Sergey Lavrov: “The West’s stated and most important goal is to inflict a “strategic defeat on Russia”

12:35 29.03.2024 •

Interview with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Izvestia Multimedia Information Centre, Moscow, March 28, 2024

Question: I would like to begin with the disaster that has impacted many, including your ministry. Please accept my condolences for your loss, the death of your staff member, a young woman. This shows that this was more than a local terrorist attack, but an attack of a much more global scale, primarily with regard to our country.

Sergey Lavrov: This is certainly true. President Vladimir Putin has provided an in-depth and tough assessment of what happened, emphasising that the necessary instructions have been issued to the investigative bodies, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and special services. Work is underway and has results to show, which we can see from daily media reports. According to President Putin, all those who masterminded, organised, sponsored and executed this terrorist attack will be brought to justice.

Question: Shortly after the tragedy, most countries expressed their condolences to us, offered their assistance, and some Western countries came up with a number of theories as to who might be involved in this tragedy. What do you think about the international response immediately after the attack?

Sergey Lavrov: President Vladimir Putin and other officials, including the heads of the FSB and the Investigative Committee, as well as Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev, commented on the international response.

The West is trying hard to convince everyone that ISIS is behind it and there is no point in suspecting anyone else, above all Ukraine. They mention that country directly and regularly to the point of becoming obsessive about it, and keep saying Ukraine is not involved.

We have said many times that we will wait for the investigation to complete before drawing final conclusions. The investigators are still working on evidence, and new circumstances are coming to light, but we simply cannot ignore obvious theories, especially so as the perpetrators were detained near the Ukrainian border. The West is suspiciously assertive as it tries to convince us, not only publicly but also in their contacts with our diplomatic missions, that we should not suspect Ukraine, without explaining why. From the perspective of common sense, pondering the question of who benefits from this (this question invariably comes up whenever there is a crime to solve), we cannot rule out Ukraine.

Head of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Agency Kirill Budanov had the following to say yesterday: “The allegation that Ukraine committed the terrorist attack in Crocus is nonsensical. Even though Russia is an enemy, I do not condone terrorist attacks against civilians.” No one would believe what this person has to say. In May 2023, he said “these people with altered psyche (meaning Russians) should be held accountable. For us, holding accountable means physical annihilation.” He said that on the air of the 1+1 television channel. There are many other similar remarks by Ukrainian officials, including Mikhail Podolyak, Andrey Yermak, and former Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council Alexey Danilov, including outright calls to destroy “Rusnya.” They do not want Nikolayev or Kharkov to remain Russian cities, and the like. We hear threats to kill Russians in Ukraine physically and legally.

I am positive that the investigators possess these materials. Our Western colleagues, to whom we have repeatedly pointed this out, are certainly aware of these remarks, and more. After the coup, the Kiev regime unleashed a war against its own people, which was stopped after the Minsk agreements had been signed. After that, the regimes led by Poroshenko and Zelensky systematically adopted laws that destroyed everything that was Russian in Ukraine: higher education followed by secondary and then primary education, culture, mass media and much more. City officials adopted regulations outlawing events in Russian. Even everyday communication in Russian in retail outlets and restaurants was made illegal. After each such incident, we sent thousands of petitions to the Western countries and organisations, such as the Council of Europe or the OSCE, that oversee the Kiev regime asking them to condemn and to cut short these policies that are openly at odds with Ukraine’s obligations under numerous conventions that protect the rights of ethnic minorities, but they never publicly denounced these absolutely illegal actions.

The Ukrainians have passed a multitude of laws and are implementing them. These laws contradict the current Constitution of Ukraine, which explicitly states that the state guarantees the rights of the Russian (emphasis added) and other ethnic minorities in education, media, and culture. The hypocrisy of the West, which refuses to accept the obvious state of affairs (that Ukraine is a racist and Nazi regime), causes serious concern. The only available explanation is that Ukraine is just the tip of the iceberg, and the West’s stated and most important goal is to inflict a “strategic defeat on Russia.” This goal is reiterated quite regularly.

It turns out that those who are willing to try to fulfill this goal for the West at the cost of their lives are allowed to do anything, including direct support for the theory and practice of Nazism. This is sad.

Question: If you do not mind, I would like to return to the Crocus City Hall tragedy. Immediately after it happened, the Western media recalled that the US Embassy in Moscow has issued a security alert recently – it happened on March 7, 2024 – followed by several other embassies. The United States claims that there are communications channels between intelligence services, which they used to give us certain warnings as well, all while pressuring our diplomatic missions, closing and seizing their buildings, etc., which is happening in plain view.

Are there any areas where we have real contacts for cooperating and working together with our Western colleagues?

Sergey Lavrov: Practically none.

As for the fact you mentioned, the Americans are emphasising this in every possible way now, saying that they issued a warning on March 7, 2024, which was followed by another alert from the British Embassy in English on March 8, 2024. Those alerts were addressed to their citizens who are in Moscow, advising them to avoid large gatherings.

As a rule, contacts between intelligence agencies remain under the radar. However, Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov did say in a recent interview that these contacts took place, and they had indeed received a warning, but it was of a very general nature. I have nothing to add to this.

Speaking about broader international contacts, in the past few decades, after the Russian state emerged in its current form, fighting terrorism has been viewed as something that brought us all together – Russia, the West and the East. Therefore, leaders in the United States, in Europe, and in Britain agreed that this fight should be fought regardless of differences that we all may have on other political or economic matters. This is how it used to work.

