Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Moscow, April 28, 2016
Question: Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström recently said that relations between Sweden and Russia were “chillier than ever.” What can be done to ease tensions and improve bilateral relations?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe both sides should go back to their fundamental national interests. We have never abandoned this position, and we have always viewed Sweden as a good neighbour and a promising partner in various areas, including the economy, humanitarian affairs, the Arctic and international processes where Sweden is playing an active role. Sweden used to act in the same spirit. I remember how our ties, bilateral cooperation and political dialogue surged in 2009-2011, when our prime ministers exchanged visits and then President Dmitry Medvedev visited Sweden in 2009. I accompanied him then. In that period, our parliament speakers and the heads of our agencies also exchanged visits. We signed over 12 agreements, including many intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in space exploration, in the framework of the [EU-Russia] Partnership for Modernisation, in healthcare and many others. Our Swedish colleagues suddenly suspended all of this, without any initiative from our side. Stockholm froze all contacts with us and joined the EU sanctions after Brussels, for some reason, took offense at our reaction to the armed coup in Kiev, where radical nationalists came to power and openly threatened the lives of Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine, primarily those in Crimea. You know what we did in response, so I won’t speak about it. Brussels decided, for some reason, that Russia should be punished, although the former had contributed to a situation, where Paruby, Tyagnibok, Yarosh and people of that ilk felt complete impunity for their actions. At that time, Stockholm did more than join the sanctions against Russia: it suspended contacts between our parliaments and curtailed ties between our ministries and agencies even on current issues. As a result, our trade plummeted by 45 per cent, if I’m not mistaken, even though it is still impressive. It is clear, however, that it is way below our bilateral potential.
Our position is clear: we never take offense in the area of foreign policy, and we accept in stride the reasons provided by our Swedish partners in explaining their decisions. If Ms Wallström believes that our relations are chillier than ever, why not close the window to shut off the source of the cold-air Russophobia blowing in?
Question: There has been much talk in recent years about Russia’s activities in the Baltics. Could you comment on the alleged presence of a Russian submarine in Swedish territorial waters?
Sergey Lavrov: I cannot recall any reports from Sweden confirming the presence of a Russian submarine in your territorial waters. Usually a discovery of a Russian submarine would make newspaper headlines. But when several weeks later it turns out that it had nothing to do with Russia and wasn’t even a submarine, this revelation doesn’t make it to the headlines.
Overall, with respect to military activities in Europe, primarily in the context of Russia-NATO relations and Sweden’s neutrality, Russia is not interested in contributing to any kind of military tension or confrontation. We have had long-standing agreements with the Alliance, as well as bilateral military projects with our northern neighbours, including Sweden. In these efforts, we have always been guided by the belief in the importance of confidence building measures and transparency.
Understanding each other’s military doctrines is essential. It is for this reason that dialogue within Russia-NATO Council has been quite useful in that it has made clear for everyone who wants what. We have always warned that as NATO conducts a policy of boundless expansion of the Alliance to the East (while every country has the right to choose a security framework, be it bilateral or multilateral alliances), there has to be an understanding that if its military infrastructure approaches Russian borders, Russia will have to respond reciprocally with adequate military and technical measures. As the saying goes, “nothing personal, it’s just business.” As Otto von Bismarck said back in the days, in the art of war capabilities, not intentions, but potentials, is what really counts. NATO has been telling us that it has no intention of taking any measures that would be detrimental to Russia’s security. However, if there are indeed no such intentions, but with NATO infrastructure sitting right at our doorstep, seems like we must then focus on what we see with our own eyes, rather than their intentions.
When we hear these days that Russia has been carrying out dangerous manoeuvres near NATO borders, I think that this is merely a mean-spirited attempt to turn the issue on its ears. In its expansion efforts, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is getting closer and closer to Russia’s borders. The Alliance has already violated the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which stipulates clearly that there should be no permanent stationing of substantial combat forces in new NATO member states. However, despite these obligations, NATO military infrastructure is inching closer and closer to Russia’s borders. But when Russia takes action to ensure its security, we are told that Russia is engaging in dangerous manoeuvres near NATO borders. In fact, NATO borders are getting closer to Russia, not the opposite. We have a saying in Russia: If you want to understand what the people surrounding you want from you, you have to start by understanding why they have surrounded you. This is what we are trying to do. The latest incident in the Baltic Sea was related to a US destroyer armed with dozens of cruise missiles navigating in just a few dozen kilometres from the Russian military base in Baltiysk, which is Russian territory.
