[Editor’s note: If one were to listen to the Western media and the talking heads from NATO and the US, one would have the distinct impression that Russia is a belligerent and dangerous opponent who is acting aggressively and unreasonably. It is a throwback to the bad old days of Cold War rhetoric and sabre rattling.
However, if one bothers to also listen to what the Russians themselves are saying and note their actions, quite the opposite is true and it is in fact the US and NATO who are acting aggressively and rattling the sabres. Ian]
Lavrov says no reason for start of new Cold War
It’s unlikely that a new Cold War could begin as there are no prerequisites for this, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the students of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Thursday.
“Of course, it is very difficult to compare these two situations (50 years ago and today), they are in stark contrast to each other. I don’t see any prerequisites for the new edition of the Cold War to become a reality,” Lavrov said.
In contrast to the era of ideological differences, Russia and the United States have common principles that both countries share as part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations.
“They envisage a democratic development of societies,” Lavrov said.
The minister added that a new edition of the Russian foreign policy concept is being drafted and will take into account the recent development.
“We are reporting to the president an updated foreign policy concept with account for recent development. I am convinced that we should not change the key trends outlined by the president in 2000, including multi-vector policy and openness for cooperation,” Lavrov said.
Russia not to return to former relations with US, EU, NATO
The minister said Russia’s Western partners have frequently violated their obligations in the sphere of security, therefore business as usual with the EU, US and NATO is now impossible.
“Political commitments (on European security) have been grossly violated and continue to be violated, and our proposals to translate these commitments from political declarations into the category of legally binding ones have been rejected outright”, he said.
The Russian foreign minister said that the West has long tried to keep Russia in the position of a ‘disciple’ in international relations.
“Our proposals encountered the selfishness of the political elites of a number of states, which sought to get geo-strategic advantages at the expense of other countries, flagrantly violating the solemn declarations that were adopted in the 1990s both at the summit level and within the OSCE, as well as within the framework of relations between Russia and NATO, that said that security is indivisible and that no country would strengthen its security at the expense of others”, the minister said.
“I hope that our partners remember this. But if they have forgotten, we will, of course, remind them, because we’ll not be able now to conduct business as usual either with the US or EU, let alone NATO,” Lavrov said.
According to Lavrov, Moscow is prepared to restore relations with the European Union and the United States, but on the basis of equality only.
“We are not going to turn away from anyone. We are ready to restore normal, full-fledged relations with the EU and the US, but only on the basis of equality, without any attempts to transform these relations into a one-way traffic,” he said.
Most countries disagree with West’s foreign policy
Speaking about Russia’s isolation in the world Lavrov said the statement is ridiculous, as eighty percent of the world’s population lives in the countries that share Moscow’s approaches.
“Why should (Western countries that imposed sanctions against Russia) be so concerned about what is going on in Syria? Why should have they acted this way because of the fact that there were plans to merely make Crimeans live in the country where the organizers of an armed anti-constitutional coup seized power?” the minister said.
“All those who criticize us in this regard say members of the world community allegedly turned away from us,” Lavrov said. “To begin with, no one has turned away from us, and it would be wrong to say that these are all members of the international community. Eighty percent of the world’s population lives in the countries, which share our approaches and want justice in world affairs, so speaking about any kind of isolation is ridiculous.”
Referring to anti-Russian sanctions, Lavrov emphasized that they had been initiated by “Western countries, above all, the US, which literally forced Europe to follow the same path through the aggressive minority in the European Union and also made Australia, Japan and a number of other countries do the same.
Lavrov noted Moscow will be ready to work with any new US leader.
“We will be ready to work with any leader who received confidence during free and democratic elections,” Lavrov said.
The minister noted though that the US election campaign “causes disappointment with US partners.” It is a very powerful country where the role of democratic principles, the principles of promoting political concepts has traditionally been high,” Lavrov said.
“Whoever wins, that will be the US president, this speaks for itself,” Russia’s top diplomat said. “We will be prepared to work with that person, of course, to the extent the new US leader will be ready to work with Russia, and not just work, but work on the basis of the mutually agreed principles, that is, equality, taking into account each other’s interests and mutual respect. With this scenario, we will be able to achieve a lot.”.
