27 February 2020
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725 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     717 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

10.02.2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to questions from Rossiyskaya Gazeta editorial office and its regional partners during a business breakfast, Moscow, February 10, 2020

Question: There are numerous reports in the media about preparations for the upcoming Defender-Europe 20 military exercise, due to take place this May in a number of Eastern European countries. This will be the largest US military exercise in the past 25 years. Given the considerable cooling in relations between Russia and NATO, are we witnessing the birth of a new Cold War?

Sergey Lavrov: During the Cold War, there were large-scale operations aimed at expanding the armed forces in Europe, including a more substantial US presence. This included Operation Return of Forces Germany (REFORGER), when the Americans made themselves at home in Germany and now they have dozens of military installations there. Germany now has a tremendous foreign military presence, but that is NATO affairs.

Regarding the Defender-Europe 20 exercise, we would like to ask who it is that they want to defend themselves from. They say it is not intended to defend themselves from Russia but from an enemy that has a comparable military potential. In that case, it is difficult to find a target for these efforts that would have a comparable scale. If we look at the official data (not Russia’s but foreign) on defence spending and military equipment, including all types of weapons without exception, such as tanks, warplanes, attack helicopters, infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, warships and submarines, then we will see that NATO’s European members alone, without the US potential, surpass the Russian Armed Forces by over 100 percent. I don’t know where they have found a comparable enemy.

Of course, Russia is not a dominant military force in Europe. NATO has this status. Although the region is already filled to overflowing with military installations, and although NATO’s eastward expansion has already created serious problems in the area of strategic stability in Europe, NATO continues to merge with the European Union. NATO is trying to hold joint exercises and to involve in them neutral states, such as Finland and Sweden, under the pretext of EU membership. They have invented the term Military Schengen in the context of NATO-EU military cooperation. It provides for the modernisation of all transport arteries all the way to the Alliance’s eastern border in such a way that the largest military equipment would be able to move eastwards unhindered. I believe that this alone is enough to understand the danger of these games. 

Preparations for the Defender-Europe 20 exercise, due to take place in April-May 2020, were launched a long time ago. In addition to the already deployed military contingents in the region, there are plans to redeploy many thousands of units of US equipment, as well as over 20,000 US service personnel.  This is formally a US military exercise, but other NATO members and partners are also invited to take part. This is an interesting aspect. I don’t know the reasons for this, but it can probably be explained by the fact that the Americans find it much easier to organise and implement everything under their own plans, without abiding by any symbolic NATO discipline, although the Commander in Chief of United States Army Europe also serves as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. This exercise is to involve over 40,000 officers and soldiers. Naturally, we will respond. We cannot ignore processes that cause grave concern, but we will respond in such a way as not to create any unnecessary risks.

This is inevitable, and I hope that any reasonable military commander and politician realises this. Those who provoke such absolutely unwarranted exercises want to see retaliatory measures that would aggravate tensions still further. But an important point to bear in mind is that all our efforts in response to the creation of security threats with regard to Russia by NATO are take place exclusively on Russian territory. Equally, Russia keeps its nuclear weapons on its own territory, unlike the United States.

Question: Strategic stability matters have long been one of the pillars of Russia-US relations, and to some extent guaranteed stability around the world. However, over the past years the US administration has taken steps that reversed these achievements, at least in part. In particular, the US is openly hampering the renewal of the New START. Do you believe that the situation may change after the US presidential election? Back in the days when Rex Tillerson was US Secretary of State, you had an agreement to establish a working group for resolving disputed matters. Is it working on renewing the New START?

Sergey Lavrov: Let me begin with your last question. The group is working, albeit without much success. There were 12 or 13 meetings over the past years. I cannot recall the exact number. Even before Rex Tillerson, meetings of this kind consisted of a Russian representative merely listing to his US counterpart the concerns, unacceptable actions by the US administration, citing examples and handing over memos to this effect. These documents contained all the possible grievances, from the seizure of Russian diplomatic property and voluntarist cuts in the personnel of the Russian diplomatic missions, to the kidnapping of Russian nationals Viktor But, Konstantin Yaroshenko, Roman Seleznyov and to name just a few. There were also problems related to how Russians were treated in US prisons, whether they enjoyed normal conditions, etc. The American side would promise us that they would look into these matters, at the same time advising Russia to stop interfering in US domestic affairs, arguing that everything is related, and that there is no crime without punishment. The same old story over and over again, as the saying goes.

During my trip to Washington last December, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and I agreed to give a new impetus to the Russia-US dialogue in order to achieve at least some progress. US President Donald Trump has also said that we needed to get along.

The new US Ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, arrived in Moscow. He assured us that he wants to facilitate progress at least on some specific matters, although before that we need to put our bilateral relations back on track. The prospects for making specific steps have been quite hazy so far. We somehow managed to revive counterterrorism dialogue. This is one of the fields that should be free from any artificial barriers. Over the past years there were a couple of instances when the US passed on intelligence enabling us to prevent terrorist attacks in Russia. We have also been doing it since the Boston Marathon attack. It could seem that we have resumed contacts along these lines. When in October 2019 Washington proposed continuing consultations, we agreed on adopting a joint statement on counterterrorism as part of my visit in order to send a positive signal, showing that Russia and the US can share the same positions and subscribe to them. But when I arrived there it turned out that they were not able to get the necessary approvals on time, or something like this. Today, working with our US partners on specific matters is a challenge.

