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13 August 202011:33

Ambassador Andrei Kelin’s on The Agenda with Stephen Cole at CGTN

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Question: Thank you very much indeed for talking to us today. Let’s begin with the good bits, the recent parliamentary intelligence and security report which says the UK is a target for Russian disinformation. Is Russia targeting Britain?

Answer: My humble opinion about the whole report is very simple – it does not contain proofs of Russian interference, be it the referendum, the election or internal affairs. NATO has taken a position as a leader of the western world - a policy of deterrence and dialogue towards Russia, and London would like to be a leader in these efforts. But there is 95% deterrence and only 5% of dialogue. I don't believe that the appropriate word here is targeting. We are just producing our own perception and our own views on the subject and basically that is all.

Question: But these stories keep emerging don't they - of Russian hackers? Either political or criminal, targeting Britain’s security or secrets. Is the Russian government worried about all these stories that come out?

Answer: We are not worried about the content of these allegations because, as I say, I haven't seen any proof to it, but we are worried about other things – in the recent days, in the media here in Britain, a lot of mud has been thrown in our direction. It of course provides little appetite in Moscow to develop dialogue.

Question: Let me ask you how you or how Moscow regards relations between the UK and Russia? I mean there has been some mud thrown as you said, how can you repair relations, what is the state of relations?

Answer: The state of relations is difficult. Political contacts are close to being frozen. And this is very bad. I have seen some expression of intentions to review this policy, to restart a relationship in the political field. But all of this is being damaged by thise attacks again and again. I do not know whether it is the change of policy here in London or it is just a coincidence of different subjects. Magnitsky Law, then allegations about interference, then about hacking for the coronavirus vaccine which is nonsense, of course, because we have already developed it. We have developed at least four different coronavirus vaccines and I hope the trials will be finished pretty soon and pretty soon they are going to apply this vaccine on the population.

Question: Will you share the secrets of those vaccines with the West?

Answer: It is not a problem at all. We are for cooperation amongst scientists. British scientists in Oxford, by the way, have a very good relationship with our scientists. Before the lockdown at the end of the last year many of your scientists, heads of universities under the auspices of the Oxford University, made a trip to Moscow. They have sent a lot of them and I do believe that scientific cooperation and interaction will continue even after the lockdown and all these crises.

Question: What do you think needs to be done, at the moment, to repair the damaged relations between London and Moscow?

Answer: A very simple thing. The government in London should be realistic. It should understand the benefits of cooperation and working with Russia but not against Russia. Deterrence is the policy that has been, as I said, taken up against Russia, and of course it is not a cooperation that we have all envisaged.

Question: Can I ask you now about relations, as a diplomat you’ll know, about relations between the US and Russia. What do you make of President Trump’s approach to Russia?

Answer: These relations are much worse off between the US and Russia, I will say, because the ‘Russian factor’ is the main game in the pre-election campaign. It's a kind of competition between Republicans and Democrats: who will make more accusations against Russia. Now we have also a ‘Chinese factor’ added to that but accusations on Russia are still a centerpiece of that. It is very bad to the diplomatic relations, it is very bad to humanitarian relations and others, yet it is different from the UK situation because in the UK there is no electoral competition for the moment. That is why I simply do not understand why the UK always, in the recent weeks, joins theses accusing statements by Washington.

Question: And who would Moscow prefer to see in the White House – President Trump or Joe Biden?

Answers: Well, this is a provocative question. We will work with the one who is going to win the elections and we have no interest in who is going to win.

Question: I'm sure you do. But you're being very diplomatic.

Answer: Believe me, it is not the case. If you ask me whom we are going to prefer here: Conservative or Labour – it does not matter for us. We will just have to work with this or that person for the better.

Question: What is your take then on the decision by the US to withdraw from certain organisations, international organisations and treaties too – including the World Health Organisation and the Paris Climate Accord...these are serious organisations.

