Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the meeting in Mongolia’s Foreign Ministry, Ulan-Bator, April 14, 2016
Distinguished colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
It was a great pleasure for me to accept my colleague, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia Mr Lundeg Purevsuren’s suggestion to share Russia’s vision of the situation in today’s world and considerations regarding key global development trends. Today, against the backdrop of a turbulent and ever-changing system of international relations, this kind of interaction is especially important. This meeting reflects the high level of trust in our bilateral strategic partnership.
The world is about to enter a new historical era. We have every reason to make this conclusion. A multipolar architecture of international relations is in the making. This is an objective process reflecting the cultural and civilizational diversity in today’s world, the emergence and strengthening of new centres of power and influence, and the natural aspiration of people to take ownership of their future. The developments over the last several years have revealed the elusive nature of attempts to create a unipolar world order and aspirations for global dominance. It is obvious that in the current environment, no single state – be it the most powerful one – or a group of countries can aspire to efficiently resolve the issues of today’s world on its own.
Against this backdrop, it is now a question of finding a reasonable balance between national interests and collective diplomatic efforts based upon a genuine partnership between key global players who are committed to finding the best answers to major challenges and threats that are relevant for all of us. In fact, this is a choice between attempts to secure leadership by all means and impose one’s own will, on the one hand, and on the other hand, to ensure that competition, which is natural occurrence when it comes to framing a new world order, is civilised and based upon international law and common rules. Of course, Russia chooses the second path. While pursuing an independent foreign policy, we are also seeking to promote a positive, forward-looking agenda, and are committed to improving the international situation and making it less prone to conflict. In doing so, Russia relies on a number of formats, and contributes to the work of the UN, the G20, BRICS, the EAEU, the SCO and other multilateral structures. We are unwaveringly open to the development of mutually beneficial partnerships will all countries and integration associations that are willing to reciprocate.
The fact that only together can we overcome the problems we face in today’s world is confirmed by recent developments, such as the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, the agreement to rid Syria of chemical weapons and the launching of a political settlement process in that country, while also sustaining a ceasefire and addressing humanitarian issues. Other important resolutions by the UN Security Council and the recent agreement on fighting climate change were adopted along the same lines.
On the other hand, attempts to impose petty interests and make someone’s own values and development models universal, including through the use of force, invariably lead to deplorable results. Such short-sighted actions have created a power vacuum in a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which was instantly exploited by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups.
We have long been saying that the extremist virus could dangerously spill over beyond MENA. Unfortunately, the international community has not been able to come up with a coordinated response to this threat. What stood in the way were ambitions and vicious geopolitical engineering practices whereby terrorists are divided into the bad ones and those who can be used in pursuit of one’s own aims. The never-ending wave of terrorist attacks across the world not only demonstrates the barbaric nature of the ideology and activities of ISIS and the like. This is also proof that in today’s interconnected world attempts to build isolated “security oases” or walls in order to fence off restive neighbours are doomed to failure.
Today, there is a need to put aside differences and come together in the fight against terrorism without any preconditions. This is the gist of the initiative put forward by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2015 regarding the creation of a broad counter-terrorist front based on universal principles of international law.
It is this logic that underpins the operations conducted by the Russian Aerospace Forces at the request of the Syrian authorities. Russian Aerospace Forces have dealt a heavy blow to ISIS and other terrorist groups operating in Syria, and helped reverse the momentum on the ground. At the same time, this created favourable conditions for promoting an inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue and a real peace process aimed at reaching a UN-led political settlement that would preserve Syria as a single, integral, sovereign and secular state. We expect intra-Syrian talks that are about to resume in Geneva to yield tangible results.
Regrettably, certain countries’ policy towards Russia, particularly connected with the developments in Ukraine, is not conducive to fruitful cooperation in the counterterrorist and other fields. I will not go into detail on the origins of the Euro-Atlantic crisis, which results from Western countries’ stubborn reluctance to base our dialogue on genuine partnership. The short-sighted desire to seize geopolitical space and divide nations into friends and enemies got the upper hand. The situation reached its peak with the Ukrainian coup d’etat, backed by the United States and some European Union countries. When armed nationalists unconstitutionally seized power in Kiev to push their country to the brink of disintegration and unleashed civil war in Donbass with their irresponsible moves, Washington and Brussels shifted the whole blame onto Russia. I think such a policy is immoral and bound to lead us into a deadlock.
