Ms Matviyenko, members of the Federation Council, colleagues,
I am grateful to you for the opportunity to speak before you as part of the Government Hour.
We at the Foreign Ministry value our relations with both chambers of the Federal Assembly. We appreciate the lawmakers' interest in our work which we find helpful. We welcome our parliamentarians' focus on consistent promotion of Russia's priorities in the international arena using parliamentary diplomacy methods. In turn, we do our best to support your endeavors in the interests of the effective implementation of our foreign policy as set out by President Putin.
Joining our efforts in this area is important today. I don't think I need to elaborate on the fact that the international situation remains tense. Our US colleagues and their allies are trying to slow, including by force, the objective process of creating a fairer and more democratic polycentric world order. They try to hold back new world centres that appear and to strengthen their own position not only in Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific Region (APR), but Africa and Latin America as well.
The architecture of strategic stability and arms control is being dismantled unilaterally. After the ABM Treaty, the United States scrapped the INF Treaty. Now they are dragging out the adoption of New START. Washington's withdrawal from the JCPOA, refusal to ratify the CTBT and plans for militarising outer space are part of the same plan.
The European security space continues to be fragmented. NATO's military activities near our borders are intensifying. The NATO countries' military budgets are growing. Widespread use of aggressive and unfair methods of competition, as well as gross abuse of the status of the dollar, exerts a negative impact on the global economy.
The idea of "rules-based order" was invented by a number of Western capitals based on their unwillingness to accept the realities of multipolarity. Its purpose is to replace generally recognised standards of international law with a set of their own foreign policy goals, which vary depending on the political situation. In fact, the West would like to replace the cooperative work at universal multilateral formats, primarily the UN, with "private get-togethers" and then impose their decisions on everyone else.
As a responsible state and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has been working to prevent these destructive plans from coming to fruition. Many people in the West clearly dislike that, as well as our foreign policy as a whole. This is why they are trying to shift the blame for others' mistakes and wrongdoings onto us. In fact, they want to punish us for independence and self-sufficiency in international affairs.
Have no doubt: no degree of pressure will force us to deviate from our policy of protecting the national interests of our foreign policy and the fundamental principles of international law, first of all those sealed in the UN Charter. We must be able under any circumstances to defend the security of our country and to uphold the people's confidence in the future.
At the same time, confrontation is not and will never be our choice, as President Putin has said more than once. In contrast with the destructive line pursued by Washington and its allies, we are advocating a positive international agenda aimed at creating a healthy and neighbourly international environment and at strengthening all aspects of international and regional security. Towards this end, we use the potential of membership in the key global governance organisations, primarily the UN and the G20, especially since the latter group has many current issues on its agenda. Other positive examples of multipolar diplomacy are BRICS and the SCO, the summits of which Russia will host next year.
The focus of global politics and economy is shifting from Euro-Atlantic to Eurasia. Close relations with Eurasian countries and integration associations are an undeniable priority for Russia as a major Eurasian power. We have recently scored many positive achievements in this field. We see a constructive development of interaction within the CIS, the Union State and the CSTO, which is really helping to build regional security. Our cooperation within the EAEU is especially important. The EAEU's dynamically growing external ties are evidence of the success of this integration initiative. It has signed free trade agreements with Vietnam, Singapore and Serbia and an interim agreement with Iran. The agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and China has come into effect. Talks on free trade areas are underway with Israel and Egypt, and it has been decided to launch such talks with India as well.
Our strategic cooperation with China is growing stronger. It was announced during President Xi Jinping's state visit to Russia in June this year that our bilateral relations had entered a new age. The Russia-China foreign policy alliance plays a vital role in supporting stability in international affairs.
Our privileged strategic partnership with India is advancing. Our ties with the overwhelming majority of other Asia-Pacific partners are deepening.
There is also the RIC format of Russia, India and China, which remains effective and which had given rise to BRICS some time ago.
An increasingly important current goal is to harmonise Eurasian integration processes from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. This goal has been set in President Putin's initiative of a Greater Eurasian Partnership comprising the EAEU, SCO, ASEAN and all other countries of the continent. We are working towards this goal, including by aligning the development plans of the Eurasian Economic Union and China's Belt and Road Initiative. Of course, we would like to see the European Union and its member states among its participants. There are no obstacles to this.
