Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s confe­rence on Euro­pean secu­rity issues, Moscow, December 2022

Esteemed jour­na­lists,

Good after­noon.

Thank you for respon­ding to our invi­ta­tion. We considered it important to discuss today problems of Euro­pean and, hence, global secu­rity. In Europe, NATO’s members are incre­asingly clai­ming global domi­na­tion. The alli­ance has already declared the Indo-Pacific region a zone of its respon­si­bi­lity. Events on our conti­nent are of inte­rest not only to the Euro­peans or resi­dents of North America but also to repre­sen­ta­tives of all count­ries, prima­rily the deve­lo­ping nations who want to under­stand what initia­tives the NATO states, which have declared their global ambi­tions, can draft for their regions.

Why did we decide to hold this news confe­rence today? The event that used to be called the OSCE Minis­te­rial Council opened in Lodz today. This is a good reason to see what role this orga­ni­sa­tion has played since its establishment.

The Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975 and was quali­fied as the grea­test achie­ve­ment of diplo­macy of the time, a harbinger of a new era in East-West rela­tions. Nevert­heless, the number of problems kept piling up. Now the OSCE has amassed a huge amount of problems. They have a deep histo­rical projec­tion that is rooted in the late Soviet period, the 1980s and 1990s when the number of missed oppor­tu­ni­ties exceeded all possible expec­ta­tion of even the most pessi­mi­stic analysts.

Let’s recall the year 1990 – the anti­ci­pa­tion of the end of the Cold War. Many even declared the end of it at that time. The world was expected to focus on universal values and receive “the divi­dends of peace.” A summit of the orga­ni­sa­tion that was called then the Confe­rence on Secu­rity and Coope­ra­tion in Europe (CSCE) was also held that year. During that summit, the parti­ci­pants, inclu­ding the NATO and Warsaw Treaty members, adopted a Charter of Paris for a New Europe that announced that “the era of confron­ta­tion and divi­sion of Europe has ended” and declared the elimi­na­tion of barriers for buil­ding a truly common Euro­pean home without divi­ding lines.

It was 1990. You would think if ever­yone had made such sound decla­ra­tions, what was it that prevented them from deli­ve­ring on them? The point is the West had no inten­tion of taking any steps to put these nice words and obli­ga­tions into life. It could be said with confi­dence that the West at the time supported this type of slogans as it reckoned that our country would never again regain its posi­tions in Europe, let alone in the world. The Wester­ners believed that it was “the end of history”, as they said at the time. From then on, ever­yone would live by the rules of liberal demo­cracy, so they could relax and promise anything. Those attrac­tive slogans ended up hanging in the air.

Here’s an inte­res­ting fact from that period. In 1990, at the closing stage of the CSCE Summit in Paris, US Secre­tary of State James Baker warned the US Presi­dent that the Confe­rence on Secu­rity and Coope­ra­tion in Europe might pose a real threat to NATO. I under­stand him – this is really so. When the Cold War was over, many sensible and farsighted poli­ti­cians and poli­tical scien­tists said it would make sense if not only the Warsaw Treaty, which had ceased to exist by that time, but also the North Atlantic Treaty Orga­ni­sa­tion was dissolved and if every effort was made to turn the CSCE into a genuine bridge between East and West, and into a single plat­form for achie­ving common objec­tives based on a balance of inte­rests of all member countries.

This never happened. In reality, the West sought to main­tain its domi­nance. Allo­wing the calls for equa­lity and remo­ving divi­ding lines and barriers, as well as for a genuine Common Euro­pean Home to come true was seen by the Wester­ners as a threat to their posi­tion, which was to preserve the domi­nance of Washington and Brussels in all global affairs, prima­rily in Europe. This basic instinct that both the Ameri­cans and other NATO member count­ries never lost explains the policy of expan­ding NATO heed­lessly, thereby eroding the main idea of the OSCE as a coll­ec­tive tool for ensu­ring equal and indi­vi­sible secu­rity, and makes all those beau­tiful docu­ments that this orga­ni­sa­tion has approved since the 1990s wort­hless. It was of prin­cipal importance to the West to show who the master of the Common Euro­pean Home was – a home that all [count­ries] had coll­ec­tively under­taken to build. Essen­ti­ally, this is where the noto­rious concept of a “rules-based order” is rooted. It was already at that time that the West regarded these “rules” as an indis­pensable element of its posi­tion in the world arena. This percep­tion that the Western “rules” can resolve any problem without consul­ting anyone allowed the West to feel free to subject Yugo­slavia to barbaric bombing for 80 days and to destroy its civi­lian infra­struc­ture. Later, under a ficti­tious pretext, the Wester­ners invaded Iraq and bombed it destroying ever­y­thing that civi­lians needed and that was essen­tial for the life support system of the country. Next, Libya as a state was destroyed. Then followed many other risky ventures, which you know well.

We talk about the aggres­sion against Yugo­slavia because we can still feel its effects. It was a flagrant viola­tion of the Helsinki prin­ci­ples. In March 1999, NATO, seeking to show that it can do whatever it wants, opened Pandora’s box by tram­pling under­foot the funda­men­tals of Euro­pean secu­rity adopted by the OSCE.

Russia hoped that the Helsinki prin­ci­ples could be revived. We continued fighting for the OSCE. We proposed draf­ting a legally binding docu­ment, an OSCE Charter based on the Helsinki Final Act. The West did not accept our initiative.

Those who honestly believed that any issues should be settled on the basis of common Euro­pean prin­ci­ples worked towards the adop­tion of a series of vital docu­ments, inclu­ding the Charter for Euro­pean Secu­rity, in Istanbul in 1999. The Treaty on Conven­tional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) was adapted to the situa­tion that deve­loped after the disso­lu­tion of the Warsaw Pact. The CFE was drafted in the era of two mili­tary-poli­tical blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Orga­ni­sa­tion (WTO). When the latter was dissolved, the permis­sible number of the sides’ weapons coor­di­nated in the context of the East-West confron­ta­tion no longer corre­sponded to reality, because many Euro­pean count­ries were being drawn into NATO. After a series of diffi­cult talks, the CFE was adapted, and the new text was signed in Istanbul in 1999. The adapted treaty was praised as the corner­stone of Euro­pean security.

You know what happened to it. Trying to preserve the old docu­ment, the United States prohi­bited it allies from signing the adapted text, because the initial treaty provided legal grounds for NATO’s domi­na­tion after the disso­lu­tion of the WTO. The United States subse­quently pulled out of the ABM Treaty and the Inter­me­diate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, as well as scrapped the Open Skies Treaty. The OSCE, although not comple­tely indif­fe­rent to those changes, was unable to speak out in the trea­ties’ defence. The OSCE chair­person-in-office and secre­tary-general kept silent.

Another docu­ment adopted in Istanbul in 1999, the Charter for Euro­pean Secu­rity, reads that no country should ensure its secu­rity at the expense of other states’ secu­rity. Nevert­heless, NATO’s east­ward expan­sion continued despite all the decla­ra­tions adopted by all OSCE member states at the top level.

In 2010, Russia and other like-minded states, which did not lose hope of saving the orga­ni­sa­tion, adopted a decla­ra­tion at the Astana summit, which said that secu­rity must be equal and indi­vi­sible, and that states should be free to choose alli­ances provided they do not try to streng­then their own secu­rity by weak­e­ning the secu­rity of others. The crucial formula is that no state or group of states have a right to claim pre-eminent respon­si­bi­lity for secu­rity in the Euro-Atlantic area.

If you have been follo­wing Euro­pean deve­lo­p­ments in recent years, you will know that NATO has violated every one of its obli­ga­tions. The alliance’s expan­sion created direct threats to the Russian Fede­ra­tion. The bloc’s mili­tary infra­struc­ture moved closer to our borders, which ran counter to its commit­ments under the Istanbul Decla­ra­tion of 1999. NATO stated unequi­vo­cally that the alli­ance alone could decide to whom it would provide legal secu­rity guaran­tees – that was also a direct viola­tion of their Istanbul and Astana obligations.

We realised that NATO was simply igno­ring those poli­tical decla­ra­tions, thin­king it was allowed to disre­gard them comple­tely even though their presi­dents had signed those docu­ments. In 2008, Russia proposed codi­fying those poli­tical decla­ra­tions in order to make them legally binding. The proposal was declined, with the expl­ana­tion that such legal guaran­tees in Europe could only be provided among NATO members. The alli­ance continued, abso­lutely consciously and knowingly, to pursue its thought­less policy of arti­fi­cial expan­sion with no real threats to NATO count­ries out there.

We remember the time when NATO was created. The first NATO Secre­tary General Hastings Ismay coined this formula: the purpose of NATO is “to keep the Soviet Union out [of Europe], the Ameri­cans in, and the Germans down.” What is happe­ning now is nothing short of a return to the alliance’s concep­tual prio­ri­ties from 73 years ago. Nothing has changed. NATO is deter­mined to keep the Russians “out,” while the Ameri­cans dream of keeping not only the Germans, but the whole of Europe “down” – and have in fact already enslaved the entire Euro­pean Union. This philo­sophy of domi­na­tion and unila­teral advan­tages has not gone anywhere when the Cold War ended.

Over the time since the bloc was created, NATO has hardly been able to present a single real success story that would be to its credit. The Alli­ance brings devas­ta­tion and suffe­ring to those outside it. I have already mentioned its aggres­sions against Serbia and Libya, which led to the destruc­tion of Libyan state­hood; Iraq got added to the mix. Let’s also recall the latest example, Afgha­ni­stan, where the alli­ance unsuc­cessfully strug­gled to instil its version of demo­cracy for 20 years. Secu­rity problems in the Serbian province of Kosovo have never been resolved, although NATO has been present there for more than two decades as well, and this fact is also telling.

Spea­king of the US peace­kee­ping capa­bi­li­ties, look at how many decades the Ameri­cans have been trying to restore order in Haiti, which is a small country under their control. It is not Europe. There are nume­rous examples like this outside the Euro­pean continent.

