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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 4th Moscow International Security Conference, Moscow, April 16, 2015


Mr Shoigu, Mr Patrushev, colleagues, and friends,

The Moscow conference, organised by the Russian Defence Ministry, has firmly established itself as an important platform for an open and constructive exchange of opinions on key aspects of global security. This conversation is highly relevant, taking into account the ongoing buildup of forces of instability and conflict in international relations.

I would like to cite one quotation: “There can be no middle ground here. We shall have to take the responsibility for world collaboration, or we shall have to bear the responsibility for another world conflict.” These words were delivered by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. I believe that they formulated one of the main lessons of the most devastating global conflict in history: it is only possible to meet common challenges and preserve the peace through collective, joint efforts based on respect for the legitimate interests of all partners.

This year we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Great Victory. Leaders, delegations, and national military contingents from a large number of countries will participate in the events taking place in Moscow on May 9. By celebrating the anniversary of the Great Victory we are not only paying tribute to the heroic feat of the soldiers who freed the world from the madness of the Nazis, but are also reaffirming the great importance of the historic decisions that laid the groundwork for the postwar international system, including, of course, the UN.

Unfortunately, soon after the founding of the UN, the opportunities for global governance based on genuine partnership were undermined by the head-on bipolar confrontation. However, a quarter of a century ago it seemed that the end of the Cold War, for the first time in the history of humankind, had opened the prospect for a transition to a stage of broad cooperation and constructive development. Russia has been actively and consistently working toward this, among other things, calling for serious efforts in the Euro-Atlantic region to put into practice a principle of equal and undivided security and form a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Unfortunately, they refused to even listen to us, let alone heed our call. As a result, the events on the European continent have followed a totally different, negative path.

The shortsighted logic of Cold War victors prevailed in Washington and later in NATO. Our partners fell into a state of euphoria caused by false notions that the Western world had forever secured itself a place in the global political and economic “Olympus.” All this runs counter to facts, and to objective and obvious processes concerning the distribution of global power and influence and the assertion of diversity of culture and civilisation as a key aspect of the contemporary world. Therefore, all of us have once again approached a boundary where, just like after World War II, it is once again necessary to choose between cooperation and conflicts.

Russia is invariably guided by a sober-minded and pragmatic approach, and we are far from deliberately inciting any alarmist moods. Nevertheless, I’d like to note that one should not underestimate the prospects of a dangerous deterioration of the international situation. The world has made considerable headway on the road towards globalisation, and the threat of security problems in various regions, and even on different levels, forming one tight knot is becoming more apparent. But where is that wall which would make it possible to divide growing confusion, the whipping up of confrontation in European affairs and the incipient “arc of instability” stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan? In these conditions, one can hardly rely on the so-called principle of compartmentalisation” which allows countries to confront each other on some issues and to cooperate productively on others. The creation of regional security systems built on common principles of equality, mutual consideration for each other’s interests, and a refusal to strengthen one’s security to the detriment of the security of others should become a more effective and natural option that would heed the current, growing interdependence. In our opinion, systematic cooperation between these regional systems would help create a global system by prioritising the UN Charter and collective actions for coping with common challenges.

Much is being said about Ukraine, and it is probably impossible to avoid this issue. It is impossible to resolve the conflict in Ukraine by military force. As such, there is no reasonable alternative to peacefully settling the domestic Ukrainian crisis on the basis of full and unconditional compliance with the Minsk Agreements of February 12, 2015. Above all, the ceasefire should be unfailingly observed, heavy weapons should be withdrawn as soon as possible, and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine should verify this process. At the same time, we need to remove artificial obstacles hampering solutions to extremely acute humanitarian problems, to persuade Kiev to stop the economic blockade of Donbass, to launch a real (not decorative) political process, and implement a constitutional reform that takes the interests of all Ukrainian regions and citizens into account. Kiev’s compliance with amnesty obligations and a renunciation of attempts to reinterpret the Minsk Agreements have particular significance for preserving the unity of the Ukrainian state. I am confident that the West should and can force authorities in Kiev to scrap destructive policies aimed at glorifying the Nazis and persecuting those who saved Europe from Nazism. We discussed all this in great detail at a meeting of the Normandy Four foreign ministers in Berlin on April 13, 2015.

The Ukrainian political settlement should significantly expedite efforts to overcome systemic problems that have accumulated in the area of European security and which ultimately became the main cause of the Ukrainian crisis. So far, we have observed diametrically opposite trends and attempts to formalise new demarcation lines in Europe. Washington is either using the term “front-line states” with reference to our neighbours or saying that Russia has found itself at “NATO’s gates”. As if it is Russia moving towards the West, rather than the other way round, that is, NATO coming right up to Russian borders and deploying a powerful military infrastructure there. US military equipment is everywhere in Europe, and US Navy ships have basically settled in the Black Sea.

