Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the Dialogue for the Future Forum, Moscow, December 25, 2020
This year, your research and education programme marks its 10th anniversary. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of victory in WWII and the 75th anniversary of the UN. These symbolic dates suggest that we take a closer look at international events.
As of the beginning of 2020, we faced numerous cross-border problems that threaten all countries, such as international terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime. We were also confronted with a variety of challenges related to food security, the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and much more. These problems have no boundaries. For many years, we have been urging the international community to unite efforts rather than try to address these problems, including rampant international terrorism or drug trafficking, individually, and not to use them to achieve certain geopolitical goals. History knows examples of such approaches. There were attempts to use terrorists against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It didn’t work. The idea was that it would be possible to reach an agreement with them, and they would help achieve certain results on the ground and remain under control afterwards. It doesn’t work that way. It didn’t work out in Afghanistan or Iraq, where the United States created al-Qaeda as a result of its aggression. The Libyan scenario wasn’t replayed in Syria only thanks to energetic efforts, including by Russia. The results of the intervention, which the West touted as bringing democracy, freedom and respect for human rights, turned out to be a gross violation and trampling upon the fundamental human right – the right to life. Crowds of refugees from this region flooded Europe. Terrorists from the Middle East who continue to interact with their Western colleagues, many NATO members, threaten Afghanistan and Central Asia and are ready to step up their efforts to create the “Caliphate” far beyond this region, including in Southeast Asia.
These cross-border problems were further aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. We thought that with the bigger risks and threats, selfishness should give way to united efforts. This is what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for, suggesting that unilateral illegal sanctions imposed by our Western colleagues on individual countries should be suspended, at least for the period of the pandemic. The sanctions, which are already bad for the people and their social situation, do not even allow them to buy high-quality medications during the pandemic. However, this call has not been heard. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the need to put into practice their own slogans about multilateralism, promoting common values, etc. The West construes multilateralism and common values as everyone else agreeing to the West setting the “tune” and the “fashion trends,” and Washington, Brussels and other NATO and EU capitals identifying ways to resolve international and regional problems. This is an attempt to approach global problems with the zero-sum game mindset. We believe that, despite all the changes in the international arena, the basic principles of the UN Charter providing for sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes and collective action in the interest of ensuring security, remain in full force and have even become more relevant.
Of course, reforms are needed. There are many more sovereign states now than in 1945, because the era of colonialism is almost over. Almost, because 17 territories remain dependent on our Western colleagues, who flatly refuse to comply with the well-known UN declaration that calls for granting independence to colonial countries and peoples. This process has not been completed. Let us not forget about this, especially on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Instead of maximising cooperation at the UN, which embodies multilateralism in a universal sense, initiatives have been made up over the past few years which will define multilateralism somewhat differently. When our Western friends need to promote their agenda at the UN, they have to talk with Russia, China, and other countries, the Non-Aligned Movement, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. Europeans are not always able to promote their interests in this universal format.
Instead of striking a compromise in order to achieve a common agreement and seek a balance of interests, they simply take their ideological projects elsewhere outside the UN system.
Instead of showing some respect for universal multilateralism embodied in the UN, the concept of “effective multilateralism” is being promoted. France and Germany originated it, and the United States strongly supports it. Under it, the West and specifically the EU are the epitome of multilateralism. The EU should promote its approaches to international cooperation and impose them on everyone else. Plans are already in place to create an Alliance for Multilateralism where only those who are convenient to the West and will not ask unnecessary questions will be invited. Washington is planning something along these lines, as far as I know. It wants to create a Community of Democracies. Such an attempt was already made when Madeleine Albright was US Secretary of State. We are talking about self-appointed judges that will decide on who will be designated a “democrat” and invited to this summit, and who will be left outside and made an object of criticism coming from this “democratic” community. We believe this is a wrong approach. No matter how hard it is to achieve results within the framework of the UN and universal conventions, agreements reached through difficult talks and based on a balance of interests are much more reliable than the attempts to force solutions. Even if some countries succumb to pressure, this agreement will lack sustainability.
There are many bodies around the world that function and achieve their goals showing full respect for the UN Charter. Among them are all bodies within the CIS space: the CIS itself, the CSTO, the Eurasian Economic Union and the SCO. It should be remembered that 10 or so years ago, after the 2008 crisis, the G20 began to meet regularly, because the Western G7 realised its inability to rule the world and set the rules in the economy and finance on its own. It used to be the prerogative of the group of seven nations, and everyone else tacitly accepted its primacy. Now with the G20 in place, the G7 is only one of many groups. The second group is BRICS (Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa). A number of other G20 members think like the BRICS nations and want the global economic and financial system to become more democratic.
To put it bluntly, they want it to become democratic, because at the moment it is not democratic at all. Things that are happening with the abuse of the role of the dollar are of concern not only to the countries on which the United States is imposing illegal sanctions, thus distorting its role as an issuer of one of the main currencies, but other countries as well. Not only Russia, China, Iran, and the SCO member states want to switch to mechanisms that will rely on national currencies in trade and investment settlements. Europe is beginning to ponder, especially given the fairly strong position of the euro, moving away from dependence on the dollar.
Today, a number of international universal organisations are exposed to actual threats. The United States withdrew from UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council and the Paris Agreement on climate change. They say the new US Administration will be more inclined to return to international bodies, but the trend is there. Even if Washington is coming back to various multilateral organisations, it is sending out a signal that it does not want to subordinate its actions to collective decisions if they are not 100 percent compliant with the US interests. There may be no such decisions by definition.
The illegal unilateral sanctions by the United States, the EU and their “allies” in Asia undermine the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is going through tough times even without the sanctions. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body has remained idle for many years now, because it must have a quorum to be legal. The United States is blocking the appointment of new DSB members to prevent a quorum. Without a capable DSB, complaints against the United States filed by the EU and other countries to the WTO cannot be considered. As a result, global trade is being gradually overtaken by anarchy, and those with leverage are taking advantage of it. Primarily, this is currency (the role of the dollar), the SWIFT system and other mechanisms.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, we are in favour of joining efforts in the global economy (in particular, his initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership on the vast Eurasian continent with the participation of the SCO, ASEAN, the EAEU and other Eurasian countries, including the EU members). We have a tremendous competitive advantage since we all live on the same continent. We have all it takes to make these efforts effective: Russia’s resources, technology from the EU, Russia and China, a vast market and much more. It would be a big mistake not to use this and to continue to act in “private” formats.
We are promoting the same agenda in international politics. President Putin proposed convening a summit of the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. This proposal was accepted earlier this year, but the pandemic has changed the plans. Of course, it can be held online. But given the importance and complexity of the accumulated problems, we believe an in-person meeting should be held. Hopefully, we will have it soon. Among other things, we plan to discuss strategic stability, since almost all arms-control mechanisms have been destroyed.