We consistently offered our US partners to build stable and predictable cooperation based on the principle of equality. Such cooperation is essential in the modern world. I reiterate, a balanced collective approach to problems and pooled efforts of all key players are presently the only effective way to seek answers to problems and challenges we share. That is what makes cooperation especially topical.
The West is beginning to realise that it is impossible to isolate Russia in the world today, as demonstrated by the recent visit to Moscow by my American colleague, Secretary of State John Kerry. It proved once again that the United States needs our support in essential international issues and joint efforts on burning regional problems.
Russia and the United States continue to work together intensively as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group. We have coordinated a roadmap for the Syria settlement, increased humanitarian access to those in need, and launched the relevant political process with decisions endorsed by UN Security Council resolutions. Moscow and Washington are in a dynamic top-level dialogue on this and other issues. The two presidents met four times in September-November 2015 and have had four telephone conversations since the beginning of this year.
Russia is not interested in a confrontation with the United States, NATO and the European Union, and has never launched such a confrontation, which would clearly undermine efforts toward the optimum scenario of global development. We hope that Russian-US contacts will return to normal over time. There is no way to normalise our relations except on the basis of mutual respect and balanced interests. Indicatively, the Russia-NATO Council meeting due to be held April 20 – the first since NATO froze relations with Russia – is convened on NATO’s initiative. This fact speaks for itself.
Against the backdrop of the events in Ukraine, the European Union suspended dialogue mechanisms with Russia, imposed restrictions on Russian individuals and companies, and began pressing Russia to implement the Minsk Agreements, which were signed on February 12 last year, despite the fact that Russia is not mentioned there at all, nor is it a party to the conflict. The main commitments lay upon Kiev. As it sticks to this controversial and illogical stance, the European Union simply encourages the Kiev authorities to sabotage the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures.
At the same time, we believe that there are no problems in our relations with the EU that cannot be resolved if both sides show their goodwill. In order to overcome this negative trend and return to the path of multi-faceted partnership, it is necessary to drop the vicious logic of unilateral actions. In other words, no more “business as usual” style when certain agreements and cooperation models are being forced upon us. Nevertheless, we still proceed from the assumption that it is in our mutual interests to harmonise integration processes, which would result in the EAEU becoming a real bridge between Europe and Asia, helping generate new sources of sustainable development.
Unfortunately, things are taking a different turn. We are witnessing an unprecedented build-up of military activity and military presence of NATO on its so-called eastern flank since the end of the Cold War as part of the Alliance’s efforts to put military and political pressure on our country and deter it. Actually, they are not making a secret of it, but saying it openly. And all that is being accompanied by an aggressive propaganda campaign to demonise Russia. Hit by an acute identity crisis, the Alliance is evidently preoccupied with the search for an enemy to justify its further existence. But this is not helpful in finding ways to respond to real, and not fabricated, challenges and threats.
Russia does not intend and will not allow itself to be dragged into a meaningless confrontation. We are convinced that there is no reasonable alternative to mutually profitable and broad all-European cooperation in the area of security and on the basis of its indivisibility and international law.
The OSCE has an important role to play during the aggravated situation in global affairs when many dialogue formats have been either frozen or are losing momentum. This organisation can play an important role in efforts to strengthen trust and mutual understanding, to prevent the creation of new demarcation lines and to conduct a mutually respectful discussion of a wide range of issues in the area of security, economics and the humanitarian sphere. We praise Mongolia’s more active involvement in OSCE affairs, as evidenced by the successful session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Ulan-Bator in the fall of 2015.
Russia has always been and continues to be an integral part of the Asia-Pacific Region (APR), and so it will remain. Naturally, the Asia-Pacific area is one of our key foreign policy priorities. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly noted that our interaction with this region is of a strategic nature for Russia, not momentary, and is planned for at least the entire 21st century.