In 1991, NATO included 16 count­ries; now it has 30 members. Sweden and Finland are one step away from joining. The Alli­ance deploys its forces and mili­tary infra­struc­ture ever closer to our borders, constantly buil­ding up its poten­tial and capa­bi­li­ties, moving them towards Russia. They conduct mano­eu­vres and actually openly declare our country the adver­sary during exer­cises. NATO is inten­si­fying its acti­vi­ties in the post-Soviet space. At the same time, it is laying claims to the Indo-Pacific region, and now also to Central Asia. All these aspi­ra­tions to global domi­na­tion are a direct and flagrant viola­tion of the 2010 Lisbon Decla­ra­tion, which was signed by all presi­dents and prime minis­ters of the North Atlantic bloc.

Until recently, we did ever­y­thing in our power to prevent a further dete­rio­ra­tion in the Euro-Atlantic Region. In December 2021, Presi­dent Vladimir Putin made new propo­sals on secu­rity guaran­tees – a draft treaty between Russia and the US and a draft treaty between Russia and NATO. In this situa­tion, seeing how deter­mined the West was to drag Ukraine into NATO – it was an obvious red line for the Russian Fede­ra­tion, which the West had known about for years – we suggested that the Alli­ance stops expan­ding and wanted to reach an agree­ment on concrete, legally binding secu­rity guaran­tees for Ukraine, the Russian Fede­ra­tion, all Euro­pean count­ries and all OSCE member states. The attempts to begin a discus­sion failed. We received the same response to all our calls to approach the situa­tion in a compre­hen­sive and crea­tive way: that each country, and Ukraine first of all, has the right to join NATO and nobody can do anything about it. All compon­ents of a compro­mise formula about the indi­vi­si­bi­lity of secu­rity, that it should not be achieved at the expense of the secu­rity of other count­ries and that one orga­ni­sa­tion should not claim domi­nion in Europe, all of them were simply ignored.

In December 2021, Washington preferred not to take advan­tage of the oppor­tu­nity for a de-escala­tion. And it was not only the United States, but also the OSCE, that could have faci­li­tated a de-escala­tion of tensions if it had been able to settle the crisis in Ukraine based on the Minsk Package of Measures, which was agreed upon in February 2015 and unani­mously approved by the UN Secu­rity Council reso­lu­tion that same month. The execu­tive struc­tures of the orga­ni­sa­tion turned out to be comple­tely subor­di­nate to the US and Brussels, which set a course for compre­hen­sive support of the Kiev regime’s policy of eradi­ca­ting all things Russian: educa­tion, the media, the use of the Russian language in culture, the arts and ever­yday life. The Wester­ners also supported the Kiev regime when it sought to intro­duce the theory and prac­tice of Nazism in its legis­la­tion: the rele­vant laws were adopted without any reac­tion from the “enligh­tened” capi­tals of Western demo­cra­cies. Its efforts to turn Ukraine into a foot­hold for contai­ning Russia, a terri­tory of direct threats to our country also received support. These facts are well-known now. I want to note that the Special Moni­to­ring Mission to Ukraine, which has made its contri­bu­tion to discrediting the OSCE in a blatant viola­tion of its mandate, did not react in any way to the regular viola­tions of the Minsk agree­ments by the Ukrai­nian armed forces and natio­na­list battalions.

The mission de facto took the side of the Kiev regime. After its acti­vity was suspended, unseemly cases came to light of the mission’s inter­ac­tion with the Western special services, as well as the parti­ci­pa­tion of alle­gedly neutral OSCE obser­vers in adjus­ting fire against the DPR and the LPR, and coll­ec­ting intel­li­gence data in the inte­rests of the Ukrai­nian armed forces and natio­na­list battalions. They received infor­ma­tion from the mission’s surveil­lance cameras installed along the contact line.

The OSCE Special Moni­to­ring Mission to Ukraine put a lid on all these glaring problems, many of which you brought to light and made public although your edito­rial offices did not always permit this. The SMM deli­bera­tely turned a blind eye to all the viola­tions, inclu­ding prepa­ra­tions for a mili­tary solu­tion to the problem of Donbass, which the Kiev regime was plan­ning while Poros­henko and later Zelensky openly refused to honour the Minsk agree­ments. The West silently played along with these unac­cep­table acti­vi­ties. In mid-February 2022, the number of artil­lery attacks at the terri­tory of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s repu­blics, which had gone on for years, increased tenfold. There is statis­tics that cannot be denied. A vast number of refu­gees flooded into Russia. This inevi­tably led to the reco­gni­tion of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s repu­blics and in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter begin, at their request, the special mili­tary opera­tion to save the people of Donbass from the Nazis and to elimi­nate secu­rity threats to Russia coming from Ukraine.

I would like to say that there is an expl­ana­tion for this objec­tionable policy of the OSCE. Taking advan­tage of its nume­rical supe­rio­rity in the orga­ni­sa­tion, the West has been trying to domi­nate it for years, or more precisely, to take over the last remai­ning plat­form for regional dialogue. The Council of Europe had already been maimed by the West without any chance of reco­very. Today the OSCE is the target. Its powers and compe­ten­cies are being eroded and spread out among narrow non-inclu­sive formats.

The EU has been working to create parallel struc­tures and confe­rences, such as the Euro­pean Poli­tical Commu­nity. On October 6, 2022, this forum held its inau­gural meeting in Prague. When prepa­ring that event and announ­cing the initia­tive of crea­ting the orga­ni­sa­tion, Presi­dent of France Emma­nuel Macron proudly stated that all count­ries apart from Russia and Belarus had been invited to join. Promi­nent foreign policy offi­cials such as Josep Borrell and Anna­lena Baer­bock imme­dia­tely picked up the tune, saying that a [Euro­pean] secu­rity order should not be built toge­ther with Russia but against it, contrary to what Angela Merkel and other Euro­pean leaders had called for. Other plat­forms are being created to force confron­ta­tional methods on the other count­ries in the spirit of the colo­nial menta­lity, and to spread the OSCE agenda among narrow formats, plat­forms, initia­tives and partnerships.

A few years ago, Germany and France laun­ched the Alli­ance for Multi­la­te­ra­lism, a group where they planned to invite whomever they wished, and that initia­tive stabbed the OSCE in the back. In a similar way, the United States selec­tively invites parti­ci­pants to what it calls the Summit for Demo­cracy. We asked the Germans and the French why they wanted to create that alli­ance when Europe already had the OSCE, which is an inclu­sive plat­form. The United Nations played the same role in global affairs – can any new format offer even more multi­la­te­ra­lism than those? We asked, and we were told that while those formats indeed included all count­ries, for effec­tive multi­la­te­ra­lism, a group of leaders would be more suitable than the OSCE or the UN because those two plat­forms also included “retro­grades” that would hinder the progress of effec­tive multi­la­te­ra­lism. So it was up to those progres­sive leaders to advance it, while others would have to conform and follow – a philo­sophy that also under­mines every high prin­ciple the OSCE has ever relied upon.

As a result of all this, the secu­rity space in Europe became frag­mented, and even the OSCE is beco­ming a marginal entity, to put it mildly. The recent Chair­man­ships-in-Office have shown no inte­rest in rever­sing this nega­tive trend – quite on the contrary.

The Swedes presided in the OSCE in 2021, and even during that period, they stopped acting as “honest brokers,” but became active parti­ci­pants in the Western policy to subor­di­nate the OSCE to the inte­rests of the United States and Brussels. In fact, the Swedes paved the way to the OSCE’s funeral.

Throug­hout this year, our Polish neigh­bours have been dili­gently digging a grave for the orga­ni­sa­tion, destroying whatever was left of its culture of consensus. The decision on the role of the OSCE Chair­man­ship-In-Office, adopted by the OSCE Minis­te­rial Council at its meeting in Porto as far back as in 2002, says the Chair­man­ship-In-Office should ensure that its actions are not incon­sis­tent with posi­tions agreed by all the parti­ci­pa­ting States and that the whole spec­trum of opinions of parti­ci­pa­ting States is taken into account, which amounts to consensus. On November 23 of this year, the foreign minis­ters of six CSTO count­ries approved a state­ment expres­sing their prin­ci­pled assess­ments of the outra­geous actions by the Polish Chair­man­ship-In-Office. We know that a number of other OSCE count­ries share this approach. It is important to say that Poland’s “anti-Chair­man­ship” will one day be seen as the most unsightly period in the OSCE history. No one has ever done so much damage to the OSCE while being at the helm.

For many years, the Western count­ries directed every effort towards hampe­ring the deve­lo­p­ment of an equal and indi­vi­sible Euro­pean secu­rity system, contrary to the mantras they always repeated as poli­tical decla­ra­tions. We are now reaping the fruit of this short-sighted and misguided policy. The letter and the spirit of the basic OSCE docu­ments have been trampled upon. That orga­ni­sa­tion was created for a pan-Euro­pean dialogue. I have already cited the goals proposed by the West and by the OSCE Chair­man­ships-in-Office this year and last year. All of the above raises diffi­cult ques­tions about what our rela­tions with the orga­ni­sa­tion will be like. More importantly, what is going to happen to the OSCE itself? I think that if – or when, at some point in time – our western neigh­bours (there’s no getting away from this, we are neigh­bours) and our former part­ners suddenly become inte­rested in resuming the joint work on Euro­pean secu­rity, it won’t happen. That would mean going back to what we had before, but there would be no busi­ness as usual.

When, or if, the West realises the bene­fits of being neigh­bours and relying on some kind of a mutually agreed frame­work, we will listen to what they have to offer. Will there be an oppor­tu­nity for such inter­ac­tion in the fore­seeable future? I don’t know. It’s up to the West, which has been syste­ma­ti­cally destroying every prin­ciple under­lying the func­tio­ning of the unique pan-Euro­pean orga­ni­sa­tion called the OSCE, all these long decades.

Ques­tion: Russia is now cut off from Euro­pean diplo­macy since Russian repre­sen­ta­tives were banned from atten­ding OSCE meetings or the Munich Secu­rity Confe­rence. What can Moscow do? How can it adapt to the new circum­s­tances? How important is the grain deal for Russia in this context?

Sergey Lavrov: I can add to the above the fact that this year our parlia­men­ta­rians were denied entry visas to the UK and, not long ago, to Poland and hence were unable to attend the OSCE Parlia­men­tary Assembly meetings. This shows how the “honest brokers” run this pan-Euro­pean organisation.

