Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a meeting with students and faculty at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Moscow, September 3, 2018
First of all, I would like to join the Rector of MGIMO University of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anatoly Torkunov, in welcoming the freshmen here. You are starting a new stage in your lives, a largely unexplored landscape, but I'm sure that with MGIMO’s traditions and with the help of your teachers and other students who have been here a year or more, you will be able to overcome this period of change successfully and work through the challenges during your first year and get ready for new achievements.
I would also like to welcome the ambassadors from the home countries of many MGIMO students. I hope that their participation in today's event confirms the high appreciation of the quality of a MGIMO education, which has gained a reputation in Russia and the world.
We at the Foreign Ministry are very pleased that MGIMO, which is considered the Ministry’s school, enjoys such respect. The figures just cited by Mr Torkunov are very impressive. I think that those who chose MGIMO have made a good choice. Diplomatic work is very interesting and in demand. Whatever occupation you choose, be it pure diplomacy, international jurisprudence, economics or journalism, I am sure that you will not be bored.
The situation in the world today does keep us busy, and we all know this. What is happening actually reminds me of tectonic shifts. Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some said it was the end of history and that a neoliberal model of the economy and political life would dominate around the world. It seemed that the trends in global development were leading toward globalisation, with the universal spread of interdependence, interpenetration and openness. It seemed almost like the borders were about to disappear, and humanity would live according to a pattern and likeness similar to what American philosopher Francis Fukuyama meant by the “end of history” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But life has proved to be far more versatile. Globalisation and a pervasive interdependence began clashing with people’s reluctance to forget their roots, their dedication to stick to their cultural and national identities. Examples of this are multiplying before our eyes. Therefore, the task of politicians is to seek compromise between the expediency and the inevitability of taking advantage of the new industrial revolution, especially the digital revolution, on the one hand, and people’s concern not to lose their roots and preserve the traditions that their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers left them. So the problems are really serious.
Along with our colleagues from the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, BRICS and many of our other partners abroad, we try to make progress in searching for agreements and the reconciliation of these two perfectly objective and real trends to globalise everything. This process is dictated by the development of the global economy and, at the same time, the preservation of people’s national traditions, cultural identity and values. Many things are said about values, but they can differ. All people’s values must be respected, without trying to make everyone equal and accepting the values offered by the neoliberal Western community. But these values are now being questioned by the Western community, too. The search for compromise and a balance of interest will decide the fate of humanity, and this process is ongoing. There will be many problems, difficulties, philosophical clashes and probably a lot of examples of struggle, which is not always fair and just, along the way. But this is life, and we are in favour of settling everything through a dialogue.
There is a small group of countries led by the US, as we can see, that does not want a dialogue but wants to use dictate, ultimatums and blackmail instead of diplomacy. We see this every day. Now everything is being revised, including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, the Paris Agreement on Climate and the North American Free Trade Agreement, but this has not been completed yet. We are already facing the problem of the future of the WTO, which the US openly calls unjust and obsolete. The methods used by Washington now cannot be called anything but an ambition to dominate everything. If something goes wrong, diplomacy is thrown out and sanctions are used, with US law being extrapolated to the entire planet. The exterritorial use of unilateral illicit coercion measures is becoming a serious problem both for developing states and the Western countries that are the US’s allies. We find no pleasure in watching these points of conflict grow and multiply. Let me stress again that we are interested in stable peace, stability near our borders and in overcoming the conflicts and crises that may in some way affect the security of our citizens and our country through talks and a search for sensible compromises. We are ready for compromises like this.
We are ready to contribute as much effort as possible to settle any conflict or crisis, such as Syria, where Russia was one of the originators of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which now serves as the base for the Syrian settlement process while the remaining terrorists are eliminated and humanitarian problems are solved, or Ukraine, where Russia played the key role in developing the Minsk Agreements that remain the only way to settle the crisis in eastern Ukraine; but, unfortunately, the settlement based on the Minsk Package of Measures does not depend solely on us. It is improbable that Kiev will change their destructive course of sabotage and undermining everything the Russian, German, French and Ukrainian leaders agreed on in February 2015 before the election takes place in Ukraine. Let me stress again that we do not have other colleagues. Those who want to dominate at any price, go against history, because new centres of economic power and growth have been getting stronger in the world for several decades, and political influence comes with this. One cannot disregard these centres. Such attempts take place, but they are weak. They will result in nothing good and most likely will return to those who try it, like a boomerang.
