Moscow, September 1, 2017
I am happy to welcome all of you to our meeting, traditionally held at the beginning of the academic year, including the students, faculty and management of MGIMO University and the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but primarily the first-year students. A new stage has begun in their adult lives. They have joined those who will devote their lives to international relations as diplomats, journalists, business people or other international affairs professionals. There are many professions that depend on the international factor.
I have come here from the opening ceremony at the Primakov School, which has opened today in the Moscow Region. At the first day of the new academic year at the Primakov School, we talked about the importance of the rising generation in Russia. This subject is also of concern to you, because in a relatively short while you will assume responsibility for the further development of our Fatherland and for the protection of its interests on the international stage. Russia can only develop effectively under favourable external conditions, which can be created through the pursuit of a responsible and independent foreign policy aimed at upholding national interests. This has been our consistent policy.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said more than once that ongoing confrontation and attempts at isolating oneself or others are not Russia’s choice. We are open to cooperation with everyone who is ready for it but only on the basis of mutual respect, equality and consideration for the interests of each other, as well as compliance with international law in its entirety rather than in the parts that satisfy the short-term aspirations of any of our partners today.
Russia has a unique geostrategic position, substantial military-political and economic potential and the status of permanent member of the UN Security Council. Owing to these factors Russia is a key centre of human civilisation. We have repeatedly proved throughout history that we can successfully resolve the tasks of our domestic development, uphold our sovereignty and, if need be, to protect the rights of our compatriots abroad and support our allies. History has shown that nobody can subordinate us to foreign influence and try to resolve their problems at our expense. I am sure this will not happen in the future, either. Let me repeat that probably not all learn these lessons.
It is no secret that part of what is called the political elite of the West does not like our independent policy. They would like to deal with an obedient Russia that is ready to make concessions to its own detriment. And so they seek to punish us for upholding our lawful place in international affairs and the world. You certainly are familiar with these attempts to punish us. They are using various tools of deterrence, sanctions, and information warfare to distort our principled approach to various international issues and smear our foreign policy.
It is well-known who violated the basic principles of international law in the past few years – sovereign equality of states and commitments not to interfere in their internal affairs and to resolve all disputes by peaceful means. These principles are sealed in the UN Charter. We know who trampled on their obligations in the OSCE, resolutions of the UN Security Council, who bombed Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya and wreaked havoc in the Middle East and North Africa, and who allowed the emergence of the terrorist international that spawned al-Qaeda, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which are now the main enemies of all humankind.
Russia has always opposed and will oppose lawlessness in the world arena. Quite recently, Russia and China signed a declaration on upgrading the role of international law in interstate relations and disseminated it as an official UN document. We invited other nations to discuss it but our Western partners are not enthusiastic. Be that as it may, we will continue actively working to stabilise the world order.
Importantly, in doing so we are not striving to restore empire or achieve geopolitical or some other form of expansion. All we want is to build our own lives ourselves, without foreign prompting and unwelcome advice, without attempts to incite against us friendly and kindred nations with whom we are bound by many centuries of shared history, culture, traditions and family ties. We are not imposing our views or advice on anyone, but as I have already said, we do not accept anyone’s claims of exceptionalism, or the logic of “Gods may do what cattle may not.”
We see that many Western politicians find it difficult to accept the obvious – the post-bipolar era is over. The hopes of replacing it with hegemony were not realised. Today we are witnessing the development of a new, more just and democratic polycentric arrangement based on the emergence and consolidation of new centres of economic power and related political influence. Guided by their own national interests, countries and emerging power centres are striving to play an active role in the formation of the international agenda to make it reflect their interests and are confidently assuming their share of responsibility for maintaining security and stability at different levels. In effect, a multi-polar system reflects the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world, the desire of nations to decide their destinies themselves and a natural striving for justice as envisioned by those who wrote the UN Charter. Having re-read it, we will understand that those who seek more justice in world affairs are not asking for anything extraordinary.
A small group of Western states, which strive to thwart the aspirations of peoples and stoop to diktat and the use of force in circumvention of the UN Security Council, is certainly standing in the way of forming a multipolar world order, but no one can stop this objective and relentless process.
We are convinced that there’s no alternative to reviving the culture of dialogue, searching for compromise solutions, and returning to creative diplomacy as a tool for coordinating generally acceptable solutions in politics, economy, finance, and environment. The countries of the world must join their efforts and maintain a balance of interests if they want to come up with effective solutions, and this must be done without delay.
Recent tensions have come at a cost for international stability. Of particular concern are persistent efforts by NATO to reshape the military-political situation in the Euro-Atlantic area, including the build-up of military presence and infrastructure in the regions bordering on Russia, and, of course, the creation of a European segment of US global missile defence. Probably, those who initiate such unconstructive actions realise that we can reliably ensure our sovereignty and security under any scenario that may come our way. However, being a responsible country, we are firmly committed to the declarations made by the OSCE and the Russia-NATO Council over the past 20 years. We all want to form a security space in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia that is equal for all. None of us will try to improve one’s own security at the expense of the security of others. Unfortunately, these declarations remained on paper as political promises. Our attempts to make them legally binding were rejected by Western countries. I’m convinced that if it turned out the other way, and if equal and indivisible security was actually legally binding, then many current conflicts in Europe would have been settled a long time ago. I think this is true of the Transnistrian, Karabakh, and Kosovo conflicts. With legally binding equal security regulations, we could have agreed on the non-use of force in Transcaucasia, which we have long been trying to achieve. The most recent Ukraine crisis probably would not have taken place, if we all respected our OSCE commitments of equal and indivisible security.
Nonetheless, we will continue to seek to unite the efforts of all the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area and throughout the world to repel common terrible threats, primarily, the threat of international terrorism. We are helping the legitimate Syrian government to neutralise terrorists and are contributing to the general political process. We are working with all the parties involved and are not encouraging outside interference, based on the premise that the Syrians themselves should determine the future of their country. We are using the same principles in our dealings with all the parties to the crises in Libya, Iraq, and Yemen as we seek to overcome the challenges faced by these countries. We offer our assistance in resuming the Palestinian-Israeli talks, promote national reconciliation initiatives in Afghanistan and peaceful settlement of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula.
