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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at 49th Munich security conference, Munich, 2 February 2013

6-02-2013, 22:49



Dear Chairman,

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to attend the Munich conference again, which has firmly consolidated itself as most authoritative site for open conceptual discussion of European and international politics problems.

It is impossible to overlook the symbolism of the date of today's meeting. 70 years ago one of the most difficult, bloody, and crucial battles of World War II – the battle of Stalingrad – was over. Hundreds of thousands of my compatriots who gave their lives for this victory on the banks of Volga were not only defending the Motherland, but also fighting for the attainment of universal peace, just as all our allies were doing.

The diplomacy efforts were also aimed at the purpose of not permitting the tragedy of world war to repeat. They resulted in the creation of the United Nations Organization. However, soon afterwards the “cold war” drew the dividing lines in Europe, putting off the opportunities for building a system of collective security, which is embodied in the UN Charter, for a long time.

I speak of this not to provoke another search for the guilty ones. Stirring up the past is not for credible politicians. As the Russian president Vladimir Putin stressed in December letter to the Federal Assembly, Russia is only going ahead, only into the future. That’s why the meaning of our participation in Munich conference we see above all in trying to find a joint approach to building a security community based on authentic strategic partnership. That is the very aim that was put by the leaders of Euro-Atlantic countries in 2010 at OSCE summits in Astana and Russia-NATO Council in Lisbon.

Certainly, it would be a mistake to state that nothing is done at all for achieving this noble aim. Russia and USA concluded the START, many-sided cooperation in combating terrorism, narcobusiness, piracy, threats from Afghanistan, is developing. The rejection of “cold war” era psychology is officially proclaimed. Russia and NATO members declared that they are not seeing each other as enemies.

However, we are not here to shower praises and compliments upon each other, but to understand the ways that need to be coordinated for the successful solving of the remaining problems.

With this in view, we all have to admit that not in word but in deed we are still nowhere near the truly collective Euro-Atlantic architecture, which would be based on solid international legal foundation. Still present is a tendency of building relations on military-political affairs in Europe not on the base of principles proclaimed in OSCE and NRC, but by advancing NATO-centric security structure as a single option.

We consider such a narrow-bloc approach to be of no avail and difficult to conceive with the help of objective, rational considerations; it is hardly applicable to building politics in today's global world, when we share the threats. It is time to take a broad and comprehensive look at the whole complex of relations in Euro-Atlantics and try to define the identity of approaches and the remaining discrepancies between us, including with regard to conflict situations in other parts of the world that influence our mutual security.

When looking at today’s most restless region – Near East, North Africa, Sahel zone – it is hard to get rid of the feeling of some kind of a curved space. Many questions arise in connection with approaches applied by some of our partners in the conditions of the “Arab Spring” process. Does the support of speeches for the change of regimes allow justifying terrorist methods? Are you able to make war in one conflict situation against those whom you support in another conflict situation? How to make sure that the weaponry you illegally supplied to a zone of conflict is directed against yourself? Who among the rulers is legitimate, and who is not? When is it acceptable to cooperate with authoritarian regimes (both civil and not that much civil), and when is it allowed to support their violent overthrow? In what cases is it needed to acknowledge the forces that came to power as a result of a democratic election, and in what cases – to refuse contacting them? What are the criteria and standards determining all this?

It is important to seek joint honest answers to these questions, especially as Euro-Atlantic countries have much more common points than disagreements in respect of ultimate goals of the efforts on resolution of crises. In the Near and Middle East, North Africa and African continent, as well as in other regions, we all want the stability to be secured, conditions for sustainable development to be created, the people of the states located there to be able to advance towards democracy and prosperity, human rights and uninterrupted supply of hydrocarbons, as well as another essential resources, to be guaranteed.

If these are our common aims, then we would probably be able to agree on transparent and clear “rules” which should be followed by all external players in their practical actions. Agree that we all will be supporting the democratic reforms in states undergoing transformations and not imposing an outside value scale, but acknowledging the variety of development models. Agree that we shall be supporting the peaceful settlement of the inner state conflicts and stopping of violence by creating conditions for an inclusive dialogue with involvement of all national political groups. Agree that we shall refrain from outside interference, especially by force, without a clear mandate from the UN Security Council and from arbitrary application of unilateral sanctions. That we will consistently and firmly fight extremism and terrorism in all forms, will demand observation of rights for ethnic and confessional minorities. I’m sure that if all of the “Action Group” meeting participants in Geneva on 30 June 2012 together honestly fulfilled jointly formulated approaches, then today’s tragic and horrible situation Syria may not even be. But for this it is necessary to honestly fulfil what has been agreed upon and not to extract or add anything. For that purpose we have been suggesting for a long time to hold a new meeting of the “Action Group”. We hope that Lakhdar Brakhimi who is present here will try to advance this initiative in his work.

On the whole, in respect of the “Arab Spring” processes it's high time to withdraw from simplified schemes and slogans, to weigh the situation and its development scenarios from responsible positions. Understanding this makes its way. I’ll particularly mention the recent article of Volfgang Ishinger in “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” where very interesting ideas that have something in common with our situation assessment are stated.