I see prospects in the initiatives being implemented and discussed in the Eurasian space. You know about our Eurasian project and China's Belt and Road Initiative. Last May, the Eurasian Economic Union and China reached an agreement on economic cooperation. This is a very important foundation for what Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Greater Eurasia project, saying we have to utilise geopolitical and geo-economic advantages in our common Eurasian space, without making theoretical schemes that will work for certain participants and then imposing them on others.
We base our activities in the EAEU and the SCO on a practical approach and make an effort to promote specific projects that call for implementation. Through practical steps coordinated by all participants, we expedite the potential for further integration and speak in favour of these processes taking place with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO and the ASEAN member states. I should note that as regards these processes, we always keep our door open to the EU, where the opinion has been expressed that without involvement in the Eurasian integration processes it will be increasingly difficult for them to sustain competition, something that is becoming more acute in today's world. More and more often unfair competition tactics are being used.
I should note another phenomenon of the past eight years – the G20. The annual summits prove that this is a promising association, primarily because its work - just like in the other ones I mentioned that Russia is actively involved in - is based on the principle of consensus. Nothing can be imposed there but everything has to be agreed upon - maybe not quickly or without some holdouts and compromises, but everything has to be agreed on. It is not accidental that the G20, in addition to economic, macroeconomic, financial issues, and the international monetary system, has been paying more attention to certain foreign policy issues. I think this reflects the awareness of the G20 member states - which include the leading countries in the world's major regions - that here where unilateral decisions cannot be imposed on them, they want to promote a political agenda with a coordinated approach that is suitable for everyone.
There are broad and challenging prospects now. I have mentioned only a few problems with an emphasis on the core points of the differences that are arising in the world and that MGIMO graduates will soon have to deal with. But I am confident that the freshmen and those who are continuing will only gain from delving into issues with the help of your wonderful teachers and staff from the Foreign Ministry, who take pleasure in giving lectures and holding seminars.
Question: Over the past few years so-called digital diplomacy has become more and more popular. Social media networks are turning into an important tool of information and explanatory work. Do you use social media networks, and do you have your own accounts on leading social networks?
Sergey Lavrov: You are absolutely right. Social media networks are part of our personal life, and they are also becoming an important aspect of our professional life because it appears that no profession, all the more so diplomacy, can do without social media networks. One of diplomacy’s tasks is to spread information and to explain the activities of a country. The Foreign Ministry has been actively using social media networks over the past few years. We have accounts in leading social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and VKontakte. The Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department has a special section which deals with digital information technology. We prioritise the circulation of foreign-language content. The Foreign Ministry has both Russian-language and English-language accounts, we also have a Spanish-language account on Twitter, as well as Arabic-language accounts on Twitter and Facebook. The Foreign Ministry’s official website is currently available in all official UN languages, including Russian, English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and German. This is not the limit. There is high demand for information in other languages, European languages, first and foremost, as well as in other languages. We will try and do this, but, as you understand, this calls for certain resources. These questions are not resolved very quickly.
I personally have no social network accounts, but I’m kept in the picture when it comes to what’s going on there.
Question: Last March, the School of Governance and Politics of MGIMO University launched Highly Likely Welcome Back, a programme for students who wish to return from British and US universities. Many did not believe that students from London would want to return to Russia and study political science and public administration at MGIMO University. However, there are 12 of us who immediately applied from New York, London and San Diego. We are very grateful to the university management for this opportunity and the patriotism it demonstrates. What, in your opinion, are the prospects for Russia-US relations? How long will the policy of provocations against our country continue?
Sergey Lavrov: First of all, I can say that your initial comments were very interesting. No doubt, these young people made their decision to move to the Russian Federation to study, not out of any compulsion, but on the basis of their own free choice, which highlights once again the quality of education students receive in our university. I hope that you will not be disappointed and there will be no decrease in demand for MGIMO graduates but continued growth.
As far as Russia-US relations are concerned, this is in fact an endless topic on which I could elaborate for hours. Perhaps, the most important point here is that the current US Administration is stringently, if not to say aggressively, pursuing a policy that was characteristic of all its predecessors without exception, namely a policy based on the idea that the United States is superior. This involves very simple direct actions that have very little to do with diplomacy. It involves demands. If a partner rejects them, they begin to apply pressure, impose restrictions, sanctions, ultimatums, threats. I don’t think that this is a forward-looking method of conducting world affairs but this is the philosophy and mode of action of the current US administration.
