Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, December 27, 2019 (source):
Question: Is there any real prospect of Russia returning to the Group of Eight next year? Was this question on the agenda of your recent meeting with Donald Trump? Did he convey an invitation to Vladimir Putin to attend the summit in the United States? What are your expectations for 2020 in terms of foreign policy, including relations with the US?
Sergey Lavrov: I suggest we use appropriate terminology. Russia did not leave the G8. Let me remind you that after the state coup in Ukraine in early 2014 the other seven members of the Group refused to take part in events held as part of Russia’s presidency. In other words, the seven countries withdrew from this format, rather than the other way around. As President of Russia Vladimir Putin said, “if our partners want to come, we will be glad.” I can say that we could receive them in Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi or for instance in Yalta.
Overall, Russia sees no incentives and has no desire to restore this format. We did not discuss this question during my visit to the United States, and it is not part of the Russia-US bilateral agenda. The G7 was created back in the days of the Cold War. It has become irrelevant in today’s world, primarily due to the fact that it leaves out the new global centres. Without them, overcoming the multiple challenges and threats that we face in today’s world is impossible.
It is not a coincidence that the Group of Twenty offered an effective platform for discussing many key questions related to global economics and even politics. Apart from the G20, Russia is proactive in associations of a new kind, such as BRICS and the SCO, where decisions are balanced and taken by consensus rather than imposed. These are multilateral structures that have already established themselves as reliable foundations for the emerging fair, democratic and multipolar world order.
Giving a forecast for next year is not easy. A lot will depend on whether our Western partners, primarily Washington, are ready to stop using corrupt practices such as blackmail, pressure, unilateral sanctions, and to honour international law, or more generally commit to mutually respectful dialogue for untying the many knots we have in today’s world. Russia on its behalf will continue strengthening collective undertakings in global affairs, supporting global and regional security in all its dimensions, and facilitating sustainable solutions to multiple crises and conflicts by political and diplomatic means, be it in Syria or Ukraine, our neighbour. To this end, we will use the resources that we have as members of global governance institutions such as the United Nations and the G20, as well as the opportunities offered by Russia’s BRICS and SCO presidencies.
We have no illusions regarding the future of Russia-US dialogue, particularly against the backdrop of the challenging environment in US domestic politics and the upcoming presidential election. This is clearly illustrated by Washington’s recent unfriendly steps. On our behalf, we remain committed to taking all the required steps to ensure our security, the interests of Russian citizens and businesses, and to find adequate responses to any aggressive actions. At the same time, we do not seek confrontation. We are open to trying to find solutions to problems that matter for our countries and the entire world. Our proposals to work together on various matters remain in force. Quite a few of them could be carried out in the near future, including launching the Business Advisory Council and the Expert Council, as agreed by our presidents. Our other proposals include exchanging letters guaranteeing non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs, launching dialogue on cybersecurity, a matter that causes so much concern to the United States, issuing a joint statement on the inadmissibility of nuclear war, extending the New START, imposing a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, and taking other steps to enhance strategic stability. Of course, we will judge Washington’s intentions by its deeds rather than words.
Question: What is the deadline for extending the New START Treaty? If it is not extended, will Russia immediately begin creating and deploying additional strategic arms or will there be a moratorium similar to the one that was introduced after the collapse of the INF Treaty?
Sergey Lavrov: Russia’s attitude to the extension of the New START was clearly put forth by President Putin. We are ready to extend it without any preconditions. As for deadlines, President Putin said that “Russia is willing to immediately, as soon as possible, before the year is out, renew this treaty.”
The deadline for extending the treaty has not been agreed upon, yet the process needs to be completed before the treaty expires on February 5, 2021. This means that we should not only reach an agreement with the Americans but also complete certain procedures at the Federal Assembly, because we will need to amend Federal Law No. 1 of January 28, 2011 on the ratification of the New START. There is not much time left for this.
Russia believes that it will be expedient to preserve the New START, which is the last remaining international legal instrument for restraining the nuclear missile arsenals of the world’s two largest nuclear powers and making activities in this sphere predictable and verifiable. In addition, its extension will give us additional time, which we would be able to use to discuss possible forms and methods of controlling new weapons and military technology.
The United States has not clarified its position on the extension of the New START. However, I believe that it would be premature to discuss any other scenarios.
Question: The end of the year has witnessed a resumption of activities by the opponents of Nord Stream 2. Could this project be derailed? Considering the unbalanced position of our Western partners, should Russia plan a radical diversification of its hydrocarbon export routes? Is China considered as the most attractive alternative to Europe?
Sergey Lavrov: The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is nearing completion, which is why its opponents have redoubled their efforts to derail it. The addition of sanctions to the US 2020 National Defence Authorisation Act is shameless interference in the affairs of European businesses. Some US senators have openly threatened the management of the companies involved in the project. The aim of this is not the protection of European energy security, which Nord Stream 2 will strengthen, but furthering the interests of US LNG on the European market. It is a shocking example of unfair competition and politicisation of energy relations.
We have no doubt, however, that the gas pipeline will be completed even despite this pressure. Europe is aware of the advantages of an alternative export route, although some countries are willing to work for their overseas curators even to the detriment of their own energy security and the prosperity of their citizens, which is regrettable.
Europe so far remains the biggest market for our gas; we deliver some 200 billion cubic metres of gas there annually. At the same time, we are expanding our energy cooperation with Asian-Pacific countries, where the demand for hydrocarbons continues to grow. In early December of this year, we launched the Power of Siberia pipeline, which will be used to deliver up to 38 billion cubic metres of gas to China every year. We are working with our Western partners to develop Arctic resources, including within the framework of the Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 projects. We are developing the transport logistics of the Northern Sea Route so as to ensure the export of Russian energy to Asia Pacific countries.
Russia will continue to diversify its hydrocarbon export routes.