Question: Unprecedented sanctions pressure is being exerted on the Russian Federation due to the recent events, primarily “on the ground.” Has Russia changed its position? Does the world hear what Russia is saying? What do you think about the ongoing talks in Belarus? What should we expect from the next round?
Sergey Lavrov: This is a comprehensive question. You have touched on many issues. I am sure the world is listening to Russia, but it is difficult to say at this point the extent to which it hears us. The majority may understand what this is about, but they have to obey the toughest dictate.
Speaking frankly, it is of course bad when people die: military servicemen and civilians (women and children). This has been happening in Donbass for eight years and is now happening during Russia’s special military operation. The goal of this operation is to stop any war that could take place on Ukrainian territory or that could start from there.
I have no doubt that a solution will be found. Our minimum terms are well known. They are being discussed, in part, at the talks with Ukrainian representatives. Talks were held in Gomel and new talks were supposed to take place today. However, the Kiev team has again found some reason to postpone the talks. There is no doubt whatsoever that Ukraine receives instructions from Washington; they are not independent at all. Nevertheless, talks must take place. I will not go into the details of the agenda; they are well known. We can no longer tolerate the threat of direct attack on the Russian Federation from the territory of Ukraine. Such threats are fixed in the current doctrinal documents of the Kiev regime. One of the main reasons is Ukraine’s unrelenting desire to join NATO and the reluctance of the Alliance’s members to fulfil their commitments that they do not take any measures that would enhance their security at the expense of the security of others.
In the final analysis, this is not just the situation in Ukraine, the efforts to demilitarise and de-Nazify it, to prevent the continuing manifestations of genocide on its territory, putting a stop to any violence and ensuring for the Ukrainians an opportunity to decide their destiny themselves; no, it is the world order that is at stake. This is for a reason that the West is avoiding, in any way it can, giving a response to our implicit, clear-cut proposals on the security system in Europe that rely on existing agreements.
I mentioned the core principle endorsed at the top level by the OSCE which underlies Russia-NATO relations. Each country has the right to choose alliances. However, no country can strengthen its security at the expense of the security of any other country. No organisation can claim dominance in the Euro-Atlantic space, which is exactly what NATO is doing now. The West strengthening its security at the expense of Russia’s security has become proverbial. We are being told “not to worry because Ukraine or any other country joining NATO will not pose a threat to Russia’s security.” Why should the West tell us what our security needs are? Just like the Americans decided for Germany and Europe what was needed for European energy security. They decided that Nord Stream 2 was something that the EU did not need for its energy security, which would be ensured instead by supplies of liquefied natural gas from the United States at multiple times the cost.
The fact is that we are being listened to, but not heard. They are trying in every possible way to impose on us their idea of how to continue living in Europe.
The comparison suggests itself. In their time, Napoleon and Hitler set out to subjugate Europe. Now, the United States has taken it over. There was no question about NATO, and the European Union was shown its place. The story of Nord Stream 2 vividly illustrated the EU’s actual place in the international arena. It was coerced into doing what it is now doing, end of story. Now, they have started talking and Western capitals are issuing demands. The picture being created on the world stage is like something out of Hollywood, showing absolute evil and absolute good represented by the main character, who also happened to script this “action movie.” It’s sad.
I’m sure the hysteria will pass. Our Western partners will, for lack of a better word, get over it eventually. We remain ready for dialogue, but on one indispensable condition which is this dialogue must be based on equality, respect and consideration for each other’s interests.
Question (retranslated): President of Russia Vladimir Putin is described in the West as an isolated man who is reacting emotionally. When did you speak with him last? Is he taking advice?
Sergey Lavrov: You are choosing to characterise what the President of Russia is doing and how based on Western propaganda.
In the past few weeks, President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly explained in detail our view. It reflects the position of the Russian leadership, arrived at in full conformity with the constitutional powers of the President of the Russian Federation and such structures as the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, special services and the Security Council of Russia. This work is being carried out on a daily basis. Permanent Security Council members meet at least once a week. This is the decision-making mechanism.
Question (retranslated): Despite all the nuclear fears, Russia and the United States have managed to maintain stability for decades. Can you reassure the world by saying that Russia will not lose its head and be the first to use nuclear weapons?
Sergey Lavrov: We have a military doctrine that describes the parameters and conditions for using nuclear weapons. There is no “escalation for the sake of de-escalation” there, though Western analysts claim otherwise.
