Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov returned from a three-day trip to New York on Saturday, where he took part in two meetings of the UN Security Council and held a number of meetings. During the visit, he told Kommersant Elena Chernenko about why the current crisis in relations with the United States is worse than the Cold War, where Russia has the red lines and what should happen for the UN peacekeepers to appear in Donbass.
"This was not the case during the Cold War"
“Now everyone is looking forward to the release of two reports by the US Presidential Administration, the so-called Kremlin report on officials and businessmen close to the leadership of the Russian Federation, as well as a report on the expediency of introducing new tough economic sanctions against Moscow. If these documents translate into a tightening of the sanctions policy of Washington, what will be the reaction of Moscow?
- This is a hypothetical question. We have repeatedly said that we are not looking for any confrontation. We believe that sanctions are introduced absolutely groundless in terms of their causes. As for the goals that they are called upon to achieve, this is also meaningless, because over the years of the sanctions, their authors could already be convinced that these sanctions cannot be changed by an honest, open and constructive Russian policy.
Our independent, independent line in international affairs, based on national interests, is not subject to change under the influence of outside.
It is determined by the president of Russia on the basis of interests that meet the needs of the Russian people. The fact that our foreign policy enjoys broad support in society is, in my opinion, the best evidence that an attempt to change foreign policy by putting pressure on the elites and individual companies is hopeless.
Nevertheless, naturally, we cannot, being completely disinterested in forging a spiral of confrontation, remain calm when they are trying to punish Russia in every way, be it our (diplomatic) - property, property, be it the sanctions you mentioned , or attempts to use a sports theme. There are numerous facts that suggest that, in addition to the actual cases of doping, our athletes, as well as athletes from many other countries (cases that are known, but of which no one makes any tragedy or raise any noise, but they are considered in accordance with established procedures), there is an absolutely customized campaign that is based on the principle already applied in other spheres of international life as far as communication between Russia and its partners is concerned.
If I remember correctly, Richard McLaren said in his report that there was no evidence (versions supporting mass use of doping by the Russian authorities. - “Kommersant”), they don’t know how it was done, but they know how it could be done. No normal court in any country would accept such accusations. Nevertheless, on the basis of such rather exotic statements, decisions are made about weaning the country from the Olympic Games.
In this regard, I recall the situation with the Malaysian Boeing, when three days after this tragedy, the United States began to demand an investigation, while stating that they know who did it, but are confident that the investigation will confirm what they know.
An earlier case with Alexander Litvinenko. Then the British authorities stated that the investigation should confirm what they know and without any investigation. This charge on Russophobia is really unprecedented. This was not the case during the Cold War. There were some rules, mutual decency. Now all propriety is set aside.
"All these" star wars "and other notions played a role"
“Is everything worse than during the Cold War?”
- In terms of manners, yes. Although if we compare how close we are to the material manifestations of confrontation, then there are different opinions. On the one hand, at that time there was such a negative stability of two hard blocs, two world systems — socialist and imperialist. Now there are no ideological differences. All have a market economy, democracy, no matter how they relate to it. But there are elections, freedoms, rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Nevertheless, even in the absence of ideological differences, competition remains, which is absolutely normal. But the competition must be fair. It is clear that in each country there are specific methods of promoting interests, there are special services, lobbyists who are hired, non-governmental organizations that promote a particular agenda. This is normal. But when we are told that Russia is obliged not to oppress non-governmental organizations that receive funding from abroad, but does not have the right to support its NGOs working abroad, it smacks of double standards.
The second point that I would like to highlight. In the absence of ideological differences, the material build-up of military potential unwinds. There was no such thing during the Cold War.
- Was there an arms race?
- The arms race was carried out within the framework of geopolitics, which was accepted by both parties. There was a conditional line of NATO — the Warsaw Pact: drive your weapon on the left, we will drive it on the right. As a result, the Soviet Union burst out. All these "star wars" and other notions played a role, although they were not decisive. The USSR collapsed because the country itself, the elite did not feel the need for change, and when it did, these changes went the wrong way.