To follow up on whether we are being cut off from Euro­pean diplo­macy, we must first look into whether Euro­pean diplo­macy is still there, and if so, what is it like these days. So far, what we are hearing the key Euro­pean diplo­mats say are Josep Borrell-like state­ments which he keeps repea­ting like a mantra since the outset of the special mili­tary opera­tion that this war must be won by Ukraine “on the batt­le­field.” This is what a Euro­pean diplomat is saying.

When Presi­dent of France Emma­nuel Macron announced a meeting as part of the Euro­pean Poli­tical Commu­nity that he is promo­ting, he said that Russia and Belarus would not be invited to join it. EU High Repre­sen­ta­tive for Foreign Affairs and Secu­rity Policy Josep Borrell and German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Anna­lena Baer­bock put forward yet another new goal: to build Euro­pean secu­rity not with Russia, but against it.

If such state­ments are what Euro­pean diplo­macy is all about, I don’t think we need to be part of it. We should wait for rational people to show up there. Being vocal about the importance of ensu­ring Ukraine’s victory, Presi­dent of the Euro­pean Council Charles Michel insists that this must be done because Ukraine is stri­ving for Euro­pean values, and NATO Secre­tary General Jens Stol­ten­berg is clai­ming that it is already defen­ding and promo­ting Euro­pean values, freedom and demo­cracy. Head of the Euro­pean Commis­sion Ursula von der Leyen said some­thing along these lines as well.

Euro­pean diplo­macy talking about the importance of helping Ukraine which upholds “Euro­pean values” means only one thing: Euro­pean diplo­mats are in the dark about multiple facts of what is really going on in Ukraine. They appear to be unaware of the fact that long before the special mili­tary opera­tion began, the Russian Orthodox Church had been destroyed for years on end in viola­tion of the rules of civi­lised life; ethnic mino­ri­ties were unable to use their native languages in all aspects of ever­yday life without excep­tion (later, Euro­pean mino­ri­ties were taken off that list, but Russian remained); Russian-language media was banned, and not only the media owned by Russian natio­nals and Russian orga­ni­sa­tions, but also Ukrai­nian-owned media outlets that broad­cast in the Russian language; poli­tical oppo­si­tion; poli­tical parties were banned; leaders of poli­tical orga­ni­sa­tions were arrested, and openly Nazi prac­tices were enshrined in Ukrai­nian laws.

If, as it conti­nues to use grand rhetoric to call upon ever­yone to defend Ukraine that is uphol­ding Euro­pean values, Euro­pean diplo­macy indeed is aware of what that country is in fact “promo­ting,” we do not want to be part of such diplomacy.

We will push to have this “diplo­macy” end as soon as possible, and for the people who are pursuing hate-crazed poli­cies in viola­tion of the UN Charter, multiple conven­tions, and inter­na­tional huma­ni­ta­rian law to step down.

Nume­rous inter­views with Vladimir Zelensky clearly show the kind of values ​​the current Kiev regime is uphol­ding. He never stops saying that “Russia must not be allowed to win.” Ever­yone applauds as if they are bound by a spell. In an inter­view, he said that if Russia were allowed to win (NATO Secre­tary General Jens Stol­ten­berg said it later as well), other large count­ries would feel they are within their right to attack smaller nations. Several large count­ries on diffe­rent conti­nents will reshape global geography. Vladimir Zelensky claims that he has a diffe­rent scenario in mind where “every person on earth knows that no matter what country they live in and what kind of weapons they have, they enjoy the same rights and the same level of protec­tion as ever­yone else around the world.”

None of the repor­ters who inter­viewed him got around to asking Mr Zelensky whether he remem­bered what he told the Ukrai­nians who felt they were part of the Russian culture to do. A year ago, in August 2021, he told them to “make off to Russia.” A person who is willing to protect the rights of every person in the world wanted to kick Russians out of his country only because they wanted to keep their language and culture. Perhaps, when he talked about everyone’s right to enjoy protec­tion – “regard­less of where they live”, the follo­wing public state­ment slipped his mind. In an inter­view in Kazakh­stan, Ukrai­nian Ambassador to Kazakh­stan Pyotr Vrub­levsky said “We are going to kill as many of them as possible. The more Russians we kill now, the fewer will be left for our children to kill.” Not a single Euro­pean diplomat commented on this state­ment, although we brought the untenable nature of this kind of conduct to their atten­tion. This was an outright affront on the part of Zelensky’s regime to our Kazakh neigh­bours, who said it was unac­cep­table for the ambassador to make such state­ments. But this person spent a month in Kazakh­stan after the inci­dent before getting expelled. I pity Euro­pean diplo­macy which “swal­lows” this kind of approach to Euro­pean values.

We issued multiple grain deal-related media releases. Since March 2022, our mili­tary have been announ­cing daily 12-hour huma­ni­ta­rian corridor windows for Ukrai­nian grain to be trans­ported from Ukrai­nian ports. The only snag was that the ports were mined. Our Ukrai­nian colle­agues were to navi­gate the ships through the mine­fields, while the Russian mili­tary were to guarantee safe deli­very to the straits. Vladimir Zelensky claimed it was a “trap,” and that “Russians cannot be trusted.” Then we proposed guaran­te­eing freedom of passage across neutral waters in coope­ra­tion with our Turkish colle­agues. They agreed. Zelensky started thro­wing tantrums again. The inter­ven­tion of the UN Secre­tary-General made it possible to sign two docu­ments in Istanbul on July 22. The first one clari­fies the steps and guaran­tees that will apply when exporting Ukrai­nian grain from three Ukrai­nian ports. The second docu­ment is to the effect that the UN Secre­tary-General will strive to lift arti­fi­cial barriers to Russian ferti­liser and grain exports. A week ago, I heard someone from a Euro­pean body say that the sanc­tions do not include rest­ric­tions on Russian ferti­liser and grain exports, which is a blatant lie. There is no “ferti­li­sers and food from Russia” segment in the sanc­tions lists. Banking tran­sac­tions, prima­rily for our leading Rossel­khoz­bank, which has been cut off from SWIFT, are prohi­bited, though. Rossel­khoz­bank handles over 90 percent of our food supply-related tran­sac­tions. Access to Euro­pean ports for the Russian vessels and to Russian ports for foreign vessels, as well char­te­ring or insu­ring them are prohi­bited as well. UN Secre­tary-General Antonio Guterres spoke about it openly at the G20 summit in Indo­nesia. He is in the process of having these barriers lifted. However, five months into the deal, the United States and the EU are respon­ding woefully slowly. We have to work hard to obtain excep­tions. We are supportive of what the Secre­tary-General is doing. However, the West is not showing much respect for his efforts. It’s their manner of letting ever­yone know who’s boss and who should be chasing whom and begging for things.

Ques­tion: What would Euro­pean secu­rity look like without the Union State of Russia and Belarus? What is your forecast?

Sergey Lavrov: It is diffi­cult to make any fore­casts. I can only say for sure what the secu­rity of the Union State of Russia and Belarus will look like regard­less of any future distor­tions of the OSCE foundation.

We know the worth of those who want to assume the OSCE chair­man­ship and promise to be an “honest broker,” the current leaders of the OSCE Secre­ta­riat who are not allowed to do anything outside the frame­work of their new concept. The Confe­rence on Secu­rity and Coope­ra­tion in Europe was not set up in 1975 to force the member states to dance to any country’s tune and to accept a vision of the world and the secu­rity and coope­ra­tion goals formu­lated by our Western part­ners. The OSCE was estab­lished so that the voice of all count­ries would be heard, and no country would feel excluded from the common process. Ever­y­thing has now been turned upside down. The West is doing what the OSCE was desi­gned to prevent: it is digging divi­ding lines. But the ditches they are digging can also be used to bury some­body. I suspect that the target is the OSCE. All these initia­tives, such as the Euro­pean Poli­tical Commu­nity (all its member states apart from Russia and Belarus), an open invi­ta­tion to destroy the OSCE and create in its place a Western hangout for promo­ting their projects, inclu­ding illegal unila­teral sanc­tions, and the crea­tion of tribu­nals to confis­cate other count­ries’ assets, all of this are the elements of a colo­nial menta­lity, which is still there. It is a desire and the stri­ving to scavenge on others.

The United States is scaven­ging on Europe now. It will get richer off the economic and energy crises in Europe, sell its gas (at four times the price Europe paid for Russian gas), promote its own laws on comba­ting infla­tion, and allo­cate hundreds of billions of dollars for its own industry to lure over inves­tors from Europe. This will ulti­m­ately lead to Europe’s de-industrialisation.

The West is trying to create a secu­rity system without Russia or Belarus. They should start by coming to terms with each other. Presi­dent of France Emma­nuel Macron has flown to Washington to complain and demand. I don’t know what this will lead to, but we certainly do not need this form of secu­rity. Europe’s secu­rity amounts to total subor­di­na­tion to the United States. Several years ago, there were debates in Germany and France on the proposed “stra­tegic auto­nomy” of the EU and the crea­tion of an EU army. A US national secu­rity offi­cial said recently that Europe must abandon its dreams of an inde­pen­dent Euro­pean army. Several years ago, such discus­sions led to the conclu­sion that Germany should rely on NATO to protect its secu­rity. Poland, the Baltics and several Central Euro­pean states, which used to have a reasonable approach to the matter, now have ultra-radical Russo­phobic and anti-Europe governments.

As for Europe’s inde­pen­dence, discus­sions have been held on incre­asing the number of US troops for holding exer­cises near the borders of Russia and Belarus. When Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin was asked if the US troops would be deployed in Europe perma­nently or other­wise, he answered without a moment’s hesi­ta­tion that Washington had not yet decided on the mode of its mili­tary presence in Europe. It never even crossed his mind to say that Washington would consult its Euro­pean allies. We haven’t decided yet. This is their answer to the ques­tion about the form of secu­rity in Europe.

The Union State has mili­tary deve­lo­p­ment plans. We also have a joint group of forces, which includes air and ground compon­ents. The presi­dents of Russia and Belarus are paying greater atten­tion to this issue in the context of conti­nuing Ukrai­nian provo­ca­tions. We have taken the neces­sary measures to main­tain our readi­ness for any turn of events. We will rely on the commen­dable capa­bi­li­ties of the Union State.

When Western Europe, NATO and the EU see the huge risks of their dead-end poli­cies, we will look at what they can offer for nego­tia­ting with us.

