Friday, July 29, 2022 — The Saker
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to the questions during a meeting with permanent representatives of the member countries of the African Union and the diplomatic corps, Addis Ababa, July 27, 2022
Ladies and gentlemen,
Representatives of the media,
Thank you very much for coming here at our invitation. I believed that being in Addis Ababa, it is absolutely important to meet with the African Union members, like I did during all my previous visits. We could not do this at the headquarters for, as far as I understand, scheduling reasons. And I’m glad that you’ve accepted our invitation to come here to the Russian Embassy to discuss issues which are on the top of international agenda.
Many of our Western colleagues try to send the message that the key, if not the only, problem in international relations is the situation around Ukraine. I tend to disagree with such an assertion and during my visit here and in my previous encounters with my foreign colleagues, I sense a broad understanding that the issue is much more complex and complicated.
What we witness now, especially as the West launches an unprecedented campaign of sanctions, accusations, threats, vis-à-vis Russia and anybody who dares to support Russia or even not to condemn Russia. This campaign indicates that we are living through a very important historical period, a period where we will all be deciding what kind of universe we are going to have and to leave for our children and grandchildren. The universe which is based on the United Nations Charter, which says that the United Nations is founded on the principle of sovereign equality of states, or we will have the world where the right of force, the right of the strongest dominates.
Actually, what it is all about can be described on the following example. Is it our choice to have the world where we have the so-called collective West, totally subordinated to the United States and feeling free, feeling that it has the right to decide when and how to promote its own interests without following the international law, without any respect to the sovereign equality of states?
When our American colleagues felt in the past that there was a threat to their interests, tens of thousands kilometers from the American coast, be it Yugoslavia in 1999, be it Iraq in 2003, be it Libya in 2011, and many other occasions, without any hesitation, without explaining anything to anybody, very often on false pretexts, they just started military operations levelling cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, like it happened in Iraq in the city of Mosul which was literally levelled. The same happened to Raqqa in Syria, where dozens and hundreds of corpses have been lying for weeks unattended and I don’t recall the progressive civilized community raising any big noise about that situation.
When the Russian Federation, not just overnight, but for the last ten long years has been drawing the attention of the United States and its allies to the unacceptable policy which they have been promoting on Ukraine, building Ukraine as a stronghold to contain Russia, pumping more and more modern arms in Ukraine, planning to build naval and military bases in that country and encouraging in all possible ways Russophobic policies of its leaders; when in 2014 we categorically protested to the West that in spite of its guarantees, the opposition in Ukraine staged a bloody coup and when they came to power, the first thing they did was to demand to cancel the status of the Russian language which has been the historical language of Ukraine from the very beginning. They also demanded the Russians to get out of Crimea. They sent armed groups to storm the Parliament of Crimea and then the eastern part of Ukraine protested against the coup.
The putchists called them separatists, terrorists and started a full-fledged military operation against them. And the West as I’ve said, which had guaranteed only a few days before that – guaranteed a peace deal between the former president and the opposition, the deal which provided for creation of a government of national unity and early elections, – this deal was disrupted overnight and the opposition bragged that they created the government of the winners.
See the difference: the government of national unity and the government of the winners. This was an invitation for the civil war because the opposition called part of its own citizens “losers” while the opposition became “winners”.
So when this all started we managed, together with some other countries, to stop it in February 2015 – Minsk Agreements were signed – keeping Ukraine one-piece.
The eastern territories of Ukraine that originally after the coup declared independence were persuaded not to insist on independence and to agree to stay inside Ukraine by these Minsk Agreements, provided they are given a special status. First of all, the right to use the Russian language.
This was endorsed by the Security Council and this was systemically and totally ignored and sabotaged by the Kiev regime with the encouragement of the West.
There was no direct dialogue between Kiev and those territories in spite of the fact that this was directly demanded from the Ukrainian regime by the Security Council.
And few weeks ago the former President of Ukraine P.Poroshenko who signed the Minsk Agreements, proudly stated to the media that “When I was signing it, I never intended to implement it. We just needed more time to get more weapons from the West in order to enable us to resolve the problem of Ukrainian East by the use of force.” Very honestly.
But this is totally neglected by the West. So we have been knocking on the door of our Western colleagues at least since 2013, telling them that this is absolutely a red line when you create a direct threat to the Russian Federation just on our borders. When you create a Russophobic state, which during all these years, managed to pass series of laws, prohibiting – physically, literally, – the use of Russian language in education, in culture, in media, and even in day-to-day life.
And at the same time, legislation was passed to legalize neo-Nazi theories and practices. Neo-Nazi battalions with swastikas and insignias of Waffen-SS, have been mushrooming in Ukraine and becoming the cornerstone of the Ukrainian Army.
