Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article for Razvedchik (Intelligence officer) news magazine, March 24th, 2023
It is a privilege for me to submit this article to Razvedchik news magazine and share with its readers my understanding of the current international developments, as well as Russia’s foreign policy priorities.
We live at a time of historic geopolitical shifts. “The change of eras is a painful albeit natural and inevitable process. A future world arrangement is taking shape before our eyes,” President Vladimir Putin said.
Today, the emerging multipolarity constitutes a key trend in international affairs, as I have noted on multiple occasions. New centres of power in Eurasia, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America have achieved impressive results in various areas, guided by their commitment to self-reliance, state sovereignty, and their unique cultural and civilisational identities. They have an independent foreign policy, which prioritises their core national interests. This puts in place objective factors for the emergence of a new multipolar world order – a more resilient, just, and democratic framework reflecting the natural and inalienable right of every nation to determine its future, as well as choose its own internal and socioeconomic development models.
By the way, there are politicians in the West who are beginning to come to terms with this reality, even if reluctantly. For example, President of France Emmanuel Macron has talked about the end of the Western hegemony in international affairs on multiple occasions, even if, truth be told, all this happened before he joined the ranks of the pro-Ukrainian coalition engineered by Washington for countering Russia. It is a separate matter that a correct diagnosis may not necessarily translate into practice or reshape foreign policy thinking based on the principles of international law, equal and indivisible security. On the contrary, the US-led so-called collective West is doing everything to revive the unipolar model, which has run its course. They want to force the world to live in a Western-centric rules-based order that they invented themselves, while seeking to punish those who disagree with these rules, even if no one has ever seen them and they are nowhere to be found.
We never had any illusions as to who we are dealing with. It was clear to us that after the Cold War ended, Washington and its NATO satellites sought total hegemony and wanted to resolve their own development challenges at the expense of others. In the Euro-Atlantic, NATO’s aggressive eastward expansion became an integral part of this selfish policy, carried out despite the political promises that were given to the Soviet leadership not to expand NATO, as well as contrary to the commitments approved at the highest level within the OSCE to refrain from seeking to reinforce one’s security at the expense of security of other states.
The OSCE and Russia-NATO summits adopted multiple resolutions proclaiming that no single group of states or organisation can bear primary responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the region, or to view any part of the region as its sphere of influence, but these documents have been trampled upon. All these years, NATO has been moving in an opposite direction.
For years, the West persisted in its efforts to penetrate the post-Soviet geopolitical space and to build the so-called axis of instability along the Russian border. The United States and NATO countries have always viewed Ukraine as one of the tools they could use against Russia. To complete the transformation of our neighbouring state into an anti-Russia, the Western spin doctors engineered and then supported an anti-constitutional government coup in Kiev back in February 2014. It was staged even though Germany, Poland and France acted as guarantors of a peaceful political settlement between the government and the opposition.
For eight years, the West not simply turned a blind eye to the genocide of people in Donbass but openly encouraged the Kiev regime’s preparations to use armed force to seize these territories. An illustration of this is the recent admission made by Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, who have admitted that they only needed the Minsk Package to give Kiev time to build up its combat capabilities. One more signatory of that document, Petr Poroshenko, has made a similarly cynical admission. This is nothing other than evidence of hypocrisy of the Western political establishment and the Kiev regime it nurtured.
The Western politicians’ real objectives were manifested again in December 2021, when Washington and Brussels rejected Russia’s proposals on providing it security guarantees regarding the region to the west of Russia’s borders.
It is obvious that the situation in and around Ukraine is only an element of a large-scale collision created by a small group of Western states that wanted to maintain their global domination and to turn back the objective process of the rise of a multipolar architecture. Acting in the worst colonial traditions, the Americans and their lapdogs are trying to divide the world into “democracies” and “authoritarian regimes” or, in plain English, into the select few, who are exceptional, and everyone else, who must serve the interests of the “golden billion.” The ultimate essence of that cynical philosophy has been expressed by the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, who said, “Europe is a garden. The rest of the world […] is a jungle.” It was a Freudian slip that exposed their real intentions.