We are promoting our political cooperation and practical interaction with African and Latin American countries. The first ever Russia-Africa Summit was a major diplomatic event this year. The implementation of the agreements reached at the summit will make our interaction really comprehensive and multifaceted.
As for the United States, we have said more than once that we are ready to maintain contacts on the principles of mutual respect and a balance of interests. A pragmatic interaction between our countries is vital for stability in international affairs. Our proposals in this respect are well known. The ball is now in the US court.
This country's peaceful development is closely related to how efficiently main external threats are neutralised. Russia is greatly contributing to the political and diplomatic efforts to deal with numerous crises and conflicts. It is largely thanks to the concerted work of the Russian military and diplomats that much damage has been inflicted, on "remote approaches," on international terrorism. Syria's statehood has been preserved. This year, the guarantor nations of the Astana format – Russia, Iran and Turkey – managed to launch the Constitutional Committee tasked with achieving a political settlement of the Syrian crisis.
Most certainly, we intend to help stabilise the situation in the entire Middle East even further, including in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Lebanon. This is the aim of President Vladimir Putin's initiative to form a broad anti-terrorist front, as well as that of the Russia's Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf Region and the neighbouring areas.
The internal conflict in Ukraine remains a serious destabilising factor. It can be overcome only through the consistent implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures that was approved by the UN Security Council, something that, of course, requires a direct dialogue between the sides. It is what is said in the final document of the Normandy format summit, which was approved in Paris on December 9. We are ready to continue acting as mediators at the Contact Group. And, of course, we will do our best to stop discrimination against Ukraine's Russian speaking citizens.
We will continue promoting Russian initiatives in spheres such as preventing an arms race in space, creating mechanisms to counter chemical and biological terrorism, and coordinating an international "code of conduct" in the cyberspace.
As before, we will focus on rallying the multi-ethnic and multi-faith Russian World, promoting economic diplomacy and defending the rights of Russian journalists abroad. The importance of a civilisation-to-civilisation dialogue grows objectively against the background of multipolar consolidation. In 2022, Russia will host an IPU and UN-sponsored world conference on interreligious and interethnic dialogue. We are ready to collaborate closely with the Russian legislators to aid its effective organisation.
Next year will be marked by celebrations in honour of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. We are doing our best to oppose falsifications of history, preserve the reputation of soldiers who won the war, and generally prevent a revision of the international legal results of the defeat of Nazism, including the verdicts of the Nuremberg Trials. Our allies and partners stand with us in this regard, as has been confirmed by the CIS summit which was held in St Petersburg, where President Vladimir Putin made a relevant statement. The overwhelming majority of the world community solidarise with us as well. The Russian resolution against the glorification of Nazism that was approved by the UN General Assembly several days ago is dramatic confirmation of my point. We will continue to render the necessary support in upgrading foreign contacts and ties to the regions you represent. The Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has acquitted itself well. We will continue to provide venues at the Ministry and our foreign missions for the regions' presentations and to assist their business missions abroad.
Russia will continue to act in a responsible way and to work, jointly with like-minded people, to strengthen the legal, democratic foundations of international life based on the principles of the UN Charter. We will be guided by the primary objective of assisting in the creation of maximally favourable external conditions for this country's development and the growth of its citizens' wellbeing.
I would like to wind up my opening remarks at this point. Thank you very much. I am now ready to answer your questions. Question:
When you were talking about the international results of the year on the Great Game TV programme, you pointed out a number of important aspects in the world politics against the backdrop of rampant Russophobia. Can you speak in greater detail about the statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that NATO is the only organisation that is able to defend Germany? To what extent is it in line with the position of other NATO countries that believe in the need to build a new architecture of trust, as well as with the real state of affairs, specifically the recent sanctions against German and French companies involved in laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline? Sergey Lavrov:
As for the statements from Berlin in the context of the discussion of Emmanuel Macron's opinion on NATO's future, I can hardly add anything else to that. I was astounded to hear from Germany that only NATO can defend it. The question is, defend from whom? Look at Germany's neighbours and draw your own conclusions.