We were having a hard time with the European Union. French President Emmanuel Macron said that although Russia was an aggressor and definitely wanted to invade them, they might still consider working with us in the fight against terrorism. Well, one might want to do some research before making such statements. After all, we spent many years trying to persuade the European Union to put an information sharing mechanism in place. That did not happen until 2018. The last meeting took place in 2019. After that, they, too, lost interest.

Their actual refusal to engage with us on specific counter-terrorism issues came long before the special military operation. Now they are blaming all their blunders on it and trying to disguise their true intentions, which left us with no options but to stop the war that was already underway against us by deciding to launch the special military operation.

Question: You said recently that we are not interested in Interpol’s proposal on cooperation and it is clear why.

From what countries did we receive, via diplomatic channels, real rather than empty proposals to help investigate the terrorist attack? Did we get any at all? Were they really prepared to help us investigate this terrorist attack?

Sergey Lavrov: I heard a recent statement by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. He said, as everyone knows, that Belarusian and Russian intelligence agencies and other law-enforcement bodies were closely cooperating on a permanent basis. He emphasised that he was ready to continue. He said he discussed this with President Vladimir Putin. They remain in touch. Therefore, we have this capability as far as Russian-Belarusian cooperation is concerned. Moreover, Belarus keeps a close eye on the developments in Ukraine. There is a Ukrainian army group stationed along the border with Belarus, posing a permanent threat to this country’s security. I do not know any other proposals on cooperation.

If something was done or some information was passed via through intelligence agencies, it was never publicised. I sincerely doubt that someone would offer cooperation.

You mentioned Interpol. This is a unique situation. I double-checked my words that Interpol has never offered to investigate high-profile crimes before. This is indeed the case. It did not do this as regards Nord Stream pipelines or terrorist attacks in Russia in the early 2000s. Interpol has never demonstrated this kind of zeal before.

Meanwhile, this time it offered its services literally several hours after the Americans and the Europeans declared that Ukraine had nothing to do with the attack. We will cope with it ourselves. It is very unfortunate but the Western employees in the secretariats of international agencies that are designed to be neutral and unbiased are increasingly privatising them. This happens with these agencies across all sectors, including forensics, law enforcement, sports, culture – you name it.

We are seeing the same situation with the UN. It has the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. They emphasised in their latest annual report that domination of Westerners in the structures of the Secretariat is unacceptable. It is necessary to counter this trend rather than just take into consideration. This is what we are doing.

Question: Does this mean that we are on the brink of a no less global threat than a third world war because countries fail to work together? There is a lot more interaction going on among terrorists, compared to the international community.

Sergey Lavrov: Many talk about this. They directly use the term of “a third world war.” President of Russia Vladimir Putin has responded to these Western statements on multiple occasions. Our position was described in abundantly clear terms. We are ready to engage in talks, as long as they are serious about it, and if they take into consideration the reality and lawful security interests of the Russian Federation and other countries which are involved. Our President made it very clear.

You may recall how this issue developed, in particular, as regards NATO. Initially, before the start of the special military operation and immediately afterwards, the West unanimously called for Ukraine to be admitted into NATO as soon as possible because Russia would never attack a NATO member. As time went by, they changed the tune. Now they are saying that Russia must not be allowed to win in Ukraine because as soon as it wins it will attack NATO countries. There is no logic in this at all.

Only yesterday, speaking in the Tver Region, President Vladimir Putin again dismissed as nonsense all this discourse about us hatching some invasion plans. These allegations have only one purpose – to compel the parliaments and people of Europe to reconcile with the desire of the EU and the European Commission to continue sending more weapons to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Europe is one of the main victims in this conflict.

Take economic performance data for the EU and US over the past year. You will see immediately who is living at whose expense and who is profiting on the policy imposed on Europe by Washington. The United States is moving into the background altogether, leaving it to the European Union to play first fiddle.

Question: Going back to our contacts with the Americans. You said that there are hardly any spheres where we remain in touch.

What about the issue of prisoner exchanges between Russia and the United States? During the meeting between US President Biden and President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, it was stated that this process will continue, and prisoner exchanges may well happen. Recently, Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout were returned. Do you think this dialogue will continue? Is there still a chance to bring our Russians back?

Sergey Lavrov: We always act in accordance with the agreements reached with our partners, especially at the highest level.

The agreement you mentioned was concluded in June 2021 in Geneva. It provided for setting up a communication channel between our intelligence services, and it was agreed that it would operate confidentially. We have not publicised this topic in any way. On our part, we commented it only after the specific agreements I mentioned yielded tangible results. The Americans constantly claim that they had an agreement while Russia fails to “cooperate.” These are unscrupulous methods that run counter to the agreements between our presidents. We are committed to them, and we are ready to continue the dialogue exactly the way and in the form agreed upon by President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden.

Question: During his visit to Torzhok, Vladimir Putin talked with our helicopter pilots. In particular, he said that if the F-16s are supplied to the Armed Forces of Ukraine but deployed in the airfields outside Ukraine, they will become legitimate targets. Before that, Moscow had repeatedly made it clear that if NATO troops were sent to Ukraine, they would also be legitimate targets.

It was French President Emmanuel Macron who started it all. He took a picture in a fighting stance and said that French troops could be deployed to Ukraine. I have a question in this regard. Do you think the French or any other NATO countries will decide to send their troops to Ukraine? Or not?