But let us go back to strategic stability. This is a matter of concern for Russia and the US, and also for the rest of the world. The very framework of the international architecture is falling apart. The INF Treaty followed in its demise that of the ABM Treaty. They rejected our proposal to introduce a moratorium on building and deploying missiles of this kind. They accuse us of deception regarding the INF Treaty, arguing that the moratorium we propose boils down to the following: we already have Iskander systems that can deliver missiles that are banned under the treaty, while the US lacks intermediate-range means of delivery. They argue that we want to maintain our intermediate-range missiles, while denying the US the possibility of building them.

We have a clear and specific answer to these allegations. In the fall of 2019, after the US withdrew from the INF Treaty, President of Russia Vladimir Putin sent a message to more than 50 heads of state and government, including the US, all NATO members, as well as other non-NATO neutral European countries, and Asia-Pacific countries (since the US also intends to deploy intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in this part of the world as well). We have not made this message public, but I can tell you that it sets out the background of this question, stressing that there is not a single fact to back the claim made by the United States that we tested the 9М729 missile on a range prohibited by the INF Treaty. Since the US has satellite imagery, they could at least show us a single image confirming their allegations and contradicting Russia’s arguments. They have no evidence of Russia violating the treaty. The US refused to attend a demonstration of a new cruise missile organised by the Russian Defence Ministry together with the Foreign Ministry in January 2019, and advised other NATO countries against attending. They called it just a show and a sham. This is not a proper way for transacting serious business. If you want to prove that it was a sham, just come here and prove it. During the event, participants could ask questions and provide comments. Russian representatives answered questions for two hours during the briefing. However, out of all the NATO members only Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey were represented. But they lack the kind of expertise the US has on these matters. The presence of US experts at the demonstration would have helped them better understand what they are dealing with.

President Vladimir Putin’s message said: we suggest that the US and its allies join our moratorium on the deployment of medium and smaller-range missiles, including the creation of a possible verification mechanism. They are attempting to disregard this altogether, avoiding any mention of it as a matter of principle. They tell us: no, you are cheating, you do have missiles of this sort, they are on alert duty, they were developed long ago and deployed in violation of the treaty that was in force at that time. As for the moratorium-cum-verification proposal, they are attempting to drown it in verbiage. Only President of France Emmanuel Macron said in public that he still had problems with regard to how Russia had implemented the treaty, but he was ready to respond to President Putin’s message. All other NATO members (obviously, on orders from Washington) are keeping mum.

The Americans have plans to deploy medium and shorter-range missiles in the Asia Pacific Region. In this context, Japan and South Korea are mentioned. Both countries have declared that they have no intention of allowing the deployment of these missiles. But if the Americans are keen to deploy the missiles there, I do not think that this is impossible. Some exotic mid-Pacific islands are also mentioned. As is clear – and they are not concealing it – these measures are aimed at containing China. But the geographic distances are such that, if the US medium and shorter-range missiles are deployed at those points, much of Russia’s territory will be exposed to an attack, while in case of Japan or [South] Korea, the entire Russian territory all the way to the Urals will be covered. Of course, we will have to respond. This is why we have been explaining in very concrete terms to the ASEAN and APR countries, including Japan and South Korea, what risks these “games” are fraught with.

As for the New START Treaty, we have repeatedly proposed its extension. President Vladimir Putin told his US counterpart at the G20 summit in Osaka last June how important it was to extend the Treaty and do this as soon as possible. Last May, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Sochi, President Putin drew his attention to this fact as well.

The Americans are constantly trying to impose on us an option involving China’s accession to the debate on the medium and shorter-range missiles as well as the New START Treaty. But China has repeatedly stated in public that it will not join these talks because the structure of its nuclear forces is radically different from that of Russia and the United States. In terms of numbers, these forces are also a far cry from the level where China would be ready to talk of some balance. If China suddenly changes its mind, we will be pleased to participate in multilateral talks. But we will not try to convince China. If the Americans are quite sure that it makes no sense to take any further steps on the New START Treaty without China, let them get down to business on this all on their own. We, for our part, believe that it does make sense to extend the New START that will expire in one year’s time. If we fail to do this, there will be no such agreement after February 5, 2021.

Even if a multilateral process gets under way, it will be utterly protracted. There are no talks on such a serious theme that could be concluded in just a few months. Therefore, we ought to have a safety net in an extended New START Treaty even from the reputational and political point of view: no one should accuse Russia and the United States of letting a legally binding instrument in the area of strategic stability collapse. We have told the Americans as much. They are still silent. Are they worried that we might put forward some preconditions to the extension of the treaty? Nothing of the kind! President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made public statements to the effect that we suggest extending the New START Treaty without preconditions. But the Americans would respond with media plants to the effect that China should join the agreement.           