As regards our common approaches to the situation in the Euro-Atlantic region: in the 1990s Russia and NATO concluded agreements and proclaimed the goals of indivisible security, when no country would provide for its own security at the expense of others. We were told at that time that no substantial forces would be deployed in the new NATO countries on a permanent basis and many other steps were taken to build up trust. Of course, it is regrettable that the West is simply retreating from all those understandings at the US initiative, and our Western colleagues made those declarations and admirable political statements in the 1990s solely because they regarded Russia as a subordinate partner, a weak geopolitical player. Now, when under new conditions we are attempting to stand for the same principles of equality, mutual benefit and assurance of common and indivisible security, the West is not comfortable with it any more. This is probably part of the common policy of deterring the Russian Federation that is currently pursued by the United States and its close allies. I think that most NATO members are not happy about it at all. I think President Macron's proposal to look at the general situation in the strategic context and discuss ways to develop relations with Russia reflects such opinions. Hopefully, they will be put into practice.
Concerning the sanctions – there is nothing to talk about here. I think that after the United States showed again that its diplomacy boils down, above all, to different methods of intimidation – sanctions, ultimatums, threats – when its closest allies are punished for working to address their economic problems and their energy security. I don't think any country in the world should be under the illusion that the United States will keep the promises it makes. The United States will desert it at any moment. Question:
I have a question in the context of the point you made about the promotion of our interests in Europe. Kamchiya is a beautiful health resort on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, owned by the Moscow Mayor's office. Its first-class amenities and furnishings are not inferior to those of Orlyonok and Artek. There is every reason to use this venue to work with our compatriots in the European Union. We have explored this matter, and figured out the conceptual basis for a project. No one objects to its implementation, and it has been supported by both the Moscow Government and the Federal Government. However, there has been no progress since 2015. Meanwhile, the threat of losing this property is more than real. Is it not time for the Government to address this issue and create a Russian humanitarian centre at the Kamchiya resort as the main foreign cultural and humanitarian platform for promoting our interests in Europe? What is your assessment of the prospects for the implementation of this project and also its relevance? Sergey Lavrov:
I agree that it is a unique project. If we talk about "soft power," it is an ideal model of soft power in the most positive sense – a place that enjoyed tremendous popularity with young people, athletes, among those who want to develop contacts between people, between citizens of Russia, Bulgaria and other countries. We are concerned though about the negative trends developing around this project. Some of the buildings have been shut down, while others have been leased out. There are ownership questions, tax debts, and other disturbing factors piling up. Following Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Bulgaria in March, the Foreign Ministry prepared a note on the implementation of all the agreements, in which the crisis involving this resort was a highlight. One of the proposals was for the Moscow City Government and the Russian Government in particular represented by the Ministry of Education to work out options for transferring this property to the federal government and providing federal financing. The deadline was set for June, and the relevant reports were submitted. But, unfortunately, the bureaucratic machine moves slowly, so I don't know if I am disclosing a big secret, but Valentina Matviyenko was also there, and we are now preparing to consider this issue at an operational meeting of the Russian Security Council permanent members. I hope that, with the involvement of the Prime Minister and all agencies that can facilitate the implementation of the project, we will be able to stimulate this decision under the leadership of the President. And I hope this will be done quickly, because, in our estimation, the situation is degrading very rapidly. Question:
Is the attitude of the international community, primarily the EU and the US, towards the reunification of Crimea with Russia changing? I mean are there some unofficial statements maybe, behind-the-scenes conversations, if you can share these things? Sergey Lavrov:
I can say that everyone understands everything, be it in public or behind-the-scenes. Their persistent reiteration of Crimea in all Russophobic statements on Ukraine, as well as in many other topics (we are now blamed for everything, including in Syria and in Libya, we are to blame again), makes one doubt the adequacy of the people involved in real foreign policy. If they cannot understand that Crimea is part of Russia, and had been removed from Russia for three decades by some quirk of fate and contrary to the wishes of its residents, an abnormal situation – it means they have no clue about history. I will not, for obvious reasons, share my discussions on this topic with my colleagues, but I can assure you that serious people have for a long time now understood everything. The continued use of the "Crimean trump card" in the rhetoric some of our Western colleagues like can only mean one thing – they are obsessed with containing Russia more than with anything else. They simply do not have more reasonable, more adequate arguments that could be used in a serious conversation. Question:
The Ad Hoc Commission of the Federation Council on Protecting State Sovereignty and Preventing Interference in the Domestic Affairs of the Russian Federation, guided by the Bangladesh resolution of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on the role of parliament in respecting the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, uses methods of inter-parliamentary diplomacy to conduct an active dialogue with its partners on ways to limit interference in sovereign affairs.