To use the Doomsday Clock metaphor, how much time do we have left before a direct possible clash between the armies of Russia and NATO countries – 5-10 minutes, one hour?

Sergey Lavrov: I will not speculate on this topic. In general, I think that this Doomsday Clock idea is inconsistent and not really useful. They try to stir up the public opinion at a time when it is necessary to project calm and reason.

As for Macron’s ideas, his performance was clearly impromptu. Later he and his entourage backtracked. However, a few days later, Emmanuel Macron repeated this idea. And he also said that he would create a coalition with the participation of countries that would be ready for this. In response, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and several other senior NATO officials cautiously reminded him that decisions in the bloc are made jointly and collectively. They said he had not consulted them. I think France’s actions on this front are designed exclusively as a publicity stunt for the president in a situation when he is doing poorly at home and needs to create some kind of distraction in the form of calls to “finish off Russia.”

Recently, Emmanuel Macron, in the same context, made a series of statements that President Vladimir Putin is famous for not respecting agreements and obligations, so he cannot be trusted and must continue to focus on achieving “Russia’s strategic defeat on the battlefield.” Allegations that Vladimir Putin does not comply with agreements sound very exotic coming from Emmanuel Macron and in general a Frenchman, France’s leader. This is said by the president of the country whose Foreign Minister in February 2014, together with colleagues from Germany and Poland, guaranteed an agreement between President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition. The next morning it was trampled upon. All administrative buildings were seized and, instead of creating a government of national unity to prepare for early elections, the creation of a “government of winners” was announced. That is when a wedge was driven into Ukrainian society.

We called Paris, Berlin, and Warsaw and said that their representatives had guaranteed this agreement. We urged them to make the opposition respect what they all signed up for. They began to respond to us in a very inarticulate way. Their point was that there may be unconventional iterations in democratic processes sometimes.

In February 2015, France signed the Minsk agreements only for the signatory, President Francois Hollande, to say later that they were not going to implement any decisions regarding Minsk-2, and now this country’s president is saying that we are the ones who are unable to honour the agreements we reach. The same was later said by former German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and former President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko. French President Emmanuel Macron, who personally convened the Normandy Format in December 2019, also said this. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky attended the meeting. After much bickering and wrangling, the document was agreed upon. It spoke of the need to urgently determine the special status of Donbass (as required by the Minsk agreements) and to formalise it along with the well-known Frank-Walter Steinmeier formula. It presented a compromise in itself and provided for enacting this special status only after summing up the results of the elections in the territories of the DPR and LPR.

If we talk about other would-be achievements of France, then there is a lot to recall. As part of the EU, it promoted many conflict resolution decisions that no one was going to subsequently implement. Still, they are the ones accusing us of failing to honour the deals we make. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell says that it is impossible to trust Russian President Vladimir Putin. And he also said that if they do not defeat Russia in Ukraine now, the European Union will lose trust in itself.

These examples expose the European Union’s diplomatic performance and manners. You can add 2013. Then, with the help of the EU, an agreement was reached between Belgrade and Pristina on the creation of a Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo. It was loudly and triumphantly presented as the greatest diplomatic victory. After that the Kosovars and Albanians told the European Union that they would not do anything. And the European Union ate the dust.

The French or other EU members who acted this way only to demonstrate their impotence down the road are not the ones to talk about making deals or about someone’s authority.

Question: France, Germany and most other EU countries responded to the election results in Russia by saying that they would not recognise them, dismissing them as illegitimate, and so on. Don’t you think Europe is driving itself into a diplomatic deadlock, much as Zelensky did by forbidding himself to negotiate with Russia? If Paris or Berlin refuse to recognise the Russian presidential election results as legitimate, what would this entail? Who are they going to talk to? They will have to do it anyway.

Sergey Lavrov: I really find it hard to analyse the logic behind Europe’s actions. They make no sense; they have no purpose in the long run. Just like at other historic junctures in recent times, everyone seems unconcerned about any development prospects in the interests of their nations, peace or resolving global challenges we are all facing together. Electoral cycles – this is what worries them. During their campaigns, they need to say things that they can selltheir voters. They target the liberal voter. So they exploit this liberal discourse, the narratives that prevail in Europe among Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in their various forms.

These parties will probably retain the majority in the European Parliament after the next election scheduled for June 2024. But the number of parties with a more nation-centric agenda will probably increase there as well. They do not like Brussels’ persistent and obsessive policy of usurping authority in the European Union, on top of the powers legally transferred to the European Commission by the member states. We can observe some movement to preserve national identity and defend their sovereignty within the EU. These parties will get additional votes in the European Parliament.

As to recognising our election results or not, it was the European Parliament that said that it would not recognise them, even before the voting started. But the European Parliament does not determine the EU policy. It cannot take binding decisions. The EU member states warned that the elections in Russia’s new territories and in Crimea were taking place on “sovereign Ukrainian territory.” This is what they said.

After the election, Berlin announced its infamously ridiculous and sad decision not to refer to Vladimir Putin as President of Russia, henceforth only using his name without title. No one else got even close to this in their rhetoric.

They brought up Novorossiya, Donbass, and Crimea. But when United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Putin’s presidency in Russia was the reality, and they would continue to deal with that reality, the whole of Europe fell silent.

Question: Was he in Kiev at the time?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, he was in Kiev. The boss said so, and everyone readily obeyed. Unfortunately, Europe does not exist – not as an independent player, at least.

