Lavrov's Annual Primakov Readings Speech
Complete with Q&A Session.
Lavrov delivered his annual remarks at the Primakov Readings event, Primakov being the Russian diplomat who saw the onset of the emerging Multipolar World and worked to prepare Russian diplomacy to promote its potential. At the same time, President Putin was addressing the Plenary session of the World Russian People's Council. which will also be translated and republished. Together, the two sessions provide an excellent view of Russian policy in many areas. I urge people who remain critical of Russia’s policy in Palestine to closely read Lavrov’s words on that situation. There were several good questions requiring deep answers that Lavrov is capable of providing; within them, there are many lessons. Now, Lavrov’s remarks:
Dear Alexander Aleksandrovich,
I see a lot of friends in this room. The tradition is preserved. The Primakov Readings are gaining more and more popularity every year. This is a manifestation of the memory of our teacher, Yevgeny Primakov, and the active work of the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations to perpetuate his legacy and develop the principles he promotes in international relations, which are now more in demand than ever.
Today, we need joint intellectual work. We remember that it was Yevgeny Primakov who initiated situational analyses, which were very popular among scientists and non-governmental organisations. In the course of these talks, many proposals were worked out, which were later embodied in our practical diplomacy.
Events in the world today are dynamically developing. To say so is an understatement. Many of the once "constants of international relations" are being tested for strength and compliance with new realities. Among them are the main trends in the formation of a multipolar world order. The process is complex and inclusive. It did not start yesterday and will take a significant (even by historical standards) time. The contours of polycentric architecture have already been outlined.
We have repeatedly spoken about the new centres of global development, primarily in Asia and Eurasia, about the growth of independence and self-consciousness of many developing countries, about their refusal to blindly follow the former colonial metropolises, which are gradually, but objectively, losing their power, and with it their influence. Everything that Yevgeny Primakov presciently wrote and said many years ago is becoming a reality before our eyes.
Multipolar systems, if we make an excursion into history, are not a new phenomenon. In one form or another, they have existed before, for example, during the "concert of European powers" in the 19th century or between the two world wars of the 20th century. It is clear that at that time there were not as many independent players in the world as there are now. Therefore, what can be considered the beginnings of multipolarity was formed in a much narrower circle than the number of sovereign states today. As a result of the Great Victory, the founding fathers laid the foundation for multipolarity. The permanent members of the UN Security Council include five of the most powerful powers. This embodied the global balance of power and interests that had developed by 1945. In addition to the special place of the Five, the UN Charter enshrines the principles of equality of all large and small states without exception, regardless of their peculiarities, specifics and history of development. Today, this is the most important principle around which universal multipolarity will be built. The UN fulfilled its main role – it did not allow a new world war, but the noble plan of universal cooperation, equality and prosperity was not destined to come true. The logic of the Cold War quickly pushed the world to divide into opposing camps and fight each other.
The fundamental difference of the current "edition" of multipolarity is that it has a chance to acquire a truly planetary scale, based on the basic principle of the UN Charter on the sovereign equality of states. In the past, globally significant decisions were made by a small group of states with the voice of the Western community predominating, for obvious reasons. Today, new players from the Global South and East have come to the forefront of world politics. Their number is growing. We justifiably call them the World Majority. Not in words but in deeds, they are strengthening their sovereignty in resolving topical issues, demonstrating independence, and putting their national interests at the forefront, not someone else's whims. To illustrate, I would like to cite a statement by my Indian colleague, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, that peace is much more than Europe. It is clear that the meaning of this statement is that the world is much bigger than the West. Russia has consistently advocated the democratisation of interstate relations and a fairer distribution of global goods.
Do not look far for examples of how multipolarity manifests itself today, especially in the context of regional crises. It encourages the countries of the various regions to show solidarity. The current outbreak of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has become a catalyst for such solidarity and united actions of the Arab-Muslim world. Last week, on November 21, a delegation of the Arab League and the OIC at the level of foreign ministers visited the capitals of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, including Moscow. At our meeting, we reaffirmed the need for an early and fair settlement based on the two-state concept. This was the main message that this joint delegation of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation sent to the capitals of the five countries and other capitals of the UN member states. In general, in the Middle East, as well as in Africa, the South Caucasus, Central Asia and Eurasia, a consensus in favor of the formula "regional solutions to regional problems" is taking root. External players are expected to provide all possible assistance to the countries of the respective regions, and not to impose recipes from the outside. If someone wants to be useful, then it is necessary to support the approaches that are being developed in the region, where the countries concerned see ways to overcome certain contradictions much better than those from overseas.
To reiterate, the geopolitical ambitions of the new global players are underpinned by their economic capabilities. As President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin noted at the extraordinary G20 summit in November 2023, "A significant share of global investment, trade and consumer activity is shifting to the Asian, African and Latin American regions, where most of the world's population lives." China has become the world's number one economy in terms of purchasing power parity. The aggregate GDP of the BRICS countries, also at PPP, has exceeded that of the G7 since last year. And with the replenishment of the BRICS membership and the arrival of new members who will become fully involved in the work of this association from January 1, 2024, this advantage over the G7 will increase significantly.
