While Putin was consulting with his General Staff at Rostov on Don about which we know a meeting occurred and nothing else, MFA Lavrov was interviewed by the Russian publication International Affairs. The English version is linked, but the Russian option can be chosen at the link within the header. I should note the Russian version has much more content. For example, there’s this item, “Zakharova explained Borrell's words to Russia by helplessness,” as the infamous gardener recently said to El Pais, “said that the Russian Federation is a ‘gas station with an atomic bomb.’” All serious students of Russia ought to have this publication bookmarked and also read what it offers. The level of sophistication in the questions asked is what makes it worthy as the answers produced provide greater understanding of the Big Picture.
The picture below isn’t quite correct as it omits Ukriane, Japan and South Korea from the Red Western Nations and doesn’t include Crimea of Donbass region with the Blue Non-Western Nations. Do note the patch of blue in the Balkans. There’s a great deal I’d add emphasis to both in the questions and Lavrov’s answers, but decided to leave it all as-is.
Question: The world has entered a period of confrontation between the concepts of global development: the positions of Russia, China and, in general, the non-West as opposed to the policy of Western domination. Was it inevitable, based on the differences in civilizations, approaches to the use of force and international law, an understanding of the role of international institutions? In the context of current challenges, what, in your opinion, is the role and mission of Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: I cannot but agree that the concept of Western domination promoted by the United States and its subordinate countries does not imply the harmonious development of all mankind. On the contrary, we have to deal with the constant desire of the Western minority for military-political and financial-economic expansion. The slogans are changing: now they talk about globalization, then about Westernization, Americanization, universalization, liberalization, etc. But the essence remains the same - to subordinate all independent players to their will, to force them to play by the rules beneficial to the West.
Today, few people deny that the Americans and their satellites are trying to slow down, or even reverse the natural process of evolution of international relations in the context of the formation of a multipolar system. They consider it possible to "bend" the whole world to suit their needs with the use of unsuitable, illegal methods, including the use of force, unilateral (i.e., not approved by the UN Security Council) sanctions, information and psychological operations, etc.
In the West, people like Josep Borrell are now at the helm, dividing the world into their "blooming garden" and "jungle", where, in their opinion, most of humanity lives. With this, dare I say it, racist worldview, of course, it is difficult to come to terms with the onset of multipolarity. The political and economic establishment of Europe and the United States reasonably fear that the transition to a multipolar system is associated with serious geopolitical and economic losses, the final breakdown of globalization in its current form, tailored according to Western patterns. They are frightened, first of all, by the prospect of losing the opportunity to parasitize the rest of the world, thereby ensuring outstripping economic growth at the expense of others.
The rejection of the logic of historical development, which is not hidden by the current generation of Western leaders, most of all testifies to their professional degradation, the loss of the ability to correctly analyze current events and predict trends. Another confirmation of this thesis is manifested in the fact that it was the ill-conceived policy of the United States and its wards that made the current aggravation of the international situation inevitable - despite our many years of attempts to prevent it. I am referring to the full-scale crisis of European security, the blame for which lies entirely with our former partners.
Given all this, modern Russia sees its mission in maintaining a global balance of interests and building a fairer architecture of international relations. Our views are set out in a systematic form in the new version of the Foreign Policy Concept approved by President of Russia Vladimir Putin on March 31, 2023. One of the key tasks in this area is to revive the UN's ability to play a central role in coordinating the interests of member states.
We are far from alone in this endeavor. More and more countries in the Global South and East are beginning to recognize and formulate national interests, to pursue policies focused on their implementation in the spirit of international cooperation. These states are increasingly advocating the formation of a more equitable world order through the reform of existing or the creation of new formats of interaction to solve specific problems in the field of security and development. We support this trend on the basis of a clear understanding that it is the future.
