Russia’s position in reinforcing the legal grounds of world order
INTERVIEW OF RUSSIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SERGEY LAVROV WITH THE GERMAN MAGAZINE FOKUS, PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 25 FOR 2004
Unofficial translation from Russian
Question: By what yardsticks do you measure the influence of Russia in the political arena? What are the basic principles of the foreign policy course being pursued by you?
Answer: We measure the effectiveness of our foreign policy course in the first place by how it helps to create favorable external conditions for the economic development of the country and improvement of the life of the Russian citizens. The basic principles of our foreign policy course are formulated in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation and they remain invariable. The most important of them, as President Vladimir Putin stressed at the ceremony of his inauguration, is our striving to uphold the national interests of Russia by peaceful means, as becomes a strong, but peace-loving country. Another basic principle of Russian foreign policy remains its multivector nature, the striving to develop an equal partnership with our closest neighbors, as also the states of Europe, Asia and other regions.
Question: What are the likely implications of the European Union enlargement for Russia? For example, previously Russia used to export its agricultural products to the new countries of the European Union, to which different sanitary norms now apply and whose agricultural production receives state subsidies.
Answer: The list of Russian concerns over the EU enlargement appeared even four years ago. Unfortunately, the European Commission got down to substantive consultations with us on this question only several months ago and, naturally, the work was being conducted in a time-trouble mode. Nevertheless, we managed to issue a joint statement, which was adopted on April 27 in Luxembourg simultaneously with the signing of the Protocol extending to the new EU members the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. This statement made it possible to remove the majority of the questions raised by us and outlined the ways to deal with the remaining problems. But it was not possible, regrettably, to eliminate the difficulties in full that arise for Russia in the wake of the EU enlargement. Thus, from May 1 the agricultural product markets in the Ten countries have turned out to be closed for us.
I would like to note that eliminating the adverse consequences of the enlargement is only a part of the problems which we are having to tackle with the European Union in the trade and economic field. Even though we have succeeded in offsetting the effect of the extension to the Ten of the EU-practiced restrictive regime of trade with Russia, this regime itself remains unchanged. Today as a result of the establishment of quotas on supplies of Russian steel and grain, the antidumping procedures against staples of our export and the absence of access to the EU market for Russian agricultural products subject to veterinary control, our exporters are annually losing approximately 400 million euros.
Question: Russia has given up its military presence in many regions of the world, including that in the Balkans. In Central Asia it has yielded its positions to the United States. Has Moscow lost interest in influencing the world political processes? Isn't the stationing of the Russian military at a Kyrgyz air base an attempt to change the balance of forces again?
Answer: I think that the policy of a balance of forces and of a struggle for spheres of influence belongs to the past. It no longer corresponds to the realities of the 21st century, when all the states of the world need jointly to counter such global challenges and threats as international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking or organized crime. To deal with these and other problems is only possible together, by combining efforts and by acting jointly, in the spirit of partnership. This determines our approach to the developments in the Balkans, in Central Asia and elsewhere. All rivalry is counterproductive here. On the contrary, the ensuring of stability and sustainable development require coordinated actions by all the interested states and international structures. But of course we are going to continue to seek respect for the lawful interests of Russia in the Eurasian region.
Question: How extensive does the US influence on Georgia appear to Russia? How does Russia envision a solution to the regional conflicts there?
Answer: Georgia is a sovereign country, and it is not for us to assess its relations with other states. For us it is important that Tbilisi, judging by the statements and certain steps of the Georgian leadership, recognizes the importance of developing friendly and good-neighborly relations with Russia. These statements are being buttressed by the concrete actions of Georgia, in particular, in the fostering of cooperation with us in questions of the protection of the Russian-Georgian frontier and counteraction against international terrorism.
As far as the conflicts on the territory of Georgia are concerned, their settlement should be accomplished solely by political means. In respect of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia there exist the approved negotiating mechanisms. In Georgian-Abkhaz affairs it is primarily the Geneva special-purpose groups on economic cooperation, the return of displaced persons and refugees and the questions of policy and security; the Coordination Council of the Georgian and Abkhaz Sides; and the Group of Friends of the UN Secretary General. In addition, there is the really operating Sochi Process, aimed at implementing the accords reached in March 2003 by the presidents of Russia and Georgia with the participation of the Abkhaz side and reaffirmed at the meeting between Putin and Saakashvili in February of this year. In Georgian-Ossetian settlement the main role belongs to the Mixed Control Commission with the participation of Russia and the OSCE. In both cases, peacekeeping operations have been established and are functioning that help to effectively ensure the non-resumption of bloodshed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Of course, there are no simple recipes for the settlement of the conflicts persisting on the territory of Georgia. Painstaking work is needed here, aimed at strengthening trust between the sides in the first place. That is why we feel concerned by the ideas of a "march on Sukhumi and Tskhinvali" and a repetition of the "revolution of roses" there that began to be heard after the recent events in Adzharia. It is necessary to refrain from steps which could provoke tension and undermine the processes of settlement.
Question: What is the attitude of Russia to the eastward expansion of NATO - to former Soviet territories?
Answer: As before, we consider that the NATO expansion does not give an answer to any single one of the real challenges with which the countries of Europe and the entire world community are confronted today. It is an inertia of the old approaches, which no longer correspond to the present-day situation. At the same time we do not regard the enlargement of the alliance as an obstacle to building up cooperation within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council and developing our bilateral relations with the old and new members of the North Atlantic Alliance for the sake of moving forward towards a truly collective model of pan-European security.
Question: Russia has declared its readiness to help NATO in Afghanistan, in particular, by providing intelligence. Is Russia prepared to render any other help, among other things participate in the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan?
Answer: Under the G8 agreements, and since not so long ago also in contact with NATO, Russia has been making a contribution to the efforts to normalize the situation in Afghanistan. We are taking part in the building of new Afghan armed forces, which are to be the key factor of military stabilization in the country. Free assistance in this regard in the years 2002-2003 constituted approximately 80 million dollars. Russia has granted Germany the right of transit across its territory of military and other cargo to ensure the activities of the ISAF. We are ready for similar agreements with other major ISAF countries too. Via appropriate channels the exchange of information is under way both with the coalition partners and with the Afghans on the activity of international terrorist organizations and Taliban forces.
Talks are presently being conducted on the settlement of the Afghan debt to Russia. Guided by a desire to lend assistance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Russia is ready to write off a considerable part of the debt and thus contribute to the organization of economic life in the country.
Question: The strategy of the Americans, aimed at the suppression of terrorism by the occupation of the territory of Iraq, has suffered an obvious failure. It has actually contributed to the strengthening of terrorism instead. How can the situation be stabilized?
Answer: There was no connection between the problem of terrorism and the situation in Iraq before the start of the unilateral military action of the US. International terrorists began to penetrate into Iraq after the occupation. In our conviction, a way out of the present impasse is to end the occupation as soon as possible, to restore the state sovereignty of Iraq and to transfer power into the hands of its people. That's what resolution 1546 is all about, which was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council. If the Iraqis feel that that prospect is real, that Iraq will be able to soon become a truly independent state, then I am certain the situation will begin to change for the better.
We hope that the transfer of power in the country to the interim government, the formation of which special adviser of the UN Secretary General Lakhdar Brahimi is now concerned with, will constitute an important step in just this direction. It is of fundamental importance that this process should be transparent and help ensure the legitimacy of the interim government in the eyes of the population of Iraq and the world community, rather than being perceived as only a "change of scenery."
Question: Under what circumstances would Russia be ready to take a military part in the peacekeeping operation in Iraq?
Answer: The question of a Russian military presence in Iraq is not being considered. At the same time we are ready to participate in the process of assistance to a political settlement under the aegis of the UN and to the economic revival of Iraq. We have a considerable experience of cooperation with that country, including in such fields as the oil sector, power development, agriculture and a number of others.
Question: Does Russia have its own concept of further development of Iraq?
Answer: I think that, in the first place, resolute and effective steps are needed that can show to the inhabitants of Iraq that they are again becoming the masters of their destiny and of their country. Only thus is it possible to guarantee the success of the reconstruction of Iraq, to remove the fears of the Arab and Islamic world, without whose support there will be no full legitimacy of the new Iraqi authority.
