Statements and speeches by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with students, auditors, professors and instructors at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, Moscow, April 12, 2019
Colleagues and friends,
Auditors and students,
I’m glad about this new meeting, which has become a tradition, all the more so since it is taking place in the year of the 85th anniversary of the Diplomatic Academy.
During this period the academy has proved its effectiveness, preparing a wide range of experts in international affairs. Alongside MGIMO University, it remains the main source of personnel for our country’s foreign service. I would also like to make a pointed reference to the efforts of professors and instructors to carry out upgrading courses for the staff of the Russian Foreign Ministry, many other Russian departments and foreign diplomats who regularly build on their education and skills at the academy. This is also a very important part of our work that is very popular with the diplomatic corps in Moscow and our colleagues who work for foreign policy agencies abroad.
Naturally, I would like to note the high quality of the analytical materials produced by the academy. We use information and reference materials, analytical and forecasting reports prepared by the academy.
This intellectual work and the constant focus on it are particularly important today when the world is undergoing tectonic shifts without exaggeration. They are happening very quickly. We must monitor them and try to understand where they are headed. Their common vector points to the need to consolidate multilateral relations and a polycentric international order. Its foundations are taking shape today. No doubt, this will be a long period historically, but it is already in full swing. New centres of economic growth, financial power and political influence are emerging. The GDP of the Asian-Pacific Region (APR) by purchasing power parity has more than doubled in the past 20 years – from 15.9 percent to 37.7 percent of the global total. At the same time, it is clear that the Western liberal development model that, among other things, implied ceding part of national sovereignty (it is in this vein that our Western colleagues planned what they called “globalisation”) is losing its appeal and has long ceased to be a model to follow. Moreover, even many people in the West are skeptical about it – you can see many examples of this.
Clearly, multipolarity and the emergence of new centres of power call for a search for a balance of interests and compromises to maintain stability in the world. Here, of course, diplomacy should play a leading role, especially since we have a backlog of problems which require generally acceptable solutions, including regional conflicts, international terrorism, food security, and the environment. So, we operate on the premise that we can reach agreements only through diplomatic efforts. Only solutions that enjoy the support of everyone can be sustainable.
Unfortunately, our Western partners led by the United States are not willing to agree on common approaches to resolving problems. Washington and its allies are trying to impose their own approaches. Their behavior is clearly based on a desire to preserve their centuries-old domination in international affairs despite the objective trends toward a polycentric international order. This runs contrary to the fact that purely economically and financially, the United States and its closest allies can no longer single-handedly resolve all issues in the global economy and world affairs. Moreover, various methods of blackmail, coercive, economic, and informational pressure are used in order to artificially retain their dominance and to regain their undisputed positions. They are not above overt, blatant interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, such as Venezuela. Without hesitating, they publicly threaten Cuba and Nicaragua with the same scenarios. These are the most recent and odious examples.
It is deeply disturbing that the US has, for quite some time now, been pursuing a policy of scrapping the international legal framework for arms limitation and for progress towards disarmament and arms control. Following its withdrawal in the early 2000s from the ABM Treaty, which was one of the cornerstones of global stability, it has now embarked on the path of destroying the INF Treaty. Furthermore, Washington has sounded quite equivocal about the future of the New START Treaty, which expires in 2021.
Without doubt, in other areas not related to disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the international legal framework is also being destroyed. Washington’s position on the Middle East settlement process is an example. The exit, in an arrogant manner, from the agreements on the Iranian nuclear programme, which was approved by the UN Security Council, is another example. It is clear that by economic indicators the US is still the leading power, but its relative role is declining. The economies of China, India and a number of other countries and regions are booming. As we have seen over the past few years, the US is no longer capable of competing in the economy in good faith. Methods of unfair competition today determine the actions of Washington in international economic relations. The principles of the WTO are being eroded. It is because of Washington’s position that the existing dispute resolution body in the WTO cannot start working, and the US resorts to procedural tricks to keep it in such a “suspended”, “frozen” state for as long as possible. Moreover, unilateral sanctions and the extraterritorial application of its own laws, which has acquired a global character, as well as trade wars, which is all we hear about now – all of this is directed not only against countries that pursue an independent policy, but also against the closest allies of the United States. The situation around Nord Stream 2 and the threats against Turkey, a NATO member, because Ankara decided to strengthen its defences by acquiring Russian weapons, are examples of this.
Statements by our Western partners at international institutions about the need to comply with and have respect for international law are becoming increasingly rare. Instead of the term international law, they have switched to another term – the rules-based order. Our Western partners insist on having a rules-based order. However, they do not specify what these rules are because every time the rules are invented to fit the situation. When we asked them about the reason for this change, they failed to provide an intelligible answer. But we see how this works in practice. Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Technical Secretariat was created to determine if any banned chemical agent was used or not. Amendments to the convention were voted through – an unlawful move as votes in favour of the amendments accounted for less than a half of the overall number of the signatories to the Convention – in such a way that the Technical Secretariat was authorised, as a matter of fact, to determine who is guilty of the use of a chemical agent, which is otherwise the exclusive right of the UN Security Council. It is an altogether illegal action because, as any legal expert or even a schoolchild knows, amendments to conventions are, by definition, subject to consensus. If you want to introduce an idea, please propose an amendment. The amendment will be debated and if it is approved during talks, a ratification process will be launched. This is the only way to change conventions. However, instead of taking an approach based on international law, the West resorted to the rules it invented to push its position through.
Incidentally, we see the same situation at the Council of Europe, although its charter says that its members have equal rights in all of its bodies. This document is based on international law. Instead of faithfully complying with it, the Russophobic minority pressed the Parliamentary Assembly into voting in favour of stripping the Russian Federation of voting rights at the Parliamentary Assembly. This is a rule that flies in the face of international law.
