Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's interview with Interfax news agency, Moscow, July 21, 2021
Question: The German-US draft agreement on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline ties up Ukraine's energy security with new sanctions on Russia that the Germans will be able to impose. Does Russia think the latest threat of sanctions is acceptable? Will it affect the implementation of the project?
Sergey Lavrov: Any threat of sanctions, be it new, old or ongoing, is unacceptable, because only the UN Security Council can impose them. Our Western colleagues, primarily the United States and the European Union, which is quickly adopting these “bad habits,” are quite often carried away by sanctions. They are no longer interested in the culture of diplomacy or talks. In fact, they are losing it. They want instant results.
The Ryanair flight in Belarus is a case in point. Sanctions have already been announced. The investigation, which the Belarusian authorities have encouraged the stakeholders to open for a long time now, is ongoing at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in Montreal and will end in September. The Western countries express regular and public demands for an honest investigation, while at the same time they have already imposed sanctions. They have adopted a similar stance with regard to other situations, including the ones concerning the Russian Federation.
With regard to the specific case you mentioned, the outcome of the US-German Nord Stream 2 talks, it was rumoured that these talks had ended. I'd rather wait for the official announcement, which is due today. However, from what we know from media “leaks,” I was stunned to learn (if it’s true) about an agreement that Germany had committed to ensure the extension of Russian gas transit through Ukraine after 2024. That’s a strong move by Germany... Let's see how it works out in the end.
We were not at all surprised by the second part of these rumours (which, to reiterate, we have yet to see in official form) that if Russia “misbehaves” with Nord Stream 2, Germany and the EU will “punish” the Russian Federation no matter what. If all this is true, then it is really sad. But let’s wait for the results. These are just my speculations.
Question: Given the unstable situation in Afghanistan and the growing terrorist threat, do we rule out altogether the deployment of our military there on a permanent basis, or are we considering optional targeted strikes against the terrorists?
Sergey Lavrov: We answered these questions a long time ago. We have obligations to our allies – Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – which guide our actions in accordance with an article in the Collective Security Treaty. In the event of any aggression against any CSTO member, consultations will be held immediately to determine response measures in order to suppress the aggression.
No one is talking about any targeted strikes on Afghanistan, and no one is even thinking about invading Afghanistan. You are confusing us with the Americans or the experience that we “carried over” from the Soviet times. Our society strongly believes in the need to ensure the security of our borders and to create proper conditions for other countries’ security to be ensured through their internal agreements based on national ideology.
Question: There was a leak from the summit that we allegedly offered the use our bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the Americans. Is it true?
Sergey Lavrov: How can we invite the Americans to the bases that are part of the collective response forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation? As distinct from the example we just discussed, where one country decides for 28 countries, we abide by our commitments. We cannot invite anyone to a facility that is part of CSTO forces without the knowledge of our allies. That said, we are ready to help de-escalate tensions and exchange information on the state of affairs on the ground in Afghanistan as part of our continuing contacts in the Russia-China-US Troika, and the extended Troika (that includes Pakistan), as well as in other formats.
Our allies also have the information we are getting via our bases and take a direct part in negotiations. This information may be useful for all those who really want to help reconciliation on the ground. Nobody has achieved this reconciliation at this point. The political talks that were actively sponsored by the US, failed to produce results. As I see it, they will continue. This is already good enough. Yes, we are willing to cooperate and exchange information but no more than that.
Question: Will you exchange information via a certain mechanism?
Sergey Lavrov: Nobody has discussed this in practical terms, though such opportunities exist.
Question: The incident with the British destroyer Defender in the Black Sea seems to be an isolated case, but after the subsequent Exercise Sea Breeze, the West seemed to be testing our defence capability. Do we consider this a long-term irritant or an issue that can be settled? If so, can it be settled diplomatically or by force alone?
Sergey Lavrov: Considering the case history of our Western colleagues, especially in Britain, we think this is probably the long-term effects of frustration over losing their former grandeur. Suddenly, the “Queen of the Seas” was not allowed to sail where it wanted. Unfortunately, these attempts to test our strength are likely to last for a long time. However, I hope our colleagues will understand quickly what the results of this could be.
After this blatant violation of international law, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain would continue upholding the right to free navigation in the world oceans. To begin with, this is incompetence. Freedom of navigation in a territorial sea (in this case, the territorial sea of the Russian Federation) is subject to substantial restrictions. We have given statements on this, and I will not repeat myself. Second, Crimea is just part of their ambitions. Our NATO colleagues, including the Brits, have decided to project their illegal and rather brazen actions to the world oceans, in part, the South China Sea. Those who took part in Exercise Sea Breeze, and tried to “show off their muscles” to Russian Crimea, announced later that they would carry out a similar drill in the South China Sea.
Back to the Crimean incident, I think it was indicative how quickly the destroyer retreated. All of its lamentations over the absence of ulterior motives and only striving to uphold the integrity of international law are worth nothing. They were refuted at the bus stop where classified documents from the British Royal Navy were found in the spirit of either Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle. Things like this happen due to thoughtlessness or just plain negligence. This episode, this discovery dispelled any assertion on the lack of a provocation. This was planned, and on a large scale. There is plenty of evidence, including a journalist on board, etc.
Question: You said some time ago that Donald Trump played an important and constructive role in reaching agreement to stabilise the oil market. You qualified his efforts – as well as overall efforts of the three leaders of Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US – as an example of model cooperation, with Trump being one of the drivers of this agreement. Did US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin discuss cooperation in this area at the summit?
Sergey Lavrov: No, they did not discuss this at the summit. Every president has his negotiating partners at each specific historical stage. Talks begin when the sides find an issue of current common interest. The US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other members of the organisation of oil producers obviously shared a common interest. Now the oil markets are in a good shape.