A necessary condition for the development of productive cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region, whose role in the world economy and politics will continue to increase, is greater regional stability. Unfortunately, in recent years, a downward trend has prevailed in the military and political situation in the region: conflicting interests lead to territorial disputes, and the threat of international terrorism has intensified. Drug trafficking, organised crime, illegal migration, piracy, difficulties in ensuring food and energy security have added to the aforementioned problems.
Hence the need to build reliable APR mechanisms for ensuring equal and indivisible security, based on a nonaligned approach, with respect for international law and a commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts, non-use of force, threats of force, or support for any action aimed at overthrowing governments or undermining the stability of other states.
On Russia’s initiative, also supported by China and Brunei, the East Asia Summit launched a dialogue on a reliable and comprehensive regional security framework in the Asia-Pacific Region, applicable to modern realities and taking into account the interests of all countries. In addition to Russia’s proposals, various other countries have expressed interesting ideas, including China, India, and Indonesia. They differ in nuance, but converge in essential ideas. For instance, we know that our Mongolian friends have some valid proposals with regard to Northeast Asia. We will contribute to the harmonisation of all these initiatives.
Most importantly, the majority of countries show a strong commitment to cooperate in working out the so-called common rules of international interaction. We are confident that only through collective efforts can we achieve true strategic balance, peace and stability in our region.
Of particular concern is the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has ignored UN Security Council demands, and continues to threaten to conduct more nuclear missile tests. We hope that North Korea will listen to the voice of reason, will refrain from further irresponsible steps and realise the futility of hope for the international community’s eventual recognition of North Korea's nuclear status. We are confident that the closure of their nuclear programmes and a complete return to international political and economic life will primarily serve North Korea’s own interests, will create conditions for the realisation of its sovereign rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and outer space.
At the same time we remain concerned about the current trend of using Pyongyang's actions as an excuse for inappropriate and disproportionate responses in the form of a military build-up in Northeast Asia (NEA), including the "injection" of new weapons and changing the balance of forces. We consider it absolutely unacceptable to turn the region into a foothold for the next confrontation, to unleash a nuclear race and deploy a new unit in the US global missile defence system here.
Obviously, mutually acceptable solutions have to be sought in building reliable and effective multilateral international legal mechanisms of peace and security in Northeast Asia, through the formation of a regional environment of mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation. Russia has some well thought-out and developed ideas in this respect. We are ready for substantive cooperation with all participants in the six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and with other interested states, certainly including Mongolia, which has a special interest in contributing to security in Northeast Asia.
Amid the turbulence in world and regional affairs, mechanisms that can have a stabilising impact on international relations and help strengthen consolidating trends with reliance on international law and the central role of the UN are especially relevant. This is precisely the function performed by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Today, the SCO is an association of states that interact closely and productively on the basis of respect for mutual and national interests in the name of the prosperity of their nations and the formation of a truly democratic and just world order. The organisation has asserted itself as an authoritative and influential participant in the system of modern international relations. The SCO’s voice is heeded. This is evidenced by the desire of many states from various parts of the world to establish contact with the SCO and join it as full members, observers or dialogue partners. At last year’s summit in Ufa, a decision was taken to initiate the procedure for granting SCO membership to India and Pakistan. Iran’s application is currently under consideration.
The organisation’s agenda includes the intensification of political and security interaction and deepening economic cooperation, above all in transport, information and telecommunication technology, science, agriculture and the humanitarian sphere. We are confident that Mongolia’s more active involvement in SCO cooperation programmes and projects as an observer state would be in its interest at this stage.
Interdependence, which is growing in the context of globalisation, requires unconventional, innovative approaches towards ensuring sustainable economic development. This objective can only be achieved through concerted efforts, following the logic of partnership and mutual benefit.