Question: In 1987, while on a visit to Moscow, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: "I think that there has never been a more significant deterrent than nuclear weapons. That is why we have had peace in Europe for the last 40 years." Today, in public discourse, the topic of the possibility of using this type of weapon is widely discussed. Some are of the opinion that the bar for its use in the face of a threat to the very existence of Russia is underestimated. Others find this approach completely unacceptable. What is your opinion on this?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, a lot has been said about the role of nuclear weapons in Russia's foreign policy lately. Let me remind you that the conditions for its possible application on our part are set out in doctrinal documents. It is important to understand that Russia's state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence is exclusively defensive in nature. It is aimed at maintaining the potential of nuclear forces at the minimum level necessary to guarantee the protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, to prevent aggression against Russia and its allies.
In the context of deterrence, the possession of nuclear weapons is today the only possible response to some significant external threats to the security of our country. The development of the situation around Ukraine has confirmed the validity of our concerns in this area. Grossly violating the principle of indivisibility of security, NATO - an organization that, let me remind you, proclaimed itself a nuclear alliance - relied on the "strategic defeat" of Russia. The "collective West" used our forced retaliatory actions to protect its external security contour as a pretext for moving to a fierce confrontation using a hybrid arsenal of means.
In the context of the Ukrainian conflict, the great danger lies in the fact that, leading to escalation, the United States and NATO countries risk finding themselves in a situation of direct armed clash of nuclear powers. We believe that such a development should and can be prevented. Therefore, we are forced to remind of the existence of high military-political risks and send sobering signals to opponents.
I want to emphasize that our country is fully committed to the principle of the inadmissibility of nuclear war and proceeds from the fact that there can be no winners in such a war. Accordingly, it should never be unleashed. This postulate was reaffirmed by the leaders of the five nuclear powers in a joint statement dated January 3, 2022. In this regard, at this stage, the most important task is for each of the nuclear states to maintain their commitment to these understandings and their maximum restraint.
Question: Russia and the West have come close to a direct clash. Don't you think that the amount of over-the-top Russophobia has grown into a different historical quality? How would you characterise the threat of escalation of tension today, is it possible to repeat the tragic pages of the history of the twentieth century, which witnessed two world wars?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, Western countries have literally broken through after a couple of decades when they pretended to be civilised and adequate partners in the international arena. However, this situation also has a positive side - the world majority had the opportunity to see the true face of those who claimed almost a monopoly right to determine "universal values".
The Russophobic essence of many of our former partners, hidden under the guise of hypocrisy, has manifested itself today in all its glory, if, of course, I may say so. But let's not forget that it didn't start yesterday. For many years, they cynically engaged in turning our neighboring country into a military foothold hostile to Russia, nurturing a whole generation of politicians there who were preparing to declare war on a common history, a common culture, and indeed everything Russian.
Western capitals openly admitted that they did not plan to implement the Minsk agreements, which were designed to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. In fact, they were only playing for time to prepare for a military scenario, pumping Kyiv with weapons.
I think it is important to understand the main thing: in the West, they want to eliminate our country as a serious geopolitical competitor. It is for this reason that Washington and Brussels have unleashed a hybrid war against us. In addition to it, there is unprecedented sanctions pressure. The Americans are trying to discourage our partners from economic and any other cooperation with Russia with carrots and sticks. Outright sabotage is used, as in the case of the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Outrageous efforts are being made to "disconnect" our country from the mechanisms of international cooperation in the field of culture, education, science and sports.
It is obvious that all these and other aggressive measures are aimed at weakening and exhausting Russia. They want to deplete our economic, technological and defense capabilities to the maximum, limit sovereignty and force us to abandon an independent course in foreign and domestic policy.
About 50 countries that are members of the "Ramstein coalition" for military support of Ukraine are actually involved in the armed conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime, which, I emphasize, does not shun terrorist methods of warfare. Large-scale deliveries of Western weapons, including cluster and long-range weapons, are going to Ukraine. NATO instructors participate in the planning of operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, NATO intelligence is used.
In value terms, total foreign aid to the Zelensky regime in the year since the beginning of the NWO has exceeded $160 billion, including military aid - $75 billion. By the way, according to the estimates of the Washington-based NGO The Heritage Foundation, the United States has already allocated about $113 billion to Ukraine, that is, $900 each. from each household, plus an additional $300. in the form of interest on servicing the relevant debt obligations. Huge amounts, especially given the difficult situation in the global economy.
