6 September 202122:06

Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a meeting with young teachers, pedagogical university students and bloggers on the topic of world outlook, competencies for global success, development of critical thinking, communication skills, worldview and the human capital for universal success, St Petersburg, September 6, 2021

1745-06-09-2021

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I am delighted to be here with you. The topic of this meeting deals with the education of young people. As far as I understand, those who have already chosen a teacher’s career and plan to devote themselves to it are here. I consider this to be an important calling which, indeed, aims to and must maintain the continuity of generations. This is of paramount importance for this country and its history, and it would be no exaggeration to say that this has an intransient significance. The people of Russia have always been distinguished by their striving to remember their history, ancestors, Motherland and birthplace. I am confident that this tradition will be preserved, including through your efforts.

To be quite honest, I don’t want to make this a lengthy lecture. I believe that it would be more productive to listen to questions that concern you. I will try and answer them.

Question:  What helps you find your bearings in this permanently saturated media environment? Where do you get your information?

Sergey Lavrov: To find one’s bearings, any person should do what he or she likes most of all. If this job is linked with a certain amount of information, then one should try and keep an eye on this information and obtain it from all kinds of sources, and this is exactly what I am doing. Consequently, no one will be able to avoid modern information technologies. No Foreign Ministry employee, including myself, will be able to shy away from this.

Question:  Why are school pupils today sceptical of modern state television and radio broadcasts?

Sergey Lavrov: It is hard for me to judge. Modern technologies considered, the state should also use modern media outlets, social networks, etc., rather than only the traditional media, while setting forth its viewpoint on national and global developments. Our Ministry is actively doing this. We have our accounts in all the main social media, and we hold many online events. Their number has increased during the pandemic, but we were doing this even before. It is necessary to use all media outlets. Those wishing to doubt the efficiency of state agencies actively take advantage of young people’s fascination with the electronic media, and the state should also voice its position using the same platforms.

Question:  Today, graduates and young people find it attractive to study abroad. What can attract young people’s attention to education in Russia? As educators, what can we do to retain our human resources?

Sergey Lavrov: The answer is obvious.  It is necessary to teach in an interesting and up-to-date manner and to improve one’s skills all the time. This is a never-ending process, including in diplomacy. People failing to live and work in line with the current developments and to use all advanced national and foreign inventions will not be successful. We are counting on you.

I see nothing shameful in going abroad and studying there. Let’s hope that people will do this. This is an enriching experience. Most importantly, they should come back later on and use their accumulated experience and knowledge back home. President Vladimir Putin sees this as a high-priority aspect. He voiced some wishes to members of parliament and the United Russia party and called for drafting a youth employment programme. This will motivate people to receive education at home, if they know that this will help them obtain a good job after graduating from the university.  All one has to do is engage in self-improvement and make oneself more competitive.There is no other way.

Question: Various sources are providing a great deal of negative information. What can you recommend to young people to be able to tell truth from fake information?

Sergey Lavrov: You have pointed out correctly that there is a great deal of fake news. In the past, respected and self-respecting foreign publications considered writing lies to be improper and unprofessional, whereas now they are doing this all too often. No offence intended, but reports from the German media provide shocking examples of hoodwinking, attempts to present allegations as truth, and so on. There are many examples of this.

I believe that our media, that is, the traditional media, have a more pluralistic approach. There are pro-government media in Russia and also [independent] media outlets that are trying to be objective, to provide different views on one and the same event and to prepare serious analytical materials based on a thorough analysis of the facts. But there are also the opposition media and online sources that are only looking at what the authorities have done today. They are not trying to understand their reasons. Their main goal is to slander the authorities, whatever they doto describe their activities in a way that would antagonise the government and the public. 

This may be a sign of the times. Modern technologies are being used to spread the news in seconds, and it is very simple to fill the air with fake news. Even if the website or source in question reports, following complaints, that the rumour has not been confirmed, they do this “in small print,” figuratively speaking. What people remember is what they read on the front pages of these platforms. We must fight this by increasing the efficiency of our information and awareness building work. There is no other option. 

