Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during the 56th Munich Security Conference, Global Disorder – Other Opportunities for a New Agenda, Munich, February 15, 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year marks the 75th
anniversary of Victory in WWII. Sadly, there are attempts to brazenly distort history and to equate the liberators of Europe with Nazi murderers. These attempts will remain on the conscience of those behind them. No one and nothing can belittle the decisive role of the Red Army and the Soviet people in defeating Nazism. At the same time, we will always keep in our minds the spirit of Alliance during the War and the ability of the states to unite and fight the common threat regardless of ideological differences.
Nowadays we are lacking this kind of unity, when the threats and risks to humanity have never been at such an all-time high since the post war period. The strategic stability and non-proliferation treaty system is being destroyed right before our eyes, the threshold for using nuclear weapons is getting lower, regional crises are multiplying and international law is being trampled upon, including through military interference in affairs of sovereign states, illegal sanctions and harsh protectionist measures that undermine global markets and the system of trade. We are witnessing barbarisation of international relations which degrades human habitat.
We need a direct and honest exchange of views on how to save the world for future generations. President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposes starting such a discussion at a meeting of the heads of state representing permanent members of the UN Security Council. To be clear, this is not about creating another private club to take behind-the-scenes decisions about the fate of humanity. Our idea is that the five states which, under the UN Charter, bear special responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, show political will and make recommendations in the interest of improving the entire atmosphere of international communication and restoring trust between all nations.
The credibility crisis is especially acute when it comes to European affairs. The escalation of tension, the eastward advancement of NATO's military infrastructure, the unprecedentedly massive military exercises near Russia’s border and pumping inordinate amounts of money into defence budgets create unpredictability. The Cold War patterns have once again become a reality. Before it’s too late, it is time to say no to promoting the “Russian threat” phantom or any other threat for that matter, and to go back to things that unite us.
The principle of equal and indivisible security should be the starting point of such a dialogue. As you may recall, it was proclaimed at the highest level in important documents such as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe and the 2010 OSCE Astana Summit declaration.
In today’s world, Euro-Atlantic stability cannot be achieved without truly global cooperation in fighting international terrorism, illegal migration, human trafficking and other cross-border challenges. Many of them have taken on threatening proportions as a result of bloody conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. The international community must create a favourable environment for the peoples of the countries of that region to resolve their problems through inclusive national dialogue without any outside interference. I believe it is unacceptable to turn the territory of these countries into an arena of geopolitical confrontation and settling accounts, or use terrorists to achieve self-serving geopolitical goals.
Guided by international law, Russia will continue to promote a settlement in Syria as part of the Astana process and UN mechanisms and to help bring the Libyan parties closer together as the only way to restore the country's statehood destroyed by NATO. Russia’s Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf Region is designed to provide lasting normalisation of the situation in the region. Of course, we will be promoting a balanced approach in our attempts to find a fair solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on existing international agreements. We will continue to stress that replacing legally binding decisions on the Iranian nuclear programme with illegitimate unilateral moves is unacceptable.
The negative impact of innovative ground-breaking technology on global stability must be prevented. The initiatives designed to prevent the arms race in outer space and to prevent the militarisation of cyberspace are designed to achieve this. We are prepared to join efforts on other pressing issues of the global agenda, including epidemiological threats. In this regard, I would like to note China’s open and responsible approach to international cooperation in combating the spread of the coronavirus.
To reiterate, the global challenges are so huge that countries can cope with them only if they join forces and strictly observe the principles of genuine multilateralism. The attempts, under the banner of multilateralism, to impose someone’s own rules and “privatise” the international organisations’ secretariats are getting in the way of such efforts. The situation at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an egregious case in point.
It is important to stop these dangerous trends and unequivocally reaffirm the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, including sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their domestic affairs. It is imperative for all the Charter principles to be equally respected by the member countries and the UN and other international organisations’ top officials.
Along with the UN, global governance needs flexible multilateral mechanisms that promote a positive agenda and try to strike a balance of interests. This includes the G20 and BRICS, whose participants represent cultural and civilizational diversity of the modern world.
The SCO, the EAEU, the CIS and the CSTO contribute to developing constructive approaches to Eurasian challenges. President of Russia Vladimir Putin put forward an initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership open to all associations and states of our vast common continent, including EU members.
Russia is and always has been opposed to coercive measures and has welcomed political and diplomatic means of resolving disputes, which, let us be honest, inevitably arise due to human nature itself. But peace has never been something you can get for free. It requires constant, sometimes the most laborious efforts.
Prominent nuclear physicist, Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrey Sakharov once said: “Nuclear war might arise from an ordinary war. The latter, as is widely known, arises from politics.” It is hard to disagree with that. All diplomats, politicians, the global community, including everyone present here, are responsible for preserving peace. I am sure that we can do it if we take a responsible approach.
Question: We all are concerned about the developments in Idlib, but I would like to ask a question about the relations between Russia and Turkey in general; it is a certain riddle to me. How would you describe these relations, are you allies or opponents?
Sergey Lavrov: Is this a ‘riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’?
Our relations with Turkey are very good. It does not mean that we have to agree on everything. Actually, I think that there can be no full accord on any issue between any two countries. If there is one, it would look like pressure has something to do with it.
The Syrian conflict appeared at the stage of the so-called Arab Spring, when Libya was destroyed, and Tunisia and some other countries of the region were on the brink of destruction. When extremists, terrorist groups almost besieged Damascus in the summer 2015, nobody thought of any humanitarian norms or a political process; everyone expected a military solution that would result in the overthrow of the Bashar al-Assad government. Russia has answered this legitimate Government’s call for help. Now we have managed to help the Syrian Government and the army to reverse the situation, primarily with regard to counteracting terrorism.
At some point we all relied on the UN. The Geneva process was established, and I personally took part in these efforts together with former US Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks were middling at best, and we could not reach any positive result. Later on, our UN colleagues decided to postpone the Geneva meetings until better days. Then, seeing that the impasse had become chronic, Russia together with Turkey and Iran proposed to begin a political process under the auspices of these three countries. Moreover, we suggested that the opposition should be represented not by immigrants who live in other capitals, but by those who had a real influence on the people fighting with the Syrian army on the ground. We managed to do that by launching the Astana process. We are sincerely grateful to Kazakhstan for providing us with a hospitable platform in their ca[ital. I do not want to seem too presumptuous, but, given there are no other examples, the Astana process remains the most efficient instrument to assist the UN in reaching the objectives of Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council.
It was not easy, because Russia, Iran and Turkey have different goals as regards Syria and the entire region. I will not dwell on it, we all know what I mean. We were united by the desire to prevent the destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic, the cradle of many great religions and civilisations, where Muslims, Christians and other confessional groups have been coexisting for many hundreds and thousands of years. We wanted to establish peace in the country and to begin a political dialogue. We managed to do that, and helped the UN initiate the process which is now underway as part of the Constitutional Committee. It was formed and was ready to operate as early as at the end of 2018. We all know the story: our Western colleagues in fact categorically demanded that the UN did not support proposals made by the Syrian Government and the opposition. An entire year was spent on infighting over two or three names that our Western colleagues did not like for some reason.