Since the mainstream Western media describe Russia as a gangster state, justified criticism from Moscow is ignored because it does not match the general tone of propaganda. That was the case with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who explained why Russia would no longer do business with the West like nothing had happened.
On January 26, the Russian Foreign Minister held an important annual press conference devoted to a review of the events of the year. The event was attended by 150 journalists, including Air Force correspondent Simv Rosenberg and other representatives of the main Western media. The purpose of the event is to describe the events of the past year through his department and to assess the results achieved.
Lavrov’s opening statement was brief, no more than 15 minutes, and the remaining two hours were devoted to questions. As the microphone passed from hand to hand of journalists from different countries, various topics were touched upon, from the chances of a new reboot of relations with the United States, the Syrian settlement talks scheduled in Geneva, the comments of British Prime Minister David Cameron on the findings of the investigation of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, restoration of diplomatic relations with Georgia and up to the possibility of settling the disputed status of the Kuril Islands and concluding a peace treaty with Japan.
As far as I know, there has not yet been any coverage of this event on any of the sites of the main American, German, French or British publications, as well as on television channels. And this was not due to the insignificance of the content or the absence of loud headlines, like the words of Lavrov that he agrees with Western leaders - matters between Russia and the West will no longer be the same as before.
“Our western colleagues sometimes passionately say that there will be no more“ business as usual ”with Russia. I am convinced that this is the case, and here we agree with them. There will no longer be “business as usual” when we were tried to impose agreements that take into account, first of all, the interests of either the EU or the US, and urged us that this would not harm our interests. This история finished, - said Lavrov at the time of entry. “A history begins that can develop only on the basis of equality and all other principles of international law.”
If we consider that the speech of Maria Zakharova, an official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, is also completely ignored by the mainstream Western media, the question arises of what all these Western journalists do in Moscow if they do not publish anything? Do they have any other assignments?
In accordance with tradition, the Russian Foreign Ministry posted a full video of the press conference on You Tube, and also posted a text version on the Russian-language and English-language pages on its official website. The Russian version of the text takes 26 pages in small print. I used it because I prefer to deal with the source and translate it myself if I can. English text takes 40 pages, which is normal for translation from Russian.
When viewing the podcast on Channel One and reading the text, I first noticed how well Lavrov was prepared to answer questions on a wide range of topics, and that he gave detailed answers without looking at the recordings.
Secondly, he obviously spoke much freer and less often resorted to diplomatic turns than ever before. I think that such an order was given by his chief, President Vladimir Putin, to speak clearly and clearly, without deviations. Lavrov holds the post of foreign minister almost more than all of his colleagues in other great powers, and given his experience and high intelligence, it sometimes seemed that he simply dictates an essay in good Russian.
For this reason, I decided to divide my article on the press conference into two parts. The first will be devoted to Lavrov and his words. The second one will be my conclusions regarding the international situation in the coming years, taking into account Russia's main positions, especially the chance to lift European and American sanctions, and how the future US administration should prepare for relations with Russia, on the assumption that the outlook of the American elite is not undergo major changes.
Sergey Lavrov - direct speech
From the press conference, I extracted several large pieces of text reflecting the system of views of Sergey Lavrov and the Kremlin, passing through the prism of Realpolitik and focusing mainly on US-Russian relations. This is necessary, otherwise we will not make out the forest behind the trees.
In questions and answers for all countries except one, we hear about individual cases in different places around the world that are of interest mainly to certain audiences with their personal concerns. With respect to the only country, the United States, Russia's bilateral relations go beyond the Minister’s value judgments.
All Russian foreign policy is in fact connected with relations with the United States, as two of the three excerpts from Lavrov’s answers will show below. The third concerns sanctions and is more likely connected with relations with Europe. I brought it, since the desire to lift the sanctions will be a key part of Russia's foreign policy in the next six months, and through them the US position emerges.
Question: What is the probability of a real reset in Russian-American relations this year?
Sergey Lavrov: The question is not for us. Our interstate ties have dropped very low with all the great personal relations between the former US President George W. Bush and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. When US President B. Obama and former US Secretary of State H. Clinton came to the White House proposed a “reset”, this was a reflection of the fact that the Americans themselves realized the abnormality of the situation when Russia and the United States do not cooperate in solving those problems that without them decide….
We met the "reboot" quite constructively. They said that we appreciate the decision of the new Administration to correct the mistakes of their predecessors. We have achieved quite a few good results: this is the START Treaty, Russia's accession to the WTO, a number of agreements on various conflict situations. But somehow it quickly began to erode. Now everyone, including our American colleagues, tells us: Let's fulfill the Minsk agreements on Ukraine, and everything will be normalized at once. In one hour, we will immediately lift the sanctions, and between Russia and the United States will open up attractive prospects for cooperation on much more pleasant issues, not only in resolving crises, but immediately a creative partnership program will be formed.