Talk of nuclear war has already begun. Look carefully at these statements and the characters who made them. First, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a propaganda frenzy, trying to curry favour with the most radical forces in the West, that nobody would ban the North Atlantic Alliance from doing whatever it wants, even if it suddenly decides to deploy nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe. To begin with, NATO cannot decide where to deploy nuclear weapons. It does not have them. The Americans do. Stoltenberg’s comment was very revealing.
Next, Vladimir Zelensky started saying that they would renege on their obligations as a non-nuclear state and acquire nuclear weapons. Remember this as well. Do not forget to look at what was said by my colleague, Foreign Minister of France Jean-Yves le Drian. He loves to show off, you know. The rooster is a national symbol of France. They often get cocky. During one of his chats with the world, he said Vladimir Putin must remember that France also has nuclear weapons. Neither President Putin nor I are saying this. Other people started this talk. The recently appointed UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss said she was prepared for conflict between NATO and Russia. Please note what US President Joseph Biden has said. When asked whether there was any alternative to the current “sanctions from hell” he said World War 3 was the only alternative to these sanctions. It is commonly understood that World War 3 means nuclear war. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the thought of nuclear war is constantly running through the minds of Western politicians but not the minds of Russians. I assure you that we will not let any provocations cause us to lose our balance. But if a real war is unleashed against us, this must be a concern for those who are hatching such plans. And I believe these plans are being hatched.
Question (retranslated): The world is witnessing Russian bombs killing people in Ukraine and we keep hearing the lies that the Russians are telling about these attacks. The world has come together to condemn them. How can you defend this position?
Sergey Lavrov: You read your question from a piece of paper. The question is short, but still you chose to read it off the piece of paper. I cannot comment on the fakes which abound. It may have come to your attention that primarily Europe and the United States are trying to shut down Russian media and sources of information about the developments in Ukraine, the ongoing special military operation and the way the Ukrainian army, the Ukrainian neo-Nazi battalions are treating civilians. When they retreat, they plunder the areas on their way out. In Donbass, the self-defence units of Donetsk and Lugansk began to drive them out. They take people’s vehicles and equipment, and behave like looters and thieves. There is a lot of information about provocations being prepared, including in Mariupol and other places, where the Ukrainians are trying to use civilians as human shields. Ask the Indian, Arab, or African students who are trying to leave Ukraine, but they won’t let them go. Just yesterday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with President Vladimir Putin. He is concerned that an Indian student died in Kharkov, Ukraine. There are no Russian troops in Kharkov. But we see foreigners who want to depart, including across Russian territory, being prevented from leaving at the Kharkov railway station. We are ready to accommodate these students. I don’t have enough time to list all the instances. I encourage you to visit our Ministry’s website, which provides a detailed description of what the Kiev neo-Nazi regime is doing. I know you are fond of the word “kill.” The real killers are fighting on the side of the Kiev regime.
Question (retranslated): Do you believe that President Vladimir Zelensky, the first Jewish president of Ukraine, whose family died during the Holocaust, is a Nazi?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe he is being manipulated by nationalists and neo-Nazis. Otherwise, I find it difficult to explain how President Zelensky can “preside” over a society where neo-Nazis and neo-Nazism are flourishing. They openly hold marches and torchlight processions, and he has his guard of honour stand guard as they do so. They conduct exercises, learn methods of urban warfare, sabotage, and provocation. All of that is happening under President Vladimir Zelensky. He claims that his grandfather fought on the fronts of WWII. Look at the laws he signs. How can a president, who is a “citizen of the world” (as every Jewish person is supposed to be), sign a law on indigenous peoples of Ukraine? Russians are not listed among the indigenous peoples. How can a president who is not a racist sign and support laws that ban the Russian language not only in schools (which is ugly in and of itself), not only in education, but in everyday life as well? You cannot ask a pharmacist for medications in Russian. By the way, Crimea (which some people in the West worry so much about) has three state languages – Russian, Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian – which was never the case under Ukrainian rule. Any Russian citizen living in Crimea can come to any federal or local office and speak his or her native language, and they must answer them in the same language. The list goes on and on. I know that you go for catchy images and so you don’t have time to deal with the facts and really understand them. For once, spend at least 30 minutes to read what’s posted on the website of our Ministry, or on the website of the Russian Defence Ministry. I know that you will not be allowed to raise your voice. Yesterday, President of France Emmanuel Macron said that it was a lie to accuse Vladimir Zelensky and Ukraine of allowing Nazism to flourish. He got his answer already. However, the best answer came from his fellow citizen, a French journalist who visited Donbass and described the shelling of a school, the death of two women, two teachers who worked at that school, and she shamed the Western leaders who refuse to see it. Of course, she was not allowed to publish this, but her comment is still available on social media. I encourage you to learn about the facts rather than try to pretend that the same Hollywood “action movie” is unfolding according to the script about absolute evil and absolute good which was written by your colleagues.