Ques­tion: This month, NATO has held joint exer­cises in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Medi­ter­ra­nean Sea. It involved aircraft carriers from many count­ries, inclu­ding the USS Gerald R. Ford, the lead ship of the US Navy, which took part in the drills for the first time. What is the United States’ role in NATO exer­cises? What is the goal of increased US mili­tary inte­gra­tion with Europe? What effect are NATO drills having on regional secu­rity in Europe?

Sergey Lavrov: Over the past decade, NATO exer­cises have become more inten­sive, frequent and openly aimed at contai­ning Russia. They invent diffe­rent legends and names to camou­flage their anti-Russia drive. The drills are moving incre­asingly closer to the Russian border; they are held in the Baltic and Black seas, ground exer­cises are held in Poland and other actions are taken contrary to the Foun­ding Act on Mutual Rela­tions, Coope­ra­tion and Secu­rity signed between Russia and NATO in 1997, which sealed the prin­ci­ples of “robust part­ner­ship” between them. The key element was NATO’s commit­ment to refrain from “addi­tional perma­nent statio­ning of substan­tial combat forces” in new member states. This is a good poli­tical commit­ment, just as is the OSCE commit­ment not to streng­then their secu­rity at the expense of neigh­bours’ secu­rity made in 1999 and 2010. The Russia-NATO Foun­ding Act includes a pledge not to deploy “substan­tial combat forces” in new bloc members. NATO made this “conces­sion” in the context of our argu­ment that it had expanded contrary to the promises made to the Soviet and Russian leaders.

It was a lie. Hoping naively to main­tain a part­ner­ship with the bloc, we signed the Foun­ding Act, which actually forma­lised Russia’s accep­tance of the bloc’s expan­sion. In response, NATO pledged not to perma­nently deploy “substan­tial combat forces” in new bloc members. Awhile later, we proposed streng­thening mutual trust by defi­ning “substan­tial combat forces” and drafted a concrete legal agree­ment. The alli­ance cate­go­ri­cally rejected the idea, saying it would provide a defi­ni­tion of “substan­tial combat forces,” itself, which they had pledged not to deploy perma­nently and adding that it does not include regular troop rota­tion. Contrary to its commit­ment, NATO is conti­nuously deploying substan­tial forces under the formal pretext of rota­tion. Until recently, the bloc indulged in a great deal of breast-beating about the absence of any threat to the secu­rity of Russia or any other state, because NATO is a defen­sive alli­ance that protects the terri­tory of its member state. At least it was clear against whom it planned to protect them in the Soviet and Warsaw Pact era.

The Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union are no more. Since then, NATO has moved its defence lines forward five times. By expan­ding its zone of respon­si­bi­lity, the “defence alli­ance” continued to protect itself, even though it was unclear who this was against.

In June 2022, the parti­ci­pants of the NATO summit in Madrid no longer said that NATO is a “defence alli­ance” protec­ting the terri­tory of its member states. They openly claimed respon­si­bi­lity for global secu­rity, first of all, in the Indo-Pacific region. The have put forth the idea that “the secu­rity of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions is indi­vi­sible.” In other words, NATO is moving its defence line further east, possibly to the South China Sea. Conside­ring the rhetoric we hear in the EU, the United States, Australia, Canada and Britain, the South China Sea is a region where NATO is ready to whip up tensions just as they did in Ukraine.

We know that China takes a very serious atti­tude to such provo­ca­tions, let alone Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. We under­stand that NATO’s playing with fire in that region entails risks and threats to Russia. The region is located as closely to Russia as to China.

Russia and China are buil­ding up their mili­tary coope­ra­tion and hold joint exer­cises, inclu­ding coun­ter­ter­ro­rism drills. We recently carried out a joint air patrol mission. For the first time ever, long-range Russian bombers landed at Chinese airfields and Chinese planes touched down in Russia. It is a secu­rity measure desi­gned to show our readi­ness for any turn of events.

It is clear to ever­y­body that US-led NATO is trying to create an explo­sive situa­tion in the Indo-Pacific Region, just as it did in Europe. They wanted to draw India into their anti-China and anti-Russia alli­ances, but India refused to join any alli­ance that was formed as a mili­tary-poli­tical bloc. New Delhi is only taking part in economic projects offered in the context of Indo-Pacific stra­te­gies. After that, Washington decided to create an Anglo-Saxon mili­tary-poli­tical bloc, AUKUS, with Australia and the UK, and is trying to lure New Zealand, Japan and South Korea into it.

The United States and the EU are dismant­ling all the prin­ci­ples of OSCE coope­ra­tion in Ukraine and are promo­ting their unila­teral approa­ches. On a larger scale, they are destroying the orga­ni­sa­tion itself, trying to replace it with all kinds of narrow, non-inclu­sive plat­forms like the Euro­pean Poli­tical Community.

The West is acting like­wise to erode ASEAN, a compre­hen­sive coope­ra­tion plat­form with such formats as the ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asia Summit and ASEAN Defence Minis­ters Meeting, which have been gene­rally reco­g­nised as back­bone mecha­nisms of coope­ra­tion in the fields of secu­rity, the economy and other areas. They are doing their best to under­mine these plat­forms. Secu­rity issues have been removed from the ASEAN agenda. The United States is trying to involve half of the ASEAN nations in its plans, and the other half are keeping away because they are aware of the risks involved.

Washington is taking obviously destruc­tive measures against the compre­hen­sive mecha­nisms created in Europe and Asia Pacific to address secu­rity issues based on equa­lity and a balance of inte­rests. The United States is trying to create irrit­ants and hot spots, hoping that this will not affect it because it is located far away from them. The more crises the Ameri­cans create, the more its rivals will weaken each other.

Europe is weak­e­ning itself by reck­lessly follo­wing in the US’s foot­s­teps and uphol­ding its Russo­phobic policy and the use of Ukraine as a weapon in the war against Russia.

Ques­tion: Do you believe it is still possible, in the fore­seeable future, to agree on the secu­rity guaran­tees that Russia has proposed to the United States and NATO?

Sergey Lavrov: If our Western coun­ter­parts realise their mistakes and express their readi­ness to return to discus­sing the docu­ments we proposed in December 2021, this will be a posi­tive factor. I doubt that they will find the strength or reason to do this though, but if it happens, we will be ready to return to dialogue.

After our propo­sals were rejected, the West also took a number of steps that ran counter to the possi­bi­lity of resuming dialogue. For example, NATO foreign minis­ters at a meeting in Romania gave assu­rances that Ukraine would be a member – and this has not changed. At the same time, as Secre­tary General Jens Stol­ten­berg said, Ukraine must first win the war before it is admitted to the alli­ance. The irre­spon­si­bi­lity of such state­ments is obvious to anyone who is more or less know­led­geable in politics.

We were ready to discuss secu­rity issues in the context of Ukraine and more broadly. The Wester­ners rejected our propo­sals in December 2021; the mili­tary offi­cials’ meetings and my talks with US Secre­tary of State Antony Blinken in Geneva in January ended in nothing. After the start of the special mili­tary opera­tion, we warned that the asser­tion that Ukraine alone could make the decision on its NATO member­ship would lead to a dange­rous scenario.

In March of this year, the Ukrai­nians asked for nego­tia­tions. After several rounds on March 29 in Istanbul, they finally gave us some­thing on paper. We agreed with the prin­ci­ples of the sett­le­ment contained in that docu­ment. Among them was ensu­ring Ukraine’s secu­rity through respect for its non-aligned status (that is, its non-acces­sion to NATO), its nuclear-free status (Vladimir Zelensky would no longer be able to declare that aban­do­ning nuclear weapons in 1994 was a mistake); and the provi­sion of coll­ec­tive guaran­tees not by NATO, but from the five perma­nent members of the UN Secu­rity Council, as well as Germany and Turkey. We agreed to that. In a day or two, the American hand­lers said to the Ukrai­nians: “Why are you doing this?” It is clear that the United States expected to wear out the Russian army by using Ukraine as a proxy, as well as have Euro­pean count­ries spend the maximum amount of their weapons, so that later, Europe would be buying repla­ce­ments from Washington, secu­ring revenue for the American mili­tary industry and defence corpo­ra­tions. They said the Ukrai­nians were too early in expres­sing their readi­ness to receive secu­rity guaran­tees from the Russians and reach a sett­le­ment on this basis.

They keep accu­sing Russia of seeking nego­tia­tions all the time in order to “buy time to raise and send in rein­force­ments for the special mili­tary opera­tion.” This is both ridi­cu­lous and frus­t­ra­ting. These people are blatantly lying. We have never sought any nego­tia­tions, but we have always said that if someone is inte­rested in nego­tia­ting a solu­tion, we are ready to listen. The follo­wing proves my point – when in March of this year, the Ukrai­nians made such a request, we not only met them halfway, but were also ready to agree to the prin­ci­ples that they put forward. The Ukrai­nian side was not allowed to do this at the time, because the war had not yet brought enough wealth to those who are super­vi­sing and direc­ting it – and this is prima­rily being done by the United States and the British.

Ques­tion: Why do you think the OSCE Minsk Group on the reso­lu­tion of the Nagorno-Kara­bakh conflict is inac­tive now? Is there a possi­bi­lity of resuming its activity?

Sergey Lavrov: The OSCE Minsk Group was created to unite count­ries with influence in the region, which could send signals to Yerevan and Baku. We agreed that it would be co-chaired by Russia and the United States. At some stage, France, as often happens, said it wanted to join. We decided that Paris would also become the third co-chair.

From then on, for more than a decade, the co-chairs have achieved posi­tive results, meeting with the leaders of Armenia and Azer­baijan toge­ther or sepa­ra­tely. One of the land­mark joint events took place in Madrid in the late 1990s, where the Madrid Prin­ci­ples were deve­loped, which were later discussed, updated and adjusted by the parties. At the turn of the 2010s, Russia became the leading co-chair. We held about ten trila­teral meetings with the leaders of Yerevan and Baku. Repre­sen­ta­tives of the United States and France attended each of them.

After a 44-day war, the sides reached a ceas­e­fire agree­ment in September-October 2020 with our media­tion. Russia conti­nues to assist Armenia and Azer­baijan in unblo­cking trans­port links and economic ties in the region. This should give impetus to the deve­lo­p­ment of other neigh­bou­ring states such as Turkey, Iran, and Georgia. We agreed that our country will assist in the deli­mi­ta­tion of the border and in nego­tia­ting a peace treaty between Armenia and Azer­baijan. All this was the result of summits between the Presi­dents of Russia, Azer­baijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia.