At the end of 2022, despite the sanctions (perhaps thanks to them), Russia rose to fifth place in the world in terms of the same PPP, ahead of Germany.
That the world is becoming a different place is evident in the example of multilateral diplomacy. Among the most striking evidence is cooperation within BRICS. Within its framework, countries representing different civilizations, religions, and macro-regions are effectively developing ties in a variety of areas, from politics and security to the economy, finance, healthcare, sports and culture. This is done on the principles of equality, mutual respect, and the formation of a balance of interests through consensus. No one is imposing anything on anyone, no one is blackmailing anyone, no one is putting anyone in front of a choice: "either us or them", "either with us or against us". It is not surprising that dozens of states want to get closer to BRICS. The Johannesburg summit took the first step on this path. The number of BRICS countries is almost doubling. A couple of dozen other states have made similar requests or want to establish special, privileged relations with this structure. Next year, Russia will chair the association, which will no longer be the "five." We will do everything we can to ensure that BRICS strengthens its position in the international arena and continues to play an increasingly important role in shaping a just world order.
The positions of BRICS members and their like-minded members in the G20 are strengthening. The recent summits of this group have confirmed the determination of the world's majority countries not to allow the West to turn this forum for the consideration of global financial and economic problems into a tool for promoting the narrowly selfish geopolitical plans of the United States and its allies. Washington, Brussels and other Western capitals sought to do this at the previous G20 summit, trying to completely Ukrainize its agenda. They wanted to do the same thing at the G20 summit in India. It failed. The summit focused on the issues for which the G20 was originally created: the issues of the global economy and finance, which have become dominant in the decisions made.
The SCO is also working in favor of the establishment of multipolarity. It is called upon to play a cementing role in the formation of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, aimed at harmonising various integration projects on the continent and open to all states and organizations located here on our common continent, including the EAEU, ASEAN and others. This philosophy was put forward by President Vladimir Putin in 2015 at the first Russia-ASEAN summit. It is increasingly recognized. In the SCO, as well as in BRICS, there is also a whole "queue" of countries that want to either become full members or obtain the status of an observer or partner.
Western politicians are (albeit reluctantly) beginning to recognize and realize that unipolarity has sunk into oblivion. Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking at the annual meeting of French ambassadors at the end of August this year, said that the geopolitical balance of power is not changing in favour of the West. And he presented it as a danger. That is, the expansion of the aggressive NATO bloc is "good", and the expansion of the peaceful association of BRICS is a "threat". It is clear that this mentality is deep-seated. You can't get rid of these instincts overnight. We see that the West is trying with all its might to hold on to the remnants of its dominance, while resorting to openly neo-colonial methods that are rejecting the world majority. The West's goal is simple and cynical at the same time: to continue to skim the cream of global politics, economics and trade, and to ensure its own well-being at the expense of others. Russia, like the overwhelming majority of other countries, is not ready and will not put up with such plans.
For their own purposes, the United States and its European allies use a wide range of tools of geopolitical "engineering." These include provoking conflicts (we see this along the entire perimeter of Russia's borders), conducting information and psychological operations, and unleashing trade and economic wars. The activities of the World Trade Organisation, primarily its dispute settlement bodies, have been blocked by the Westerners. Such fundamental legal foundations of world economic relations as free competition and the inviolability of property have been destroyed. The dollar has long been used as a weapon, and economic interdependence is being weaponized (an Anglicism that is becoming clear).
The destructive actions of the Western minority have an effect that, by and large, is the opposite of what was intended, since it stimulates the construction in favor of strengthening the multipolar principles of international life. There is a growing understanding that no one is immune to the aggressive actions of Washington and Brussels.
Not only Russia, but also many other countries are consistently reducing their dependence on Western currencies, switching to alternative mechanisms for foreign economic settlements, and working on the formation of new international transport corridors and supply chains.
The unbalanced and unfair model of globalization, in which the "golden billion" received the main benefits, is becoming a thing of the past. The practical tasks of democratization of the world economic order will be considered by the participants of the Forum of Supporters of the Struggle against Modern Forms of Neocolonialism. It is being prepared by the United Russia party. It is scheduled for early 2024.
This is just one of the initiatives that our country will promote in the development of the provisions of the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, which was significantly updated in March this year, taking into account the changed geopolitical realities. The emerging polycentric architecture should be inclusive, cooperative, and not antagonistic. It should insure against a dangerous confrontation between the world's centers and a "showdown" between them.
It is in the common interest to try to create a global "concept" based on the universally recognised principles and norms of international law, respecting the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world and the right of peoples to determine their own development paths.
This work does not need to be done from scratch. There is a foundation for a just and sustainable peace, and that is the Charter of the United Nations. Its provisions should not be implemented selectively, as our colleagues in the West are doing, trying to extract from the principles of the Charter what is beneficial to them at this particular moment, but they should be used in their entirety and interrelatedness. Of course, it is necessary to carefully adapt the world Organization to modern realities. First of all, this concerns the reform of the Security Council. It was important to remedy the historical injustice that had manifested itself since the completion of the decolonization process and the emergence of many dozens of new young and modern States. These realities should be reflected in the size of the UN Security Council. It is clear that new members can only come from the developing regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America. They must have credibility in their parts of the world and in global organizations such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77.