Question (retranslated): Not so long ago we interviewed some European officials. They said NATO really did not want to expand eastward. Russia was not supposed to have any problems with this. Now such statements are no longer made. Why have these changes appeared and why were such Russian media as Sputnik and RT blocked in the EU? We are seeing disinformation from social and traditional media. What is your response to all this?
Sergey Lavrov: What is my response to all this? This fact is well known and cannot be concealed. The Soviet leadership and then the Russian leadership was reassured that NATO would not move to the east, that not a single piece of NATO’s military infrastructure would appear to the east of the Oder River. You know what happened afterwards. President Vladimir Putin has spoken about this many times. There were five consecutive waves of NATO expansion. Moreover, each time the rhetoric, military planning and exercises of this alliance became increasingly directed against the Russian Federation.
We have talked about this and explained it many times. But we did not see a response that would indicate NATO’s readiness to speak on equal grounds, based on respect for each other’s interests and concerns. I deliberately cited statements that were made at the highest level in the OSCE in Istanbul in 1999, in Astana in 2010 and the statements of the Russian and NATO leaders at the summit in Pratica di Mare in 2002. It was clearly said that nobody would enhance their security at the expense of the security of others and that not a single organisation in the Euro-Atlantic region had the right to claim domination in the OSCE space. NATO members are categorically refusing to honour both.
You have asked me a very good question: Why is this happening and why do they need to maintain this position? I see no other explanation but the stubborn, relentless desire to maintain their superiority in all areas and show everyone that it is NATO that is dictating orders in Europe. Now Yens Stoltenberg has said that NATO bears global responsibility for global security. So, all this talk about the defensive character of the Alliance is cheap talk, “in favour of the poor” as we say here. If the Alliance was defensive it would have had to defend itself by now. But nobody has ever attacked it. And yet the Alliance decided itself: Now we are defending ourselves along the conventional Berlin Wall. Then the Berlin Wall was gone – why don’t we defend ourselves somewhere else? Then they started moving eastward. Each time, they drew a defensive line independently and unilaterally. It has already approached the Russian Federation. This was explained many times. President Vladimir Putin explained this explicitly in his public statements and long conversations with Western leaders. When they speak with us at the bilateral level, they seem to show understanding, but something happens with them as soon as they get together. Apparently, what happens is that they are already ruled by the United States that is issuing orders and instructions to them. It’s sad. We remain open to a conversation. It is bound to start eventually anyway.
Everyone knows that a coup d’etat took place in Ukraine. It was not provoked by anything. It took place a day after the President and the opposition signed an agreement on early elections which the opposition was bound to win.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin asks his colleagues: Why did they stage this coup? If there had been no coup the afore-mentioned agreement would have been fulfilled. It wouldn’t have occurred to anyone to start an uprising in Crimea against the putschists. Crimea would have remained Ukrainian. We have said and explained all this.
But in the current situation we cannot tolerate this threat because Ukraine has been turned into “anti-Russia”, into a bridgehead for undermining everything Russian. This continued for a long time. This was part of a big geopolitical game. Do your remember Zbigniew Brzezinski said that Russia and Ukraine together were a superpower? I believe he also said that it necessary to make every use of Ukraine to undermine Russia’s interests, influence and culture. I’d like to emphasise that he urged his colleagues to use Ukraine to cause the collapse of the Russian Orthodox faith, which is now being actively done. President Petr Poroshenko started this line and President Vladimir Zelensky is doing much to support it. So, there is no lack of goodwill on our part but we cannot allow and will not tolerate continuous crude encroachments on our interests that create a physical threat to Russia’s security.
