February 7, 2015
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation
Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus
Remarks and replies to media questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, during the discussion at the 51st Munich Conference on Security Policy, Munich, February 7 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mr. Wolfgang Ischinger included in the agenda the topic of “the collapse of world development”. It is impossible not to agree that the events unfolded not by the optimistic scenario. But you cannot accept arguments of some of our colleagues that a sudden, rapid collapse of the world order, which existed for decades, had occurred.
On the contrary, the events of the past year have confirmed the validity of our warnings regarding deep, systemic problems in the organization of European security and international relations in general. I would like to remind about the speech by President Putin spoken here eight years ago.
The design of stability, based on the UN Charter and the Helsinki principles was long ago undermined by the actions of the US and its allies in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, by NATO expansion to the East, the creation of new lines of separation. The project of building a “common European home” failed because our partners in the West were guided not by the interests of building an open architecture of security with mutual respect for interests, but illusions and beliefs of the winners in the “cold war”.
Solemnly adopted in the framework of the OSCE and the Council of the Russia-NATO obligation not to provide own security at the expense of security of others, remained on paper, but in practice was ignored.
The issue of missile defense is a stark evidence of the powerful destructive impact of unilateral steps in the field of military building, contrary to the legitimate interests of other states. Our proposals for joint work on missile defense issue were rejected. Instead we were advised to join the creation of the US global missile defense system, strictly according to the designs of Washington, which, as we’ve outlined and explained factually, carries real risks for the Russian nuclear deterrence.
Any action that undermines strategic stability, inevitably entails response measures. Thereby a long-term damage is inflicted to the entire system of international treaties in the field of arms control, the viability of which directly depends on factors of missile defense.
We don’t even understand, what could be the reason for the American obsession of creating a global missile defense system? The desire for unquestionable military superiority? The faith in the possibility to technologically solve the problems that are essentially political? Anyway, the missile threats have not decreased, but in the Euro-Atlantic area emerged a strong irritant, which will take a long time to get rid of. But we are ready for it. Another destabilizing factor was the refusal of the United States and other NATO members to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which buried this agreement.
Each difficult situation, created by themselves, our American colleagues are trying to blame on Russia. Take the revived in recent conversations The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Specialists are well aware of the actions of the United States, contrary to the spirit and letter of this document. For example, in the framework of the creation of a global missile defense, Washington began a large-scale program of creating missile-targets with characteristics similar to or close to the forbidden ground-based ballistic missiles. Under a contractual definition of ground-based medium-range cruise missiles fall the widely used by the U.S. shock drones. Expressly prohibited by the treaty are the anti-missile interceptors, which will soon be deployed in Romania and Poland, as they can be used to launch medium-range cruise missiles.
Refusing to acknowledge these facts, the American colleagues claim they have some “reasonable” claims towards Russia in relation to INF, but carefully avoid specifics.
Taking into account these and many other factors, to try to narrow this crisis to the events of the past year, in our opinion, is to fall into a dangerous self-deception.
It is the culmination of the course of our Western colleagues over the last quarter-century to capture by any means their dominance in world affairs, to capture the geopolitical space in Europe. The CIS countries, our closest neighbors, connected with us by centuries of economic, humanitarian, historical, cultural, and even family ties, are demanded to make a choice – either with the West or against the West. Is a logic of zero sum game, which everyone wanted to leave in the past.
The strategic partnership between Russia and the European Union could not stand the test of strength, because the EU chose a confrontational path of development of the mechanisms for mutually beneficial interaction. How can one not remember the missed opportunity to implement nominated by the Chancellor A. Merkel in June 2010 in Meseberg initiative to establish a Committee of the Russia-EU Foreign and Security Policy at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Russia supported this idea, but the EU rejected it. But such a mechanism of permanent dialogue (if it was created) would allow to more quickly and effectively solve problems and to remove mutual concerns in advance.
