin’s wise response was remarkable. See here https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-usa-reaction-idUSKBN2BA0S1?fbclid=IwAR2RWXH1UPWt3KhWjffR_TPbwugWlklMjf3k6UYhxdDX37NMS4b2FjS51NY “The one who accuses is the one who is” – he said, referring to a psychic wisdom that one looks in the mirror when accusing others of a crime or a sin. In other words, Biden projects his own character onto Putin. Mr. Putin, politely and diplomatically said, they were different, had different cultures and different values. He also wished President Biden good health – genuinely good health, no irony, he stressed.

Before closing on such a conciliatory note, Putin referred to some American atrocities, dating back to the very beginning of American history which started with the indiscriminate slaughter of tens of thousands of indigenous Americans, for which American Presidents were responsible.

Also mentioned should be the brutal killings in Iraq, with special focus on the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, as well as Afghanistan’s Bagram Airbase detention center and lately the infamous Pul-e-Charkhi Prison, also known as the Afghan National Detention facility, outside of Kabul – and renovated by the US Corps of Engineers to accommodate war prisoners taken by US / NATO forces. And not least, nor last, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba.

These are just a few of the hundreds of detention camps around the world, where thousands of prisoners were tortured and executed under orders and supervision of the US / NATO. Since WWII an estimated 20 to 30 million people were killed due to direct or indirect US intervention around the world. War crimes abound.

Yet, Mr. Putin didn’t call any of the US Presidents a “killer”. But it is crystal clear what he meant, when he said, “The one who accuses is the one who is”.


Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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