18 March 2018
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Terra Scientia on Klyazma River National Educational Youth Forum, Vladimir Region, August 11, 2017

Good afternoon,

Thank you for such a warm welcome. I have been invited for the third time running. I am very pleased to receive these invitations because it is very important for international relations professionals to talk to young people who are interested in diverse issues. All the more so since this forum has gathered sociologists and political scientists – professions that are very closely intertwined and, I believe, necessary to figure out what life is about, including international life.

I will share with you some of our assessments. I will not take up your time with long opening remarks because President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has expressed his opinion on these issues more than once and our position is well known.

We are going through a critical stage in international relations. The previous era is receding into the past. During this era the West dominated international affairs for centuries, whereas now what we call a polycentric world order is objectively taking shape. This is a natural process because life is moving ahead. New centres of economic growth and financial might are emerging on a par with those that pioneered the world’s development, on a par with Western countries. Naturally, political influence is coming along with all this. These new countries want to uphold their interests by taking part in forming the international agenda and setting the tone, especially in those regions where respective centres of power are emerging – China, India, Brazil and, to a certain extent, South Africa. There are larger countries on the African continent, but sustainable development is only typical for South Africa so far.

Let me repeat once again that this is a trend whereby new emerging centres of power are assuming responsibility for ensuring security and stability in their regions and in the world arena as a whole. It is impossible to stop this process because by and large multi-polarity reflects the truly existing cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world, and, of course, the desire of nations to determine their destinies themselves and a striving to establish justice – approximately as it was seen by those who wrote the UN Charter that contains all the fundamental principles that remain topical today, being universal for all states.  Let me say once again that this is an objective process, which is anything but simple. First, a change of eras is always a very long period (you don’t wake up in the morning and multi-polarity is already here). This will continue for a long time. Second, apart from objective reasons, I want to emphasise that this process is meeting with active resistance, primarily from those who dominated the world before and want to preserve the old order in the new conditions and, deep down, forever. This is manifest in different things. We will talk about this, of course.

25 years ago, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was disbanded, there was a choice that major politicians in the West thoroughly discussed. The choice was in favour of disbanding NATO and for everyone to focus efforts in the OSCE and develop – based on this universal Euro-Atlantic framework and each participant's equal rights – new approaches to security so that no one would be impinged on. During that period, a new term – equal and indivisible security – was coined. Although the OSCE issued corresponding declarations, NATO was never disbanded. The North Atlantic Alliance was the setting for the actual efforts of its western member states to secure their military and political interests, of course. They have never been seriously engaged in solving any questions of practical importance within the OSCE. What they engage in mostly is ideology-driven discussions, attempts to promote their pseudoliberal values, passing them off as universal ones. The universal values are formalised in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted after the United Nations was founded. Everything to do with imposing one's additional views on certain aspects of modern life, as well as imposing one's approaches, including to human rights, on other countries, certainly does not correspond to the principles that the UN is based on. To repeat, back then the choice was made not in favour of disbanding military blocs, disbanding NATO, but in favour of the illusion that was referred to as “the end of history,” as allegedly the world didn't have any prospects other than capitalism. The illusion turned out to be just that. One cannot call the shots for the whole world, acting as a club of the chosen. This could not work, and it did not work. What’s more, this same model of globalisation, including its economic and financial aspects, which has formed the so-called liberal globalisation club and benefitted their interests, is currently a fiasco, I think. This has become obvious for many people with common sense in the West.

For our part, 25 years ago, when we were experiencing all those events, we proceeded from the fact that we all won the Cold War, and it was a common victory. We wanted to believe that the idea of pan-European, global and equal security, as was recognised by the UN Charter, would come into fruition.  Remember, back in the 1990s, our country was still recovering from the consequences of the collapse of the USSR and there was a huge number of difficulties, the debt, setting up borders that appeared overnight between former Soviet republics, social problems and many other issues. At that time, western leaders thought that Russia was weak and would remain weak, and they would incorporate our country into their world order as an obedient partner, and they would call the shots on everything. Back then, one had to be hugely insightful to envision any other scenario in international affairs. The late Yevgeny Primakov looked beyond the horizon and formulated his concept of multipolarity. At that time, there were few of those who were able to foresee that becoming reality. Mr Primakov substantiated this model in his works and showed the disastrousness of a unilateral approach and efforts to organise international affairs. You may recall that following this, in February 2007 Russian President Vladimir Putin, when addressing the Munich Security Conference, spoke from the perspective of the post-Soviet experience, developed these thoughts further and gave specific examples showing it was no longer possible to handle matters as “leader and follower”. At least, we will not allow anyone to speak to Russia like this.

