On February 2, Italian magazine Limes published on its website an interview given by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, titled «Il mondo visto dalla Russia» – «The world as seen from Russia» which was later included in the magazine’s special issue dedicated to Russia’s geopolitical and strategic choices «Il mondo di Putin» – «Putin’s World».
Here we partially republish the official English version of the interview.
Speaking about the Ukrainian crisis, Sergey Lavrov said:
«The Ukrainian crisis was not incidental, but rather the result of systemic problems that have been accumulating in European affairs and international relations over the past two decades.
An unprecedented opportunity to create a Europe without dividing lines after the end of the Cold War, based on the principles of indivisibility, security and broad cooperation, has been lost. Despite Russia’s insistent urging and the commitments to create a community of nations based on security, which were undertaken at a high level in the framework of the OSCE and the Russia-NATO Council, the policy of unrestrained eastward geopolitical expansion controlled by Euro-Atlantic organisations has gained the upper hand in the West. The policy of interfering in the internal affairs of others and enforcing certain reform formulas, including militarily, has been widely used in Europe and the rest of the world. All these problems also influenced the situation in Ukraine».
When asked about Russia’s relations with the European countries and the US, the Minister replied:
«Russia, while pursuing an independent foreign policy, is open to the development of broad cooperation with everyone who is willing to reciprocate...
Unfortunately, there are forces in Europe who are bent on settling historical accounts with Russia and who are doing their utmost to heighten the conflict intensity on the continent. At the same time, it is gratifying that in this challenging situation many European countries, including our Italian partners, have shown a sincere interest in maintaining a constructive dialogue with Russia and in improving the atmosphere in Europe. We highly appreciate these sentiments.
We said repeatedly that the gradual development of equitable and mutually beneficial relations between Russia and the EU would meet the interests of both parties and is a major factor in the bid to strengthen international security, especially considering that the many current challenges and threats, including the unprecedented outbreak of terrorism and extremism, call for a collective response. For our part, we don’t see any reasonable alternative to ultimately creating a zone of economic and cultural cooperation from the Atlantic to the Pacific based on the architecture of equal and indivisible security.
…It’s incorrect to compare the present relations between Russia and the United States to the Cold War years. At that time, the situation was fundamentally different: Tension between the two superpowers originated from the irreconcilable confrontation of ideologies and socioeconomic models, that was projected on the entire system of international relations.
Over the last quarter of the century, the world has become a different place. Today, there is every reason to say that attempts to create a unipolar model of the world have failed. Stable world development can only be ensured and current threats can be effectively fought only through collective efforts based on the sound foundation of international law. These are precisely the approaches that we consistently promote on the international arena, including in our dialogue with the United States.
The impression is that Washington has not yet appreciated the fact that there is no alternative to this line of conduct in international affairs. It prefers US «exclusiveness» to the objective trend toward the evolution of multipolarity, seeking to preserve the remnants of its hegemony in the world no matter what. Hence its proclivity toward unilateral action and the desire to punish countries that disagree with its policies.
For our part, we have always believed in developing bilateral ties on the honest basis of partnership, without dictate or coercion. When the United States decided to scale down cooperation – what’s more, it took this path long before the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis that it is so fond of citing as a pretext for such action – we warned that this line will lead to an impasse. It seems that Washington has finally realised that it’s impossible to «isolate» Russia or limit its influence to a regional level. Not surprisingly, alongside its aggressive rhetoric against us, the Obama administration has maintained dialogue with us on a broad range of key issues. Importantly, it has often been the initiator of this dialogue, repeatedly seeking our support on many issues.
We hope that US approaches to relations with Russia will evolve towards greater pragmatism and balance. Historical experience shows that our countries can effectively collaborate and achieve results when they seek to maintain a balance of interests and are not guided by considerations of political expediency. Today, we are facing a lot of shared problems, including the fight against international terrorism. Being the largest nuclear powers, we continue to bear a special responsibility for the maintenance of strategic stability. There is a great potential for bilateral ties in trade, investment, innovation, technology, culture, humanitarian, science and other areas.
As President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stressed, we do not seek confrontation and are open to cooperation with the United States. This is not to say, of course, that Russia is trying to impose its friendship or that it will trade in its priorities or turn a blind eye to aggressive attacks. Interstate relations are a two-way street. Normal relations with Washington can only be ensured if the latter demonstrates constructive behaviour to meet us halfway and the willingness to work on the basis of genuine equality, consideration for Russian interests and non-interference in our internal affairs».
Talking about Russia’s rapprochement with China, Sergey Lavrov said: «Russia is pursuing a multi-vector foreign policy. Its goal is to expand equitable cooperation with our partners in every region.
In this context, expanded political dialogue and practical cooperation with China is a strategic policy without any time-serving considerations. Our two very large nations are located in close proximity to one another. Over the past decades, we have completed substantial joint work, and one can now safely say that our ties have reached an all-time high.