The US ABM programme remains a cause for serious concern. Ground-based missile-defence systems will be deployed in Romania this year and in Poland by 2018. More ships with missile-defence systems are being deployed. We perceive all this as part of a global project that is creating risks for Russia’s strategic deterrence forces and upsetting regional security balances. If the global missile-defence programme continues to be implemented without any adjustments, even as talks on the Iranian nuclear programme are making headway (as NATO representatives have already said), then the specific motives for establishing the European missile-defence system will become obvious for everyone. It is already clear that they misled us when they announced the so-called “adaptive” approach for setting up the missile-defence system. According to US President Barack Obama, the entire essence of this approach implied Washington’s readiness to adapt missile-defence plans to the situation on the ground at the talks on the Iranian nuclear programme. Although considerable success has been achieved at these talks, missile-defence plans continue to expand, rather than adapt to the situation.

Washington tries not to remember Russian proposals for equal cooperation in neutralising missile threats.

It is not our intention to force anyone to cooperate. However, it should be clear that by weakening partnerships among leading states we waste time in countering really serious [threats], not the perceived threats, above all, in the Middle East and North Africa. The sharp escalation of the situation there, the rise in terrorism and extremism, the expansion of the territory controlled by the so-called “Islamic State,” and the mounting interethnic and interreligious conflicts pose a direct threat to international stability and security and, of course, erode the prospects of stable development for nations in this region, which is close to us.

What raises particular concern are the attempts to artificially ratchet up the Sunni-Shiite disagreements and use religious differences to achieve political goals, among other things, by imposing schemes on the UN Security Council to approve outside interference. I would like to make an appeal for the current situation to be treated very seriously, guided by the ideas of tolerance, mutual respect, and the search for compromise as was formulated in the Amman Message that was agreed upon in July 2005 on the initiative of King Abdullah II of Jordan. Perhaps the time has come to reassert unequivocally the principles of the Amman Message. I am confident that the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation understand perfectly well all the dangers involved in a split of the Islamic world.

Effective external efforts to facilitate a resolution to intra-state conflicts should be based on international law and push the sides toward dialogue while organising a consolidated rebuff to extremist forces. Under these circumstances, there should be no room for attempts to impose internal political solutions or double standards on sovereign states. A situation where, in Yemen, the US looks favourably upon and directly encourages the forceful operation conducted by the coalition to bring the fleeing president back to power, whereas in Ukraine, quite on the contrary, Washington actively supported and helped organise an anti-constitutional coup d’etat, is bound to raise questions.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, a unilateral dictate and the imposition of external models bring a result opposite to the one intended: escalation instead of conflict resolution, and growing chaos instead of sovereign, stable states. Meaningful and positive results can only be achieved through concerted efforts “without any hidden agendas.” I should mention the successful completion of the unprecedented international operation to remove all components of and precursors to chemical weapons from Syria and the political framework agreement on the final resolution of Iran’s nuclear programme. Incidentally, this opens the way for abandoning the vicious policy of isolating Iran, and, in turn, involving it in collective efforts, on the basis of equality, in the search for solutions to the proliferating regional security issues. These include a political settlement in Syria and Yemen, facilitating national accord in Lebanon and Iraq, promoting the inter-Palestinian reconciliation, and, of course, helping overcome the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the existing international legal framework and the Arab peace initiative.

Of increasing importance is the goal of establishing dialogue to create a framework for security and cooperation in the Persian Gulf with the participation of Arab countries and Iran, supported by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The situation in Afghanistan calls for the consolidation of efforts. Stabilisation is a long way off there. The country remains a source of terrorism and drug trafficking that can spill over into neighbouring states, including Central Asia.

We are also interested in ensuring peace, security, and cooperation in the Asia Pacific Region, our country being an inalienable part of it. The initiative to build a regional architecture of equal and undivided security, which was put forward by Russia and China in 2010, is designed to formulate generally accepted rules of conduct to ensure reliable stability and sustained development in the Asia Pacific Region. In conjunction with other states in the region, we have launched a multilateral dialogue on this subject within the scope of the East Asia Summit.

As I said earlier, it is important to move toward the creation of a network of regionally based structures responsible for ensuring security in their regions. If we advance toward the once proclaimed goal of creating a system of equal and undivided security in the Euro-Atlantic zone and search for ways of putting in place a broad [security] architecture in the Asia Pacific Region, unrelated to [military and political] blocs, then the value of the efforts that Russia and its allies and partners are making to ensure security in the area covered by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation will grow.

We would like to reiterate the initiatives that were once put forward by the UN secretary general and the OSCE leadership, when the heads of regional security organisations were invited to share opinions and establish dialogue between them. I believe that the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, which, on the initiative of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has become an effective platform for cooperation, can serve as a good basis for the continuation of these efforts.

We are committed to continuing our active efforts, in conjunction with our friends and partners, in the interests of normalising international relations. Strengthening international and regional stability is an important part of the agenda for Russia’s BRICS and SCO presidencies. Russia is open to dialogue and cooperation with all those who are willing to cooperate.

I would like to wish the conference participants productivity in their work.