The implementation of President Putin’s initiative to form the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which provides for establishing an open multilateral trade and economic cooperation between the countries participating in the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN, and, possibly, other Asian and European countries, in the interest of forming a single economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, will take time to get implemented. This is a long-standing idea, but, given the lively interest in it on behalf of regional integration groups, it may well become a reality.
We hope that common sense and political wisdom will make it possible to restore our relations with the EU and its members based on genuine neighbourliness, predictability and openness.
With regard to our other neighbour, the United States, as President Putin put it, we are not looking for trouble with that country and have always been friendly with the American people. We are now open to constructive interaction inasmuch as it meets Russian interests. We sincerely want the bilateral political atmosphere to become normal. However, as you know, it takes two to tango. So far it seems like our American partners are more interested in solo break dancing.
We will continue to promote a positive agenda, mutually respectful approaches, and seek and find compromises. This is how we build our cooperation within the EAEU, the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, BRICS, and, on a bilateral basis, without exaggeration, with the countries of all continents.
Thank you. I’m now ready to take your questions.
Question: In July Russia, the United States and Jordan agreed to create a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, but their initiative has met with harsh criticism from Israel. Can you explain the reason for that country’s reaction?
Sergey Lavrov: I would not say that this decision disregarded Israel’s security interests. When we considered this decision, we not only held discussions within the Russia-Jordan-USA group but we also informed our Israeli partners on the direction which our work was taking. When we completed the main part of our discussions (we are to coordinate yet the operation modalities of the given de-escalation zone, monitoring of developments within the zone and ceasefire violations, as well as humanitarian deliveries, although the zone has become operational), we were told, including during the Sochi meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin, that Israel was nevertheless bothered about its security. We can understand its concern. Our talks on the Middle Eastern questions, including Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian-Israeli questions, are held so as the agreements we reach – regrettably, they have been few so far – do not infringe on the security interests of Israel and any other country. We have assured our Israel colleagues that their worries, if any, about possible infringements on their security were unsubstantiated, because we are firmly committed to preventing such infringements. Evidence of this is the comment issued by Prime Minister Netanyahu after an Israeli newspaper alleged that his meeting with Vladimir Putin was not successful. Mr Netanyahu said that it was not true. I believe this fully answers your question.
Question: Russian Emperor Nicholas I told the French Ambassador that he inherited extremely important tasks from his brother [Emperor Alexander I], and the most important of these was the [Middle] East. Henry Kissinger also pointed out that events in the East, primarily Syria, demonstrated a horrifying trend towards the disintegration of sovereignty, never-ending disputes and wars. The key role in this region is played by Middle Eastern powers, in particular, Qatar. How can the Syrian problem influence Russian-Qatari relations?
Sergey Lavrov: It is not surprising that such fire-breathing regions like the Middle East or the Balkans, which attract a variety of external actors (both neighbouring and distant ones), have been in the focus of global politics for centuries. You have connected this precept with Russian-Qatari relations. We have very good relations with all countries in this region, including the Gulf countries and also Arab countries, such as Iran, with which we are developing trust-based relations while trying to understand our partner’s practical interests in any situation. We do not agree with those who say that some countries in this region must be boxed in and kept within their national borders so that they would be unable to influence anyone or anything. This is impractical. Any country, be it big or small, has its own interests in the modern world, and these interests cannot be restricted to the national territory. There will always be a desire to work with compatriots or co-religionists.
We have recently visited Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In a few days, we will go to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. We have good relations with all of these countries.
Regarding the Syrian crisis and its influence on our relations with Qatar, when the Obama administration proved unable to honour the agreements that we reached with [US Secretary of State] John Kerry in September 2016 (in other words, the US administration failed to implement its promise to separate the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists from the real opposition), we saw that we should look for other partners, who would be able to honour agreements. These partners are Turkey and Iran. We worked together to launch the Astana process, which Jordan and the United States (under the Trump administration) joined as observers. This process is underway, as evidenced by the concept of de-escalation zones, which has been approved and is being implemented within its framework. We have mentioned one of them, in southwest Syria. Other such zones have been created in Eastern Ghouta and near Homs. They are developing quite well and are dealing with the questions of patrols, monitoring and humanitarian aid. The Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry of Russia have urged international humanitarian organisations not to delay the delivery of humanitarian aid under the pretext of the alleged problems with the government of President al-Assad. There are no problems: humanitarian deliveries reach their destination safely if they are sent by the most effective routes. However, our partners have tried to use the cross-border routes from Turkey and Jordan, which are not monitored by the UN. It is physically impossible to do this there, yet we need to know what these humanitarian convoys are delivering. I am sure that the majority of commodities are of a humanitarian nature, but violations are possible because various groups that are operating in these countries are not controlled by anyone. We want to preclude such violations.
When we started working with Iran and Turkey in the Astana format, we asked our Arab colleagues in the region if they are satisfied with this format. Qatar and Saudi Arabia said that Turkey represented their approaches to a Syrian settlement, but we also maintained bilateral dialogues with Riyadh and Doha nevertheless. My recent visit to Qatar has shown that there are some minor differences in our approaches: we have closer relations with the pro-government forces, while they have close relations with the opposition. However, Qatar and Russia share the desire to stop the war and agree on the importance of using de-escalation zones for this purpose and developing direct dialogue between all non-terrorist armed groups and the Syrian government. Our Qatari colleagues have reaffirmed their focus on the secular nature of Syria where all ethnic and religious groups have equal rights and protection.
As I have said, easy partners are an almost impossible thing, but if you listen to and try to hear your interlocutor, and if he reciprocates, you will find solutions that will allow you to move forward. This is much more difficult but a million times more productive than demanding that everyone do as you say and slapping sanctions without any diplomatic discussions on everyone who disobeys your orders.
Question: What were your impressions from your first foreign trip?
Sergey Lavrov: After graduating from the institute, I went to work as an assistant secretary to the Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. When our plane with several people, including on-duty superintendents, landed, we saw a minivan with an Embassy official and a driver. It was already dark as we drove off. The frogs were croaking, and the cicadas were making a lot of noise. About 20 minutes later, we asked how far the city was, and were told that we were already in the city.
I spent four years in that wonderful country where a civil war had just ended. Nature had lavished magnificent beaches on Sri Lanka which also has wonderful mountain areas. It takes just a few hours to travel from the mountains with a comfortable climate to a hot beach. Of course, the country has some interesting historical landmarks, including the old city of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Adam’s Peak where, according to legend, Adam and Eve went after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. A civil war had just ended in the country, and much was in disarray.