A new type of international structures, where all issues are resolved on the basis of a balance of interests and consensus, are becoming a significant support for multipolarity. In addition to the BRICS, the SCO and the EAEU, which I mentioned, these are the CSTO, the CIS, as well as ASEAN, the African Union and CELAC, the GCC, the Arab League and the OIC.
Unfortunately, I cannot be optimistic about the fate of the associations led by the United States and its allies: NATO, the EU, the Group of 77, and now the Council of Europe and the OSCE. The latter two organisations were originally conceived as platforms for a broad, mutually respectful pan-European dialogue. As a result, they are obsessively turned into appendages of the European Union and NATO, into purely marginal structures that the West is trying (in the worst form of the word) to use in the interests of its selfish policy.
We can still try to save the OSCE, but I will be frank – the chances are slim.
In his speech at the annual meeting of the Valdai Club on October 5, President Vladimir Putin outlined the key principles on which a more just and democratic world order should be based. It is the openness and interconnectedness of the world – without barriers to communication; respect for diversity as a foundation for co-development; maximum representation in global governance structures; global security based on a balance of interests; equitable access to the benefits of development; Equality for all, rejection of the dictates of the rich or powerful. I have no doubt that these approaches are close and understandable to any sensible person who deals with or is interested in international issues.
Based on this understanding of multipolarity, we will continue to fight for truth and justice, for the voice of all countries to be taken into account, regardless of their size, state structure or level of economic development. That is, exactly as prescribed by the UN Charter since 1945. We will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and like-minded partners in the Global South and East. We do not want to close the door or window or window (President Vladimir Putin recently touched on this topic) for sober-minded players in the "historical West" as they become aware of the realities and challenges of the objective processes of multipolarity (which Yevgeny Primakov foresaw).
In the diplomatic sphere, we will continue to pay special attention to ensuring the uniform interpretation and practical application of all the principles of the UN Charter. This is the most important element of our course.
We will continue to work on expanding the membership of such a promising association as the Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter established in New York. It was a Venezuelan initiative. Twenty States are members of this group. There are those who want to join the list of its participants.
We will also work consistently to strengthen other structures that contribute to the democratisation of international relations. To this end, we always remain open to an honest and serious dialogue with all those who value their national interests and show reciprocal readiness.
Question: Each system of international relations (Versailles, Yalta-Postdam) arose after a major war. Unipolar – after the Cold War. Is it possible to shape the future world order without tragic events?
Sergey Lavrov: How is the current situation better and safer than the Cold War era?
Question: Are you saying that we are living in a second Cold War?
Sergey Lavrov: We need to call it something else. During the Cold War, there were checks and balances. The two great powers and camps (the U.S.-Soviet Union, NATO-Warsaw Pact) were determined to keep the rivalry within a political and diplomatic framework. At that time, the arms control dialogue was born and began to develop quite rapidly, and concrete practical results were achieved. It was reassuring. At least, neither in the United States, nor in the Soviet Union, nor in the countries of the socialist camp, NATO and the European Union, were there any alarming assessments of what was happening and no serious fears for their physical future were expressed.
Such fears are now rampant, manifested in the speeches of many politicians and non-governmental organizations, and demonstrations are organized. This is a different situation. It has become this way not only because the West, led by the United States, decided to declare a hybrid war on us in the literal sense of the word. Listen to what they say when they talk about the state of affairs around Ukraine in their speeches.
The country is "sharpened" as an instrument of inflicting a "strategic defeat" on us. That is the stated goal. Voters are frightened by the fact that this is only the beginning. They say that Russia has more greedy appetites. Everything is clear with the Balts, Poles and other "conductors" of American policy in Europe, including in the interests of weakening the European Union. But Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said several times, including recently at a congressional hearing, that if the West does not support Ukraine, Russia will win and will not stop there. Allegedly, the next targets will be the Baltic countries, Poland and our other neighbors.
It is uttered by a person in a position of responsibility. He cannot help but receive expert assessments, including Pentagon specialists analyzing the state of affairs between Moscow and Washington. They certainly understand what exactly is being decided in Ukraine and that Russia does not have, never had and cannot have any aggressive plans or plans of conquest.
I will not dwell in detail on the reasons for the special military operation. The main one is that the neo-Nazi regime, which has its roots in the anti-constitutional coup d'état of February 2014, has openly, with the encouragement of the West, set a course for the legislative extermination (but in some cases also physical) of everything Russian in the lands that have been developed and developed by Russians for centuries. At the same time, this neo-Nazi regime has become an instrument for inflicting a "strategic defeat" on Russia "on the battlefield" in the interests of the West. If this is not a direct threat to our interests, security and the population, which since the time of great-grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers and mothers considered themselves Russians, then there are no clear analysts in the West, or there are no people with a conscience.
