Today: December 15 2018
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Sergei Lavrov has a decent sparring partner

Sergei Lavrov has a decent sparring partner

Tags: Russia, United Kingdom, International Relations, Lavrov, Politics, Analytics, West

A one-day visit to Moscow by the head of the British Foreign Ministry showed how strained relations between the two countries are. While the two powers remain geopolitical opponents, the dialogue must be maintained even during the most severe clinch. It was for this purpose that Boris Johnson, a man who supported the traditions of the British political style, came.

To put it bluntly, on Friday the most interesting enemy of all Western politicians visited Moscow. Not because Johnson is such a Russophobe - he, on the contrary, even calls himself Russophile - but because he is among those rare in the British elite people who can afford to say what they think.

Firstly, because he thinks independently, and does not repeat the cliché (which is nowadays a rarity), and secondly, because this has already become its main distinguishing feature. Smiles about the freak, allowing himself to bear all kinds of nonsense, only testify to the complete misunderstanding of the British political environment, or the role of Johnson. By the degree of frankness it can be compared with the late Churchill or the now living Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth. And this interlocutor is much more interesting for Sergei Lavrov than his predecessors from the Foreign Office.

In general, the relations between the head of our Foreign Ministry and the "English partners" are more than remarkable.

Johnson is already the sixth minister for Lavrov. I remember only David Maliband, who headed the Foreign Ministry in 2007-2010 years - it, as the half-legend says, launched by the Englishmen themselves, Lavrov somehow "sent" over the phone. The famous phrase "who are you to lecture me" best describes the state of Anglo-Russian relations in this century.

The last time the head of British diplomacy came to Moscow in May 2012, three weeks after the inauguration of Vladimir Putin - it would be William Hague, the successor to Malibenda. True, he did not meet the president, but it was hard to believe that the next time the head of the British Foreign Ministry arrived in the Russian capital only at the end of the six-year presidential term. But it happened.

During these five and a half years, a lot of things happened. Relations deteriorated against the background of the same Syria and the Crimea, but still in 2012-2013 Putin twice visited London, as they say, on a convenient occasion: the opening of the Olympics and the G8 summit (which turned out to be the last in its history). In the spring of 2014 London became one of the two main initiators of the organization of the blockade of Russia. Together with Obama, Cameron denounced the "Russian aggression in Ukraine" and demanded to punish "the violator of world law". The blockade was not set, but relations between Moscow and London were practically frozen.

If, with one of his American counterparts, Kerry Lavrov regularly discussed various topics on the world agenda, British diplomats Philip Hammond did not have any relations. It is clear that the United Kingdom simply does not play such a role in the world as the US (or, more precisely, it often plays with the hands of the United States), but it is still important for London to be considered in various international issues. Russia, in response to rather harsh, if not brazen, statements of British politicians in our address, Britain simply ignored (sometimes only releasing sarcastic remarks about the "small island, on which nothing depends").

Such relations between the two nuclear powers, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, are in any case abnormal - but it was clear that someone should take the first step. And it will clearly not be Moscow.

Already in 2015, seeing how Washington begins to flirt with Moscow, seeking to maintain sanctions, but to establish a geopolitical dialogue on important topics, London was nervous. It turned out that against the background of increasingly unhappy anti-Russian sanctions in continental Europe, Britain remains the most staunch anti-Russian soldier and will bear all the costs of this position. However, the desire to begin to restore at least a dialogue with Moscow was never realized - the country was fascinated first by the parliamentary elections of 2015, and then by the promised Cameron who won them a referendum on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.

The referendum government in the summer of 2016 unexpectedly lost, although guessing the popular mood was not so difficult. But Cameron was too much of an Eton, that is, a representative of a separate, specially grown elite - and believed that he would be able to turn a clever combination by letting off a couple of dissatisfaction with the EU, and removing the issue of Breczit from the agenda for years to come. Perhaps the only prominent Conservative politician who agitated for Brekzit was the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, a friend of Cameron's Eton, a much more lively and interesting type.

As a result, after Brecksite, Johnson almost became prime minister - but it would still be for the establishment of some sorting, so Johnson still had to be content with the post of Foreign Minister. Restoring ties with Russia was important to the Mei government - and it was implied that Johnson would do it as well. Mae herself did not even try to establish a relationship with Putin. They spoke only once, last September in China, where they met at the G-20 summit.