I know that this is difficult to explain to young people. They like to read breaking news. And then they start writing to each other about this news, having a field day with it. This is a fact of modern life. The state must protect truthful information and provide an objective view of the developments in the country.

Question: St Petersburg has always played a special role in developing ties with its neighbours. For example, our lyceum has been actively cooperating with a gymnasium in Narva (Estonia) since 2014. But this communication has recently been reduced to online ties. What is the outlook for the international interaction of schools in the current circumstances?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that the outlook depends on people. If you had partners with whom you interacted and closely cooperated, but then these ties slackened, you should find out who is responsible for this. If this is the result of interference by the neighbouring country’s authorities, you should submit your proposals to us. We will take up the matter at the international and intergovernmental levels, and through diplomatic channels. 

I wholeheartedly support the sister schools movement, as I do the idea of twin cities. I know that St Petersburg maintains close ties with its neighbours, including in the Baltics. I regard this as a healthy trend. If you want to find partners abroad – schools or other educational establishments – but don’t know how to do this, we can instruct our ambassadors and consular staff to find potential partners for you in their respective countries. Given modern technologies, you only need to spread the word about your schools’ desire to have friends abroad and specify the country. If this method fails, call out to us. We will try to help. 

When I was studying at school in Moscow, we had a partner school in Ferencvaros, a district in Budapest. We exchanged visits every summer, spending several weeks in each other’s cities. We also maintained correspondence during the academic year. Today you can do this round the year online and also exchange visits. Well, if your efforts fail, ask for our assistance through the Ministry representative in St Petersburg, Vladimir Zapevalov. Our St Petersburg office is very energetic. We will help you.

Question: The issue of promoting Russian culture abroad has gained prominence in the current situation. What is being done to project a positive image [of Russia] among foreign students?

Sergey Lavrov: We are civilised and polite people, but it is you who create cultural products. Actually, we have rich traditions of cultural, humanitarian and educational exchanges. We hold cross years with many countries, including in Europe (Italy, France, Germany and Britain) and in Asia (Korea and Japan). We hold a great deal of cultural events: dozens and even hundreds of film festivals and guest performances. The more actively our cultural figures present their products, the more objective information will our foreign partners receive. If you know about musical groups or theatres that would like to take part in international cultural exchanges but have not found a niche in this process, tell us about them. We have a special presidential representative on international cultural cooperation at the Ministry, Mikhail Shvydkoy. He is responsible for coordinating this work. Send your letters about those who would like to join international cultural exchanges to his address at the Ministry.

Question: How old should students be before we start talking with them about politics and Russia’s international status?

Sergey Lavrov: If by politics you mean the doings of spin doctors, then I don’t know what to advise you.  The youth, the younger generation must be taught the history of their country and the instruction should start at kindergarten and continue at school, right from the first year.  The most important thing is that this ought to be done in an attractive and interesting way. When you teach history, you inevitably mention the Russian traditions as they were over the last one thousand years and how Russia looked and what it was doing internationally. The fairy-tales also reflect our historical traditions and some stages of Russian history. You should not wait for any particular age to arrive to start telling children about Russia’s history in all its aspects, about its domestic development and foreign policy.

Question: Preserving the Russian language for all Russian speakers is a very important matter. Currently, many countries are pursuing restrictive policies with regard to Russian. What support is being planned for Russian speakers and for Russian compatriots?

Sergey Lavrov: You are right, there are instances of this sort. They are unpleasant, if few and far between. I am referring primarily to the Baltic countries and Ukraine, which have declared war on the Russian language and Russian education, this in violation of numerous international conventions on ethnic minority rights. In Ukraine’s case, this is a direct, gross violation of its Constitution that guarantees the rights of the Russian language and those of Russian speakers and other ethnic minorities.   

Certainly, we will not use force, this is impossible. But we must bring them to account. And we are doing this. We are taking steps at the Council of Europe, the OSCE, UN agencies dealing with ethnic minority problems, and particularly in the process of work with our European colleagues, including the EU as a supranational entity.  We keep High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell informed about the things that his staff should have kept track of on their own and that directly violate the ideals the EU has declared for countries wishing to be its partners.

