Moscow, 2 February 2022 (TDI): Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov gave an interview to Channel One’s Voskresnoye Vremya Program.

US-Russia Relations: Historical and Current Dynamics

The interview started with the question about the Camp David Declaration. In 1992, President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, and US President, George Bush, signed the Camp David declaration.

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In this context, the interviewer brought out the topic of US-Russia relations as the declaration stated that future relations of both states would be based on friendship.

Sergey Lavrov replied;

 “This question concerns the situation that took shape following the disintegration of the USSR and during the emergence of the new Russian statehood. This happened a mere six weeks after the Belovezh Accords and just over a month after the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States was proclaimed in Almaty, Kazakhstan.”

He further reiterated;

“At that time our relations seemed absolutely trouble-free. Later they were characterized by an address to the US Congress delivered by President Boris Yeltsin, who thanked America for supporting Russian democracy. There was certainly a touch of euphoria.

The Russian foreign policymakers believed that all problems would be solved automatically, since Russia would be part of the “civilized world,” Western culture and Western security architecture, and would get strong support in various areas.”

Along these lines, the Russian Foreign Minister pointed out remarks of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. These remarks are highlighted at news conferences, the Defense Ministry, and the expanded Collegium in the Foreign Ministry of Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s remarks in the words of Sergey Lavrov are as follows;

“He said everyone [in Russia] believed then that from now on everything would be all right. At the same time, the West determined that Russia would now follow a course reflecting its [the West’s] interests.”

Besides that, regarding the early 2000s, the Russian Foreign Minister stated that Russia restored its historical and national identity. He added;

“The West became aware of this and started reproaching Russia for drifting away from the democratic principles. The watershed was Vladimir Putin’s Munich speech in 2007.”

Following that, the Russian Foreign Minister also pointed out the reaction of Western Scholars and academics. This one in the words of Sergey Lavrov states the following;

“US academic and political science journals (Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and particularly The National Interest and its contributing editor Ted Galen Carpenter) ran a series of articles focusing on Russia’s 2007 statement about its grievances and its growing disillusionment with the West’s attitude towards its interests. They stated directly that Vladimir Putin was not heard at the time.”

Russian Foreign Minister also pointed out that Russia is facing serious problems due to the careless and dishonest behavior of the West. He further said that there could have been a different scenario.

He then remarked that people learn from mistakes. Besides, the Russian Foreign Minister emphasized that Russia now knows the true value of the words of the West.

Therefore, Sergey Lavrov reiterated that the West must provide Russia with written proposals and legally binding security guarantees. He also said that this step would regard the legitimate interests of the Russian Federation throughout the European continent.

The case of NATO Expansion Policy

In particular, the interviewer asked the Russian Foreign Minister about NATO expansion policy and US-Russian relations in this regard. Russian Foreign Minister replied that Washington’s policies are pragmatic and utilitarian at the international stage. His answer is as follows;

“When the United States thinks that something suits its interests, it can betray those with whom it was friendly, with whom it cooperated, and who catered to its positions around the world.”

Russian Foreign Minister then highlighted a few examples i.e.,

“Take former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Washington didn’t lift a finger when he was arrested, although Mubarak didn’t try to escape but remained in Egypt after stepping down.

For a long time, he was taken to court in a cage. Look at what happened in Afghanistan. There are many examples when the Americans’ actions were guided exclusively by their pragmatic or even selfish interests.”

As a result, the Russian Foreign Minister stated that Russia has no illusions. But, it expects stable and friendly relations with the United States and all other countries. Above all, he pointed out that these relations must be based on mutual respect and equality.

During a meeting with Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin also reaffirmed this stance in Geneva in June 2021. Sergey Lavrov then referred to the US Political System where politics involve many players. He stated;

“In the United States, politics is made by a number of players. It is a complicated system where vital global security and stability issues often become hostage to intraparty games and the interests of senators from various states. Any law can be overloaded with irrelevant amendments. This is how they live”.

He further remarked;

“But this doesn’t make life easier for others. Elections are held in the United States every other year. Even in the autumn of 2021, they said that their main task was to prepare for the autumn 2022 election campaign.

Events that have vital significance for the future of the country take place there every other year. And they say on the international stage that this factor should be considered. This is life.”

For these reasons, Sergey Lavrov added;

“We have our interests, factors, and life. You have only one life. Based on our bitter experience, we don’t want our security to be infringed upon every single day.”

Now comes the case of the NATO expansion policy. In this regard, American academic journals have cited Article 10 of the Washington Treaty. It reads as follows:

“The parties may (or may not) invite any other European state in a position to further the principles of this treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this treaty”.

In the context of the Washington Treaty, the Russian Foreign Minister said that NATO members have to overlook whether the invited countries can contribute to the alliance’s security or not. He further noted that Ukraine can’t contribute to NATO’s security.

After that, he also highlighted that NATO has granted membership to countries with which Russia has friendly relations. He mentioned Montenegro and Macedonia as examples in this context.

Russian Foreign Minister added;

“How are these countries contributing to the bloc’s security, considering their military and military-technical resources? The reply we have received from Brussels, from Jens Stoltenberg, says proudly that NATO is a defensive alliance. It can hardly be described as defensive”.

Nevertheless, Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia has established friendly foreign relations as per the rules of OSCE. These rules include the principle of indivisibility also. The principle stipulates that no state would strengthen its security at the expense of other states.

Still, as per the Russian Foreign Minister’s words, there are five waves of NATO’s expansion. Therefore, the case of Ukraine and NATO will undermine the US-Russia relations. In that way, he states;

“And every time it turns out that the line they must defend has moved more towards the east. It has come close to Ukraine now. They want to draw that country into the bloc, although it is clear to everyone that Ukraine is not ready and cannot contribute to NATO’s security.

This will undermine relations with the Russian Federation because it will be a gross violation of the official political commitment made by the Presidents of the United States and other NATO countries.

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Let them comfort themselves by saying that it is a defensive alliance.

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It doesn’t make much difference to us. The line of defense has come very close to us.” 

Lastly, Sergey Lavrov said that the Russian Foreign Ministry will send an official request to NATO and OSCE countries as well. He stressed that they must explain how they are going to honor their obligations. Perhaps, it is a vital factor that will determine Russia’s proposals in the future.

Russian Foreign Minister also said that;

“If they don’t intend to honor it, we would like them to explain why not. It will be the key factor for determining our future proposals about which we will report to President Vladimir Putin.”