This amounts to genuine mutually beneficial cooperation without any senior or junior partners, leaders and those led by them. The course of Russian-Chinese relations has been charted with due account for the basic interests of both countries’ peoples, and neither we, nor our Chinese friends are planning to change it.
Since 2010, the People’s Republic of China has been Russia’s No 1 trade partner. We are implementing strategic long-term energy projects, and we are expanding our cooperation in high-tech sectors, including the aerospace industry, the nuclear power industry and military-technical cooperation. We are focusing on both investment and financial aspects of our partnership. We have reached principled agreement on combining integration processes for the Eurasian Economic Union with China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative.
The coordination of our countries’ efforts on the international scene has become an important factor for maintaining international and regional stability. Russia and China voice similar or close approaches towards key modern issues. They advocate more substantial collectivist concepts in global affairs, based on international law, respect for the unique essence of nations and their right to independently choose their own road of development. We resolutely oppose pressure on sovereign states, including through unilateral sanctions or by force. We effectively cooperate at various multilateral venues, including the UN, the G20, BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and we invariably support each other.
I’m confident that the whole world would benefit if relations between all other countries resembled Russian-Chinese relations. In that case, a stable and equitable polycentric system of global governance would be established».
Expressing Russia’s view on ISIS, the Minister said: «Recent events, including the barbarous terrorist attacks against the Russian airliner, as well as civilians in France, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, confirm that the Islamic State, or ISIS, which is a terrorist group, has issued a serious challenge to human civilisation and made a bid to establish a quasi-state.
Standing up to this all-out threat requires the collective effort of the international community on the universal basis of international law. Every state should contribute to defeating terrorists and confirm its solidarity by concrete action.
It may be recalled that President Vladimir Putin has put forward the initiative of forming a united antiterrorist front under the auspices of the UN with the participation of all those who are really fighting terrorists, as well as other interested countries, both in and outside the Middle East.
To eradicate the seat of terrorism on Syrian soil, the Russian Aerospace Forces, with the approval of the Syrian government, are continuing their operation to clear the country’s territory of Islamic State militants and other terrorist groups. Our efforts to coordinate actions with a number of our Western partners, in particular France, are designed to make the fight against ISIS more effective. New countries, for example, the UK and Germany, are joining the fight against ISIS. So what we should think about is not the prospect of ISIS gaining UN membership but the time when this and other terrorist groups will be finally destroyed.
At the same time, antiterrorist efforts should be comprehensive and involve the facilitation of political stabilisation and socioeconomic reconstruction in the Middle East and North Africa, based on respect for the sovereignty of regional states, as well as measures to prevent the radicalisation of public sentiments there.
There is a need for an inclusive intra-Syrian political process in keeping with the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012. We are providing active international support for it, including through the International Syrian Support Group with Russia’s active participation.
Iran is Russia’s long-standing partner. Our relations develop in the spirit of friendship and good-neighbourliness. We are confident that Tehran’s full participation in regional affairs will contribute to regional security and cooperation.
An international information centre, which includes representatives from Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria, started working in Baghdad several months ago. We are open to cooperation in this format with other interested parties, including the Kurdish resistance and the patriotic part of the Syrian opposition. We continue to closely collaborate with Jordan and Egypt in the fight against terrorism».
When asked about the Russian-Turkish relations, Sergey Lavrov commented: «Ankara’s action was an unprecedented challenge to the Russian Federation. Obviously, it was bound to affect Russian-Turkish relations – trust in Turkey as a partner has been seriously undermined. As a result, our cooperation that took many efforts to develop over the past few years is being suspended in many areas. This was not our choice.
Up to now we have not heard from the leaders of Turkey either apologies, or the expression of readiness to somehow compensate us for what was done or the intention to duly punish those who are guilty. On the contrary, Ankara is asserting that the Turkish side was right because it protected its ostensibly violated sovereignty. Against this background, some vague statements by Turkish politicians about their «grief and regret» do not match the serious character of this action.
Russia has repeatedly emphasised its concern over the growth of terrorist threats in Turkey and the lack of readiness on behalf of the Turkish authorities to cooperate in the struggle against terrorism. Thus, despite our repeated requests Ankara – with rare exceptions – has dodged any effort to cooperate in detaining and transferring to Russian law-enforcement bodies Russian citizens that were going to join terrorist and extremist groups operating in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
We will not forget Turkey’s aiding and abetting terrorists. At the same time we do not put an equal sign between a part of its ruling upper crust that is directly to blame for the death of our military servicemen in Syria and our long-time and reliable friends among the Turkish people.
For Russia the anti-terrorist struggle and settlement in Syria are fundamental issues. This is why the attack of the Turkish Air Force on our bomber cannot change our approaches. If the Turkish provocation pursued this goal, its authors had obviously miscalculated».