Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited the Business Breakfast as part of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta editorial board. The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs answered the questions of the editors and readers for an hour and a half.
Too often in recent months they have begun attacking Russian diplomatic missions and Russian diplomats. The embassy was evacuated from Libya, in Holland a whole saga with our diplomats. Now here the nationalists attacked the Russian diplomatic mission in Warsaw. Is Moscow can only respond to such an emergency with notes? Perhaps we should adopt the experience of the Americans and strengthen the protection of the territory of our embassies, for example, Russian special forces?
Sergey Lavrov: This problem has several cuts. After all, any process begins with some thoughts that are shifted to someone’s head from the head where they appeared. If we look at the possibility of leading a crowd from the point of view of psychology, including with complete disregard for the status of a diplomatic institution, I see in this, first of all, the result of many years of active shaking the foundations of modern international law. This was the case in the former Yugoslavia, when in violation of the UN Charter and the fundamental principles of the OSCE of one of the members of this organization, other members were bombed without any legal basis. So it was in Iraq and in Libya.
There are ongoing discussions about how to fight. After all, there is international humanitarian law, which is largely devoted to the laws of warfare. However, starting with Yugoslavia, the term “collateral damage” was introduced. Like, we bombed a legitimate object, and the fact that several civilians died there - well, it happens. It reminds me of a situation where one large power said that it was necessary to kindle a world fire: let it be said that one half of humanity would perish, but the second would taste the joy of experiment. Of course, these are things of a different order, but the mentality is about the same.
The use of UAVs leads to multiple errors, the price of which is human life. They will blow up the wedding, they will hit the civilians, who are mistaken for terrorists or their accomplices. These are all examples of an easy attitude to international law. At the same time, any concepts are invented that do not in any way relate to the principles of the UN Charter.
Take, for example, the responsibility to protect. If somewhere the government offends someone, then we are obliged to protect these "someone." Here in Libya, defended the civilian population. A classic example is when, by grossly distorting the mandate received from the UN Security Council to ensure the no-fly zone, NATO simply intervened in the war under the banner of protecting civilians. No one wants to count how many civilians there were as a result of NATO shells.
Although the responsibility to protect is such a topic, that if you seriously discuss it, you should ask yourself: is this a right or obligation? If a country rich in natural resources finds itself in a similar situation, our Western colleagues declare that they cannot be tolerated and are being introduced either from the air or even with the use of ground forces. At the same time, a poor country, where, as they say, the government oppresses the people, calls for help, and no one does anything. It turns out the war of choice. So, there is some kind of "menu" from which you can choose.
And if you say that this is a duty, then where are the criteria for interventions? How many civilian casualties are tolerable? A hundred, a thousand? You see, this is a meaningless exercise. As soon as you begin to speak in such specific categories, the arguments disappear. Therefore, we insist that legitimate use of force is possible only in two cases set forth in the UN Charter - self-defense (individual or collective) and the decision of the UN Security Council.
The same concept of responsibility to protect was discussed in the 2005 year. Then there were controversies: is it good for the world, or do we need to think more? A declaration was adopted in which the following is recorded: when crimes of genocide are committed, crimes against humanity, the world community has the right to intervene, including by force. And then, attention added: by a specific special decision of the UN Security Council. That is, this concept was eventually summed up by consensus under the principles that guide the UN Security Council.
But how does the increase in the number of examples of freedom, even disregard for international law, affect attacks on Russian diplomatic missions?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We had cases, as you rightly said, both in Holland and in Qatar. In the mid-2000s, five employees of the Russian embassy in Iraq were kidnapped and executed. Now here is Poland. I watched on television the news, as this situation is commented on both here and abroad. One of the German police commissioners, who is responsible for the security of diplomatic institutions in Berlin, said that in case the German police received a request to hold a demonstration around the perimeter of the embassy of a large country (he did not say that it must necessarily be Russia or China) , then they would not have allowed such a route, but would have sent the demonstrators in an alternative route, which would not create the risk of direct contact of the crowd with the fence of the diplomatic mission. We appreciated the reaction of the Polish leadership. A public apology was made to the Russian side and a corresponding note was sent. We appreciate the assurances that they will increase the focus on the security of our embassy. Although on the eve of this demonstration, we warned our Polish colleagues (police and other relevant structures) that this was a very risky undertaking. They asked to strengthen the security, but we were told that everything would be all right. But, as you know, nothing was in order.
And yet, perhaps, it is worth strengthening the protection of our embassies by special forces or marines?
Lavrov: Over the past 10 years, we have set the course for those who are engaged in guarding embassies to be personnel officers of the FSB border service. Previously, in most countries, especially in small ones, embassies were guarded by civilians who were recruited under the contract to work as duty officers. They were not even armed. In other words, these were temporarily hired employees of a Russian foreign institution. Border guards are people who are sent to work abroad in the framework of military service.