At the same time, for the UK against the backdrop of an exit from the EU and increasingly uneasy relations with the United States, it becomes even more urgent to emphasize its status as a world power. And it's more than difficult to do this with frozen contacts with Russia.

But eventually Johnson got to Moscow only at the third attempt and almost a year and a half after the appointment. Russia during this time won the war in Syria, and Britain only crawled before the Brexit talks. However, the number of topics for conversation has not diminished.

The Middle East (which was reconstructed a century ago by London, which still bleeds), Ukraine (which the United Kingdom naturally intends to withdraw from the Russian world - it is not clear how, indeed), Iran, the relations between Europe and Russia (yes, even after leaving from the EU, London intends to actively quarrel between Europe and Moscow), joint energy projects (more than profitable for England, and such campaigns as British Petroleum).

But the main thing in such negotiations is not the topic, but the fact of the restoration of contacts. Johnson is always more than harsh and arrogant - and when he came to Moscow, he combined the branded British humor-rudeness with compliments and assurances in the best of intentions.

He began by saying that he called himself a convinced Russophile:

"I want to say that I have ancestors in America, Germany and, of course, here in Moscow. I am sure that I am the first foreign minister of Britain, whose name is Boris. I think Borisov will not be in office for a long time. "

Indeed, Johnson has ancestors from Russia, and from the side of both his father and mother - but even they can hardly be called Russophiles. Because these are Jews who lived in the territory of modern Lithuania, left in the 19 century in the US, and the Circassians, who in the same century moved after the defeat in the Caucasian war in the Ottoman Empire (where John's great-grandfather even became a minister).

At the same time Johnson's call to Russia and Britain "not to sit on the sidelines and not complain about each other" is completely sincere - he needs relations with Lavrov, Putin, Russia. Because it needs the UK - and because he sees himself in the future as its prime minister. And 53-year-old Johnson may well become it - not now, but through 5, 10 or more years. When he was compared to Trump, he cursed an American billionaire (when he was still a presidential candidate), but now Trump needs Johnson like no other if he really wants to withdraw his country from the European Union and keep it among the first powers of the world.

And Russia needs him for the same purposes - that's why he conducts flattering analogies with the times of great Anglo-Russian friendship. Forced - but still. Answering a question about his visit to the Russian embassy in Iran, where he was shown the hall in which the Tehran conference was held in 1943, Johnson recalled that "there were certain difficulties, you remember, between Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, the relations were not rosy »:

"And Churchill said that he wanted to strangle the Soviet Union even during the birth, and was far from favorably treating Stalin's activities. However, I want to say that our relationship with Sergei (Lavrov) is much better than between Churchill and Stalin. But when it came to the need to solve world problems, the UK and the USSR were able to work together to build a better world. We must accept complexity and can not belittle them. But at the same time, we must work together and do what we can for the world. "

Against the background of Churchill, Johnson also wanted to emphasize his Russophilia: here, say, Churchill was a consistent anti-communist, fought with the Bolsheviks even during the Civil War, but then for the sake of the common cause he went to an alliance with Stalin, and we now have contradictions, but not such serious (on Friday evening he adds that "I'm not a soldier of the Cold War, we do not think in the Cold War paradigms: these blocks, barriers are no longer applicable in the modern world"), and we must work together where we can.

In principle, Russia is not against dialogue with Great Britain - but since the British actually interrupted it, they would also resume it. Johnson's visit showed that London offers to turn the page - while not giving up either sanctions or anti-Russian rhetoric. There is nothing surprising in this, such is the usual practice of British self-conceit. Russia is not averse to talking about any topic - not only not forswearing its own interests, but also forcing the "partner" to feel uncomfortable.

This was especially evident in Johnson's and Lavrov's picks on the topic of Russian interference in internal English affairs, that is, the invented history of Putin's influence on the referendum on Brexit. The theme launched in the development of American history - Atlantic solidarity and the Anglo-Saxon fraternity demanded that London somehow support the American anti-Russian hysteria aimed at discrediting Trump. Johnson literally on the eve of his trip to Moscow said that "we do not have any data on successful Russian intervention in our British democratic procedures," although there are "separate evidences" of attempts at intervention. When on Friday at a joint press conference Lavrova was asked about "interference", this dialogue followed:

- For example, my neighbor Johnson recently stated that he has no evidence that Russia somehow interfered in the referendum on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

- I think that the correct word is "unsuccessful" ...