The second time I went to Sri Lanka was four years ago, and I immediately felt nostalgic. I liked the fact that the country was developing steadily and becoming more beautiful. We considered it most important that a new Russian Embassy building had been built there. They began to design the building in 1973 while I was still in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, delayed construction projects are also typical of our foreign partners; true, that project had encountered some bureaucratic difficulties. I am very happy to see that wonderful Embassy building.
Your first business trip is always about discovering a new world and new friends. Anyone who has travelled abroad as a tourist, before working there, is another story. While on assignment, you communicate, realising that this is part of your work, and that, ideally, you should feel happy when speaking with your foreign partners, and you should also understand how this will help you formulate various things in line with your official duties.
Question: As we know, France has played an important role in the European Union since its foundation. Will the trajectory of this association’s development change now that a new French leader has assumed power?
Sergey Lavrov: French President Emmanuel Macron is promising exactly this and saying that he will soon come up with ideas on how to invigorate and revive Europe, how to restore active interest in addressing its problems and overcoming difficulties linked with Brexit and, let’s put it straight, with the predominance of bureaucracy in Brussels. This is causing discontent among open critics of the European Commission, including Poland, Hungary and some other countries, as well as among old-time members, including Germany and France. This latent process is being felt. Well, this is understandable: Germany is the most powerful country; and maybe, this should be reflected in the way the EU functions and also in the EU’s decision-making process. Those boasting greater economic, political and financial weight have the right to demand that their voice be heard louder and weightier. However, EU commissioners often consider themselves to be the most important people, and they therefore see to it that national governments can be ignored, as is now the case with the Nord Stream 2 project. The legal service of the European Commission itself has officially concluded that the project does not violate EU regulations in any way and does not require any further coordination, but certain EU commissioners are saying that this is what their legal service has said, but that they will think differently. This is an example of how Brussels’ actions are perceived as hampering the implementation of mutually beneficial projects.
In the past few years, France has really been more preoccupied with foreign policy initiatives and has paid little attention to Europe, apparently giving Berlin an opportunity to act as leader. President Emmanuel Macron has now said that he considers it important to preserve the German-French tandem and to make it better balanced. This is his decision. We will watch and reach conclusions because we are not indifferent to the way the EU develops. We would like to see it as an integral and powerful entity relying on the principles of interstate communication that have always been used in normal situations, including equality, mutual respect and the search for a balance of interests.
Question: It appears that Washington perceives Russian diplomatic property in the United States as a “bargaining chip.” Is this true? If so, what do they want in return?
Sergey Lavrov: To be honest, I don’t even want to comment on this.
We are witnessing some paroxysms linked with the very same exceptionalism that President Barack Obama repeatedly emphasised, arrogantly showing a place that, in his opinion, all other countries must occupy.
Anti-Russia sanctions began back in 2013, long before the Ukrainian developments. Various pretexts were invented. The tragedy around lawyer Sergey Magnitsky was over-exaggerated. Many interesting facts are now coming to light; and those who incited this scandal and declared sanctions on its basis are trying to hush up these facts, to influence courts examining lawsuits against the very same Bill Browder who, as our investigators firmly believe, was directly linked with frauds that had led to the death of Sergey Magnitsky. Other sanctions followed. They were offended by the fact that Edward Snowden decided not to fly to a country where he would have faced the death penalty but requested asylum here for humanitarian reasons. In 2013, President Obama even cancelled his visit to Moscow that had been coordinated in the run-up to the G20 summit in St Petersburg.
An inability to perceive reality was very typical of the Obama administration. Edward Snowden had requested political asylum in Russia at a time when millions of people are requesting political asylum in the United States. They also abduct some people and bring any conceivable charges against them. Quite possibly, Edward Snowden did commit some actions that are seen as illegal by US legislation. But the United States never extradited any people to us, even those who had committed crimes in Russia. He did not violate anything in Russia and asked the Russian authorities to protect him from the US judiciary system that might well have sentenced him to be executed in the electric chair.
Here is another highly important fact: Snowden’s passport was cancelled, while he was flying from Hong Kong to Moscow where he wanted to board a flight to Latin America. Under all laws, including international laws, we had no right to let him out of the airport where the decision to grant him asylum was made.
Quite possibly, President Obama had experienced certain complexes, and this was manifested in his inability to fulfil an agreement on the Syrian settlement. The Americans simply proved unable to do what had been agreed upon and what unequivocally met their interests. Maybe, they did not want to separate the very same Jabhat al-Nusra and to stop cooperating with it, or, maybe, they proved unable to do this. Our suspicions always revolved around the fact that they wanted to eventually use this organisation for overthrowing the Bashar al-Assad regime. So far, these suspicions are backed by nothing except facts implying that they are not fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra, and that they have failed to keep their promise to isolate it.
It was possibly disappointment in foreign policy results and the Democrats’ defeat at the presidential election that compelled Barack Obama to make an absolutely uncivil decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats, or more than 100 people together with their families one day before the New Year and giving them two days to pack up and leave. As a result, they could not take the direct Moscow-Washington flight, which left in three days, and had to travel with their children and luggage over 500 kilometres to New York in difficult conditions. It was not an honourable thing to do, something we could hardly expect from a holder of the Nobel Peace Prize. Tough conditions were created for our people, so that they would have to deal with as many physical and household problems as possible because they had only been given two days to pack up and leave. Of course, we sent a plane there to evacuate our people.
In addition, the Americans seized, or you can say nationalised, Russian property. We hoped that the incumbent US administration would show good sense on this matter, but Russia haters in Congress have prevented this. They have adopted a law under which we cannot regain our property without congressional approval. With the current Congress and anti-Russia hysterics [in the United States], this is virtually impossible. What happened has also violated American laws, because this is Russian property, and property in the United States can only be seized by a court decision. But this has not stopped them, which shows that they have an idiosyncratic understanding of a state ruled by law.
