Sergey Lavrov, “Mister No”: Georgian-Armenian Blood, Russian Spirit

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February 29, 2016

Sputnik Armenia

Translated by Kristina Kharlova

Ramil Sitdikov

Bulgarian newspaper “Trud” published an article entitled “The Iron Diplomat”, which recalled interesting stories from the biography of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov. 

Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is a heavy smoker. When after the ban on smoking at UN headquarters in 2003 Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a remark, asking him not to smoke, Lavrov replied: “This house belongs to all the members of the UN, and you just temporarily run it”.

And continued to smoke.

Kofi Annan is not the only victim of Lavrov’s sharp tongue. At the sauna in his home, the Russian diplomat keeps a souvenir — a stone with the inscription “On this spot Minister Lavrov told his British counterpart Jack Straw to take a very long walk”. This is a gift of another Russian diplomat who witnessed this event. During rafting on river Katun in Altai with a group of former classmates, Lavrov had to talk it over with Straw. He, however, repeatedly delayed the call. “Finally I asked politely to tell the colleague that I would not be able to talk to him today,” – said Lavrov, adding that his friend interpreted those words in a rather free form.

Recently, the first Moscow diplomat made a sharp remark towards the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. He said he was stunned “by Borisov’s statement that Bulgaria  refused to implement energy projects with Russia in the interests of the United States.”

“I would be ashamed before the voters, the country”, — said Lavrov.

Borisov advised “the Russians to listen closer”, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Daniel Mitov said that “Lavrov’s words are bordering on boorish behavior”.

Lavrov graduated from Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO). He is a career diplomat, who began with at the bottom at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and became its head, as he has been for over 11 years. Speaks English, French and Sinhala — the language spoken in Sri Lanka, where he went for the first business trip abroad. In 1994 he became the permanent representative of Russia at the UN. There he began to tirelessly pursue the strategic line of the Kremlin, in which he firmly believes, – restoring Russia’s position as a great power.

(“Russia is his religion,” – said one American diplomat)

And against U.S. domination in the international arena. He is remembered for many vetoes at the Security Council which earned him a nickname “Mr. No.” 

One of his idols — Alexander Gorchakov, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire for 30 years, headed Russian diplomacy after the defeat in the Crimean war. “He was able to restore Russian influence in Europe after the defeat in the war, and he did it not with arms but diplomacy,” – said Lavrov about Gorchakov. 

He believes that the 90-ies of the last century is lost time for Russia, a time when it was humiliated. Today, according to Lavrov, Russia has inner strength, it is stronger economically and successfully tackles social issues. Thus it can afford a “confident” foreign policy.

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton might also question Lavrov’s manners. He repeatedly refused to talk to her on the phone, and once called her hysterical. Hillary’s predecessor, Condoleezza Rice often fell under his blows.

“He knew exactly what button to press to make her angry,” – recalled David Kramer from team Rice.

People in the know categorically claim that the allegedly intemperate remarks of Lavrov are actually well-balanced moves. As political analyst Georgy Mirsky explained: “He is a good diplomat. He knows what’s what. Whatever he says, he always expresses the official line of Moscow.”

Sergey Lavrov was born on March 21, 1950, the blood of an Armenian father and Georgian mother flows in his veins. Graduated from gymnasium with silver medal. While a third year student of MGIMO, he married his wife Maria, has a daughter. Fond of sports and in spare time enjoys skiing, soccer and rafting. His hobby is writing poetry, he is the author of his university’s anthem. Plays guitar and collects political jokes, most of which he knows by heart and loves to recite.

Others about Lavrov:

“Wise and witty”

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: “I learned to appreciate his wit and his wisdom. I consider him a friend”

“He’s among the most respected”

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria Ursula Plassnik: “He is one of the most intelligent, informed, and respected foreign policy players on the world stage”.

“Unmatched professional”

American diplomat with many years of experience, a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke (died in 2010): “He is an unmatched diplomat who serves his masters in Moscow with intelligence, energy, and considerable arrogance”.

“One of the finest diplomats of our time”

Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Labor and Social Policy of Bulgaria, former Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin: “One of the finest diplomats of our time. The man who very well defines the goals that he pursues, and chooses a way to defend them. Sometimes — with humor, sometimes — with sarcasm, sometimes – with sharp reaction”.

Faux Pas with Hillary Clinton

In 2009, Hillary Clinton met with Sergei Lavrov in Geneva and gave him a “Restart” button in honor of the announced reboot of relations between the United States and Russia. 

However, the inscription in Russian was incorrect, and instead of “restart” it said “overload”. 

Lavrov did not miss the opportunity to point out the mistake and announced that he will put this button on his desktop. Clinton’s counselor Philippe Reines asked the Russian side to give him back the button to fix the error, saying that if he doesn’t, Clinton will send him to Siberia. “At some point I really thought about it,” – confessed Mrs. Clinton in her memoirs.

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