We are open for cooperation with everyone on an equal and mutually beneficial basis. Of course, we don’t want anyone to build their policies on the assumption that Russia, and not Ukraine, must fulfill the Minsk agreements. It says who must fulfill them. I hope that this is well known in the United States, at least our recent contacts with US Secretary of State J. Kerry, contacts of US Deputy Secretary of State V. Nuland with Assistant to the President of Russia V.Yu. Surkov says that the United States is well versed in the essence of the Minsk agreements ...
Now I have given an example that says that we, as it were, have already begun to promise a new “reset”: we are fulfilling the Minsk agreements, and everything at once becomes elegant, beautiful, promising and tempting.
The cooling of relations with the administration of US President B. Obama and the end of the period associated with the “reset” began long before Ukraine. Let's remember how it all happened. At first, when we finally achieved the consent of our Western partners to the conditions acceptable for Russia of our accession to the WTO, the Americans realized that the preservation of the Jackson-Vanik amendment is not in their interests, because otherwise they will be deprived of those privileges and benefits that are associated with our participation in the WTO. They began to prepare for the abolition of the amendment.
Americans would not be Americans if they simply canceled it and said: “That's it, now let's cooperate normally.” They came up with the "Magnitsky law", although I am sure that the point in what happened with S. Magnitsky is not set. I really hope that the truth will be known to all. It is disgusting that a provocation and speculation on the death of a person was arranged. However, this was done, and you know who lobbied for this law. The Magnitsky Act immediately replaced the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
(The law of the Magnist American Congress passed in 2012 a year in order to punish Russian officials allegedly responsible for the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in prison in 2009 year against the background of accusations and counter-charges of bribery.)
This began even when there was no Ukraine, although we are now trying to impose a violation of OSCE principles. Everything that happens between the West and Russia is explained by the fact that Russia has not fulfilled its obligations, does not respect the world order that has developed in Europe after the Helsinki Act, etc. These are all attempts to justify and find an excuse to continue the policy of containment. But this policy has never stopped.
After the “Magnitsky law” there was a completely inadequately bloated reaction to what happened with E. Snowden, who ended up in Russia contrary to our wishes. We didn’t know about it, he didn’t have a passport - the document was canceled while he was flying. He could not leave Russia because of the decisions that were made in Washington. We could not help but give him the opportunity to stay in Russia to be safe, knowing what articles threatened him - the Americans did not make a secret of this. This was done simply from the elementary defense of the human right to life.
US President Barack Obama canceled his visit to Russia, a universal scandal was raised, dozens of phone calls through the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and direct contacts between the presidents. We were told that if we did not release E. Snowden, the relationship would be undermined. United States canceled the visit. The visit did not take place, but US President B. Obama arrived at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, where we, by the way, did a useful job - we agreed on the principles of chemical disarmament of Syria.
Ukraine is another excuse. Not so much righteous indignation at the alleged violation of the Helsinki principles by Russia (although it all started with Kosovo, the bombings of Yugoslavia, etc.) is connected with the Ukrainian crisis. There was an annoyance with the fact that the coup d'etat did not lead to the results expected by those who supported it . Frankly, we do not get up offended. We do not have such traditions in relations between states. We understand that life is tougher than any ideal romantic schemes like “reboot” or something else. We also understand that this is a world in which interests clash hard, which emerges from the era of total domination of the West and is in a long transitional period to a more stable system in which there is no one or even two dominant poles - there will be several of them. The transition period is long, painful, old habits die off for a long time. We all understand that. We understand that the US is interested in having fewer competitors, even relatively comparable in size, in terms of influence, military power, and economy. This is observed in relations between the US and China, in the way the US is working with the European Union, trying to “loop” it into the Transatlantic Partnership, and in the east of Russia to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will not include Russia and China. The President of Russia V.V. spoke in detail about this. Putin, when analyzing the processes in the global economy and politics. We all understand that. Probably, each epoch brings with it new tendencies, sentiments in those or other elites, especially in large countries, which in their own way see ways to fight for their interests. It would be very bad and disastrous for all of us if these processes went beyond the generally accepted norms of international law. Then, to put it simply, the “heap is small” would be, and we would be plunged into the world of anarchy and chaos — something like what happens in the Middle East could be without blood. Everyone would do as he sees fit, and nothing good would come of it. It is very important to follow some general rules of the game. Answering your question, I would like the United States to have a “reset” with the whole world, a “reset” to be common, that we all gather and reaffirm our adherence to the UN Charter, its principles, including non-interference in internal affairs, respect sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of peoples to self-determination, the right of peoples to choose their own future without outside interference.
