Good afternoon, colleagues.
Our tradition has been to meet at the beginning of the new year to discuss the results and events of the past year. 2022 was difficult and even unique to some extent. It reflected deep-rooted trends in geopolitics and the international aspirations of the leading states, which had been brewing for more than a decade.
Our Western colleagues tried to turn Ukraine and the developments around it into the main media, political and economic event, accusing the Russian Federation of the troubles in the global economy because of its "aggression" against Ukraine. I do not want to dwell on refuting these assertions. The statistics of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other international agencies convincingly show that the crisis had been developing long before the start of the special military operation. President of Russia Vladimir Putin repeatedly cited data showing the emergence of negative phenomena in the global economy, primarily due to the egoistic position of the United States and its allies.
What is happening in Ukraine now is the result of preparations by the US and its satellites for the start of a global hybrid war against the Russian Federation. Nobody is hiding this fact. This is clear from statements by unbiased Western politologists, scientists and politicians. In his recent article, Ian Bremmer, political science professor at Columbia University, wrote: "We are not in a cold war with Russia. We are in a hot war with Russia. Now it's a proxy war. And NATO is not fighting it directly. We are fighting it through Ukraine." This admission is frank and this conclusion is on the surface. It is strange that some people try to refute it. Recently, President of Croatia Zoran Milanovic said that this is a NATO war. An open and honest statement. Several weeks ago, Henry Kissinger (before he urged NATO to accept Ukraine in his recent article) wrote in clear terms that the events in Ukraine were a clash, a rivalry of two nuclear powers for control over that territory. It is clear enough what he meant.
Our Western partners are cunning while vehemently trying to prove that they are not fighting Russia but are only helping Ukraine respond to an "aggression" and restore its territorial integrity. The scale of their support makes it clear that the West has staked a great deal on its war against Russia; this is obvious.
The events surrounding Ukraine have brought to light the implicit push by the United States to drop attempts to reinforce its global position with legitimate means and to adopt illegitimate methods to ensure its dominance. Anything goes. Once revered mechanisms and institutions that were created by the US-led West have been discarded (and not because of what we are seeing in Ukraine). Free market, fair competition, free enterprise, the inviolability of property, and the presumption of innocence, in a word, everything the Western globalisation model relied on collapsed overnight. Sanctions have been imposed on Russia and other objectionable countries that do not comply with these tenets and mechanisms. Clearly, sanctions can be imposed any time on any country, which, in one way or another, refuses to mindlessly follow American orders.
The European Union has been completely subsumed by this US dictatorship (there's no point in discussing this at length). The signing of the Joint Declaration on EU-NATO Cooperation on January 10 was the high point of this process, something that has been in the making for several years. It states explicitly that the alliance and the EU's goal is to use all political, economic and military means in the interests of the golden billion. This is exactly what it says: in the interests of the one billion residents of NATO and the EU countries. The rest of the world, to quote High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, is a "jungle" that stifles progress in the "garden" and must, therefore, be reformatted, adjusted to their needs and turned into new-style colonies in order to use new methods to ruthlessly pump out resources from them. These methods are all too familiar and include demonisation, blackmail, sanctions, threats of force, and much more. The West's course on destroying traditional ties between historical partners in different regions and fragmenting and destabilising them has become more salient. We can see this in the Balkans and in the post-Soviet space, especially if we take a closer look at what the United States, their "clients" and "fixers" are doing in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
Everything that is happening around Ukraine has been in the making for a long time. The first Maidan protest took place in 2004 when European officials declared for the first time that Ukraine had to choose sides and decide who it was with, the West or Russia. Since then, this either/or approach has been consistently promoted by the West in its policies in this region. Those who chose the wrong side or believed that their historical and family ties, and their traditions and religious beliefs bonded them with the Russian Federation (even though they lived in Ukraine), were at first more or less delicately, and then ruthlessly, ground down, excluded from political life and criminally prosecuted. They killed intractable journalists and politicians and closed media outlets that did not promote the official point of view. The creation of a police-run Nazi state was in full swing. In fact, it has now been created with the blessing of the West. They used the "either with the West or Russia" choice to identify those who were against the West and proceeded to severely punish them.
Coming back to the NATO-EU Declaration – this is an interesting document. These two organisations are being presented as an alliance of democracies against autocracies amid global rivalry. A patently confrontational agenda has been announced for the world to hear. Europe has waived its independence. The Joint Declaration directly subordinates Europe to NATO. It includes commitments to serve US interests in matters of geopolitical containment of Russia and China. Their declared goal – well known to everyone before but now laid out in black and white – is to enable the US-led alliance to achieve global preeminence.