 




LATEST EVENTS

27.02.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the ceremony of signing a cooperation agreement between the Foreign Ministry, the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia (ITAR-TASS) and the Federal Archive Agency (Rosarkhiv) on information coverage of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, Moscow, February 26, 2020

We have just signed a cooperation agreement with the Federal Archive Agency and ITAR-TASS on covering the events that will be devoted to and are already being held to honour the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Our Foreign Ministry has established very close, collaborative and friendly relations with our colleagues – the Federal Archive Agency and ITAR-TASS. We are combining the capabilities of federal executive bodies and our media on a very topical theme.


21.02.2020 - Ambassador Andrei Kelin's welcoming words at the reception to honour the Russian Armed Forces

Excellences, Ladies and gentlemen, We have gathered today to honour the Russian Armed Forces. Our Army has seen many glorious victories. Those who liberated Europe and all humanity from fascism on the battlefields of the World War II are still among us. After that terrible war, 75 years ago, the leaders of the USSR, United Kingdom and United States agreed to create the United Nations Organisation designed to prevent such devastating tragedies.


19.02.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during the joint news conference following Russian-Italian talks between foreign and defence ministers in the two-plus-two format, Rome, February 18, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to express my gratitude for the hospitality we traditionally receive in Italy. I completely agree that the fourth joint meeting between the Russian and Italian foreign and defence ministers was held in a constructive manner. The last time we met in this format was in 2013. We find that resuming work in this format is timely and important.


18.02.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following the 56th Munich Security Conference, Munich, February 17, 2020

The Munich Security Conference is over. You have seen all the speeches. Our media have already made assessments. I will be glad to answer your questions. Question: Did you discuss with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo President Donald Trump’s participation in the meeting of the UN Security Council permanent members proposed by Russia? Is the US position now clear? Did you discuss extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)? Did you manage to reach any agreement?


17.02.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during the 56th Munich Security Conference, Global Disorder – Other Opportunities for a New Agenda, Munich, February 15, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen, This year marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII. Sadly, there are attempts to brazenly distort history and to equate the liberators of Europe with Nazi murderers. These attempts will remain on the conscience of those behind them. No one and nothing can belittle the decisive role of the Red Army and the Soviet people in defeating Nazism. At the same time, we will always keep in our minds the spirit of Alliance during the War and the ability of the states to unite and fight the common threat regardless of ideological differences.


06.02.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Prensa Latina News Agency, February 5, 2020

Question: What is your opinion of the new US punitive measures to toughen the embargo against Cuba that has been in place for almost 60 years? Sergey Lavrov: We can see that US attempts to reformat the Latin American region in line with its geopolitical interests aim to overthrow the “undesirable regimes” in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The archaic Monroe Doctrine serves as the ideological foundation. In the run-up to the presidential election, the White House continues to ratchet up sanctions against those states which preserve their national independence, sovereignty and identity. This openly anti-human policy runs counter to the generally accepted principles of international law, including the UN Charter.


03.02.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya 1 television channel for the documentary Antarctica: 200 Years of Peace, Moscow, February 2, 2020

Sergey Lavrov: Antarctica, which was discovered 200 years ago by the first Russian expedition of Faddey Bellinsgauzen and Mikhail Lazarev, is a continent where international relations, as it was decided after long disputes, are guided by the Antarctic Treaty signed 60 years ago. The 1959 Antarctic Treaty sets out the principles that regulate the activities of all countries in Antarctica. First of all, the contracting parties pledged to use Antarctica for peaceful purposes only, preserve its biological resources and prohibit all activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research (the latter provision was confirmed by the contracting parties for at least 50 years at their meeting in Madrid in 1991). The treaty also bans any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases, the carrying out of military manoeuvres, as well as the testing of any type of weapons. There is also a provision on cooperation based on mutual respect and conducted in the interests of the whole of humankind.


03.02.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article titled “Russia and Indonesia: 70 years of fruitful cooperation” published in the Indonesian national newspaper Kompas, February 2, 2020

This year, Russia and Indonesia are celebrating the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. Any significant date is always a good occasion both for summing up what has been achieved so far and for drafting plans for the future.


28.01.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the opening of the 28th International Educational Christmas Readings, “The Great Victory: Heritage and Inheritors,” Moscow, January 27, 2020

Your Holiness, colleagues, friends, I am happy to join you in greeting the hosts, participants and guests of the 28th International Educational Christmas Readings.


26.01.2020 - Welcoming words by Ambassador Andrei Kelin for Russian Ballet Icons Gala 2020, 26 January 2020

Dear guests! Today we are celebrating one of the most exciting dates in London’s ballet calendar – the Russian Ballet Icons Gala. Since being established in 2006, it has become an exciting and greatly anticipated tradition for all of us. This year’s programme includes enchanting performances by the leading dancers from the Bolshoi, Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky Theatres, Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Grand Opera Paris, Staatsballett Berlin, New York City Ballet and others, accompanied by the English National Ballet Philharmonic orchestra under the direction of Valery Ovsyanikov.



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