It’s a very radicalized country. They glorify the collaborators of Hitler condemned by the Nuremberg Tribunal and all this is being done with silent encouragement by the United States and the European Union. And the process which I’ve described was accompanied by the Western attempts, not attempts – policy – to pull Ukraine into NATO.
Dozens of military exercises of NATO with Ukraine were held on Ukrainian territory with an obvious anti-Russian dimension. The efforts of Russia during all these years – it was not just, you know, we say today that this is a threat and excuse us, but we need to remove this threat. It has been happening for at least ten years.
When we’ve told our Western colleagues, “Guys, why are you pulling Ukraine to NATO? You know that this is a hostile organization vis-a-vis Russia, they were telling us, ‘Don’t worry, it will not be detrimental to your security.’”
Russia, as any other self-respectful country has the right to determine itself what is good for its security and what is not. In that case, NATO members led by the United States, opted to decide for us what is good for the Russian Federation.
We reminded them that many years ago in 2010, they all signed up a declaration saying that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe will be based on the principle of equal and indivisible security, which means that any country can choose alliances, but no country has the right in choosing alliances to increase its security at the expense of the security of other countries. And that no single organization in Europe can pretend to dominate the security space.
NATO is doing exactly this. And NATO, of course, is strengthening the security of its own at the expense of the security of the Russian Federation, because the borders of NATO have been moved just to the borders of Russia.
So we told them, “Guys, political commitments to which your presidents and prime ministers put the signatures don’t work. Let’s make this principle that the security is indivisible and must be equal for all, let’s make it legally binding.”
And we suggested to them respective treaties several times. First, back in 2009 and the last attempt was in December of 2021. And they told us, “Look gentlemen, first there would be no legally binding security guarantees except for NATO members. And second, as regards Ukraine, the relations between NATO and Ukraine are none of your business.” And that was the end of it.
And parallel with this absolute rejection of constructive efforts we have been undertaking for many, many years, parallel to this the Ukrainians, in violation of the Minsk Agreements, started to accumulate huge military force on the line of contact with the eastern part of the country where the two republics have been under siege, basically. They intensified radically the shelling and bombing of those territories.
When we understood that there would be no agreement on security guarantees in Europe which would be equal, when we understood that there would be no implementation of the Minsk Agreements because the Ukrainian leadership publicly renounced this, and when we understood that the only way to save the people in the east of Ukraine was to recognize these two republics, we did so.
We signed the Treaty on Mutual Assistance with them and at their request, we are now exercising a special military operation aimed at saving lives of the citizens of the Donbass and removing any possibility for Ukrainian territory to be used to threaten the security of the Russian Federation.
I am sure that you have been following the events. I know that the Western media presents the situation in a totally distorted manner. If only to mention the so-called food crisis, as if nothing was of concern before February this year.
If you read the reports of the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, you will refresh your memory and establish the fact that the problems in the world food market started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when in an attempt to fight this virus and the pandemic consequences the US, the EU and Japan have made an emission for eight trillion dollars’ worth without any economic substantiation, and they use this empty money to buy food and all other goods which they believe would be necessary in case pandemic takes long and there will be closure of countries.
Then there were, of course, increases, long ago, of the price of fertilizers because of the reckless policy of the Western countries on the so-called Green Transition, because the energy supplies, the classical energy resources were more or less discriminated and all this has brought the price of fertilizers high, which of course affected the price of food, and so on and so forth. And then there were not very conducive climate conditions for a couple of years.
And yes, the situation in Ukraine did affect, additionally, negatively affected food markets. But not because of the Russian special operation, rather due to the absolutely inadequate reaction of the West, which announced sanctions, undermining the availability of the food on the markets.
When we explain this to them, they say, “Food and fertilizers are not covered by sanctions”. Yes, but you know, half-truth is worse than a lie. And the truth is that the list of sanctions does not contain an item saying “food”, but what it does contain is prohibition for the Russian ships to call to the ports in the Mediterranean, prohibition for the foreign ships to call on the Russian ports, to pick up food and other cargo, prohibition to insure the Russian ships, because of which insurance prices quadrupled overnight. And of course, prohibition for the main Russian bank, Russian Agricultural Bank, which has always served the payments for Russian food exports – it was listed in the European Union sanctions.
So the latest attempt by our Turkish friends and the Secretary General of the United Nations resulted in a deal between Russia and the United Nations, whereby Secretary General Guterres committed himself to press the Western countries to lift those restrictions, which I just quoted. We’ll see whether he can succeed.
And the same deal as you know, provided for Ukraine an obligation to demine its coastal line for the ships which have been locked there, I think 70 ships from 16 countries since February, to allow them out of the Ukrainian territorial waters, after which Turkish and Russian fleet will ensure their safe travel to the straits and then to the Mediterranean.
So those were the agreements, which could have been announced long, long ago, if not for the Western stubbornness in insisting that they are always right, and all those who don’t agree with them, of course, are always wrong.