Answer: This list is very long. The US has proclaimed an idea that we all should work on the “rules-based order”. But if one looks into this more attentively one will see that the United States is trying to ruin this rules-based order by withdrawing from World Health Organization, from the Paris Climate Accord and many others, for instance, withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran; the two-state solution between Palestine and Israel in the Middle East – they have invented something different, which is bad; they are withdrawing from the INF treaty; they are withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty, they are withdrawing from the International Criminal Court and from a very important organ – the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. It is a long list. All these treaties and organisations represent the international order based on international law. But what is it that is now being called a “rules-based order”? In fact this is an order which is established and ruled by the United States. So we do not understand this dualism – on the one hand trying to establish a legal order and, on the other hand, they are ruining it themselves.

Question: Joe Biden is a favourite now in the polls to take over in the White House – would he reverse some of these decisions do you think?

Answer: Oh hardly. The United States is a very big ship. To reverse the course of this ship, you need an enormous effort, you need to convince the crew, you need to convince the passengers that the ship should be reversed. So it's a long run.

Question: One ship that can't be reversed is Britain leaving the European Union and Brexit. Do you think that will affect Russia's relationship with the UK or indeed affect the relationship with the EU and Europe?

Answer: The United Kingdom was mainly guided by the principles of policy of the European Union. But the policy of the European Union is a lowest common denominator, which is looking at different factors in this field. At the moment Britain will be more independent but the tendency which we are observing for the moment that UK policy is more and more linked to the policy of the United States, and this is worrying us a bit.

Question: Are you saying that Washington is controlling London diplomatically?

Answer: I would not go that far but I also understand that if in the trade negotiations Britain would like to have better positions, then it has to submit certain interest to the policy which is being dictated from Washington.

Question: But the US and UK are traditionally best friends and strongest allies…

Answer: Yes and no, there is some criticism of course, right now voiced in various newspapers, but anyway we do see a certain consolidation of English-speaking nations on different bases, even on the basis of the so-called ‘Five-Eyes’ intelligence union.

Question: Talking of the US and EU, and I’ll come back to Brexit in a moment, the US State Department has called for financial penalties on investors and other business participants in the undersea pipeline that will carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. What is the Russian view towards what is effectively a threat, a financial threat?

Answer: It is not a threat to us but it is more a threat to …

Question: A threat to investors…

Answer: European investors and allies. This is a commercial project which we even did not initiate – it was initiated by Germany. Imposing sanctions on it, extraterritorial sanctions, or, as it is now going on, threatening companies that are involved into this – this is unscrupulous really, this is inappropriate means of economic competition in the economic field.

Question: Isn’t it a sign of the US worrying that Germany is going to be over-reliant on Russian energy?

Answer: This is a matter for Germany of course and other countries who do believe that this gas will be cheaper for them than the liquid gas imported from the United States. And here you have to choose the economic side and the political side but as I understand...

Question: And often they are very closely linked.

Answer: …Often you do not count money being guided only by political considerations. Business is proceeding from economic reasons, this is natural. But this handling of the allies and handling of Europe by Washington, for us, it is not un-understandable at all.

Question: So, are you saying that Washington is worried about the deal on economic grounds not diplomatic, or sort of power grounds?

Answer: I mean absolutely opposite... because the import of liquid gas from the United States costs much more than the gas that is supplied by pipelines from Russia.

Question: Is the European market important for Russia in terms of power because Gazprom could well look to other markets, perhaps bigger markets like Asian markets?

Answer: And we are doing so. There are pipelines under construction to China, different parts of China that we are going to supply – this is an enormous market. But Europe of course will remain within the scope of our attention. It is about 20% of our trade and we will continue to work with Europe, we will not abandon Europe, we are a European nation and a lot of trade and relations continue to be in this field.

Question: So coming back to Brexit – was Moscow disappointed at the UK voting to leave Europe?

Answer: We do not have any feeling about that. This is up to the UK to decide whether it feels more comfortable outside of the European Union or being inside the European Union. For us, it doesn't make a big difference. In economic terms, of course there is an opportunity for Russia to develop stronger relationship with the UK in the field of trade and investment. Even at the moment it is very important I should say, and trade continues to increase in the recent years. Some barriers which have been posed by European Union in our trade have already fallen. But we still do not see any activity of UK government that would show that they wish to establish good and proper economic terms with us since there are political barriers to this.