The discrimination against the Russian language in Ukraine has reached the scale of a disaster. Several years ago, a law was approved on education and the status of Ukrainian as the state language. This law said that from September 2020, it would only be possible to teach ethnic minority languages at primary school and that later, all students should use Ukrainian alone, etc. We suggested to the European countries that have compatriots living in Ukraine – Hungary, Romania, Poland – that they give the Ukrainian leadership a piece of their mind. But they only bashfully nodded their heads and addressed their own problems. And this is a sad fact.  Pressurised by the EU, Ukraine has made an exception for the languages of EU countries. This means that Russian proved doubly discriminated against. I do not miss a single meeting with my European counterparts in order to raise this subject. I am depressed by their response which is based on double standards, or, to be more precise, the absence of any response. This will be a constant irritant in our relations with them. 

Speaking in broader terms, we are vigorously expanding the opportunities for education in Russian. Over 15,000 study allowances are allocated per year. It is being planned to bring this figure to 20,000. Our embassies and Russian centres of science and culture maintained by the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots living abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) are working to promote the Russian language.  Many other programmes are being implemented as well. Operating abroad, apart from the organisations I have mentioned, are the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute and the Russkiy Mir Foundation which also promotes a methodology of Russian education based on Russian standards. There are several programmes for Central Asian countries. These have been devised at the initiative of Tajikistan. Currently, we are establishing five Russian schools there, which will fully abide by the Russian educational curriculum. I have listed the channels for this work. There are many of them. On instructions from President of Russia Vladimir Putin, a comprehensive programme for the support of the Russian language abroad is being drafted. Its aim is to coordinate their operations in a more harmonious way and to promote our interests related to the diffusion of the Russian language in a more purposeful manner. We see this problem and are addressing it energetically.

Question: Today, World War II and its outcome is one of the most difficult topics as far as history teaching is concerned. How would you conduct a class on the outcome of World War II? What would you emphasise in the first place?

Sergey Lavrov: I would emphasise facts and actively explain to school students how it all began, what efforts the Soviet Union was undertaking to create a coalition with European countries – France and Britain – how these efforts were largely disregarded, and how our Western colleagues were thinking where to manoeuvre and direct Hitler. All these events that preceded the war remain totally obscure. According to Western historical writings, the whole story began with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. No one recalls the fact that almost a year earlier this was preceded by the European countries signing identical pacts with Germany. Molotov-Ribbentrop, period.    

We are publishing historical documents from our archives, and this is a strong argument in defending the historical truth. What was happening at the trials of the Japanese militarists following World War II is totally forgotten, including revelations regarding the biological and bacteriological programme that they had developed with an eye to creating a special weapon against the Soviet Union. Dozens and hundreds of these biologists found refuge in the United States, whose government refused to extradite them to the USSR as war criminals.  It is they who laid the foundation for the US military biological programme. The United States is still actively promoting this programme, including in countries bordering Russia. 

I would put an emphasis on facts, the connections between contemporary events and the relation of that victory to the modern epoch. After all, the UN is also the legacy of the war. Simultaneously new problems were cropping up and their aftermath is felt in many regions of the world to this day. The most important thing is not to allow the exclusion of the historical period preceding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.  The Russian State Duma has provided an assessment of this pact. But to fail to recognise other numerous facts that preceded this event means to tell untruths and teach untruths to children.

Question: What in your opinion could Russian education be proud of, and what could we borrow from our foreign partners? 

Sergey Lavrov: I have never studied abroad. Teachers are the pride of Russian education. This is a great job that has not been supported much by the state until recently. The situation has been changing in recent years. I am sure that the attention that President of Russia Vladimir Putin is paying to this task will be transformed into concrete action. The United Russia party will work on this once the new State Duma is formed. There is no doubt that all factions will strongly support teachers. Now you can see election campaign videos: almost every party has the responsibility to support teachers financially, morally and in every other sense of the word. We wish you health and enthusiasm which must also be complemented by other stimuli.

Question: It is no secret that today a lot of schoolchildren try to leave to study aboard after graduation. Should such a wish be encouraged? Why is studying abroad so attractive to our graduates?   