At the same time, Western leaders repeat like a mantra that they will help Kyiv for as long as necessary. Of course, fighting to the last Ukrainian is their choice, as well as the decision of V. Zelensky's clique. Historically, however, the U.S. has not had the best track record in supporting its allies. It is enough just to keep in mind the episodes of the abrupt cessation of US military assistance to South Vietnam in 1973 and the regime of A. Ghani in Afghanistan in 2021 and the fact that this led to the immediate fall of the authorities loyal to Washington. But today's Ukraine is almost completely dependent on Western financial injections and arms supplies.
If you look into the future, everything is bleak for the Kiev authorities and their curators. The more the armed clashes drag on, the less desire Western investors have to participate in the post-conflict reconstruction of Ukraine. Their faith in its military successes and, in general, in the preservation of this state in any form and border is becoming weaker. Not to mention the fact that Kiev's ability to service its public debt is a big question. Non-repayment of loans will inevitably put an additional burden on taxpayers in Western countries, will contribute to the acceleration of inflation and a decrease in living standards.
The West should also realize something else: Russia will protect its people and its vital interests by all means. And it will be better if our opponents as soon as possible understand the complete futility of confrontation with Russia and move on to more civilized, political and diplomatic ways to ensure a balance of interests.
Question: A number of politicians, in particular, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban, have repeatedly said that Russia and the United States should agree to end the conflict in Ukraine. Do you share this point of view?
Sergey Lavrov: It seems that this logic implies that Ukraine is a puppet of the Americans, and all important issues need to be resolved with them. The problem, however, is that the United States does not intend to end the conflict. As I have already said, their officially declared task is to inflict a "strategic defeat" on Russia, to weaken us as much as possible militarily, economically and politically. Therefore, Washington constantly insists that all negotiations on a settlement should be conducted exclusively on the terms of the Ukrainians, that is, on the basis of the notorious "peace formula" of V. Zelensky. In our opinion, this is a meaningless ultimatum. It is impossible to demand that we agree with the infringement of our fundamental interests in the field of security and the continuation of arbitrariness against Russian and Russian-speaking people in new territories and lands controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Let me remind you that in December 2021, we made a serious attempt to convey our concerns to Western capitals by submitting drafts of two treaties – on security guarantees with the United States and on security measures with NATO member states. However, our initiative was arrogantly rejected "from the doorstep". Instead of negotiations, they threw all their efforts into increasing the production of weapons and ammunition for transfer to Ukraine, provoking a further escalation of regional tensions.
Our approach is consistent and completely transparent. We have always said that we are ready for a meaningful dialogue, and we have spent many years and efforts trying to get Kiev to implement the Minsk agreements. As you know, from the first days of the special military operation, Russia has been open to discussing ways to achieve its goals and objectives through political and diplomatic means. We immediately responded to Ukraine's proposal to start negotiations and conducted them until the Ukrainian side, at the behest of the West, interrupted them in April 2022, and later, on September 30, 2022, V. Zelensky, by his decree, completely banned negotiations with the Russian leadership. Thus, it was Kiev, at the suggestion of external curators, that sabotaged diplomatic work.
Now, multilateral meetings are being held in different cities, either in Copenhagen or Jeddah, without inviting Russian representatives, in the hope of convincing developing countries to support Zelensky's "peace formula". At the same time, Moscow is accused of "unwillingness to participate in negotiations", and any arguments about the need to take into account the vital interests of our country are immediately dismissed. It is clear that such an approach does not indicate the intention of the West to negotiate something with Russia.
Thus, the prospects for negotiations between Russia and the West now, alas, are not visible. In addition, Western sponsors are constantly pushing the Kyiv regime to raise rates. And we regard the hypocritical calls of the Westerners for negotiations as a tactical ploy to once again gain time, to give the exhausted Ukrainian troops a respite and the opportunity to regroup, to pump them up again with weapons and ammunition. But this is the path of war, not a peaceful settlement. This is absolutely clear to us.