A similar situation is taking place with the energy markets. Many years ago, before February this year, the West started discriminating Russian energy projects. First, the project called Nord Stream 1 was limited by 50% of its capacity for no good reason at all. Europe deprived itself of 50% of Russian cheap, accessible gas.
Then Nord Stream 2 was blocked by absolutely illegal action when the legal committee of the European Union ruled that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was built and financed and invested, fully aligned with the existing European norms.
But after that, the European Commission changed the rules retrospectively and applied the new rules to the investment which took place legally several years ago.
So Nord Stream 2 is also not available. Poland, several months ago, stopped taking gas from a direct pipeline from Russia. Ukraine stopped one of the two transit lines through its territory from Russia. And there was some hassle with that turbine which went for maintenance to Canada, then Canada didn’t want to bring it back.
I listed five or six factors which immediately negatively affected gas supplies to Europe volume-wise. And, of course, the less you buy from Russia through a pipeline, which is a price established for long-term, the more expensive prices on the spot.
It reached yesterday, I think, $2,200 for a thousand cubic meters. So the attempts to blame us for everything which goes wrong is an attempt with not very clean purposes and intentions.
What is my point? My point is that it’s a period of history where we will have to choose either to go down the current, which the West tries to move, saying that the world must be run not by international law, but by the rules.
They coined an expression “rules-based world order”. And if you analyze the behavior of our Western colleagues in the international arena, you will understand that these rules differ from case to case. There is no single criteria. There is no single principle, except one. If I want something, you have to obey. If you don’t obey, you would be punished.
This is the picture for the future offered to us by the rules-based world order promoted by the West. Basically, this is the unipolar world where the United States, which subordinated to its own will everybody else in the European Union and allies in Asia… This is the offer. Not even an offer, it is an ultimatum actually.
The alternative to this, and I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of the world countries do not want to live as if the colonial times came back, that the vast majority of the states want to be independent, want to rely on their own tradition, to rely on their own history, to rely on their old friends, don’t want to betray their old friends.
And this is basically evident from the fact that except two or three developing countries, no one else in Africa, Asia or Latin America joined the illegal American and European sanctions.
And back to the United Nations Charter. I believe, when we speak about more just, more democratic world order, we don’t need to invent anything. Once again, I quote the Charter which says that the United Nations is based on the principle of sovereign equality of states.
And to recognize that each state is independent, each state has the right to determine how it wants to live, what kind of economic, social, political system it wants to choose on the basis of the will of its people. And I have no slightest doubt that any normal state wants to be like this. Nobody wants to have enemies. This is also an absolute truth. Neither Russia nor any other country present in this hall – I have no doubt.
But if countries, like we witness now the behavior of the West, if they do want to have enemies, as they publicly declared in their doctrines, in the decisions of the latest NATO summit in Madrid – they do want enemies, they appoint enemies, they appoint the order in which they handle these enemies. Now Russia is the first, China is earmarked as the existential challenge for the long term. And all this manifests in renewed thinking about how the world economy and the world system operates.
If the US and the European Union – under the demand of the US – decided to freeze the Russian reserves – and now they seriously start a legal process to prepare the basis to confiscate the Russian money – who knows… If they become irritated by somebody else tomorrow or the day after, they might do the same.
In other words, the reliance on dollar as the instrument supporting the world economy is not very promising, frankly speaking. And it is not by incident that more and more countries are shifting to using alternative currencies, shifting to use national currencies more and more, and this process will be gaining momentum.
This is not to say that we are suggesting some kind of revolution against the dollar, against the United States – this is to state the obvious: the West created a system which was based on certain principles – free market, fair competition, sanctity of private property, presumption of innocence, and something else. All these principles have been thrown down the drain when they needed to do what they believe is to punish Russia.
And I don’t have the slightest doubt that, if need be, they will not hesitate to do the same in relation to any other country which would irritate them one way or another.
I mentioned China as the next target. It’s a very interesting example of how the Americans consider fair competition in practice. Actually, China developed into the number one world economy – everybody recognizes this – and China did so, China achieved those results, working and acting on the basis of the rules established by the West. The IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the rules to settle disputes, competition and the stuff. China accepted those rules in developing its own economy and China defeated the West, economically and trade-wise, investment-wise, on its own turf, on the basis of the rules invented by the West.
And what happened next? Already a couple of years ago, the Secretary of Treasury of the United States and some other officials started saying, “We need to reform the Bretton Woods Institutions, we need to reform the WTO and we need to organize this reform between the US and Europe not to allow anybody else to participate in developing new rules.”
Guys, it is absolutely obvious, how they want this world to be operated. And I believe, as long as it is not too late, we would be ready to talk to our Western friends when they come back to their senses about how they think they should live together with all of us in the future. But this conversation can only be made on full equality, with full respect to the legitimate interests of all of us.