Question: Was this the reason of a fly-by near the destroyer by Russian fighter jets?
Sergey Lavrov: The Russian aircraft were on a legitimate training flight in this area, which is high seas airspace. They saw a heavily armed US destroyer approaching a Russian military base and decided to take a closer look. As soon as they saw who it was, with the fly-by happening at a safe distance, they turned back and continued their flight.
In 1972, we signed an Agreement with the United States on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas. Later, we proposed the signing of an additional protocol to this agreement, but the US refused to do so. On April 20, Brussels hosted a Russia-NATO Council meeting. Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko raised this issue during the meeting. It was an uneasy moment for the American side, because they were not even aware of it.
The point at issue is not whether we want to recognise NATO as an active organisation. Its existence is a reality. But we still don’t like what it is doing. We believe that its attempt to reaffirm the reason for its existence during its operations in Afghanistan has made Afghanistan a much more dangerous country than it was before the alliance dispatched its troops there. NATO is now planning a new mission. We asked our colleagues during a recent Russia-NATO Council meeting about the significance of their new mission and their achievements during the previous mission, because it was conducted in close proximity to our borders and directly concerned the interests of our neighbours in Central Asia, who are our allies. The growing threat in Afghanistan, including the appearance of thousands of ISIS terrorists there, and especially in the north of the country, directly affects our fundamental interests.
As I said, NATO is a reality, and we are a willing participant for any dialogue with the Alliance. We once had a comprehensive and multifaceted action plan on many issues, including our current priority – counterterrorism. Dozens of drills and joint command post exercises on land, sea and in the air were planned to enhance the efficiency of the joint fight against terrorism and extremism. All of this stopped for purely ideological reasons, including the training of security personnel for Afghanistan and the delivery of combat helicopters, which Afghanistan wanted to be Russian-made.
Here are two facts about the response we had to make. First, the Russia-NATO Founding Act of 1997 stipulates that the Russia-NATO Council will respect the principle of the indivisibility of security and neither party will strengthen its security at the expense of other parties’ security. In other words, the format of Russia-NATO cooperation sealed the principle that had been declared at the top level in the OSCE, that is, the principle of equal and indivisible security. And the second fact, which I have mentioned, is that under the Founding Act NATO must not station additional combat forces on a permanent basis in new member states.
Regarding indivisible security, when the Americans started deploying elements of their global ballistic missile defence system in Europe, we told them that this affected our security and hence we would like to evoke the principle that was declared by the Russia-NATO Council. They assured us that the BMD deployment was not directed against Russia. We reminded them of the famous saying that “in military affairs, you have to judge not intentions but potential,” and showed them with maps and facts that the BMD deployment plans would affect our security.
When the Americans persisted, we suggested that if they do not regard the political principle of indivisible security as binding, then we should draft a treaty so that all parties know which procedures should be used if a party believes that its security was infringed or damaged. They categorically refused to discuss this possibility. Do you know what they said? They said that although the Russia-NATO Council made a political declaration on the indivisibility of security they would provide legal safeguards of indivisible security only to the NATO member states. We asked how this could be if the principle was declared for the entire Euro-Atlantic region in the OSCE framework. They had no answer to this question.
Second, regarding the provision, prohibiting the additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces in new member states. We raised the issue of the creation of new NATO bases, including BMD bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and also similar plans for Romania. We asked our NATO colleagues how this related to their commitment not to station substantial combat forces in new member states. They replied that these are not substantial combat forces and that they will not be stationed permanently but on a rotation basis. Since we did not agree, we proposed signing an agreement with NATO to define the term “substantial combat forces” to the last tank, artillery gun and battalion. They refused even to discuss the idea, behaviour which makes us think that, unfortunately, NATO planned to have the freedom to advance in close proximity to our borders long before the events in Ukraine. I believe that no reasonable general or politician would expect Russia to applaud these moves. We are responding to this adequately and proportionately. We have to do this to maintain readiness for any developments, because after NATO failed to find an explanation for its continued existence in the Afghan campaign, the Russophobic minority in NATO is trying to rally the member states on a purely anti-Russian basis and by presenting Russia as a present danger to all and sundry.