But now, in the conditions of the NATO advance to the East, there really are no rules. Nowhere is there any line that is a “red line”.
- And the border of the Russian Federation?
- Based on the fact that we cannot have any interests in the region, in the Euro-Atlantic area, then yes, the border of the Russian Federation is a “red line”. But the fact is that we have legitimate interests, there are Russians who suddenly found themselves abroad, when the USSR collapsed, we have cultural and historicalclose personal and family ties with our neighbors.
Russia has the right to protect the interests of its compatriots, especially when they are persecuted in many countries, when their rights are oppressed, as happened in Ukraine.
On the day of the coup, it was announced that the Russian language should be curtailed.
- But then they played it back ...
- Yes, but it sounded. The first act of the parliament after the coup was the law that the Russian language should "know its place." And the place is, roughly speaking, it was just under the bench. Two days later, statements were made that the Russians would never read (Stepan— “Kommersant”) Bandera and (Romana.- “Kommersant”) Shukhevych, therefore the Russians should be expelled from the Crimea.
After my press conference (following 2017 of the year. - “Kommersant”), some German newspaper published that Sergey Lavrov almost began to distort the facts and issue “a peaceful demonstration of the Crimean Tatars near the Supreme Council of Crimea for trying to drive the Russians out of the peninsula” . It is enough to watch videos of the time when the Supreme Council was simply surrounded by outrageous thugs, not to mention the “friendship trains” that Dmitry Yarosh sent to the Crimea.
This is Ukrainian history, the history of the coup, the history of Western betrayal of international law, when the agreement signed by the foreign ministers of the leading countries of the European Union (together with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. - “Kommersant”) was simply crushed. After that, the European Union began to convince us that it should be so and that now nothing can be done. This, by and large, is a European shame. Stating this historical reality, we do not lock ourselves in, but want to fulfill the Minsk agreements.
Returning to the "red lines". It was the “red line”, just as the “red line” was transferred by order of Mikhail Saakashvili at the time of the start of the attack on South Ossetia, where our, Ossetian and Georgian peacekeepers were stationed. But Georgian peacekeepers were taken out from there several hours before the start of an illegitimate and absolutely provocative attack.
Russia has interests, and people should remember this. Russia has “red lines”. I believe that serious politicians in the West understand that these “red lines” must be respected, just as they were respected during the Cold War.
“Russia, Russia, Russia. Simple and convenient for stupid propaganda "
- Let's go back to the Americans. The US media reported that in March 2017, Russia submitted to the United States proposals for improving relations in the non-paper format, there were allegedly several points. Given the increase in the US side of the sanctions pressure and all that happened in the relations of the Russian Federation and the United States for the year, are these proposals still in force?
- Suggestions are always valid. We never stand in a position, but try to understand the context of the actions that the Americans or our other colleagues are taking. In this case, we are well aware that there is a combination of a number of factors that cause such unprecedented aggressiveness, as they are now called, by the American establishment.
The main factor is that the Democrats cannot survive their defeat by investing so much energy and taking so many actions, including taking Bernie Sanders off the ground, which few people want to remember now. It was a direct manipulation of the electoral process, a gross violation of the US Constitution.
The second factor is that a large part of the Republican Party also found itself in a situation when they received a non-systemic president who didn’t grow through all the stages of the republican establishment and who received Republican votes in the Republican clearing during the primaries. No matter how you relate to the actions of US President Donald Trump, no matter how much you qualify him, perhaps, the usual for traditional diplomats and political scientists actions ...
- He is like an elephant in a china shop destroys all international agreements.
“No matter how you treat these actions, we are now talking about the reasons for the completely unprecedented outrage of American politicians.” Republicans also do not like the fact that a person came to power, who proved that the system that had existed for many decades (more than a hundred years) when two parties wrote the rules of the game (I’ve come to power for four years, then four more, and you sit in business, then your turn will come, and I will sit in business), collapsed, because Donald Trump came. But he did not come because he was a messiah, but because society was tired and became the traditional non-evental change of leader.
