Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the Valdai International Discussion Club website during the 14th annual club meeting, Sochi, October 17, 2017
Question: Mr Lavrov, thank you for agreeing to talk with the Valdai International Discussion Club website.
Sergey Lavrov: There’s no escaping you.
Question: What did our American partners hope to achieve by inciting anti-Russia sentiment in society and by taking hostile or even outright illegal steps with regard to Russian diplomats?
Sergey Lavrov: I think they want to undermine the Trump administration. Despite the inconsistency of the current US administration’s actions and Mr Trump’s extravagance, the US President has not abandoned the promise and intention to improve relations and to cooperate with Russia, which he declared during his election campaign and upon his election as president.
The majority of Democrats cannot get past their bitterness over their candidate’s loss in the election, and a large number of Republicans cannot accept the outsider nature of the current administration, including the President. And so the anti-Russia hysterics you mentioned that are continuing in the United States are a reflection of an internal political struggle. President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about this, and our analyses have confirmed this. Investigations into Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia and into Russia’s alleged interference in the election campaign with the aim of supporting the Republican candidate were launched nearly a year ago. Numerous hearings have been held, special investigations have been conducted, a special counsel has been appointed to oversee this. Although nearly a year has passed and many people have been involved in this process, not a single fact has been found to confirm those allegations. To me, this speaks volumes. American society is based on leaks, especially regarding foreign policy matters. Keeping the results of investigations into the alleged Russian interference absolutely secret would be impossible. This means that they have no hard facts.
Question: What consequences can the growing sentiments of self-determination and even separatism have?
Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know. I greatly hope that this will not lead to any disturbances in Europe. We want the European Union to remain stable. A possible solution is to align the integration trend with the aspirations for greater national sovereignty, which are gathering momentum in some countries. Many competencies have been delegated to Brussels and the central EU bodies. The European Commission, just as any other bureaucratic body, is trying not only to make use of these competencies, but also to expand them, sometimes without the approval of the member states. This provokes an opposing reaction.
The EU would benefit from the difficult process of finding the golden mean between the centralisation of certain competencies and greater respect for the member states’ sovereignty and national rights.
Question: How can the growing social problems, primarily the problem of inequality, be settled in some countries, in particular the EU members?
Sergey Lavrov: I cannot say how other countries will deal with their domestic problems. They have their own social programmes, but their implementation has been complicated by changes in the global situation, including the illegal sanctions that have been introduced into our relations with Europe and other Western countries. However, the Government now has a good plan for moving forward, which President Putin has approved. Our President believes that resolving social problems is a key priority. We have a plan for this, as I have said. As for what plans Europe may have to achieve these goals, this is not for me to say, but I am sure that they are thinking about this as well. However, the process will be far from simple, as one can see from the developments in France provoked by President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative to reform the labour code.
Question: Much has been said lately about the need to reform the UN. Which basic UN functions or forms of implementing them should be changed and why? If a decision is taken to reform the UN, how long would this take?
Sergey Lavrov: Reforms are not a one-time event. To remain alive, any organisation must improve itself, which the UN is doing. It has recently reformed the human rights sector. This reform resulted in the establishment of the Human Rights Council. A reform of the peacebuilding sector (peacebuilding is the period between the end of a conflict and the beginning of economic recovery) has led to the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Debates are ongoing on a number of other reforms, including the reform of the UN Secretariat, which must become more efficient and cleansed of red tape and overlapping tasks and functions. One of the key recent reforms was launched when Antonio Guterres was elected Secretary-General. It concerned the establishment of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism and the post of Under-Secretary-General to coordinate and harmonise the counter-terrorism activities of dozens of UN agencies, specialised bodies, programmes and foundations. It is a vitally important reform, which is only just beginning and which will take time to yield practical results.
Of course, we also need to reform the UN Security Council, which can only be done on the basis of consensus, as the UN General Assembly pointed out when it launched this process. It is a challenging task. I don’t think we will reach an agreement on this matter in a year or two, but the process is underway. All countries’ interests in this area have been heard and taken into consideration. We believe that the main goal of this reform should be rectifying a situation in which the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America are not sufficiently represented at the main UN body. This view is shared by our Chinese partners and the majority of so-called third world countries. We will continue to uphold it.