Question: Is Moscow concerned about Sweden’s friendly attitude towards NATO in this context? What will be Russia’s response if Sweden decides to join NATO?
Sergey Lavrov: It is one thing when one’s northern neighbours are neutral states, and it is something else entirely when they are members of the North Atlantic Alliance, which, let me repeat, we perceive as a given, but which has in the recent period unambiguously declared deterrence of Russia as its objective and called Russia a “major threat.” Therefore one can join different NATOs. While there was cooperation, trust and no attempts to refer to each other as a “threat” in the previous years, that was another sort of NATO. Obviously, it is different now, although I’d say that it is now going through “withdrawal symptoms”: They try to look respectable, but not everyone manages to do so.
As for Sweden, we confirm that any state has the right to decide independently on the forms of ensuring security it will choose, based on its national interests. It would probably be better to ask the people. Montenegro has decided not to ask the people. By the way, this is an example. What can Montenegro contribute to NATO’s security? The answer to this question does not exist. Many sound political analysts ask directly: Is there acute need for this? The answer is very simple, although they try to avoid it and take refuge behind generalisations that security and democracy are expanding to cover as much geopolitical space as possible and surround the countries that somehow disagree with NATO, such as, for example, Russia and Serbia.
If Sweden decides to join NATO, we won’t think that it intends to attack Russia. I can say this for certain. But, since the Swedish military infrastructure in this situation will report to the NATO headquarters, we will have to take the necessary defence measures on our northern borders, based on the fact that there is a military political bloc across the border, which regards Russia a threat and intends to deter it.
Question: What specific measures would Russia take?
Sergey Lavrov: This isn’t my job, this is the job of our military departments: the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff of the Armed Forces. When they see potential on the other side of Russia’s borders, either right at the border or a little further, they know what potential it is and what can we expected from it, in case NATO decides there is a need for “combat” deterrence.
Question: Earlier, Moscow expressed concern about the status of the ethnic Russian minority in the Baltic countries. How has the situation changed? Does Russia realise that the Baltic countries are afraid of their eastern neighbour?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding their “fear of their big neighbour,” when the Soviet Union was on the verge of disintegration, they held their referendums and were allowed to go in peace. Nobody threatened them. There were certain excesses though, in particular at the TV centre in Vilnius. Unfortunately, there are elderly people there who still face judicial proceedings and are accused of every sin imaginable, although at that time they did not attack civilians but simply defended the TV centre, following orders. I believe that this is petty and indecent. The Soviet Union behaved honourably. No one attempted to keep the Baltic republics by force although opinions on the issue were divided, but I will not go into this now. They left nicely, without the rupturing of our relations. Nobody saw or heard any gratitude for this. What’s more, they immediately started saying that they had been “violated, used and exploited” by the Soviet Union. To date, some sick people keep submitting a bill to us for 185 billion euro worth of compensation, I don’t know for what. For the industry that we created there and for the modernisation of their economies, in which we invested far more in per capita terms that we did in the RSFSR? I think that these people are deranged beyond help.
When they became free, as they think, and independent, proclaiming all the necessary decisions regarding their sovereignty, to reiterate, with no attempts from Moscow to pull them back in, let alone with the use of force, they scrambled to join NATO. In the 1990s, our relations with NATO were developing quite constructively. We asked our NATO colleagues why they wanted to admit the Baltic states. We were told that they (the Baltic countries) had retained all kinds of phobias ever since the Soviet days and World War I, when all of this began. NATO acknowledged that present-day Russia does not pose any threat to them (the Baltic countries) but purportedly this was how they saw the situation: They will be admitted to NATO and they will calm down; everything will be peaceful and constructive and will only help promote good relations.
They were admitted to NATO, but our neighbours, especially in Lithuania, did not calm down. What’s more, at present they are the most aggressive Russophobic core, pushing NATO, by using the consensus principle, to pursue a firm anti-Russia course. This has nothing to do with the Russian-speaking population. For example, when these countries gained independence, we had problems that we addressed exclusively by diplomatic means, for example, with Latvia and Estonia, where a large section of the population did not receive citizenship rights. In Lithuania, all people were granted citizenship. So we had no problem with the Lithuanians. We planned to cooperate and were actively making plans, among other things, regarding transit passage to Kaliningrad and the implementation of joint economic projects. However, for some reason Lithuania has turned out to be the most Russophobic country in the Baltic region. I will not comment on the idiosyncrasies of its leaders.