Question: In 2007 at the Munich Security Conference, President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin said: “You need us more than you need us.” This year, as far as I know, you will represent Russia at the conference. Are there any changes to this wording?
Sergei Lavrov: Ideally, we should be needed by each other, we should support each other and work collectively to curb the common threats to all of us. In fact, it turns out that the West turns to us more often than we do to the West.
(Lavrov said that in response to the sanctions, Russia had taken measures for the transition to self-sufficiency, but did not want to completely sever relations with the West and was ready to cooperate on the principle of equality).
We must do everything not to depend on the whims of this or that group of countries, first of all our western partners (this happened after they were offended by us because we supported the Russians in Ukraine who did not accept the coup d'état).
I quoted D. Yarosh, for this they wanted to destroy them in Ukraine or to cut them in their rights. We want to be insured against such situations ...
We are not now running after our European colleagues and saying: "Let's do something to lift the sanctions." Far from it. We have focused on not depending on such zigzags in Western politics, on the fact that Europe is “under the hood” of the United States. But our European colleagues in bilateral contacts, coming to us or meeting us at international forums, say: "Let us think of something, help fulfill these Minsk agreements, otherwise we will take very great damage from these sanctions and we want this page to be turned faster. ”
It turns out that in this situation we need them more than they need us. Including, to fulfill the Minsk agreements ... Yes, we have influence on the Donbass and we support it. Probably, without our help and humanitarian supplies, the Donbass would be in a very poor condition. But you also need to influence the authorities in Kiev. We need the West in terms of influencing the Kiev authorities, but this is not happening yet.
Or take the situation with the Iranian nuclear program. At the crucial stages of these negotiations, we were literally bombarded with requests when it was necessary to solve the issues of exporting enriched uranium in exchange for natural uranium, which was a key condition for reaching agreements, when it was necessary to decide who would convert the processing facilities to Ford. , under the production of medical isotopes, etc.
We were addressed with requests that have a sufficient financial burden, at least, which do not bring us any material benefits. But we did our part. Now, on the North Korean issue, everyone calls us and our Chinese colleagues: “Help us do something for North Korea to honor its commitments.” Or, for example, the latest developments in relation to Syria ...
Now I don’t remember what requests we have recently addressed to our Western colleagues. We believe that it is not very correct to make requests. We presume that if the negotiations ended with the signing of the document, then this is not a subject for the request, but obligations that must be fulfilled. "
The question of the chances of early lifting of sanctions
Sergey Lavrov: All the more of these partners come to realize that they cannot live like this, and this is to their own detriment. What gives us reason to talk about some possible positive changes is this: our Western partners are increasingly beginning to understand that they have fallen into the trap they created themselves, when they said that they would lift the sanctions after Russia fulfilled the Minsk agreements . They understood that, probably, it was a reservation ("slip of the tongue"), but in Kiev they very quickly heard it and interpreted it unambiguously as an indulgence, allowing them not to comply with the Minsk agreements. Their failure, in addition to the fact that Kiev will not need to take any action and fulfill its obligations, means that the West will have to maintain sanctions against Russia. What was required to prove to some gentlemen who are swelling radical moods in Kiev now ...
The West understands the futility of the current situation, when everyone pretends that Russia should fulfill the Minsk agreements, and Ukraine can do nothing - not to change the constitution, not to grant Donbas special status, not to carry out an amnesty, not to organize elections in consultation with the Donbas. Everyone understands that no one will decide these things for Ukraine. Everyone understands that this is an anomaly, a pathological thing that manifested itself in the transformation of the Ukrainian crisis, which arose as a result of an absolutely illegal anti-constitutional coup d'etat, to the measure of all relations between Russia and the West, that this is an absolutely abnormal, unhealthy situation artificially inflated from countries more distant than Europe, which no longer wants to be held hostage to this situation. For me, this is obvious.
Presenting these three long passages, I wanted to give readers an idea of the arguments of Sergey Lavrov and the gloomy tone of his answers to questions from journalists, which he gave without pre-prepared records.
In a prearranged entry, Lavrov has already outlined some key points in the approach to international affairs with Russian analytical tools of realism and national interests. From his point of view, the main task facing Russia and the world is the creation of a new system of international affairs management. Russia's relations with the West are an integral part of a wider problem.