At the same time, we saw other players making fitful attempts to insert them­selves into these processes. We didn’t have any problems with that.

The only change we noted in cont­acts with Yerevan and Baku was that, after the start of the special mili­tary opera­tion, the West, through Washington and Paris, offi­ci­ally announced it would not coope­rate with Russia in any formats. This amounted to a termi­na­tion of the OSCE Minsk Group’s acti­vi­ties. Our Arme­nian colle­agues mention it occa­sio­nally. We tell them it is up to the United States and France, which said they would no longer convene the Group, and Azer­baijan, because any media­tion efforts are meanin­g­less without it.

Now the French, the Ameri­cans and the Euro­pean Union are trying to compen­sate for the buried Minsk Group by inser­ting them­selves in the media­tion efforts. At the same time, they seek to pick up and appro­priate the agree­ments reached by the parties with Russian parti­ci­pa­tion. For example, a meeting of the border deli­mi­ta­tion commis­sion was held in Brussels. The Arme­nians and Azer­bai­janis are polite people, so they come when invited, but how can one discuss any deli­mi­ta­tion without maps of the former Soviet repu­blics? And the only such maps are in posses­sion of the Russian General Staff. It’s hard for me to imagine this.

The same holds true for the peace treaty. They went to Prague to attend the Euro­pean Poli­tical Commu­nity forum where they signed a docu­ment stating that a peace treaty should be based on the borders as prescribed by the UN Charter and the Alma-Ata Decla­ra­tion of December 21, 1991. At that time, the Nagorno-Kara­bakh Auto­no­mous Region was part of the Azer­baijan SSR. Armenia, Azer­baijan, France and the Euro­pean Council repre­sented by Charles Michel approved this as part of the afore-mentioned docu­ment and reco­g­nised the Alma-Ata Decla­ra­tion without reser­va­tions. This faci­li­tates further work and resolves the problem with the status of Karabakh.

There is a reason why the Arme­nian leader­ship has been talking lately not so much about the status as about the need to ensure the rights of the Arme­nian popu­la­tion in Kara­bakh. Baku agrees with this, and is ready to discuss provi­ding guaran­tees of the same rights as other citi­zens of Azer­baijan enjoy. No one remem­bers the OSCE Minsk Group anymore. Occa­sio­nally, an Arme­nian poli­ti­cian will say some­thing, but the Minsk Group was buried by the French and Ameri­cans. We had nothing to do with it.

Ques­tion: Can you comment on the contro­ver­sial state­ments by Arme­nian Prime Minister Nikol Pashi­nyan on the Arme­nian-Azer­bai­jani peace treaty and Nagorno-Kara­bakh? Earlier, he said that Artsakh was Armenia, full stop. He called for the Kara­bakh people to be brought to the nego­tia­ting table between the Arme­nian and Azer­bai­jani sides. After the October summit in Prague, he said that Yerevan and Baku could conclude an agree­ment without mentio­ning Nagorno-Kara­bakh. On October 31, right before the summit in Sochi, the Arme­nian govern­ment said they supported the Russian propo­sals for a peace treaty, which, in their under­stan­ding, included a post­po­ne­ment of the decision on the status of Nagorno-Kara­bakh “until later.” After the meeting in Sochi, demands were made to Moscow to reaf­firm the Russian propo­sals for the norma­li­sa­tion of rela­tions between Armenia and Azer­baijan, as if Russia had back­tra­cked on something.

Sergey Lavrov: You have clearly detailed the sequence of events. We made propo­sals in 2012; if those propo­sals had been adopted, that could have closed this problem once and for all. It was during that time that the idea of post­po­ning a decision on the status of Kara­bakh “until later” origi­nated. The concept was simple: the Arme­nians would give up the five Azer­bai­jani districts around Kara­bakh, and keep the two districts that link Armenia with Kara­bakh. The future of those two (no one disputed that they were part of Azer­baijan) was to be deter­mined in conjunc­tion with the decision on the status of Kara­bakh. This was the first time the idea to post­pone the status issue “until later” (for the next gene­ra­tions) was mentioned.

In the autumn 2020, the region was at war. The hosti­li­ties were suspended at the preli­mi­nary talks stage. Trila­teral state­ments were prepared, and three trila­teral summits were held: two in Moscow, and one in Sochi. The parti­ci­pants also talked about the need to launch a poli­tical process. There was an under­stan­ding that the status of Kara­bakh could be post­poned “until later.” Based on that, Russia proposed its version of the peace treaty, which was sent to the parties in the spring. And it contained that clause. The Azer­bai­jani side said it was ready to support almost ever­y­thing, but that the status issue had to be discussed further.

At the end of October 2022, we met in Sochi. We wanted to return to this issue and find out if our part­ners were ready to act on the basis of a gentleman’s under­stan­ding – to resolve the other issues, but leave the status of Kara­bakh “until later.” Presi­dent Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Nikol Pashi­nyan brought to Sochi the same docu­ment from Prague, which stated that they wanted to sign a peace treaty guided by the UN Charter and the 1991 Alma-Ata Decla­ra­tion on the crea­tion of the CIS. That decla­ra­tion clearly states that the borders between the new states shall be based on the admi­nis­tra­tive boun­da­ries between the repu­blics of the former Soviet Union, where the Nagorno-Kara­bakh Auto­no­mous Region was expli­citly part of the Azer­bai­jani SSR. And now, after signing that agree­ment, our Arme­nian colle­agues are asking us to reaf­firm the Russian propo­sals on the status of Kara­bakh. That is defi­ni­tely “another book,” not the one about nego­tia­ting practices.

Ques­tion: Pope Francis has repea­tedly proposed media­tion, and expressed his readi­ness to arrange peace talks between Moscow and Kiev. At the same time, the Holy See empha­sises the need for long-term solu­tions and meaningful conces­sions on both sides. When it comes to conces­sions, what does this mean for you? What role could Italy, France, and Germany play in this? Or does nothing depend on these Euro­pean count­ries anymore?

Sergey Lavrov: Pope Francis has been publicly offe­ring his services for some time. French Presi­dent Emma­nuel Macron has peri­odi­cally made similar state­ments. Even German Chan­cellor Olaf Scholz said he would continue to talk with Russian Presi­dent Vladimir Putin. Over the past two weeks, Emma­nuel Macron repea­tedly stated that he was plan­ning to speak with Vladimir Putin. This was rather unex­pected, because we had not received any signals through diplo­matic chan­nels before these state­ments were made. The French have a way of making their diplo­macy extre­mely public. We expected him to call if he really intended to. A few days ago, repor­ters asked him about it again, and he said he was not going to try to contact Vladimir Putin before he went to Washington. From this we conclude that the Presi­dent of France would discuss not only the weak­e­ning of Europe’s compe­ti­tive advan­tages there, but also consult on the Ukrai­nian issue.

Turkish Presi­dent Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repea­tedly said that he was talking with both Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky. Apart from the Holy See, I have not heard of any initia­tives from Italy as a country. My colle­ague Antonio Tajani (we have not yet met in his current capa­city as Foreign Minister) is propo­sing some ideas for solu­tions. However, no one is propo­sing anything specific.

We discussed Ukraine’s propo­sals at length on March 29; we accepted them, but Kiev was forbidden to imple­ment them. They supposed they needed to further exhaust Russia, and sell more weapons to Europe so that it could give its own weapons to Ukraine.

Pope Francis is calling for talks, but he also recently made a perplexing, very unchris­tian state­ment. The head of the Vatican mentioned two ethnic groups in the Russian Fede­ra­tion as a “cate­gory” with a tendency to commit atro­ci­ties during hosti­li­ties. The Russian Foreign Ministry, the Repu­blic of Buryatia and the Chechen Repu­blic responded to this. The Vatican noted that this would not happen again. That it was a misun­derstan­ding. Such things don’t help; they aren’t boos­ting the influence of the Holy See either.

You asked about possible conces­sions. When we formu­lated our propo­sals in December 2021 (a draft agree­ment with the United States and an agree­ment with NATO), we approa­ched those two docu­ments in good faith. We did not insert any poison pills in them. If we had, the first para­graph would have required NATO to disband itself, and the United States to with­draw troops from Europe, starting with tactical nuclear weapons now deployed in Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Nether­lands and Turkey. That would be a poison pill.

We tried to be fair. We tried to find a solu­tion that would suit the Ameri­cans and NATO, too. We tried to look at the current situa­tion through the eyes of our Western colle­agues. This is how those docu­ments came to be. They seemed to contain fair propo­sals and rely on repeated assu­rances. In parti­cular, we proposed a return to the 1997 mili­tary confi­gu­ra­tion, when NATO agreed, under the NATO-Russia Foun­ding Act, to refrain from statio­ning substan­tial combat forces on the terri­tory of new members.

In Istanbul, the Ukrai­nians proposed a sett­le­ment option. We accepted it, making a fair share of conces­sions. It was about the situa­tion on the ground at that parti­cular moment. One could continue fanta­sising about who could propose what. I would like to empha­sise that our December 2021 propo­sals had no poison pills intended to be rejected. In our view, they proposed a balance of interests.

Ques­tion: You said in your opening remarks that one of reason for the special mili­tary opera­tion in Ukraine was to protect Russian spea­kers. How can you justify the missile attacks on civi­lians and infra­struc­ture, which are depri­ving people of access to water and elec­tri­city, inclu­ding in Kherson, which Russia regards as its own territory?

Sergey Lavrov: Stalin­grad was our terri­tory. We whipped the Germans so bad there that they fled the city. The Defence Ministry of Russia and mili­tary experts in Russia, the United States and other NATO count­ries have pointed out that the special mili­tary opera­tion has been waged since its incep­tion so as to mini­mise all possible nega­tive impact on civi­lians and infra­struc­ture, which is being atta­cked now. It is no secret that infra­struc­ture is used to main­tain the combat capa­bi­lity of the Ukrai­nian armed forces and natio­na­list battalions. We are using precision weapons to knock out of service the energy faci­li­ties that are important for the opera­tion of the Ukrai­nian armed forces and for the deli­very of a huge number of Western weapons, which are sent to Ukraine to kill Russians.