To reiterate, we do not set the Eurasian process against other integration processes. We will work to harmonise them and build bridges between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Last May, a free trade zone agreement was signed between the EAEU and Vietnam. The possibility of similar documents being signed with a number of other states in the region, which are showing an interest in close ties with the EAEU, is under consideration. The task of developing cooperation infrastructure in the Central Asian space, including by interlocking the process of building the EAEU and China’s Silk Road Economic Belt project, has been put on the agenda. We attach great importance to interaction in the EAEU-Mongolia format based on the memorandum signed last June. Today, we discussed this with the Mongolian Prime Minister and foreign minister.
We are confident that all these efforts pave the way for the implementation of President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to create an economic partnership with the participation of EAEU, SCO and ASEAN member states, which accounts for almost one-third of the global economy, based on the principles of equality and respect for mutual interests and open to all interested sides. We hope that the May ASEAN-Russia Summit in Sochi, timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Dialogue Partnership between Russia and ASEAN, will provide a significant impulse to this work. Steady progress in all these areas can eventually lead to the formation of a kind of a cooperation hub that would be a generator in ensuring secure development across the vast territory of the Eurasian continent.
An important stabilising role in regional and global processes is played by comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and our common neighbour, the People’s Republic of China. Russia-China relations have achieved an unprecedented level in their entire history and are a positive factor contributing to the preservation of the legal framework and the establishment of reasonable and balanced approaches in international affairs. Our countries have similar or very close positions on key present-day issues, consistently advocating the formation of a new polycentric world order based on law and respect for nations’ identity and their independent choice of a path of development. We collaborate with China efficiently and closely in various multilateral formats, above all at the UN, the G20, BRICS and the SCO. Since 2010, China has been Russia’s main trading partner. Strategic energy projects are being implemented and cooperation in high-tech sectors – space, aircraft-making, nuclear engineering and defence technology – is developing steadily.
We attach considerable importance to the evolution of the new tripartite interaction mechanism that was launched upon the initiative of Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj at the meeting of Russian, Mongolian and Chinese leaders in September 2014 in Dushanbe.
We hope that the implementation of the agreements signed and approved by our leaders, Vladimir Putin, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Xi Jinping on July 9, 2015 on the sidelines of the SCO Ufa Summit, will open new prospects for the development of wide-ranging cooperation between our three countries. We are confident that the implementation of these agreements will mark a new stage of interaction between Russia, Mongolia and China. We consider it important to join efforts in implementing the roadmap for cooperation between the three countries and finalising the development of a programme to build an economic corridor between Russia, Mongolia and China as soon as possible, which could be submitted to our leaders for approval on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Tashkent in June.
Dear friends and colleagues, Mongolia is Russia's time-tested strategic partner that occupies a special place in our foreign policy. This year we will celebrate the 95th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. We are united by a common history and brotherhood of arms. In 2014, we jointly celebrated the 75th anniversary of our victory at the Khalkhin Gol River and last year the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Russia remembers well how Mongolia helped it during the war.
Today our bilateral ties are of a comprehensive character. We spoke about this in detail with my Mongolian colleague and with Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg. A conversation with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj is still ahead. Our political dialogue is dynamically developing at top and high levels as well as contacts between our foreign ministries and security councils, inter-parliamentary and regional exchanges. We see sound prospects for restoring the positive dynamics of trade and economic relations. Last January President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on ratifying the 2014 inter-governmental agreement on settling Mongolia’s financial obligations to Russia, which opens very good additional opportunities for developing investment cooperation. Implementation of the medium-term programme for the development of bilateral strategic partnership, which was signed today, will further consolidate our cooperation. We are open to promoting ties in the economy, education, science and culture and the humanitarian area.
We value the achieved level of coordination at various multilateral venues where our positions on most key issues are either similar or identical. We hope that our Mongolian friends will continue their traditional support for our priorities in the UN and other international organisations.
We believe that the successful holding of the anniversary ASEM summit in Ulan-Bator next July will considerably enhance Mongolia’s international positions and facilitate the further development of its cooperation with all interested countries. We will continue helping our Mongolian friends with its preparations and the elaboration of final documents.