Long before the special military operation, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky was asked what his attitude was to the people in Donbass under the auspices of the Minsk Agreements. He said (a racist statement) that there are people and there are "specimens". For those who live in Ukraine and feel a sense of belonging to Russian culture, he advised them to "leave" to Russia for the sake of the future of their children and grandchildren. This was voiced in deathly silence on the part of the civilized, enlightened West.
Let's go back to the current situation. I don't know what historians will call this period. But it is a fact that thanks to the actions of the United States, almost the entire array of arms control agreements has been destroyed. Hundreds of pages have been written about it. I would treat the current period of world history as responsibly as possible.
Question: What are the prospects for Russian-European trade and economic relations? Given that Russia is the supplier of almost one-third of hydrocarbons to Europe, which will apparently look for an alternative. How does Moscow envision the development of these relations?
Sergey Lavrov: I will not even try to guess what Europe is going to do. I think she (with the exception of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Vice Chancellor Ronald Habeck) has realized where she is.
Read the statistics on how many times the United States is outpacing Europe's economic growth. France, apparently, will be in the "zeros". The once "locomotives" of the European economy (Germany, Great Britain) will "grow" downwards. After a series of laws passed by Americans to fight inflation and other topics, energy prices in the United States are 4-5 times lower than in Europe, where deindustrialization is taking place.
Thinking about their future, the business moves to the United States. I am convinced that this is not just a coincidence, but a deliberate policy of Washington. Because Europe is also a competitor that the United States does not need. They need a group of "gray" people who do what they are told. I don't want to offend the Europeans, but this is how the current political elites act.
Let's look at the statistics. It's helpful to understand what's going on. But at this stage, we don't need to think about how to restore relations with Europe. Now we need to think about how not to depend on the "twists" in European politics (primarily in the trade, economic and investment spheres) that they are making under the influence of Washington. We must protect ourselves in all key sectors of our economy (security and life in general), on which the future of the country depends. We must independently produce everything we need for security, economic development, solutions to social issues, and the introduction of modern technologies (another event on artificial intelligence was held recently), so as not to suffer from new "whims" when and if they want to pounce on us with sanctions.
Restrictions have not disappeared. The West wants to end everything "on the sly", in a cunning way. Freeze, buy time (as was the case with the Minsk agreements), rearm the Nazi regime in Kiev and continue its hybrid (or non-hybrid) aggression against the Russian Federation. But even when it's over, most sanctions will remain.
We need to live by our minds. When and if they sober up and we are offered something, we will think ten times and weigh whether all the proposals meet our interests and how reliable our European colleagues are. They have severely undermined their ability to negotiate and reputation. Maybe not yet definitively.
Question: We have been publishing the Rossiya Segodnya newspaper for almost 30 years, and China Today for 15 years. Our press group widely covers the development of relations between Russia, India and China, the unprecedented expansion of BRICS. We are witnessing the end of the US-centric world, but it is resisting.
We see how the North Atlantic Alliance is expanding eastward, in the Asia-Pacific region (today there is even talk of Pacific NATO). This threatens global security in the world. What will be the response of Russia, China, BRICS and all organizations that are against such aggressive behaviour?
Sergey Lavrov: There are neocolonial instincts in the West. It is the desire to continue to live at the expense of others, as has been done for more than 500 years. It is obvious to everyone that the era is coming to an end. They understand that. What the West is now trying to do to maintain its hegemony is described by some as the agony of that era. Maybe such a comparison has the right to exist. But this era will be long and long. These are not just "woken up" – and already other fair rules of the world economy.
The U.S. is still a powerful country with a huge economy. The European Union has not yet lost its "weight", although this process is taking place rapidly and will continue to accelerate. Due to the circumstances, Russia was not deeply embedded in the model of globalization that the Americans promoted and provided to everyone, literally saying "take advantage of it." Like, it's not just for them, and the dollar is a currency for everyone. And all the other principles: property, the presumption of innocence, international justice, which must be universally acceptable and applicable.
All this was trampled on overnight, thrown away, as soon as they wanted to "punish" the Russian Federation. Their plan is to turn Ukraine into a direct threat to Russia, including the destruction and extermination of everything Russian in that country. It was planned to create US and British naval bases on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The plan failed. We responded the way we answered. And not "in the morning", "woke up and decided". For more than eight years, they have been warned. They proposed treaties on European security that would ensure stability on the continent without the expansion of military and political blocs. We were ready not to expand the CSTO. All this has been the case since 2009.
In December 2021, on the instructions of President Vladimir Putin, the United States submitted new, final proposals. They were rejected. We were told: what kind of security is there? They say that legally guaranteed security can only be ensured within the framework of NATO. The same answer was given when we recalled that in 2010 in Astana, within the framework of the OSCE, they signed up to the principle of indivisibility of security, according to which no organization has the right to claim dominance. They're exactly what they do.
We asked, why don't they want to provide legally binding guarantees to everyone? After all, everyone in the OSCE spoke in favor of this. Some junior diplomats in Brussels and Washington tell us that they "don't care" what presidents and prime ministers (including their own) have said about the indivisibility of security, which they signed at OSCE summits – legal security guarantees are available only to NATO members. By doing so, they are trying to increase the attractiveness of the alliance and stimulate the influx of new members, contrary to all their promises.