Sergey Lavrov: I have already mentioned this. There is nothing horrible or bad that people want to study abroad. Thousands, even tens of thousands come here from neighbouring and far-away countries to study here. What do we have to do to make a young man or a young woman stay here after graduation instead of going to study abroad? It is difficult for me to answer for them. It would be better to talk to them, to carry out a survey and thus find out the factors that must be taken into account in our own activities aimed at developing our education.

Question: The implementation of any successful project requires not only hard work but also recreation. What opportunities do you find to relax and how do you prefer to rest? What are your recommendations for our young people’s recreation?

Sergey Lavrov: Here everyone should find their own solutions. I prefer going to the reaches of Siberia. I like rafting, especially in Altai. There are lots of interesting and beautiful routes there. I can give you a general piece of advice: it should be outdoor activities and preferably with physical exercise. 

Question: According to the school social science course, a patriot is a person who is not only proud of their country’s successes but can also recognise that there are problems within the country. And what do you think? People with what qualities can be considered patriots?  

Sergey Lavrov: This does not mean joining a party and filling in a form. Patriotism is a wide concept. For me, it includes the most basic things: love for you home, your parents and your ancestors, knowledge about how they lived and what they left you, as well as love for your city or village. These things form your love for your Motherland as a state, or country. Through studying our history, we can learn what patriotism is about using a lot of examples: heroes of the Great Patriotic War, heroes of past battles or the Patriotic War of 1812 among many others.

I have no specific answer. It takes centuries to form it. Parents and teachers play a great role here. There is no doubt about this. I believe this is how we should regard this.

Question: Recently I obtained self-employed status and I was surprised at how cool and fast it was, and what a simple business climate we have in Russia. Why isn’t this promoted on all television channels and why are there no slogans shouting about this? Previously, I had a business and was an individual entrepreneur; I had a lot of overdue payments, and I was fined for that. Now there is nothing like this. I open the My Tax app and everything is done automatically there. Now young people are focused on making money. And this will be a powerful boost for them to develop patriotism. Who can you turn to in order to promote such subtle and not quite obvious things as this My Tax app for the self-employed or some patriotic ideas?

Sergey Lavrov: Thank goodness everything turned out so well for you. This means the special measures taken to support the self-employed are working. This is good to hear. The main thing is that you could feel it. The things you have said in public will promote what happened. If we look at a broader concept – relations with businesses – than more must be done to support them. A serious discussion is underway, and at the government, too: whether withdraw excess profits should be withdrawn through additional taxes or should the opportunity for productive capital investments should be offered instead. This thing is quite specific; it should be dealt with by professionals, it should be well calculated, and the government has such instructions from the President.

As for your ideas on recommendations that you would like to give on how the state can support businesses, there is the Public Services website where you can find where to convey these ideas. If you have any difficulties with modern technologies, write me a letter and I will give it to the prime minister.

Question: A lot of countries have for a long time been implementing programmes to protect children and teenagers from abusive information on the internet. Are there any measures ready within Russia’s state policy that can help protect our children and teenagers from malicious infoglut on the internet?

Sergey Lavrov: We are already taking such measures and adopting corresponding laws. There are such laws and they are used in practice. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) controls the content prohibited on social media and internet websites. Every day we read about such steps taken regarding YouTube and Twitter. There is no question of us doing too little to protect children from abuse on the internet and distribution of prohibited content. This is being addressed. If you meant a broader context, when non-prohibited information is given in such a way that children form a negative reaction to what is happening around them, then we have said at the very beginning of our meeting that objective information should be spread actively. Let me stress: objective information. When it is said that Russia should increasingly demonstrate its positive image to the international community, I always cross out the word “positive” and write “objective.” We do not have to hide that we have a lot of problems. There is no perfect state. Some have more problems, some less, but they can be found everywhere. The main thing is to see everything yourself. Crimea is on the lips of all our Western colleagues; all they do is condemn us; they even hold some forums. But when you tell them to come and see what it is like for themselves, it turns out that they “need to protect human rights,” and they will not come to us. Recently I was in Italy and met with a colleague of mine. This topic was raised right at the press conference, and he confirmed that he condemned “annexation” and so on together with the entire European Union. I told him publicly to travel to Crimea, but in return he said he could not come, he had no such intention. International organisations also follow the lead of our Western colleagues. We have invited them to Crimea: the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Commissioner for Human Rights. They always say they will come, but they need to go via Ukraine. Why? They refer to the resolution of the UN General Assembly, which was adopted by vote, not by consensus. So a question arises: are they interested in human rights or are they doing someone’s political bidding? They believe human right activists should travel via Ukraine to emphasise that Crimea was annexed. This means they do not want to see the situation with their own eyes. They are unwilling to see the objective picture. Those who came to the Olympic Games in Sochi, to the FIFA World Cup, or to the EURO 2020 now, including to St Petersburg, or to the Universiade in Kazan, can understand everything. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners came and no one of them would make a dig at us based on what we call Western propaganda. You should see everything with your own eyes and see facts instead of throwing false accusations only to please some of your mentors in the West.