Question (retranslated from English): What is your assessment of the current situation after the talks with Ukraine?
Sergey Lavrov: I cannot say now what the situation will be like after the talks. The talks have not started yet. I believe the head of the delegation, who is holding talks with Ukraine, will make a statement as soon as they are completed. Then we will learn all about it.
Question (retranslated from English): Russia is isolated in the diplomatic arena, with only four countries having voted against the resolution calling on Russia to stop its military operation immediately. For perhaps the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO is united as never before. In diplomatic terms, it has been a fiasco, or a defeat for Russia, has it not?
Sergey Lavrov: That is for you to judge. I cannot judge my actions or my country’s actions. We are confident that we are doing the right thing.
I want to say again that it is bad, very bad that people are dying.
I am not thinking of a diplomatic fiasco but rather of the West’s “talent” for diplomacy. Thousands of people died – about 14,000 people died over the eight years of war in Donbass. Not a single person from your channel or any other media outlet in the West has ever thought of travelling to Donbass to see how people whom the Ukrainian regime declared terrorists, although they had never attacked anyone, live there. They were attacked and called terrorists. These people come under fire every day, civilians are killed there, schools and kindergartens are destroyed and acts of terrorism are committed.
If you choose what the West says as the criterion for your professional actions, then so be it. If you call those eight years of silence on the part of Western media and Western politicians and eight years of torpedoing the Minsk agreements, with the Ukrainian regime not only failing to implement the agreements but continuing to use force against civilians – if you call those eight years of choosing to ignore and remain silent a diplomatic triumph, that is your right. You represent an independent media outlet, as I understand. Russia has stood up for its interests and NATO, as you said, is finally united as never before. Has NATO sought to bring back the reason for justifying its existence? The reason vanished following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. Later, it was Afghanistan. Recently, NATO has triumphantly pulled out of Afghanistan. However, this event failed yet again to provide motivation for uniting and keeping a tight rein on all allies. What strategic autonomy is President of France Emmanuel Macron talking about? Nobody will ever allow anyone to have strategic autonomy. The United States has already shown it clearly. This is, perhaps, the diplomatic triumph of the United States. But then I will not say who in Europe is suffering a diplomatic fiasco.
As for the arithmetic you mentioned, we know well what methods our Western colleagues use to achieve results like these: pure blackmail and arm-twisting. They tell all counties without exception and without mincing words: there will be voting and you must vote the way we tell you. They say this to officials in foreign countries who have accounts in the West and whose children study in universities in Western countries. Exactly like this, without ceremony. I know this because many of my friends tell me that such pressure is being put on them: “I’m sorry, we can’t vote differently, it is my life, and the life and well-being of my family.” Yes, these methods are used to achieve a diplomatic triumph. My congratulations to you. However, the truth will out ultimately.
Again, I want to invite you to visit the Foreign Ministry website for irrefutable documentary evidence of what Ukrainian military and neo-Nazis were doing in Donbass and other parts of Ukraine. That is why we are not feeling political loneliness.
Question: Is the plan to bring back Viktor Yanukovych to power in Kiev? Is this the endgame for Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: Again, your question shows that you came to this interview without even reading through what President Vladimir Putin and I have said on multiple occasions. It is up to the Ukrainian people, or rather all the peoples living in multi-ethnic Ukraine, to decide on the future of Ukraine and on who should be their leader.
Question: I have a question about Polina Zakhodinskaya. She was in her final year of primary school. She was shot dead by the Russians as she was in her family car in Kiev on Saturday. Mr Lavrov, I know you have a daughter yourself. I want you to look me in the eye and just tell me how do you sleep at night knowing that Russian bombs and bullets are killing children?
Sergey Lavrov: I can’t add anything to what I have already said. Every human life is precious. Unfortunately, hostilities involve casualties, not only among the military, but also the civilians. Our servicemen participating in the special operation have a strict order to use only high-precision weapons to suppress the military infrastructure. Even the barracks with the Ukrainian military are not targeted.
I can only convey my condolences to the bereaved families.
Question: You say high precision is used, but hundreds of civilians have reportedly already died. This is now being investigated by the International Criminal Court. I wonder if you personally are preparing your defence in a war crimes tribunal?