Russia has been shallowly incorporated into this model of globalization. We didn't have a lot of trade with the United States. With the European Union, yes. But this was a story that dates back to Soviet times. They tried to interfere with our cooperation. Then it made its way, became the basis for Europe's well-being and the solution of its socio-economic problems at a good, unprecedented level.
We worked for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but our immersion in this system was not as large-scale as, for example, China or India. They now understand that they need to defend their independence. There is no doubt about it. We are discussing this issue within the framework of BRICS and the SCO. Alternative payment platforms are being actively introduced, and the transition to national currencies is developing rapidly. But New Delhi and Beijing care about their own interests and see that leaving this system and starting to build new structures will be bad for their economies.
There has been a gradual shift away from dependence on the dollar, payment systems, and supply chains that the West is building. No one knows what the new U.S. president will come up with in five or six years, what agreements he will withdraw from and which he will impose. They abandoned universal trade agreements in Asia and began to build their own (without China).
India and China have taken the signal. They are beginning to move towards reducing their dependence on the arbitrariness of those who created this model of globalization and continue to play a major role in it. It won't be as fast and drastic as in our case. We were forced to act decisively and in a big way, given the more than 11,<> sanctions aimed at strangling the Russian economy and worsening the situation of the population, in the hope that they would revolt. They openly declare that this is exactly what they want. If you look at the statistics of the share of Chinese reserves in dollars three years ago and now, the situation is eloquent. I think that our Indian friends are thinking in the same direction. No one wants to be held hostage to a geopolitical nervous breakdown again.
We don't rush anyone. There is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS and other organisations, relations between the EAEU and the SCO, ASEAN and China's One Belt, One Road project. In these formats, forms of cooperation and servicing of our economy and trade relations that will be sustainable are developed naturally, without forcing them. The process is underway, but it will be long.
Question: At this year's BRICS summit, the issue of introducing a single BRICS currency was raised. In 2024, Russia holds the BRICS chairmanship, will this issue be raised again? Are there any similar plans within the SCO?
Sergey Lavrov: This was one of the topics discussed in detail at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. President of Brazil Lula Lula da Silva paid special attention to it. This did not surprise anyone, because when he once again became president, in his speeches (even before the summit) he called for working on the formation, if not of a single currency, then of a mechanism in which national currencies would play a decisive role. I proposed doing this within the framework of CELAC and BRICS.
As a result of the discussions, the Declaration adopted by the leaders of the countries of the association in Johannesburg instructs the heads of ministries of finance and central banks to prepare recommendations on alternative payment platforms. We hope that they will be presented in 2024, and Russia, as the BRICS chairmanship, will organise a thorough review of them with a view to making decisions. The SCO is talking about common payment platforms, but so far they have not resulted in specific instructions.
National currencies are actively replacing the dollar in our settlements with the People's Republic of China (90% are already serviced in rubles and yuan). With India, it is either close to half or already more than 50%. Approximately the same figures for the rest of the members of these associations.
Question: We have many currents: state actors, movements, globalisation, and the understanding that the whole world is united and closely connected at the level of people. How do you see how these non-state actors, participants in the movement in this complex multipolar world that you are now creating, will participate in it?
Sergey Lavrov: I don't like the word "actors". There is a Russian word for "gambler".
This is a serious matter. Part of the philosophy that the Americans have been promoting around the world as part of their globalisation model (some have been persistently proposed, some have been imposed) is the role of non-governmental organisations and civil society. The Americans have created thousands of non-governmental organizations. Many hundreds of them work in the post-Soviet space, especially in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. They are actively trying to introduce them in other Central Asian countries. There is nothing to say about Ukraine. They were also in Belarus. But when the events of August 2020 clearly showed the role played by these NGOs in the attempt to destabilize the situation in Belarus, their number there decreased dramatically.
It would be a stretch to call them "non-governmental". Look at all the key US agencies, all the foundations – the national democratic and international republican institutions (many of which are no longer associated with the leading US parties), the so-called NGOs – almost 90% of them are funded by the US budget, including the Agency for International Development, and are part of the American bureaucracy. This is budget money. Or through other channels of budget financing. They are pursuing the "one party" line, regardless of which party is in power in Washington (Democratic or Republican). The line is to directly influence the processes in the countries where these non-governmental organizations operate.
To say that civil society should be more widely represented is yet another disingenuous. We know what those who make such calls mean. Let us take the (near-optimal) position of non-governmental organizations in world affairs. There is a Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations of the UN Economic and Social Council. There is a procedure for this Committee to cooperate with public structures. If you want to become a member of the Economic and Social Council or the United Nations Department of Public Information, you must apply to that Committee. Fill out the form. Your track record is being examined. There is a hearing, you are asked questions. Members of the Committee are convinced that this organization is in fact a civil society or an instrument of some government. Of course, it is not without mistakes. You can't foresee everything, you can't find out, but in general, this is a normal, transparent and honest process.