Question: The second Russia-Africa summit was recently held in St Petersburg. As a result, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin praised both the current level of relations with African countries and the prospects for their development. In which areas do you see the greatest potential for cooperation?
Sergey Lavrov: The second Russia-Africa Summit, held in St Petersburg in July, reaffirmed the firm commitment of Moscow and African countries to cooperation and expand the framework of partnership. He also revealed the existence of a common ideological basis for our interaction in the form of traditional spiritual and moral values. Despite enormous pressure from the West, the meeting was attended by 48 official delegations and representatives of five leading regional integration associations. These figures clearly indicate that the independent foreign policy of our country enjoys the understanding of developing countries, and the efforts of the United States and its allies aimed at the international isolation of Russia have failed.
The core vector of our cooperation with Africa is assistance in strengthening the political, economic and technological sovereignty of partners. We are ready to share relevant experience with our African friends in order to increase the sustainability and competitiveness of their public administration systems, ensure food security, and implement national priorities in the field of socio-economic development. Russia is perceived in Africa as a reliable partner in terms of helping to maintain military-political stability, resolve regional conflicts, fight terrorism, drug crime and other cross-border threats and challenges.
The summit opened up prospects for building up Russian-African cooperation in various fields. This, in particular, concerns investment, regional economic integration, agriculture, energy, infrastructure construction, subsoil use, information and communication technologies, health and education.
Special mention should be made of our pilot project to create a Russian industrial zone in Egypt, which is designed to become a platform for the production and export of goods to other countries in the region using the capabilities of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Russia remains a bona fide supplier of energy, food, fertilizers, and medicines to Africa. One of the most popular areas of cooperation is the provision of humanitarian assistance to the states of special need in the region.
Traditionally, we pay considerable attention to personnel training. Almost 35,<> African students study at Russian universities, and this number is growing every year. It is planned to open branches of leading Russian universities in African countries, the creation of other joint educational institutions.
Question: In the current environment, Russia's relations with the EAEU and CSTO countries are of particular importance. The dynamics of the development of interaction within these structures is obvious. At the same time, our partners, in particular in the Central Asian states, are subjected to serious external pressure in order to force them to join the anti-Russian sanctions. How, in your opinion, can this be resisted?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, our partners in the EAEU and the CSTO are under tremendous pressure from unfriendly states. High-ranking officials from Western capitals have become regular to visit them to hold "consultations" on "countering the circumvention" of illegitimate anti-Russian sanctions. If we call a spade a spade, then we are talking, of course, about attempts by threats and blackmail to force our allies to abandon absolutely legitimate cooperation with Russia.
We understand that our partners are forced to exercise caution in the face of external pressure exerted on them. The mutual trade and economic obligations between us continue to be fulfilled because they meet the interests of the parties and do not violate international law.
Naturally, reciprocal steps are being taken on our part aimed at stopping attempts at destructive influence from outside. Thus, within the framework of the EAEU, the development of joint measures has been established to overcome the consequences of the sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus by increasing the stability of the economies of the Union countries. This has already yielded concrete results. The volume of mutual trade, the share of national currencies in mutual settlements are steadily growing, the number of cooperation projects is increasing, and food and energy security is fully ensured.
Let me give you some more figures. The EAEU market accounts for up to 40% of the foreign trade of the Central Asian states. More than 10,900 Russian and joint ventures operate in the Central Asian region, creating many thousands of jobs. In general, Eurasian integration is the key to maintaining the economic stability of the EAEU member states and improving the well-being of their citizens.
This is fully true in relation to the CSTO. The basis of our cooperation in this organisation is the principles of equality and consideration for the interests of all its member states. We are confident that our allies are critical of the West's recent increased attention to their countries and will not allow themselves to be involved in plans aimed at escalating military-political tensions.
On the whole, of course, we hope that, while developing ties with third countries and associations, our allies in the EAEU and the CSTO will not take steps that contradict their obligations within the framework of these organisations. At the same time, it is not in our rules to "teach life" to other states or dictate how and with whom they build relations. Russia does not forbid any of our neighbors and partners to establish interaction with anyone, but always asks to take into account our legitimate interests. I think they hear us.