On December 20, Russian International Affairs Council held its General Meeting. The event was attented by over 80 representatives of Russia's foreign policy community including diplomats, heads of academic and educational institutions as well as the members of business circles. The Meeting was opened with a moment of silence in commemoration of Andrey Karlov, Russia's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Turkey, who was tragically killed in Turkey the day before.
RIAC President Igor Ivanov reviewed the results of the first 5 years of Council's work, stressing the role of the members in the Council's work. Mr. Ivanov highlighted the input of RIAC's first Board of Trustee's Chairman Evgeniy Primakov in the organization's establishment and development.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs and RIAC Board of Trustees' Chairman gave a speech at the opening of the General Meeting.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have suffered a terrible loss. Ambassador Andrey Karlov has been killed in a heinous terrorist attack. We have received condolences from virtually all capitals and other cities, from governments, foreign ministers, political parties, public organisations, individuals and, of course, numerous condolences from citizens of the Russian Federation. This once again compels us to redouble our efforts in implementing the initiative that was advanced by Russian President Vladimir Putin a year ago during his speech at the UN General Assembly session. At that time, he called for establishing a united global anti-terrorist front. This tragedy, just like the tragedy of September 11, 2001 in its time, though I don’t want to draw any parallels, will remove many redundancies in some countries’ approaches towards the fight against terrorism. It may, at least to some extent, eliminate certain double standards from the agenda. We have discussed this today with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran. This was our initiative. We have adopted a very important joint statement aiming to overcome the deadlock caused by the actions of some members of the international community in the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution on resolving the Syrian crisis.
Today, after this event I will go to the airport and meet the plane with the body of Mr Karlov. Eternal memory to Andrey Karlov.
However, life goes on. Today, we are marking the fifth anniversary of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), and I congratulate everyone on this important date.
As Mr Ivanov said, the Council’s activities are inseparably linked with the name of Yevgeny Primakov, who headed its Board of Trustees for four years until his death. Participants in the Primakov Readings, held in late November, said a lot about Mr Primakov’s achievements in defending Russia’s interests. I am certain that his rich foreign policy legacy and his fundamental research will remain a beacon for all of us in the tumultuous ocean of world politics.
Over a historically short period of five years, the RIAC has come a long way, developing its own traditions and winning respect in Russia and beyond. The RIAC has become an important link between the authorities, civil society, academic and political communities. It has become a respected venue for fruitful discussions on the key current issues. Facts and figures say it all. As far as I know, the RIAC’s network of partners includes organisations from over 30 countries.
Your work is particularly important today. I think that Mr Ivanov had no reason to speak about the lack of modesty. Over these years, the RIAC has kept up with the times, looking for ideas and recommendations suitable to the complicated global situation and promptly reacted to changes in global politics. This is vital at the time of change in international relations, when efforts are being taken to form a new, fairer and more democratic system of global governance with due regard for objective trends, a system that will reflect the geographic, cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world based on respect for the right of nations to decide their future. Actually, many analysts believe that we are witnessing a change of eras, a tectonic shift that only happens once in a century or even less often.
We will definitely have to respond to all forms of growing competition and more numerous instability factors at different levels. According to many forecasts, old conflicts can grow in scale and new ones can appear, and the movement towards chaos and anarchy can continue in the vast region from the Atlantic to Pakistan. We will see unexpected turns and forks in the road. All of us can see the dismay caused by Brexit, the results of the presidential election in the United States, which were a complete surprise for many of our partners, especially considering that these partners openly supported Hillary Clinton and were categorically against Donald Trump throughout the election campaign. I believe that this simplistic approach is unacceptable in politics and diplomacy.
Therefore, it is even more important now to have a clear understanding of global development prospects and to assess the key trends in international affairs comprehensively. As I said, the RIAC, which is focused on a broad variety of issues, from country-specific to functional, is making a major contribution to these efforts.
The Russian Foreign Ministry is one of the founders of the RIAC. We value our close, constructive, and genuinely collegial interaction, which we have developed with the Council, its President, and most of its members.
We value the fact that prominent international affairs pundits, who are members of the Council, are also part of the Foreign Ministry’s Academic Council and participate in its activities. In particular, they have made a specific and very meaningful contribution to updating the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, as Mr Ivanov just mentioned.
We regularly receive and carefully read RIAC’s reports and notes, consider them an important asset in our work, and use them in drafting our practical foreign policy decisions. On a separate note, I would like to mention the fundamental papers on international matters put together by the council, including Russian Foreign Policy 2000-2020, The World in 100 Years, and Modern Science on International Relations Abroad. In a succinct and systematic manner, these and other papers present the main achievements of Russian and international foreign policy thought. The achievements are presented through a critical lens with tips on how to be more effective in conducting business in a particular area.
We believe it is important to further strengthen RIAC’s interaction with institutions such as the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo), the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy, and the Russkiy Mir Foundation. I think that using an expert allocation of resources, we will enhance the practical impact of Russian foreign policy NGOs’ on international forums. We will do our best to promote this.
It is gratifying to know that RIAC-sponsored international events, ranging from Russia-China relations to promoting cooperation in the Arctic, receive wide recognition. The Council aptly combines public functions with meetings behind closed doors, where participants engage in productive dialogue, including with the involvement of foreign partners, on a variety of important global and regional issues.
The indisputable achievements of the Council include initiating cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Commission. We hope that Eurasian integration and promoting the Greater Eurasia project will remain among the top priorities of our activities, because I do not separate myself from the Council.
The RIAC keeps pace with the times and uses the latest information and communication advances in its work. The Council's website has become one of Russia’s major internet resources on international relations and foreign policy, and a popular online forum for expert discussions on key issues on the global and regional agendas. The Council is active on social media as well. I’m confident that working to improve media impact is quite a gratifying endeavour, and will, of course, continue to go from strength to strength.
The Council is building up its ties with universities and other institutions. Today, as mentioned in the report, its corporate members include 11 top federal universities. The RIAC contributes to achieving the important goal of training young specialists in international affairs, many of whom come to work at the Foreign Ministry. We welcome that trend. The internship programmes organised by the Council for students and young professionals from Russia and other countries enjoy wide popularity. About 200 people have participated in them in the last five years. I believe this is nowhere near the limit. We are ready to provide our support in expanding the Council’s capability in this area. On a separate note, I would like to mention the winter and summer schools offered by the Council, whose curricula help young specialists in international affairs improve their knowledge, and establish useful contacts with their colleagues from Russia and other countries. I am aware of the Council’s plans to launch an educational website, which will allow the general public to get acquainted with the world's realities, and our views on the processes unfolding in international relations.
Of course, we support RIAC’s efforts to expand cooperation with our foreign partners in order to promote Russia’s objective image. I always say “objective,” rather than “positive,” because your voice can be heard only if you adopt an objective stance, including with regard to your own affairs. In any case, this contributes to an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding between countries and peoples. In the current situation, where the rhetoric coming from all sides is off the charts, this work is of particular importance.
I believe that based on its expertise, the RIAC will remain an important intellectual bulwark for Russia's foreign policy, and a reliable partner of Russian diplomacy.
Once again, I congratulate everyone on this anniversary. I wish you productive work and all the best. I hope you will treat today’s circumstances with understanding.
The Boards of Trustees met the same day. The sixth Board of Trustees meeting reviewed RIAC's 2016 annual report. Board of trustees provided its recommendations on RIAC's key areas of activity for 2017.