At the same time, there is such an organization as the OSCE. There are three "baskets". Military-political, the entire basis of which in the form of agreements on arms control and confidence-building measures was destroyed by the Americans. There is an economic basket that has also been destroyed as a result of the destruction of Russia's ties with Europe, which I have already mentioned. And there is a humanitarian "basket" – the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Commissioner for National Minorities, the Commissioner and the Representative for Freedom of the Media. None of these OSCE institutions have rules like the ones I mentioned. When the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Review Meeting in Warsaw meets annually (which usually takes place in the fall), any "person on the street" can come in and say that he has "the protection of the rights of the poor," another has "the protection of the rights of transgender people," and a third has "the rights of those who fight communism." And that's it: a person sat down and began to make his speeches, had the same rights as representatives of states.
We have stopped this practice. Now there is at least some kind of procedure in place. We stopped it simply. After the reunification of Crimea with Russia, non-governmental organizations of the Republic of Crimea began to travel there. Can you imagine the reaction? If they don't let some people in, we won't let others in. But it's still a mess. There are still no rules. The OSCE exists without a charter at all. There was a period when everyone was enthusiastic about the increased participation of civil society, transnational corporations, and business in general on a par with states. At the conferences that the West held on climate, on the environment, and on many other issues, it was insisted that business and NGOs participate there on an equal footing with governments. Now many people are against it. Enthusiasm has waned dramatically. It has become clear how weak states are treated. I don't think it will come back in our lifetime.
Question: On the one hand, we are distancing ourselves from the West. On the other hand, he is an extremely active actor. We did not expect that he would act in such a way that he would support an openly neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine, which, apparently, the elections in the United States were rigged for the first time in history. Were we wrong to perceive the West positively? Could he be reborn? The situation is similar to a horror movie ("Alien", "The Others"), when there was a company of people, and suddenly it turns into some kind of monsters. It seems to me that this is how many of us now perceive the West. You have a lot of experience in communicating with these "colleagues". What's going on there? What can we expect from them next? Have they already turned into monsters, or will they go even further down this path? Or will it be the other way around – they will return to the human community, to the UN? What can we expect from them? What is the nature of this process?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the fact that the West may be reborn. I had a quote here (in my pocket): "It has long been possible to predict that this frenzied hatred, which for 30 years has been inflamed more and more strongly in the West against Russia, will one day break free from the chain. That moment has come. Russia was simply offered suicide, a renunciation of the very basis of its existence, a solemn recognition that it is nothing else in the world, but a wild and ugly phenomenon, an evil in need of correction. There's no need to deceive yourself anymore. In all likelihood, Russia will enter into a battle with the whole of Europe." 1854 F.I. Tyutchev. Here are three verbatim quotes from his letters. He returned to this topic many times.
This goes to the question of whether the West has "degenerated" or degenerated. I can't say that this is the ultimate truth. But it's a fact that no one has ever really liked us. As well as the fact that we were used to create situational coalitions (French, British, Germans, Austro-Hungarians).
Here is a man who lives in the beautiful country of Bulgaria in difficult times. How could it have occurred to anyone that in two or three years, they would "click" and begin to move monuments, insult priests, and take away property? Someone told me that Fyodor Tyutchev was right. Almost 200 years later, there are many such examples.
After 1991, they decided that they had us in their pocket. That's the end of the story. Liberal ideology prevailed in both economics and politics. Everyone now has to listen to the "senior" who set everything up and arranged it. To divert attention, the OSCE adopted some "beautiful" declarations. Charter of Paris for a New Europe, 1990. The French then promoted it with such pride. And look now, apply it to what France, including President Macron, is doing.
The OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999 – indivisibility of security. The OSCE summit in Astana, 2010 – the indivisibility of Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security. Even then, this "promising" term was used. It's all down the drain. They were ordered to "stand in line." The task was to punish Russia for daring not to allow the Americans to create lawlessness on its borders and on its historical lands.
I would like to emphasise once again that we have been warning since at least 2007 from Vladimir Putin's Munich speech. That was the first warning. Whoever had eyes and ears would have seen and heard. Donbass has become a wall, and Crimea, as they say, has gone to its native harbor. For eight years, no one has listened to what is happening on our borders. When in 2003 it seemed to the Americans that Saddam Hussein had created some kind of nuclear reactor or some kind of dirty nuclear bomb, did they warn anyone for eight years? They got up in the morning, the Security Council - no need to, they themselves. Where is Iraq now?
What a "howl" was raised when they showed how we "work" on military targets during a special military operation, which they hide in civilian neighborhoods and civilian facilities. Yaroslav Lapid, Prime Minister of Israel, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel. Read his quotes that this is almost genocide. What's going on in Gaza now? The tragedy of war. Compare the pictures.
Take Syria. It was decided that since such a "mess" had begun there, it was necessary to take away from Bashar al-Assad the eastern territory, where all the oil and all the grain came. What did they do? The city of Mosul in Iraq has been razed to the ground. Just like the city of Raqqa in Syria. Hundreds of corpses were not removed for weeks. All this has been documented. "They can." That threat did not originate on the border with Mexico. Refugees are just running away and that's it. They're going to build a wall now. And that's it. Now some pigs have been bred in Canada. The population of these tenacious and elusive animals threatens to "invade" the territory of the United States. Yesterday there was a report. That's all the threats.