If you look at the structure of American society, it will also become clear that interesting demographic processes are taking place there. It is no coincidence that ethnic elements are now causing long and deep debates about whether racism is being revived or aggravated, which has always or latently been present in American politics. These are all very difficult processes that will last for a long time.
Once again I will say that one of the reasons is the defeat of the Democrats, which they still cannot survive. The second is the demolition of a system that existed in a two-party context. Such a "sweetheart" procedure continued for many election campaigns.
The third element, which I will single out separately, is the feeling of losing the ability to influence all processes in the world in the interests of the United States. Maybe it sounds paradoxical, but it is. This will be felt for a very long period.
Even during the Cold War, the United States was much more powerful in terms of their share in the global economy and, of course, absolutely dominant position in the global monetary system, when there was no euro, nobody heard about the yuan, especially about the ruble. Now the US has 18 – 20% of world GDP. This is not at all half, as it was before, and certainly not those numbers that were after the Second World War.
The feeling that not everything lends itself to a solution from one center also manifests itself in the Russophobic campaign. There are also China and other large countries, many of which, perhaps, prefer not to notice American excesses. In our case, it is difficult to do this, because the first two reasons - the defeat of the Democrats and the rift of the system - immediately somehow led to the fact that they were “pointed”.
There were some contacts of some people with some representatives of the American political elite. There were contacts of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, with the national security adviser to President Donald Trump, Michael Flynn. This is absolutely normal and should not have caused such reactions, especially since, compared to what American diplomats are doing in Russia, what they are trying to impute to the Russian ambassador and the Russian embassy in the United States is “babble”.
But since there was no reaction to the series of unfriendly coercive measures taken against the Russian ambassador because he did not agree to change his actions, renounce his independence and apologize for something that had never happened, this aroused them even more. All the sins and failures of the USA began to blame us in an understandable way. We are used as some kind of lightning conductor in the sense that something happened in Mexico, in France.
“Even in Malta ...”
- Anywhere - Russia, Russia, Russia. Simple and convenient for stupid propaganda. The voter, as they say, delves into very simple slogans of CNN: “Russia interfered once again ...” If this is repeated a thousand times, then it will settle down somewhere in the head.
“I do not idealize anyone”
“It sounds like you personally justify President Donald Trump.” But no one forced him to sign the law on the supply of arms to Ukraine or the August sanctions law.
- I do not idealize anyone. We should probably understand that in the conditions when some bills are adopted by a majority of votes (95%), the president no longer thinks about what the essence of this law is, how real, legal, legitimate or decent it is, but about what anyway, his veto will be overcome.
- And the signing of the law on the supply of arms to Ukraine? Barack Obama did not sign.
- The answer is the same. He knows perfectly well that Congress will make him do it. If President Donald Trump refuses to do what the overwhelming majority of members of Congress wants, and there such a majority exists, I repeat, his veto will be overcome. Here the American mentality of an internal political nature comes into force. If the president’s veto is overcome, then no matter how fair, justified and consistent with the long-term interests of the United States, this is the defeat of the president. That's all.
When US President Donald Trump took me to the White House, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, and then they spoke on the phone, I did not see the charge of Donald Trump on some actions that would undermine his election slogans about what he wanted good relations with Russia. But it happened.
The combination of at least three factors - the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the out-of-systemism of Donald Trump and the need to explain why the US does not do everything in the international arena (although you can still add) - determine what is happening now. As the US gets involved in this very unseemly process and sees that Russia is acting calmly, without hysterics (we have responded somewhere, but I would say at a minimum), we continue to move our course forward, to promote our settlement policy conflicts, working in markets where Americans would like to press us, this is starting to annoy those people who moved the Russophobic agenda. It is sad.