Once again, we do not recognise illegitimate steps by Washington that negate so many important achievements, ranging from the Iranian nuclear issue that was settled by an unprecedented document, to the questioning of the need to be involved in the WTO, not to mention the United States’ position regarding the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. This position crosses out all UN Security Council resolutions and affirms the United States’ unwillingness to implement them.
Personal contacts are particularly significant in these circumstances. I was present at the meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. I spoke to US Secretaries of State Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo. These are people who, I believe, understand the importance of getting along with us, as they say, including in the interests of the United States. The economic activity between us is miniscule compared to our other partners but, of course, American companies are interested in the Russian market. The potential of the Russian market and cooperation with Russia cannot be ignored with regard to the long-term economic interests of the United States. This also concerns the resolution of international crises and conflicts, be it in the Middle East, North Africa, Ukraine (the conflict which the United States, under the administration of former president Barack Obama, proactively shaped and is now keeping at boiling point, primarily because they want aggravation at our border).
An additional factor is the domestic political scandal in the United States. The democrats lost after the unearthing of evidence of their manipulation of the US laws concerning nomination of candidates in the Democratic National Committee. The candidate from the Democratic Party’s socialist faction, Bernie Sanders, was basically pressured, in violation of all norms. What is more, when Donald Trump won in the United States, the democrats could not believe it and still cannot get over it. They invented the stories you hear everywhere about Russia’s interference; they claim that we must be punished for Ukraine, even for North Korea, if you listen to numerous utterances by members of the House of Representatives or senators. That is, there is no problem in the world in which Russia did not play a negative role, judging by the attitudes of US representatives, who are now simply obsessed with Russophobia. I am sure that this is not a total obsession but it has become bad form to speak positively about normalising relations with Russia.
US senator Rand Paul visited us in August, preceded by another group of senators. They were all ostracised when they returned to the United States. Once again, this has become an epidemic of sorts. Those who dare to speak about the importance of a normal conversation, of voicing their concerns and asking for clarification from their partners – they form a minority. Here is a good example, which we already mentioned, concerning the notorious interference with the US election, hacking into all possible accounts and manipulation of electoral rolls. We suggested the creation of a working group on cybersecurity to former president Barack Obama. Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded US President Donald Trump about this when they met in Hamburg in July 2017. US President Donald Trump said that the proposal was a good idea. When he returned to the United States, the US Congress raised so much dust, accusing him of wanting to talk to Russians about the very issue that we allegedly used to interfere in US domestic affairs. This is very unsound logic. Therefore, we are not reacting with hysteria, nor do we want to respond in a tit for tat manner. We are reacting to sanctions, introducing retaliatory restrictions but not in a way that harms ourselves. Instead we simply identify specific individuals who are unwinding this completely unnecessary flywheel of Russophobia that neither Americans nor Europeans, neither we Russians nor the rest of the world need.
We are open to talks. We had a normal dialogue in Helsinki. However, the joint news conference by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump caused hysteria. I believe that the US political system should be ashamed for stirring up such turbulence in relations with Russia. They do not respect themselves. If they think that we control the entire world then what about the claims that America is superior and above everything and determines the future of humankind?
I want to stress once again that we support a mutually respectful and equitable dialogue. There is no need to speak to us in any other way. People with little knowledge of history should perhaps read books more often. As soon as the United States is ready to talk, we will not keep them waiting. Once again, we can see that US President Donald Trump’s wish to have normal relations with us is getting blocked by anti-Russian lobbyists in Washington. This is the reason for all the internal investigations by US attorney Robert Mueller, which have been going on for two years. Not a single scrap of evidence has been produced to indicate that Russia is responsible for domestic issues in the United States.
Question: You visit dozens of countries each year and get to know their history, culture, customs and traditions. What place here at home do you feel close to?
Sergey Lavrov: We have our capital – “my dear capital, my golden Moscow.” I really love Siberia, too. Every year I try to visit there, most of all the Altai Territory, Khakassia, and Tyva. I try to spend a week there in the summer and another in the winter. It gives me enough energy for the rest of the year. If you have never been there, I recommend these places.
Question: Armenian events are running counter to the promise by the country’s new leaders to not persecute their political predecessors. What is Russia's stance on this? How dangerous is this situation for further CIS integration?
Sergey Lavrov: First of all, we are interested in stability in countries that have allied relations or strategic partnerships with us. The domestic political processes there should develop on a constitutional track and be maximally favourable for economic development and social improvement. This is what we are trying to achieve through our integration association – the Eurasian Economic Union, and with regard to security, through the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).