A Euro­pean poli­ti­cian has recently said that they should send weapons that can reach targets deep inside the Russian terri­tory. We are aware of this. We are not impressed by words about the West’s inte­rest in a peaceful sett­le­ment. The Wester­ners have stated openly that they not only want Russia to be defeated on the batt­le­field but to be elimi­nated as a player. Some people are even holding confe­rences to discuss how many parts Russia should be divided into and who would control them.

We are targe­ting the energy faci­li­ties that are being used to pump lethal weapons into Ukraine so as to kill Russians. Don’t tell me that the United States and NATO are not involved in this war. They are directly involved in it not only by sending weapons but also by trai­ning the Ukrai­nian mili­tary. They are doing this in Britain, Germany, Italy and several other count­ries. In addi­tion, hundreds of Western instruc­tors (and their number is growing) are working on the ground, trai­ning Ukrai­nians to use the equip­ment they are sending. There are also very many mercenaries.

Intel­li­gence infor­ma­tion, inclu­ding the Star­link civi­lian satel­lites, is being used to iden­tify targets for the Ukrai­nian mili­tary. Infor­ma­tion is also provided via other chan­nels. The majo­rity of the targets, which the Ukrai­nian Nazi battalions and armed forces are attacking, are iden­ti­fied by the Kiev regime’s Western hand­lers. You should write about this openly. There is enough evidence.

We are using precision weapons to destroy infra­struc­ture used for the mili­tary opera­tions of the Ukrai­nian armed forces.

Social networks, inclu­ding Tele­gram, provide the views of experts who rely on evidence and not mere words to explain the diffe­rence between our mili­tary opera­tion and US actions in Yugo­slavia, Iraq and Afgha­ni­stan and France’s actions in Libya.

Accor­ding to a member of the target loca­tion centre, who took part in the 1999 campaign in Yugo­slavia, it was reported at a meeting a week after the start of the aggres­sion that there were no mili­tary targets left apart from the two bridges the Yugo­slav mili­tary used. They destroyed the bridges and asked what else they could do. It turned out that there was a score of civi­lian bridges the mili­tary did not use. They bombed them, destroying one bridge when a passenger train was running across. No colla­teral damage, just an attack on a civi­lian faci­lity. They bombed the tele­vi­sion centre and tower in Belgrade because they were used to broad­cast propa­ganda and keep up the combat morale of the Yugo­slav army.

The same logic is being used in France now to deny accre­di­ta­tion to RT and Sputnik for an event in the Élysée Palace on instruc­tions from Presi­dent Macron.  The Presi­dent of France stated that they would be denied entry because they are not media outlets but propa­ganda feeds. I hope the West will not bomb the RT and Sputnik head­quar­ters and bran­ches in Europe as it bombed the tele­vi­sion centre in Yugoslavia.

Take a look at Afgha­ni­stan. A large group of people was atta­cked, and then it turned out that 200 were walking to a wedding. Russia is not a signa­tory of the Rome Statute of the Inter­na­tional Criminal Court. The Ameri­cans are not either, but they are doing their best to insti­gate the court to open procee­dings against those whom the United States views unfavourably.

Several years ago, the ICC decided to inves­ti­gate the Ameri­cans’ opera­tion in Afgha­ni­stan and the way they behaved there. There were nume­rous reports about war crimes committed there by US, British and Austra­lian troops. The Austra­lian govern­ment is still waiting for these persons to provide proof of their innocence.

When the ICC was only thin­king of opening a case on US war crimes in Afgha­ni­stan, Washington unce­re­mo­niously announced that it would place the attor­neys and judges on the sanc­tions list. The ICC swept the matter under the carpet.

We are ready to talk about conduc­ting combat opera­tions in modern condi­tions. But this should be done by profes­sio­nals. It is no good making unsub­stan­tiated state­ments for poli­tical gain, putting all the blame on some­body and forget­ting about very serious situa­tions which ever­y­body ignored, inclu­ding media outlets that are working or cove­ring deve­lo­p­ments in Russia.

There was civil unrest on Maidan in 2013 and a coup in 2014, which took place contrary to the agree­ment on sett­ling the problem reached with the EU’s media­tion. We warned that those who had come to power and declared that their goal was to expel Russians from Crimea and prohibit the Russian language posed a real threat and should be told to back off. Nobody as much as lifted a finger. And then a war began, and the Minsk agree­ments were signed with EU guaran­tees, but nobody did anything again. Neither Poros­henko nor Zelensky imple­mented them. Instead, they said that aban­do­ning nuclear weapons was a mistake, that they would return Crimea, that they had signed the Minsk agree­ments to gain time, and that they would be given weapons and would solve the problem with mili­tary force.

We appealed to Berlin, Paris and Washington to reason with the Kiev regime, which they controlled, and to force the brazen racists to back off. They did not respond. We tried to get their atten­tion for several years. There is a lot of noise in the media now about how they suppo­sedly didn’t know what was going on in Ukraine after the Minsk agree­ments and didn’t hear our appeals to reason.

Compare the current hysteria in the Western poli­tical commu­nity which the media try to enforce with what was going on when the United States bombed Iraq. The Ameri­cans did not complain for years that Iraq prohi­bited the English language or Holly­wood films; they just showed a vial of white powder as proof that Iraq was making biolo­gical weapons. And they bombed out a country that did not pose a threat to it and was not located directly on its border but 10,000 miles away. They did it because they think they are allowed to do it. It is the cardinal rule of their world order. As for Russia, we tried to protect our legi­ti­mate inte­rests in accordance with inter­na­tional law and not accor­ding to American rules.

What did Libya do wrong? Its only sin was that a Euro­pean leader or some of Libya’s neigh­bours did not like Muammar Gaddafi. The country was well off, just as Iraq. Despite their strict auto­cratic regimes, the economic and social situa­tion was much better during their time. There weren’t millions of refu­gees from Iraq, Afgha­ni­stan or Libya in Europe. Did anybody stop to think about that then? When Kirkuk in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria were razed to the ground, dozens of dead bodies lay there for weeks on end. All the survi­vors fled.

It looks as if the Western propa­ganda only rings the alarm bells when those who have pledged loyalty to the West suffer. The West uses them as instru­ments for attai­ning its geopo­li­tical and mili­tary goals. In this case, it is the Ukrainians.

The West has killed infi­ni­tely more Arabs in Iraq, Libya and Syria or Afghans in Afgha­ni­stan. I don’t remember the West showing as much concern for their civi­lian popu­la­tions. Does this mean that they are regarded as subhuman in the West, and that Ukrai­nians, who claim to be the descen­dants of ancient Romans, deserve to be given special protec­tion by Western insti­tutes and agencies?

I regret and grieve any loss of life, espe­ci­ally as the result of a mili­tary conflict and damage to civi­lian infra­struc­ture. However, we must address this problem honestly and without double standards.

Western poli­tical analysts and warfare experts have a great deal of infor­ma­tion, statis­tics and argu­ments at their disposal. They know how wars are waged, and when wars are waged reck­lessly and without any restraints, and when the armed forces involved try to observe as many restraints as possible to mini­mise damage to civi­lians and civi­lian infrastructure.

Ques­tion: Russia and the US reached their main targets on arms control under the START‑3 Treaty in 2018. Five years have passed since then. Isn’t it time to take more ambi­tious steps on cuts in stra­tegic offen­sive arms? What steps does Russia expect from the US, if any?

Sergey Lavrov: This ques­tion is not for me. It was not us that took a pause in the talks on poten­tial new agree­ments to further limit stra­tegic offen­sive arms – post-START. These talks took place – the first round in July, and the second in September 2021. Our posi­tions were oppo­site. The Ameri­cans wanted to focus on our new weapons announced in 2018, prima­rily five super­sonic systems. We did not fully reject this. We agreed that two of these systems – Sarmat and Avan­gard – could be covered by the 2010 START‑3. Other systems did not fit in with the treaty’s para­me­ters. We expressed a willing­ness to discuss further steps on arms control, affec­ting our new systems with the under­stan­ding that Russia also wanted the Ameri­cans to take some steps towards rappro­che­ment to our positions.

At the September meeting in 2021, the nego­tia­tors agreed that two expert groups would be in charge of further efforts. One was supposed to deter­mine what types of arms were stra­tegic and could be used for stra­tegic purposes. This was a matter of prin­ciple for us. We suggested a syste­matic approach to the subject of a future treaty. Inclu­ding some new weapons in the treaty was not enough. First, it is neces­sary to analyse which of the weapons they and we have that are actually stra­tegic in nature, regard­less of whether they are nuclear or non-nuclear. The US’s Prompt Global Strike system is non-nuclear but is more effi­cient in reaching mili­tary targets. It is neces­sary to main­tain a balance if new arms come into use. We agreed that the experts would sit down and honestly work on deri­ving what Vladimir Putin called “a secu­rity equation.”

In 2021, COVID-19 did not prevent us from holding two useful meetings. However, after September, the Ameri­cans did not wish to continue the talks. This was long before the start of the special mili­tary opera­tion. It is hard to say what the reason was. To all intents and purposes, the respon­si­bi­lity of Russia and the US as the world’s largest nuclear powers (at this time) has not disap­peared. In June 2021, the presi­dents made a joint state­ment to the effect that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be unleashed for that reason. A similar state­ment by the five nuclear powers also exists. As I have said more than once, we were ready to go further and say not only that a nuclear war must not be unleashed, but also that any war between nuclear states was unac­cep­table. Even if a country starts a conflict with conven­tional arms, there remains the enormous risk of it escala­ting into a nuclear conflict. This is why we are watching with concern the rhetoric of the West that accuses Russia of prepa­ring provo­ca­tions with WMDs. In the mean­time, the West itself, inclu­ding the three nuclear powers – the US, UK and France – is doing all it can to build up its almost direct parti­ci­pa­tion in the war that it is waging against Russia with Ukrai­nian hands. This is a dange­rous trend.

Ques­tion: Euro­pean secu­rity also includes energy secu­rity. Europe is now deba­ting the price cap for Russian oil. Russia’s stance is well known. If we assume that the price cap will be high enough (the propo­sals vary, 30, or 60 dollars per barrel are mentioned). If the price is at the market level, what will happen in that case? Will Russia refuse to supply energy resources to the count­ries that support this mecha­nism? How big a role does the price play?

