Lavrov: US Response Has Nothing of Substance on the Main Issue

But suddenly there's great willingness to discuss secondary issues on which Russians were previously rebuffed

Highlighting the most interesting parts of two recent Lavrov interviews posted by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

No positive response on the main issue:

As for the essence of the document, the responses offer grounds for serious talks only on matters of secondary importance. There is no positive response to the main issue, which is our clear stand on the continued NATO enlargement towards the east and the deployment of strike weapons that can pose a threat to the territory of the Russian Federation, which we consider unacceptable.

Why does the US feel the obligations made to OSCE are a menu to pick and choose from?

Now that we have cited the promises made not in word but in the form of documents signed by the leaders of all OSCE states, including the US President (the 1999 Istanbul Declaration and the 2010 Astana Declaration), our Western partners have to find a way out of a very serious situation. The point is that both declarations set out the participating states’ commitment to the principle of indivisible security and their pledge to honour it without fail.

This principle was formulated very clearly. It includes two interconnected approaches. The first is the freedom of states to choose military alliances. The second is the obligation not to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states. In other words, the freedom to choose security arrangements is conditioned by the pledge to respect the security interests of any other OSCE state, including the Russian Federation.

During my talks with Antony Blinken in Geneva, I asked him to explain why they regard the obligations made within the OSCE as a menu from which they are free to choose the dishes that taste good to them, and why they are disregarding or talking round their pledge to honour the interests of other countries. Mr Blinken did not reply to my question. He only shrugged his shoulders, and that’s it.

I told him, just as I have told our other colleagues, that we would shortly send them an official request for an explanation why they choose only one of their commitments and disregard the other commitments on which its implementation depends. It will be an official request sent to all countries whose leaders signed the Istanbul and Astana declarations. I hope that it will not take them long to explain the Western position.

Suddenly the Americans are receptive to Russian proposals (of secondary importance) that they previously refused to talk about:

If it depends on the Russian Federation, there will be no war. We don’t want wars, but we won’t allow anyone to trample on our interests or ignore them, either.

I cannot say that the talks are over. As you are aware, it took the Americans and their NATO allies more than a month to study our extremely straightforward proposals that are part of the draft treaty with Washington and the agreement with NATO. We received their response only the day before yesterday.

It is written in that typically Western style. In many ways, they are confusing the issue, but also providing kernels of rationality on secondary issues such as intermediate- and shorter-range missiles which were quite important for us at some point. When the Americans destroyed the INF Treaty, we urged them to listen to reason. President Vladimir Putin sent a message to all OSCE members suggesting that they join our unilateral moratorium when agreeing on verification measures. It was ignored. Now, it has become part of their proposals.

Similarly, our initiatives that were introduced by the General Staff of the Russian Federation to conduct military exercises further away from the borders on both sides, to agree on a critical safe distance between approaching combat aircraft and ships, as well as a number of other confidence-building, deconflicting and de-escalation measures, were ignored. All of that has been rejected during the past two to three years. Now, they propose discussing this.

That is, the constructive approach in these proposals has, in fact, been borrowed from Russia’s recent initiatives. I think that now, as we say in Russia, “we are getting somewhere.”

What will Russia’s response be:

What will we do if the West does not listen to reason? The President of Russia has already said what. If our attempts to come to terms on mutually acceptable principles of ensuring security in Europe fail to produce the desired result, we will take response measures. Asked directly what these measures might be, he said: they could come in all shapes and sizes. He will make decisions based on the proposals submitted by our military. Naturally, other departments will also take part in drafting these proposals.

How Moscow overturned the result of the 2014 Donbass self-determination referendum:

The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics had already declared independence several months prior to the Minsk meeting. Germany and France, who endorsed the text of the Minsk agreements with us and the Ukrainians, begged us, with Pyotr Poroshenko joining those requests, to persuade the leaders of the two republics to sign the Minsk agreements thus, in essence, changing the results of the spring 2014 referendum in Donbass. 

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