We closely followed the developments in Armenia after the constitutional change that transferred all the basic authority to the prime minister elected by the country's parliament. We have not made any moves or statements that could be even stretched to, or in any way interpreted as interference in Armenia’s internal affairs. I cannot say that every country has done the same, but that’s not my point.
We are certainly concerned that Armenia is still boiling. The events of ten years ago are being investigated. You know the facts about the arrests made. We certainly consider this the domestic affair of the Republic of Armenia. We really want these internal affairs to remain on the solid foundation of law and the constitution and be quickly resolved so that Armenia can concentrate on constructive plans.
In the near future, another meeting is planned between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. I think it would be important for us to hear how the new Armenian leader assesses the prospects for developments in his country.
As I said before, we are absolutely not indifferent to Armenia's commitment to the CSTO in this situation. We proceed from the assumption that these commitments are in place and that they must be fully complied with, including as regards strengthening the reputation and prestige of our common organisation.
Question: You recently referred to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as the rise of the people's diplomacy. Do you think we have actually shattered the stereotypes about Russia that have developed in the West?
Sergey Lavrov: I think so. I am confident that it was indeed a triumph for people's diplomacy. The authorities put a lot of effort into creating the necessary conditions for the athletes, the fans and guests of this tremendous festive event. In addition to the technical and organisational aspects, it was the Russian people who played a decisive role communicating with foreign fans, showing them that we are open, kind, hospitable and cheerful, that we appreciate humour and love being in a good company. We saw this in a variety of ways.
Certain events and phenomena bring people closer better than many official ceremonies; they help us learn about countries we have never visited and make friends.
Today we are all mourning popular singer Iosif Kobzon who was also a people's diplomat and helped carry the truth about Russia and Russian mentality to many countries. The 2018 FIFA World Cup opened many people’s eyes. It is not accidental that many foreigners are applying to visit Russia again. As you know, President Vladimir Putin instructed the Government to extend the validity of the FIFA Fan ID through the end of this year. The holders of these IDs can travel to Russia as many times as they want until yearend, and their family and friends, if any, will be issued visas promptly and free of charge, even after the World Cup.
On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin visited the Sirius Educational Center in Sochi and suggested opening visa-free entry for school students during school Olympiads in various fields of study. I think this is a general policy aimed at the maximum ease of communication between people, with a special focus on youth. We count on you and expect the traditions of international friendship to flourish and grow stronger within the walls of MGIMO University.
Question: We know that many diplomats continue their professional activities in the area of higher education. Over the decades, outstanding experts in international relations have lectured at numerous MGIMO faculties. Is there any chance that you will join the ranks of MGIMO lecturers some day?
Sergey Lavrov: If I came here more often, you would probably be bored to death with me. To be serious, I regularly speak at MGIMO and the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy. The Academy’s Rector, Yevgeny Bazhanov, can confirm this. I regularly speak with young people in other formats. I have recently attended the Terra Scientia on Klyazma River National Educational Youth Forum. Before that, I attended the Russia, Country of Opportunities forum and also met with finalists in the Leaders of Russia national competition. Last year, I took part in the World Festival of Youth and Students. To my mind, there are many formats that make it possible to speak with young people without reverting to mercantilism because a person lecturing here would have to ask the Rector for money. Nevertheless, I will try to share my modest knowledge and experience with our young friends.
Question: On August 27, the United States introduced new restrictive measures against Russia, this time in connection with the so-called Skripal case. How will Moscow respond to Washington’s new sanctions, while conducting bilateral dialogue?
Sergey Lavrov: I have already said a few words on this issue. I repeat, we will certainly not leave this unfriendly move without response. We will make an announcement on this, and our response will not necessarily be symmetrical. I believe that a symmetrical response is not always an optimal scenario.
These sanctions hinge on absolutely false assertions. So far, British leaders can only voice “highly likely” claims with regard to the Russian Federation. Replying to journalists’ questions, Scotland Yard representatives, being honest detectives, note that the investigation is not yet over, and that they are making no comments for the moment. Just look at how all this happened. The US decision to surge ahead of London probably shows the ability of British diplomacy to persuade and to hide behind those capable of doing the dirty work. The EU response was quite restrained right after this tragic incident, and the United Kingdom made tremendous efforts to persuade about two-thirds of EU members to expel one, two, maybe three Russian diplomats, following the British example. When we asked our partners in Europe, who were forced to yield to this blackmail and arm-twisting, whether the British had presented them with any additional evidence, apart from the “highly likely” claims, we were told that they had done nothing of the kind, but that they had promised to provide such evidence later on. I regularly ask this question, and no one has received any evidence for the time being.
