FM Lavrov: presser – Raisina dialogue
Background of the Raisina Dialogue Conference, which is an Indian Think Tank. This year, the conference was an add-on to the G20.
Ed.Note: Mr Lavrov had to deal with journalists that asked inane questions. They don’t seem to be there to destabilize, but they are a waste of Lavrov’s time to do this basic teaching. This bunch had no clue, and Lavrov said so, on various occasions.
Question: I am asking this question as someone from India. In India, often we say that we live in a very troubled neighbourhood. We do not choose the friends and allies our neighbours make. No country has a choice of what friends or allies its neighbor is going to make. And they can sometimes be uncomfortable allies and friends. But we do not go to war over it. What is it that leads Russia into this long, protracted war about NATO expansion?
Sergey Lavrov: I assume that the people who assembled here are political scientists. They are interested in following the international developments. And if this is the case, then for the last 20-some years they should have understood the reasons why we are concerned about the Western policy towards Russia very well.
Yesterday, I think, the French ambassador to Israel, Eric Danon, who was personally participating in the discussions between the Western leaders and Mikhail Gorbachev, confirmed that there was a commitment not to expand NATO eastward. And then he added: “But this does not mean that Russia is right in what it is doing in Ukraine.”
But between the lie about not expanding NATO and the events which started one year ago, there were many developments which you cannot overlook. The lies continued, and not just lies about some oral promises, but about some commitments on paper.
During a summit of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in Istanbul in 1999, the political declaration was signed by the presidents and the prime ministers, which said that security is indivisible and OSCE participants are all committed to equal and indivisible security. Then they stated that each country was free to choose alliances, but in doing so, no country could strive to strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others. And then another principle was signed by the presidents and the prime ministers, according to which no country and no organisation in the OSCE region can seek to dominate militarily. If you read it again, it is clear that NATO violated all these commitments. By the way, it was then repeated in 2010, at another OSCE summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
And when we started to ask questions, saying that you committed yourself not to increase your security at the expense of our security; can you stop expanding NATO? They said, well, this is just a political commitment. So, we suggested making it a legal commitment if this is a political commitment: let us put all these principles in a legally binding treaty on indivisible security. Do you know what they told us? They said, looking into our face, that legally binding guarantees of security can only be obtained inside NATO. We told them that President Barack Obama signed this particular paper. Well, they said, this is a political commitment, forget about this.
And then there was another legally binding commitment. I mean the resolution of the UN Security Council which endorsed the Minsk agreements. It was very astonishing that everyone who signed the Minsk agreements, except President Vladimir Putin, publicly admitted that they never intended to implement this particular Security Council resolution.
So, no delivery on the oral commitments, no delivery on written commitments, and no delivery on legally binding commitments. And all this was accompanied by NATO instructors beefing up the Ukrainian Army, and Ukraine getting more and more weapons.
As former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former President of France Francois Hollande, former President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko, and also Vladimir Zelensky said: we needed the Minsk agreements to buy some time and to supply more and more weapons to Ukraine.
And if you check the reports of the OSCE special monitoring mission, they registered a sharp increase in the shelling of Donbass just in the beginning of February, 2022 – 20, 30 times more than the routine exchange of fire before that.
We defended our security and we defended the people, the Russian people who had been denied by Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky, denied the right to use the Russian language in education, in the media, in culture, in everything. Right after the coup that brought to power this neo-Nazi regime, the Ukrainian legislation banned everything that had to do with the Russian language. The people who did not accept the coup in the east of Ukraine and in Crimea, and who asked to be left alone because they were not going to follow their policies, were declared terrorists. The regime started a war against these people. That is why the Minsk agreements were considered a way to stop this.
And it was not very difficult to implement the Minsk agreements. It was about the special status for a small part of the east of Ukraine, much smaller than the territory which is controlled by the Russian army now. But they did not want to do this because the special status to be given to this small territory included the right to use the Russian language. And this in itself was considered taboo by the Nazis who took power in Ukraine through a coup. The special status also included the right to have some local police, which is nothing unusual, and the right to be consulted when judges and prosecutors are appointed to this particular region. By the way, this is almost exactly the same status that was promised to Kosovo Serbs in 2013, two years before the Minsk agreements. I’m referring to the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo. The same stuff and the same trick: cheating Serbia in the case of the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, and cheating Russia in the case of the Minsk agreements. Special status for Serbs in Kosovo, and special status for Russians in Ukraine. In both cases, it was the European Union as represented by Germany and France and also the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy who guaranteed the deal. I am convinced that just like they admitted that they did not intend to implement the Minsk agreements, they never intended to implement the thing they promised to Serbs in Kosovo.