Sergey Lavrov: Our approach has been spelled out by Presi­dent of Russia Vladimir Putin and Deputy Prime Minister Alex­ander Novak who over­sees energy. Once again: we will not supply oil to the count­ries that conform with dicta­tors. Dicta­ting prices to the market is an extre­mely unusual turn for those who have defended free markets, fair compe­ti­tion, the invio­la­bi­lity of private property, and the presump­tion of inno­cence for decades. Among other things, it sends a strong and endu­ring signal to all states, calling them to reflect on how to avoid using the tools imposed by the West within its globa­li­sa­tion system.

Russia is already “unde­si­rable.” China is beco­ming the target of sanc­tions and is now forbidden to sell or buy goods that Ameri­cans want to use to streng­then their compe­ti­tive advan­tages. Anyone could be next. There is no doubt that the seeds of a long process of refor­mat­ting global mecha­nisms have now been sown. Conside­ring the schemes the Euro­pean Union is resorting to, there is no confi­dence in the dollar, and the euro can be used in frau­du­lent schemes. Head of the Euro­pean Commis­sion Ursula von der Leyen tried to justify the laws that need to be adopted in order to steal money from the Russian state and citi­zens. The Euro­pean Union is exhi­bi­ting a tendency to return to its colo­nial ways and live at the expense of others. America is spon­ging off Europe, so Europe needs to live off someone. They are casting about for a target, and conside­ring us.

I am sure that we will not abandon this prin­ciple. This is not about higher oil reve­nues today; it is about the need to start buil­ding a system inde­pen­dent of these neoco­lo­nial methods. We are working on this with our BRICS colle­agues (and with a dozen count­ries wishing to closely coope­rate with BRICS), the SCO, the EAEU, and in bila­teral rela­tions with China, Iran, India and other countries.

We do not care where exactly they cap the price. We will reach agree­ments with our part­ners directly. They will not cautiously toe anyone’s line or give any guaran­tees to those who ille­gally draws those lines. When we nego­tiate with China, India, Türkiye or other major buyers, we always observe a balance of inte­rests in terms of the timing, volume and price. The terms should be agreed on a reciprocal basis between the producer and the consumer, and not as punishment.

Ques­tion: In your opening remarks and responses, you spoke in detail about Russia’s posi­tion on Euro­pean secu­rity. We heard about this a year ago. What do you think, as the Russian Foreign Minister, about the likeli­hood of a meeting next year between the presi­dents – Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden – or a meeting with you and US Secre­tary of State Antony Blinken? Are any top-level meetings possible at all in the near future?

Sergey Lavrov: Our current assess­ments on the state of Euro­pean secu­rity nearly coin­cide with what we said in 2020 and 2021. This only empha­sises the consis­tency of our posi­tion, the long-term crises in the Euro­pean secu­rity system and the West’s reluc­tance to listen what we are saying.

There is a prin­ciple accor­ding to which every state must think about its own secu­rity itself if coll­ec­tive secu­rity does not work out. The threat to Russia that is being created by the US and its allies from Ukraine, is real, exis­ten­tial. A compa­triot of our Polish neigh­bours, Zbigniew Brze­zinski, said in 1994 that ever­y­thing must be done to break Ukraine away from Russia because Russia and Ukraine are an empire, whereas without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eura­sian empire and becomes a regional player. In 1994, we had very good rela­tions with the US but even then nobody wanted Russia to be inde­pen­dent, even to a limited extent. This is where this was rooted and accumulated.

I have cited the example of Iraq. They said Iraq had WMDs one day, and the next morning they flew there and started bombing. But they did not find anything. Later Tony Blair regretted this as a mistake – this can happen to anyone. Hundreds of thou­sands of people were buried. Mean­while, the country lived a normal life and did not have any big socio-economic problems but it was destroyed. Now it is being rebuilt from frag­ments, just like Libya. But all this happened ten thousand miles away, across the ocean. They are allowed to do anything. They claim these are diffe­rent things because they are suppo­sedly fighting for demo­cracy. This is why they can kill more than a million people, and this is what they did. Where is demo­cracy in Afgha­ni­stan? In Iraq? In Libya? Terro­rism is now rampant ever­y­where. There are millions of refu­gees in Europe, but this could have been avoided.

It is not without a reason that we had to act in Ukraine. It is not that we did not like Vladimir Zelensky because he stopped playing in the Club of the Funny and Inven­tive or because he quit funding his Kvartal-95 Studio. This is not why we “went to war” with Ukraine. We warned them for many years but nothing changed.

To begin with, we want to under­stand who can offer us some­thing and what it is. You asked about meetings between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden. We (inclu­ding the Russian Presi­dent) have said many times that we never avoid talking. When German Chan­cellor Olaf Scholz wanted to come we said “Welcome.” When Emma­nuel Macron wanted to come, we also said “Welcome.” Do you want to call us? Anyone who asks about calling will have this oppor­tu­nity without any time limit. However, so far we have not heard any meaningful ideas.

Our American colle­agues suggested holding a meeting between Bill Burns and Sergey Naryshkin. We agreed. Importantly, the Ameri­cans told us many times that this must be a strictly confi­den­tial channel. We cannot mention it so that nobody will know anything about it. This must be a serious channel immune to any external propa­ganda intri­gues. We agreed. However, their arrival in Ankara was followed by an instant leak. I do not know from where – the White House or the Depart­ment of State. Now Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Moscow Eliza­beth Rood said they would continue main­tai­ning this confi­den­tial channel. Sergey Naryshkin also had to speak and said what issues they discussed – nuclear secu­rity, stra­tegic stabi­lity, the Kiev regime and the situa­tion in Ukraine in general.

The Ameri­cans and others are saying that they will not discuss Ukraine without Ukraine. First, NATO is discus­sing Ukraine without Ukraine, Ukrai­nian dele­gates are not invited there. Second, it is abun­dantly clear to ever­yone that today it is impos­sible to discuss stra­tegic stabi­lity while igno­ring ever­y­thing that is happe­ning in Ukraine today. The goal is not to save Ukrai­nian demo­cracy but to defeat Russia on the batt­le­field and even to destroy it. We are told that Ukraine can only be discussed with Ukrai­nians present and only when they want to do so. So, in the mean­time, is a discus­sion on nuclear arms and stra­tegic stabi­lity being suggested? This is a naïve approach, to put it mildly.

If there are propo­sals from the US presi­dent and other members of his admi­nis­tra­tion, we never avoid talking. Mr Blinken called us once some time ago. But he was worried about American citi­zens that were sentenced here and serving a prison term. That said, he must know that to discuss this parti­cular issue, the presi­dents agreed in Geneva in June 2021 to create a comple­tely diffe­rent channel, a channel between secret services. It is working, and I hope some results will be reached. We have had no contact with Antony Blinken on general poli­tical issues. As I under­stand it, there is a “divi­sion of labour.” Jake Sullivan’s team wants to do some­thing. The Depart­ment of State wants to do some­thing else. We do not delve into the func­tio­ning of the US bureau­cratic machine. Such decis­ions are up to the presi­dent and other leaders.

Ques­tion: You mentioned the NATO meeting that ended the day before yesterday in Romania. Many analysts recalled that it was in Bucha­rest where then US Presi­dent, George Bush Jr, said that Georgia and Ukraine could join NATO for the first time.

I would like to ask you to comment not so much on this as on the state­ment by US Secre­tary of State Antony Blinken. He spoke about the need to expand NATO presence from the Black to the Baltic seas. What does this mean for Russia and how will it respond?

Sergey Lavrov: As for this prono­unce­ment, he made it in parallel with a state­ment by Jens Stol­ten­berg who said that to reach peace in Ukraine, it is neces­sary to continue pumping the Kiev regime with arms. A schi­zo­phrenic approach. If you want peace, prepare for war. The only diffe­rence is that here, it is not “prepare for war” but fight to the very end. This is the logic.

Blinken’s words show who is setting the tune in NATO today. The three seas idea – to build a cordon against Russia from the three seas (from the Black to the Baltic seas) initi­ally came from the Poles. It was enthu­si­a­sti­cally supported by the Baltic states and has been promoted for several years as a concept for “revi­ving” Polish glory. They started promo­ting this before the special mili­tary opera­tion and inten­si­fied the effort after it started. The fact that Blinken has now picked this logic is very indi­ca­tive. It means that the Ameri­cans now rely on Poland and the Baltic states in deve­lo­ping NATO. These count­ries are the most Russo­phobic and racist. Count­ries like Germany and France are being rele­gated to the back­ground. I have already commented on the French president’s “stra­tegic auto­nomy concept” that is obviously at vari­ance with the American thoughts. The Ameri­cans believe the Euro­pean Union does not need any “stra­tegic auto­nomy.” They will decide them­selves how the EU will ensure its secu­rity accor­ding to American patterns.

Former Chan­cellor Angela Merkel lamented in a recent inter­view that after the summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva in June 2021, she suggested, with Emma­nuel Macron, holding an EU-Russia summit but was blocked from doing this. Who can stop German and French poli­ti­cians from meeting with whomever they want in normal times? This was done by the Poles and the Balts that are buil­ding this cordon and promo­ting the three seas concept. This is a very important sign.

Inci­den­tally, a few words about the EU’s influence. In February 2014, the EU guaran­teed a sett­le­ment between Viktor Yanu­ko­vych and the oppo­si­tion. A rele­vant docu­ment was signed. It starts with the words “to estab­lish a govern­ment of national accord” and to “hold early elec­tions.” Vladimir Putin said this many times. It would have worked if they had held these early elec­tions, as was agreed upon. Yanu­ko­vych would never have won them. The same oppo­si­tion members who staged the state coup the next morning would have come to power. It is unclear why they were in such a rush. They could have abided by the docu­ment that was guaran­teed by Germany, France and Poland. There would have been no Crimean refe­rendum, nor the subse­quent events. Nobody would have rebelled against these people because the agree­ment on holding elec­tions would have been valid.