Of course, British traditions are well-known. I sincerely take my hat off to the British diplomats who manage to influence the EU’s policy on Russia and even the United States, at a time when the UK is leaving the EU altogether. They are by no means the junior partner in the relationship and they often persuade the United States to act accordingly, the way London wants it to act. This is a sad story.
There are no irreparable problems in Russian-British relations. All the episodes that have caused a cooling in relations, if not a total freeze, fit into the “highly likely” category. These incidents include the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, where the investigation was eventually classified, and we still have no information on the case. In the same category are the murders of many other Russians, including Nikolay Glushkov and Alexander Perepelichny. Add to this the Sergey Skripal incident where a Russian citizen and her father who has dual citizenship have not been seen in public for the last three months. What has happened to them, and where are they? We have very many questions.
This intricate and cynical line based on “highly likely” claims is quite deplorable because it undermines opportunities for expanding our normal relations on the basis of mutual benefit. We have many shared interests that have now been artificially shelved.
Question: In addition to my main studies I would like to join the MGIMO Negotiation Club. Could you give me some advice on how to hold talks and describe the most difficult talks you have ever held?
Sergey Lavrov: I think there is no universal recipe. Each negotiation round has its own features, above all because people on the other side of the table are different. Everybody shows their individual character when they sit down at the negotiating table. If you do not know your counterpart, you should try to figure out how to lead the conversation during the initial exchange of polite phrases. If you have known this person for a long time, this is much easier.
For example, I spent many hours with former US Secretary of State John Kerry negotiating an entire series of documents on the Syrian settlement process. At first we worked successfully on setting up the International Syria Support Group and then on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (which was approved unanimously). Later, in the autumn of 2016, after President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama met in China and outlined the opportunities for close cooperation in eliminating terrorist groups in Syria, John Kerry and I met once again and negotiated a document, which unfortunately the US side failed to carry out, because the first and key provision was to separate the military opposition that was ready for a dialogue with the government on the future of Syria from the terrorists. They committed to this course of action but failed to deliver on it.
I trust my feelings and intuition. Sometimes I make mistakes, but I have to drown myself in a particular situation. There will never be a ready course of action for all situations in life. Diplomacy is the art of finding common ground. When you discuss something with your parents or friends, and your views do not coincide one hundred percent, you are trying to come to terms; this is similar.
Question: This year, the St Petersburg International Economic Forum was held under the slogan “Creating an Economy of Trust.” Can you say that this slogan has proven its value?
Sergey Lavrov: It is needed. It is still too early to say if it has proven its value and if trust has returned to international economic relations. But it is obvious that everyone rejects the economy of pressure and unilateral demands. Introducing such a concept as an “economy of trust” attracted the attention of many businesspeople. They need to stop worrying every day that someone will emerge from around the corner and punish them, and they won’t even know about it until the threat becomes real.
Question: Is there such a concept as trust in international relations? Or is it non-existent?
Sergey Lavrov: It exists. There are partners you trust. But there is also another concept, as you say: trust but verify. This is what Ronald Reagan said about the USSR. To be honest, it would not hurt to verify things in relations with many colleagues at the global stage.
Question: There are two contradictory positions today. One is that higher education must be for the chosen people. And the other, the opposite position is that today’s society demands for everyone to have university education. What do you think?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe that everything must be based on free will and on what an individual wants to be the key element in determining his or her future.
Question: Jurisprudence, especially international, does not tolerate double standards. In this regard, I would like to hear what you have to say about the situation in Ukraine, where the head of the Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, was murdered, and in Syria.
Recently, you had talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria Walid Muallem. How constructive were they, what decisions were made and how will the “provocations” in Idlib be handled? What our further actions at the OPCW and the UN can be regarding the settlement in Syria?
Sergey Lavrov: I described in sufficient detail the content of my discussions with my Syrian colleague, as well as the meetings held earlier with the Turkish representatives, namely, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu when they were in Moscow. Everything is fairly straightforward there. Among other things, the Idlib de-escalation zone was created and is expected to become a hostilities-free area. Moreover, the ceasefire does not apply to the terrorists (primarily, Jabhat al-Nusra and several other groups that merged with it). Just as in the previous cases I mentioned when I spoke about our conversations with the Obama administration, there is a demand to draw a line between armed opposition groups that are willing to participate in a political settlement, from the militants and terrorists who were designated as such by the UN Security Council and who are not willing to reach any compromises.
