Sergey Lavrov: Europe as a partner was irrelevant for Russia for at least one generation

11:12 23.05.2024 •

Photo: MFA

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 32nd Assembly of the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy (photo). Key points:

- The US-led West sticks to its official goal proclaimed even at the doctrinal level of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia. This includes military defeat and more. The very existence of our country is seen by many most aggressive Russophobes as a threat to the Washington-led golden billion’s global dominance. Just like everyone in this audience, we are following what the Western think tanks are doing as they develop scenarios to inflict maximum damage on us and call for supplying Kiev with ever-new types of weaponry. They are now officially, at the level of government members, talking about the possibility of targeting any part of Russia’s territory. At least, they say “it’s up to Kiev to decide.” The latest remarks on this matter by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, among others, are well known. These hawks undoubtedly insist that their governments increase investment in the defence industry and put the economy on a war footing, and fantasise about “decolonising” Russia (in plain Russian it means dismembering our country).

- As for anti-Russia rhetoric, a special zeal in this regard is being displayed by our European neighbours. Everyone has heard remarks on an “inevitable war with Russia” by Emmanuel Macron, David Cameron, Josep Borrell, and others. I remember an article by Dmitry Trenin (who is present here), in which he said that Europe as a partner was irrelevant for us for at least one generation. I cannot but agree with him. We are experiencing this in practice almost every day. It must be admitted that many facts (as distinct from our sensations) speak in favour of this forecast. We think that this forecast is correct.

- After the failure of the notorious Ukrainian counteroffensive, the West has been promoting a new and openly false point that “Putin will not stop at Ukraine.” Before the special military operation they said: Let us accept Ukraine to NATO as soon as possible and then Vladimir Putin will not dare to put into practice his plans with regard to that country. This means they proceeded from the assumption that NATO membership was something “sacred” and that Russia would never play rough towards this “holiness.” Today, they are saying the opposite: Putin will defeat Ukraine and then attack NATO. Therefore, “we” must urgently arm ourselves to the teeth.

- Their current policy is to restore the strength of European armies and put NATO’s military industries on wartime footing. France is the most active NATO member in this sense. Mr Macron admitted in an interview the other day that Paris and Berlin had always regarded Russia as the “main threat.” Obviously, they share an illusion in respect of 1812 and 1941. These capitals always saw this threat.

- Our approach will be to continue using diplomatic means to create proper conditions for the West to drop its hostile policies, and to help achieve the special military operation’s objectives. This will be the primary focus of our diplomacy.

- According to President Vladimir Putin, we are open to a dialogue with the West on security and strategic stability, among other issues. However, this dialogue must rely on equal terms and with mutual respect for each other’s interests, rather than a position of power or exceptionalism. This dialogue should address the entire range of issues related to strategic stability and the broader military-political landscape.

- Despite the intensity and high media profile of our confrontation with the West, Russia does not limit its foreign relations to a single area. Otherwise, we would not be a great power. In the current situation, it is crucial for us to develop cooperation with the Global Majority, which is not willing to sacrifice its mutually beneficial relationships with us that are based on historical memory in order to accommodate the West’s geopolitical ambitions in Ukraine.

- Our relations with Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America in various formats remain our foreign policy priority. We share much with the Global Majority, including a common vision for a multipolar world and a commitment to fundamental principles of country-to-country relations, including the main one – the sovereign equality of states.

- President Vladimir Putin recently visited China. This was his first foreign visit since being re-elected. The negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping and meetings with other Chinese leaders reaffirmed that our comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction surpass traditional alliances of the past era and continue to play a key role in maintaining international security and balanced global development.

- Our actions in China and other non-Western directions evoke undisguised anger from the former hegemon and its satellites. Just look at how the United States and its allies are trying by all means to prevent Global Majority countries from dealing with Russia and to embroil them into anti-Russia initiatives, such as holding a “peace conference on Ukraine” in Switzerland. Their goal is straightforward and is to gather as many participants as possible to create a crowd and say that Zelensky’s “peace formula” is the only acceptable plan for everyone. Next, they plan to impose it on Russia which fact they are not hiding.

- We read the West persisting in imposing Zelensky’s formula while simultaneously boosting the supplies of longer-range weapons to Kiev as a telltale sign that the West is not ready for serious talks. This means they have made their choice to resolve matters on the battlefield. We are ready for this turn of events at any time.

- No matter what, Russia will successfully uphold its interests in the Ukrainian, Western, and European areas.