Question: Let’s return to the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine. While Europe is pumping Kiev with arms, China is actively promoting peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. In so doing, it insists on the need to observe Russia’s interests.  Do we have any terms for these peace talks?

Sergey Lavrov: China is talking reason. When China published its 12 item plan on settling the conflict in Ukraine in February 2023, we positively reacted to it. This Chinese document was based on the analysis of the reasons of the events and the need to remove them as distinct from Vladimir Zelensky’s diplomatically insane “formula.”

The Chinese plan follows a-general-to-specific logic. It states “lack of order” in security in Europe and the world and says that the reason for this lack of order lies in the failure to abide by the UN Charter (this is also our position). It mentions the need to observe all principles of the UN Charter, not only "pull out" one of its provisions to the detriment of others.

The Chinese document says that unilateral sanctions to which the West had started actively resorting long before the start of the special military operation is also an irritant that must be removed. On this foundation, it is necessary to come to terms on ensuring (this was the key expression) equal security for all participants in the process. This is our position. It is possible to understand how to implement these principles only by taking seats at the negotiating table. But this should be done not on the terms of the “peace formula” that Zelensky and his bosses in Europe, London and the US have long been pushing as an ultimatum. It is necessary to seriously analyse the existing security problems, accept realities on the ground and guarantee the lawful security interests of the Russian Federation. For our part, we are ready to guarantee the lawful security interests of the other participants in the process.

Realities on the ground are common knowledge. First, this is the situation on the battlefield, and, second these are lawful interests (they are lawful from all points of view, including international law) of the people living in Novorossiya and Donbass. The Kiev regime has trampled underfoot their rights linked with education, the media, the use of the Russian language and the preservation of their history and memory of the Great Patriotic War. These realities will have to be recognised.

Question: The internet’s Ukrainian segment published reports that not so long ago Ankara offered Zelensky to hold Istanbul-2 that would not only allow the sides to settle the conflict but also to move to talks on strategic security. Is it a fake or has Ankara really offered Zelensky a new version of agreements that he rejected again, now under Washington’s pressure?

Sergey Lavrov: There was some talk about this proposal. We heard about it. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned it as well. Russia explained that we are ready to discuss these proposals on conditions of reciprocity.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and the United Nations Secretariat that will remain valid for another year and a half is not fulfilled in any of its parts. This memorandum guarantees that the Secretary-General would compel the West to remove sanctions in the way of Russian fertilizer and grain exports. It is not being implemented. Our position is well known. There were reports and public statements by both the Turkish leaders and the UN. Without going into any details, I will just say that they have not led to anything.

Question: I’d like to clarify the issue about talks. As we know, Zelensky banned himself any talks with Moscow. So, even if he is eager to start them or is allowed to do this, he must first make talks legal. There is very little time for this. Speaking in the UN, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council Vasily Nebenzya said that the Ukrainian leader’s sole decision not to hold a presidential campaign would make him illegitimate on May 21, 2024. So, starting on May 21 we will consider him like this? 

Sergey Lavrov: A few words about Zelensky’s executive order on a ban of talks with the Government of Vladimir Putin. Our President has repeatedly spoken about our readiness to start serious talks. But to become convinced that these will be serious talks (or at least there is a hope for this), he told Kiev’s Western patrons that Zelensky must first cancel this executive order. This issue was already raised.

As for May 21 of this year, let’s first live to this time. Maybe there will be no need to acknowledge anything.

Question: A question regarding talks with the US on strategic stability. Some time ago, there was a feeling that Washington was sending a fairly clear signal that they wanted to start negotiations on at least this topic. We replied that we could not separate security issues and the conflict in Ukraine. This is an array of issues. Are we getting new signals? Or has this process finally slowed down after we clearly outlined our position? Are we waiting for the end of the US presidential election to figure out what we should do next?

Sergey Lavrov: In autumn 2023, The United States sent us these signals, as always, unable to resist leaking this information to the media. It was an informal document, to which we responded in February this year. We explained that it was impossible to talk about strategic stability in a situation when we were declared a strategic enemy that needed to be “strategically defeated.”

The same US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called us the enemy more than once. This is surrealism. Russia has explained in detail in what circumstances we will be ready to resume the dialogue on strategic stability: when mutual respect, equality and advancing towards finding a balance of interests will be ensured. The Americans think differently.

At a time when war has been declared on us, they are helping Ukrainians to aim modern types of long-range weapons at our civilian and infrastructure facilities and at the same time declare: let them shoot at each other while we will sit down to talk. This is ridiculous. This does not do credit to those who are involved in foreign policy in the Washington administration. They have lost all diplomatic competences, as I see it. They were corrupted by the submission primarily from the Europeans, as well as other countries that are ready to “bend” under the American diktat, threats of sanctions, ultimatums and blackmail.

The United States now has sanctions everywhere, wherever you look. Washington starts discussing Venezuela, saying that it is ready to allow Venezuela to resume oil exports but requires it to hold elections as the United States has told it to do. And if Venezuela refuses, the US will again ban its oil exports. They have no other tools.

I noticed an interesting point when I was talking to my friends in New York at the General Assembly and UN Security Council events. In January of this year, I was at the UN Security Council meeting when it was discussing Palestine. My comrades, with whom we have worked together since the 1980s, explained why they sometimes have to vote on Ukraine and other important issues “not for reasons of conscience.” The explanation is as follows: a US diplomat unscrupulously approaches the ambassador of the country in question and demands that he vote the way the United States tells him to do. The same demarches are made on capitals. My comrades explained that they would never join the sanctions but in order to let off some steam, they sometimes have to vote differently from what they think is right.