In order to maintain a ceasefire that excludes only the terrorists, 12 Turkish observation posts have been created along the internal perimeter. The external perimeter is guarded by the Syrian troops and our military police. The ceasefire has been violated regularly for more than two months now. This zone is used to shell the positions of the Syrian army, to raid them and to launch vast numbers of drones to attack our military base in Khmeimim (over 50 drones have been shot down). It’s impossible to put up with such a situation forever.
In conjunction with our Turkish colleagues, the Syrian government and the Iranians as participants of the Astana format, we are doing our best to separate normal armed opposition groups from the terrorists on the ground (for obvious reasons, primarily the military are doing this) and to make sure that civilians are not harmed.
At a news conference that followed our talks, Walid Muallem mentioned that the Syrian authorities are continuing the policy of local conciliations in order to reach an agreement with the local authorities in Idlib with an eye to expelling the “bad guys” from there and promoting the concept of creating a humanitarian corridor. This is work in progress. Hardly anyone can argue that the terrorists have no place in Syria, and the Syrian government has every right to seek their eradication on its territory.
With regard to the statement that jurisprudence does not tolerate double standards, I beg to differ. Occasionally, it does and very much so. For example, the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was created some time ago. Eighty percent of its trials involved Serbs, while representatives of other ethnicities residing in the Balkan countries were tried only as an exception.
There are quite a few examples, including at the European Court of Human Rights, where a number of unjust rulings were made based on their own statement that Russia, allegedly, does not exercise effective control, for example, in Transnistria.
I want jurisprudence, especially international jurisprudence, to enjoy respect in every possible way, but it must also respect the principles underlying international law.
Question: What do you think about the future of Russia-US relations? What can the United States and Russia do to put an end to the war in Ukraine?
Sergey Lavrov: The immediate future of Russia-US relations does not look too bright, but I am convinced that, in the end, they will return to the level of genuine strategic partnership. We were allies during WWII. When Russia and the United States get along, the entire world benefits as there are fewer conflicts, crises, less blood and more benefits for the economic operators of our countries.
President Putin and other representatives of our country have repeatedly said that in our relations with the United States we are willing to meet Washington halfway as fast and as extensively as it is willing to go.
Our relations at the level of civil society remain good. We have a wonderful joint project, Fort Ross Dialogue, whose members meet annually in America and Russia.
There’s the US-Russia Business Council, which is about to hold a regular meeting soon.
The politicians will benefit from listening to what the people on whose behalf they want to make America great again have to say.
With regard to Ukraine, the only way to overcome the crisis there is to fulfil the Minsk agreements of February 15, 2015, which were unanimously approved by a UN Security Council Resolution. Everything is clearly stated there. The main method for resolving all aspects of the Ukraine crisis, which is recorded in the Minsk document and which President Poroshenko signed, is through direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, which the Ukrainian authorities shun in every possible way.
Having appointed Kurt Volker a special representative of the United States for Ukraine, our American colleagues showed that they are not working impartially, but, in fact, pandering to the whims of the Ukrainian authorities. I'm confident that as intelligent people they realise that these whims are harmful and preclude any prospect of settlement. I hope that the United States will exert its influence on Kiev, as the Ukrainians are not listening to anyone else.
Question: I represent the Mezhdunarodnik newspaper, in which you also published your articles in the past. Given the complicated international situation, what successes of Russian diplomacy over the past five years would you single out?
Sergey Lavrov: It’s not for us to judge. The public opinion polls are telling us that our people, in general, praise Russia’s foreign policy, which is good. Complacency is something that no one should ever have in any profession, not just diplomacy. Complacency is a bad thing in any profession.
From the most recent events, I will mention the most important things that had to be done. We are about to complete concluding agreements that will ensure the inviolability of our borders. Borders have been properly formalised with all our neighbours, with the exception of Estonia (this is also a matter of not so distant future).
The recent signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was the most important step in this area and more. It is important for national security and upholding our economic interests.
The second area, which I think is also very important, has to do with consistent movement towards visa-free travel with all countries. We have now completely abolished visas with about a third of the states that we work with. Easy visa regulations that make life easier for Russians travelling abroad are in place in about the same number of countries. We would like to move faster across all these areas.
With regard to the Mezhdunarodnik newspaper, we didn’t publish our articles there, but painted it. We have Yury Kobaladze here, who designed and painted this wall newspaper and was involved in issuing Mezhdunarodnik. Two Whatman sheets were pasted together, and we wrote there with pencils and crayons.
Thank you all once again, congratulations and enjoy your studies.