Sergey Lavrov: You are keen on asking pointed questions, I’m sure you’ll have a big audience. You will charge this audience emotionally. As I understand, this is your job. This is not so much a media outlet as a tool for inculcating what Western leaders need into the people’s heads. I’m here to say it again: I do not justify any actions that result in civilian deaths.
We did not come up with the term “collateral damage.” Our Western colleagues came up with it during their reckless undertakings in Iraq, and before that in other countries such as Libya, and Latin America. Have you ever covered the developments in Iraq or Libya with the same emotional zeal? With hundreds of thousands of dead civilians? I can’t remember that. So, I regard your question as rhetorical.
Question: Yes, of course, this is my job, but you started this war, and Polina’s blood is on your hands, isn’t it, Mr Lavrov?
Sergey Lavrov: I prefer not to play these games. You’re acting as if it’s some kind of a talk show. If you want to know my position, I have outlined it in the most detailed way, including the humanitarian aspects of the ongoing operation.
I understand that you will cover all this the way you need to, but I want you to remember (probably, any journalist on a put-up mission still has a conscience), what you did during these eight years, when little girls, women, and older people were killed by the thousands in Donbass. The Ukrainian regime killed them. Go ahead and visit our Ministry website. I’d rather not take up your time with long stories. And if you are so worried (and rightly so) about the humanitarian consequences of any hostilities, it would be only fair if you looked at the chapters that you have so far preferred not to touch upon in your work.
Question: Russia has officially lost 500 soldiers in just one week of fighting, and other estimates are much, much higher. At this rate, we’re looking at one of the most costly campaigns in recent Russian history, far deadlier that Afghanistan or Chechnya, for example. The official message was that Russians would be welcomed with open arms, and that the Ukrainian army would lay down its weapons. What has gone wrong?
Sergey Lavrov: This is a subjective view. Yes, there are losses. There are always losses in such situations. But I have already spoken about this.
As for what has gone wrong, I don’t think you’re familiar with our plans, which are kept secret. They underlie the operations of our group which is implementing the special military operation on orders from President Putin. Yours is an abstract question.
I would like to point out that this situation cannot be considered separately from all the other developments, from the past 30 years that were full of various events in relations between Russia and the West, and between the West and the rest of the world, in particular the United States.
President Putin has said on numerous occasions that the threat has come right to our border. I don’t think it is a big secret that the Pentagon is seriously concerned about the chemical and biological facilities in Ukraine, where it has built two military biological laboratories that were creating pathogens, in Kiev and Odessa. They are worried now that they will lose control of these laboratories. At the same time, the Americans categorically refuse to establish a verification mechanism in keeping with the Biological Weapons Convention and continue to build its military biological facilities along the perimeter of the Russian Federation. Miliary bases were being built in Ukraine, including by the British, and many other things were taking place there. The CIA had an extensive presence there at all times.
The Ukrainian army was clearly not trained to fight against Poland. When similar events took place in Iraq, the United States announced that they were a threat to the US national security. Has anyone wondered why the US decided to restore order in a country 10,000 kilometres away? Nobody did, because this is arrogant great-power behaviour. When Russia pointed to the threat it was facing, we were told that there was no threat at all, and that we were safe. They think that they can determine the conditions of our security when the threat is right on our border. We don’t interfere in situations 10,000 km from our borders to set things right according to “our rules.” What we are doing now is a forced decision, because they refused to listen to us and instead kept lying to us for the past 30 years.
There will probably come a time when we will need to come to an agreement, but we will only do this on the basis of the principle all sides have adopted: not to strengthen one’s security at the expense of others’ security and not to claim dominance. Only an equitable dialogue. But our Western colleagues are not ready for this; they are playing at absolute good by grossly abusing diplomatic methods and by forcing small and medium-sized countries to carry out their orders. This happened in global history many times before. So, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions.
The operation is ongoing, and its goals have been stated clearly: the demilitarisation of Ukraine, which means that no weapons that can pose a threat to Russia must be deployed there at any time; the denazification of Ukraine, because the Nuremberg Trials’ verdict has not been reversed; and, of course, guarantees for Ukraine without its admission to NATO. President Putin has pointed out that NATO’s expansion is unacceptable to us, but we are ready to openly discuss security guarantees for Ukraine, for Europe and for the Russian Federation.