I asked whether these demands by the Americans to vote in one way or another were followed by any explanation of what would happen if they did not obey. I was told that there would be sanctions and punishment. I asked what they will get in return if they do as the United States says. In response, as the Americans said, they would not punish these countries.

Question: Looks like odd childish games in big politics.

Sergey Lavrov: Unfortunately, we have what we have. This irreparable confidence of the United States in its own righteousness, omnipotence and impunity has led to the fact that the US foreign policy is now led by people who do not know how to do diplomacy.

Question: You said in your interview that the Americans have no analysts on Russia left who would be familiar with our mentality, people, and culture. How can they declare us their enemies if they know nothing about our country?

Sergey Lavrov: They have no interest in that. The United States has lost diplomacy as a method for establishing contacts, holding candid discussions, and identifying ways to strike a compromise. It is not necessarily about specialists in Russian, European, Asian, or African studies. I don’t see serious specialists there.

They are accustomed to making demands. They have even stooped to rudely and publicly telling China what to do. Reportedly, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu had a telephone conversation with US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell. The US official said Washington was dissatisfied with Beijing supporting Moscow. How can they say such a thing to the great power of China? What about the reputation of the Americans themselves?

There is also a statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. I can’t get enough of his quotes. He said that the West (through Ukraine) must necessarily win. If Russia wins, no one will ever be able to rely on the United States when they need help. You can’t help thinking about Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, and Syria (which they will supposedly leave). They will supposedly leave Iraq too, and they have effectively fled Afghanistan.

Speaking of help provided by the United States, they have a small nation of Haiti sitting right next to them, which they have been taking care of for more than a hundred years now. Even before the UN was created, they were nurturing dictators, toppling them, and putting in new ones. However, the Americans are powerless when it comes to preventing thuggery, rampant theft and embezzlement of public funds in that country, which is probably the world’s poorest economy. It would not be difficult for the United States to take a sliver of the Ukrainian pie and solve at least this problem. Instead, they showed up at the UN Security Council again and are trying to lure in someone from Africa to ensure law and order in Haiti (the US fiefdom). Let them first sort things out in their own backyard, or rather a small portion of it.

It is sad to acknowledge that the psychology of global dominance and retaining hegemonism at any cost has never helped the United States solve any issues on the ground.

Question: I have a question about two countries - Moldova and Armenia - that are now witnessing Western efforts to impose its help on them. Chisinau plans to hold a referendum on joining the EU in the autumn, but not in Transnistria. What will become of the Moldovan Transnistrian Republic in that event?

What is going on in relations between Moscow and Yerevan? We saw NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg come to Armenia. He was warmly welcomed, and some plans were made.

Sergey Lavrov: Moldovan President Maia Sandu is openly seeking to break off relations with the Russian Federation. Whatever they may be saying to the contrary and alleging that they are willing to be friends with us but Moscow is oppressing them, is not true. Maia Sandu has been turned into a tool for developing the geopolitical space first by the EU and then NATO. Things are moving in that direction, even though Moldova’s neutral status is enshrined in its Constitution.

It is unfortunate that they have not drawn any conclusions from the developments that unfolded in recent years. NATO has turned Ukraine into a tool of aggression. Now, they plan to do the same with Moldova. If Chisinau were to hold elections, the Europeans (as that country’s main “custodians”) must ensure fair and equal participation of all political forces. This is not going to happen. It is known that certain parties, which are in favour of maintaining normal relations with Russia, will not be granted access to elections. The process is underway.

Clearly, Moldova chose to dump Transnistria and turned down numerous proposals by the Transnistrian authorities and the Russian Federation to resume the “5+2” talks. President Sandu stated they would hold a referendum on accession to the European Union without Transnistria. Probably, the plan is to unite with Romania as soon as possible and thus gain additional capabilities. Maybe, they have a military solution to the Transnistrian issue in mind which would be a reckless step for the Moldovan leadership. I think they should realise this. Or, they need someone to break it down for them.

I have earlier provided a comment on the current situation in Armenia, which is not optimistic. Under the far-fetched pretexts, the Armenian leadership is distorting the developments of the last three and a half years, and is deliberately aiming at breaking off relations with the Russian Federation. They are demonising our servicemen from the 102nd military base, border guards and, more broadly, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

There’s no mention whatsoever that the CSTO has repeatedly defended Armenia’s interests in challenging circumstances. In 2021, it was ready to send a peacekeeping mission to that country to alleviate tensions between Yerevan and Baku. The mandate of the mission was fully agreed upon during the ministerial meeting in the Armenian capital that took place in the autumn of 2021. We sat at the table until late night and approved everything. In the morning, during the meeting of presidents and prime ministers, Mr Pashinyan said there was no consensus.

Several days later, he invited a similar peacekeeping mission from the European Union and promised Azerbaijan it was to stay there for only two months. Two months later, though, the EU doubled the number of personnel forgoing on the earlier promise to Baku. More servicemen from Norway, Canada and the United States are being sent there, thus making the EU mission a NATO mission.