However, it has been argued that the nature of new challenges and threats in the 21st century has not been clearly formulated. It's hard to argue with that, because one of the few global documents on this subject is UN General Assembly Resolution 36/103 adopted 49 years ago. A lot has changed since 1965. We held a videoconference with our partners on this topic, during which it was proposed that an international group should work out a framework document that would provide answers to all these questions. Meanwhile, decisions taken at the "private get-togethers" you have mentioned are not at all favourable for us. Sergey Lavrov:
We appreciate the active stand our MPs have taken on this sensitive issue. We see that the Ad Hoc Commission is playing a vital role in this. We will do everything we can to help you.
You have mentioned precedents in the field of international law, however, the UNGA resolutions are not binding documents but recommendations. Nevertheless, when decisions are adopted by consensus, this says a lot. The resolution adopted in 1965 approved the Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of their Independence and Sovereignty. It was the first UNGA legislative initiative that received consensus approval. The resolution condemned armed intervention and all other forms of interference in the domestic affairs of states, as well as the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce states into taking any actions. Since then, the UNGA and the international community have not slackened their efforts in this field.
Five years later, in 1970, the UNGA adopted Resolution 2625 to approve The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States. A considerable part of the declaration has to do with the inadmissibility of interference in the domestic affairs of states. I would like to add that the declaration also clearly states that there is no contradiction between the principles of territorial integrity and self-determination. But the governments that wish to ensure full support for their territorial integrity must respect the principle of self-determination on the domestic stage and also represent the interests of the entire population living on the territory of the said state. This observation clearly pertains to the situation in Donbass and Crimea.
In 1981, the UNGA adopted one more document, The Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States. It provided details of the obligations and responsibilities of each state. It set out, inter alia, the duty of states to refrain from any action or attempt to destabilise other states, to abstain from any defamatory campaign, vilification or hostile propaganda for the purpose of intervening or interfering in the internal affairs of other states, and to refrain from the exploitation and the distortion of human rights issues as a means of interference in the internal affairs of states. Our Western partners are doing this especially often. We regard this block of regulations as very important and comprehensive, covering all the existing forms of interference, possibly with the exception of cyberspace, which is being used as a medium for the above activities. It should be said that these documents were adopted by consensus in 1965 and 1970, but in 1981 our Western colleagues voted against, possibly because they planned to violate their commitments sealed in the resolutions that received consensus approval from the UN General Assembly.
Here is a recent example. When foreign-orchestrated state coups and unconstitutional changes of government became trendy, we proposed relevant provisions for a resolution on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, which was adopted for the past three years at the initiative of Latin American countries. It calls on states to refrain from the extraterritorial use of national legislation, from attempts to use force to overthrow legitimate governments or to interfere in the internal affairs of any state. Documents regarding this have been drafted and adopted not only at the UN but also at the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO. Of course, these are not binding documents but recommendations. There are no internationally binding documents regarding this; the only, but very significant, exception is the UN Charter. I believe that we can and should work out detailed provisions for a binding document now. On the other hand, we must be realistic: there are precious few chances for the adoption of such a document in a format that would guarantee non-interference in the internal affairs of states. Our Western colleagues have long outlined their position, and they will stick to it. Yet we must persevere in any case, because we have rock-solid arguments in support of our position. Question:
Most of us are not professional diplomats, but, I am sure, everyone in this room will agree that the foreign missions of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Cultural Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) play a special role in implementing Russia's foreign policy. But we are becoming convinced, while contacting the heads of Russian cultural centres in foreign countries, that their budgets are quite modest. Occasionally, they suffice only for salaries and rent. This problem is particularly pressing in the CIS states. Do you think it is urgently needed to upgrade the funding of the Russian cultural centres and possibly make them functionally akin to recruiting organisations involved in the Education Exports project? Sergey Lavrov:
We certainly see that it is necessary to continue energising Rossotrudnichestvo and its chain of Russian science and cultural centres. I would not say that problems related to shortages of funding are particularly pronounced in the CIS countries. But on the whole this problem, which is nothing new, is quite pressing indeed for both Rossotrudnichestvo and our cultural centres abroad. When Mr Konstantin Kosachev headed Rossotrudnichestvo, there was a special meeting dedicated primarily to the need to substantially increase the funding of Rossotrudnichestvo's programme activities, rather than just to provide for employees of these centres abroad. As you said, the lion's share of money was and is spent on salaries. Therefore, we have President Vladimir Putin's support; it is yet to materialise as specific government decisions, but we are working on this issue, and a relevant policy has been approved.