As for the Ukraine, unfortunately, at each stage of the development of the crisis our American colleagues, and under their influence – the European Union, took steps leading to escalation. This happened when the EU refused to discuss with Russia the consequences of activating the economic bloc of the association agreement with Ukraine, and then directly supported the coup, and before that – the anti-government riots. This happened when our Western partners have repeatedly issued indulgences to Kiev authorities, who instead of fulfilling the promises of starting a national dialogue, began a large-scale military operation, declaring their own citizens “terrorists” for disagreeing with the unconstitutional change of government and a rampage of ultra-nationalists.
It is very difficult to explain why, in the minds of many of our colleagues, the universal principles of settlement of internal conflicts do not apply to Ukraine, involving, primarily, the inclusive political dialogue between the protagonists. Why in cases such as Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Mali, South Sudan, our partners urge the government to negotiate with the opposition, the insurgents, in some cases even with extremists, and in relation to the Ukrainian crisis act differently, actually supporting the military operation in Kiev, up to attempts to justify the use of cluster munitions.
Unfortunately, our Western colleagues are apt to close their eyes to everything that is said and done by the Kiev authorities, including inciting xenophobic sentiments. Let me quote: “Ukrainian social-nationalism considers the Ukrainian nation a blood-racial community”. And further: “The question of total Ukranization in the future social-nationalist state will be resolved within three to six months with strict and prudent state policy.” The author is a deputy of the Ukrainian Verkhovnaya Rada, Andrey Biletsky, the commander of the regiment “Azov”, which actively participates in the fighting in Donbass. For ethnically pure Ukraine, the annihilation of Russians and Jews was repeatedly publicly called by the other figures, who broke into politics and power in Ukraine, including Yarosh, Tiagnybok, and leaders of the Radical Party of Lyashko, represented in Verkhovna Rada. These statements did not cause any reaction in Western capitals. I do not think that today’s Europe can afford to ignore the danger of the spread of the neo-Nazi virus.
The Ukrainian crisis cannot be resolved by military force. This was confirmed last summer, when the situation on the battlefield forced to sign the Minsk agreements. It is confirmed now, when another attempt to win a military victory is drowning. But despite this, in some Western countries increasingly there are calls to strengthen support for the course of the Kiev authorities for militarization of society and the state, to “pump” Ukraine with deadly weapons and pull it into NATO. The growing opposition in Europe to such plans gives hope, as it may only exacerbate the tragedy of the Ukrainian people.
Russia will continue to seek to establish peace. We consistently advocate for the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the beginning of direct negotiations of Kiev with Donetsk and Lugansk about specific ways to restore the common economic, social and political space within the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This was the subject of numerous initiatives of Vladimir Putin within the “Normandy” format, which allowed to start the Minsk process, our subsequent efforts for its development, including yesterday’s talks in the Kremlin by leaders of Russia, Germany and France. As you know, these negotiations will continue. We believe that there is every opportunity to achieve results and to agree on recommendations that will allow the parties to really untangle this conflict web.
It is important that everyone realizes the real extent of risks. It’s time to get rid of the habit to consider each issue separately, not seeing “the forest behind the trees”. It is time to assess the situation comprehensively. The world today is on a steep fault associated with changing of historical periods. “Birth pains” of the new world order are manifested through the increase of conflicts in international relations. If instead of strategic global vision, prevail the tactical decisions made by politicians with an eye on the coming elections at home, there is a danger of a loss of control over the levers of global governance.
Let me remind you that at the initial stage of the Syrian conflict, many in the West urged not to exaggerate the threat of extremism and terrorism, claiming that it will somehow dissolve on its own, and that the main thing – is to bring about regime change in Damascus. We see what happened. The vast territory in the Middle East, Africa, the Afghanistan-Pakistan area became uncontrollable by legitimate authorities. Extremism overflows to other regions, including Europe, aggravating risks of proliferation of WMDs. The situation in the Middle East settlement, in other areas of regional conflicts is gaining an explosive nature. An adequate strategy for containment of these challenges is still not developed.
I would hope that today’s and tomorrow’s discussions here in Munich will bring us closer to estimating the level of the efforts to find collective answers to common threats. The conversation, if you count on significant results, can only be equal, without ultimatums and threats.
We remain convinced that the whole complex of problems would be much easier to solve if the major players have agreed on strategic orientations of their relationship. Recently, the permanent Secretary of the French Academy, Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, said that “the real Europe may not exist without Russia”. We would like to understand if our partners share this view, or do they plan to continue the course of deepening the division of the European space and setting its fragments against each another? If they want to create a security architecture with Russia, without Russia or against Russia? Of course, our American partners should answer this question.
We have long proposed to start building a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, a space based on the principles of equal and indivisible security, which would include the members of integrated unions, and other countries which are not part of those unions. Of particular relevance is the establishment of robust mechanisms for interaction between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the EU. We welcome the emerging support of this idea of responsible European leaders.
In the year of the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki act and the 25th anniversary of the Paris Charter, Russia would like to infuse these documents with real life, to prevent replacing of the principles, enshrined there, to ensure the stability and prosperity throughout the entire Euro-Atlantic space on the basis of genuine equality, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests. We wish success to the “group of the wise”, formed in the framework of the OSCE, which must reach a consensus in their recommendations.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, we should be aware of responsibility that rests on all of us.
Thank you for your attention.
Question: I understand all the above-mentioned problems in relation to the United States and missile defense. Besides the fact that according to the INF, Russia equates drones to cruise missiles, I would like to note that the US President Obama had significantly reduced European missile defense. If there are problems in relation to the United States, why should Ukraine pay for it? Referring to the annexation of Crimea and attempts to divide Ukraine. What did the poor Ukrainians do that you punish them for the sins of the Americans?
Lavrov: I understand that you have, of course, a twisted perception. Don’t confuse apples and oranges. Now they say “we will resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and the whole system of security and stability will start working on its own.” On the contrary. The crisis needs to be resolved, it is the first priority, but we cannot ignore the fact that all the agreements concluded by the end of the “cold war” are not followed.
We have no desire to seek revenge, especially at someone else’s expense. We want to have normal relations with the United States. It was not us, who destroyed the deployed mechanisms which have been established in recent years and which provided daily contact and mutual clearing of concerns. It was not us who pulled out of the Missile Defense Treaty. It was not us who refused to ratify the adapted CFE Treaty. Now we need to collect bit by bit what we still have left and somehow based on the reconfirmation of the Helsinki principles to negotiate a new security system, which would be comfortable for everyone, including Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova – all, whom our American colleagues had put before a choice: to move towards the West and to reduce cooperation with Russia. It is a fact.
I am aware that American ambassadors around the world receive such instructions. I see here A. Vershbow, who recently gave an interview, calling NATO “the most peaceful bloc in the world” and “the hope of the European stability and security.” And who bombed Yugoslavia, Libya, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions? The achievements brought by unilateral actions we are seeing now in the Middle East. We want NATO to not be just an exemplary organization, which it is presented as, but a participant in equal dialogue for stability. What’s wrong with that? Everyone wants us to recognize a subordinate role of all others in relation to the United States and NATO. I don’t think it is in the interests of world peace and stability.
With regard to the events in Ukraine, the U.S. President Barack Obama recently said openly that the United States was the broker in the process of transition (transit) of power in Ukraine. Modest formulation, but we know very well how it happened, who openly discussed on the phone the composition of personalities that should be represented in the new Ukrainian government, and much more. We know what happens now, who routinely monitored events on Maidan. There were no our military specialists and experts.
We want very much for the Ukrainian nation to regain its unity, but it must be done on the basis of real national dialogue. When the central government decided to celebrate as national holidays the birthdays of Stephan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, the date of formation of the “Ukrainian Insurgent Army”, the question arises – how can these holidays be celebrated in the East of Ukraine? There is no way. And the West does not want to celebrate May 9th [Victory over Hitler in the Great Patriotic War -tr.]. Without mentioning other specific features of the Ukrainian society, just this requires some political arrangements.
They are probably embarrassed to say to say it here, but now Ukraine is undergoing mobilization, which is running into serious difficulties. Representatives of the Hungarian, Romanian minorities feel “positive” discrimination, because they are called up in much larger proportions than ethnic Ukrainians. Why not talk about it? Or that in Ukraine reside not only Ukrainians and Russians, but there are other nationalities which by fate ended up in this country and want to live in it. Why not provide them with equal rights and take into account their interests? During the elections to the Verkhovnaya Rada the Hungarian minority asked to organize constituencies in such a way that at least one ethnic Hungarian would make it to the Rada. The constituencies were “sliced” so that none of the Hungarians made it. All this suggests that there is something to discuss. There are real problems that don’t allow the Ukrainian state to get out of this severe crisis, but they are ignored in the West. I have talked to many, including those sitting here, when they introduced a law on lustration. One-on-one I was told that this is a terrible law, which urgently needs to be cancelled. I asked why this is not talked about publicly, and heard that there is an understanding that it is necessary to support the Ukrainian government, and not to criticize it. What else is there to say?
I hope that yesterday’s efforts made by the presidents of France, Russia and the Chancellor of Germany, will produce a result that will be supported by the parties of the conflict and will actually calm down the situation, starting the much-needed national dialogue on ways to solve all the problems – social, economic and political.
Question: Going Back to the results of yesterday’s talks in Moscow and the day before yesterday in Kiev, the good news is that the Minsk agreement is still on the agenda, but the bad news is that not all the signatories of these agreements agree to comply with them. Meaning the representatives from DPR and LPR are leading an offensive, artillery fire, etc. The Russian Federation also signed the Minsk agreement. Now there are attempts to revise the line of contact. There is no pressure on the militia, although Russia recognized that it can exert such pressure. Do you actually plan to implement the Minsk agreement? What guarantees of the implementation of all 12 points of the Minsk agreements and pressure on DPR and LPR can you give, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation?
Lavrov: As soon as the main participants of the Minsk process – the Ukrainian authorities and representatives of the proclaimed republics of DPR and LPR – will reach an agreement on all practical aspects of implementation of each of Minsk points, I am convinced that Russia will be among those who will provide such guarantees – whether in the OSCE, or in the UN Security Council. I am convinced that Germany, France and other countries will also be able to provide such guarantees. But you can guarantee only what has been done and achieved. You have to agree directly. We should not pretend that these people will obey [Russia] unequivocally. They live on their own land and are fighting for it. When people say that they would not be able to provide superiority on the battlefield, I will say that theirs is a just cause. And Ukrainian soldiers don’t understand why they are thrown to battle. I repeat, direct negotiations are needed.
Once the US Administration was criticized for the fact that it actively maintained contacts with the Taliban via Doha (Qatar). In response to criticism the administration asked, why criticize: “Yes, they are enemies, but one does not negotiate with friends. Negotiations are held with the enemies”. If the Ukrainian authorities consider their citizens – enemies, they will have to negotiate in any case. Our Ukrainian colleagues should not hope that the blind support, they receive from the outside, will solve all the problems. Such support without any critical analysis of the events is spinning some heads. Just as in 2008, it spun the head of Mikhail Saakashvili. Everyone knows what came of it.
When Lavrov says, Russia supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine, it doesn’t mean that it wants Ukraine to remain in it’s current boundaries. What it means, is that it is not up to Russia, but up to the citizens of Ukraine to decide, whether to remain united or not. He also brings up the differences in the mentality and culture of Eastern and the Western Ukraine, which need to be addressed. “To be addressed,” does not mean “to be resolved”, especially when they are irreconcilable