We are encouraged that recently by some members of Congress, political circles of the United States, some diplomats quietly, confidential talks admit the absolute abnormality of this situation and the need to correct it. At the same time, they all say that those who tried to push us into the corner were wrong, it is clear that we cannot be isolated, just look at the schedule of meetings and trips of the Russian president and other members of the government to understand that the isolation did not work out.
They say that they understand that they have "sorted out" in this matter, but they suggest that we take some step so that they can say that Russia has "moved forward."
This psychology, of course, cannot but evoke the feeling that the great-power mentality does not serve the good service of the United States. They offer to do something in Ukraine.
- “Move over” is, for example, to strengthen control over the actions of the separatists in the Donbass and force them not to shoot, completely withdraw the weapons and observe strictly all the basic points of the Minsk agreements?
“We don’t mind that everyone withdraws their weapons, they don’t shoot, but not only the Donetsk residents and Luhansk citizens, but the Ukrainian army too. There are many testimonies of your colleagues, including those from the BBC and other mass media, who have even been on the contact line this year, that the Azov battalions and a number of others are not controlled by anyone except their own commanders. The Ukrainian army and the Armed Forces of Ukraine have no influence on them, they do not listen to anyone. An example of this is the blockade, which they declared and which was condemned by the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. He publicly vowed to eliminate this blockade (it completely contradicts the Minsk agreements), sent some forces to lift this blockade and failed with this attempt. After that, he found it best to turn around and issue his decree on 180 degrees, legitimizing this blockade. Therefore, it is necessary to stop shooting, withdraw troops and heavy weapons, but do it on both sides.
I said at a press conference that the desire to reduce all the huge geopolitical palette to Ukraine, urging us to take some battalion of the DPR, the LPR, and then they will have the opportunity to begin to weaken the sanctions - this is unworthy of those people who, occupying high positions, say similar things.
"Nobody sits down with us and starts discussing"
- Will peacekeepers appear in the Donbass this year?
- It does not depend on us. If it depended on us, they would have appeared there long ago.
- What is hindering now and is Russia ready for any concessions in order to eliminate what is hindering?
- Only one thing interferes: no one wants to begin to specifically discuss our proposals.
- Americans seem to have proposed their amendments. Does their discussion go?
- No, nobody proposed amendments to us, but we just want amendments. I spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavel Klimkin, with our French, German colleagues. They say that this is a very good and good step, but you need something else. Well, let's sit down, you tell us what and how, we will see how this meets the goals of the implementation of the Minsk agreements. In any case, the draft resolution itself states that we must be absolutely committed to the principle of the “Package of Measures”, which implies the coordination of all actions between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. We are answered that we need to think about how to do something else. But "the steam goes to the whistle," no one sits down with us and does not begin to discuss.
Ideas that have been put forward outside the context of work on our draft resolution go in a different direction. Our project means that the Minsk Agreements are unshakable: a part of the (Minsk agreements - “Kommersant”) agreements implies a mission of OSCE observers, and since it does not always work in safe conditions, it must be protected. Wherever this mission goes, UN armed guards must follow it. This is the logic and jurisdiction of the Minsk agreements. We are told that since we accept the concept of peacekeepers, then let's make them responsible for everything that happens on the right side of the line of contact, let them ensure security right up to the border with Russia. Then in these conditions we will hold elections, and everything will be fine.
- Doesn't that sound sober?
- sober? Do you think so?
- The UN peacekeepers are after all an authoritative force that can be trusted with security in the region.
- The Minsk agreements state that you must first hold an amnesty, enact a law on special status (which was adopted but not enacted), incorporate it into the Constitution and then hold elections. People who are now trying to "strangle" the illegal blockade, which cut the cables, cutting off mobile communications and isolating them from the outside world, at least from the Ukrainian state, should know that they are not war criminals, not terrorists, as they were called in Kiev declaring the anti-terrorist operation, although none of these regions attacked anyone.