"Now if he does not object to me, then his reputation among the media in his homeland will be spoiled."

- Sergey, I'm worried about your reputation. It is very important if you recognize Russian attempts to interfere in our referendum. Whatever they were, they were unsuccessful. If they had success, everything would have been quite different.

- Lack of action can never lead to a result, I agree with you. But still the facts that we intervened, but without success, I would like to receive. It's very difficult to talk without facts. I think that you have thought up your own western company. Unfortunately, now you are in the captivity of this topic. It is very difficult to get off the fence, which climbed.

Yes, the invented story about the interference now prevents the British themselves - because you can not admit that it was not, nor to find his evidence. And without this, any conversation with the Russians will be interpreted as a national betrayal, as it is now happening in the United States.

However, there is no doubt that Johnson will get out - no wonder he is the most interesting and strong of the existing British politicians. Dialogue with such an opponent in no way detracts from our national interests.

For example, Stalin considered Churchill not just a geopolitical adversary, but also to those who, under certain circumstances, are able to again become an enemy - in this respect the Soviet leader never had illusions. And even if he found out that at the end of the winter of 1945, Churchill was considering the option of hitting the USSR with the help of capitulating German divisions, and a year later in conversations with the American leadership, he was throwing the topic of a nuclear strike on our country, he would not be too surprised.

We do not and can not have illusions about the goals and views of the British establishment. All British geopolitics is based on confrontation with Russia, on restraining our country and the desire to manipulate it. And the other Borisov in the island elite simply can not. However, unlike the times of Churchill, Britain no longer rules the seas. And although it still rules the money, but this era is coming to an end. And with the withdrawal from the United Kingdom of Scotland, the notion of Great Britain will disappear - remaining only on geographical maps as the name of the island off the coast of Europe.

Speech and Answers to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with British Foreign Minister Johnson, Moscow, 22 December 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

We held talks with British Foreign Minister B.Johnson and his delegation, during which they discussed a wide range of both bilateral and international regional issues.

We agree that the state of Russian-British relations today can not be called satisfactory. Problems have accumulated, the weight of which pulls us back, although both sides, in my opinion, want to find ways to overcome them. Moreover, we believe that the constructive nature of relations between our states is in accordance with the national interests of Russia and the United Kingdom, including from the point of view of our more effective cooperation in the international arena.

Today we discussed a number of concrete steps to normalize bilateral cooperation. Russia has confirmed that it is ready to develop a dialogue on the widest range of issues on the basis of the principles of equality, consideration and respect for each other's interests. We do not accept selectivity, imposing any conditions to solve the issues on our agenda.

They talked about trade and economic cooperation. They noted with satisfaction that this year the growth of mutual trade resumed - in the first three quarters (according to Russian statistics), the trade turnover grew by more than a quarter. We see in this the readiness and interest of business circles in Russia and the UK to continue to benefit from practical cooperation. On our part, we noted that the speedy resumption of the activities of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Investment would facilitate the interests of business and consolidate positive trends in this area.

We also agreed to resolve a number of issues, the solution of which will make it more comfortable for the activities of our diplomatic institutions in Russia and the United Kingdom.

They also noted the need to consider also the topic related to the consequences of Britain's withdrawal from the EU, primarily in terms of the possible impact of final agreements between London and Brussels on Russia's trade and investment ties with the UK and the remaining EU members. We expect that the result of these discussions will be agreements that will allow Russian companies and investors to continue working in the United Kingdom. In a broader context, of course, there is a lot of work to resolve on a bilateral basis a whole range of relevant issues arising from this situation.

We positively assessed the dynamics of our cultural and humanitarian cooperation, which has long and strong traditions. Welcomed the successful holding this year of the Cross-Year of Science and Education, especially as regards the growing interaction between higher education institutions of the two countries. We agreed to prepare an initiative to hold in 2019 a cross year of music.