With regard to Latvia and Estonia, indeed, from day one, we demanded that Russian-speaking people be granted citizenship, not because we wanted it to be so but because it was the demand of international instruments: the relevant conventions and UN, Council of Europe and OSCE resolutions. We were told that they are signatories to the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities but the problem is that it only applies to citizens while ethnic Russians in Latvia and Estonia ended up as non-citizens, a “remarkable” situation from any perspective. The EU has tolerated this non-citizenship well into the second decade of the 21st century.
What is the proportion of ethnic Swedes living in Finland? About 6 percent? However, Swedish is an official language there. Non-citizens also make up 6 percent of Estonia’s population and over 12 percent of Latvia’s. In Estonia, they have the right to vote in local elections but they cannot be elected – just in case. In Latvia, they can neither vote nor be elected, even in local elections.
Somebody, say, a Portuguese or a Swede who comes to Latvia or Estonia and lives there for more than three months can enjoy voting rights without being a citizen of either country. But these people are non-citizens. We are told their numbers are shrinking. There are some naturalisation programmes. No matter what, we are still in dialogue with these neighbours. They keep telling us that everything is all right and that the number of these non-citizens is falling. However, according to our statistics, this number is shrinking because people die, some have lost all hope and have requested Russian citizenship and some have simply left. Citizenship is granted very slowly. We are not against their desire that all those interested in acquiring citizenship should study their host’s state languages, but at the same time EU regulations require that minority languages be preserved in society, as is the case with Swedish in Finland. In the Baltic countries, Russian schools are closing although they are in great demand in certain parts of these countries. The claims that there is simply no interest are a lie. Whatever they might tell us about some measures being taken or that Russia is acting on a whim, we do not demand something inconceivable but only what is stipulated in the recommendations of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Nothing else.
Incidentally, people who cannot vote in elections meticulously pay centralised and municipal taxes. Furthermore, here’s what’s really amazing. These people are treated shabbily: When referendums on secession from the Soviet Union were held, their votes were counted and their votes were needed. We know that the majority of them voted for breaking away from the Soviet Union, perhaps primarily because the economic and social standards in these republics were higher than in many others. When their votes were needed they were readily “pocketed” and these people were told that they had served their purpose and will now languish with the status of non-citizens.
Question: Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced criticism over the airstrikes carried out by Russia in Syria, leaving the impression that relations between Russia and Germany have deteriorated. How can they be improved?
Sergey Lavrov: I cannot recall Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel ever highlighting efforts by the Russian Aerospace Forces in combatting terrorism in Syria, which came about at the request of its legitimate Government. By the way, Russia is the only country that has legal grounds for fighting terrorists in Syria. The presence of the US-led coalition there is illegitimate. I have told our US partners more than once that they are making a big mistake. They should have obtained consent from Damascus or turned to the UN Security Council, just like they did when they asked the Iraqi Government for permission. If this happened, I’m confident that we would have been able to agree on a UN Security Council resolution that would suit both the US-led coalition and the Syrian Government, since this is scourge for all of us. The fact that the US-led coalition is operating in Syria without any legal grounds is indicative, first, of its arrogant stance claiming that the rule of President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad is illegitimate. Second, it shows that it wants to have free reign so as to use the coalition not just to attack terrorists, but also possibly for attacking the Syrian government forces in order to change the country’s leadership, as it happened in Libya. We are not aware of any official planning to this effect, but every now and then such ideas surface, and this is what they desire. We have to be vigilant.
Russia’s position regarding Syria is clear. We value the agreement to create the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). This is a unique format since it brings together all key outside actors, including Saudi Arabia and Iran at the same negotiating table. This is telling in itself, because these two protagonists embody the antagonism within Islam between Sunnis and the Shia. Deepening this divide would be very dangerous.
In all our interactions with our partners in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries of the region, we constantly seek to promote dialogue, for example in the Persian Gulf region, so that Arab countries and Iran create some kind of a confidence-building mechanism and move in this direction step by step by taking relevant action. So far, this has been very challenging. However, we strongly believe in the need to address not only specific issues related to one conflict or another, but also to be mindful of the need for principled and system-wide efforts to help Arab and other Muslim countries reach compromise instead of preaching holy war between different parts of the Islamic world.