As you know, we have provided a commensurate reply. We did not go to extremes but only asked the United States to adjust the number of Russian and American diplomats in our countries. We even generously included the Russian Permanent Mission to the UN in this number, although this mission, which includes over 150 persons, is not connected in any way to Russian-US relations and is accredited at the UN Secretary-General and not at the White House. In other words, we gave the Americans a chance to have 150 more people dealing with bilateral relations in Russia than the number of Russian personnel dealing with these matters in the United States. We believed that this would be fair. We also asked the Americans to stop using the property in Russia, which is not in the same league with the [seized] Russian facilities near Washington and New York. The Russian property in the United States includes facilities for recreation and sports and for receiving foreign guests, whereas the Americans only had a small facility in Serebryanny Bor and a small warehouse for storing things.
Regarding what US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told me yesterday and what the subsequent American note said, I have mixed feelings about this. They clearly decided to act in accordance with our logic, according to which 455 diplomats is a parity figure, and so have cut the number of Russian general consulates in the United States by one. We had general consulates in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston. The story goes a long way back to the Soviet era, when the United States had four general consulates, one each in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok and Kiev. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Kiev ceased to be a part of Russia, and so we suggested that the United States open a fourth general consulate in Russia. They declined the offer, saying that three consulates were enough. Of course, one can talk about parity in this case, but this is a highly specific parity, because, as I have said, we included the personnel of the Russian Mission to the UN in the overall count. I am telling you this but there is no need to go into all the details now.
I will only say that the order to close the Russian consulate general in San Francisco also included the order to vacate it within 48 hours. We gave the Americans a month to adjust the number of their personnel, whereas they had given the 35 Russian diplomats and their families two days to leave the United States. And now they set the same deadline in San Francisco. Of course, they have told us that those who worked at the consulate general and two other offices in Washington and new York, which dealt mostly with economic matters, are not obliged to leave the country if they do not want to, but can be transferred to our other offices, for example, the Embassy in Washington or the general consulates in Seattle or New York.
We received this note last night. We are analysing it now and will respond as soon as we can. I also want to say that this story with the exchange of sanctions did not originate in Russia. It was initiated by the Obama administration with the intention of damaging Russian-US relations, to prevent Donald Trump from beginning his term with constructive actions and to hinder his efforts to implement his election promises to normalise relations with Russia as much as possible. President Trump keeps talking about the need to normalise relations with Russia. President Putin has said repeatedly that we are interested in this as well, but movement towards each other must be based on mutual respect. We are ready for this. Discussions of this possibility will go on regardless of when and how we respond to the latest US action.
Question: In the fifth year of Russia’s membership in the WTO, a bill to denounce Russia’s accession protocol was introduced in the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia. How, in your opinion, does the current political situation influence the economic aspect of Russia’s membership in the WTO?
Sergey Lavrov: It is completely clear that this influence is not positive. We have said many times that the sectoral trade and economic sanctions imposed on us undermine the principles and the spirit of the WTO and the agreements reached in its framework. We have also spoken repeatedly about how the plans to create closed regional economic blocs, hatched by the Obama administration, also pose risks for the global open trade system represented by the WTO.
Now that we have been forced to take measures in response to the completely illegitimate EU and US sanctions, there are many trade disputes that are not easy to solve in the current situation. We are always in favour of settling all disputes based on mutually acceptable agreements outside arbitration procedures. It cannot be done always. The short answer is “yes.” It doesn’t help Russia effectively use all the advantages that it definitely has, provided all the WTO mechanisms function in the regular way.
Question: I am a Belarusian citizen. Recently Poland adopted a law to dismantle statues of the Soviet period, including several hundred monuments dedicated to Red Army soldiers who liberated Poland and all Europe from Nazism at the cost of their lives. This outrageous decision is insulting to Russia and other countries that participated in the struggle against Nazism. What, in your opinion, is the reason for Poland’s behaviour? How could we prevent the negative consequences of these activities?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe that the reason is the people who stir up nationalist sentiment in Polish society, zealously rewrite history, try to revive Polish nationalism rooted in exceptionalism, and seek to lay the blame for all Poland’s woes at Russia’s door. All this involves activities held now with the aim of presenting the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact as the beginning and true cause of World War II, forgetting that, when Czechoslovakia was divided as a result of the Munich Agreement, Poland silently grabbed a very tasty morsel. Polish authorities prefer to keep silent about how this was a serious impetus behind the growing potential for conflict in Europe. They do not mention either that long before the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the UK and France signed similar agreements with Nazi Germany. I will not refer to more ancient history, the time when Poland promoted Three Seas ideas seeking to consolidate its influence along Russian borders, or when Poland attempted to consolidate its position inside Russia at the expense of our land.
Russia and Poland have a Joint Group to address complicated issues. Both countries have the right to their own opinions on history, their neighbours’ history and the history of relations with other countries. This Commission worked well enough. At certain stages we published joint articles and we even had an idea to publish a joint textbook dedicated to a considerable period of relations between Russia/USSR and Poland. Poland is currently blocking absolutely all types of interaction between us: commissions that operated under the auspices of our foreign ministers with the participation of other departments and a wide range of other channels. Poland is trying to take advantage of the declared existence of this Group to impose its understanding of the situation. When the situation involves facts that you mentioned in your question, all this is absolutely unacceptable.
You know that Poles have many problems with interpreting the events of World War II, and not only with Russia. Recently they had trouble with Ukrainians when vandals desecrated graves at a cemetery in Lvov. Ukraine could not find anything better than to blame Russians again, alleging that it was done by Russian bandits.
I believe that bringing these historical fancies into modern politics is very dangerous. We can see that Poland “brainwashes” its population to be anti-Russian. Simultaneous statements that they are ready to communicate and invitations to meetings only underscore that it is impossible currently.
Poland is constantly fanning lies about the tragedy that happened in April 2010 when the plane of Polish President Lech Kaczynski with many Polish politicians on board crashed near Smolensk after hitting a birch-tree in poor visibility when everyone advised against coming in to land.
All the facts were established a long time ago. Now they are trying to make absurd claims that some explosives have been discovered on the wings of the plane. Everything was agreed upon with our Polish colleagues long ago and they signed off on everything.
It is difficult to add anything to this. I can see the obsession to create an atmosphere of complete antagonism to everything Russian in Poland. This is bad and absolutely against the principles under which Poland put its signature when joining the UN and when the OSCE was created. The OSCE is taking notice of this and gradually starting to criticise Poland. I hope that if this situation persists, these ultra-nationalist sentiments will draw more serious criticism.