I draw your attention to this - they attacked just that. So that these people know, firstly, that they are safe and the amnesty covers everything that was on both sides. Secondly, so that they know that they have a status that guarantees (this is literally written in the Minsk agreements) Russian language, culture, and special ties with Russia, regardless of where the Kiev authorities go, that they will have their vote the appointment of judges, prosecutors and will be its own people's militia.
Here are some highlights. It is not so difficult. Moreover, if I am not mistaken, two dozen regions of Ukraine a year and a half ago, they sent an official proposal to Kiev on the need to begin negotiations on decentralization so that they would be delegated powers, they entered into special agreements with the center. That is, federalization in the normal sense. You can call it decentralization, the words "federalization" are all afraid. But when we are told that they will do all this - they will hold an amnesty, give special status and organize elections, but first you need to give the whole region to international forces so that they “order a ball” there, this will not work. This is the “red line”, and everyone understands this very well and throws in such proposals with very worthless goals - speculating on the topic of peacekeepers.
Minsk agreements approved by the UN Security Council. There it is plainly said that everything that needs to be done should be subject to agreement between Kiev and the so-called separate districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. We trust the UN, the OSCE, which, by the way, does a very good job in difficult conditions. But you can not just take and throw out the political part of the Minsk agreements. The promise that they will be fulfilled later when the UN military administration will take control of the entire territory is doubtful. If the authors of this idea persuade Donetsk and Lugansk - for God's sake, please. This is what is provided for in the Minsk agreements and approved by the UN Security Council. But I believe that those who are promoting such a concept just want to strangle these two territories.
I recall an interesting thing. “Minsk” says: amnesty, special status and elections. Just such a sequence. In the course of the work of the Contact Group, the “Norman format”, the Ukrainian side says: let's do the opposite - first we will ensure complete security, including access to the border, and then we will solve it all. We have explained to them all these years that the full control of Ukraine over this part of the border with the Russian Federation is the last point of the Minsk agreements. First, everything that we have just discussed should take place. Then they talk about how you can be given special status when they do not know who these people will elect in local elections. We ask them if they want to say that they will give special status only to those who are satisfied with them. They say yes, they want it that way.
It’s not very diplomatic to do this kind of thing when your president signed up under a completely different course of action. Nevertheless, we agreed to a compromise, which is now called the “Frank-Walter Steinmeier formula”, which states that the law on special status takes effect on a temporary basis on election day, and on a permanent basis when the OSCE, which will observe elections, will release the final report. This usually takes a couple of months. Ukrainians agreed, they said that let us act this way.
This was agreed in October by the heads of state in Paris 2015. For a whole year they tried to put this formula on paper, the Ukrainians refused. In Berlin in 2016, they met again. We asked why there is no movement in relation to the “Steinmeier formula”, to which the Ukrainians said that they do not know what the content of the report will be. Well, let's write down that the law on special status takes effect on the time of election day, and on a permanent basis on the day of publication of the report, provided that the report certifies the elections as free and fair. All shook hands. More than a year has passed. And the Ukrainians still do not want to put this formula on paper.
This is one example. The second example is also very bright. If the previous is from the policy area, then this is from the security area. In the part of “Minsk” in Berlin, in October 2016 agreed to begin to seriously raise heavy weapons, not to allow relapses and their return to the line of contact. They agreed on three pilot points - Golden, Pokrovskoye and Stanitsa Luganskaya. In Pokrovsky and Zoloto, everything was done quickly, but in the Village of Lugansk it just doesn’t work. The Ukrainian side began to say that they needed seven days of silence before they deploy heavy weapons there.
The OSCE has since stated, including publicly, more than a dozen periods when silence lasted seven days or more. Ukrainians say that these are our statistics, and in their statistics they recorded a couple of shots. The fact that this is just a profanation is understandable to the Germans, the French, and the OSCE itself. But due to political engagement, unfortunately, our western partners cannot publicly lean on the Kiev authorities, cannot force them to fulfill what they promised to the leaders, including France and Germany.