- As far as I understand, we all acknowledge the complete failure of the previous Euro-Atlantic security model and the West’s strategy of dual containment targeting Russia and China. Euro-Atlantic security traditionally involved the OSCE, relations with NATO and the EU, including the NATO-Russia Council and the Partnership for Peace.

- Clearly, none of the above, which included numerous treaties and agreements such as the four common spaces with the EU and more, has remained relevant today. All of this has been scrapped, destroyed, and torn apart by the West itself. Simultaneously, the West, through NATO, has declared its intention to take a leading role in the Indo-Pacific region – the term they use to describe the Asia-Pacific region – primarily, Southeast Asia. The alliance has proclaimed the indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific regions, which includes blocs, or NATO incarnations. Their attempts multiply. Trios, quads, AUKUS, and much more are being created. It appears that having failed with implementing the Euro-Atlantic security model, which offered some hope 30 years ago to certain politicians, US-led NATO has decided to bring matters in the southeast of our continent under its control.

- In this context, we must consider how to structure our security efforts, given these circumstances. In his Address to the Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin set the task of working on the Eurasian security concept. Clearly, the CIS space is our absolute priority. It is the centerpiece of the neighbouring countries in which Russia, just like our neighbours, allies, and partners, has special interests.

- In the new geopolitical circumstances, extra efforts will be needed to unlock the EAEU potential, to harmonise it more closely with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and to give a new impetus to the SCO, as well as to develop ties with the Big Five of Central Asia which is on its way to become an independent integration project. Many leading countries, including all key Western states, Russia, China, Türkiye, and India, are proposing to expand the dialogue in the Central Asia +1 format.

- ASEAN, with its rich history of shaping the philosophy and ensuring security based on a balance of interests that goes back decades, is also a factor to reckon with. The architecture built around ASEAN over these long decades has come under attack from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the EU. They seek to replace it with smaller alliance blocs. However, efforts in these areas are a continuation of the efforts to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership in line with the idea advanced by President Vladimir Putin at the Russia-ASEAN Summit in 2015.

- The Greater Eurasian Partnership and the relationships between the structures I earlier mentioned, which have been formalised and are fully operational, have the potential of becoming a material foundation for the Eurasian security concept which is something we must consider and cannot ignore. Both the SCO and ASEAN have programmes that involve military-political issues, which play an increasingly important role in their activities. The CSTO has also established relations with the SCO. The CIS has a military-political aspect in its programme strategy, as well as aspects of combating new challenges and threats. As food for thought, it would be ideal to unite these Eurasian sprouts of a new architecture and a new configuration under a common umbrella.

- PRC President Xi Jinping’s initiative regarding global security was discussed as part of our visit to China during meetings that were held in various formats, including meetings of the delegations, restricted-format meetings, and one-on-one meetings between the leaders. We see significant value in beginning the practical implementation of the idea of global security by establishing the foundations for Eurasian security, free from any Euro-Atlantic influences. Naturally, the Euro part will remain, but the Atlantic part will go as it is no longer relevant.

- We recognise the interconnectedness between the United States and its allies in Europe, East Asia, and the Pacific. It is a network of alliances and coalitions that entangle Eurasia with the involvement of the overseas and trans-English Channel representatives. However, it would be wrong not to consider ensuring the security of our own continent using our own efforts.

- Considering the above, we want to work these processes through and to try to initiate them with a group of our partners who share our perspectives. I primarily refer to the SCO and other associations within the Eurasian space that I mentioned earlier. We will keep the door open to all countries and associations located on our continent and related to Eurasia for them to join this process.

- This is all the more important as processes are being regionalised on a global scale in other parts of the world as well. Various countries and their organisations are striving to take control of their future in their own hands and to no longer depend on the whims of those who controlled all the tools and mechanisms, as well as the US-created models and globalisation systems.

- We observe such processes unfold in Africa, where African unions and sub-regional associations have stepped up their activities significantly. In Latin America, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States has gained its second wind with Brazil’s return and is actively working to mitigate risks to their economic, financial, and investment projects from the disruptions plaguing the global system.

- We should not forget that regional activities will benefit if we harmonise processes across different continents. I would be remiss not to mention the potentially important role of BRICS whose membership has effectively doubled. About 30 countries are waiting in line to become formal members. As the BRICS chair this year, Russia is prioritising preparations for the ministerial meeting in June in Nizhny Novgorod and the summit in October in Kazan.


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