Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting

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Colleagues.

We finished the meeting of the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers chaired by Foreign Minister of the Republic of Belarus Sergey Aleinik. The list of documents read out by the CSTO Secretary General includes a number of agreements and protocols on improving the performance of the secretariat and the CSTO charter bodies and enhancing their coordination in resolving a number of current administrative and budget issues.

From the documents on the different political aspects of the current situation, I would like to mention the statement on enhancing security in the CSTO region in the context of the situation in Afghanistan. It reflects the joint approaches by our countries and all of our allies to ensuring our interests in a situation where Afghanistan was left in deplorable condition after the NATO coalition deserted it. Manifestations of terrorism and drug trafficking are flourishing in this country, and the reasons behind this have not been eliminated. All this is directly affecting the lawful interests of our states. Our statement establishes goals to use the CSTO working group and to develop coordination with other associations, including the SCO, which also has a special mechanism for considering the threats and risks emanating from the territory of Afghanistan.

Second, the statement emphasises the common approaches of our countries in UN efforts to review specific proposals aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space. This is a long-standing Russian initiative. We are promoting it at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva as well. We have submitted a relevant draft treaty together with our Chinese partners. In parallel with the Disarmament Conference, the UN is starting discussions this year on how to make space safe and prevent threats from space from affecting the security of any country.

I think the meeting was useful. We discussed in detail the development of the geopolitical situation in our region and Eurasia as a whole. Our views are similar on a global plane. We all want the CSTO to become a supporting pillar in the multipolar world order that is now taking shape. We want the CSTO to become stronger and more successful, and we mapped out a number of practical steps to this end.

Question: How do you see the future of the CSTO in the context of today’s talks? Does the organisation have any divisions that could prove useful during military-political collaboration with other regional organisations, including the SCO and BRICS? Is it time for us to study the possibility of establishing a military-political bloc that can counterbalance NATO?

Sergey Lavrov: The SCO and BRICS are not military organisations. The SCO, for one, was primarily established for accomplishing the security objectives of its member countries. Later, the agenda expanded to include economic, cultural, humanitarian and investment cooperation issues, as well as political issues, in the context of the security objectives.

BRICS has no military dimension; however, the CSTO and other fraternal and other agencies continue to expand their cooperation. We maintain contacts with the CIS and the SCO. This promotes a division of labour for maintaining stability on our common Eurasian continent.

As far as NATO is concerned, we recalled today that, many years ago, the CSTO suggested establishing working contacts between the Secretariat and NATO to build trust, strengthen mutual understanding and find solutions to complicated problems before they become aggravated and start posing risks for CSTO and NATO members. NATO arrogantly declined after receiving several proposals, including official letters on this issue. This proves once again that the alliance is bent on dominating and applying its own rules alone that run counter to international law.

I do not think we should turn the CSTO into a confrontational bloc against anyone. The organisation is developing in line with the legitimate security interests of its member states. The CSTO does not claim the right to play a leading role on the Eurasian continent. This is what NATO is doing. A Chinese journalist recently asked NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg why NATO had big ideas about the Asian region. He tried to convince his audience that the alliance remained committed to the Euro-Atlantic region, and that it had no other intentions. At the same time, he noted that NATO could not just sit and watch as China inched closer to the North Atlantic alliance. This reminds one of a Soviet-era joke noting that the Soviet Union is located too close to US military bases. Jens Stoltenberg continued to assert that NATO would facilitate security interests, including risks and threats emanating from the Indo-Pacific region. Everyone already knows that by making such statements, the alliance is confirming its global ambitions and claiming the right to determine the rules for all regions. This concerns the European part of our continent and eastern Eurasia, primarily NATO’s provocations with regard to China, encouraging the creation of military blocs, such as AUKUS and expanding NATO’s infrastructure and presence in this region. This is a dangerous game.

Sooner or later NATO will have to realise that this approach has no future, that it leads to a dead-end. They will have to accept reality, specifically, the emergence of a multipolar world order where there will be no “commanders” or overlords unilaterally deciding others’ destinies.