In those countries where the dangerous military-political situation, where the crime poses a rather serious threat, we already have special forces. Including in Libya, Iraq, and a number of other countries. Naturally, with the consent of the host country. A few years ago, a plan was developed to strengthen the security of Russian overseas agencies. We have counted with the specialists what contingent of employees of the level of special forces we need. This is a few hundred people. They are now in short supply. We solve these issues. We have fundamental support from the Russian leadership. I hope to solve the financial side of this issue.
Recently, the “two plus two” format has become more and more popular when foreign ministers and defense ministers meet. This format has been successfully tested at the level of Russian-American relations with France and Italy. Recently, similar negotiations were held for the first time in Tokyo. And just last week, you and S.K. Shoigu stayed in Cairo. What's happening? Is this a militarization of Russian foreign policy, or are the Russian military learning to be as diplomatic as possible?
Lavrov: And the option when it is more profitable for the state to coordinate military plans and diplomacy, do you reject? Apparently, because there are contradictions. On the one hand, at the end of the past - the beginning of this century, it was repeatedly declared that the significance of the force factor in international affairs is shrinking, shrinking, because no one has long wanted any big war. Therefore, we must rely more on agreements on peaceful cooperation. But then there were Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan. This is a clear attack from the territory of Afghanistan on a UN member state. Then there was Libya. Now the power factor has proved: it was naive to believe that humanity in the twenty-first century will be so enlightened that it will not even allow thoughts to cut, kill and blow each other up. As you can see, it's quite the opposite.
Now it is very important to minimize the threat of abuse of force in international affairs. It is necessary to highlight it, identify its source. And this, of course, terrorists. Al-Qaeda, without a doubt, has real plans to take over the whole world, to create a Caliphate. As Syria has shown, they have an absolutely well-established delivery network of militants from virtually any country. Indonesians, Malaysians, half of Europe, people from our North Caucasus, Latin America, the United States, and England are fighting in the SAR. So, there is some kind of courier network. They have money supply channels, weapons. There are very close contacts with drug traffickers - this is the main source of funding for terrorists. Along with this, there are generous donations that their sponsors give out to their clients.
The main thing is that this factor of strength in international affairs be isolated. So that the great powers would not become like extremists and nevertheless respect the restrictions that the UN Charter imposes on the use of force. This is especially true now, when those who want to bomb Syria have not settled down. A very serious threat is the prospect of an attack on Iran.
Many experts believe that in Yugoslavia we got a slap in the face. But negotiations around Syria seem to be a turning point. What is actually happening? Have the Western countries finally realized that without Russia a whole range of issues in international affairs is simply impossible to solve?
Lavrov: This is a combination of factors. I do not agree with those who believe that in the Balkans during the times of the Yugoslav crisis we received some kind of slap in the face. We behaved with dignity. Although I had nothing to do with this, the march from Eastern Slavonia to the airport in Slatina made a sobering impression. Of course, a slap in the face of international law was the decision to bomb Yugoslavia.
In a few days in Brussels, I will meet with EU representatives. Every time I meet with them, I recall one fact. In January, 1999, the OSCE Special Representative for Kosovo, was W. Walker. Then an incident occurred in the village of Racak, where several dozen corpses were found. He arrived there and, without having any authority to conclude what had happened, declared that the Serbian troops had staged the massacre, shooting at 37 civilians, and thus cutting out the entire village. Immediately T. Blair declared that his patience was exhausted, then B. Clinton. And after a while they began to bomb.
Thus, the situation in Racak became a kind of trigger. We insisted on investigating. The investigation took up the European Union. They ordered a report to a group of Finnish pathologists. Those report prepared and submitted it to the European Union, and the EU submitted it to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
I then worked in New York and asked the UN Security Council to familiarize us with this report, because the use of force without the sanction of the Security Council was largely based on the events that the report was devoted to investigating. The European Union replied that this is already the property of the Tribunal. As a result, we were given only a summary of the report, from which nothing will be understood. In the press, however, there were leaks and parts of the report were quoted, literally saying that they were not civilians, and all the bodies found in Racak were disguised; that the bullet holes on the clothes do not coincide with the real points of injury on the body. And there was not one who was killed at close range. But until now, despite the fact that every time I raise this question, the report itself is not shown.
As for the talks on Syria, then, in my opinion, they are still influenced by the accumulation of tremendous fatigue and negativity in the public opinion of Western countries after Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq was abandoned, leaving it in a much worse condition than before the invasion. In Afghanistan, it will be the same. Some drugs are now produced there in 10-15 more times than before the troops entered there.
Livia also impressed everyone. The civilian population there right now is powerless. The country is actually divided into three provinces, where some "fighting guys" argue with each other with weapons in their hands.
Russia has noticeably intensified its presence in the post-Soviet space. At the same time, the West, obviously fearing competition, constantly blames Russia for the revival of imperial ambitions. What do you answer to such accusations?
Lavrov: I am amazed that about the plans of Russia in the post-Soviet space people are hammered into some distorted reality. One striking example is the recent publication in Foreign Affairs magazine under the heading "Seduction of George W. Bush." These are, to put it mildly, fantasies driven in not only to the townsfolk, but also to respectable people who read this edition.