As for Rossotrudnichestvo's involvement in the Education Exports project, I am unaware, to what extent this has been reflected in the Russian university quotas for foreigners, but Rossotrudnichestvo, via its centres, is really involved in selecting candidates for Russian education grants. I think that if this arrangement is not formally extended to the Education Exports programme in the direct manner, this can be easily done. In any case, this will be the right thing to do, because, along with the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, our foreign missions have a much clearer idea of the most effective way to share the government education grants. Question:
Mr Lavrov, first of all I would like to thank the Russian Foreign Ministry and you personally for solving an important problem concerning my region. At one of the meetings with you, we complained that there was no consular service of the Mongolian People's Republic in the Altai Territory. Today, an honorary consul is based in Barnaul and a visa-free regime has been introduced between our countries. All of this facilitates the development of inter-regional relations. Following on from the topic related to developing friendly and cultural ties between our two countries, my question is about popularising the Russian language in Mongolia, where people are increasingly keen to know it. This is particularly necessary in a situation, where Mongolia is witnessing intensified domestic political struggles ahead of its 2020 parliamentary elections and more active impacts on the country's public life, placed by US specialised centres. At what stage is the implementation of the Protocol of the 22nd meeting of the Russian-Mongolian Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, where readiness was expressed to support the Mongolian proposal on sending Russian language teachers from Russia, organising a general education system in Mongolia and sending Mongolian teachers to Russia for specialised training? Sergey Lavrov:
This depends on purely practical steps like selecting specialists, creating legal infrastructure, and providing funding. We are actively disseminating the experience of refresher training of local Russian language teachers that was pioneered by Tajikistan. The Federation Council heads are helping us with this. This is a highly effective arrangement implying refresher training at courses in Tajikistan and the organisation of special events for teachers from Tajikistan, who come for this purpose to the Russian Federation. Currently we are extending this arrangement to Mongolia. I cannot indicate the specific timeframes because there are purely technical things involved: We have to select people for long-term employment abroad, etc. But this is one of our priorities in promoting the Russian language. Question:
A month and a half from now, we will be marking the 75th anniversary of the Yalta Conference, where the leaders of the United States, Britain and the USSR discussed the postwar world. What is our Foreign Ministry's attitude to this anniversary? How much focused are the US and the UK on the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
and Winston Churchill in connection with these events? Sergey Lavrov:
We will be marking the anniversary of the Yalta Conference as we celebrate the anniversaries of all without exception memorable events related to the Great Patriotic War and WWII. I cannot say now what the US attitude to this specific anniversary is like. We have discussed with our US colleagues the situation emerging in connection with the May 9 celebrations. As you may know, President Donald Trump, along with the other leaders of countries that formed the Anti-Hitler Coalition and leaders of other states, received President Vladimir Putin's invitation to take part in the celebrations dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Victory to be held on Moscow's Red Square on May 9. Donald Trump repeatedly, including during my visit to Washington, stressed the importance of this celebration and his interest in attending these events, if his schedule permits it.
We have just mentioned yet another date: Right ahead of May 9, yet another date, the 75th anniversary of the meeting at the Elbe, will be marked. The NGOs and veteran organisations in Russia and the United States, which maintain regular contacts, have plans to celebrate this event.