Question: Bloggers are increasingly often becoming idols of the younger generation. At the age of 16-18 years, they are already popular, successful and wealthy. Their life seems much more eventful than school, exams and the daily routine. It is difficult to explain to them that this view is wrong. How can it be brought home to them that they must choose their life’s work with their brain rather just be guided by lightness of being? How can they be convinced?

Sergey Lavrov: If you understand it as a blogger, you should explain this in your blog. Young people are hooked on blogs. You know this better than I do. If looking from an office or car at what is happening outside and writing some abstruse comments allows someone to make a good living, this must be her or his choice. But such contemplation depletes a personality. Personal communication, a choice of profession that is creative rather than contemplative, these are inalienable qualities of individuals. Everything depends on family upbringing, on how parents build the character of their children and later from the contribution of teachers. You as a blogger have brought out an absolutely real problem, I will subscribe to your blog and will follow you.

Question:  What is the main task of young teachers, especially in the humanities, when they want to give their students an adequate picture of reality, while teaching them in the spirit of patriotism?

Sergey Lavrov: This is not the first time that we have discussed this issue today. Via history, we are telling our students how our country was created, how we have been upholding our truth, faith and values and how the overwhelming majority of our people are loyal to these values that are being called into doubt, primarily by outside forces. As an independent nation, we are of little interest in the West but this independence is an objective historical process. The Western-centric system does not exist anymore. The West is trying hard to preserve its domination by artificial and crude methods (like sanctions, for instance). However, China, India and Russia are an objective reality. The Latin American countries are rising. Africa is a promising continent, considering its enormous natural wealth. The world is becoming multi-polar and it is pointless to try to stop this process. We must tell our students about all this. At one time, the President said that Russia is a whole civilisation. This is the way it is. Our country is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. I spoke about this with my American colleagues, serious politicians. They admit that the United States and Russia have different histories. The US even calls itself a “melting pot.” All ethnicities are turned into Americans. The bottom line is that we are number one. We focus on “human rights” and can do whatever we want. This is a very rough definition, of course.

In Russia, nobody did any melting. Throughout our history, when we were reaching out both as the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, we always had a careful attitude to the culture of any ethnic group, including the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East. We have special programmes for all of them. Over a hundred ethnicities and languages co-exist together. This is what creates wealth and this is what we must cherish. We must show our very careful attitude to the culture and language of every person, as well as to the history of every ethnicity. After all, we do not have imported national minorities. They cannot go under this name because they are Russia’s indigenous ethnic groups. They didn’t come to Russia like Africans come to Europe. They were born on these lands and later united with Russia in all its guises.

Question: How is the spirit of patriotism developed in other countries? How can patriotism be brought up to date in Russia? 

Sergey Lavrov: Probably, every more or less sensible person understands that our country cannot be judged just on the basis of what bloggers abroad write about it. There is quite an extensive readership but only a small portion of our nation lives in these blogs. Once they see something negative about us, they start spreading it there and then. I regularly follow the blogosphere and I see how this is done. These people are not just waiting for the authorities to make a mistake. They are waiting for the news. They want to know what the authorities have done today and instantly lash out at these actions. They will find a way of attacking the authorities with their anything-goes approach.