NATO is not limited to organising life on the European continent. In June 2022, NATO's Madrid Summit declared that the military bloc had a global commitment, specifically in relation of the Asia-Pacific region, which they call the Indo-Pacific region. It is clear that they are attempting to make overtures to India to create additional problems in its relations with China. Their battle-cry is indivisibility of security in the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions. Mere word play. Since the 1990s, the same commitment to the principle of indivisibility of security was declared by the OSCE and Russia-NATO Council. This term was used to mean equal security for every state and an obligation not to strengthen one's own security at the expense of another's. Now it has been taken out of context and given a new meaning – the indivisibility of interests of NATO and the Indo-Pacific region. The difference is obvious.
In the so-called "Indo-Pacific region," the West is out to create bloc architecture against Russia and China. With this aim in view, they have consistently been destroying (although they prefer to keep quiet about this) the decades-old mechanisms and formats of cooperation created around ASEAN based on equality, consensus, and a balance of interests. Instead, they are putting together military blocs. A shining case in point is AUKUS, an Anglo-Saxon bloc in Asia, which includes the US, the UK, and Australia). Japan is under pressure to join it as well. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's recent visit to Washington ended up confirming this course. Japan is militarising again. As I understand it, Japan is bracing to alter the articles in its constitution that prevent it from doing this. The process is underway.
I will not speak now about the West's actions in other geopolitical areas. Today we regard the policies of the US and the West as a whole as the main problem creating difficulties in all areas. In short, this is what it means. Washington's policy of dictate in international affairs means precisely that the Americans can do anything anywhere they want, even at the other end of the Earth. They do what they think is necessary. All other countries cannot do anything without the US's approval, even in response to direct security threats the US creates on their borders.
Like Napoleon, who mobilised nearly all of Europe against the Russian Empire, and Hitler, who occupied the majority of European countries and hurled them at the Soviet Union, the United States has created a coalition of nearly all European member states of NATO and the EU and is using Ukraine to wage a proxy war against Russia with the old aim of finally solving the "Russian question," like Hitler, who sought a final solution to the "Jewish question."
Western politicians – not only from the Baltics and Poland but also from more reasonable countries – say that Russia must be dealt a strategic defeat. Some political analysts write about decolonising Russia, that our country is too big and "gets in the way." The other day I read an item in The Telegraph that called for liberating Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, while leaving Karelia, Koenigsberg and the Kuril Islands for negotiations. Of course, it is a tabloid, but we have to read yellow sheets because they sometimes make headline news.
Quite a few such statements have been made, including in our non-system opposition. No Western politician has refuted them. President of France Emmanuel Macron, who proposed creating a European Political Community as a format which all European countries apart from Russia and Belarus will be invited to join, has also suggested convening a conference of European states. He suggested that it should be open for the EU member states, Eastern Partnership countries (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), as well as Moldova and Ukraine. I doubt that Belarus will be invited. The potential participants as the EU states and Eastern Partnership countries, plus – note this - politically active emigres from Russia. It has been said (not in Macron's presentation but in subsequent comments) that some Russian regions, which are trying to maintain ties with Europe, could be invited as well. I believe that everything is clear. It is not a black-and-white situation, contrary to what our Western colleagues claim; it reflects their strategy of global domination and unconditional suppression of all countries on pain of punishment.
The Western politicians are talking only about sanctions. Ursula von der Leyen has recently said in Davos that new sanctions will be imposed on Russia and Belarus, that they know which sanctions to adopt to strangle the Russian economy and cause it decades of regression. This is what they want. They have shown their true colours. For many years, UN Security Council members discussed sanctions against countries that violated international law or their obligations. And every time the Western countries that initiated such measures promised that the sanctions would not harm the people but would be targeted at the "regime." What became of their promises?
They openly say that sanctions against Russia are designed to incite the people to rise in a revolution to overthrow the current leaders. Nobody is observing or intends to observe proprieties any longer. But their reaction and frenzied attempts to ensure, by hook or by crook, by any foul means possible, the domination of the US and the West, which Washington has already brought to heel, is proof that, historically, they are acting contrary to the objective course of events by trying to stop the rise of a multipolar world. Such change does not happen on orders from the high offices on the Potomac or in any other capital, but for natural reasons.
Countries are developing economically. Look at China and India (our strategic partners), Türkiye, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt and many African countries. Considering their immense natural resources, their development potential is enormous. New centres of economic growth are emerging. The West is trying to prevent this, in part, by exploiting the mechanisms created to service its interests within the globalisation framework it created. The role of the dollar as a reserve currency is very important in this respect. This is why in our contacts through the SCO, BRICS, the CIS, and the EAEU, and in our cooperation with associations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, we are doing all we can to create new forms of interaction to avoid dependence on the West and its neocolonialist methods (that are now clear). President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about this frankly and clearly. These methods are used with the express purpose of robbing the rest of the world in these new conditions. In dealing with our reliable partners and friendly countries, we are developing forms of cooperation that will benefit all of us. Those who want to subdue the entire world have no say in it.