It is sad. I understand that if you made a bet on some politician in your time, made a public bet on the power that came to Kiev after the coup, then it is probably very difficult to move away from this position without “losing face”. We understand this and do not shout, we do not scandal over the Kiev agreements for the complete sabotage of the Minsk agreements, but we will calmly pursue the fulfillment of what we agreed. Too many agreements reached by great difficulty are now being tested: the Minsk agreements, agreements on Iran, a number of others.
“Both in Europe and in Washington they understand perfectly what game the current Kiev authorities are playing”
- (The question was asked during the press conference.) On Thursday, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the so-called law on the reintegration of Donbass. In European capitals, they reacted neutrally to it, while Moscow harshly criticized it. Why? What could be the practical consequences of adopting this document?
- The “law on reintegration”, if approached from a legal point of view, negates the Minsk agreements, which were unanimously approved by the Security Council in a resolution adopted a few days after the meeting of the four leaders of the “Norman format” in Minsk. And for us it is obvious.
As for the reaction, I have repeatedly said that we have no doubts, and moreover, we have reliable knowledge that both in Europe and in Washington they perfectly understand what game the current Kiev authorities are playing. And how they are leading the line on winding up their obligations under the Minsk agreements. I hope that in private, private, closed contacts, Kiev is being talked about this - from Berlin, from Paris, Washington and other capitals. But taking under this wing this power, which is absolutely inconclusive, the West can no longer publicly criticize what its wards do. It is sad. It is clear that this is associated with a falsely understood sense of personal prestige and reputation, but such is life. We will strive to ensure that everything written in the Minsk agreements is implemented. Attempts to "bring down the scope" and divert these discussions aside, the desire to find new agendas, new methods and forms are unacceptable. We will calmly and firmly uphold the package, which is honest, under which President Poroshenko and the leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk signed.
- My last question about Iran, which you have already mentioned. Could Russia be profitable in some respects by disrupting the Iranian deal by the Americans? The Americans will then look isolated and odious, Iran will be more compliant in some matters.
- There is such a school of thought not in the Russian leadership. Many political analysts ask why we are experiencing, and say that the worse the better: let the United States prove its incompetence, its destructive role in world affairs, be it Iran or Syria, where unilateral actions are also being taken now that have infuriated Turkey
- And Iran will again be more accommodating.
- That's not the point. If the fabric of the legal arrangements agreed between the leading countries in a given conflict is destroyed, then there will be a lot-small, every man for himself. It will be very sad. I consider this unacceptable, be it Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, the Korean Peninsula, where the 2005 agreement of the year was also, clearly recording what is required of the DPRK and others. A couple of weeks after it was all written down, the Americans suddenly “unearthed” a long-time plot with some account in a Macao bank and began to arrest North Korean accounts. One may argue about how fair it is, how far North Korea was right, how far the United States was wrong. The fact remains. There was an agreement, it was said that from that moment on "stop" in terms of confrontation and all provocative actions. Did not work out.
The biggest problem now, systemically speaking, is contractual capacity.
Lavrov Sergey Viktorovich
Born 21 March 1950 year in Moscow. In 1972, graduated from MGIMO. After high school, he was sent as an intern to the USSR Embassy in Sri Lanka, where he soon received the rank of attache.
In 1976, he returned to Moscow, worked in the department of international economic organizations of the USSR Foreign Ministry. In 1981, he was seconded to the United States as first secretary and then advisor to the USSR permanent mission to the United Nations. In 1988, he returned to the central office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as deputy head of the department of international economic relations. In 1990, he headed the department of international organizations and global problems of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since April, 1992, Deputy Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Andrei Kozyrev, has overseen the departments of CIS and international organizations. In July, 1994 was appointed by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN. From 9 March 2004 - Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He has the diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He was awarded the Order of Honor, "For Services to the Fatherland" I, II, III and IV degrees. He speaks English, French and Sinhalese. He is keen on rafting, writes poetry (author of the words of the anthem of MGIMO). Married, have a daughter.