We hope that we will impart a tangible influence to the further deepening of our bilateral ties by concerted effort. There is a Mongolian saying: “You will survive in a desert with a friend but perish in a flourishing steppe without him.” I agree with this 100 percent. We would like to facilitate the consolidation of our partnership together with you in every possible way.
Question: Three new members were admitted to APEC in 1998: Russia, Vietnam and Peru. After that, a 10-year moratorium on the admission of new members was introduced. What do you think about APEC’s prospects and expansion?
Sergey Lavrov: APEC has very good prospects, especially now that the global trade and economic space is threatened with fragmentation. Regional and sub-regional initiatives are actively promoted. Suffice it to mention the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that were designed as closed venues, at least until they formulate the rules of the game in this closed format. If other countries are interested in joining them, they will have to follow the rules that were drafted without their participation. This creates risks for the global trade system, the universal norms and principles that underlie WTO ideas.
Participants in APEC events in the past few years set forth the tasks, with the active contribution of Russia and China, to prevent the erosion of a common trade, economic and investment space and the formation of closed blocs and, conversely, to facilitate the harmonisation of all relevant initiatives. Apart from the US-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership, there are such concepts as the China-promoted Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership and the open Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that was also advanced by China. I believe APEC is now facing a very important task – to facilitate the harmonisation of all integration processes in this enormous space.
As for membership in APEC, there was a moratorium on the accession of new members, as you rightly observed. This was linked with the apprehensions of some APEC members about the efficiency of the endlessly expanding structure. Russia has never been an advocate of the moratorium’s endless prolongation. We were ready to cancel it at any time. Now when this is happening, we will constructively review the applications of new members for joining this association.
Question: Participants in the Russia-Mongolia-China trilateral meeting this year plan to consider the “economic corridor” programme where Mongolia will be a link between the neighbouring economies. What could you say about its role in this? What are the prospects of cooperation between Russia, Mongolia and China?
Sergey Lavrov: I’ve already touched on this issue in my opening remarks. The prospects are very good. We are grateful to Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj for this initiative. Russia, Mongolia and China have already held two summits at the level of heads of state. The third is under discussion now. Most probably, the parties will decide to hold it on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Tashkent this summer.
Indeed, the roadmap for trilateral cooperation was approved at the Ufa summit attended by the three presidents – Vladimir Putin, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Xi Jinping. In essence, the programme is ready. I’m convinced that our experts will do everything for it to be presented for assessment by our leaders on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Tashkent. The prospects are most encouraging, I believe.
The role of good neighbours was allotted to us by history itself, and primarily by geography. Having received our countries and their geographical locations from our ancestors, Russia, Mongolia and China have been and continue doing everything to use this heritage with the maximum advantage for our nations, based on mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests.
I won’t list all the provisions of the roadmap approved by the three leaders at the Ufa summit last year. All objectives included into this important document are aimed at achieving practical, tangible results for our citizens. This is why I’m so optimistic about the future of this trilateral chain.
Question: Dramatic changes are underway, including in global politics. It would be useful to talk to our Russian counterparts to find out more about Russia’s position. I proposed to the Embassy’s diplomats to hold a conference on Russia’s presence as a state in the Middle East and in Syria, but received no answer, apparently for the lack of funds. I’d like such meetings of experts from both countries to be held in Moscow or Ulan-Bator on a regular basis.
The Philippines has filed a suit with the arbitration court against China on the disputed territories. What is Russia’s position? How can states prevent such conflicts?
Sergey Lavrov: I think that generally it is a good idea to hold more frequent meetings, conferences, seminars and forums with Russian and Mongolian academics, lawyers, political scientists to discuss current issues at the forefront of international life, including Syria, the Middle East and North Africa. I’m not aware of the reasons for the failure to hold the event you mentioned, so I won’t speculate. I don’t think it happened because they were averse to the idea. Perhaps there were some technical or logistical problems. I can assure you it is possible to overcome them. If the institution headed by you suggests holding joint events in keeping with what you said, I will certainly support them.