Question: You mentioned in your previous answer about China and power links to China - what is the state of relations between China and Russia?

Answer: I think it is partnership relations and they are going pretty well in economic terms, in terms of trade, in terms of partnership even in strategic areas. We feel we can be partners with China and we have a long story of partnership and different relationships. So I think that we have a good future together.

Question: In what areas do you have relationships with China?

Answer: In different areas, but more importantly we have a certain partnership in strategic areas. I mean political-military field. We are doing maneuvers together, there is a partnership between armed forces as well – all this helps. And more important is that our positions in international relations coincide more and more. Also in the Security Council, we more and more vote together on similar subjects – we have similar positions towards Iran, towards Syria and in many other areas.

Question: Well, you must therefore be disappointed by this recent international conference that started to talk about a cold war saying the US stance towards China in particular could be a threat to “all of humanity” - what do you make of that?

Answer: I do believe that this development is very bad. I was a witness of the Cold War. I remember how it happened and how bad it was, of course. For me such a sudden turn in the United States towards spoiling relations with China was a surprise. Even bigger surprise was to see that the UK is making U-turn on China. If you remember, even in March there was pretty good dialogue between the UK and China. China sent a plane to UK with equipment to beat coronavirus. There were government conversations at the top but suddenly, two or three months after that, things have turned around totally.

Question: What caused that turnaround?

Answer: That's a good question. If you know, tell me, please.

Question: You're looking bewildered about talk of a Cold War then?

Answer: By all means we need to avoid any cold war and any course of events that may be going in this direction.

Question: I mean there’s been so much change during this pandemic. Not least economically, the world is a very difficult place economically. I think - was it - 8 trillion is going to be wiped off GDP because of the pandemic. Is there a role for Russia going forward economically to try and solve some of these problems?

Answer: You know that in the beginning of the pandemic, in April I believe, late March and April, there were a lot of articles and a lot of opinions of how the world is going to change after the pandemic. There were predictions that either there will be a new war or there will be overall brotherhood of mankind, the end of history, as it has been said before. But more and more I'm becoming convinced that not much is going to change. Things will remain in place with one exception – that all of us, including the UK, US, Russia and all other states, have suffered economically very seriously. It means that GDP is lost and definitely we will have to spend in the coming years for restoration of the past level of economics before going forward.

Question: So we're all suffering, we're all in the same boat economically. We’ve all got to pay for Covid-19.

Answer: Absolutely.

Question: But is it damaging countries’ relationships? You hinted towards this earlier, in terms of how the situation suddenly has changed in the last few months?

Answer: The policy of my country is cooperation in fighting coronavirus, cooperation in fighting economical disadvantages. But some would still like to make alliances over it. They would like to be friends with some countries and to deter other countries, to divide, to make differences. This is a detrimental policy.

Question: A lot of gloom and doom after three or four months into the pandemic. Is there, Mr Ambassador, any light at the end of the tunnel? What cheers you up when you're out playing tennis?

Answer: What cheers me up is that the studies on the vaccine, at least in my country, they are very close to a happy end and sooner or later, perhaps in Autumn, we are going to start to use this vaccine to vaccinate the population which is very important and which shows us that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Question: We talked about the relationship between the UK and Russia but not too much about the relationship between the EU and Russia, could you expand a little more on that relationship?

Answer: I cannot say that they are prosperous because we are still under sanctions after the Crimean crisis in 2014, and since that time we have not reestablished a good relationship although trade has been going up in the recent years. The European Union is being guided by five principles, namely that the European Union will have a dialogue with Russia on selective items which are of interest for the European Union, which narrows very much the agenda as compared to what it has been before 2014. It is linked with the crisis in Ukraine, it is linked with the Minsk Agreements. However, the attitude in Ukraine towards the Minsk Agreements is absolutely different. They do not want to implement Minsk Agreements because in this case the European Union will have to lift sanctions from us, so it is a big paradox of course. I know that a certain review inside Brussels is going on but I don't believe that we will straighten up relationships pretty soon.

Stephen Cole: Mr Ambassador, thank you very much indeed for talking to us at CGTN.

Ambassador Kelin: Thank you very much for the good questions.




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