Speech by Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, at meeting with members of the Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow, June 4, 2014:
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I am delighted to have the opportunity to meet members of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) for two reasons. Firstly, because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the co-founder of this organisation, and secondly, because I personally am also a member of the RIAC. The exchange of opinions and “comparison of notes” is a mutually beneficial process. I do not hide that in our practical work we are actively driven by the ideas which are discussed and formed within the RIAC. I emphasise that the organisation has made its contribution to the work on the new edition of the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the President, Vladimir Putin,on the 12 February 2013.
The situation in the world remains complicated, it is changing, and we will hardly be able to draw any complete conclusions today. At the same time, it is evident that the Ukrainian crisis has seriously shaken the international situation, and its effect will be felt for a sufficiently long time. Political analysts attempt to stick clichés on it, crying: a “cold war”, the most serious crisis in the last 30 years. The nature of these events rather than tags are important. To that end, we would like to share some considerations.
The events in Ukraine were not a manifestation of new trends, but rather a culmination of the course implemented by our western partners for many years with regard to Russia. In fact, the habit not to perceive Russians as being of their kind has been present in Western Europe for centuries – despite the fact that we have been an integral part of the European culture and politics for at least the last three centuries, and the periods of Russia’s active participation in general European affairs were characterised by stability and peace in the continent. I would not like to go deep into contemplations about why we cannot reach true partnership in Europe – differences in worldview, historical experience, traditions, and finally the size of our country evidently play their role.
Unfortunately, the trend to see a rival rather than a partner in Russia was also maintained after the breakup of the USSR. In fact, the course of deterrence of our country in a mild form was continued. We were surprised that they even started to use the idea that the Soviet Union with its communist doctrine at least remained within the framework of the system of ideas, which were developed in the West, while the new Russia is returning to its traditional values, which are rooted in the Orthodox faith and therefore is becoming even less understandable.
Of course, it is not about this alone. Lately, we have been seeing a clearer contradiction between the strengthening multipolarity and the aspirations of the United States and the historical West to keep their usual domineering positions,between the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world and the attempts to impose the western scale of values on everybody, while this scale of values is tearing away from its own Christian roots more and more and is becoming less sensitive to the religious feelings of people of other religions. The wish of western elites to show that the recent trend of reduction of the weight of the West in the global balance of forces, is not irreversible. The words by Fyodor Dostoryevsky come to my mind, who once wrote with irony that we should serve the European truth, because there is no and can be no other truth.
In the last quarter of a century we have talked to partners in the European Atlantic region about the building-up of strategic relations, created joint bodies, which were envisaged to contribute to this, adopted political declarations with appeals to form a common space of peace, security and stability. At the same time, our western partners have promoted their own agenda, ignoring Russia’s interests in many points, expanded NATO, and generally attempted to move the geopolitical space under their control directly to the Russian borders.
It seems that our country has come into the firing line as the most active expresser of an independent point of view in the modern world, which considers independent policy to be its natural right. Of course, such a line does not match the claims of others to defend their exclusiveness.
It is more and more easy for the west to take the accuser’s position. We are defending basic principles of international law, rejecting illegal interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, they rebuke us of extreme conservatism, saying we have got stuck on the status quo and do not notice the changes taking place in the world. When we support the expression of free will of the Crimean people – fully agreeing with their right to self-determination, they start calling us a “revisionist power”, which is attempting to return international relations to geopolitical rivalry. In fact, geopolitics have always been there, they just attempted to pretend that they were a prerogative of a group of elect countries, which are able to redraw the situation all over the world according to their templates.
The paradox is that they are doing this contrary to their evident and objective benefit, which a combination of technologies, resources and human capital could bring to both parts of the European continent. To a known extent, this contradiction can be explained by the fact that the course to restriction of Russia’s possibilities is led not by European powers, but by the United States. Many analysts in Russia, the European Union and in the United States underline that the United States do not want to allow the potentials of Russia and the EU to combine, guided primarily by the objective of keeping their global leadership. Immanuel Wallerstein wrote only recently about the “nightmare of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis”, which is haunting Washington politicians. It is believed that these considerations mainly predetermined the proposition of the US initiative to create a transatlantic trade and investment partnership.
If we look at the course of events from this point of view, it turns out that the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme, initiated by those members of the European Union who are extremely loyal to the United States, was used as a means to create some kind of “healthy corridor” between the EU and our country. In other words, to counteract Russia’s and the EU’s strategic interests to jointly search for new sources of development.
Lately, it has become especially evident that the choice was made in favour of activation of actions to “kick Russia back” – the United States seem to do this more consciously, while the EU does it out of solidarity with their US partners – and in the hope that Russia will have to “swallow” another wave of attack on its interests. To be noted, this choice was made long before the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine – it is sufficient to recall the landmarks of the spinning of the anti-Russian spiral, like the Magnitsky list, the accusations against us of all the sins of Iran and then Syria. The very fact of the preparation and holding of the Olympics in Sochi has become a cause for the “ballooning” of the anti-Russian propaganda, in proportions which have nothing to do with common sense or elementary decency.
According to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, Ukraine was the threshold after which further “pressing of the spring” is no longer possible. We warned our western colleagues many times that it is inadmissible to swing the fragile internal political situation in Ukraine, about the serious consequences of creating a spot of instability in Europe. Despite this, there was gross interference ininternal Ukrainian affairs, the anti-constitutional coup d’état based on ultranationalist and neo-Nazi forces was staged and supported.
Russia responded to this in the only possible way, having demonstrated that we will in no way observe the implementation of the regime change in our neighbouring fraternal country, the open attack on Russians, their language, history and culture, their legal rights according to general European conventions. At the same time, we have always aspired to, and are still ready for,joint honest work to assist the Ukrainians in overcoming the crisis situation in this fraternal country.