A means for this can be the convocation of an international conference or round table with the enlistment of the broadest spectrum of political forces of the country and a solid international participation, including the neighboring countries, the League of Arab States and the members of the UN Security Council.
Question: What role can the UN play in the future world pattern in the light of the fact that the United States is now taking independent decisions in dealing with conflicts, and Israel has been permanently ignoring the resolutions of the UN Security Council?
Answer: It is obvious that the UN can do only what the member states are ready for. However, my entire experience of work in this Organization indicates that if the United Nations did not exist, there would be immeasurably more problems in the world.
The nature of the present-day challenges demands a collective response, and the UN has unique capabilities for that, since it is a universal organization and possesses an indisputable legitimacy. It is not without meaning that in Iraq too the coalition partners were forced to return to the UN legal field in a search for ways of political settlement and postwar reconstruction in the country. As to the Middle East, it is UNSC resolution 1515 that has given the roadmap for Palestinian-Israeli settlement a binding character. The same also holds for many other international problems. Therefore we consider the strengthening of the central role of the UN an essential precondition for ensuring reliable security in the world.
Question: Many people believe that the cornerstone in the fight against terrorism is a resolution of the Middle East conflict. The government of Israel follows the course of force, destroying leaders of radical Palestinian organizations. Is that constructive? Where may such a "roadmap" lead to?
Answer: The unsettledness of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a breeding ground for extremism. So we are in favor of the speediest achievement of a lasting and just peace in the region on the basis of the strict implementation by the parties of the roadmap's provisions.
Israel has the right to self-defense and the protection of its citizens, but it should be exercised in accordance with international humanitarian law. I think that it is in the interest of Israel to give up steps that lead to a fanning of enmity and, in the final analysis, bring grist to the mill of extremism. Naturally, drastic steps to curb terrorists are required of the Palestinian leadership as well.
Question: What role do you allot to Russia in the negotiating process on North Korea? What are your aims?
Answer: The role of Russia in resolving the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula is dictated primarily by the interests of ensuring security in that region, lying in direct proximity to our borders. Along with the other participants in the continuing six-party negotiating process we are striving, first of all, to retain all of the Korean Peninsula in the sphere of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
We are convinced that a solution to this problem suiting all the partners in the negotiations and primarily the DPRK and the US can and should be achieved by peaceful, political methods. A mutual regard for concerns is necessary and the maximally flexible approach of each of the partners. Within the framework of the six-party format we are submitting our concrete ideas regarding the search of constructive solutions.
Question: Do you see the possibility of a reunification of North and South Korea? Does a possibility exist to establish control over the North Korean nuclear potential?
Answer: The efforts of North and South Koreas that have been made over a period of more than thirty years to find a common language and to start the process of national reconciliation and rapprochement have led as of now to a steady inter-Korean dialogue and many-sided cooperation. The dialogue of the two Koreas continues to develop, despite the complicated situation in connection with the nuclear problem. Moreover, it acts as an important factor of preserving stability on the peninsula.
We believe that the drawing closer of the two Koreas, up to and including their reunification, is a historically conditioned, natural process. Russia is an active supporter of that prospect, of course, on the understanding that this will take place in a peaceful, democratic way.
The prospects of inter-Korean rapprochement depend not least on a resolution of the nuclear problem presupposing, in particular, international control over the implementation of the DPRK's nuclear program. Pyongyang in principle expresses consent to this if its concerns regarding security guarantees are taken into account and the much needed economic and humanitarian aid is provided.
Question: Rumors have perpetually been appearing in the press that the pro-Western policy of the Kremlin encounters the resentment of a number of power structures, in part also the Foreign Ministry. How strong is this resistance?
Answer: The foreign policy of Russia is neither "pro-Western" nor "anti-Western." It is a policy in the interests of Russia, which we have been upholding firmly and consistently, but without confrontation, through dialogue and partnership with all the countries ready for that. That line, confirmed in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation endorsed by President Putin, enjoys the broad support of Russian society and the main political forces of the country.