Question: Armenia and Azerbaijan are not succeeding in reaching a peace settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time, we see Western countries involved in mediation in parallel with Russia. Both countries’ foreign ministers met in Washington and talks are being planned under EU aegis. What is Moscow’s assessment of the West’s ambition to settle the conflict given that Armenia is Russia’s CSTO ally?

Sergey Lavrov: We laid the groundwork for normalising relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2020, when President of Russia Vladimir Putin’s personal intervention led to the signing of the first trilateral statement on the principles of a final settlement. Later, several other top-level statements (1, 2, 3) were adopted on various aspects of the efforts needed to fully normalise the situation. Among other things, this includes the unblocking of transport and economic connections between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the South Caucasus as a whole.

We are not against other international parties trying their hand at mediation. The most important thing is that this mediation should pursue the goal of enabling the agreements that reflect a balance of interests between the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples and states.

We see in what is being done by the United States and the European Union their desire to sneak into the region, push back the Russian Federation’s legitimate interests, and assert themselves as forces that will play a well-nigh decisive role. It reflects the West’s striving (as I explained in my previous answer) to expand to regions located far from NATO and EU borders. This has little in common with a sincere desire to assist in stabilising the situation. I hope that our partners in Yerevan and Azerbaijan understand this. At any rate, we openly discuss the current developments with them.  

Reaching an overall agreement is only possible via the full implementation of the trilateral agreements, signed by the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan and the prime minister of Armenia.

Question: Jens Stoltenberg said, at a NATO meeting, that the alliance was against putting a freeze on the Ukraine conflict and against Russia’s peace plan. At the upcoming NATO summit, they will talk about giving Kiev even more weapons. Does this mean that the conflict is being dragged out artificially? What will our next moves be, given that on the sidelines they even talk about possibly sending nuclear weapons?

Sergey Lavrov: If Mr Stoltenberg again says on behalf of NATO that they are against freezing the conflict in Ukraine, this means that they want to fight. So let them fight. We are ready for that. We realised NATO’s true goals in Ukraine some time ago as their plans took shape over the years that followed the coup. Today, NATO is attempting to implement them.

We can see that gradually at least some politicians, political scientists and experts in the West are “sobering up” and coming to realise the true causes of the current state of affairs and what is really happening on the ground.  

This is their choice. They may claim they are not waging a war against Russia, but in fact they are doing precisely that, given their admission that the Ukrainian crisis would have been defused a long time ago, were it not for them rushing weapons to the Ukrainian regime, providing intelligence and satellite data, and sending targeting directions. Actually, this is a confession to the effect that they are directly involved in the hybrid and hot war declared on Russia.

Question: What is the significance of Antony Blinken’s visit to the PRC and the change in US rhetoric towards China?  

Sergey Lavrov: This question concerns bilateral relations between the United States and the PRC. Our Chinese friends have repeatedly stated their assessments and they confirmed them during Secretary of State Blinken’s visit.

We regard this as the reality that reflects Washington’s China policy on the one hand. On the other, there is the principled policy of China opposing attempts to undermine its legitimate interests, including in the region directly adjacent to China.   

Question: The Russian Federation is helping the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and demonstrating its confident strength and knowledge of the law. All citizens of Russia want to know when the special military operation will end?

Sergey Lavrov: I can’t agree that the Russian Federation is helping the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. They are part of our state, as are the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions. As an inalienable territory of Russia, whose residents voted in their respective referendums to join this country (which is reflected in the Constitution of the Russian Federation), they enjoy all the rights of constituent entities of Russia. President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, and the Government discuss plans to restore their economy and infrastructure virtually in real time and on a daily basis. These plans will be implemented.

Where the prospects for the special military operation are concerned, all its goals will be achieved. I can draw your attention to President Vladimir Putin’s detailed discourse on this topic at his meeting with war correspondents and at the SPIEF Plenary Session.   

Source: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation