Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security, Moscow, June 24, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be invited once again to address the Moscow Conference on International Security, which is organised by the Defence Ministry of Russia. We are pleased that participants from many states and multilateral organisation are attending it despite the pandemic. I regard this as a shared interest in combining our efforts to improve the international situation and find the best possible solutions to numerous challenges of our time. I am sure that the high level of representation at this event will promote the achievement of these goals.
Eighty years ago today, on June 22, 1941, our homeland was attacked by Nazi Germany, which had occupied nearly all of Europe by that time. The tragedy of World War II is a vivid reminder of what a betrayal of the principle of equal and indivisible security and a feeling of superiority can lead to.
It was through enormous sacrifice and huge losses, above all of the Soviet peoples, that Nazism was defeated and our civilisation was saved. During the terrible war years, the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition demonstrated exceptional teamwork, wisdom, acumen and solidarity, quickly joining forces in the name of routing the aggressor. I would like to remind you that in his letter to Joseph Stalin, dated July 8, 1941, Winston Churchill mentioned the Russian armies’ “strong and spirited resistance to the utterly unprovoked and merciless invasion of the Nazis,” and expressed “general admiration for the bravery and tenacity of the Soviet soldiers.” Of course, we also know what plans Winston Churchill had and what actions he took against our country after the war. But it is quite a different story, which is connected with the current hostile Western policy towards our country, a policy that is rooted in centuries-old history.
Anyway, back then the Allies assumed responsibility for the future of the world and, seeking to prevent a repetition of the tragedy of world wars, created the framework of the post-war system of international law, with the United Nations Organisation as its cornerstone. For the past 75 years, our collaboration at the UN saved the world from a new devastating global conflict and ensured global stability, including despite the difficult relations and natural differences between the leading powers.
Unfortunately, in recent years, a number of Western capitals, led by Washington, have embarked on a path towards destroying the UN-centred security architecture, and are trying to replace the generally recognised norms of international law laid out in the UN Charter with some “rules-based order” that suits them. Various situational coalitions with limited membership, united by common interests, are emerging beyond the framework of universal multilateral organisations, trying to arrogate the right to speak and act on behalf of the whole world. Some of the most controversial examples of such informal networks include the Alliance for Multilateralism project launched by Paris and Berlin and the Summit for Democracy initiative promoted by the United States with the support from NATO and the EU. All this was launched while ignoring the universal framework of the UN, based on the West’s declared right to define, in a convenient circle without opponents, the criteria of behaviour that will later be imposed on all other states. Needless to say, this approach – a small group of countries full of a sense of their superiority, declaring themselves the rulers of the destinies of the rest of the world – undermines the principles of equal collective work based on the UN Charter. This is not conducive to an effective solution to common problems and the situation is fraught with the emergence of new dividing lines in international affairs.
We can see how “bloc thinking” is being imposed in the Asia-Pacific region (APR), which should be free from geopolitical games, especially given its importance as a locomotive of the global economy. Suffice it to mention the Indo-Pacific strategy, promoted by Washington, Australia and Japan and supported by NATO, which considers itself an organisation with a “global mission” – this so-called strategy was designed to blatantly belittle the constructive and unifying role of ASEAN in the region in order to reformat it for the purpose of containing China and isolating Russia. They are not even hiding their goals.
Guided by the outdated Monroe Doctrine, the United States is trying to dictate how Latin America should live and by what standards it should abide. This explains the illegal trade embargo against Cuba. Just yesterday, the UN General Assembly, almost unanimously, voted again to lift this illegal embargo, while only two countries, including the United States, voted against it. We also see the continued pressure on Venezuela to remove its legally elected government, as well as attempts to destabilise Nicaragua.
During official visits in Africa, US emissaries and Washington officials are publicly calling on their African partners to refrain from doing business, engaging in trade or cooperating with Russia and China, claiming that Moscow and Beijing are engaging with Africa out of their own vested interests. Unlike them, the United States and the West are allegedly doing this solely out of good intentions and with the aim of supporting the development of the African peoples.
The situation with strategic stability is highly alarming. Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the INF Treaty was a major blow to the nuclear missile control system. In this context, we were surprised by the absence of the NATO member states’ coherent response to President Vladimir Putin’ proposals on preventing the deployment of ground-launched missiles of this class, both nuclear and conventional ones, in Europe. In his statements, President Putin emphasised Russia’s readiness to coordinate verification measures as well, which the West stubbornly refuses to notice. I would like to point out in this connection that our actions will in any case be aimed at reliably protecting the security of Russia and its allies.
For nearly 30 years, the Treaty on Open Skies helped the signatory countries to better understand each other’s intentions in the military sphere. The United States’ withdrawal from this treaty, unilateral and under far-fetched pretexts, has seriously disrupted the balance of interests and put Russia at a disadvantage in terms of military transparency. Under these circumstances, Moscow’s compliance with the treaty has become completely meaningless. We have launched the termination procedure and have duly notified the depositaries of the treaty. The reaction of NATO and the EU to this absolutely logical move, which we notified them about, is astonishing. They have hypocritically called on Moscow not to destroy the treaty, as if they don’t remember that this crisis is rooted in Washington’s irrevocable decision to pull out of the treaty. While voicing its grievances to us, the West keeps silent about its failure to comply with its obligations under the treaty for the past ten years, when large areas of the national territory of the United States, Canada, Britain and France were closed to Russian observations flights.
