In 2018, Russia’s relations with Western countries severely deteriorated against the backdrop of numerous scandals and sanctions.
In an interview with Sputnik news on the eve of 2019, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke about whether the world should wait for further alienation, about Moscow’s possible response to Washington scrapping the INF Treaty, the price of a potential conflict between Russia and the USA, about presidential elections in Ukraine, as well as the situation around the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Syrian Arab Republic. Follow…
Sputnik: Next year will again be almost a pre-election year in the United States. Should we expect a new cooling in relations? Can we hope to maintain at least a modest dynamic of contacts at the highest level? Taking into account the failed meetings in Argentina, where and when approximately could they occur? Is it true that they might be held in January?
Sergei Lavrov: We have become accustomed to the fact that opportunistic factors associated with American domestic politics influence our bilateral relations and create additional difficulties in building a dialogue.
Of late, the degree of their impact does not even depend on what stage of the electoral cycle the United States is at. Of course, one can expect that as the next presidential election in November 2020 approaches, attempts to play the “Russian card” will be undertaken by individual politicians in Washington more actively and more persistently. We hope that this will not lead to a further loosening in the foundation of bilateral ties, which are not in the best condition anyway.
We consistently advocate developing a normal, predictable dialogue with the United States based on the principles of mutual understanding and respect for interests. So far, it has not been possible to move in this direction because of Washington’s unfriendly actions, incessant attempts to exert pressure on us with the help of economic, political, military, and other tools.
As a result, work in important areas on the bilateral and international agenda, including those related to maintaining stability and security in the world, has stalled.
If we speak in a broader, if you like, in a philosophical sense, the main problem in our relations is that the United States has never considered them as valuable. Russia for the American political establishment is an object.
We are demonised in order to keep Europe in check and to strengthen the trans-Atlantic bond. Or, for example, they are now seriously discussing how to use Russia against China in their favour. Yes, and attempts to inspire a change of power in our country or a change in Russian policy — and many in Washington suffer from such an illusion — are dictated by the desire to make us a tool to serve US interests.
We know countries that the Americans have managed to force into such a role, but, of course, this will not work with us. And until the “objectification” of Russia, which apparently is a legacy of the Cold War, disappears from the consciousness of the American elite and this practice stops, the relationship will not change. “Selective interaction” is flawed. It does not ensure the consolidation of positive trends and a predictable future.
For our part, we build inherently valued relations with any state. We are ready to act in the same spirit with America. I repeat: the potential for constructive bilateral interaction is enormous. However, it has remained unfulfilled for many decades. I think our people deserve much better than what we have now.
With regard to contacts at the highest level, President Vladimir Putin, at a press conference following the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, said that he was open to meeting with the US president when the American side was ready. Now it is difficult to say when and where such contacts may take place.
Sputnik: The point, apparently, comes down to the scrapping of the INF Treaty. Are we negotiating with the US and the EU about any guarantees that such missiles will not appear in Europe? Are our partners ready to give such legally binding guarantees? If not, what will be our answer? Rockets in Cuba again?
Sergei Lavrov: We are convinced that the collapse of the INF Treaty can seriously harm international security and strategic stability. We have to say in warning: we cannot and will not ignore the deployment of new American missiles that threaten us and our allies. There should be no doubt that we have the necessary set of means to ensure our own security, and we can also further strengthen our defence capabilities. However, Russia, like any other sensible country, is not interested in an arms race and new “missile crises”.