Moscow, 31 January 2022 (TDI): Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, gave an interview regarding Ukraine’s crisis and US-Russia relations to Sputnik, Echo of Moscow, Govorit Moskva, and Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station.

He also shed light on the probability of war between Russia and Ukraine. The interview was conducted on January 28, 2022.

On War Question

Regarding war options, Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia has no intention to go to war. But, it doesn’t mean Russia would allow anyone to trample on its interests. Moreover, the negotiations are not over yet.

Russia’s proposals are concrete. They are part of the agreement with NATO and draft treaty with Washington. Therefore, Russia demands concrete replies.

In return, Western powers are focusing on secondary issues such as intermediate and short-range missiles. The missile matter was part of the INF Treaty. However West ignored INF Treaty earlier.

Besides, the West is focusing on initiatives of the General Staff of the Russian Federation on how to conduct military exercises. Lavrov reiterated Russia needs to reconfigure the conceptual underpinnings of European Security.

Astana and Istanbul Agreement of OSCE

In 2010, OSCE member states signed an agreement in Astana that carried principles to ensure the indivisibility of security. A similar agreement was also signed in 1999 in Istanbul.

At that time, the west discarded one principle from the agreement which suggested that each country has the right to choose its alliances and partners. As per the agreement rules, this right comes with a condition.

The condition suggests that no country can strengthen its security at the expense of others. This applies to NATO’s Open Door Policy as well.

I am sending official requests to all my colleagues asking them directly to clarify how they are going to fulfill, in the current historical circumstances, the obligations that their countries have signed onto at the highest level. These are the matters of principle.” – Lavrov

Contrarily, Western leaders, such as Josep Borrel and Antony Blinken, now emphasize the Euro-Atlantic architecture but ignore Istanbul and Astana Declaration.

They focus on the 1990 Charter of Paris and the Helsinki Final Act. These documents don’t comment on whether countries should strengthen their security at the expense of others or not.

Proposals and Response Measures

Lavrov further stated that it is a matter of principles for Russia. He then quoted the words of the President of Russia which are as follows;

“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.” – Russian President

Moreover, these measures can come in any size or shape. Military and other departments will also coordinate while taking measures. Similarly, the US response is a kind of diplomatic model.

On the other side, the NATO document is obsessed with ideology about NATO’s special role and mission. In return, Russia is preparing the reply. Regarding sanctions, Lavrov remarked that it is in no one’s interest. And West understands this.

US Treatment of Russian Diplomats

More recently, Russian diplomats were forced to leave the embassy in the US.

Lavrov quoted an incident in this regard. He said, in 2019, a Deputy US Secretary of State suggested that Russia needs to streamline its diplomatic mission. He further stated that US diplomats work abroad for about three years.

Thus, Russian diplomats should also serve the term of three years. In response, the Russian administration said that if the US Embassy practice sending diplomats for three years then the Russian Embassy practice, not hiring local personnel in Embassies.

This was a kind of diplomatic tit-for-tat. How can the US impose this rule on Russia only? Why not other states? Along these lines, Lavrov said that this issue of diplomats is discussed with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Another meeting is proposed as well. Indeed, Russia has options to equalize the diplomatic presence with the US.

Significance of the Minsk Agreement

Meanwhile, Micheal McFaul of California, a Stanford University Professor, asked why Russia doesn’t authorize UNSC to use force in Ukraine if needed. He further asked why Russia hasn’t recognized Donetsk and Lugansk republics up till now.

Both regions are facing the same risk as in the case of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in 2008. In return, Lavrov stated that these are ignorant questions. The word ‘if’ does not suit the diplomatic practice.

Then comes the matter of recognition. There, Lavrov suggested reading the Minsk Agreement. This agreement is all about the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine.

Before the Minsk Meeting, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics declared their independence. Resultantly, Germany and France endorsed Russia to persuade the leaders of both states for joining the Minsk Agreement.

Subsequently, this will alter the result of the 2014 referendum in Donbas. Most importantly, recognition will be offered concerning the principles of the Minsk Agreement. And, Minsk Agreement is already endorsed by UNSC.

For these reasons, if the US doesn’t change its position then Russia will do the same. In particular, Russia’s stance is based on signed agreements. Therefore, there is no room for Russia to compromise on principles. What matters is to not dodge the responsibility.

Autonomous Status of Donbas

Thereafter, a question was asked about the autonomous status of Donbas. Lavrov stated that the Russian and US Presidents met in Geneva in June 2021. There, Joe Biden stressed the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

This included the autonomous status of Donbas as well. Likewise, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, also emphasized the significance of the Minsk agreement. It is pertinent to note that the US is not part of the Normandy Format.

Supply of Weapons to Ukraine

At the moment, Lavrov commented, the West is playing a game of weapons. Surely, there is no need to involve in senseless armed conflict. Regrettably, the West has used Zelensky’s regime to escalate tensions.

In brief, Ukraine is a tool to destabilize the Russian Federation. But, this strategy will lead west nowhere.

Consequently, the Kyiv regime is now apprehensive. According to them, there is no need to escalate tensions to this level. Also, wondering why to evacuate diplomats.

In the same vein, Lavrov stated, that NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, has lost touch with reality. Lavrov further explained the reasons behind stationed troops at the Ukraine border.

As per Western reports, there are 100,000 troops on the line of contact. Kyiv doesn’t control these troops. Lavrov said that the major portion of these troops includes the territorial defense units, former volunteer battalions, and militia.

MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense system) is handed out to them. Thus, if President Zelensky wants to restore bilateral, Russia is open to considering proposals. President Vladimir Putin has also reaffirmed this point in no uncertain terms.

“But if he (Zelensky) wants to discuss Donbas – please go to the Contact Group, which, according to the Normandy Format’s decision, is in charge of all settlement issues directly between Kyiv, Donetsk, and Lugansk,” Lavrov states.