NATO’s activities designed to contain Russia (the documents adopted at the bloc’s recent summit show that it is a consistent policy) are building up military and political tensions in Europe. During that summit, NATO has once again demonstrated its inability to break out of the boundaries of a reality it invented. Specifically, NATO strategists mentioned Russia’s “aggressive behaviour” again. Frankly, we did not expect anything different from them. For our part, we remain open to an honest and professional dialogue. Our constructive, substantial and concrete proposals aimed at reducing the military threat along the entire contact line between Russia and NATO have been on the table for nearly two years, but we have not received any response as yet. NATO does not want to interact at the military level. There’s this “democratic alliance” for you.
Of course, any attempts to improve the situation in the Euro-Atlantic region are hampered by Kiev’s policy of provoking a confrontation between NATO and Russia in an attempt to distract attention from its refusal to comply with the Minsk agreements, which have been approved by the UN Security Council and so have become part of international law. I would like to urge Kiev’s Western patrons once again to influence their Ukrainian wards and force them to honour their commitments and to stop their aggressive attack against Russian speakers and other ethnic minorities.
I am confident that provided there is the good will and readiness to achieve middle ground, one can find a mutually acceptable solution to any situation. The new US administration provided a good example of how to address international security challenges by agreeing to Russia’s proposal to extend the New START Treaty for five years without any preconditions. This step provided the basis for resuming a comprehensive dialogue with Washington on the future of arms control and the maintenance of strategic stability. This is stated in the joint statement by President Vladimir Putin and President Joe Biden adopted at the summit in Geneva on June 16. In the same document, the leaders reaffirmed their adherence to the critical principle whereby there can be no winner in a nuclear war, so it should never be started.
We believe that the main objective of further efforts on the bilateral Russia-US track should be the development of a new security equation that encompasses, without exception, all factors affecting strategic stability. I’m referring to nuclear and non-nuclear, offensive and defensive weapons.
Speaking of other WMD-related issues, the task of putting an end to violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is high on the agenda. The West is perverting the very foundation of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was created to implement the convention, having, in fact, adopted a course towards privatisation of its secretariat and using it as an instrument of pressure on governments the West views as “objectionable.” This is what they are trying to do with regard to Syria.
Another area of focus when it comes to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the need to reinforce, as best we can, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons. We have been proposing this for decades now, but the United States has consistently and stubbornly avoided discussing the creation of this universal mechanism. In the meantime, it is expanding its military biological activities by way of creating military biological labs, including along Russia’s borders.
Russia is a Eurasian and a Euro-Pacific power, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and one of the guarantors of the inviolability of the UN-centred international order. We are making a significant contribution to strengthening international security in all its dimensions. Suffice it to mention our efforts to defeat the international terrorists in Syria and to establish a broad political dialogue between the government and the opposition.
In late 2020, Russia played, without exaggeration, a key role in stopping the bloodshed in Nagorno-Karabakh and creating conditions for restoring peace throughout South Caucasus. In conjunction with other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, we continue to help the parties strengthen trust and implement humanitarian projects.
We are constructively participating in the efforts to resolve the situation in Afghanistan, Libya, around the Iranian nuclear programme, on the Korean Peninsula, and other hot spots.
Innovative technology is roaring its way into our lives today, opening up great opportunities, but it is carrying enormous risks as well. We are concerned by the individual states’ plans to militarise cyberspace and to unleash a dangerous cyber arms race. For our part, we are working energetically on the adoption of a code of responsible conduct of states in the global cyberspace from the point of view of each country’s interests in military-political security. Concurrently, we are promoting the draft universal convention on fighting cybercrime. Both our initiatives received wide consensus support during the last session of the UN General Assembly. Special negotiating mechanisms have been created in these areas, which will review these two critical projects with the participation of all states. We look forward to seeing our cooperation on information security continue through bilateral channels. Among other things, we would like to see a productive dialogue on cybersecurity with the United States, as discussed during the Geneva summit.
Overall, we are convinced that the time is right to seriously discuss an updated inclusive architecture of global security that relies on modern multipolar realities. Clearly, the UN Security Council permanent members have a special responsibility. This is what President Vladimir Putin had in mind when he proposed holding a Big Five summit. It could be used to reaffirm the underlying principles of communication between nation states, as well as to try to work out ways to find effective collective solutions to the most pressing challenges of our time based on the rapidly unfolding international developments. We hope this could be an in-person meeting, as soon as the epidemiological situation permits.
Also, it is time to effect major changes in the OSCE. We have submitted a detailed initiative to the OSCE aimed at returning it to its original purpose which is to provide a framework for cooperation based on the principle of indivisible security through mutually respectful dialogue and respect for the principle of consensus.
In order to effectively cut short the threats to international security, Russia remains open to the broadest possible cooperation and will continue to work to promote genuine multilateralism and the central coordinating role of the UN in international affairs. To this end, we will continue to closely cooperate with our allies and like-minded partners in the EAEU, the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, BRICS, and other associations, and individual states in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
We are working to implement President Putin’s strategic initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership on our common Eurasian continent. This is a wide continental contour for combining the efforts of the countries and various Eurasian entities in the interests of security and promoting competitive advantages in the global economy.
It goes without saying that we are ready for a dialogue with our Western colleagues, but only if it’s based on equality, mutual respect and the search for a fair balance of interests rather than the ultimatums we keep hearing and which demand that Russia “change its ways” before the West even agrees to talk to us. We all went to school. Our teachers also admonished us. But those were teachers we loved and recognised.
I wish you all the best and every success. Thank you.