If we are interested in joint actions for the benefit of all, then we need to see the world as it is. To accept that forceful operations (no need to look far for examples) lead to chaos strengthening in international relations and can cause waves of instability that no “stability island” will shelter from. History continues to gain speed and ahead there are many crossroads where it will be again necessary to choose between unilateral geopolitical aims and partnership, between zero sum games and joint efforts to find answers to today’s challenges.

Many of these crossroads are seen already now. For instance, it is a question of the future of Pan-European organization – OSCE. Today the disagreements within it are deepening because of the attempts to dictate one's standards to others, transform it in sufficiently confrontational polemic platform, escalating in this way the systemic crisis of the Organization. The uniting projects are needed that will cement the European space and help build consensus on fundamental security questions. “Window of opportunities” still exists: last year in December CFM OSCE in Dublin has resolved to start the “Helsinki+40” process. We would like to hope that by 2015, when this anniversary will be celebrated, a truly joint agenda would be successfully made, reflecting our mutual determination to concentrate on the solution of the common strategic goals on the basis of putting into life the principle of security indivisibility, and not an exchange of claims.

ABM problem became an important conformity test of real business with solemn declarations of commitment to this key principle. We are all risking to lose another real chance to build a single Euro-Atlantic space. Russia proposes a simple and constructive way – to coordinate strict guarantees of undirectedness of US global ABM against any OSCE member country and develop clear military-technical criteria allowing to estimate the conformity of ABM systems with the stated aims: neutralization of missile threats that come from outside of Euro-Atlantic region.

It’s also important to clarify the definition of NATO's mission in new conditions, not for interfering in this process, but for making it clear for us. Advance to an authentic partnership between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance is still slowed down by the attempts to exploit the thesis about the Soviet threat, which is now already transforming into the thesis about the Russian threat. Phobias are very enduring and we see how a military planning process is built under this thesis. Even in the conditions of deficit of financial resources an increase in military activities is observed in the north and centre of Europe, as if in these regions the security threats are mounting. Advancement of projects for NATO’s further expansion and advancement of bloc’s military infrastructure to the East is continuing – as if there were no top-level statements on fatality of preserving dividing lines on the continent. Speaking of this, some of our European partners are now inventing new dividing lines, begin trying to artificially divide integration projects into “good” and “bad”, “friendly” and “alien”.

Today the conception of the “clever defence” is discussed in NATO. I lay aside the question about from whom specifically are they going to defend. More important is to realize the objective demand for a new, modern, “clever” foreign policy aimed at the most effective use of the emerging opportunities of cooperation instead of their inexcusable squandering. If the leading economies of the world within the scope of “Group 20” were able to arrange joint efforts for overcoming the global financial and economic crisis, so why it cannot be done in politics? Last year Russia became the full member of WTO, which was created first of all for fighting protectionism in the trade and economic relations. We are grateful to USA, EC and all who supported this process. But if we try to analyze the situation with preserving bloc thinking, then this thinking is probably the protectionism in the military and political sector? In that case it's evident that it's in the direct contradiction with the today's demands which dictate the necessity of the formation of the open systems of equal security for everyone.

Our proposals about how to make a principle of security indivisibility, repeatedly declared in OSCE and NRC, legally binding, working in practice, are still on the “bargaining table”. The codification of the commitments not to enhance own security at the expense of others’ security approved on the highest political level would help improve military and political climate in Euro-Atlantics and would favour closer relations between all countries and realization of the strategic goal to create the united economical and humane space from Atlantics to Pacific Ocean.

The aspiration for elaborating joint approaches for securing genuinely equitable architecture in Euro-Atlantics is more and more clear not just in case of reasonable politicians, but also on the level of civil society. We welcome the collaboration of the centres of politology in Germany, Poland, Russia, and France on preparing recommendations regarding problems of Euro-security, which was approved in OSCE. We want to stimulate such contacts and processes in every possible way. We welcome this work.

No doubt that we are living at the turning point of the history, which means that the decisive and large initiatives are needed. It is time to mutually write off the historical debts and issue each other the “anti-recessionary” credit – the credit of trust and partnership.

In advance of the speech I was asked to comment the Russian-American relations, but deep down, I agree with today's words of Joe Biden – a good friend and colleague of mine. We really have a very vast and positive agenda, but in the relations between such major states the opposing views and discrepancies, sometimes serious ones, are inevitably retained. You all know them. We shall fundamentally consider every question in Russian-American relations as subjected to agreement, if being guided by the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual respect for interests. But regarding the questions where we are able to cooperate for our countries goodness and international security, we are, no doubt, already working and will continue doing this.

I would like to finish with a reference to President Barack Obama who said during his inaugural speech that USA will seek to resolve disagreements with other countries by peaceful means – not as a result of naivety, but because the cooperation is the most sure remedy for eliminating suspicions and fear. In its foreign policy Russia stably abides exactly such an approach which is based on strict observance of principles and norms of international law. We decidedly count on reciprocity.

Thank you for your attention.



  • Category: Minister S.Lavrov
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