Question: Speaking about the future of Russian diplomacy, could you tell us what should it have as its basis for translating our foreign policy into action? Are there any ineffective methods that should be excluded, in other words, those that have already been exhausted?
Sergey Lavrov: If we speak in terms of policy regarding political methods, I have already said that the methods of dictating, ultimatums and sanctions are becoming obsolete. In my view, they should already be seen as exhausted. Why did I mention sanctions as part of diplomacy? As the discussion is unfolding about the DPRK and what should be done about it, we and the Chinese assert that all possible sanctions have been exhausted and will not prevent the DPRK from using external ties to develop missile and nuclear programmes prohibited by the UN Security Council. All imaginable and even unimaginable sanctions, which are barely related directly to those activities of the DPRK, have already been adopted by the UNSC. In addition, unilateral sanctions have been imposed which we consider absolutely illegitimate. If there are agreed UNSC sanctions on a certain issue, I think a participant of the agreement has neither the moral nor legal right to do anything more about it. Collective sanctions like a UNSC decision are mandatory for everyone. My conviction is that nothing can be omitted in such a decision (failing to do what was agreed on), and nothing should be added to that. We and China are saying now that pressure methods have been exhausted, we are calling for conditions to be created to sit down at the negotiating table, and in response we hear that nobody wants a military solution (Russia and China, of course, also reject any military solution). But “diplomacy must go on” for this not to happen. When we ask about the method, we are offered a proposal to impose additional sanctions. Our Western partners with their mentality view sanctions as a diplomatic instrument. They should be dropped, and so should ultimatums.
The Americans have been pursuing this for a fairly long time, and Europeans are now getting used to it, too. As soon as they make a proposal which is worded in a lop-sided way and does not factor in the interests of the addressee, and we in response urge them to sit down, talk and discuss, they refuse to do so, citing the lack of time and referring to sanctions as a tool for “speeding things up.” This is what they are now trying to do in regard with South Sudan, which was deliberately cultivated and split off from Sudan by the Obama administration. Now the US seems to dislike something in South Sudan, and it wants to impose sanctions on that republic following the “my way or the highway” principle. It is formally a diplomatic stance but it should have no place in diplomacy.
Diplomacy has a consensus culture, a culture of searching for dialogue. Just like in any family, when you feel down but you want something from a friend or relative, you can shout (depending on whether the person is scared of you or not, he may agree or refuse), but it is always better to suppress all your nervous outbreaks and start looking for agreement. Let me emphasise it again, it takes longer than shouting with hope that someone will yield, yet it is the only way in the majority of cases.
If we consider the issue you asked about from the point of view of modern technologies, they should certainly be employed: social media, email as a means of delivering information, and many other things. As the new technological paradigm is developing, these opportunities will be expanding continuously, yet they will never replace direct human diplomacy via interaction for two reasons. Firstly, there are many hackers and leaks now, and they exist exactly in electronic media rather than in traditional forms of media. Many people will be too cautious to trust new technologies too much, at least for the most sensitive matters. Secondly, you cannot replace looking straight into another person’s eyes and understanding if they are answering you honestly rather than pondering how to word their reaction to your tweet. I think, that’s the way it is.
As to mistakes, they should be considered case by case. Someone made a mistake in the UN Security Council and US troops turned up on the Korean Peninsula in early 1950 as “UN troops.” This is a concrete example. The history of diplomacy should be considered in each particular case.
Question: This year, we have been hearing alarming reports about the sentiments in the new US Administration regarding the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. It is obviously happening because this agreement does not meet the interests of the American elite. Considering that you have mentioned this in your address and that we have been witnessing for decades that international norms or the UN Charter rarely constrain its powers, what levers can be created? What methods can be employed to influence, including the US, to address important global issues that concern the whole of humanity?
Sergey Lavrov: I am convinced that this can be done only through dialogue and openness to dialogue based on equality, readiness to hear real concerns that have caused the US to quit the Paris Agreement and also the readiness and need to hear real concerns of any country that changes its position on any international document. This is not the first time.
In his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to do several specific things: to close the illegal base in Guantanamo (which he failed to do) and ratify, among other things, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He stopped even mentioning the latter a few years later, failing to act on this promise either. This is serious stuff, perhaps, even more serious than the climate agreement. In essence, it is up to each country. Hence the power of international agreements and conventions – they are joined on a voluntary basis. A country that has seen that the text does not meet its interests has the right to refuse to join it. Likewise, many countries refuse to join the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Russia signed it but watched cautiously how it was starting to work. Eventually, we pulled out of the agreement after the court’s prosecutor acted absolutely improperly, refusing to consider complaints of South Ossetian residents regarding the Georgian army’s attacks. Instead, the prosecutor announced that he would be considering the South Ossetians’ actions against the Georgian attackers.
As for the Paris Agreement, it is a framework document and is not directly applicable. When we signed it, we clearly said that we will consider its ratification depending on the mechanism of its implementation. Under the agreement, after the framework agreement has been approved, the signatory countries have to start negotiations on what the agreement actually means, including the shares of emission cuts and how and who will be monitoring them. This is the most important thing because the agreement is essentially nothing but a concretised slogan. There is no mechanism for its implementation. We will wait for it to be coordinated, and see how clear it can be made and whether it will meet our interests and interests of other countries, and how viable it is going to be. Any country has this undisputed right to suspend its accession to an international convention. But whatever the circumstances, talking and persuasion are important. During his campaign, US President Donald Trump promised to review many foreign policy areas in the military, political, economic, trade and environmental spheres. The US Administration is working on its position, but somebody is interfering with its work and trying to do everything to keep it in this broken down condition. Several hundred second-tier officials – deputy heads and lower-ranking officials – have not been appointed, and even more so, they have not even been nominated for Congressional consideration. There are attempts to tie [President Trump’s] hands, to invent stories of Russian meddling and Donald Trump and his family’s ties to Russia. It will soon be ten months since this topic started being discussed in the US. It was first mentioned on the eve of the presidential vote, but not a single fact has been put on the table so far. I think these adults who hold top positions in the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of the US government should be ashamed of themselves.