Question: Just to follow up on what you said on Russia’s demands. You said yesterday that Russia isn’t looking for Ukrainian capitulation. Are you now prepared to deal with Ukrainian President Zelensky? What exactly does he need to agree to to stop the fighting? Are you looking to take control of the whole of Ukraine before talks make any kind of progress? Does that mean the full destruction of the Ukrainian army?
Sergey Lavrov: No, that does not mean what you have referred to in such an emotional manner. Let me spell this out one more time for you. Despite all my efforts to explain this, I keep getting questions as if no one hears my answers. We are ready for talks. When President Vladimir Zelensky asked to hold talks, President Vladimir Putin immediately agreed and sent a delegation. After that Vladimir Zelensky changed his mind. Probably the Americans told him to slow down. Later they said that they were going to come. They were not there on the agreed day, however, and arrived only 24 hours later. We waited for them there. The talks took place. We communicated our negotiating position to our Ukrainian colleagues. They promised to come to this round of talks with their negotiating position. We are ready to talk, while continuing our operation, because we cannot allow Ukraine to retain infrastructure which poses a threat to the security of the Russian Federation.
We will see to it that the demilitarisation is carried out all the way through, meaning the destruction of infrastructure and weapons posing a threat to us. Even if a peace deal is signed, it will definitely include a provision to this effect.
Question: President of France Emmanuel Macron and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin are frequently in touch. Do you think President Macron and France have a special role to play for achieving a diplomatic solution?
Sergey Lavrov: France has quite a long-standing tradition of acting as a mediator in various conflicts. We remember President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped settle the situation which started with Mikheil Saakashvili’s criminal order to bomb peacekeepers and South Ossetia. We know that President of France Emmanuel Macron and his predecessor contributed proactively to creating the Normandy format. In fact, it is within its framework that the Minsk agreements were signed. These agreements were an important step in these efforts, but the story did not end there. With the Minsk agreements signed and approved by the UN Security Council, neither France nor Germany did anything to force Ukraine to fulfil them. On the contrary, they started saying that Ukraine does not have to carry them out and that it is up to the Russian Federation to do its part. They said that there must not be any direct dialogue between Kiev and Donetsk or between Kiev and Lugansk because this is all just for show, while the real “culprit” is the Russian Federation. We tried to bring our French and German partners to their senses and showed them the Minsk agreements and the UN Security Council resolutions saying that all key matters must be settled with Donetsk and Lugansk. This did not help.
I have already mentioned that President of France Emmanuel Macron has been quite proactive in his efforts. He has talked with President of Russia Vladimir Putin on the phone quite a few times and visited Russia just recently. Another telephone conversation between them is underway at this very moment. If France succeeds in bringing about an agreement this time, this will only make us happy, as long as the agreement is based on principles approved by the OSCE and enshrined in international relations. However, yesterday President of France Emmanuel Macron said that statements on the spread of neo-Nazism in Ukraine are lies, as I have already mentioned. Hearing this from an ally… Don’t they see any parallels with what is happening in Ukraine regarding Jews and Russians: aggressive statements, torch processions and lots of violent crimes, including in Donbass. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is France’s partner within the Normandy format (which no longer exists, as far as I can see) said that it was ridiculous to describe what is happening in Ukraine as genocide. Hearing this from a German representative is not a very pleasant experience. If our German colleagues are unable to recognise these cues… Olaf Scholz has recently talked about the seriousness of the situation in Europe by claiming that they have not seen anything of this kind for 75 years. Does this mean that our German colleagues forgot or failed to notice how Yugoslavia was bombed, or maybe they just missed the whole thing?
You see, no matter where our discussion takes us, we always come across double standards. This absolute good our American colleagues are now trying to create with your assistance implies that you can do as you please: hand out guilty verdicts whenever you deem necessary and sweep under the carpet things you find inconvenient because of the direct involvement of the West, primarily the United States. I do understand that solidarity and allied relations are important for you, but this does not benefit the world or international relations in any way. What you are now trying to establish in the Russian Federation is a dictatorship without democracy, brotherhood, or equality of any kind.
Once again, we welcome the mediating efforts of President of France Emmanuel Macron. President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has explained on multiple occasions our vision of settling the current situation.
Question: The European Union gives weapons to Ukraine. Do you consider this an act of war? Do you think there is a risk of sliding into a nuclear war?