Now I will say a few words about patriotic education in other countries. I worked in the United States for a long time. The patriotic education in the US is based on the propaganda of the American way of life, Hollywood and various TV programmes. Yes, there is criticism, serious criticism, as was the case during the latest election campaign: there are Republican channels and there are Democratic channels. They belong to different parties and reflect their views. Be it as it may, but it is not considered appropriate in the US to criticise the country from abroad. Nobody will ever do this. Meanwhile, some of our opposition politicians who have left the country consider it okay. They are doing this from Belarus, Lithuania or some other country. They are simply being funded and catered to from abroad, they call for sanctions to be imposed on their homeland. This is ruled out in America. No matter what the character of the Americans, or what they think about domestic life – for instance, they may be displeased with their jobs or something else – the Americans will never do this.  They will stage rallies or protest with posters at home but they will never sling mud at their country from abroad. 

As I have already said several times, patriotism is when children know history, starting from their family history. It is wonderful when one generation passes its family tree to another. This is what keeps our country together and turns people into Russia’s support.

Question: How can one create a mentality that would motivate a person to change life for the better?

Sergey Lavrov: I have just learnt that there is such a specialty as meditation and mindfulness. It appears that you should answer this question because this is your profession.

Question: What are your thoughts? What is your advice to people who want to change the world for the better but who may not always have the right amount of motivation to do this?

Sergey Lavrov: It would be possible to discuss this subject endlessly or to make it brief. When I am doing something (I am not trying to offend anyone), I think least of all about how this would change the world. I can see a task, and I understand how important it is for the country. This is something well-thought-out, you understand the task and goal that you have to achieve. One could write a scientific thesis on a methodological approach to this problem. I have no feeling that I should work out some kind of a methodology before starting to implement any tasks.

Everything is individual in diplomacy, and everyone can use various methods of work. People are not the same, and personal qualities are displayed most vividly in diplomacy. Some people talk a lot, some are taciturn, and they will therefore conduct talks in a different manner. Someone likes to tell everything to his partner right away, and someone wants to force him to be the first to start setting forth his approaches. Everything is highly individual.

Question: Most teachers who are present here are class teachers. The patriotic education of young people is a high-priority aspect of our work. What does the Motherland mean to you?

Sergey Lavrov: It implies my relatives, ancestors, parents and their parents. Our family keeps a chronicle of our predecessors. This is the home of my fathers. I spent my childhood in Noginsk outside Moscow. That town was called Bogorodsk in the past. I would like this name to be reinstated. The Moscow Region’s administration receives such requests. This will probably work. One feels like part of the Motherland when he or she wants to gain an insight into history. My grandfather, grandmother and their parents are buried there. I relocated to Moscow when I was about ten years old, but I went there every weekend. Unfortunately, the house burned down. Today, my relatives have pooled their efforts and bought the land plot. We want to build the same wooden home that will help us recall the past. Quite possibly, someone will live there.

Such mere trifles mean a lot for bringing up individuals, so that they will feel part of history in all its manifestations, including families, villages, cities and the country. The latter is like a jigsaw puzzle consisting of short stories, various chronicles and geographical locations.

Question: It is necessary to instill patriotism by making people feel proud of their country. But it is necessary to organise new “events” that will involve teenagers as contemporaries. What “events” can the country be proud of?

Sergey Lavrov: Those attending the Eastern Economic Forum suggested prioritising the Far East, including material aspects and establishing new centres of growth. Many people will want to take part in addressing these tasks. Young people will become interested after hearing correct explanations and seeing the relevant examples.

The Northern Sea Route is another example. We are implementing an ambitious programme to ensure environmental safety, to build new and the most advanced icebreakers and to improve the infrastructure. All this has direct significance for national growth, for developing all of the country’s as of yet undeveloped expanses. Russia is chairing the Arctic Council from May 2021 until May 2023. There are plans to organise hundreds of events, including almost 200 in St Petersburg, within the framework of the Arctic Council that includes northern countries, such as Canada, the United States and our neighbours.