Obviously, it is impossible to impose one form of globalisation on all. Nations want to uphold their national identity and ensure their independence. They do not want anyone to command or prod them. Clearly, those who are still clinging to the unipolar world do not want to yield their positions, although objectively this is impossible to imagine. This era is receding. However, attempts to slow down these processes continue. Hence the unilateral coercive measures that circumvent the UN Security Council, absolutely illegitimate unilateral sanctions, repeated military interventions in the internal affairs of other states, including attempts to change regimes that are resented by some of our Western colleagues, and also the ex-territorial application of national laws, for which the United States is famous now. The European Union seems to have started to pay attention. Results are here for everyone to see – crises and conflicts and decaying states. Statehood is under serious threat in Iraq and Libya. At the same time, havoc was wreaked in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa. The interventions in Iraq and Libya paved the way for terrorists to the rest of Africa, including Central Africa, as well as to Central and Southeast Asia. ISIS is already there and people are deeply worried about this. The path for extremists and terrorists has been opened in Europe as well. Facing the pressure of problems that are tearing it apart, Europe should draw some conclusions, of course. We wish success to the Europeans. Many European countries pursued a policy that led to these crude illegal coercive actions and eventually to what we are witnessing today. This is on top of the internal problems of our European neighbours, which are linked with Brexit and the growing discontent with the Brussels bureaucrats that have started taking too much upon themselves, ignoring the opinions of EU members. In principle, I think we always say that we want to see the EU strong and united. Probably, we still underrate the extent of its independence and ability to address current challenges in a constructive spirit and to conduct an equitable and mutually beneficial dialogue and cooperation with Russia, ignoring the aggressive Russophobic minority that is trying to abuse the EU’s principles of consensus and solidarity and demands that the position of all other members should be based on the lowest common denominator. This lowest denominator is markedly anti-Russian. I hope that serious EU countries that fully understand that it is unacceptable to conduct affairs in such a style will be working for what is absolutely logical – if this is consensus an agreement should take into account all views rather than follow the lead of those who have decided to capriciously impose aggressive and confrontational approaches on everyone. Obviously, now that the West is fighting to preserve its dominance, our American colleagues are using the current situation, including anti-Russian positions of their allies inside Europe, so as to keep it within the bounds of so-called Atlantic solidarity – to preserve the importance of NATO, which cannot function without the United States, and at the same time to pursue their own economic interests. As you know, the recent package of anti-Russian sanctions faced clear resistance in Europe because it bluntly states that gas should be bought from the United States, although it costs much more there. The goal is to keep Europe in the Atlantic boat and simultaneously promote the interests of its energy companies. This is done brazenly by using methods of absolutely unfair competition.

Such theories are put forward to justify the wish to preserve the western-centric world order. In reality, this is the road to chaos because many players will never be able to come to terms between themselves. It would probably be better to take a look at themselves and start analysing their own conduct to see what is happening in the world and what is producing chaos. If we look at the facts, we will see that the chaos created in Iraq, Libya and the Middle East and North Africa in general, the impetus for these negative processes triggered by outside interference with the use of crude force, is part and parcel of the unipolar world that our western colleagues are now trying to preserve. Speaking about chaos, another analysis seems more appropriate. There are many facts that show that the authors of the controlled chaos theory have many supporters among active politicians. At any rate, this conclusion of many western political scientists is fairly justified. When there is permanent turbulence in regions that are far away from the United States, the countries that are next to these crisis areas have to do more to ease tensions and less to promote their economies and opportunities in the world arena. We suggest getting back to roots, to the UN Charter, as I said in the beginning of my remarks, and ensuring respect for its principles of sovereign equality of states, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and settlement of any conflicts exclusively by peaceful means.

Our western colleagues often demand that Russia and other countries that are trying to act independently guarantee the supremacy of law at home. But as soon as we propose applying this principle to international affairs, they back-pedal. The principle of the supremacy of law that is supposed to be universal is approached with double standards. It is good for imposing one’s own rules on people abroad but no good for adopting an equitable and honest approach to international affairs. No one can be satisfied with what is happening with attitudes to international law today.

Russia will work to consolidate multipolar trends. This is an objective process and attempts to stop it are unacceptable. These anti-historical attempts are being made by those who are on the wrong side of history. Russia is one of the centres of world civilisation. I know that some of our liberal analysts and commentators say that we should not emphasise that we are “special,” that this will lead to nothing good and that instead we should “merge” with the West. Other analysts, also liberal by the way, have come up with the very interesting idea that Russia is the easternmost Western country and the westernmost Eastern country. This is indeed so geographically and geopolitically, and exemplifies the need to respect one’s own culture and history, to carry out modernisation respecting rather than rejecting one’s roots.