Question: But this war, this military campaign, or whatever you choose to call it, bombing campaigns cannot alter hearts and minds; they are the worst way to do it. In fact, they “freeze” people into their positions and make further negotiations even more difficult. Where does this take us?
Sergey Lavrov: Please tell me what year did this conference start?
Question: It is taking place for the eighth year.
Sergey Lavrov: So, you started in 2014?
Sergey Lavrov: Have you been interested during these years in what is going on in Iraq, what is going on in Afghanistan? Have you been asking the United States and NATO whether they are certain of what they are doing?
Now Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz, Foreign Minister of Germany Annalena Baerbock, President of France Emmanuel Macron and others say that this is the first time the Helsinki Final Act is being violated. They don’t remember about 1999 when Serbia was bombed, when Joe Biden, being a senator at that time, was bragging that one year before the bombing of Serbia he promoted this approach and believed that they had to bomb them out into peace. Iraq was ruined as a state after US Secretary of State Colin Powell showed a vial with some powder, and then a few years later former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that it was a mistake.
If you believe that the United States has the right to declare a threat to its national interests any place on earth, like they did in Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Libya, and in Syria – 10,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean – it has the right to do so, and you do not ask them any questions.
Russia was warning them – not just overnight like they did in Iraq and elsewhere, but for more than 10 years – you are doing something which is going to be very bad. And it was not across the ocean, but just on our borders, on the territories where the Russians have lived for centuries and centuries and centuries. If that is not a double standard, then I am not a minister.
Question: The question has been asked, and the experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, everywhere, has been that it does not make sense to get into these long, protracted wars to defend these kinds of interests. The US did not succeed, why do you think Russia will succeed?
Sergey Lavrov: You are the head of such a distinguished audience. I fail to understand why you do not understand.
Question: What is the endgame?
Sergey Lavrov: It is war on everything Russian in Ukraine. Can you imagine that, for example, they cancelled the English language in Ireland? Or in Belgium they cancelled French, or in Switzerland they cancelled German? Can you? Or they cancelled Swedish in Finland. Can you even imagine this? Of course not. But nobody lifted a finger – not the small one, not the middle one – when the Russian language was totally cancelled in Ukraine. We have been knocking on all these doors: the OSCE, the Council of Europe: Why don’t you say something? Why don’t you tell them to behave? And I do not recall that your conference was addressing this problem over all these eight years.
Question: The question everyone asks here is what the other side believes, that the end of the war is simple: Russia stops fighting and the war ends. And then perhaps there can be negotiations. Is there some endgame which you are playing or the other side is playing? Where does this all take us? Countries in the region are affected by what is happening. Food, fertilisers, energy…
Sergey Lavrov: Countries of the region are not affected by what we are doing in Ukraine. They are affected by the reaction of the West to what we are doing in Ukraine, after we had warned them for decades that they should stop NATO expansion and stop pumping weapons into Ukraine to prepare them for the war against us.
I participated yesterday in the G20 ministerial, and our Western friends were shouting in the microphones “Russia must…”, “Russia must…”, Russia must…”. All the delegates from developing countries were also saying that they want to stop the war when Russia is ready to negotiate.
If you are really interested in politics and in the root causes of this particular situation, then you would know that US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell repeatedly stated that Russia must be defeated on the battlefield. Russia must suffer strategic defeat. And this, they say, is existential for the West in the context of global domination. It is a very blunt admittance, I would say.
And the entire G20 was only about what to do with Ukraine and the final declaration, whether we can have it or not. We asked our Indian friends and Indonesian friends who were chairing the G20 (and those who were chairing it before Indonesia for all these long years) whether G20 has ever reflected the situation in Iraq, in Libya, in Afghanistan, or in Yugoslavia in those declarations.
The G20 was formed in 1999 at the level of ministers of finance and Central Bank directors, and in 2008 it became a summit. Nobody gave a damn about anything except finances and macroeconomic policies, which the G20 was formed for.