As for the Philippines and generally the territorial disputes that have broken out around the islands and areas in the South China Sea and East China Sea, we are not a party to the conflict. Our position is determined by the wish, natural for any normal country, to see disputes resolved directly between the countries involved in a peaceful political and diplomatic manner, without any interference from third parties or any attempts to internationalise these disputes.
Regrettably, such attempts have taken place. We can witness them during various multilateral events in the Asia Pacific, be it the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum or any other format. Unfortunately, I’m sure the attempts to internationalise these issues will continue at the upcoming ASEM Forum in Ulan-Bator. This trend has prevailed so far, despite being counterproductive. Only parties to the conflict can resolve their dispute through direct talks.
We welcome any efforts in this area and see that China and ASEAN member states are working together to seek answers to these controversial issues. China and ASEAN have agreed to launch dialogue on this matter based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is important, as it is a fundamental document. China and ASEAN also adopted the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2002. Then they approved the guiding principles to implement this declaration. The parties, China and the respective ASEAN states, are now developing a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. We actively welcome this process. We won’t interfere in it. We believe that other countries should also encourage these efforts and refrain from taking sides or using these ongoing disputes to get any geopolitical unilateral advantage in the region or to isolate one country or another. Such plans obviously exist.
Question: After the first round of sanctions against Russia, a representative of the Mongolian delegation at a conference of the Socialist International suggested the idea of introducing a moratorium on trade sanctions. At the time, we were concerned that the issue would not stop with the first round of sanctions and would lead to an escalation, subsequently affecting global economic growth. As we know, there was also a second round of sanctions. The issue of a moratorium is still relevant. What is the outlook for this idea with regard to Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: We did not introduce sanctions against our Western partners, and we also did not initiate this “exchange of courtesies.” They resorted to this illegitimate, one-sided method upon their own initiative in a situation where – let’s face it – their Ukraine regime change project fell through, when it slipped out of control and avowed national radicals came to power in Kiev, who, to put it bluntly, jeopardised the existence of ethnic Russians and other ethnic minorities in Ukraine. It was stated in no uncertain terms that a Russian will never think like a Ukrainian and so all Russians must be banished from Crimea and other parts of Ukraine. This was how the counteraction against these openly nationalist, radical, neo-Nazi trends began, when local councils in eastern Ukraine refused to accept the anti-constitutional coup d’etat. After that, the new Ukrainian authorities first sent their governors (or whatever they were called) to replace the old ones. When that failed to work, when those governors were rejected, they announced that the army, the national guard and various nationalist battalions would be used in the so-called antiterrorist operation with de-facto support, to reiterate, from Western countries. The fact that this happened after the opposition, on which the West had placed its bet, treacherously tore up the agreement signed with Ukrainian President Yanukovych, even though it was signed by France, Germany and Poland, must have unsettled some of our Western partners. They simply took it out on Russia and again looked for someone to blame. Meanwhile, we had only defended those who had come under threat, including a physical threat, on the part of the coup organisers who had seized power in Kiev.
When sanctions were announced, we realised that our Western colleagues were doing that not because they wanted to but because they were dissatisfied with the objective trends of global development where it is impossible to deal with any issues in the world single-handedly, by dictate and ultimatums, when it is necessary to come to agreement and resolve all problems by taking into account the interests of all countries involved in these processes or, when this concerns internal political processes, look for a balance of interests between various political, ethnic and religious forces and promote the national conciliation process and search for national accord.
Naturally, we could not put up with such illegitimate actions against Russia’s legitimate interests. We responded with countermeasures, primarily because, in addition to punishing us politically, the Western sanctions are aimed at closing off credit channels, including for our agricultural sector. Given that the EU itself provides a huge amount of subsidies to its own agricultural producers, they simply wanted to put us at a disadvantage in an unscrupulous competition. Then we had to defend our agricultural producers, abandoning, I hope temporarily, the import of certain agricultural and food products from countries that have declared sanctions against Russia.