The contribution that we are trying to make to international affairs is always creative and constructive. We always want to achieve something. Probably, this is why it is resented by the advocates of the controlled chaos theory who want to use it in their own interests in the hope it is easier to fish in troubled waters. There is absolutely no doubt that we will continue pursing an independent foreign policy as President of Russia Vladimir Putin said, and take approaches to international affairs that are based not on attempts to impose ideas and actions on others but on a search for honest compromise and agreements that balance the interests of all parties involved.

We know that part of the Western elite would like Russia to be weak (this is one of the goals of the sanctions war) and ready to make concessions at the expense of its own interests. We will not do anything at the expense of our interests and this is common knowledge. However, we are always ready to come to terms. Since the emergence of merchants, people in our country have shaken on deals, there was no need to sign anything. One of the traits of our people is keeping promises. If we do not promise, it means we simply cannot do it for whatever reason and honestly say so. We are open to talks and dialogue with everyone without exception, including the EU and the United States. As you know, this dialogue continues although it slowed down a bit and is not as regular as before. Essentially, it has never stopped. The main point is for everyone to treat us as an equal partner. In that case, I am convinced everything will be okay and we will find a balance of interests that can be called justice.

I wanted to keep my opening remarks a bit shorter but went long. Now I’m ready to talk with you.

Question: What, in your opinion, is the idea of the Russian nation and what could it be based on?

Sergey Lavrov: As I understand, the law on the Russian nation is an initiative that is being developed in the Federal Assembly. Regardless of whether there is a law or there is no law, the most important thing is that there is a nation. This is primarily about history, a sense of one’s own identity: this is not a Russian word but it has already become part of our language, as well as other languages, and it means a state where you associate yourself with the country you live in, with the city or village you live in or where your ancestors were born; when you associate yourself with culture, which is constantly enriched and expanded with creative works in music, the theatre and cinema; when you associate yourself with the fact that you, your children, parents, grandparents and great grandparents lived, live and will continue to live in this country. Then perhaps you should be interested in your country becoming stronger. If this is so (I hope that everyone shares this interest), then it will be far easier for us to address our foreign policy tasks. The stronger we are, the easier it is to do that and the easier it is to solve problems, which will enable us to further strengthen our economy, social sphere and defence capability.

Question: You are constantly in the public eye, and I would like to thank you for never embarrassing us in front of millions of people.

Sergey Lavrov: Cross your heart?

Question: It is thanks to you and President Vladimir Putin that Russia remains the best and most powerful country in every sense. Who do you see as a worthy candidate for the post of Foreign Minister when you go?

Sergey Lavrov: As you know, in Russia, government appointments are made by the President, so this will be up to the Russian people to decide.

Question: You have served as Foreign Minister for 13 years. What talks have been the most exciting and the most memorable for you during this time?

Sergey Lavrov: Talks that produce results, I suppose. I would not say that “exciting” is an appropriate word here. There can be riveting talks, when you see that there is just a little left to do, all you need is to find the right phrase and your negotiating partner or opponent will accept the rest, which already suits you.

One example of productive talks is what we achieved with Iran’s nuclear programme and what, unfortunately, our US partners are now calling into question. Even though the Donald Trump administration has confirmed that with regard to the agreements that were signed, Iran is doing everything stipulated under the agreements, nevertheless, representatives of the Trump administration continue to say that these negotiations were wrong and a mistake. It’s a pity that such a successful treaty is now in doubt.

Another example in recent years is that almost a year ago, as a result of negotiations with John Kerry, it proved possible to coordinate our approach on a political settlement in Syria. I believe it was a real breakthrough, which ensured complete coordination of actions by the Russian Aerospace Forces and the US-led coalition. The only condition, also stipulated by that agreement, was the US obligation to separate the opposition that it supports from the terrorists, in particular Jabhat al-Nusra. Although they [the Americans] signed this agreement with us, they failed to fulfil this condition. If they had kept their promise, I believe there would already have been great progress on the political settlement in Syria and preparations for elections would have been under way. However, the US proved unable to do so. I suspect there were people there who, unlike John Kerry, did not want to separate terrorists from the regular opposition.

