Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Lavrov’s free-wheeling press conference: How could one trust West?

Washington ruined relations with Moscow in its push to dominate Europe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. Now, even the written commitments of the US and its allies cannot be trusted, he added.

The senior Russian diplomat spoke to journalists on Wednesday about Russian foreign policy, the possible resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, and opposition to what his nation perceives as a colonialist approach by the US to world affairs.

Military action in Ukraine justified

The goals of the Russian military operation in Ukraine were “not invented” and instead are based “on core, legitimate security interests,” and the nation “cannot” simply stop pursuing them, Lavrov stated.

Ukraine, just like any other Russian neighbour, must host no “military infrastructure directly threatening our nation,” he asserted. There also must be no “discrimination, persecution of our compatriots who happened to become citizens of the Ukrainian state” and want to preserve their ethnic Russian roots.

In 2021, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky called Ukrainians sanctioned by his government “specimens” and told people in Donbass who cherish their Russian ethnicity to leave, Lavrov recalled.

Kiev doesn’t decide its foreign policy

Kiev is not free to decide its own foreign policy, so talking to the Ukrainian government makes no sense, Lavrov said. 

Western nations are seeking to inflict more damage on Russia by arming Ukraine and prolonging hostilities, which are part of a larger proxy war against Moscow.

He described as “nonsense” the notion that other nations must not say “a word about Ukraine without Ukraine.” In reality, “the West decides for Ukraine,” the foreign minister argued.

Russia would “react to any serious proposal” for overcoming the crisis, Lavrov pledged, but none has been set out so far.

Biden asked for meeting of top spies

The November meeting between the heads of the CIA and the SVR, two prominent foreign intelligence agencies in the US and Russia respectively, happened at the request of US President Joe Biden, Lavrov revealed. The US leader asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the meeting, he said.

CIA Director William Burns and SVR head Sergey Naryshkin met in Turkey but the US official didn’t say anything beyond Washington’s public stance, as is typical for “sporadic” US-Russian contacts, Lavrov remarked. Nevertheless, it had some value.

It is the US whose policies have ruined bilateral relations with Russia, and it’s up to Washington to fix them, the diplomat added. “We will not be running after them saying ‘Let’s be friends again,’” he said.

No business as usual with West

Russia has had enough of deception by the US and its allies and simply cannot trust them anymore, Lavrov stated.

NATO’s expansion in Europe is one example, he said, asserting that this went against both the promises given to the Soviet leadership and pledges to uphold indivisible security on the continent by the US-led bloc. The same was true for the Minsk agreements, which Ukraine, Germany and France apparently signed in bad faith, he said.

He listed several other international treaties, which he suggested “the West never intended to implement.”

“They simply lied to our face when presidents and prime ministers solemnly signed commitments,” the minister said.

Washington has colonialist mentality

Washington has a colonialist attitude towards other nations in the sense that it seeks to subjugate them one way or another, and exploit their resources for its own benefit, the Russian diplomat said.

He mentioned as an example a bill introduced in the US Congress, which seeks to create a strategy to “counter the malign influence and activities” of Russia in Africa.

“I believe that in their heart, even those who wouldn’t comment on American provocations such as this one are convinced that this [proposed] law hurts Africans first and foremost,” Lavrov said. The document shows “colonialist mentality in a new dimension.”

Three most important words

A journalist asked Lavrov which three words he would call “the most tragic and the most hopeful” for diplomacy last year, and “the one that the entire world should hear now.”

The foreign minister seemed amused by the request for poetic commentary and remarked that his department usually dealt with “concrete matters” but agreed to answer anyway. 

He picked “war” as the most tragic word, because the crisis in Ukraine “is our response… to the hybrid war that was unleashed upon us and under the banner of which the West is promoting its agenda.” The word “victory” is appropriate for the two other categories, he added.

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