This is a prehistory to the issue, and I had to tell about this. I would like to reiterate another important point. We are not asking, we have not asked and will never ask our Western partners to lift these sanctions. When we meet with them we never bring up the issue. They are the ones who become nervous at our meetings and in their public statements start saying that “as soon as Russia implements the Minsk Agreements these sanctions will be lifted.” This is their wish and, at the same time, their helplessness. They know very well that the Minsk Agreements make no reference to Russia but almost every paragraph of these agreements sets tasks to the Ukrainian authorities and the deadlines for accomplishing them. All of this has been disrupted. Today, understanding that they are incapable of “educating” their clients in Kiev accordingly, at least ensuring that they keep their promises, they are trying to put the blame on us. When they publicly declare their desire to normalise relations with Russia and lift the sanctions as soon as it implements the Minsk Agreements, in reality, those who have at least some knowledge of what is going on and have read the Minsk documents understand that this is a signal to Kiev: keep sabotaging the implementation of your obligations; Russia, not you, will be punished.
This trick, which was promoted by the Russophobic minority at the EU but which the other EU members were forced to accept for various reasons, some due to their inability to stand up to this kind of dictate and some for other considerations, was made a collective position of EU countries. No one is pleased with the sanctions. They are affecting European producers (according to statistics, damages run into the hundreds of billions of euros) and we, too, are inconvenienced by these sanctions. Nevertheless, considering our bitter experience with these sanctions, upon President Vladimir Putin’s directive, we took the decision to ensure our own food security, as well as security in all other key areas. This is not autarchy, not self-isolation, but a sensible and reasonable approach in response to the behaviour of our traditional partners. It is clearly unacceptable to wait until they turn from anger to mercy, lift the absolutely illegitimate sanctions and resume cooperation with us in food and high-tech goods, including dual purpose goods that we need to strengthen our defence capability. Now we have firmly decided not to put the key sectors that are crucial for the survival of the state at our partners’ whim. You see what a long prehistory this is but I had to say this so that my response to your question is comprehensible.
Generally, the illegitimate and counterproductive nature of unilateral economic measures has been addressed at the UN for more than a decade. This was due to the rejection of the US’s unilateral economic embargo against Cuba by the overwhelming majority of UN member states. Atop the wave of condemnation of this vicious practice, the UN began adopting an annual resolution that was dedicated not so much to Cuba as to the phenomenon of unilateral illegitimate sanctions as such. A corresponding resolution is passed each year by an overwhelming majority, with two or three countries voting against it, together with the US, and with five to six abstentions. This shows how unacceptable the practice that was used against Cuba is to the international community. It is the same practice that is now being used against Russia and a number of other countries.
Our position is that unilateral sanctions that are not approved by the UN Security Council in accordance with the UN Charter should be completely eliminated from international practice. I heard about an initiative suggested by parliamentarians that is consonant to the one put forward by your representative in Socialist International, to the effect that the Inter-Parliamentary Union, PACE and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly take the decision to exclude any unilateral restrictions with regard to members of parliament, since they are all people’s representatives. This has yet to start working. There are those who favour such approaches, but the opposition is enormous.
I would wrap up by saying that there is the UN Charter that refers to economic and other measures of enforcement as a legitimate means of impacting those who violate international law. In accordance with the UN Charter, which was signed and ratified by all countries, these enforcement measures should be developed and declared by the UN Security Council. Everything else should be eliminated from international practice. It is especially indecent when some of our partners hold intensive talks at the UN Security Council, come to agreement on some package of sanctions that is balanced and should not create humanitarian problems for the population of a country in question, exerting pressure only on the leadership of that country, but as soon as this balanced, carefully thought out and absolutely legitimate set of sanctions is approved, a day or two later, one of our Western partners imposes unilateral sanctions.
My position is straightforward. Once we have come to agreement on the basis of international law at the UN Security Council, these sanctions may not be broken. This means that what is banned may not be sold, but it is wrong to ban selling what is allowed. This is precisely how our US partners behave now, not only with regard to Russia but also with regard to a number of other countries. It is therefore necessary to counter the phenomenon of unilateral illegitimate sanctions, which is a manifestation of the false sense of their own exceptionalism.