Nikol Pashinyan, his personnel and the leaders of the Armenian parliament are distorting the history of the past few years. When he was an opposition leader of the movement he created (everyone knew that he had connections with the Soros Fund), he said that Armenia would withdraw from the CSTO and the EAEU. These slogans helped him rally large meetings where people demanded the election of prime minister (they were holding parliamentary elections at the time). Pashinyan also said that if he were not elected, he would “stir up” the people. Democracy at its highest.

After Pashinyan became prime minister, President Putin met with him many times. He emphasised that Russia would not act based on previous statements but on the way the new Armenian leadership would develop relations with it. The reply was that the CSTO and the EAEU were of crucial significance for Armenia’s security, its economic development and non-isolation in the South Caucasus.

It was in that spirit that our relations developed until 2020, when a conflict broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Pashinyan appealed to President Putin in the capacity of a Russian ally and a member of the CSTO. Our President worked night and day to coordinate an end to that war with the leaders of Yerevan and Baku. Eventually, they signed trilateral agreements on the delimitation of the border, the resumption of economic ties, the unblocking of transport links, and the normalisation of relations in general, including the signing of a peace treaty. All these provisions were coordinated with Russia’s proactive contribution.

At the same time, the EU was trying to lure Armenia and Azerbaijan in. Pashinyan was the main advocate of working on the EU and American platform. Armenian delegations made regular visits there to the detriment of the meetings scheduled to be held in Russia. In 2022, he attended the “European political community” summit in Prague proposed by President of France Emmanuel Macron, where he and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed a document in the presence of President of the European Council Charles Michel to declare that Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan. Nobody had notified us of this in advance. During their next meeting, President Putin told the prime minister of Armenia that we were surprised by that decision.

Pashinyan did not offer any explanation. Before that, he invariably asked Russia to complement our cooperation of the previous three years with the settlement of the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh status. It was exactly what we were doing. But the issue was laid to rest when he himself signed the document saying that Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan in keeping with the administrative borders of the Soviet Union.

When Karabakh residents started leaving their homes, Pashinyan asked President Putin why he left them in the lurch. Vadimir Putin replied that it was the prime minister of Armenia who had decided that they were not Armenian citizens any longer and can only have Azerbaijani citizenship.

I also talked with Nikol Pashinyan during various meetings held in Yerevan. It seemed to me that he was aware of the benefits of Armenia’s continued alliance with Russia and interaction within the framework of the CSTO and the EAEU. Today, Armenian officials in the Security Council and the parliament of Armenia openly say that they should rely more on the EU because the CSTO is allegedly not honouring its obligations to Armenia. Actually, the circle is complete. Armenian leaders are discussing ideas that are similar to those Pashinyan used when he created his Exit movement. I am sure that this does not meet the interests of the Armenian people. It does not meet our interests either, in terms of historical friendship between Russia and Armenia, the huge Armenian diaspora in Russia and stability in the South Caucasus.

The goal of those who are trying to tempt the Armenian leadership to the side of the West is simple – to disrupt stability in the South Caucasus and to turn it into a zone of Western domination. The West is doing the same in Central Asia and many other regions of our shared continent.

Question: Politico has recently published an article describing five ways in which the United States could act. The overall scenario remains the same, but there are five different mechanisms. One of them consists of isolating Russia within its own borders and then moving on to tear it apart through ethnic strife and even terrorism. It is clear that they will increasingly rely on centrifugal forces to pressure Russia. How can we counter these efforts?

Take Armenia, for example. Should it just go, since it decided to head down this road?

Sergey Lavrov: Let me refrain from making any predictions of this kind. We have shared our assessments with the Armenian leadership and were quite honest about it. They know perfectly well that we will honour our commitments and stand ready to carry on with the effort to bring relations with Azerbaijan back to normal so that the whole process runs its course. They do know that while we are sincerely interested in stabilising the situation and restoring relations between Yerevan and Baku, actions by the European Union and NATO complicate this process.

Only recently, the leaders of Azerbaijan expressed their consternation regarding some actions and statements, including those related to expanding the EU’s mission in Armenia in terms of its functions and staff. It is up to them to decide.

We never give up on the pledges we make or the agreements we reach. However, they have not been eager to seek our assistance lately. The last time I had a conversation with Foreign Minister of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan was in November 2023 during the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. We were the ones who asked for the meeting. They did not ask for it, but I used this opportunity to once again tell my colleague Ararat Mirzoyan everything we are discussing right now. They know what we stand for, and our Ambassador to Armenia Sergey Kopyrkin regularly reminds them of our position.

As for Politico, what kind of scenario are we talking about?

Question: Isolating Russia within its own borders by cutting it off from the entire post-Soviet space.

Sergey Lavrov: We can call this a generous one. In fact, they have a plethora of de-colonisation scenarios for Russia.

Question: This would be the next step.

Sergey Lavrov: But it is all wishful thinking, as people say.

I noted another Politico article on US foreign policy and its international operations. It talks about Ukraine’s future and the way events could unfold as the issue of funding for Ukraine is stalled in the US Congress. This means that Europe must inflict a strategic defeat on Moscow all by its own. According to Politico, whenever the United States got involved in a conflict before, it tended to withdraw once the American businesses got what they wanted from the corresponding region. This was written regarding the future of the Ukrainian economy and the food issue.

We all know that three major American corporations bought a lion’s share of Ukraine’s fertile land. And there is quite an intense debate underway within the European Union right now with certain food-producing countries demanding that the EU stops importing Ukrainian grain at dumping prices. One thing to keep in mind though is that this is basically American grain they are talking about. How can you prohibit your master to sell the goods it uses for making a profit?