Sergey Lavrov: It is not us who started the talk about a nuclear war. Conversations to this effect were started by your Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who urged President of Russia Vladimir Putin to keep in mind that France also had nuclear weapons, and by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, and by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said that, if necessary, they would deploy nuclear weapons even closer to the Russian Federation. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss went on record as saying that she was ready for a war between NATO and Russia. This is the talk you are trying to use in a bid to accuse us of all this. I reiterate: it is not us who bring up the subject of nuclear war, of a Third World War, in these discussions. It is probably needed to keep the public in the West on tenterhooks, to continue fanning Russophobia until any Russian becomes a target for aggression. Students are expelled, performers are not allowed to perform, and athletes see their wings cut… Among other things, this is a case of dishonest, dirty rivalry to make things easier in sports, arts, and other areas of human activity. This is obscene. My great hope, therefore, is that our main partners will get past this madness. We will be ready to hold talks, but, as I said, solely in a business-like, pragmatic, and equitable manner. If they hope that the world will be different after what is going on now and that Russia will keep its head down and obey the diktat, they are up for a great disappointment. They should remember Russian history.
Question: One of my colleagues mentioned the results of voting on the General Assembly’s resolution. You are certainly familiar with these results. You must also be familiar with how the Security Council voted. Given this attitude towards Russia’s current approach, do you think Russia’s foreign policy priorities, its development vectors might change in any way, maybe switch gears? So far, no security guarantees have been provided by the West. We have heard from you many times how important this is. Do you think the campaign Moscow has launched in Ukraine will result in some kind of security guarantees provided to Russia by the West?
Sergey Lavrov: All conflicts end in agreements, so this isn’t up to us. Our approach is well known. No one has listened to us for 30 years. The West is perfectly aware of our concerns. Endlessly ignoring them with such arrogance has not worked and will not work. Only naive people could have thought otherwise.
As to switching gears – we are ready to work in all areas where there is mutual readiness to do business based on a balance of interests. I can assure you that those countries that have banned their companies from operating in the Russian Federation did so under enormous pressure. They are saying now they are prepared to suffer, as soon as this can “teach Russia a lesson.” Even the Deputy Director of the US National Economic Council said the United States would like to avoid a sharp rise in oil prices because it would benefit Russia. Do you understand? Not because fuel prices at gas stations would rise, American voters would not be happy about the inconvenience and would be dissatisfied with their government – but because it would benefit Russia. Their minds only work one way – how to punish Russia as much as possible. Indeed, this affects both the economy and the social sphere. I assure you that we will deal with whatever problems the West creates for us out of its determination (I emphasise once again – not to ensure their own security, this isn’t about the security of the West at all) to use Ukraine as a tool and a pretext to prevent Russia from pursuing an independent policy. There are few countries left on Earth that can afford such a luxury. Sanctions are a tax on independence, if you like.
Returning to your second question about security guarantees, I have quite enjoyed rereading an article that John Mearsheimer, a professor at University of Chicago, wrote in September 2014 after the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. He said the West was steering Ukraine along the path of false expectations towards an imminent crash. “The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to westernise Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer” and boost its economy. Ukraine doesn’t have to be caught in the middle, between Russia and NATO. That would be the best option for Ukrainians. But instead, we are inciting Ukraine to gang up on the Russians. We are enticing Ukraine with the idea that one day, the country will become part of the West, and we will defeat Putin. And things will be just as we want them. And time is on our side. Well, Ukrainians are happy to play this game of course. And they no longer want to compromise with the Russians. On the contrary, they want to take a tough stance. Well, if they do, it won’t end well for them. What we are doing now is provoking just such an outcome. I believe it would make much more sense to create a neutral Ukraine. It is in the US interests to end this crisis as quickly as possible. It is in Russia’s best interests as well. And most of all, it is in Ukraine’s best interests.
He wrote this seven and a half years ago and published it in Foreign Affairs. A very authoritative and respected publication the White House and the Department of State listen to. Yet, apparently, this time it was not heard. I am sure that the White House and the American leadership are aware of this opinion. But alternatives are simply ignored because the real aim is different. Their aim is not to protect Ukraine’s security while relying on a balance of interests of Ukraine, the United States and Russia. It is to demonise and finish off the Russian Federation. This was the original goal. Now, unfortunately, there are no doubts left.
Thank you all, colleagues. I understand your emotions, but journalism involves juxtaposing facts. I invite you again to visit the Foreign Ministry website.