These days, when it is something which the West is doing, it is believed that it is right, and when Russia has, after many years of warnings, started to defend itself, there is nothing except Ukraine which is of interest for the G20. It is a shame. This policy would fail. If they say this is existential for them, it is existential for us.
Question: But there are lots of other countries out there who want peace, who want this war to end. They would like a line to be drawn somewhere and negotiations to start. Now what is the endgame? This war cannot go on forever. You do not want to be stuck there for 20 years and repeat Afghanistan all over again.
Sergey Lavrov: You know, you would be an ideal propagandist of the Soviet Union style: calling for peace, calling against the war.
I am trying to explain that it is not black and white, that the sufferings of others are not related to what we are doing in Ukraine to defend ourselves at all. These sufferings are related to the sanctions, to the policy of blackmail, the policy of diktat which the West is promoting. Antony Blinken, Jens Stoltenberg, Josep Borrell and ministers of European countries travel all over the globe and tell other countries how to behave: join sanctions, vote the way they tell them, and so on and so forth. If they are such big democrats, they should respect the right of other countries to take their own positions.
Before we started this special military operation, President of Russia Vladimir Putin explained in great detail why we are doing this, and why we did not have any other choice. The West condemned it. Treat others as grown-ups, as mature people, and do not tell them what position to take.
The developing countries were basically silent until the West started blackmailing them, threatening them, sanctioning those who would not sanction Russia. Many friends of mine in the developing world are telling me how this is being done. The Americans tell them they must vote this way, or else. And they say they will vote the way they are told because they believe this can be explained by the United Nations Charter and so on. But what do they get in return? And the answer from the Americans is they won’t be punished. A very fair deal.
I have quite a number of friends in New York, and when I was there for the last UN General Assembly session in 2022, I talked to them. Many, if not most of them, said that they fully understood what was going on and that we should not be angry at the way they vote. They told me what arguments the Americans have been using when they persuaded people to vote against Russia in the General Assembly. The arguments were very straight. Do not forget that you have a bank account in such and such a bank and do not forget that your kids go to Stanford. Bluntly.
And I am sure that there are many people in this room who know that this is true.
Question: I agree that smart bombs do not exist, smart sanctions do not exist. No matter how much bombing you do, nothing is going to work out. You are going to cause damage and you are taking innocent lives all along. Similarly, I agree that smart sanctions don’t exist. There will always be a possibility that collateral damage is extremely high. So, there, yes, both sides need to get together and find a solution. There has to be a line drawn somewhere, okay, and let diplomacy have a chance. Let’s start talking once again.
Sergey Lavrov: My dear friend, you surprised me, because if you raise this issue, you should have done some homework.
Everybody is asking when Russia is ready to negotiate. The West is continuously saying that it is not time to negotiate yet because Ukraine must win on the battlefield before any negotiations. And nobody calls on President Vladimir Zelensky asking him when he is going to negotiate. But, when preparing for this topic at this meeting, you should have known that last September President Vladimir Zelensky signed an executive order making it a criminal offense to negotiate with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin is president. So, can you address this issue? Can you invite him and ask him what he is doing?
Question: My question is about China-Russia relations and its impact on the India-Russia relations because India is now facing China’s assertive challenges in the Himalayan border and the Indian Ocean region. Last year there was a dramatic change in Russia-China relations, and there are many joint exercises around Japan and India. How does Russia calculate the strategic cost and benefit of deepening its relationship with China, especially its impact on Russia-India relations?
Sergey Lavrov: We never make friends against somebody. Russia has excellent relations with China and excellent relations with India. The official documents signed by the two leaders characterise relations with India as an especially privileged strategic partnership. I do not know whether any other country has the same status with our Indian friends on paper, officially, but this is what we believe is reflecting the reality, be it the economy, be it technology, be it military cooperation, military-technical cooperation, culture, humanitarian ties, educational ties.
We have relations with China that have never been that good in their entire history.
Russia is interested in these two great nations to be friends. And we are trying to be helpful. It was at the initiative of my great predecessor, Yevgeny Primakov, that RIC was created, Russia-India-China. He initiated this, and this was the beginning of the process which eventually culminated in BRICS’ formation. And now BRICS is very popular and about two dozen countries would like to join it. But the momentum was ensured by the decision to create this troika, Russia-India-China.