The minister went on to say that the United States has shown no interest in Moscow’s proposal to hold consultations on cooperation in ensuring cybersecurity.
“In November last year we proposed carrying out serious expert-level consultations, but no response followed,” Lavrov said. The minister said he had repeatedly mentioned this proposal at the meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The proposal came from Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office as several dozen Russian citizens have been arrested in third countries over the past years upon the US requests. “In half of the cases they were illegally taken to the US to stand trial there. Almost all of them are accused of cybercrimes,” the minister said.
Lavrov said he had repeatedly mentioned this proposal at the meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry, including during last week’s talks in Switzerland’s Geneva.
“He was surprised that we haven’t received the response so far. The US Department of Justice where the request was submitted refused to send a written response saying only: “We don’t see any sense to cooperate in this area,” Lavrov said. Kerry later said this was wrong and that he would try to change this position of the department, he added.
“In general, the understanding is growing in the West and in the US that it is difficult to solve any problems – either Syria, Iraq, Libya or many other crises – without us,” Lavrov stressed.
Cooperation on Syria
The minister went on to say that the United Nations Organization is not very active so far in the organization of the intra-Syrian political dialogue.
“We are pressing for the earliest beginning of a full-fledged political dialogue (in Syria). The UN has the corresponding mandate, but it is not very active in this sphere so far,” he said.
According to the minister, Russia is exerting efforts for the settlement of the Syrian crisis, combating terrorism and alleviating the population’s suffering based on international law. “International terrorism is our common enemy,” the minister said. “We are convinced that combating international terrorism is possible only on the international law basis, without double standards and with respect for UN central role.”
“We were guided by these principles, when in response to the Syrian government’s request we sent a contingent of the Russian Aerospace Forces to Syria to fight the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra (banned in Russia terrorist organizations), no matter how they are called now, and cooperating with them terrorist groups,” Lavrov continued added. “We are simultaneously fulfilling very important tasks to facilitate the humanitarian situation of the Syrian population, especially in the areas that are blocked by the militants,” he said.
Moscow sees no alternative to Minsk accords
The top diplomat commented on the Ukrainian crisis, saying that Russia sees no alternative to the Minsk agreements, non-compliance with them does no credit to Kiev, Paris and Berlin.
“I see no alternative to the Minsk agreements, even though attempts are made to convince us that those who signed these agreements and would like to implement them cannot do so for reasons beyond control,” he said. “These excuses do no credit to the Ukrainian leaders who coordinated the Minsk agreements. Nor do they do credit to those who were present in Minsk and endorsed these agreements. I am referring to the French president and the German chancellor.”
The minister said Paris and Berlin are behaving in a strange way by linking the implementation of the Minsk agreements with lifting sanctions against Russia.
“Of course, they behave a little bit strange when the chancellor and the French president say that the implementation of the Minsk agreements will allow lifting sanctions against Russia,” Lavrov said. “Russia is not mentioned there (in Minsk agreements) at all,” he said.
Revival of Geneva format
The Russian foreign minister went on to say that the revival of the Geneva format – composed of Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine – needs to begin with Kiev fulfilling its commitments to carry out nationwide constitutional reforms.
“At present, we can sometimes hear Kiev saying that they want to go back to the Geneva format,” Lavrov noted. “And in the Geneva format – that’s Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine – the seat of France and Germany (in the Normandy format) is occupied by bureaucrats from Brussels and also the US,” he said.
Russia’s top diplomat restated that the first meeting in this format took place in mid-April 2014 in Switzerland’s Geneva. Besides Lavrov, the conference was attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Ukraine’s Acting Foreign Minister Andrei Deshchytsia and the EU’s former foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
In Geneva, the parties approved a one-page document that contained a demand to immediately launch consultations with all of Ukraine’s regions on constitutional reform. “A month later we asked the Americans and EU officials what they did to compel the new authorities (in Ukraine) to start the all-Ukrainian constitutional reforms involving all the regions. They turned their eyes away shamefully,” he added.
“If the calls to revive the Geneva format are true, then certainly we will begin by implementing this document and will insist on the all-Ukrainian constitutional reform as the Ukrainian authorities had put their signatures on this,” Lavrov stated.