I think that our experts will also hold conferences and meetings dedicated to the anniversary of the Yalta Conference.
But the governments have not coordinated events of this kind, at least not at this stage. Question:
The release of five Russian citizens, arrested by law enforcement agencies in the Arab Republic of Egypt, remains unresolved for over 12 months. The students were detained in Cairo on August 14, 2018. Only five and a half months later, it became possible to find out that four of them were kept in a Cairo prison, and it is still unclear what happened to the fifth person. The parents of the detained students claim that their sons did not commit any heinous crime, and their only probable fault is that they may have inadvertently or through ignorance violated the country's immigration legislation by failing to extend their visas on time. It should be noted that these people had not committed any illegal actions in the past, nor were they prosecuted in Russia or elsewhere. I contacted the Foreign Ministry and the Consular Department of the Russian Embassy in Egypt, as well as the Egyptian Ambassador to Russia, but the matter remains unresolved so far. I would like to ask you what measures are being taken, and what needs to be done in order to secure the fastest possible release of our compatriots who are kept in maximum-security prisons in Cairo and to establish the whereabouts of Mr Khizir Dugiev. Sergey Lavrov:
We have been taking measures ever since we found out that these people were detained and arrested on suspicion of being involved in the activities of the so-called Islamic State and spreading extremist ideology. To our great regret, the authorities of Egypt, a friendly country towards Russia, are reluctant to fulfil their obligations under the bilateral Consular Convention, which was enacted in 1975. We sent over 20 official requests for information about the reasons for the arrest and specific facts. The Egyptian side did not reply to even one request. They have told us verbally that the investigation is classified; therefore, our officials are not allowed to attend secret interrogations and court hearings. We made 24 requests to allow Russian consular officers to visit our citizens. The Egyptian side recently complied with only two requests, made in July and November 2019. Our citizens voiced certain complaints, including the inability to get elementary medical assistance. We officially notified senior penitentiary officials about this. Naturally, we will demand an explanation as to why they found themselves in this situation. It has been a long time, and I hope that our Egyptian colleagues realise the need to fulfil their obligations under the Consular Convention.
Speaking of the fifth person, Mr Khizir Dugiev, we know that he arrived in Egypt on a tourist visa from Saudi Arabia, and communications with him have been lost since the summer of 2018. We are urging the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to help establish the Russian citizen's whereabouts. We sent another note 45 days ago and have failed to get any response. Our colleagues say they know nothing about him.
We will continue to demand that the Egyptian side pay attention to this subject. We are raising it at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice. We raised this matter in the summer of 2019 at a meeting between Russian and Egyptian foreign ministers in the 2 + 2 format in Moscow. At my upcoming meeting with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, I will present him with another detailed letter on this topic. Question:
Mr Lavrov, I think many of our colleagues would join me in saying that not all our ministers have credibility like you and even make us proud. In your report, you mentioned continuity as the basis for the stability of international legal acts adopted earlier, in particular, in 1981, and even before that. I hope this applies to domestic legal acts as well. In this regard, I have a history-related question.
In 1989, our parliamentarians adopted several legal acts based on a parliamentary investigation and gave an unequivocal assessment and description of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact at the Second Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union. Recently, there has been a trend to revise and re-evaluate this document in retrospect, and this pact is portrayed almost as the highest achievement of our country's foreign policy. What do you think about this? Sergey Lavrov:
In 1989, when the decisions that you mentioned was made, I think everyone expressed their opinion and gave their assessment based on the knowledge available to the delegates of the Congress of People's Deputies at that time (if memory serves, this document was adopted at that congress). Frankly, following those decisions made by our legislative branch and the resolutions dedicated to that date, as well as to the sad events that occurred in relations between the Soviet Union and a number of countries of Eastern Europe, when all the i's had been dotted in our relations with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries of the former Warsaw Pact, I thought we were we entering a new era. Perhaps, that's what everyone thought, including the deputies. Agreements were signed, which I mentioned, that NATO would not expand to the east and that we would have a single and indivisible security, and we will leave history to historians. By and large, that's what the atmosphere was like back then.