Everyone agrees that there are a lot of problems. However, much has been accomplished in the past few years. Not all present here can recall how Russia depended on Western financial and even humanitarian relief aid in the 1990s. We purchased the notorious “Bush drumsticks” at that time. Nobody recalls this. Thank God, we are forgetting this today when this country has no food problems. We have reinstated our status as the largest grain producer and exporter. The Russian Empire was always famous for this, and the Soviet Union neglected this sector somewhat.

There are many other aspects, such as the industry, science, modern technologies and space exploration. Despite all critical remarks, many of which are justified, we have established the Vostochny (Eastern) Cosmodrome that President of Russia Vladimir Putin has recently visited. They are completing some facilities there, but the cosmodrome already launches spacecraft on a regular basis.

There are many opportunities for people who want to apply their capabilities. If young people are feeling bored, I invite them to try their luck at diplomacy. Everybody is welcome.

Question: Why do they display such an attitude to Russian athletes? Why are we dope tested more than the others? Why are our women gymnasts marked down? Why does Russia have to perform without its flag and anthem? Sports should stay separate from politics.

Sergey Lavrov: Absolutely right – sports should not be mixed with politics. Those who breach sport regulations should also be punished, regardless of what country they represent. We do know how the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) works. They have a lot of Therapeutic Use Exemptions for certain preparations. Almost all Nordic skiers “suffer asthma” and they are allowed to take what the others may not. There are many such things. It does not mean that athletes have committed no violations. However, they attempt to blame us for the government policy of “feeding” doping agents to all athletes. A stark example: since Russia allegedly conducts a policy of distributing doping substances, the     International Association of Athletics Federations (the Americans are trying to reformat it under their complete leadership) allowed just 10 of our athletes to compete in all athletics events at the latest Olympics. How do you like it? An immense number of “clean” athletes, who have never been caught regarding anything, found themselves thrown overboard, because the United States wants it that way. 

Many years ago, when these scandals just began, I got interested in who makes the decisions in WADA. Its Executive Committee comprises about 15 persons, of which 12 are from NATO countries, Australia, Japan and three developing countries, which have little clout even arithmetically. This West-controlled system already does not suit the Americans: it is not aggressive enough. The United States adopted the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act in 2019. It was named after a former employee of the Russian anti-doping agency. He fled and started besmirching all his former colleagues although he headed the movement for doping promotion among athletes (he must have earned something from it). The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, to put it bluntly, requires the US law enforcement authorities to initiate criminal cases against the athletes who were suspected of having participated in doping at international competitions and who nevertheless won against their US rivals. They will sniff around the world like they are catching the citizens of Russia and other countries suspected now of cyber-espionage, now of some other kind of interference in their internal affairs. In fact, they are trying to get hold of good brains (of IT-experts above all). 

We need to reform the anti-doping system. There is an EU Anti-Doping Convention and UNESCO’s International Convention against Doping in Sport. They are trying to rearrange the second one to satisfy the West. The convention may be amended or its executive body may be assigned new functions but all this should be done on the basis of consensus. They are attempting to empower the UNESCO Secretariat to point the finger at this or that country. This is a policy of privatising international institutions. Their universal membership requires understandings on all issues. The West is trying to move the discussions from the universal formats created in the UN to its own domain and then impose its decisions as the ultimate truth and a model of multilateralism. Or, when it is inconvenient, they are trying to bend technical and executive secretaries of multilateral institutions to their will, conferring on them some powers that can only be exercised by the state. There is no end of work to be done here. 

Sport is far from being the only human activity where they are trying to restrict us using unscrupulous practices. There are the economy and economic sanctions. The Nord Stream 2 is under a frontal attack, although everybody (even the Americans) understands that it will be completed and start operating. Europe, represented by Germany and other countries, is taking part in its construction saying that they need it. Americans say that these countries do not understand what the continent’s energy security should look like. They want to push their liquefied natural gas. It is largely produced through cracking, which is bad for the environment, and is much costlier. 

Arms export - Turkey has bought the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system from us. Turkey has been compelled for several years in a row to terminate the contract and return the weapons. In practically any area of international affairs you can see discriminatory approaches in an attempt to unscrupulously create competitive advantages. And nobody is speaking about market freedom any more. They are attempting to orchestrate, coordinate and use all this exclusively for selfish purposes.

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