There are many other examples. There are attempts by the United States and its closest allies – the British and some others – to, in fact, privatise the secretariats of international organisations, plant their staff there, consolidate the secretarial staff from other countries on which the Westerners have leverage, and (as if on behalf of the secretariats) push through various important ideas that have not been discussed during state-to-state talks, bypassing intergovernmental bodies. Thus, a concept for countering violent extremism was pushed through the UN Secretariat under the previous Secretary-General. It says that extremism is generated in the countries where authoritarian regimes clamp down on democracy and human rights, so the international community should work with the civil society of these countries bypassing their respective governments. Clearly, this is another manifestation of a policy aimed at interfering with the domestic affairs of other countries. Similar attempts to “privatise” the secretariats of international organisations in order to promote their interests can also be observed in approaches to controlling biological safety, organising peacekeeping and many other situations.
Speaking of international law and illegitimate rules, there is international law in the form of the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations which determine the immunity of diplomatic property. This did not prevent the United States, starting from the Obama administration, from seizing, in a raider-like manner, Russian diplomatic property located in its territory.
The double standards and the hypocrisy of Western diplomacy can be seen particularly well with regard to the situation in Ukraine. The support by Washington and Brussels of the armed unconstitutional coup followed by full support for the anti-Russia course, which the putschists adhered to from day one of the coup, are clearly a case of both. This is by far not a coincidence. The goal was absolutely clear: to pit two brotherly nations against each other and to broaden the geopolitical space around Russia controlled by Washington for subsequent development. The fact that in the five years since the coup, and four years since signing the Minsk agreements, all the manipulations of Poroshenko’s regime, who tried and continues to try to sabotage these agreements, have not drawn any criticism from the Western countries, once again goes to show that their goal is not so much to resolve the conflict as to use it to contain Russia.
This policy of containment was being carried out long before the Ukraine developments and the reunification of Crimea with Russia. In connection with Crimea and Donbass, as well as other foreign policy situations, we see that demonisation of Russia serves as a pretext for the further expansion of NATO and a ploy to distract public attention from the many internal problems of the West itself. We have seen this approach for some time.
Overall, I want to say, and I hope that the audience here can see the validity of such an assessment, that the attempts to put together an anti-Russia coalition and isolate Russia have failed. Initially, our foreign policy course, when it was approved by President Putin in the 2000s, was based on a multi-pronged approach and on the assumption that we should maintain good relations with everyone, whether it’s the north, south, west, or east.
Lately, Russia has managed to considerably elevate its standing in all regions of the world. Our country is regularly visited by a large number of delegations at the highest level and the level of foreign ministers and other top officials. Our independent and unbiased stance in defence of international law and solving problems collectively on the basis of the UN Charter and without double standards is received sympathetically by the overwhelming majority of countries. Not all of them can express it openly, but they demonstrate their attitude through concrete actions, including by engaging in dialogue with us on a continuous basis. This reflects not only the relevance of the approaches we promote but also the obvious exhaustion of the world’s countries and peoples from geopolitical games and their consequences. In fact, they are rejecting the colonial logic of leader-follower that is being imposed on them primarily by the United States, which insistently demands that they follow it and has no qualms about resorting to intimidation and other behind-the-scenes methods.
We will work to strengthen the belt of neighbourliness along our borders. We will try to achieve this by working through bilateral channels with our neighbours and through international organisations created and operating in this space, such as the CSTO, EAEU, CIS, and SCO.
Of course, our unconditional priority is to realise Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to create the Greater Eurasian Partnership involving member states of the EAEU, SCO and ASEAN. We keep the door open to all other countries on the vast Eurasian continent. This also applies to the EU, if and when it is ready to join in a process based on equal rights and mutual benefit.
We will support cooperation in the international community in countering challenges and threats, including terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, organised crime and many other evils. We will contribute to settling the world’s many crises, including the conflict in Syria where Russia’s involvement, based on the appeal of the legitimate government, made it possible to defeat the main units of ISIS, prevent the collapse of Syrian statehood and create conditions for a political settlement, something we are working on now.
We will take an active part in addressing global challenges at the UN, working for the strengthening of its coordinating role in world affairs in line with its charter. We will expand our dialogue in associations of the new type where all issues are resolved by consensus, which is a must in today’s conditions where multi-polarity is in demand. I am referring to the G20, BRICS, the SCO and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. We will work for the prevalence of positive attitudes in the OSCE that also adheres to the principle of consensus. Its work should be aimed at drafting common decisions and its rostrum should not be used only for accusations and angry rhetoric.
I have already mentioned the Council of Europe. We are ready to help it overcome the crisis that was not triggered by us. But the first and decisive step should be made by those who stripped the Russian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of all the necessary powers, in violation of the council’s charter.
In the Council of Europe and in Europe as a part of the world, we are hearing more and more voices that want to stop the West’s senseless confrontation with Moscow that is obviously fanned and promoted to suit Washington’s geopolitical ambitions and the interests of US business that wants to replace Russian energy sources with more expensive American sources and Russian arms with its own. I think people in Europe understand full well that without Russia it is impossible to ensure European security in all of its dimensions – military-political, economic and humanitarian. I hope this understanding will break through the intense pressure that is exerted on the Europeans by the Americans and that Europe will still find the strength to display independence when it comes to vital issues. We will certainly not be found wanting when our partners who are not yet bold enough to deal with Russia, based on their own rather than alien interests, are ready for this.
We are always ready to search for a solution. Needless to say, our positions will never coincide completely, but we are always ready to seek a balance of interests and mutually acceptable solutions. The threats and ultimatums that are now used in relations with us will not produce the desired results. We will continue doing everything we can to ensure the interests of our country and our people in the foreign policy arena.