Yugoslavia was bombed. Another "existential threat" to the United States. Ten thousand plus miles across the ocean. No one is warned. We just decided to do it and "went". That's the problem with the Western mentality, with their instincts.
I have many friends in the West, including in the United States. In Europe, probably, it is more. We worked with them at the UN. Many were ministers. Friends. It is customary for us to spend time at home. When all this happened, some people called me. I called them when they left "messages". Almost everyone is now "in line" and is carrying out the "party line". Like, how is it possible, why, "poor Ukraine". We tell them about Nazism, and they talk about what? Do you remember what the Israeli ambassador to Kiev said when he was asked how he was in a country where Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych are being glorified? Had he stopped considering them Nazi criminals? He replied that no, they were Nazi criminals. But Ukraine has "its own history." It's hard for them.
Now, when we arrive at events, they walk down the corridor, looking with their eyes so as not to be face to face. They cross to the other side of the street. But there are also those who (I won't name anyone so that they don't get ostracized there) come up and say hello. By the way, at the 2022 G20 summit, Antony Blinken asked to speak with him. We talked, greeted each other, said goodbye by the hand. Nothing of the kind was said there. At least it was some kind of communication. If someone reaches out to us, we never run away or hide.
Macedonia has invited us to the OSCE Ministerial Council. The country of Bulgaria allegedly promised Macedonia to "open up" its airspace. If we succeed, we'll be there. Let's see how they communicate. There are already several requests for a meeting in case we work there, including from Western representatives. Of course, we will meet with everyone.
The answer is long, but it's an interesting topic. I want to end with the next episode. In addition to the OSCE and the Primakov Readings, there are many political science meetings. One of them takes place annually in December in Abu Dhabi. Sir Bani Yas – Peace and Security Forum. I was there for the first time last year. Traditionally, there are 2-3 speakers from current politicians and dozens of former ones. The latter are the most interesting part. After the performance, there was a break, we went to the hall, where there was coffee and tea. Crowd, everybody knows each other. Everyone wants to have a friendly conversation and express understanding. Judge for yourself. Perhaps there is logic in this. If you are in the service, you must do what you are told. Another thing is that the quality of orders is sometimes (and increasingly often) such that a normal person wants to resign. This is how they manifest themselves.
I don't believe that the West has any purpose to hate Russia all the time. But how quickly they abandoned these delicate speeches and assurances that everything is the same (from the Atlantic to the Pacific, security, the economy and the entire space). How quickly the instincts of uniting Europe against Russia resurfaced: how Napoleon and Hitler united Europe against Russia. Explanatory work is currently underway. A clear story with Finland, for example. She was Germany's best friend and actively helped her. We thought it would all go away. That after such wars, reconciliation will be sincere.
Do you know why it took so long? There are many proverbs and expressions that reflect the soul and character of our patient people. "He will endure everything" for the sake of something right and bright. On the other hand, there is a saying: "God endured and commanded us." But there is also "Measure twice, cut once." We've been measuring for eight years.
Nowadays there is a chronicle of how captured Germans and other Europeans were driven in 1944-1945 somewhere in Siberia, through villages, through cities. Grandmothers come out, give bread and water. "And he called for mercy to the fallen." That's what we said, too!
I will not say that there is an exceptional nation. This is the fate of our American and British colleagues. But this quality of Russians and all our people is probably underestimated. Or do they think it will always be like this? They're going to do nasty things to us, and we're going to give them bread and water again. You have to live next to those who are.
Question: You answered questions about Syria, Iraq and even the desert. I would like to say a few words about the quality of the Russians. Russia is now defending culture and values. "Soft Power" – multi-series films of the Mosfilm film concern, Russian literature... During the Soviet Union, progress was evident. Many newspapers were translated into other languages. When will we see this "soft power" again abroad, in our countries, so that it opposes the values that the West is now promoting (for example, Hollywood)? In fact, all this is unacceptable for humanity.
Sergey Lavrov: As for the number of soft power conduits in the form of NGOs (which have already been mentioned), as well as the number of military bases abroad, we will not be able to keep up with the Americans. And we won't chase. As I said, their "soft power" is an extension of the state. That's probably the way it should be. The state encourages "soft power" so that people know the truth about your country, treat you well and do not oppose you, do not succumb to provocations when they want to recruit someone against Russia.
Officially appointed envoys for sanctions from America, the European Union, and England do not hesitate to travel around Central Asia and publicly say that countries, despite the fact that they are members of the CSTO, the EAEU, the CIS, and the SCO, must comply with Western sanctions. It's just arrogance, and stupid at the same time. I understand that they want to achieve this. It is possible to act a little more cunningly, a little more respectfully. They humiliate the countries concerned. This is already being demanded of China. "China has to."
A year ago, when it came to India, US Assistant Secretary of State William Sherman publicly stated that the West should explain to India what its national interests are. No comment. We don't need such "soft power".