These are my thoughts on the past year. The main point is that the processes that took place did not start yesterday, but many years ago. They will continue still. It takes time to create a multi-polar world and finalise the relations needed for the triumph of democracy and justice and for the observance of the UN Charter principle of respect for the sovereign equality of all states. The UN Charter is a good foundation. At the time it was adopted, it was a revolutionary document. Unfortunately, the West distorted all its correct principles. It did not respect the principles of sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes. The United States used its armed forces abroad hundreds of times since the establishment of the UN. In the majority of cases, it crudely violated the UN Charter.
It will take a long time to create a multipolar world order. This will take an entire historical era. We are now in the midst of this process. Sometimes, direct participants of such major events do not see everything immediately. This is why we value so greatly that we are in constant contact and share our opinions and impressions with each other. I am referring not only to our foreign partners but also to media colleagues. Your observations and the questions that you want to ask are useful for us. Question
: What's your take on current relations between Russia and the Latin American countries? Sergey Lavrov:
As with almost all developing regions around the world, I believe our relations with Latin America are on the rise. We have created a ministerial mechanism to harmonise approaches between the Russian Federation and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). It was convened a couple of times in the format that included Russia and four CELAC countries. It had to be put on hold due to COVID-19-related restrictions, but we will resume cooperation soon.
Of course, there are countries, primarily, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, with which we have longer-standing, deeper and more intensive cooperation than with other countries in the region. We appreciate the history of our relations and solidarity on most international political issues. We always support each other during voting at the UN General Assembly.
As you may be aware, Cuba has been under illegal and unilateral US sanctions since the Cuban Revolution. The United States is the only country that votes for keeping these sanctions in place. Sometimes, other island nations side with them. However, the overwhelming majority of all UN members vote for lifting this illegal blockade immediately.
As we move forward in our relations with our long-standing partners, whom I just mentioned, we want other Latin American countries to be part of our priorities as well. We are not pursuing any Monroe Doctrine. When we come to a region, we are not carrying along any risks or threats to subsume a particular country into our orbit or to advance certain political forces to the helm of power.
Over the past 20 years, we have had good relations with all countries of the region, regardless of whether the country has moved towards the left or swayed to the right following the most recent elections. We will continue to expand our relations.
The new President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in just the other day. President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with him and also spoke with former President Jair Bolsonaro and thanked him for his cooperation. I contacted my colleagues from Brazil. Yesterday, I went to the Embassy of Brazil in Moscow and made an entry in the Book of Condolences for the great football player and Brazilian citizen Pele. I spoke with the Brazilian Ambassador to Russia, Rodrigo Baena Soares, about current plans.
Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia. Peru. I want to make sure I don't miss anyone. We are interested in mutually beneficial cooperation with all these countries. We also want Latin America to strengthen its Latin American-Caribbean unity.
As I understand, Brazil said that it is about to rejoin CELAC, which will allow this pan-regional association to resume its activities soon. We hope that CELAC will make its voice heard in the process of addressing key issues that are arising as this very multipolar world that we are all talking about is in the process of taking shape.
Brazil is a BRICS member. Argentina has also announced its interest in joining this association. As far as I understand, several other Latin American countries are also planning to join.
At this point, we are ready to cooperate through the BRICS+ format. The five association members see eye to eye with us on this score. We have teamed up with our Chinese friends to approve the criteria for other countries wanting to join BRICS. Probably, speaking about the Latin American region's interests, it would make sense for CELAC to consider items on the BRICS agenda. Also, other CELAC countries would benefit from the Latin American countries that participate in the BRICS activities representing their interests in BRICS. Russia has observer status with the Central American Integration System (CAIS). We maintain contacts with the Central American Parliament as well. We enjoy observer status with the Association of Caribbean States. We maintain regular contacts with the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Andean Community, and the ALBA Association, which, as I understand, is on its way to finding a second wind, which is a very welcome development.
We appreciate the fact that not a single Latin American or Caribbean country, with the exception of the Bahamas, joined the anti-Russian sanctions.
As a result, Russian exports to Latin America increased by almost 10 percent last year. Our cultural and humanitarian ties are getting stronger. Not long ago, Moscow, St Petersburg and several other Russian cities marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of outstanding scientist Yury Knorozov who is known to have deciphered the Mayan script, for which he is held in high esteem in Mexico and other countries of the region. Thousands of Latin American students (mostly Cubans) study at our universities. Tours to Cuba, Venezuela and other countries of the region with great resort destinations have become increasingly popular. We have visa-free travel arrangements with 27 out of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries, which fact spurs people exchanges and contacts at various levels.