As for Russia’s relations with Germany (as far as I can see, this is what really interests you), we have pragmatic relations. They are based upon an economic foundation that remains very solid against all odds, primarily because hundreds of German companies have partners in Russia. Many Russian companies have invested in Germany. Business does not want the future of Russian-German relations to be determined by politics to the detriment of economic and business interests. The first time Chancellor Angela Merkel said that politics should be placed ahead of the economy when dealing with Russia was when hysteria started several years ago about Russia’s response to the unconstitutional military coup in Kiev by national democrats. Honestly, this was very un-German. Germans are usually pragmatic, and seek clarity and logic everywhere. Let me reiterate that we have what we have. It is up to our European partners to decide. Of course, the EU will move in the direction Germany desires.
We are aware of the fact that not everybody is happy about the effect the sanctions had on our relations. It is up to the European Union to decide. They made the first move, and we had to respond. I know that they will have some kind of a discussion in Brussels on this issue. I hope that common sense will prevail. If not, we will no longer let go of the reins or hope for an eventual improvement of relations. We will become self-reliant. If they move away from these illegitimate restrictions, this would create an opening for cooperation. Russia assumes that in the longer term we can hardly trust our partners due to their public statements on making the economy contingent upon political considerations, and this of course is something that must be taken into account.
Question: Is there any hope that the sanctions will be lifted?
Sergey Lavrov: I was just going to tell you that we rely solely on ourselves now, and we have all we need to do so. Thankfully, the Lord and our forefathers have left us a self-sufficient country. Now we will be working hard to replace the products we used to import from other countries. This is our strategy. This does not mean isolation or a closed economy. And if one day our Western partners decide to return to their normal policy, it would give us additional opportunities for growth and developing cooperation. But in essentials, we are only going to rely on ourselves from now on.
Question: How would you describe fundamental changes in Russia’s foreign policy of the past few years since Vladimir Putin was re-elected President?
Sergey Lavrov: You know, I just said we intend to be economically self-sufficient. It does not mean we are going to expel foreign companies. For example, IKEA furniture is very popular in Russia. IKEA manufactures the furniture in Russia, at Russian plants, with Russian materials, thereby creating jobs for Russian people. We believe this is part of our national economy, just like Western investors who have production lines in Russia. With Sweden, we are also cooperating in pharmaceuticals and other industries.
As for our altered foreign policy course, this is inevitable of course, because “business as usual” is no longer possible. It is impossible because the West, the EU and NATO, thought “business as usual” was when we owed everyone and had to become just like them. For example, the evolution of human rights in the West is already verging on the all-permissive and complaisant attitude. They don’t care that it contradicts the fundamentals of our culture based on Orthodox Christianity. This is only one example, and there are plenty of others.
Because this has been decided and this is how we act, any deviations were considered poor behaviour. The Russia-NATO Council and the EU regularly told us what we should be doing. This does not mean, and I say it again, that there was nothing good or useful; there was and we do not want to lose it. But we will not allow economic relations to fall victim to ideology, geopolitical considerations and plans again. I mean, for example, the roots of the Ukrainian crisis. When Ukraine and the EU began talks on a possible Association Agreement, we pointed out to them that Ukraine already was part of a free trade zone within the CIS where the majority of goods moved around with zero tariffs. If Ukraine wanted to have something similar with EU countries, it was important to remember that Russia didn’t have a zero tariff rate with the EU. We spent 18 years in negotiations on our WTO accession to ensure temporary protection of our industry from EU imports because our products were not competitive enough at the time. We wanted to secure, and we have secured, some years of privileges to protect our banking sector, agriculture, insurance and some industries. This is mutually binding for the EU and Russia. Ukraine and Russia have a free trade zone. Ukraine also had protection in its WTO agreement. If it were to cancel tariffs for EU imports, and considering we have zero tariffs for Ukraine, then we would be flooded with European goods via Ukraine, the goods we wanted to keep out until we become competitive. All these terms were laid down in our WTO agreement on mutual consent. We were not heard. At one point, Mr Yanukovych expressed his doubts to the EU in summer 2013: he looked at possible consequences for Ukraine-Russia trade and decided to wait a bit. You know what he heard in response? This was never published but it is a fact. He was told that if he doesn’t sign, another president would. This was basically the reason, or rather the pretext for the subsequent coup d’etat. Some kind of economic arrogance – you do as we tell you.