As for Russia’s future, I think that considering the election we had, its results and, most importantly, the voter turnout figures – all this has proven that Russians have not lost interest in politics. On the contrary, they want to stand up for their identity, culture, history, civilisation, and the world saw this resolve. Moreover, there is a growing respect for this resolve around the world. I think that we have already dispelled all the far-fetched aspirations that Russia can be isolated by holding the Games of the Future and the World Youth Festival. What kind of isolation are they talking about?

Question: I’d be remiss not to ask you about the Middle East. The war between Gaza and Israel has been raging there for almost six months now, people are dying, and there’s a threat of an operation in Rafah. Amid these developments, the United States has radically changed its stance, and a UN Security Council resolution was adopted to immediately cease fire in Gaza. However, in light of the fact that this rhetoric concerning Israel can change dramatically with new US administration in office, what is the likelihood of a single state of Palestine ever being created, and what will become of the illegal Jewish settlements that stand in the way?

Sergey Lavrov: Creating the state of Palestine is the only way to bring a lasting solution to this issue. Importantly, it should be created within the 1967 borders in line with the Security Council resolutions, with the understanding that there may be some equal exchange with the capital in East Jerusalem, and the return of the Palestinian refugees. These resolutions lay out everything.

A look at the map clearly shows that we are very far away from that configuration and getting even farther away from it with every passing day. Quite recently, the Israeli cabinet approved the creation of, I believe, another 3,000 settlements on the West Bank. It is quite difficult to create a logistically connected state there as is. The reason is that following the adoption of the corresponding resolutions, the United States has been sabotaging their implementation for many years now. Instead of working as part of the Quartet of mediators (Russia, the United States, the EU, and the UN), the US tried to monopolise the peace process and then to replace every principle that underlies this process. Instead of the well-known Arab Peace Initiative that is supported by everyone at the UN and implies the recognition of Israel by the Arabs after the creation of a Palestinian state, the Americans turned everything upside down and started promoting the Abraham Accords whereby the Arabs were supposed to conclude agreements on diplomatic relations with Israel, and then think about Palestine. The Arabs who agreed to this arrangement (the UAE and Morocco) never stopped to make it clear that they agreed to normalise relations with Israel, only because they believed that creating a Palestinian state based on the UN Security Council principles was inevitable and would be part of the deal. All of that were empty promises.

The United States is now fully aware that Israel’s response to the October 7, 2023 terrorist attack by Hamas (which we vehemently condemned) is totally disproportionate (to put it mildly) and constitutes the collective punishment of the Palestinian people which is illegal under international law. That includes deliberate bombing of civilian targets and indiscriminate use of deadly weapons. Almost 35,000 people died. More than half of them are women and children. All of them are Palestinian civilians. There are about 80,000 wounded. As a reminder, this is what we have five months after October 7, 2023. This exceeds the number of civilian casualties on both sides in Donbass and in Ukraine from 2014 to this day. Compare five months to 10 years. We mention these figures to our Western colleagues at the UN and the OSCE, and they cowardly look the other way. This is a striking case of duplicity and double standards.

Most importantly, the bloodshed should be stopped. The adoption of this resolution is a good development. The Americans let it pass realising that if they veto this resolution, even though it has been considerably weakened, but it is still calling for a ceasefire, they would lose face in their relations with the Global Majority. However, as soon as this resolution was adopted, the US representative to the UN said this resolution was non-binding. That is, this package was used to renew the carte blanche. Indeed, the resolution is non-binding, but putting an end to the bloodshed, addressing humanitarian issues and launching the process for establishing a Palestinian state is something that needs to be done without delay.

The Americans are trying to weasel their way out of this situation as well. We are aware that they are seriously discussing an option of submitting to the Security Council and the UN General Assembly a resolution on accepting Palestine as a full-fledged UN member. Palestine has an observer status now. In other words, they plan to formally proclaim the creation of a Palestinian state, but leave things on the ground as they are. We are aware of such stunts, and nothing can be ruled out. I hope that the main stakeholders, primarily the Arab countries and other countries from the Global South, realise the disingenuous nature of such approaches.

It’s regrettable that we cannot resume the work of the Quartet (Russia, the United States, the UN, and the EU). At some point, we thought we could bring Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table and have a serious discussion that would make it clear where the parties stand, and clarify the possibility of reaching agreements and striking a balance between the parties’ interests.

Question: How can we deal with them after what you have told us about their crooked schemes, hidden agenda and betrayals? You have headed Russian diplomacy for twenty years. What has changed over this time? Are there any new diplomatic techniques?

Sergey Lavrov: Answering a similar question, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Dmitry Kiselev that he did not trust anyone. We are ready to talk, but not on the basis of some formula imposed by Vladimir Zelensky. How can serious politicians in Washington, Brussels, London, Paris or Berlin claim that there is no alternative? This formula essentially says that Russia must capitulate, and pull out from Crimea, Donbass, and Novorossiya. Russia must pay indemnities. Russia’s top officials must come to The Hague and “turn themselves in” to the tribunal. Russia must voluntarily agree to limit its armaments, at least in areas bordering Europe. Are they seriously suggesting this? These people do not even blink when they say it is “the only formula.”