If I took too long of your time, I apologize. And I understand there might be a couple of questions, right?
Question: Your Excellency, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,
On behalf of the people of South Sudan, the Government and on my own behalf, I wish to take this opportunity to express my personal gratitude to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ethiopia for inviting me and my delegation here.
We are grateful that our two countries, the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Sudan enjoy cordial bilateral relations, dating back to the day of our declaration of independence, where the Russian people and their Government were among those who recognized our statehood on July 9, 2011. Since then Your Excellency, the people and the governments of two countries have stood with the people and the Government of South Sudan in many ways.
The people of South Sudan wish to express their gratitude for your immense support in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council in Geneva and other activities where you supported us. First of all, as you explained, Your Excellency, you outlined your view on sanctions. Now we know what’s really going on.
On the current political situation in my country I would like to inform Your Excellency the Minister that the signed revitalized peace agreement of 2018 is holding despite the challenges that you have mentioned. These include numerous sanctions by Western countries and their allies, and an arms embargo. Other factors of concern are natural disasters, such as heavy rains…
Sergey Lavrov: I apologize, can you pass on this text? Because it would be useful and more polite to the others. Ok? Please, pass it. Thank you!
Just one remark. We are against those sanctions which are intended to punish people. And don’t forget that the initiators of these sanctions against you are exactly the same countries who wanted to create South Sudan out of Sudan.
Question: Thank you very much for giving a very detailed and covering all important aspects in your briefing. A short question: How the hegemony of dollar can be controlled by international community because right now the countries like Pakistan and many developing countries are suffering from huge debt that continues to grow. The problem is getting worse. I would like you to clarify the situation.
Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert in monetary affairs. What I said was it’s an obvious feeling by many countries that the dollar is not reliable, because the capricious behavior could be aimed at anyone in the future.
I know that you can feel this on yourself, if you compare the situation of 20-30 years ago and now. So, it’s life. It’s life. And nobody wants to go to war because of the dollar and I believe this is crazy. But people want to have some insurance as regards the reliability of their economic and trade relations with their partners. And there are examples, including the use of national currencies, including barter, including clearing mechanisms. Some might say this is going back to the past instruments of conducting trade. But there would be digital currencies, I don’t have the slightest doubt, which are already being developed in China, for example, in Venezuela, in Iran.
We are thinking about this as well. It’s the beginning of a process. Now we have accumulated the elements of the problem and we know that it must be addressed.
Question: With an approach of winter during which gas importations increase. How does Russia going to export its gas and circumvent the sanctions imposed? 15 African countries import more than 50% of their grain from Russia. The situation also affected the exports from African countries to Russia. How does Russia intend to manage trade relations with Africa?
Sergey Lavrov: I think I addressed both issues in my remarks. I hope you listened to me. Antonio Guterres personally promised to make sure that the US and EU remove any obstacles to the export of Russian grain. If you add your noble voice to his efforts, I think it would be useful.
And on gas prices – I also explained how Europe systemically, during the last almost ten years, was creating barriers on the way of bringing to European countries cheap and accessible Russian gas.
I listed five or six specific decisions which were cutting more and more of Russian exports, vacating the room in Europe for much more expensive LNG from the United States, just like, you know, the US insists that Europe sends all its weapons to Ukraine, vacating the arms market in Europe for the import of American weapons. It’s “nothing personal, it’s business.”
As regards your country (Algeria), the Europeans are now thinking of alternative sources of supply. They have suffocated themselves with their own hands the pipeline routes from Russia. Now they are looking for alternatives. And I know that the Mediterranean, including Algeria, is one of those sources.
They would be asking you to help, and it’s up to your companies to decide, it’s up to your government to decide.
In our case, according to our experiences that when we had long-term contracts with Europe, these long-term contracts protected our interests. But, a few years ago, Europe started cutting long-term contracts saying, “Let’s shift to the spot market”. And the spot market does not guarantee that you will have a long-term investment justified.
So, what we see now is not a scientific, not a responsible approach to the energy markets – it’s a hectic search for something which can save you this winter, with the green agenda shelved for the time being.
The coal is coming back, polluting the atmosphere – it’s a mess, if you take a look at the energy and environment policy that Europe is promoting. I am sorry to say this. We are not getting any happiness or joy from what Europe is experiencing, but they have been doing this to themselves for quite some time already.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have to apologize because the minister – my colleague from Ethiopia – is waiting for me for the next event. Once again I want to thank you whole-heartedly for accepting our invitation. I hope it was not a waste of time. I tried to be as frank as I can, and we would be ready to promote dialogue with the African Union.
Unfortunately, we could not meet at the headquarters. And we would be ready for a dialogue on all these and any other issues of interest and of importance with you bilaterally. With all of you we have good relations and channels of communication.
I wish you all the best and keep healthy. Thank you very much.