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One mistake after another. It is still possible to prevent the foreign aggression in Syria. (Igor Ivanov, President of the Russian International Affairs Council, Russian Foreign Minister (1998-2004), Published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Federal issue) No.6170 of 2 September 2013)

Top Western politics lately have been talking more and more sincerely and insistently about their determination to carry out a military operation in respect of Syria. At the same time, they are forced to acknowledge that the Syrian problem has no military solution, that such solution is possible only within the framework of a political dialogue among all participants of the conflict.

An evident logical discrepancy, to put it mildly, is obvious. By trying to justify such inconsistent position, the West frequently appeals to different precedents of the recent past, in particular to the NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999 and to the United States’ and their allies’ military operation in Iraq in 2003. They say that both interventions, although they were not approved by the UN Security Council, have demonstrated their effectiveness and have led to desirable results.

It seems that those, who appeal to the precedents of 1999 and 2003 cannot find more convincing arguments in favour of a military intervention into Syria. On the other hand, they seem to assume that the world has already forgotten the conditions of those tragic events. However, the experience of Yugoslavia and Iraq is a true evidence that the use of military force in such situations not only is not able to resolve the existing problems, but rather will cost even more severe consequences.

If we take Yugoslavia, a formal cause for NATO’s operation were the affirmations about a “humanitarian disaster” in Kosovo. As NATO’s formidable military machine was put into action in response to the situation in Kosovo. 10 million country in the centre of Europe was subjected to mass air attacks. And these events took place at the end of the 20th century, when the “cold war” has been a history for a long time!

NATO forces earnestly bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days. By the way, not only military objects, but also industrial companies, bridges over the Danube were subjected to air strikes. The traces of those bombings are still visible on façades of buildings in Belgrade. And what can you say about an American missile, which “accidentally bounced” into the window of the PRC’s Embassy in Belgrade?

Even if we leave moral and ethical aspects of NATO’s aggression outside the parentheses, any objective observer must admit: the NATO’s operation has not attained its goals. The solution of the question was returned to the UN Security Council, where it had to be resolved. And the Western aggressors were left nothing other than agreeing with the President of Serbia Slobodan Milošević, against whom the entire military operation was organised. The long-term result of this military operation was the breakup of Yugoslavia, an artificial creation of incapable Kosovo, which has become a hotbed of international crime and chronic instability. Of course, that time government of Yugoslavia also made many mistakes, did not use all political opportunities to prevent the war. However, it is another issue.

As to the Iraqi precedent, there is even no need to go deeper into details of 10 years old events. It is sufficient to read messages of news agencies from Baghdad coming almost every day to make an evident conclusion: the military intervention has left the country, which is being puled apart by regional, ethnic and religious conflicts, the country, where authorities cannot ensure security to its citizens. Who will now answer for the tragedy the Iraqi population is experiencing today? May be those “experts”, political leaders and military persons, who justified the need of intervention and carried out this military operation in the country ten years ago?

Also, let us not forget that the intervention into Iraq split the Western world, having opposed the United States to several leading European allies. The war in Iraq also created a wide opposition made of various political forces inside the United States. By the way, the current President of the United States Barack Obama was initially against the military operation in Iraq, thinking that this was is a strategic mistake of United States’ foreign policy and made the promise to end this unpopular war as soon as possible one of main slogans of his presidential electoral campaign.

If we return to the situation in Syria, we may note that there are no grounds to expect that a military operation against the regime of Bashar al-Assad will be more effective and less destructive than the known operation in Yugoslavia and Iraq. Two and a half years long civil war have already thrown Syria decades back, bringing uncountable losses and sufferings to the Syrian people, and mass air strikes of the United States will, in fact, complete the process of destruction of the country. May the military operation in Syria will be called a “tragic mistake” in the United States after some time. And, as before, no persons guilty in this crime will be found.

What can we do to prevent the tragedy in Syria? Unfortunately, there is no use to expect that the use of veto power by Russia and China in the UNSC will stop the war. This is another negative result of the operations in Yugoslavia and Iraq – dangerous precedents of actions bypassing the United Nations, violating fundamental principles of international law were created. So, why the growing uncontrollability of international relations surprises us?!

Many things depend on the Syrian government, which should understand, that the military operation, which is being prepared, may lead to disastrous consequences not only for the political regime in Damascus, but, the worst of it, for the Syrian independent state as such, for the suffering Syrian people. One of fatal mistakes of Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein was that both of them did not believe to the end that the intervention is possible. Both leaders hoped to overplay their opponents in diplomatic bargaining, and both lost.