Lavrov added the US has not called the Minsk agreements into question and has shown interest in resolving the Ukrainian crisis on the basis of this document.
“The United States is now showing interest in helping resolve this crisis on the basis of the Minsk agreements,” the diplomat said. “They have not questioned this text, they just want to use their influence to help implement it.”
“They only have contacts with the authorities in Kiev, so all the entire ‘weight’ of the United States would be felt by Kiev’s leadership,” Lavrov noted. “I hope that this work will not be done formally, but will focus on actually implementing everything that has been agreed on.”.
Flaws of Euro Atlantic security system
The minister added the situation in Ukraine is very serious and the conflict there has shown that the current structure of the Euro Atlantic security is in crisis.
“We have a very difficult situation in Ukraine,” Lavrov said. “The crisis in that country became the catalyzer of processes that have shown the shortcoming of the security system in Europe and the Euro Atlantic region on the whole, and uncovered systemic flaws of this structure and it was impossible to reform it for many years despite the proposals that we had submitted,” he said.
According to the United Nations, almost 9,500 people were killed, including up to 2,000 civilians, and nearly 22,000 others were wounded since the conflict in Ukraine began in spring 2014.
Crimea’s reunification with Russia
Lavrov noted that no legal obstacles to the recognition by the West of Crimea’s reunification with Russia exist.
“There is no legal problem whatsoever with the recognition by our Western partners of Crimea’s reunification with the Russian Federation,” the minister said.
“There is no political will, there is a clear political desire to use this situation in line with the policy course that had been pursued by the West under the US leadership long before the Ukrainian crisis. The course to contain Russia,” Lavrov said.
He said that the reunification of Crimea with Russia “took place in full accordance with international law.”
The Russian foreign minister said that in accordance with the UN General Assembly’s “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations” of 1970, the establishment of a sovereign independent state or unification with it, as well as the establishment of any other political status freely determined by the people are the forms in which the people exercise their right to self-determination.
The minister said that the authors of that Declaration did not forget that there is also a regulation on the territorial integrity of a state. “The declaration says that it is simultaneously necessary to respect the territorial integrity of the state from which secession is made, but the state has the right to the full support for its territorial integrity only if within this integrity it secures the right to self-determination for all the residents in its territory”, the Russian foreign minister said.
“The Ukrainian state has deprived the Crimean people of the right to self-determination”, Lavrov said adding that therefore, the referendum was more than legitimate.
According to the Russian foreign minister, the West is afraid to draw parallels between Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the situation with Kosovo.
“Our Western partners as the devil fears holy water fear any proposal to analyze what has happened in Crimea in the light of what they have done in Kosovo,” the minister said.
He said that the West is putting the emphasis on the fact that Kosovo is a special case which cannot be compared with anything. “Although the comparison is more than appropriate,” the minister added. Lavrov said that there were no referendums in Kosovo, there was no physical threat whatsoever to the Kosovo Albanians.
Moscow not choosing between Europe and Asia
The top diplomat went on to say that Russia is not going to be torn between Europe and Asia, but will pursue an independent multi-vector foreign policy.
“We call our foreign policy course multi-vector, taking into account all the development directions, call it independent, because Russia as a state in all its manifestations could never and cannot have any other course but an independent one,” he said.
The Asia-Pacific Region has become the driving force of economic development, this is part of the process of transition to the multipolar world system, he added.
“The trend of rejecting unilateral policy of force in international affairs is based on an objective process, above all, the process of forming a polycentric system of international relations…,” he said. “New centers of economic power emerge in the world, and with that comes the economic impact.”
“These processes are observed, in the first instance, in the Asia-Pacific region, which will remain the driving force of economic development for a long time. This is happening against the backdrop of the fact that our largest trading partner, the European Union, which remains such, in spite of sanctions, is gradually losing its positions,” the Russian foreign minister added.
His studies in history and background in the media industry have given him a keen insight into the use of mass media as a creator of conflict in the modern world.
His favored areas of study include state-sponsored terrorism, media manufactured reality and the role of intelligence services in manipulation of populations and the perception of events.