Question: The meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump was one of the main intrigues of the G20 summit. Earlier you mentioned that it would bring clarity to future relations between these two countries. Have these expectations been met? What will change in Russia-US relations?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe no one can ever make things 100 percent clear, even if you meet a million times. However, it became clear that Donald Trump, as he himself repeatedly stated after the meeting (including most recently), is interested in normalising relations with the Russian Federation. This is a reciprocal desire. We have exactly the same position. We are ready to move at the speed and to the extent that is comfortable for the Trump Administration. We understand that they are grilled every time an opportunity presents itself, sorry for the lingo. We do not consider it necessary to be particularly active with regard to the United States, but we understand that they want to undermine the administration. It is in this context that we consider the sanctions that the US Congress is imposing upon President Trump (this no longer causes any doubt), the adoption of a law that is not so much directed against Russia as it is directed to achieve the same goal, to tie Donald Trump’s hands, and not to let him fully execute his constitutional powers in foreign policy.
Life is never monochrome, it always has much more to offer. Dialectics teaches us to take note of what is unacceptable and take into account hostile things that are being done with regard to you, to draw conclusions about your reaction, but it should be such that you don’t do harm to yourself in addition to the damage that someone has caused to you. Of course, we will provide tough responses to the things that harm us absolutely for nothing, and which are dictated only by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States.
Question: What is Russia’s current position and role in international environmental cooperation?
Answer: I have just addressed that. We are part of the Paris climate accord, we want it to take shape so that we can judge how effectively it will be implemented. By circumstance, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the whole of our industry was “sitting on its hands” (and its subsequent recovery was not easy at all but with the use of modern environmentally friendly technologies), we now have a level of carbon dioxide emissions that will let us hit our target by 2030 without any problem. In fact, our carbon dioxide emissions will be way below the quota. Regarding the problems of climate change, our position is very stable and honest. But let me reiterate, we were helped by the deep crisis following the disintegration of the USSR. In principle, we would like to see the intensification and expansion of economic cooperation on the basis of a scientific analysis, not on the basis of panicky unequivocal claims and demands. A great number of in-depth scientific articles have been published lately on climate change which review the planet’s climate throughout several millennia. I am not an expert, but apparently, the decision-makers must be aware of that research. Someone told me that there are sceptical schools of thought who think that all those demands to introduce new expensive technologies (otherwise, they claim, the planet will “overheat” and face collapse) are very reminiscent of the Y2K scare. You might have forgotten, the Y2K scare was on the eve of the new millennium, and a huge number of people stressed the need to urgently buy new computers because those three zeros would just shut down old models. Someone sold a hefty batch of those computers around the world. Then, when old computers survived New Year’s Eve, we forgot about it. But it was considered a problem.
I don’t mean to say that the same is happening with climate change, far from it. Now we see emerging a body of scientific analysis of millennia-long observations. When frozen water of an underground lake was discovered in Antarctica, it was also instrumental in making conclusions concerning the analysis of climate change across many millennia. This is why we stand for a scientific approach. Russian President Vladimir Putin is now taking this approach in countering dumpsites, which is also an environmental issue. It is much more important to us, I think, than figuring out how important it will be to cut our carbon dioxide emissions. This is why we take an integrated approach to environment. I assure you that our position is met with great respect at international environmental conferences, we have a number of ideas and proposals which ultimately become a subject of international agreements.
Question: Mr Lavrov, many students look up to you and measure themselves by you. Who was your idol when you were a student?
Sergey Lavrov: This is not quite accurate, since I had many idols. This word was not commonly used back then, and was reserved mostly for fiction writing. However, there were people that we considered an example to follow and wanted to be like. For example, Evgeny Primakov is undoubtedly one such role model. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Idol is like someone higher, and the people we thought of as role models - you will probably not know their names, so I will not give them, so as not to miss someone and hurt their feelings. These are the people who showed me the ropes when I graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations and joined the Foreign Ministry for a couple of months before leaving for Sri Lanka. I am very grateful to all of them. I still get together with many of them and talk. Here, you also have teachers who will surely stay in your memory long after you successfully graduate from this excellent educational institution.
Question: As recently reported, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova sent a request to the United Nations to withdraw Russian peacekeepers from Transnistria, to which President of Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselsky said that in this case there will most likely be a war. How do you assess this situation? What are the risks of this conflict continuing to worsen?
Sergey Lavrov: I do not think that we should be the doomsayers and predict war. Nobody wants it, except those who were behind the Moldovan government when it wrote a note about the need to withdraw our troops from Transnistria. Those who suggested that the Moldovan government should do so want a war between us and Ukraine, and between us and Moldova. This is a policy designed to restrain Russia. As they say, that’s all there is to it. The sanctions and everything else come from there. Our military stays in Transnistria based on agreements signed shortly after the hot phase of the conflict in the early 1990s was stopped thanks to the Russian army, following which the relevant unit of the Russian army was transformed into a joint group of Russian forces of Transnistria with the sole purpose of protecting the huge stocks of ammunition in the warehouses of Kolbasna. At the same time, peacekeeping forces were created, which also included our service personnel who engage in maintaining stability in the Dniester region.
Since the time these decisions were made, there has not been a single instance of hostilities in Transnistria. There were instances where tensions ran high, but no one ever fired a shot at anybody. Everyone realised that the withdrawal of our troops which protected the warehouses with ammunition depended on the success of the political settlement. That’s because the population of Transnistria - after they sensed the possibility of a hot war with Moldova, which was stopped - said that they won’t let the servicemen go or allow them to take away the weapons until they were granted the rights that had been agreed upon earlier. Civilians were literally throwing themselves down on the rails.
The process of planned settlement, under which Transnistria received a special status within the territorially intact Moldova, began in 2003. During the period when this agreement was being prepared, half of what was stored in these warehouses was taken away, and everything was fine. The rest of it would have been taken away a long time ago, if then President of Moldova Vladimir Voronin had not refused to sign the initialed text of the agreement, because he had received a phone call from Brussels. Everyone knows this.
That is why our servicemen are there. They will leave after proper conditions for removing these lethal supplies have been created. The people who prompt Moldova to perform such confrontational moves are the ones that impede the work of the 5+2 group, which was created under the auspices of the OSCE and engages in settlement. They do not need a settlement. They need to do something unpleasant for the Russian Federation in order to plunge us into another crisis.
