24 January 2021
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1057 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1049 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities



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.           



21.01.2021 - Press release on the future of New START

When it comes to arms control, the previous US administration worked consistently and systematically to destroy the agreements which prevented Washington from arbitrarily building up, projecting and using military force and which it saw as an obstacle on its way to “victory” in the “great power rivalry” it itself declared.

19.01.2021 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference on the results of Russian diplomacy in 2020, Moscow, January 18, 2021

This is our traditional news conference on the foreign policy outcomes of 2020. It is traditional, but remote. We opted for a format that was widely used over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions imposed in almost all countries, including Russia.

15.01.2021 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions during a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Moscow, January 14, 2021

Ladies and gentlemen, We had substantive and meaningful talks. We discussed the further development of the friendly and trustworthy relations between our countries in accordance with the agreements reached during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Riyadh in the autumn of 2019, and subsequent telephone conversations at top level.

01.01.2021 - President Vladimir Putin's New Year Address to the Nation

Citizens of Russia, friends, The year 2020 will be over in just a few minutes. As we were welcoming it a year ago today, just like people around the world, we thought and dreamed of changes for the better. No one could have imagined back then what kind of trials would come our way. Now, it appears that the outgoing year has taken in the burden of many years. It was a difficult year for all of us, with worries and serious financial difficulties, bitter experiences and, for some, loss of the loved ones.

29.12.2020 - Main Foreign Policy Results in 2020

In 2020, Russia’s foreign policy focused on making better use of the potential for international cooperation in the interests of protecting national security, promoting the country’s socioeconomic development and encouraging approaches to current global and regional problems that meet the interests of Russia.

22.12.2020 - Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

We consider the adoption by the European Union at the behest of its leading Member States of illegitimate restrictive measures against some of our fellow citizens under the pretext of their alleged involvement in the incident with Russian citizen Alexei Navalny to be absolutely unacceptable.

22.12.2020 - Foreign Ministry statement regarding OPCW response to Russia’s request for technical assistance to clarify the situation around Alexey Navalny

On October 1, we sent a request to Fernando Arias, Director-General of the OPCW and head of its Technical Secretariat, for technical assistance under Clause 38 (е) of Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Two and a half months later, we are still waiting for a meaningful response. Their explanation is the absence of the German authorities’ permission for full-scale cooperation between the agency’s experts and competent Russian organisations to clarify the circumstances of what Berlin describes as the poisoning of the blogger. Russia’s suggestions regarding the main modalities of a planned visit of OPCW Technical Secretariat’s representatives to Russia have been rejected as well.

19.12.2020 - Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Russian and Syrian efforts to eradicate terrorism in Syria

Moscow has taken note of a statement made by US Secretary of State’s Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn to the effect that Russia and the Assad regime are aggravating the problem of terrorism in Syria. He has accused Moscow and Damascus, without any substantiation, of involvement in the bombing and artillery raids on Idlib, which allegedly do not target terrorists but innocent civilians, infrastructure and armed opposition groups. He has also said that he believes that Russia and the Damascus regime are not doing enough to combat terrorism.

14.12.2020 - Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on the new round of British anti-Russia sanctions

We were puzzled by the decision announced by the British government on December 10, 2020 to impose sanctions against three Russian individuals and a unit of the National Guard over the alleged human rights violations in the Chechen Republic.

11.12.2020 - Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on a new set of US sanctions

Regrettably, the US authorities have decided to celebrate Human Rights Day, which is marked on December 10, by adopting new sanctions against Russian individuals and entities.

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