And you might not hear about this as much as of BRICS, but this troika continues to function. We met in 2021, and we are going to meet this year again at the ministerial level. It will be the 19th tripartite meeting. Experts on economy, trade, and technology also meet. Think-tank people meet regularly. They were supposed to meet sometime this spring, actually, but then our Indian colleagues asked for some postponement. My feeling is the more they meet, the better.
RIC is a platform for India and China to find some additional common grounds in our presence, because they might not feel comfortable enough sometimes being one-on-one. BRICS is another such platform.
And, of course, we strongly supported India joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, including from the point of view of providing another place where India and China can cooperate together and look for some common solutions. We will continue this policy. We never engage in playing any country against any other country.
Unfortunately, this approach is being tried by some other outside players in the context of so-called Indo-Pacific strategies, in the context of AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States,) and in the context of using the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) not for economic purposes, but trying to militarise it. The idea promoted by our American colleagues, ASEAN plus Quad, is openly aimed at ruining the East Asia Summit. In other words, it would be the East Asia Summit minus China and minus Russia.
These are the issues which I believe you should address more openly and honestly. Those are the risks created for this region. Russia is always in favour of bringing people together, like we do in many other countries.
Question: How has the war affected Russia’s strategy on energy and will it mark a pivot to Asia? How is India going to feature in it? And is there a deepening relationship for gas supply to India?
Sergey Lavrov: The war which Russia is trying to stop and which was launched against it using the Ukrainian people, has, of course, influenced the policy of Russia, including energy policy. And the blunt way to describe what has changed is that we would not rely on any partners in the West anymore. We would not allow them to blow up the pipelines again. By the way, Russia asked for an investigation, and immediately this investigation request was denied. The Americans called it nonsense.
And you saw the reaction of Europeans and Americans when Seymour Hersh published his findings. Germany was humiliated both physically and morally. Everything which is happening now is designed to reduce Europe to a subordinate player for the United States, to undercut the European competitive edge, and, of course, to ruin the economic ties between Russia and the European Union. This is clear. So be it. This is their choice, which fits the rhetoric, the narrative that what is going on is existential for the West from the point of view of its ability to dominate. Everything fits into place.
The energy policy of Russia will be oriented towards reliable and credible partners. India and China are certainly among them.
The humility and patience of Lavrov in dealing with those questions made by these “journalists” is breath taking. He definitely has diplomatic skills.
‘If this is not a double standard, then I am not a minister.’ karlof @ moa was kind enough to post this interview late last night on moa, but it was a translation from russian & in it it specified the language of the question & the rebuttal. i found… Read more »
Sergei Lavrov is truly an exceptional Foreign Minister, in a different league compared with the rest. His presence of mind and depth of knowledge is par excellence. The journalists should not have been allowed to ask such flippant questions, which only went to show their total unpreparedness. M. K. Bhadrakumar… Read more »
Amb. Bhadrakumar‘s critique is maybe unduly harsh?? (1) He puts the entire onus on India, but the very G20 format is dying.. regardless of who hosts. the differences are irreconcilable. The world splits into two. Not even Hercules could hold it together! We all expected last year’s would be the… Read more »
Mercouris mentioned Modi and his foreign policy team are being excoriated throughout India for this G20 fallout. If this is a true perception, then a consideration has to be the West set this up to topple them. They are on a rampage against India. They have been trying every which… Read more »
India’s support for Russia has violated the Western Code for “rules based order”. And thus a coordinated attack was launched on the Modi govt. by UK government-funded media behemoth BBC, a US short-seller (Hindenburg) and a US global finance capitalist (Soros) dabbling in regime-change politics to suit US foreign policy… Read more »
@Sudhi and AHH Agreed… the imperialist attack dogs are all out en masse in order to try to drag down both Lula and India… they realise that this is now an existential phase for their entire movement Lula is the glue that could take 650 million LatAms into the multipolarity… Read more »
Indian media has been sharp from day one. It informed well. And not just in India – throughout the Anglosphere media.. MKB did it in written form, retired generals on interviews, fearless media platforms covered it objectively… Thanks for this poll! And it is from unfriendly source – gallup! What… Read more »
Thanks very much for providing Mr. Lavrov’s presser, Amarynth. The good thing about the questioners is that every time they open their mouths and make sounds, they prove themselves to be nothing but perfect repeaters for the states that pay them. Their “questions” give Mr. Lavrov opportunity after opportunity to… Read more »