It is not surprising that threats and blackmail have been used not only against Russia but also against many other states. A strategic goal of the systemic deterrence of China has been formulated, including as part of the so-called Indo-Pacific strategies. The malicious practice of interfering in the internal affairs of states, including the fraternal state of Belarus, has not stopped. The years-long trade and economic blockade of Cuba has not been lifted. There are many other examples of this kind. Overall, nobody is safe now from the United States and its satellites’ raiding and mobster-style attacks.
To ensure the adoption of an international agenda in their own interests, Washington and Brussels are trying to “privatise” international organisations and to make them serve their mercenary interests. Here are a few examples. The Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been given attributive functions that are not within its scope, and the Council of Europe has been turned into an instrument of anti-Russia policy and, in fact, an appendage to NATO and the EU. The situation with the OSCE, which was created to conduct an honest European dialogue, is almost the same. This Vienna-based organisation has become a fringe agency where the West is accumulating filth and lies to drown the fundamental principles of the Helsinki Final Act. It is obvious that the OSCE can no longer deal with serious issues of European security. The West continues its efforts to eliminate the remaining capabilities of the OSCE, in particular, by initiating an exclusive “European political community” that is closed to Russia and Belarus.
Today, our relations with the United States and the EU are at the lowest ebb since the end of bipolar confrontation. When the special military operation began, the West declared a total hybrid war against Russia. Its goal is to defeat us on the battlefield, destroy the Russian economy and undermine our internal political stability.
We have drawn the necessary conclusions from this. There will be no “business as usual” again. We will not knock on the closed door, let alone make unilateral concessions. If the West comes to its senses and offers a resumption of contacts, we will see what exactly they offer and will act based on Russia’s interests. Any hypothetical agreements with the West must be legally binding and must include a streamlined mechanism of their verification.
To tell the truth, we no longer have any illusions about converging with Europe, being accepted as part of the “common European home,” or creating a “common space” with the EU. All these declarations made in European capitals have turned out to be a myth and a false-flag operation. The latest developments have clearly shown that the ramified network of mutually beneficial trade, economic and investment ties between Russia and the EU were not a safety net. The EU did not think twice about sacrificing our energy cooperation, which was a pillar of their prosperity. We have seen that the European elites have no independence and always do whatever they are ordered to do in Washington, even if this results in direct damage to their own citizens. We take this reality into account in our foreign policy planning.
We continue to scrutinise the prospects and expediency of our membership in the international cooperation mechanisms where the West can manipulate the rules of procedure and secretariats to force these cooperation mechanisms to adopt the West’s mercenary agenda to the detriment of Russia’s priorities and equal interaction. In particular, we have withdrawn from the Council of Europe and several other agencies.
We are working with our reliable international partners to transition to foreign trade settlements in non-dollar and non-euro currencies and to create an infrastructure of interbank and other financial and economic ties that will not be controlled by the West.
If the West decides to abandon its Russophobic line and opt for equal cooperation with Russia, this will above all benefit them. However, we are realists who know that this scenario is improbable in the near future. Besides, it will take a great deal of effort to win back our trust. Washington and Brussels will have to work very hard to do it.
There are many partners in the world apart from the US and the EU. This is a global and multipolar world. The attempts to isolate Russia, build a fence around it and turn it into an outcast have failed. The global majority countries, where some 85 percent of the world’s population lives, are not willing to pull chestnuts out of the fire for their former colonial parent states. The international community no longer looks up to the West, which President Putin has aptly described as the “empire of lies” as the ultimate truth or the ideal of democracy, freedom and prosperity.
In this context, Russian diplomacy is implementing an independent, self-sufficient and multi-directional foreign policy and is building up its efforts across the world. We are boosting our strategic partnership with China, which is a balancing factor in international affairs. The current relations between Moscow and Beijing are the best in our history. We are working consistently to bolster relations of privileged strategic partnership with India and strengthening ties with Brazil, Iran, the UAE, Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and many other friendly states. The second Russia-Africa Summit, which is scheduled to take place in St Petersburg in July 2023, will enhance relations between Russia and Africa.