We have long ceased to talk in our doctrinal documents about the work to create a positive image of Russia abroad. We write objectively. We know our shortcomings. We have nothing to hide them. To a large extent, they can be explained by history, by some kind of inertia that remained, especially before the start of the sanctions and hybrid war.
We want to be known objectively. We do not have the same financial capacity as those who print dollars, bringing their national debt closer to $34 trillion. No one knows how they will "get out" of it. The only way is to keep printing and make sure that everyone continues to use the dollar. And this is unlikely. That's their problem. Let them engage in their own propaganda.
We have much smaller amounts. At the same time, the network of embassies is growing. We are restoring our foreign missions in Africa and opening new consular offices in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America. The network of Russian cultural and scientific centres, the so-called Russian Houses, is actively growing, strengthening and improving its quality.
We have now developed the Concept of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of International Development Assistance, [this is a very important document that expands/explains/complements Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept] within the framework of which all the assistance that we provide to foreign countries free of charge or on preferential terms (food, the construction of schools, healthcare facilities, and much more) is combined and there is a "division of labour" so that we can see where and what projects are being implemented. Until recently, this was scattered among different departments.
Such a great miracle as the Russian language is our very strong soft power. We dramatically increase the number of applicants to study and maintain ties with graduates. Associations of graduates of Russian universities have been established in many countries. It is a useful, open, positive "soft power". In friendly countries, we create Russian language courses. In Central Asia and other countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia), Russian schools have been established, including those under the programs of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, and branches of Russian universities have been opened. We will promote this "soft power" compared to "undercover" operations, when, figuratively speaking, some NGO employee buys a boat for 6 people and blows up Nord Stream.
Question: In a crisis situation, we are looking for what unites us. Therefore, I will ask a question about space. Cooperation in the field of space exploration is highly dependent on the international legal framework. In your opinion, what is the path of development of international law in general and space law in particular? Will universal treaties continue to be concluded on the basis of the UN (the Outer Space Treaty, the Agreement on the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies) or will there be a transition to bilateral and multilateral treaties within the framework of blocs, such as the Artemis Accords? Or will there be a complete rejection of legally binding documents in favor of "soft law"? What is your vision?
Sergey Lavrov: Cooperation in outer space was the most striking example of selfish or simply national interests being aligned in such a way as to focus joint efforts on space exploration. Remember Soyuz-Apollo?
No one – neither the United States, nor the Soviet Union, nor now Russia – has sacrificed or is sacrificing its national interests. On the contrary, the national interest was manifested in the fact that by combining efforts in this area, it is possible to learn more and quickly understand how this more can be used in practical life, and not only in space, but also on Earth.
There is the International Space Station. At the same time, our cosmonaut goes to the United States to train for a flight on a SpaceX spacecraft, and the Americans come to train with us in Star City and then fly to the ISS on our carrier. It's hard to imagine any other field of activity right now. Apparently, this is the responsibility of scientists on both sides. They understand that this experiment (which is no longer an experiment, but an everyday, hard, but very useful work) is important for science, for the future technological development of the world. May God bless all those who are engaged in this.
Life goes on. The life of the International Space Station has already been extended a couple of times. It is not eternal. Now we are creating our own station, the Chinese have created theirs. We have joint plans with China.
NASA officials seem to be saying that they are also not averse to continuing cooperation after the ISS has exhausted its resource, but at the political level we do not hear such things.
The current Western political elite is guided by the principle that they still need the Russians. Therefore, they will use it, and in the meantime they will create their own station. NASA executives, however, take a different stance.
The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, remains. According to our legal assessment, it also covers the status of the Moon. A U.S. document drafted several years ago (they are beginning to selectively invite individual countries to join it) will contradict the correct and honest interpretation of the Outer Space Treaty. The document also talks about the Moon and other celestial bodies.
Another area of legal development in this area is military aspects. For a long time, together with the People's Republic of China in the Conference on Disarmament, we have been promoting a draft treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space and an initiative on the non-deployment of weapons in outer space at the Conference on Disarmament. The United States strongly disagrees with this. We have taken a tactical step backwards and suggest that we begin by considering the individual obligations of each country not to be the first to deploy weapons in outer space. Many countries have joined. We will continue this work.
The Americans are putting forward the opposite initiative. They say they have the right to put weapons into space, and they will not sign an undertaking not to do so. And we, allegedly, together with the Chinese, are preparing anti-satellite weapons to destroy American reconnaissance satellites of "economic" importance. There is a conversation about this now.
In the geopolitical atmosphere that has developed since the start of the hybrid war against Russia, it is very difficult to continue this kind of discussion. The Americans are frantically (I can't find another word) waging a campaign twisting everyone's arms, trying either to exclude Russia from many UN bodies dealing with practical matters, or to limit our country's participation in them. "And again the battle continues." [My Emphasis]
The document, “The Concept of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of International Development Assistance,” will need to be published separately as like the Humanitarian policy paper it’s long and detailed. I will hint it complements China’s Global Development Initiative, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Please consider Xi’s five musts when thinking about Lavrov’s explanation of the Palestinian crisis as the basic legal basis is vastly important for all those concerned aside from the Zionists and the Outlaw US Empire.
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