We have seen, in recent years, an actual history aggression against Russia which started long before the events of February and March 2014. Our country, the former Soviet Union, the constituent republics of which have done so much to defeat fascism, is blamed for sharing responsibility for the outbreak of World War II with Hitler. I believe the discussion that has been unfolding in recent years has been spearheaded by our Western colleagues. So, if they shamelessly distort history, if they want to see in history only what is good for them and keep silent about what their predecessors did in their high posts on the eve of World War II and shortly after World War I, then a deep study of the sources and documents is the only answer.
President Vladimir Putin focused on this subject in detail during the informal meeting of the CIS leaders in St Petersburg on December 20. I believe that a conversation about those times should be based solely on the facts. We presented the facts which in 1989 few paid attention to. Then everyone thought it was the end of history, and the West won the Cold War and everyone should recognise only the things that are beneficial to the West. It was like that, unfortunately. However, over the past 20 years of this century, we have been able to slightly change the attitude towards Russia as a country which will always be in leading strings and will never cease repenting and apologising (I mentioned this earlier). We do not deny the existence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. We are far from idealising this document. We are just showing a retrospective and, if you will, the epistemology behind it. President Putin said he was writing a large article on this subject. I think this is a useful work that will help us see history in all its aspects, not just a selected few. Question:
Mr Lavrov, I would like to hear your opinion about simplified border crossing regulations between Russia and South Ossetia. We are one people, and you are well aware of this. Family ties, transport crossings, and vehicle imports represent a major problem today on the border between South and North Ossetia. You are aware that everyone who lives there is a Russian citizen. I would like to hear what you think about this and, of course, your words of support. Sergey Lavrov:
Excuse me but are there any problems with crossing the border? We do not have visa regulations there. Question:
It's about importing vehicles and the border crossing. Sergey Lavrov:
You should ask this question to the border guards. We are only in charge of border crossing by people. Transport issues are addressed by law enforcement agencies, but there are no visa regulations. Question:
Could you briefly share with us the results of your visit to the United States, your meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump? Do you see any prospects for normalising relations with the United States and in what areas? In this regard, President Putin unequivocally stated that we are willing to renew START-3 without any conditions and to sign it any time. What is the position of the United States? Is there still hope for stability and security in this area? Sergey Lavrov:
During my visit to the United States, we discussed bilateral, regional and international items on our agenda with an emphasis on global security and strategic stability. We noted that normal interaction has resumed in some areas, albeit not a lot. Two rounds of consultations on counter-terrorism have already taken place. They started a long time ago, but were left hanging by the Obama administration. Contact between the special representatives for Afghanistan have taken place and continue − in a tripartite format − with China, and occasionally Pakistan. There are talks on Syria, both military and diplomatic. We have a channel of interaction on the Korean Peninsula. I can't say that we are making equally good progress in all these areas, but the fact that these channels are available helps us better understand each other and creates an opportunity for the United States to hear our point of view, including on the Korean Peninsula, which could take on a new dimension of crisis at any minute.
Yes, I drew attention to START-3, including in Washington during the talks with Secretary Pompeo and President Trump. What President Putin said is a direct answer to the attempts to cash in on the situation related to START-3 and to pass our questions regarding the actions taken by the United States when it takes certain carriers off the list, for our reluctance to renew START-3 and an attempt to "blame" everything on the United States. It's just the other way round. When Vladimir Putin said we were ready to renew the treaty without any preconditions and any time, in any case, before the end of the year, they lost their trump card. Now, the Americans will have to somehow state their position. They always try to drag China into the picture, but you are aware of our position. China has publicly stated that it is not interested, not willing and considers it unnecessary to participate in the talks to reduce its nuclear capacity, because it is incomparable to that of Russia or the United States. We respect this position. If the United States is convinced that there is absolutely no alternative to extending the negotiating process to other countries, then the United States should, probably, first talk directly with these countries and, second, put on paper its vision of the agenda for this kind of contact.
When Mr Pompeo and I discussed the unjust nature of the claims against us, and that we were not in the process of talking China into anything, he said that Washington was not focusing on cutting back capacity, but establishing some generally acceptable terms, transparency and rules. If so, let them put this on paper. We told them this. But we are not going to talk anyone into anything.