The focus of the global economy continues to shift from the Euro-Atlantic region to Eurasia, and politics is following suit. Even the European Union can no longer claim political, economic or value leadership across Eurasia. The states on the continent have real freedom to choose their development models and international partners, or participate in various integration initiatives.
Cooperation within the Union State will continue to strengthen and reach new heights. The Eurasian Economic Union is one of the most fast-growing regional associations, and Russia chairs it this year. The EAEU’s extensive international ties are eloquent proof of the effectiveness and relevance of that association. Cooperation in the CSTO remains an integral factor of regional stability. CIS cooperation is also progressing – incidentally, the Commonwealth of Independent States has declared 2023 the Year of the Russian Language as a Language of Interethnic Communication.
The SCO and BRICS are vivid examples of multipolar diplomacy, mutually beneficial and equal multilateral partnership in Eurasia and in the world. There are no “leaders” or “followers” among the members, while decisions are made by consensus. Those are platforms where countries with different political and economic systems, with their own value and civilisational paradigms effectively cooperate in various fields and formats. An increasing number of countries seek to establish ties with these associations or to become full members of them. This, too, proves their growing prestige.
The harmonisation of various integration initiatives is our priority. We believe that economic interests should provide the groundwork for the future architecture of peace and mutual trust. This philosophy is inherent in President Vladimir Putin’s idea of creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP). The EAEU, SCO and ASEAN member states, including our Chinese and Indian friends, have already shown interest in the Russian initiative. In particular, the steps to combine the development plans of the EAEU and China’s Belt and Road initiative have been taken in line with the GEP logic. The deepening integration between Russia and Belarus as part of the Union State is making a useful contribution to the common efforts.
Russia will continue to promote a unifying agenda in the international arena, contribute to strengthening global security and stability, political and diplomatic settlement of numerous crises and conflicts. Together with like-minded states, we intend to strive for the actual application of the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, including the sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. In general, we intend to contribute to the democratisation of international life, the formation of an up-to-date international order based on international legal regulation, not on force.
Of course, the Russian Foreign Ministry is not insulated from global geopolitical turbulence. The large-scale Russophobic campaign had a direct bearing on the staff of our missions abroad. They now work in what amounts to an extremely challenging environment, sometimes putting their health and lives at risk. Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, diplomatic staff did not face so many mass expulsions.
In this situation, we had to switch our entire foreign policy service to a special operational framework. Our diplomats continue performing their professional duties in good faith, diligently, and in full. They are doing everything to defend the rights and interests of Russian nationals and compatriots abroad, as well as to promote the interests of Russian businesses.
Moving forward, we will stick to the same agile approach to adapt the Ministry’s human resources to the tectonic shifts the world it going through. If necessary, we will promptly dispatch our diplomatic staff to where they are needed the most.
We pay special attention to ensuring the continuity of generations. I am pleased to note that more and more people want to become diplomats. Every year creative young leaders join our friendly Foreign Ministry family after graduating with a degree in international relations and succeeding in additional tests they must pass to get the job. The Foreign Ministry’s MGIMO University and the Diplomatic Academy remain our backbone educational institutions.
Constant self-improvement and being able to be in step with the time is a major prerequisite for success at the Foreign Ministry. The Diplomatic Academy offers a series of specialised professional training courses every year. Russian diplomats have always been famous for their excellent language skills, including rare languages. The Foreign Ministry offers the Higher Language Training Courses, a marvellous tool for improving one’s language skills.
The Ministry and its missions abroad persist in their efforts to make maximum use of digital diplomacy, the internet and social media and to harness their potential in order to communicate Russia’s point of view on the ongoing developments to the broader international audience. We intend to step up our efforts on this promising front by employing creative and innovative methods and approaches.
Of course, patriotic youth education has also been important. This effort falls within the remit of the Veterans’ Council, the Association of Russian Diplomats, and the Centre for the History of the Russian Diplomatic Service. Our Ministry’s Young Diplomats’ Council carries out multiple educational and charity initiatives. It is worth noting that we have sent humanitarian aid to the children of Donbass many times. We will do everything possible to make sure that diplomatic experience forms a nexus with the creative power of young people.
In conclusion, I would like to wish the magazine’s readers good health, wellbeing, and all the best.