“Moscow accepts only equal and mutually beneficial ties with the US”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has outlined Moscow’s priorities and principles in foreign relations, including with the US, NATO and Europe.

From global challenges and the need for a new world paradigm to the nuances of Russia’s foreign policy: Lavrov has addressed the State Duma, the parliament’s lower house.

With a call for changes and new approaches running through the whole address, Russia’s top diplomat began by saying that “A confrontational paradigm, the so-called zero-sum mentality, is now a thing on the past.”

According to the foreign minister, “The system of global administration that emerged after the Second World War is no longer up-to-date. It is obsolete.”

”The world has become polycentric and new centers of influences are emerging in the world and we need to look for common denominators in international affairs,” Lavrov stated.

The world is now facing challenges like nuclear proliferation, organized crime, drug-trafficking, poverty, food shortages, climate change, epidemics and it is only if mutual efforts are applied that the international community will be able to solve the problems, he said. It may sound ironic, but the world economic crisis in some sense has become a blessing in disguise.

“We had several years of fruitless politics by several world powers that led us into a blind alley,” he said. However, Lavrov went on, the global recession helped us realize that security is indivisible and cannot be provided by one country. This, he said, creates common agenda for the international community.

According to the Russian official, confrontation on the international has declined, which is indeed progress and a positive sign.

“Even those who try to score some political points by creating new dividing lines in Europe have now realized this,” he said, though not clarifying whom exactly he was referring to.

Watch Sergey Lavrov's address

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Russia cannot be idle waiting for results

Moscow’s entire foreign policy, Lavrov stated, is based on the principles of “pragmatism, multi-vector diplomacy and non-confrontational advancement of our national interests.” And that corresponds perfectly well with the concept voiced by President Medvedev, the credo of whose presidency has become the modernization of almost all facets of life.

“We cannot wait passively for the current tendencies to develop and eventually lead us to the results we need,” Lavrov said. “Considering the current stage of our development, we are at the forefront of the changes, we have an intellectual advantage. But we will lose it if we are not applying it in international affairs.”

Russia, according to foreign minister, is not interested in maintaining the status quo. Therefore the state is actively promoting its interests in various fields, including global architecture, finance, security and other areas.

“The new international system will reflect the cultural variety of the world. Of course, I am not talking about the decline of Europe, but the Western world order has become obsolete,” he stated. Some in the West, the minister went on, “are afraid of this, but I think we will overcome this.”

Lavrov reminded that the Russian leadership has stated on a number of occasions that we all have common values, such as market economy, human rights. Still, “they should be specific for every nation, as our president has pointed out.”

Thus, he concluded, we need to build confidence and avoid attempts to unify or even impose these values on all countries.

Today, he said, “the crisis and its repercussions require that mankind use all its experience to produce a new paradigm for human existence and create a new foundation for it”.

That is why Russia is now a lot more active in its foreign policy. Among the important steps Moscow has recently taken was the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the victory in WWII on May 9. The day was marked with an unprecedented event – a parade on Red Square which, for the first time ever, united not only troops from Russia and the CIS, but also other Allied soldiers – from the US, France, the UK and Poland.

Also, an informal summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was held in Moscow on May 8. President Medvedev has held a number of meetings with heads of states including those of the US, Ukraine, Turkey,Syria, and Brazil. Those top-level contacts have already yielded results, Sergey Lavrov said.

Lavrov expects new START treaty to be ratified

Russia’s top diplomat recalled a landmark event in the Moscow-Washington relations – the signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that took place in Prague on April 8.

“This treaty will strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and help to build confidence among nuclear and non-nuclear parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treat,” he said.

The foreign minister specifically underlined that the new agreement serves Russia’s intersects and is based on the principles of equal security. He stressed, though, that "the treaty can be in effect and remain viable only in the absence of a qualitative and quantitative buildup of the United States' missile defense capabilities that would be a threat to Russia's strategic security potential".

Lavrov said he expects the State Duma deputies to ratify the document.