We supported the February agreement, although we did not believe that it was ideal, we participated in the development of the Geneva Statement of the 17 April, accepted the “roadmap” developed by the Current OSCE President, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter. All these documents contain the general main principles, the implementation of which can lead to the restoration of peace in Ukraine. Primarily, this is a stop to the violence and the starting of an internal Ukrainian dialogue, which should ensure consideration of the legal interests of all regions of the country. We appeal to western sponsors of the Kiev authorities every day to use their influence to ensure an immediate stop to the military operation in the South-East of Ukraine. After this, we can really search for ways of setting up the negotiation process regarding an exit from the crisis.
Now, I will tell you how we see the further development of the international situation. Firstly, we are against sliding back to primitive schemes of straightforward confrontation between Russia and the West. The second edition of the “cold war” in the modern global world is impossible, due to several reasons. Firstly, Europe is not an indisputable centre of world policy any more, it will not be able to behave in such a way, as if the events in other regions do not matter. To be noted, the four-year report published by the U.S. Department of Defence emphasises that the United States are primarily a power of the Pacific Ocean.
Secondly, global challenges do not disappear because of the Ukrainian crisis. Refusal of cooperation between all the leading powers would not contribute to the settlement of conflict situations around Syria, Iran’s Nuclear Programme, in the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan and in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Let us not forget about the crises in Africa. We already helped the European Union in Chad and the CAR, we worked jointly against pirates. Russia is ready to continue to make a constructive contribution to the resolution of transborder problems. On a mutually respectful and equal footing, of course.
Only by collective efforts can we organise effective counteraction of the challenges such as terrorism (Barack Obama said this is the main threat to the security of the United States in West Point), the drug industry, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal migration, climate change and many other things. “Cutting ropes” and “sealing hatches” is not an option in relations between Russia and the West, either for us or for them. However, it is clear that we will not return to the previous model of mutual relations, which is insincere with regard to Russia and full of double standards.
I hope that the current crisis will become a kind of “refreshing storm”, which will help to transfer our relations with western partners to healthier and fairer foundations (probably not at once). It will probably have less tormenting discussions about the search for general values and more recognition of the right to be different, more aspirations to build relations on firm foundations of equality, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests.
We intend to keep a positive agenda in our interaction with all our partners in the European Atlantic region. We are convinced about the idea of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin,of a common economic and humanitarian space stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, which could include the EU countries and member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as the countries located between these integration blocks, including Ukraine, other participants of the Eastern Partnership and Turkey. If we managed to formalise such a strategic goal in a principled way, the stage-by-stage movement towards it would significantly ease the overcoming of serious misbalances in the area of European security. In this regard, and especially in the context of the Ukrainian crisis, our well-known proposition to codify the political obligations undertaken within the OSCE about equal and undivided security in the European Atlantic region is still topical.
Russia is strongly committed to the philosophy of building collective actions on firm foundations of international law, provided that international law is not used as a tool to service the interests of individual participants of international communication.
In any case, the concept of turning the historical West into a sort of bastille, from which they can guide the world’s economies and fulfil the functions of global policemen, is a dangerous illusion. It is dangerous not because it could be implemented – it is simply unreal to build fenced out “oases of welfare and security” in the modern world – but because the attempts to implement it could disrupt international stability even more.
We have been proposing another path for a long time: to combine the potentials and political will of all three branches of European civilisation in the interests of ensuring its sustainable perspective in today’s dynamic and highly competitive world. Of course, such interaction must be built on recognition of the objective reality – the formation of a new, democratic, polycentric system of international relations in full compliance with the initial idea set down in the UN Charter by its founders.
The consistent reinforcement of the multi-vector nature is a priority of Russian foreign policy.
I do not mean the building of anti-American or anti-western structures. Russia’s reaction to the unfriendly innuendoes from overseas has been shown clearly lately, that we do not accept invitations to this kind of games and we do not intend to get involved in senseless confrontations only for the sake of providing the United States and NATO with an image of the enemy as they desire it. We are strongly convinced that it is impossible to control the modern world without true partnership between the main centres of power.
The correction of the historical shift to the west is a manageable task, but we would not like to resolve it at the expense of reduction of our scope of cooperation in the western direction, but rather through the building up of interaction along other vectors, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region. The results of the recent visit of the President of Russia to China have become a large-scale breakthrough of the country’s integration inthis region. In general, Russian-Chinese interaction is being established as a weighty factor in world politics, which is working in favour of democratisation of international relations. Our interaction within RIC (Russia-India-China), which was founded by Yevgeny Primakov, is of the same kind.
We need to use the SCO potential more actively, including to jointly counteract the threats generated by the situation in Afghanistan.
The forthcoming BRICS summit in Brazil is expected to confirm the effectiveness of this influential group, which is a sample of cooperation above regional structures and not against anybody, but for the sake of promotion of matching interests.
Whatever the outcome, Russia is still a large global player, and this envisages the continuation of an energetic policy in all directions, including in the development of relations with the Latin American and African countries. My recent trip to Latin America showed that we have good opportunities for that. The extension of the Russian presence is actually welcomed by all the countries of the region.
The situation in the world remains complicated and it is hard to predict its development. We can be sure that the future will bring us many surprises, including in the form of emerging factors, which change the rules of the game. It seems evident that international development will not be linear and will be related to new junctions and turns incurring additional risks and opportunities. We expect that the solid intellectual potential of the RIAC will be used in full scope in the interests of prompt re-valuation of events and the formulation of fresh ideas and well-considered propositions, which should ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the Russian foreign policy’s course.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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Lavrov speech, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, June 4, 2014