If the Americans accept our proposal for an unconditional renewal of the treaty, we believe the entire international community will benefit from it. We will not allow a situation where there will not be a single tool to regulate strategic stability. We can renew the treaty and continue discussions about specific steps to implement it. The United States can then, not being rushed in any way, advance its multilateral initiatives, which, to reiterate, I would like to see spelled out on paper. So far, we haven't seen any of that. Question:
We have seen international institutions, agreements and organisations deteriorate in recent years and we see that the US pullout of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has practically ruined the authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which claimed that Iran had not committed any violations. We see that by declaring trade wars and the like they have played down the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
I could cite many other examples. Say, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – it seems to be an international sports agency – has 14 or 15 members representing one continent, one group of countries, who can take a decision to ban an entire country from the Olympic Games, thereby reducing the authority of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). I could also mention the [US] pullout of the INF Treaty and the dismantling of the stability and security system. What do you think will happen in general to international institutions and international rules, which are trampled on and eroded every day? Good or bad, but it is a system of international rules, which all countries are supposed to observe. Sergey Lavrov:
Yes, the situation is alarming. Not only are our Western partners trying to introduce rules they have developed to replace the universal rules of international law but they are making obvious attempts to privatise the secretariats of international organisations. The most graphic illustration is the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Their scandalous practices have come out now, because many conscientious experts who worked under contracts with this agency have flatly disagreed with the practice of manipulating the investigation results obtained at the site of the incident that occurred in Douma, Syria, in April 2018. The report based on the analysis made remotely, which contained plenty of remarks, like "most likely," or "we have every reason to believe," or "there is no other persuasive explanation," put all the blame on the Syrian government. If you remember, we undertook a number of measures at the time to show that the incident had been fabricated and staged. We took the "victims" of the alleged chemical attack that the White Helmets had shown on TV to The Hague. They gave a truthful account of events, which they had experienced first-hand, and their story completely refuted the White Helmets' speculation that underlie the report of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, thereby turning this secretariat into a disseminator of false information. This should not be left without a response.
Ms Matviyenko, you mentioned that WADA decisions are made by fifteen people, including eleven NATO members, as well as Australia, Japan, one African country and one Latin American country. Those behind what is happening in the OPCW represent more or less the same group of countries.
I am not saying that someone should not be held liable. Violations of doping rules do happen in Russia – we have recognised this much. That is the reason why we have radically reformed the relevant agencies – the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, and a laboratory was set up at Moscow's Lomonosov State University. But doping rules are violated in most countries too, including respected European sports powers. We all know about this. So, when all the anti-doping zeal is spent on joining the rhetoric of those who go out of their way to restrain Russia on all tracks, we have every reason to believe that this kind of action is politically-motivated. We are on the alert for the response to the Investigative Committee's report that Grigory Rodchenkov had submitted another document. That one was falsified in relation to the database, and distorted the database. Let's see how WADA will be able to openly, transparently and honestly discuss this topic. In the same way, we will look at how the OPCW, through its Technical Secretariat, will be able to openly and honestly discuss those facts that have emerged in the public space and simply debunk the myth of the Secretariat's independence and objectivity.
But the problem is much bigger. Madam Matviyenko, you were absolutely right that this trend is also observed on a number of other multilateral platforms. It is necessary to rally the international community – no matter how trite this phrase might sound – to counter such trends. It is crucial to uphold the universal norms enshrined in the UN Charter – it goes without saying – and in the various international conventions. With regard to chemical disarmament, there is the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In accordance with this Convention, any issues related to the activities of the Technical Secretariat can only be addressed by consensus. So our Western colleagues have violated this consensus, meaning the requirements of the Convention, by giving the Technical Secretariat atypical authority infringing on the prerogatives of the UN Security Council. This violated international law and established those rules that we are talking about. The decision was taken by less than 50 percent vote of the States parties to the Convention. The Convention can be changed by amending, discussing, accepting and unanimous ratifying. This is the legitimate way of doing this. Yes, it would be longer than the rigged trials that are trying to act faster by privatising the secretariats of international organisations, but in any case, only a consensus, an evolution of international law through consensus can ensure the sustainability of global development.