You have recently been to Egypt. Experts talked about the dizzying plans of Cairo for the procurement of Russian weapons, as well as the possible creation of a Russian military base in Egypt. Is it really?
Lavrov: Today Russia relies on pragmatism. Egypt is a big power. H. Mubarak (the former president of Egypt - WG) and I had business and strategic relations. There were a lot of plans. We were and remain the largest "supplier" of tourists to Egypt. Russia is also Egypt’s largest (supplier) grain exporter, which they so need. They showed interest in energy cooperation, in cooperation between universities, which was also important for us. We had plans to create a joint industrial zone. Military-technical cooperation also interested them.
Then, when the revolution took place, we also did not interrupt the relationship with Cairo. I went to Egypt when M. Mursi was elected president. In turn, M. Mursi came to Russia. And for some reason, then no one was interested in the Russians, as M.Mursi and I were talking about. And now, when we went to the transitional authorities just as we went to the past transitional authorities and to the past president-elect, the State Department spokesman said at the briefing: "We will ask the question why Lavrov and Shoigu went to Egypt." Well, what can I say? Just hands left to dissolve.
We are friends with the Egyptian people, and the Egyptian people treat us well. Among other things, we have a great start - we are ready to lend to various projects. In particular, they are going to develop nuclear energy, and we have a huge competitive position in this and other areas. Here is the answer.
And about the base, probably, loudly said. Tartus is also called a naval base. But this is not a base, but a wall to which our ships moor and refuel, which are on duty in the Mediterranean. We want to be in the Mediterranean - for Russia it is important from the point of view of understanding what is happening there, strengthening our positions. And the Americans there is a huge fleet, and the French and other countries. Experts just try to make some sensation out of it. That is, Russia supposedly negotiates with Egypt in peak of the USA. But this cannot be in peak with the United States, because the Americans will never lose their influence there. And the Egyptians themselves are well aware. But they want the US to stop seeing Egypt’s ties with Russia, as with any other country, as anti-American actions. That is the difference of the new government. And they talk about it in public.
Question of an American journalist (translated from English): In Russia there are acute issues of migration and nationalism. From the point of view of the Russian Government, is immigration from the countries of Central Asia, Muslim immigration a problem for the security and economy of the country?
Lavrov (translated from English): Russia has an experience of coexistence of Slavs and other ethnic groups. Christians and Muslims have coexisted on Russian soil for centuries. Islam is a part of the country, its society and culture. It will not be accidental if you ask a Russian person what his favorite dish is, and he will answer “barbecue”, which is not Russian at all. Russian society during the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union developed as a multi-ethnic, multiethnic and very tolerant. Yes, from time to time, conflicts arose, but they were not serious. Recently, the situation has become more urgent due to migration issues.
In the period of "wild capitalism", which the Western countries passed earlier than Russia, this question was completely ignored. The business was interested in using very cheap unregistered, illegal labor. These people were kept in completely inhuman conditions, they were paid crumbs, if nothing at all. Many had their passports confiscated, and they were kept almost like slaves.
A few years ago, the government began to clean up the process. We sign agreements with countries from where the largest flow of migrants comes. Among them are the countries of Central Asia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus. Thus, we are trying to establish how many people can come annually from these countries to work in Russia. Migrants in turn will know what obligations the Russian side has. In particular, the employer must register each foreigner, pay for his work in accordance with the rates existing in Russia, as well as ensure his living conditions that are acceptable from the point of view of the health authorities operating in the region.
Those who found themselves illegally in Russia must leave the country and come again as law-abiding citizens. But few are willing to do that. In addition, during the period of the illegal stay of a migrant in Russia, various fraudsters are trying to take away their business from entrepreneurs, using for their own purposes the vulnerability of enterprises hiding illegal workers by resorting to racketeering and blackmail. This is a big problem because in the 90s, the migration issue was completely ignored.
I believe that the systematic legislative measures that are being taken, such as improving legislation, developing practical mechanisms for cooperation between representatives of Russian migration agencies and their colleagues from countries of arrival of migrants, will help rectify the situation, but not overnight.
One could write that the past few days ago the 80 anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States was marked by a “Business Breakfast” in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta in the presence of Russian and American journalists.
Lavrov: In this regard, I can cite an interesting fact. In 1933 in Washington, M.M. Litvinov and F.Roosevelt exchanged letters, which represent an element of the restoration of diplomatic relations, broken after the October Revolution or revolution, as you like. In the letter of M.Litvinov, in addition to the words that we are happy to restore diplomatic relations, it was said that the USSR undertakes not to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States, not to support any groups aimed at changing the existing system in the United States, especially through the use of force, to avoid propaganda that will work for this goal, and, in general, fully respect the sovereignty and the right of the United States to decide on its own territory any issues. In the response letter, which F.Roosevelt conveyed to M.M. Litvinov, it was indicated that the USA undertakes similar obligations not to interfere in the internal affairs of our country.
Fragments of the correspondence of US President F. Roosevelt and USSR Foreign Minister M. Litvinov: