Remembering Lavrov and Russia’s diplomatic successes

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October 5, 2015 – 

Ivan Roshchepy, PolitRussia – 

Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski 

“The diplomatic successes that Lavrov was silent about”

The General Assembly session of the UN, our president and foreign minister’s speeches there, the start of military operations in Syria – all these events of the past few days can be safely written down in the assets of our diplomacy. Riding this positive wave, Sergey Lavrov did not miss an opportunity in an interview with Venezuelan state television to tell about key Russian diplomatic successes. The list is quite weighty, but “Mr. No,” as Lavrov is called in the West, was obviously modest. 

The interview of our foreign minister from October 2 came out more than too big, succinct, and interesting.

During almost an hour of conversation, Lavrov talked with the journalist about the possibility of nuclear war, relations between Russia and Venezuela, their international and military cooperation, the “Mistral” sores, and the incident between Venezuela and Colombia. The topic of Lavrov and the Russian Federation’s diplomatic successes and difficulties was also touched on. 

As a genuine diplomat, the minister replied quite modestly: “It’s difficult to speak about the difficult moments, because there is no such thing as an easy life in diplomacy today. It’s also immodest to speak about achievements. I will mention some things which, in my opinion, are examples of collective successes. During my tenure, BRIC was established, later BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has been strengthened – at the last summit in Ufa, the decision was made to begin the process of inducting India and Pakistan into the SCO. This will make the SCO an even more influential, important, and authoritative organization. It is no coincidence that a lot of other countries are asking about accession to this structure, either as members of observers.” 

It’s worth noting that the possible mass-scale expansion of the SCO is genuinely great. This summer, Vladimir Putin mentioned that as many as 12 countries are ready to join this organization. Which countries exactly has not been disclosed. However, it has appeared in the media that it is possible to assume that among them are Iran, Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Belarus, and Azerbaijan. These are those countries whose relations with Russia are now of a most warm character.

Lavrov did not forget to mention Russia’s role in the achievement of agreements over chemical disarmament in Syria in 2013. 

“This project was successfully realized in record time – almost a year. Syria joined the Convention of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and then honestly and actively cooperated in all activities related to removing and destroying stockpiles of chemical agents,” Lavrov said. 

This agreement was reached thanks to the initiative of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who was even called the most likely candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, downplaying the role of Lavrov in achieving consensus isn’t worth it on this issue. In September, 2013, the American edition of the New York Times noted that, by signing the agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons, the foreign minister strengthened the position of Russia on the international arena and climbed to the top of his diplomatic career. Then, it was because of his tough and uncompromising position on important issues that Lavrov earned the nickname “Mr. No.” 

Really, the Syrian success of Russian diplomacy was one of the most important. Thanks to the consensus achieved, preventing another bloody massacre was successful. However, this success was far from the first and not the last, and, maybe, not the loudest.

So, an equally important event in our diplomatic history was the settlement of the Iranian nuclear program, an issue which, according to Lavrov, “was considered almost unsolvable.” 

No matter that the concluded agreement was considered “historic” and no matter that “President Putin” was thanked “for the important role of Russia in achieving this goal,” the head of Washington argued that without Russia, agreement with Iran wouldn’t have been at all so difficult. As a minimum, our country committed itself to withdrawing to its territory the main part of the low-enriched uranium and assist in the creation of an enterprise for the production of isotopes fro peaceful purposes that no one agreed to do. 

“Mr. No” decided to limit himself in disclosing the list of diplomatic successes that had been achieved by Russia since March 9, 2004 – the date when Sergey Lavrov took the post of foreign minister. However, a number of events can be confidently included in this list.

The normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey

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Today, few remember what agreements were achieved in 2009. Then, two protocols were signed by the heads of the foreign ministries of Armenia and Turkey “on the establishment of diplomatic relations and the development of bilateral relations” – these were considered “historic.” And this is fully natural, because they settled the smoldering from the 1993 conflict.

And also few people remember that without the presence of Sergey Lavrov at the ceremony, the signing of the protocols by the heads of the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers, Edvard Nalbandian and Ahmet Davutoglu would inevitably have fallen through due to the sudden disagreements between them. Nalbandian wrote that Sergey Lavrov was the life-saving player. According to a source from delegation, there were only seven words: “Edvard! Agree to the ceremony without statements.” 

An hour later, Edvard Nalbandian and Ahmet Davutoglu silently signed the protocols and just as silently withdrew. Thus, diplomatic relations were established and the border was opened between Turkey and Armenia. 

The unsinkability of Russia at the UN

No smaller of a success of our diplomacy was the ability to withstand all sorts of attacks from various sides. Just because of some events in Ukraine, Russia came literally under the gun of the entire world community. Crimea, Novorossiya, the downed “Boeing” – these were all red flags for the Western countries and their allies. 

No less complicated was the situation in August, 2008 after the Russian-Georgian war. If not for the skill of our diplomats, our nation’s position then and now would have significantly faltered. However, this did not happen, and this is the great merit of “team Russia”: Putin, Lavrov, and Churkin. 

The role of the first two is clear. Today, they represent the independent policy of the Russian Federation, which is primarily guided by its own interests and, at the same time, actively interacts with its allies, the parties interested in cooperation. This is confirmed by the start of “turning face to the East” and turning back to the West. 

But in the defense of our interests, it is also worth noting the role of Vitaly Churkin. As the authorized representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, he’s allowed to comment on and interpret foreign policy almost with the same freedom as the foreign minister. So, Churkin regularly speaks as a news-maker in foreign media, giving interviews and detailing Russia’s position on international issues.

Since 2006, Churkin has defended the interests of Russia at meetings of the UN Security Council (which becomes harder to do), and during this time he repeatedly used veto power. In particular, on February 4 and July 19, 2012, when the draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria was vetoed, and on March 15, 2014 – the draft resolution on Ukraine – and July 29, 2015 – the draft resolution on the establishment of an international tribunal over the disaster of flight MH17. It is also possible to apply the nickname of “Mr. No” from Andrey Gromyko and Lavrov to him. 

Independence from America

At the beginning of the new millennium, it seemed to many that Russia was ready to believe in the US and get together with the Americans. Thus, after the terrorist attack of 9/11, Vladimir Putin was the first who expressed solidarity with the American people. In the future, Washington and Moscow collaborated on conducting counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Cooperation continued even though the US waged war on Iraq, which Russia opposed. 

Relations between the two countries began to deteriorate in 2004 after the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine, in which Moscow noticed the invisible hand of the United States. Coincidentally or not, Lavrov headed the Russian foreign ministry in 2004.

There is the opinion that Lavrov is not fighting with the US, but only with the image of Almighty Washington. Indeed this is it. He always supports Putin, and between them there is complete, mutual understanding. The only time that the minister allowed himself to disagree with the president concerned depriving US citizens of the ability to adopt children from Russia. Then Sergey Lavrov called the law wrong. Hardly anyone remembers that now. 

Even in the West, they recognize him: “His firm NO to Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, gas, NATO…a broken record that rings for new, developing countries which don’t want to follow on the heels of the US. Russia wants to be the representative of this class.”

So it is obvious that Russian diplomacy has enough successes, and some of them can even be omitted. We don’t want to brag; it is enough to remember.

In conclusion, another quote from the interview of the minister is suitable: “Some say that Russia is naughty, limited in its approach, and they agree that justice must be respected, but it’s necessary to realize that there are real politics, and in real politics it is necessary to make exceptions. We will never be capricious and not persist in something; we are always ready to seek agreement.” 

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