Question: Presidential elections in Russia will be held in 2018. There are not many outstanding, strong, and charismatic personalities like you who could assume responsibility for our country and lead the people. Do you consider yourself a presidential candidate?
Sergey Lavrov: No, I do not. Frankly, it’s not flattery, but a sincere statement, I find working with President Putin pleasant and comfortable. I’m aware that we still have a number of foreign policy goals that need to be achieved, and I consider the fact that the Foreign Ministry is actively engaged in this the most important cause of my life.
Question: We know that the World Festival of Youth and Students will take place in Sochi in October, and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) is actively involved in the preparations. Do you plan to attend the festival?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I intend to visit the festival. We are now dealing with the logistics because there will be Valdai Discussion Club sessions there too, which will gather foreign guests and involve negotiations. We are trying to plan things so that we can see everything and meet with the festival participants.
Question: In one of your answers, you described Iran as a partner of Russia. Some time ago, RBC Daily reported on a Russian-Iranian project to build a ship canal from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. Can you comment on any information about this project? How would Russia benefit from this canal project? Is this project going to face opposition from the international community?
Sergey Lavrov: It is easier for me to comment on the first question: whether I can confirm this information. I do not know. The other questions are probably no longer relevant. But some people might indeed be flirting with this idea. Canals are currently a popular subject. Our friends in Nicaragua want to dig a canal across their territory parallel to the Panama Canal, they are seriously discussing it.
I have not heard anything about the canal you mentioned. All I know is that at some stage there were ideas to build a canal between the Black and the Caspian seas but scientific research proved it to be risky. But today I read that Ukrainian internet users are now voting on a project to dig a canal that would physically separate Crimea from Ukraine. Such ideas do pop up.
Question: What international policy steps should Russia take to strengthen its national currency?
Sergey Lavrov: This is completely beyond my competence. I do not want to give any unprofessional advice. I believe our currency has now stabilised after its notorious plunge. What I have been reading in various publications, including in the West, is universally acknowledged. I cannot tell you how things are going to develop further. Follow specialist commentary.
Question: You are well known not only as the Russian Foreign Minister but also as a versatile personality who writes verses and whose speeches are widely quoted for catchy phrases, because you have the individual style of a masterful and witty speaker. As a student, I keep wondering how someone can do his favourite job professionally, alertly and with such enthusiasm, but avoid being completely absorbed in it and still retain the inner world’s individual variety? How can a person seek perfection but remain professional and keep his or her identity? Can you give me and my colleagues some advice based on your personal experience?
Sergey Lavrov: It is hard to do self-analysis. For me, work has always been a priority, but do not follow this in your life. I never engage in leisure activities until I finish my work. I work so hard and fiercely to complete my work sooner, sometimes, perhaps at the expense of quality.
Question: The situation on the Korean Peninsula has deteriorated dramatically over the past six months because of the growing number of North Korean missile launches and the harsh response from the United States. Russia is making every effort to preserve the peace. Do you think that Russia can prevent a US military interference in the affairs of the two Korean states?
Sergey Lavrov: Russia certainly cannot do this if it acts alone. This matter calls for common sense to be used by many countries. Russia and People’s Republic of China have developed common approaches and a common initiative, which the foreign ministers of Russia and China put forth in a statement issued on July 4, when President of China Xi Jinping visited Russia. This initiative has been made public at the UN – the UN Security Council and General Assembly, as well as in all resolutions. We would like to point out that all the resolutions that introduced UN Security Council sanctions include provisions on a peaceful solution, the resumption of talks and the like.
We warned that the world would find itself in such a situation: the spiral of confrontation has taken a very dangerous turn. The general procedure has not changed. Missile launches and nuclear tests in any country are followed by resolutions that approve sanctions against the given country. The next stage includes US military exercises and more launches in response to these exercises, followed by more resolutions and new sanctions. We proposed adopting a consistent approach to defusing tension. In this context, we supported China’s ‘double freeze’ initiative, under which North Korea ceases its nuclear missile tests, while the United States and South Korea cut the scale of their military drills. We discussed this idea back when John Kerry was US Secretary of State. The Americans’ reply then and under the Trump administration is that this is an unequal proposal because North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests have been prohibited by the UN Security Council, whereas military exercises are absolutely legitimate. We say in return that sticking to this legal logic will not do any good. Of course, nobody is accusing the Americans of violating international law, but when the world is sliding into a war, and the Americans have admitted that they are seriously considering a military scenario, the first step should be taken by the party that is smarter and stronger, if we want to prevent a war. There should be no doubt as to who is smarter and stronger in this case, but who knows?
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has said several times that a military option in this situation entails a catastrophic number of casualties. The Americans have told us the same. We ask if US allies, that is, Japan and South Korea, would sustain the majority of casualties, but the Americans say that in a certain situation they would have no other alternative. This is a horrifying scenario. We will continue to urge for the resumption of talks. We know that the Americans are talking with Pyongyang via a semi-secret, or semi-official, or semi-academic channel. We have nothing against this. On the contrary, we will be happy if they come to an agreement on de-escalation, so that all sides calm down and sit down at the negotiating table.
We have a common goal: the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, so that there would be no nuclear weapons either in the north or in the south, neither their own or American nuclear weapons. However, it must be said that any country, including North Korea, has a right to security guarantees. Many regime change threats and promises to reunite the two Korean states forcefully have been made. In this context, I was happy when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a four-point statement, saying that the United States does not seek a regime change, the collapse of the regime, an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, or an excuse to send the US military north of the 38th parallel. These are good words. Regrettably, they have not been translated into practical actions that could be used to launch the talks. We are using our channels for communications with all those involved in the six-party talks in an attempt to find something that would help all of us formulate a practical solution and lead the situation away from mutual military threats. Of course, such a solution will include North Korea’s firm pledge to stop [nuclear] tests and missile launches.
Question: Famous British statesman William Gladstone said his first principle of foreign policy was good government at home. What do you make of this statement? Do you think he was right?
Sergey Lavrov: The stronger the country is economically, socially and in terms of security, the more efficient is its foreign policy. There is no doubt about it. The fact that our foreign policy has gained good momentum and reached the heights where nobody can afford to disregard Russia any more is a far cry from the 1990s when our economy was non-existent and the social sphere was in tatters. Certainly, we do have difficulties now due to the well-known circumstances, but our economy is effectively functioning. It has been universally acknowledged. We feel it on the foreign policy front; it is easier for us to work with this economy rather than the one we had in the 1990s.
Question: It is common knowledge that you have an eventful and interesting biography. You have been to many countries and met many outstanding people, heads of state. What event in your diplomatic career became the most noteworthy and memorable, was a good lesson for you and, possibly, will become a lesson for us?
Sergey Lavrov: The most noteworthy moments of my life were not only related to my diplomatic service. I do not want to leave anything out. There were many episodes that made me feel satisfied with the work I have done, including a series of bilateral agreements that we concluded with neighbouring countries, namely the final settlement of the borders problem. It was crucial after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another example is the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that took many years to reach. I hope we will not allow it to be undermined, though many in Washington are in favour of that. This is a bad idea as it does not fit into the nuclear non-proliferation regime but rather into the controlled chaos regime. As soon as something starts taking shape in a constructive way, those who like to fish in troubled waters deem it necessary to insert a new splinter. I also remember the Syria agreement with ex-US Secretary of State John Kerry a year ago, shortly after the meeting between Russian and US presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama in China where they finally came to terms on the remaining problem on the basis of a compromise in a conceptual way. We were supposed to put it on paper which took some time. The document was ready. It was a real breakthrough. I think if the Americans had not been so helpless in putting down Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Syrian crisis would be going through a political settlement without any aggravations. There are a lot of things. I have not given it much thought though. I have no plans to write memoirs, which is why I have not analysed the pleasant things of my life.
Question: As numerous experts, including you, have already mentioned, a number of Western countries have developed, over the past several decades, a system for destabilising and violating the sovereignty of weaker, defenceless states. Over the past 20 or 30 years, this system has been successfully used in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Iraq, Libya and a number of other countries have fallen prey to it. However, in the case of Syria, when its President al-Assad, together with Russia, began to defend the sovereignty of his nation, many thought that this evil and unjust system may eventually collapse. Do you believe that victory in Syria will be a fundamental factor for changing the established system in the Middle East? If so, how will it change?
Sergey Lavrov: There’s no doubt that the Syrian settlement will certainly be a positive factor not only for the Middle East, but international relations in their entirety. At the very least, this will stop the string of the most brutal interventions that occurred in Iraq without any discussion in the UN Security Council, and in Libya, where the limited mandate issued by the UN Security Council was violated. Precisely the fact that Syria has opted for a different path, thanks, in part, to our assistance, is annoying for our Western partners. In an effort to preserve and maintain the dominance that they have enjoyed for many centuries, they are making such abrupt moves and committing rash acts.
By the way, they themselves are discussing the time for lifting their sanctions on us. We have been saying from day one that this is not our issue. Those who imposed them should be concerned about lifting them. We are not going to discuss any pre-conditions for lifting the sanctions. However, while talking between themselves and to the international community, the print press and the media, they keep mentioning that Russia must comply with the Minsk Agreements, although the Kiev regime is mentioned there 10 times, and Russia is not mentioned at all. Now many people are beginning to understand the absurdity of this prerequisite. In particular, German politicians are already publicly speaking about this. Nonetheless, they are saying that they want to lift sanctions and understand that it is important to interact with Russia, since dealing with many issues without Russia is difficult, but first it must comply with the Minsk Agreements. Then, the Syrian issue suddenly came to the forefront: if only Russia began to cooperate with us on Ukraine and ceased to support al-Assad in Syria, then we would be willing to lift the sanctions. Like in a Freudian slip, they are saying the truth that they don’t like anything where Russia has even the slightest positive role. Unfortunately, people like that are out there, but, on the plus side, their numbers are declining. However, those who hold such positions are going to stay in power for a long time. We need to work with those who hold such positions.
More broadly, this will be a signal that one can no longer dictate decisions unilaterally, without taking into account the opinion of the country in question, or other stakeholders. This will not reverse the trend. General trends, as I said at the very beginning, gravitate towards a multipolar world, but there will be a transitional era before that, if we are right about what we are seeing now in international relations. However, as part of this era, we still have not reached peak resistance to this trend. This peak is not far off. An increasing number of our Western partners realise that what they need to do is not just accept objective reality, but understand the actual trends of our time, and that joining this trend, rather than going against it, is a much easier and more efficient way to secure their national interests.
Question: As you know, history evolves in a spiral fashion. Can you think of any periods in the history of the Russian State and its diplomacy that, in your opinion, are comparable to today?
Sergey Lavrov: Nothing is ever identical, but history repeats itself more than once. There have been many periods when we have been deterred. There is no need whatsoever to enumerate them. If you are versed in history, you know them all. Our land has seen troubled times and invasions. But this never led to our people getting ruined or reconciled to its lot. Always, sooner or later, we found the inner strength to rise. During “hot wars,” as in the case of the Great Patriotic War and the Patriotic War of 1812, this was a resolute and tough fight for national freedom. Other situations required more time and probably some other type of courage that has more to do with patience and with creating conditions for something that will give you the upper hand. And even now, we do not lack patience. No one wants a “hot war” and we do not intend to get involved in any, but being aware of what is happening around us, we must have the weapons, the army, the navy and the aerospace forces that meet modern realities.
I read many Western publications. They now openly write analytical items about this in all sorts of military magazines, acknowledging that we have a super-modern army and air force. What particularly strikes them is that we also have a very strong navy. We are saying this not for the sake of provoking anyone towards an arms race or testing anyone’s might. Simply, there are many situations when a weak-armed country risks being absorbed, not in the legal sense, but in terms of independence.
Let me repeat that there were many periods when they attempted to deter us, using various means, including military means. We have been deterred by sanctions, too. This is not the first time that sanctions have been used against us to such an extent. Suffice it to recall Soviet times, if you read anything about that period. Back then, there were also a lot of sanctions. The main thing is that we have an enormous and the richest territory, the army, the navy and the aerospace forces; we have the Russian people, who have our civilizational culture in their genes, who are open to the world and at the same time aware that we are ready to talk to and be friends with those who want to reciprocate on an equal basis and will not just do as the Romans do. I am convinced that these features are well familiar to all those with whom our people communicate when they travel abroad or welcome guests at home. I do hope that your colleagues from foreign countries, studying shoulder to shoulder with our citizens, will feel this great feature of the Russian people in all its fullness.