This desired new system of relations should be built on the full equality of all states, respect for their national interests and non-interference in their internal affairs. Lavrov repeated the appeal to Vladimir Putin, who called on all countries to return to the obligations of the UN Charter, which the President of the Russian Federation spoke about at the 70 jubilee General Assembly of the United Nations. A new system of global governance must be formed by transforming the basic international institutions so that political and economic power is redistributed in accordance with the changes that have occurred in the relative economic and military power of countries that have occurred over the decades that have passed since the creation of these institutions.
This idea in itself does not contain anything new. Such appeals have long been heard publicly and addressed, in particular, to the correction of the voting procedure in the International Monetary Fund. A new element that can hit many in Washington is that Sergey Lavrov has consistently accused the United States of preventing the renewal of the international order. He repeats over and over again that the United States is striving to maintain its hegemony and to keep international institutions under control, and also is eager to completely subjugate the allies in Europe and Asia to their own interests to the detriment of their own.
Lavrov was referring to this when speaking of TPP and TIPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). This he had in mind, repeating time after time about the “distant forces” and arguing that the United States forced Europe to impose sanctions against Russia, contrary to the positions of individual European countries.
At one point, answering a question from a journalist from Japan, Sergey Lavrov practically dropped the veiled language. He said that Russia is ready, in principle, to support Japan’s provision of a permanent member of the UN Security Council, but only on condition that Tokyo contributes its national opinion, thereby broadening prospects at the table, and will not be another vote of automatic US support.
It is curious that Lavrov denies that Russia is offended, or sharpens a grudge against the United States because of relations that constantly deteriorated from a “reset” in the 2009 year to the current low point.
This statement falls into the context of the constant Western media’s condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy speeches. The speeches of the Russian president on the distortion of international relations after the Cold War are commonly referred to as “denunciations” and “revisionism”, which means aggressiveness, threats and, possibly, irrationality.
Lavrov says Russia recognizes the severity of the world and the existence of fierce competition. This is the real meaning of his words that there will no longer be “business as usual” or idealistic notes in calls for a “reset” even when sanctions against Russia are lifted.
Nevertheless, Russia is open to business on the basis of equality and to mutual benefit, where and when it is possible. In this, Sergey Lavrov agrees with such American experts as Angela Stent from Georgetown University, who advises the administration, entering the white house in 2017, not to plan a new “reset”. But they came to this conclusion from diametrically opposed views on who is to blame for the current situation.
Lavrov says that we live in a long and painful transitional period from a world dominated by the West, in turn subject to one power, that is, the United States, to a multipolar world with several key players involved in global governance. But this does not exclude some improvement, and he seems to agree with the growing popularity in the Western media about the imminent lifting of European and American sanctions against Russia.
One recent example that contributes to euphoria in the US business community is the publication on Bloomberg entitled “Reconciliation with Russia is close, as the allies hint at the lifting of Ukrainian sanctions.”
The important message voiced by Sergey Lavrov on January 26 concerned the immutability of Russian principles. He made it clear that Russia will not beg to lift the sanctions and is not going to refuse to support Bashar Assad in exchange for a softening of positions in Ukraine.
You can be sure that the United States and the European Union will present the lifting of sanctions as an exchange. But in reality, this will be a rejection of an untenable policy that causes more harm to Western interests than Russian. This meant Lavrov, insisting that Russia is more necessary to the West than the West of Russia.
The continuing damage to European farmers and other sectors from counter Russian sanctions is obvious. Damage to the US is not so noticeable.
This was recently mentioned in an article published in Foreign Affairs by a researcher at the Kato Institute under the heading "Not the Smartest Sanctions." From there we learned that the Washington establishment is very concerned about the possibility of creating alternative global financial institutions in Russia and China that will compete with structures based in Washington.
The BRICS Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, the creation of a clearing banking system rivaling SWIFT: all of this is aimed at once and for all putting an end to the US capabilities to cause serious financial damage to those who made it to the list of their enemies, as was the intention to punish the Kremlin for the annexation of the Crimea and the intervention in the Donbas.
Lavrov constantly speaks of "national interests" as the main principle of external relations. In this sense, the shadow of Hans Morgenthau, the founder and principal theorist of the American Realistic School, can share the scene with him. But Lavrov and the Russians brought to a new level the basic principles of the book “Political Relations between States”, the main work of Morgenthau, which at one time American students studied in political science courses.
Russia Lavrova calls on states to throw off the shackles and stop subordinating their national interests to one side, listening to the instructions of Washington. Nations must compete and fight for influence on the free market of ideas and influences, following the agreed rules of the game.
If the rules are observed, the world order will not turn into chaos and will not lead to sharp confrontations between nations.
Gilbert Doctorow is European Coordinator at American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book is “Does Russia Have a Future?” (Does Russia Have a Future? 2015).