We discussed, of course, key global and regional problems, including the need to combat international terrorism, which "blooms" in the Middle East and North Africa. We agreed with the need for an early political and diplomatic settlement of the conflicts in this important region, including the situation in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

We told our British partners about Russia's efforts to establish a political process in Syria, including using the opportunities of Astana and the initiative to convene the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi as a support and more effective process under the auspices of the UN in the framework of the Geneva talks.

Discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula, including in the context of the current discussion of this issue in the UN Security Council. In general, we agreed that Russia and the United Kingdom as permanent members of the UN Security Council should work more actively and harmoniously within the framework of the "five" on all issues on the agenda of this key body, which is responsible for issues related to international peace and security.

We also touched on the situation in Ukraine. Once again our position was brought - it is understandable and proceeds from the need for full and rigorous implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2202, which unanimously approved the Minsk "Complex of measures", signed in February 2015

It seemed to me that today's talks were very timely. I hope that they will help normalize our relations in all these and other areas. I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Great Britain B.Johnson for this contact.

Question: There are still areas where Russia is more hostile to Britain than ever since the Cold War. Is it true? Do you trust each other?

S.V. Lavrov (answers after B.Johnson): I, frankly, can not remember any actions of Russia that would be aggressive towards the United Kingdom. We did not blame London for anything. On the contrary, we heard accusations, even quite insultingly formulated in our address, that we support the "criminal" regime in Syria, that we are aggressors, invaders, we annex other territories. This all sounded, in spite of the fact that all the information on all the regional aspects in question, and on many others, about what our position is, what it is conditioned on, is given regularly. In response to these more than aggressive statements from London, from media pages, from TV screens, including from the British leadership and officials, we never broke into a counter aggression. Always urged to specifically consider the facts. Today, also on a whole series of issues on which we differ, we came to an agreement, it seemed to me that it would not hurt to exchange factual data when it comes to important political and foreign policy issues.

As for trust, I trust Boris. I trust so much that even I am ready to call him not Boris, but Boris.

Question (to both ministers): Recently, we witnessed how the interaction between the special services of Russia and the United States prevented the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg and saved many lives. The UK also often faces the problem of terrorism. Tell me, is there any potential for cooperation between Moscow and London on antiterror, in spite of political differences? Are our countries ready to take concrete steps in this area?

S.V. Lavrov (answers after B.Johnson): I agree that this is a very important topic, in which there should not be any artificial limiters for cooperation at a truly global level between all countries without exception. As President of Russia Vladimir Putin stressed, we are in favor of forming a universal anti-terrorist front. There should be no attempts to condition such cooperation whatever. British Foreign Secretary B.Johnson mentioned about a specific aspect related to the World Cup. First, we congratulate England with the fact that it will be represented at this sporting event. Secondly, there are already contacts between our relevant security agencies during the World Cup. I know that meetings were held at the level of the ministries of the interior. Probably, the FSB will inevitably be involved in such events. However, the truly effective cooperation in the fight against terror is still hampered by the decision of the British Government to stop all contacts with the FSB, which was adopted in connection with the so-called. "The case of AV Litvinenko."

The FSB is our main body in the fight against terrorism. With the FSB and under his leadership, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee works. Without full contacts with the FSB, which, as I said, London does not go on, it is difficult to count on success in this area, which we all deserve and are waiting for.

We are concerned that, despite our repeated appeals, the unavailability of the relevant British law enforcement bodies to provide us with information on the so-called "unrest" is still not available. "The case of AV Litvinenko," which was classified in large part without any intelligible explanations and remains so until now. I think that this artificial bundle of a very vague business with obviously necessary cooperation in the fight against terror will still not persist.

Question (addressed to B.Johnson): This week you compared Russia with the ancient state of Sparta, calling it militaristic, anti-democratic and closed. Why did you say that? Does Lavrov agree with this comparison?

S.V. Lavrov (answers after B.Johnson): Honestly, I do not remember that the Soviet Union was singing about Sparta and the Spartans as an example to which the Soviet country should be leveled. Although, for example, in the US, the Spartans were among those whom Hollywood advocated as an example of courage, determination and strength. But this is a story, everyone perceives it in their own way.

