20 July 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...



19.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning alleged identification by the Metropolitan police of suspects in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

Q.: How would you comment on today’s media reports claiming that the Met Police have allegedly identified two suspected perpetrators of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury? A.: We have seen the report by the Press Association saying that investigators believe to have identified the persons who poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal by cross-checking CCTV recordings with lists of people who entered and left the United Kingdom around that time. The Security Minister Ben Wallace has already given assessment to this report by writing in Twitter that it “belongs in the ill informed and wild speculation folder”. In this regard, we would also like to mention the statement of the Met Police on the Salisbury poisoning published by “Daily Mail” on 17 July, according to which “the investigation into the Salisbury attack remains ongoing and we’re not prepared to discuss any lines of enquiry at this stage”.

19.07.2018 - Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answers to questions by the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency about the investigation into the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents and the murder of Nikolai Glushkov

Question: What could you say about the investigation into the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury? Maria Zakharova: We have noticed that Britain has lately modified the tactics of covering the investigation into the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents. While earlier the London police limited themselves to general phrases accompanied by a lot of media leaks and high-level politicised statements, then now they make regular public statements, with politicians referring to the need to wait for police conclusions. Despite insufficient informative value, this creates an illusion of transparency.

18.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statement of on the 4th anniversary of the MH17 plane crash in Eastern Ukraine

Q: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt insists on Russian state responsibility for downing MH17 flight in Eastern Ukraine. How would you comment on this? A: Indeed, four years have passed since Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight crashed in Donbass, claiming the lives of 298 innocent passengers from many countries. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who lost their lives. From the very first day Russia has advocated a thorough and impartial international investigation into this crash. Our country immediately offered all necessary technical and expert assistance. Instead, the Netherlands did not allow Russia to participate in the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) and opted to pursue a preselected line of investigation, almost entirely ignoring essential information that Russia was providing.

17.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the statement of Minister of State Alan Duncan on the “Ukrainian political prisoners”

Question: Foreign Office Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan has urged Russia to release the “Ukrainian political prisoners” Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh and Emir-Huseyn Kuku. How would you comment on this? Answer: The Embassy has taken note of Sir Alan’s statement, which fails to reflect the real state of affairs. It should be reminded that Oleg Sentsov has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on grave charges of creating a terrorist group and preparing two terrorist acts.

17.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning The New York Times article on the Skripals case

Question: According to the New York Times, British investigators suspect “current or former agents of the GRU” of the attempted poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. How would you comment on that? Answer: We are not surprised by the new wave of anti-Russian publications in the run-up to and on the day of the meeting between the Russian and U.S. Presidents in Helsinki. However, we are concerned by the fact that, while the British authorities keep concealing all information concerning the investigation into the Salisbury incident, the newspaper has quoted “one former US official familiar with the inquiry”. It appears that the British authorities have shared confidential and extremely sensitive information with private individuals who have no authority or grounds for access thereto. Meanwhile, the Russian side has been trying to get access to the investigation and ensure cooperation between the British authorities and Russian experts for over four months, to no avail.

16.07.2018 - Russia-US summit

President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the United States of America Donald Trump have met in Helsinki for their first full-scale summit meeting. Before this, Mr Putin and Mr Trump had met on the sidelines of various international events.

16.07.2018 - News conference following talks between the presidents of Russia and the United States

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, The talks with President of the United States Donald Trump were held in a candid and business-like atmosphere. I think they were quite successful and beneficial. We reviewed the current state and prospects of Russia-US relations and key international issues. It is obvious to everyone that our bilateral relations are undergoing a complicated period but there is no objective reason for these difficulties and the current tense atmosphere.

14.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the new invitation of the OPCW experts to the UK

Question: How would you comment on the recent statement of the FCO concerning the new invitation to the OPCW experts to visit the United Kingdom in the framework of the Amesbury incident investigation? Answer: Following the new invitation extended by the UK to the OPCW technical experts “to independently confirm the identity of the nerve agent”, which Charles Rowley and Dawn Sturgess have been exposed to, we would like remind of the fact that after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March Russia proposed to the UK to use the mechanisms under Article IX, paragraph 2 of the CWC and carry out a joint investigation.

14.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning course of investigation of the Amesbury incident

Question: How would you comment on the recent statements that a small bottle containing nerve agent has been found in Amesbury? Answer: Unfortunately, Russia has no access to any official information concerning both the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and other suspicious incidents in the UK, because the British side refuses to cooperate with us in any way possible. We cannot check or verify any British statements. As for this incident, we have to rely only on public statements, and we are almost sure that the British side will not be informing us directly.

11.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the activity of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down

Question: As early as in April the Russian Embassy requested assistance of the British side in arranging a meeting with Chief Executive of the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) Gary Aitkenhead and his colleagues. Have you managed to ascertain whether this secret lab had produced A-234 type agents that were allegedly used against the Skripals? Answer: Sadly, the FCO has ignored our query, which brings us to the conclusion that the British authorities wish to prevent us from communicating with experts who might have some information that is inconvenient for the Conservative government. In his interview to Sky News in April, Mr Aitkenhead himself did not deny the fact that his laboratory had produced and stockpiled nerve agents, including the so-called “novichok”. He added that they “would not be allowed to operate if we had lack of control that could result in anything leaving the four walls of our facility”.

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