I had two meetings with the ambassadors of the Global Majority in Moscow. Another meeting will be held in early April. We explained to them our assessments of the Ukraine situation and developments. The last time we talked was about two months ago, and we reviewed Vladimir Zelensky’s formula. They asked us questions. I suggested that we focus on just one aspect of this formula – Russia must vacate Crimea, Donbass and Novorossiya and go back to the 1991 borders. First, in 1991, the Ukrainian SSR seceded from the Soviet Union under the Declaration of Independence, which stated that Ukraine was a neutral and non-aligned state, was a good neighbour with all former republics, and respected human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities. None of this is the case now.

Second, let’s hypothetically fantasise that Ukraine is back to its 1991 borders. Look up online what Ukrainian politicians and parliamentarians have been saying about their plans for the people who now live in Crimea, in the Lugansk and Donetsk republics, in the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions. What they are calling for does not even sound like a “cleansing.” There is one lady in the Verkhovna Rada who said that 25,000 people in Crimea should be executed for show. If this is what this formula is about, it is an invitation to genocide. Our colleagues from Africa, Asia and Latin America must understand where they are being invited.

Now the Swiss are initiating another get-together as part of the Copenhagen format, where everyone is invited and forced to agree with Vladimir Zelensky’s formula, to support it or at least declare their readiness to discuss parts of it.

In addition to what I said, it also includes food security, energy security, and nuclear safety issues. This is all just for appearances’ sake, precisely to lure people by this seemingly innocent agenda.

I met with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in New York in January 2024. He told me they realised that nothing can be solved without Russia, that it is unfair and our country must participate. He said they would convene another meeting in Switzerland and invite Ukraine, the West and as many countries of the South as possible. Russia would not be invited, he said, but they would fine-tune and finalise the Zelensky formula and try to make it more acceptable. More acceptable – how? Does this mean that Russia would be told to leave not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow? When they finally agree on it, when it evolves into something they all share, they say they will be happy to invite us and present it at the next meeting. This is a serious and mature person talking. A minister, and former President of Switzerland. You would expect someone with this kind of experience to be more aware of what they are saying and doing.

Question: You said that American diplomacy in its current form is dead. If so, is there any diplomacy as such?

Sergey Lavrov: No, there is none if we look at our relations with the West. They have no desire to resume equal cooperation with us. Their goal is to punish us, to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia and to isolate it “along its perimeter.”

Today, our diplomatic relations with the West are limited to our embassies there and their embassies here, and these embassies and consulates general need to find ways to remain operational. We are discussing the funding of diplomatic missions and the purchase of items such as vehicles and equipment they need for their functioning. These are the main issues of our discussions today, in particular, with the Americans. Our embassies have been pushed into an economic siege because of the sanctions.

We do not have a positive agenda with Europe. You know that European ambassadors have refused to attend a meeting with me. We invited them before the election to present our views on our relations, and to tell them that we hoped they would not unilaterally hinder the election campaign or distort it in their actions. They have made their choice. They are here, yet they refuse to meet with the foreign minister. We have notified them that, from now on, we will consider every request for meetings with Russian authorities at all levels, whether by ambassadors, attachés or any personnel in-between them, on a case-by-case basis to decide if we want to hold such meetings or not.

But diplomacy itself is alive. It is rapidly developing in our relations with the Global Majority. We have a vast number of partners and, most importantly, bilateral and multilateral partnerships, which have a substantially higher quality.

For obvious reasons, we are paying more attention to our common Eurasian continent, where we have the CSTO, the EAEU, and the SCO. These organisations are establishing partner relations with other organisations in that part of the world, like ASEAN, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

At the same time, we are developing ties with the African Union and various subregional African organisations. We have an observer status within the African Union and take part in its activities. We maintain ties with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at the level of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Russia and the SADC on the basic principles of mutual relations and cooperation. There are many other organisations working in Africa.

We are doing the same in Latin America. There are the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) initiated by Venezuela, MERCOSUR, the Central American Integration System (SICA), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We have many partners there.

All these regional and subregional organisations harmoniously fit the position, concept and philosophy which BRICS, where Russia holds rotating chairmanship this year, is promoting across the world.

Of course, when preparing the BRICS Summit in Kazan this autumn, we will not only invite full participants of the group (there are 10 of them) but also our partners in the BRICS Plus format. We are preparing to introduce a new status, partner country, at the summit. About 30 countries are standing in line. The group has acquired a global dimension not only in terms of its agenda and geography – it represents nearly all the main regions – but also by the number of countries. This is the development paradigm of diplomacy today.

Globalisation, which the Americans forced on everyone based on their own rules, has shown that nobody can set it hopes or rely on the United States. It can weaponize the dollar and loans at any moment, discard fair competition, and terminate contracts or force others to terminate them regardless of the presumption of innocence and the inviolability of property.

Today, we see the regionalisation of global development. Every region and every country would like to be able to rely on its neighbours, to see what they can do together, among themselves, without depending on the logistics, financial and other instruments which the West still controls.

These regional processes will inevitably be accompanied by the revival of the global process. BRICS can play a harmonising and unifying role in this. Of course, it takes great diplomatic skill to bring them together.

I would like to add that these assessments do not rule out the possible resumption of relations with the West. If it comes to its senses and sees that it is no longer possible to act as the colonial or neo-colonial power, and that the world has changed and there are new centres of power, economic development and financial might it must respect, it will be able to join these processes on the basis of equality, respect for each other, mutual advantage and a balance of interests. With this aim in view, we will maintain contacts with the West at the UN. We will work with those who are prepared to do this on an equal footing.


read more in our Telegram-channel