There is also an array of border delimitation treaties that we have signed with China and Kazakhstan. Negotiations with China lasted for several decades. It was largely because the treaty was signed about 10 years ago that we have now formed an unprecedentedly strong Russian-Chinese tandem, including in the international arena.

These are just a few examples that immediately came to mind.

Question: The name of outstanding diplomat Yevgeny Primakov evokes in all of us a special feeling of patriotism and pride for a person who has made an enormous contribution to Russian politics. Could you talk about the history of your relationship with him? What were the most important words that you heard from Mr Primakov that helped you in your life and in your career?

Sergey Lavrov: We worked together very closely when Mr Primakov became Foreign Minister. Nevertheless, we had already been in close contact in his previous official capacities, when he was Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service and worked at the USSR Supreme Soviet and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. However, our friendship became particularly close, strong and personal only after he was appointed head of the Foreign Ministry. At that time I was already in New York. Mr Primakov went there several times, among other things to attend UN General Assembly sessions. He was a man of amazing personal qualities, who constantly thought about his friends, who religiously respected friendship, his family and all those he was close to in his youth, worked with or addressed some matters with.

As I said in my opening remarks, Mr Primakov is the architect of the multipolarity theory. I remember the time when he came to New York in September 1996. We went to a Russian banya [bathhouse]. We walked out of the steam room, sat at a table with some beer (excuse me for reminding you) and dried salted Caspian roach. As usual, we were wrapped in sheets and he said a decision had been made to send me to Washington. I was taken aback and asked him what for. He said that I was politically immature, and pointed out that Washington was the place to be. I begged to differ, saying that I thought New York was that kind of place. I recalled that he was the architect of the multipolarity theory. And where was multipolarity made? In Washington, where you had to phone and wonder whether or not you would be received, or in New York, where you entered the building of the UN General Assembly or Security Council and everything was abuzz with activity there, all countries were represented, with ambassadors walking about, all the information coming right into your hands and where it was possible to work at many venues? He said again that I was politically illiterate and that he would make the decision by the time I went home on leave (to be precise, there was some conference to attend). When I arrived, naturally, I did not ask him that question. He waited and then said that after some consideration he had decided that I should continue working in New York for the time being. Mr Primakov was not an obstinate person. He had never been a “unipolar” man. As a minister, he would never stick to his opinion if you presented good arguments to him.

Question: I have a question about Syria. We watch television and some doubts arise. Are our American comrades and the coalition they lead really fighting terrorism? Or are they only creating a semblance of that?

Sergey Lavrov: I already touched on this issue when I talked about the document that former US Secretary of State John Kerry and I had coordinated but the Americans failed to meet the key condition for the agreement to be fully implemented. They failed to separate the opposition detachments that cooperated with them from the terrorists. They failed to ensure that opposition groups on the ground, based near Jabhat al-Nusra, leave their positions so that it would be possible to finish off the terrorist group that remained there. They failed to do so.

I have mixed feelings about the way the coalition is operating. We have already talked about that. I have no doubt that the coalition is committed to eradicating the so-called Islamic State. All of the coalition’s actions are designed to bleed this group dry, depriving it of support, fragmenting and liquidating it. In this regard, our goals completely coincide. By the way, Presidents Putin and Trump recently stated this when they met in Hamburg. We are in contact through our foreign policy agencies. Both sides believe these contacts are useful.

As for Jabhat al-Nusra, it is a somewhat different kind of animal, as they say. This organisation is opposed to the Islamic State but, just as ISIS, it is on the list of terrorist organisations that was approved by the UN Security Council. By all standards, as such, it is not simply a legitimate but a mandatory target for all those who are fighting the terrorist threat in Syria.

There is ample evidence that certain outside players may be tacitly accepting and even encouraging the US. They are protecting Jabhat al-Nusra. At least, the US-led coalition, which is carrying out active strikes against ISIS, is not so active with regard to Jabhat al-Nusra, if it conducts any serious operations against it in the first place. Not that I remember. There is a suspicion that they are trying to protect it in order to use it later as a battle worthy group in fighting against the Syrian government and bringing about regime change after ISIS is routed (nobody should have any doubts that this will happen although exactly when this will happen is hard to say right now; we are doing all we can to make it happen). I cannot say this with 100 percent certainty but to reiterate, there is substantial evidence that somebody is not averse to playing this card.


To be continued...



18.03.2018 - Statement by Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, at the Security Council meeting on letter dated 13 March

Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on letter dated 13 March 2018 from the Chargén d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council

17.03.2018 - Press release on summoning UK Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow to the Russian Foreign Ministry

On March 17, UK Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, where he was handed a note stating that in response to the provocative actions of the British side and groundless accusations against the Russian Federation with regard to the incident in Salisbury, UK on March 4, 2018, the Russian side has taken the following decisions in response. Twenty-three diplomatic staff of the UK Embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and are to be expelled from Russia within a week. Taking into account the disparity in the number of the two countries’ consular missions, the Russian Federation recalls its agreement on the opening and operation of the Consulate General of the United Kingdom in St Petersburg. Respective procedures will be followed in accordance with international legal practice. Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in the Russian Federation, its activities are terminated. The British side is warned that in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures.

16.03.2018 - Statement by the Foreign Ministry

The decision by the Ukrainian authorities, released on March 16, 2018, not to allow citizens of the Russian Federation to the Embassy and general consulates of Russia on the day of the election of the President of the Russian Federation causes nothing but indignation. Such actions are unprecedented and do not fit into generally accepted ideas about civilised countries. The above steps contradict not only the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations, but also international human rights standards, in particular, the provisions of the 1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

14.03.2018 - Embassy Press Secretary comments on the death of Russian citizen Nikolay Glushkov and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

Q: Can you comment on the mysterious death of the Russian citizen Nikolay Glushkov in London? A: Regretfully, the Embassy has received no information whatsoever regarding the circumstances of the death of Mr Glushkov. The investigation is not transparent, the British side appears not inclined to cooperate. This can only cause regret. Today the Embassy made an official request to provide all the information in possession of the British side regarding this Russian citizen whose death, as you said, appears mysterious. Overall, we are surprised with UK authorities’ reluctance and unwillingness to provide us with full details of both the poisoning of Russians Sergei and Yulia Skripal and the death of Nikolay Glushkov.

14.03.2018 - Statement by the Foreign Ministry

The March 14 statement made by British Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament on measures to “punish” Russia, under the false pretext of its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter, constitutes an unprecedented, flagrant provocation that undermines the foundations of normal dialogue between our countries.

14.03.2018 - Comment by the Information and Press Department on US threats to launch military strikes at Syria

During the discussion of Resolution 2401 on the ceasefire and the humanitarian pause in Syria in the UN Security Council on March 12, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley implied that the US might launch military strikes at Syria similar to last April when such actions were based on unfounded unilateral US accusations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government. Russia and Syria were also accused of violating the ceasefire and causing the suffering of civilians, primarily in East Ghouta.

14.03.2018 - Statement of the Russian Embassy

On 14 of March Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko was summoned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where he was informed that 23 diplomats were declared personae non gratae. We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted. All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain.

13.03.2018 - Statement by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW, Ambassador Alexander Shulgin, at the 87th session of the OPCW Executive Council on the chemical incident in Salisbury, The Hague, March 13, 2018

Mr Chairperson, In connection with the vicious attacks launched by British officials in London, as well as the statement by the head of the British delegation to the OPCW with regard to Russia concerning the suspicious story of two persons poisoned with a toxic agent in Salisbury, we would like to state the following. The British authorities’ unfounded accusations of Russia’s alleged involvement in using poisonous agents on their territory are absolutely unacceptable. Our British colleagues should recall that Russia and the United Kingdom are members of the OPCW which is one of the most successful and effective disarmament and non-proliferation mechanisms. We call upon them to abandon the language of ultimatums and threats and return to the legal framework of the chemical convention, which makes it possible to resolve this kind of situation.

13.03.2018 - Press release on summoning the UK Ambassador to the Russian Foreign Ministry

On March 13, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Russia Laurence Bristow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov strongly protested the evidence-free accusations by the UK authorities of Russia’s alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. It was stated that the actions of the UK authorities are a clear provocation and that the Russian Federation was not involved in the incident that took place in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. From the Russian side, it was emphasised that Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring and until the UK demonstrates compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention that stipulates a joint investigation into the incident, for which Moscow is ready. Without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London. The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia. Any threat to take “punitive” measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.

13.03.2018 - Press Secretary responds to media question

Q: Can you comment on yesterday’s threats of cyber attacks against Russia? A: Statements by a number of MPs, “Whitehall sources” and “experts” regarding a possible “deployment” of “offensive cyber-capabilities” cause serious concern. Not only is Russia groundlessly and provocatively accused of the Salisbury incident, but apparently, plans are being developed in the UK to strike Russia with cyber weapons. Judging by the statements of the Prime Minister, such a decision can be taken at tomorrow’s meeting of the National Security Council. We invite the British side to once again consider the consequences of such a reckless move.

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