He added that Moscow-Washington co-operation is not limited to security issues only, but also includes trade, economy, and hi-tech industries. President Medvedev’s visit to the US in June is expected to further boost the relationship between the two powers.

However, Lavrov underlined, “relations between the US and Russia must be equitable and mutually beneficial.”

“We don't accept any other vision of the partnership," he said.

Andrey Klimov, a member of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, says that members of his fraction – United Russia – are ready to support this agreement.

He explained: “Because we see a balance between two states, between two armies and we hope that this balance will give an opportunity to keep the peace in the world.”

However, Klimov stressed that there are different opinions in the Parliament: “One of our opposition fractions said that there might be some more privileges on the American side.”

“I’m sure, and my colleagues are sure, that we must ratify this agreement in parallel with our American colleagues,” he added.

Watch the full interview with Andrey Klimov

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Armen Oganesyan, the Editor-in-Chief of the political magazine 'International Life', shares this point of view, as he said: “I think we will face very heated debates, and I think some of the parliamentarians will be against – especially from the opposition – some members of the Communist Party, and Zhirinovsky declared that his party will not support this agreement just as they didn’t support two previous proposals on this matter.”

However, then he added: “But I think that the overwhelming majority will vote in favor.”

Watch the full interview with Armen Oganesyan

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Lavrov warns against attempts to influence situation in CIS states

Lavrov drew attention to recent events in the neighboring, former USSR republics, including the Caucasus crisis, presidential elections in Ukraine and the unrest in Kyrgyzstan.

According to the foreign minister, all those situations “have demonstrated that any attempts to influence internal processes from outside, experiments of social engineering, normally lead to negative results.”

“They lead to destabilization and eventually cause setbacks in those countries’ development,” he asserted.

In that respect, the foreign minister underlined that the EU, NATO, and any other countries should abandon attempts to influence the situation in these regions.

The CIS countries, he said, have been brought together by their common history, geography and years of co-operation.

“This gives us a competitive advantage,” he said.

Lavrov said that the CIS member states are developing their relations in various fields, including a creation of customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Visa-free travel between Russia and EU to top summit agenda

While strengthening ties within the commonwealth, Moscow also seeks stronger partnership with the EU. On May 31-June 1, a Russia-EU Summit will be held in Rostov-on-Don, Lavrov said.

During the summit, “we would like to make serious progress in the visa cancellation issue, and we plan to make it one of the summit's key topics," he stated.

The official noted that Russia, for its part, "has stressed more than once that we are ready to cancel visas tomorrow, especially as our experts have almost completed consultations on concrete aspects of this regime."

NATO concept should contain no ambiguities

The signing a draft agreement on European security proposed by Medvedev has come into the spotlight again. Russia has been pushing for quite a while, though not getting any clear answer either from the EU or from NATO. Each side keeps speaking of the necessity of closer co-operation with Moscow, but so far words have not turned into action. However, there seem to be some signs of progress.

Lavrov said that we simply cannot stand still when it refers to matters of security, but “we need to advance, to make progress”.

Otherwise, he warned, we will be “lagging behind”.

The main principle of the proposed draft is the indivisibility of security. In November, the document was sent to heads of state and chief executives of NATO, the EU and other major international organizations. According to Lavrov, Russia has received responses from about 20 countries, “which reflects the growing understanding that the situation in Europe is currently abnormal.”

Also, the foreign minister called for a reform the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

"Our partners in the OSCE mostly don't want to change anything. The current loose state the OSCE is in is convenient for them as an easy way to attain goals, incompatible with the international status of this organization and with the principles of equality of all its members," Lavrov said.

According to the official, Moscow is ready to develop “constructive cooperation with NATO” since the two have common interests in certain areas. He noted that new strategic alliance’s concept will become an indicator in relations between Russia and the organization. The document is being prepared by the NATO Wise Men group. On May 17, the ground for a new concept was presented to the North Atlantic Council (NAC).

Lavrov stressed that the document “should not contain ambiguities towards complying with the norms of international law, particularly with the UN Charter and what is related to the criteria of using force in global affairs."