In the current conditions, the Syrian government should show its state wisdom and to appeal to the common sense of the international community. We need not only to create maximally favourable conditions for the work of UN observers, but also to open the country for international humanitarian, human rights, peace making organisations, mass media and independent experts. We need the public opinion to form on the basis of real facts and objective information about the events in the country, rather than on unverified rumours, idle speculations and random interpretations, which are distributed by not always fair opponents of the Syrian government. Such position of Damascus would certainly receive active support from Moscow and other parties advocating for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis.

It is still possible to prevent the foreign aggression in Syria, but we have little time for that.

Published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Federal issue) No.6170 of 2 September 2013


17.01.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the unveiling of memorial plaque in Sayes Court Park

Dear Mayor, Dear Councillors, Lady Joan, Ladies and gentlemen, It is now 320 years ago that a truly remarkable man set foot in Deptford. As you know, the Russian Tsar Peter, later named the Great, visited Western Europe in 1697—1698 under the nickname of Peter Mikhailov, with his Grand Embassy. He was eager to find out about the latest achievements in science and technology and create new diplomatic alliances. Of course, England couldn’t escape his attention. He mostly studied shipbuilding at the famous Deptford Dockyard, but he also met King William III, and, reportedly, Isaac Newton. Peter’s landlord, the famous John Evelyn, was also a respected scientist – a founder member of the Royal Society.

13.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I am pleased to welcome you to the Russian Embassy at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee. It’s a common knowledge, that football is the most popular game in the world. It is an honour for us to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of our country. I believe that those who come to Russia to support their national teams will leave with unforgettable memories.

08.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo (7 December 2017)

25.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the reception at the Embassy dedicated to Russian Film Week (24 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding Russian opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky who passed away this week. In 2015 he gave a concert in this very hall. I am delighted to welcome you at our reception dedicated to the Russian Film Week and the environmental causes it champions. This year their charity partner is World Wide Fund for Nature, which runs many projects in Russia in coordination and with support of the Russian Government. Russia has a unique, fascinating wildlife. A number of this week’s films show the natural beauty of our land and are sure to raise awareness of how fragile this beauty is. We appreciate the WWF effort in Russia and worldwide and call on everybody to become a supporter, especially this year, marked as Year of Ecology in Russia.

20.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the launch of the Russian Film Week (19 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure for me to be at the opening of the second edition of the Russian Film Week here in London – which this year also spans to Cambridge and Edinburgh.

16.10.2017 - Unpublished letter to the Editor of The Times (sent 12 October)

Sir, If British MPs are free to speak out, wherever they wish, on any issue, why try to block their freedom of speech (“Helping Putin”, 11 October)? If a TV channel wants (and is legally bound) to present different points of view, why slam those who express these views? If the mere act of giving an interview to foreign media amounts to high treason, why does The Times interview Russian politicians without fear? And finally - while MPs critical of Russia are welcome guests on the Russian TV channel RT, does your paper give the same treatment to those critical of the paper’s owner? Konstantin Shlykov Press Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation

25.09.2017 - PRESENTATION by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the Christian Future of Europe Conference 22 September 2017, London

Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers and participants, I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not only not losing any of its relevance, but is resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples' lives, their faith and their values. Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe.

23.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at presentation of the book "The Mystery of Repentance" held at the Russian Embassy

I’m glad to welcome you here to a discussion of two prominent hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England, on Christian future of Europe.

12.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the exhibition opening (“Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia” 12 September, British Museum)

Today the British Museum and the State Hermitage of Saint-Petersburg are once again proving their unique world class by bringing a whole new civilization to London. Ancient, and almost mythical, but creative, powerful and very different from what we have all known about antiquity – the Scythians.

14.07.2017 - Letter of Consul General Mr Andrey Pritsepov to the Herald newspaper, published 13.07.2017

I NOTE a rather questionable article by Mark McLaughlin (“Russians lurking near Faslane to eavesdrop on nuclear submarines", The Herald, July 11). Do you really believe that 145 million Russians would elect a leader who would command his nuclear submarines to chase someone's sole and lonely operative U-boat which is firing missiles in the opposite direction or Type 45 destroyers with faulty engines or an aircraft carrier without aircraft on it, all of them being located in Scottish waters?

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