This did not happen without a US “contri­bu­tion,” either. Ever­y­thing we are talking about happened in February 2014. Maidan was over; the agree­ment on a sett­le­ment was signed and guaran­teed by the EU count­ries. A month prior to this, Victoria Nuland, who was in charge of the post-Soviet space at the time, was coor­di­na­ting the compo­si­tion of a new govern­ment by tele­phone with the US Ambassador in Ukraine, appar­ently, expec­ting this coup to happen. She mentioned several names but the Ambassador told her that the EU did not like one candi­date. Do you remember what she said about the EU? She used a four-letter word.

The same atti­tude has prevailed towards the EU ever since. At first, the EU’s guaran­tees and agree­ments between Yanu­ko­vych and the oppo­si­tion were trampled under­foot. Then the same lot befell the guaran­tees given by the EU – Germany and France – to the Minsk agree­ments that envi­saged a direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk and the preser­va­tion of the Russian language. In 2019, French and German offi­cials again invited new Presi­dent Vladimir Zelensky to Paris. This was a meeting in the Normandy format. He again promised to come to terms with Donetsk and Lugansk on their special status and to seal it perma­nently, but he did not do anything, either. The EU was repea­tedly whipped for its mediation.

In 2018, EU High Repre­sen­ta­tive for Foreign Affairs and Secu­rity Policy Frede­rica Moghe­rini said that when the EU is in the region (meaning in the Balkans) there is no room for anyone else. She implied that the Russians had nothing to offer in the Balkans and that their cont­acts with Serbia and other Balkan count­ries must be discontinued.

In 2013, the EU acted as a mediator between Belgrade and Pris­tina. Their leaders were invited to Brussels where they signed a docu­ment on crea­ting a Commu­nity of Serb Muni­ci­pa­li­ties of Kosovo. The point is that there are many Serb enclaves in Kosovo. In addi­tion to the region’s nort­hern districts with a predo­mi­nantly Serbian popu­la­tion, there are also a number of enclaves in the rest of it. They were subjected to serious discri­mi­na­tion and harass­ment by the Alba­nian majo­rity as regards their language, educa­tion in the Serbian language, the mass media and the reli­gious rituals in Serbian Orthodox churches. The sides agreed to estab­lish the afore-mentioned commu­nity. But nobody did or wants to do anything about it. To be more exact, the EU has already unders­tood that the Alba­nians in Pris­tina are not going to fulfil this agree­ment (they have announced this in public). The EU acknow­ledged its complete inabi­lity to achieve anything. Now France and Germany are keeping their mouths shut (excuse this informal expres­sion) and are promo­ting a new “initia­tive.” It does not envi­sage any rights for the Serbs in Kosovo but sets certain requi­re­ments for Belgrade if it does not want to reco­g­nise Kosovo’s inde­pen­dence. Belgrade must recon­cile itself to the fact that in this unre­co­g­nised status, Kosovo will join inter­na­tional orga­ni­sa­tions, inclu­ding the UN, the Council of Europe and the like. The docu­ment on Serb muni­ci­pa­li­ties had the same provi­sions as the Minsk agree­ments, but in the Kosovo case, they were about Serbian rights whereas in the Minsk agree­ments they protected the rights of Russians in Donbass. These rights were spelled out in the same way as in the Minsk agree­ments – they concerned the native tongue, educa­tion, the right to estab­lish their own law-enforce­ment struc­tures (local police) in the Serb districts of Kosovo and in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s repu­blics. They were also granted the right to vote for the appoint­ment of judges and prose­cu­tors and the right to have easy economic ties with neigh­bou­ring districts – with Serbia for the Kosovo Serbians and with the Russian Fede­ra­tion for Donbass. That is all. These two docu­ments are the same; they are iden­tical in both cases.

The EU acknow­ledged its complete inabi­lity to nego­tiate and to achieve anything. It is growing weaker and this trend is encou­raged by the Ameri­cans in the finan­cial and economic areas. As for poli­tical, geopo­li­tical and diplo­matic influence, the EU is doing ever­y­thing it can to reduce its own influence to a minimum.

Ques­tion: The situa­tion in the world is dete­rio­ra­ting. Appar­ently, the more we talk about secu­rity, the further it moves away from us. What gives you opti­mism? What reasons for opti­mism can you see in this situa­tion? Do you believe it will be possible to defend peace and avoid the worst-case scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, all my closest colle­agues at the Ministry and I, as well as our colle­agues from other agen­cies (the Presi­den­tial Execu­tive Office and the Govern­ment Office) tend not to philo­so­phise as to whether they will succeed or fail. Those who do not act do not achieve results. When­ever we see a problem, we try to solve it, putting the utmost effort into it. Whether what we do works or not – we will think about that later, when we see what we have achieved. The result is not always satis­fac­tory. But as a rule [it is], if you try, if you think outside the box, if you do not enti­rely focus on putting forth your own approa­ches, but you are ready to listen to your partner and gauge how sincere that partner is, or how much they want to get some unila­teral conces­sions from you, or whether they are ready to honestly search for a compro­mise, as is written in the UN Charter, on the basis of the sove­reign equa­lity of states, or, as is written in the OSCE docu­ments, on the basis of consensus. When you under­stand your partner (there is nothing like in-person commu­ni­ca­tion, because it is diffi­cult to under­stand anyone online) and see that they are ready to compro­mise – then you will achieve a result.

Let me give you an example. When John Kerry was US Secre­tary of State, I commu­ni­cated with him more, more often and longer than with any of our part­ners, inclu­ding our closest neigh­bours. We met or talked on the phone more than 50 times a year. I saw John Kerry as a man who was genui­nely inte­rested in getting results. He was ready to accept that results cannot be one-sided or pro-American, but must be mutually accep­table and help us resolve problems together.

I sensed his dispo­si­tion when we met in April 2014 in Vienna, imme­dia­tely after the refe­rendum on the inde­pen­dence of Crimea and the region’s acces­sion to Russia. The EU High Repre­sen­ta­tive for Foreign Affairs and Secu­rity Policy, the UK’s Cathe­rine Ashton was also there, and the acting head of the foreign policy service from the group that seized power in Kiev, Andrey Desh­chitsa. The four of us sat down and agreed on a docu­ment that would set down the Ukrai­nian autho­ri­ties’ assu­rances of April 2014 that they would solve Ukraine’s problems on the basis of fede­ra­li­sa­tion and decen­tra­li­sa­tion. We also wrote down that this process would include all regions and districts of Ukraine. John Kerry seemed to support this approach. He unders­tood perfectly well that without such a broad dialogue, any attempt to impose the concepts and values of the western part of the Ukrai­nian people on the rest (it was obvious that this coup was carried out by Western Ukrai­nians) would be disas­trous. Unfort­u­na­tely, that concept was consi­gned to obli­vion later. Appar­ently, the US Depart­ment of State had other people handle the Ukrai­nian issue. But we had posi­tive results with John Kerry.

In 2013, in keeping with Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin’s instruc­tions, we moved very fast to coor­di­nate an agree­ment under which Syria would join the Conven­tion on the Prohi­bi­tion of Chemical Weapons. This helped prevent the attack on Syria that the United States was preparing.

Later, in 2015, John Kerry and I held talks on Syria that resulted in an abso­lutely unthinkable at the time, let alone today, agree­ment. Then followed the deploy­ment of our mili­tary [in Syria], while the Ameri­cans entered Syria’s eastern areas. The Russian and American mili­tary under­take to jointly combat terro­rism, that is, when­ever we or they – Russians or Ameri­cans – iden­tify a target to be destroyed they need to consult with the other party before taking action. That is, we need to coor­di­nate our strikes with the Ameri­cans and the Ameri­cans need to coor­di­nate their strikes with us. Given this level of under­stan­ding, the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Repu­blic were ready to stop using their mili­tary avia­tion. All of this was agreed on. John Kerry only said he needed a week to consult with someone. Unfort­u­na­tely, this agree­ment never got off the ground.

When getting ready for talks you should not seek how to crush your oppo­nent but you should think of how to achieve results through a respectful dialogue.

Since you repre­sent our compa­triots, I would like to express our soli­da­rity with all those people living abroad, who continue to asso­ciate them­selves with the Russian Fede­ra­tion, with their Mother­land and who retain their native language and pass it on to their children and grand­children, and try to promote cultural diffu­sion. Diasporas always transmit culture. Much like the Germans and Italians who have lived in Russia for centu­ries and are still living in our country, the Russians living in Europe today bring our culture with them and enrich the count­ries where they happen to be by happenstance.

Recently Russian Presi­dent Vladimir Putin commented on this situa­tion. It is impos­sible to cancel culture. It is not within the power of the Borrells of the world or other bureau­crats who are trying to encou­rage Russo­phobic senti­ments and provoke ordi­nary people to discri­mi­nate against Russians up to the point when restau­rants hang out notices saying that they do not serve Russians and when spea­king Russian in a street in a East Euro­pean city may lead to an incident.

We are aware of the pres­sure being put on the orga­ni­sa­tions of our compa­triots abroad. In the United States, FBI offi­cials visit them and demand that they explain what they are doing and what this “orga­ni­sa­tion of Russian compa­triots” is about, and there are many other things, even inclu­ding attempts to initiate legal procee­dings. It makes it that much more grati­fying when our compa­triots remain true to their choice.

We continue working with the Govern­mental Commis­sion on Compa­triots Living Abroad. In 2021, we held the regular Seventh World Congress of Russian Compa­triots, which was attended by the Russian Presi­dent. This year a thematic confe­rence was held to high­light incen­tives that economic coope­ra­tion might provide to our compa­triots and what can be done to promote coope­ra­tion between the Russian Fede­ra­tion and the count­ries where they are living. Busi­ness­people of Russian extra­c­tion from over 80 count­ries took part in this conference.

There are also regional events. This year they were held for count­ries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, America, the Pacific Rim and Asia. The repre­sen­ta­tives of our compa­triots from these count­ries gather to hold their regional events.

Also, an important event took place this year, which is the inter­na­tional confe­rence “The Conso­li­da­tion of Women’s Asso­cia­tions and Their Role in Today’s Social Processes.” The parti­ci­pants resolved to estab­lish a world fede­ra­tion of Russian-spea­king women. Hopefully, Russian-spea­king men will support them in every way possible.

I do not have the sligh­test doubt that all citi­zens of the Western count­ries where there are Russian diasporas know well that these are groups of very posi­tive people who are ready to coope­rate on busi­ness projects and at the level of people-to-people contacts.









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