Question: Every time you rejected any threats of Russia's interference in the elections, but the world did not believe a single word of yours. Why?

Lavrov: Today I discussed with Boris the question of our interference in all kinds of elections. In the United States, there have been trials for a year already: in the Senate hearings, as part of a process led by special prosecutor R. Muller, in other formats. Dozens of people were interrogated and sworn under oath. Knowing the American system, when so many people are involved in any specific discussions about Russian intervention, it is difficult to imagine that in almost a year there was not a single leak. This is completely unlike the American political system. Until we are presented with concrete facts, we can not intelligibly discuss this topic with anyone.

I already recalled that we were also suspected that we interfered in the elections in France and Germany. According to the FRG there is an established fact: several years ago it was confirmed that the US National Assembly from its headquarters in Germany overheard the conversations of the Chancellor A. Merkel. This topic is perceived by all as a given, but no one expresses concern about it.

As for your statement, as if we all convince ourselves that we did not interfere, and the world does not believe us, then by the "world" you probably understand the Western community. But even in the Western community there are many figures who have a sound mind and an unobserved look. For example, my neighbor B.Johnson recently stated that he has no evidence that Russia somehow interfered in the referendum on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

B.Johnson: I think that the correct word is "unsuccessful" ...

Lavrov: Now if he does not object to me, then in his homeland his reputation among the media will be spoiled.

B.Johnson: Sergey, I'm worried about your reputation. It is very important if you recognize Russian attempts to interfere in our referendum. Whatever they were, they were unsuccessful. If they had success, everything would have been quite different.

Lavrov: Lack of action can never lead to a result, I agree with you. But still the facts that we intervened, but without success, I would like to receive. It's very difficult to talk without facts. I think that you have thought up your own western company. Unfortunately, now you are in the captivity of this topic. It is very difficult to get off the fence, which climbed.

Question: Recently, we've heard a lot of negative things about Russia from your British colleague, including talk of hostility, interference in the referendum in the UK, criticism of his colleagues who spoke with the Russian media, specifically with "Rusha Tudey." Today such rhetoric has continued or has it remained in the UK for an internal audience?

Lavrov: You have heard that we are now talking about our negotiations, on the topic of intervention. We still did not see a single fact. If there are a lot of them, perhaps something would have flowed, but so far, except for allegations (that for 4 pennies someone posted ads in some social networks), we did not hear anything.

Of course, we are concerned that in the "cradle of democracy," in the United Kingdom, people are attacked only for what they say to Russian journalists. This, indeed, should concern the current Government, since it does not add to it a good reputation.

I would like to note that Boris said that for the first time since 1945, in connection with the so-called. "Annexation of Crimea" in Europe, some rules were violated. Let me remind you that in the Crimea there was a referendum. Those who want to make sure that the Crimeans have made their choice voluntarily, go to the Crimea, look with their own eyes and do not believe that propaganda is "molded" on every corner from the filing of our Ukrainian neighbors and those who patronize the current Kiev regime.

What really can not be disputed is that for the first time since 1945 in Europe, one OSCE member state was attacked by other OSCE member countries. I am referring to the former Yugoslavia, which was completely unlawfully subjected to aggression, dismembered and without any referenda, the territory under the name of Kosovo was declared independent. This is also a situation that was actively considered in and in the context of comparisons with the Crimean referendum, where the situation was, I repeat, quite different and relied on the will and international law.

At today's meeting, we did not go away from acute topics, you heard about it today at a press conference. But I like how we discuss it. At least, I do not feel any hostility and do not feel. I think that this form of dialogue is very useful and will eventually allow us to move towards the normalization of our relations for the benefit of our peoples and international cooperation.

Question: Mr. B.Johnson, just a few days before your visit, one British parliamentarian advised to be more careful in Russia: not to take the phone, so as not to listen, not to drink vodka, be more careful with food (can poison), not ride alone in the elevator. Tell me, did these tips come in handy? Did you really think that it is so dangerous here?

Sergey Lavrov (responds after B.Johnson, who said that immediately after his arrival he gave his coat to Sergey Lavrov): I can say that in the pockets of Boris's coat there was nothing.

Russian Foreign Ministry website

Peter Akopov
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