The same can be said about Eastern Partnership. By the way, the idea was proposed by Sweden and Poland. It looked like a good programme aimed at promoting economic cooperation and cultural ties and levelling off conditions for doing business. Russia was invited to join, but we asked about the terms. We received a polite answer, of course, but it actually meant that the terms are set in Brussels, while the focus countries, provided that Russia wanted to join, must accept and comply with these terms. We suggested looking for a different solution, for example, implementing not the whole of this programme but individual projects in some countries to see whether the three parties – the EU, Russia and the host country – can work jointly. They promised to offer one of such projects to us but have not done so. They continue to assure us that Eastern Partnership will not be used as a geopolitical project for expanding to new territories in order to limit Russia’s influence there. In reality, nothing has changed.
Of course, we will not cooperate under these conditions, and we will not sit on our hands either. I can assure you of this. In this context, there will be no “business as usual.” We will only talk as equal partners and will not respond to the proposal that we accept any EU idea as a given. When the EU becomes amenable to equal dialogue based on mutual respect without any ultimatums or enforcement measures, we will be happy to cooperate. I am convinced that the current period in our history will not last long because we are destined to live side by side. If there are any forward-looking politicians left in Europe, they should realise that the EU and Russia cannot be fully competitive on their own in the modern world.
The EU is now fighting for its interests at the talks with the United States on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We wish the EU success at these hard talks, because we are aware of what many countries think about some elements of this agreement, elements that would undermine a number of European industries. But this is a separate matter.
Everyone would like to live in a global trade and investment space in the WTO framework without such trends as those that are related to the TTIP or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which have been structured as closed blocs. First they map out the rules that suit a given group of countries, and then the other countries are told that they can join on certain conditions. But this is not equality.
One aspect is that Europe is competing with its closest ally, the United States. This competition is very strong in the economy and trade. The other aspect concerns the Christian civilisation, which was born in Syria, in the Middle East, and which took deep root in Europe and then spread eastward, all the way to the Pacific, and also westward across America towards the Pacific coast. I have no doubt that this civilisation will be facing new trials in the modern world. We can see how the force that has risen in the Middle East following reckless interference in the regional affairs is treating Christians. ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups conduct ethnic cleansing campaigns against Christians. It would be highly advisable for all of us to think about the future in light of this and also in light of global economic trends. Asia Pacific is becoming the global locomotive, and this trend will not change any time soon. China is powerful, and India is growing into a major power too. If we continue to squander the comparative advantages that appear when Russia and the EU join efforts, neither Russia nor the EU will win solid places for themselves in the new global economic system.
Question: What will the United States do in the next few years?
Sergey Lavrov: It is very important what the United States does.
Question: Which president would be better, in your opinion?
Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know. Of course, it is important to watch what the United States does, because it is still a very powerful. You can sit back and wait for what the United States will do, or you can strengthen your own positions, though not necessarily against the United States but for your own sake. It is for our own sake that Europe and Russia should work together. This is important in light of the very promising processes underway in Eurasia. The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is small yet, but there are plans for its further development in the framework of trade and economic cooperation with the SCO, which already includes China and which India, Pakistan and Iran plan to join soon. It will be a completely different market. We have plans for advancing the integration processes underway in the EAEU and the SCO towards cooperation with ASEAN. This is a new trend, which cannot be ignored if you care for your national interests. Most importantly, this is an open project, unlike some other regional integration projects. This project is open to all countries that respect the principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration for one another’s interests and that refuse to play up to any one country but instead will base their actions on a true balance of interests. In this balance, stronger countries will have more advanced interests, but the interests of small players will not be disregarded either.
As for the next US president, this is for the Americans to decide. We know that they have a complicated two-tier election system that heavily depends on fiscal capital and incudes specific elements such as a proportional rule in some states and a winner-take-all rule in other states. And then there is the Electoral College, which can elect a candidate president even if he or she did not get the absolute majority of votes. Anyway, we proceed from the belief that Americans will themselves decide who will be their president and whether their election system is democratic and suits them.