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767 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     759 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities



Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at the Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum, Solnechnogorsk, August 15, 2019

Good afternoon.

Thank you for the warm greetings. This is not my first meeting with Terra Scientia students, but it is the first time in this picturesque place. This is more convenient for those from Moscow because it’s closer. In any event, all our previous meetings were fairly useful.

We are fueled by the interest of our society in foreign policy and international affairs, and are always ready to use our knowledge, experience and practical actions to meet this interest on behalf of our citizens. It is particularly important when young people are interested in foreign policy issues. After all, you will shape Russia’s future and its future place in international life.

There is always feedback and an interactive approach. For me and my colleagues (I talked to my deputies and department directors that also meet with representatives of civil society), meetings like this provide very important feedback. If we do not know what specific foreign policy issues are of concern to our people, including above all the young people, we would probably just be groping in the dark. It is important for us to act in the interests of our country, which is certainly represented by our people.

I will not describe in detail the trends that are now developing in the world. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has repeatedly talked about them. Recently, a detailed discussion also took place at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. I will only say that the main trend is the confrontation between a new polycentric, more fair and democratic world arrangement that is objectively taking shape today and the striving of a fairly narrow US-led group of states to prevent this arrangement from coming into fruition. These states are doing all they can to secure domination in every area of international life – military and political domain, the economy, and interpretation of the standards of respect for human rights and history, which is also a very meaningful topic today. Heavy battles are taking place even in sports. For the most part, they are aimed at enabling Anglo-Saxons to set the order, including as regards punishment for doping and identification of the guilty. 

Another major trend that has manifested itself in our Western colleagues’ policies is their desire to replace international law which, by definition, is about universally agreed norms and principles, with certain rules which our Western colleagues develop among themselves and then present as the ultimate truth, which all other members of the international community should follow. If you are interested, I will provide specific examples during our discussion. There are many of them.

New centres of power are emerging in Eurasia, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa. However, in the face of an emerging world order that is balanced and based on respect for the interests of all members, the West is trying to maintain its superiority and ensure its dominance despite the objective course of history. However, we must give the historical truth its due: for about five centuries, the West has dictated the rules in the modern world. But the world is changing, and the colonial era is a thing of the past. The centres of global economic growth and global finance are shifting from the West to other regions. To counter this trend, our Western, primarily American, colleagues, are resorting to the most unscrupulous methods and unfair competition in an attempt to secure a unilateral advantage. To do so, they are using economic sanctions, blackmail, threats, ultimatums and direct pressure, including the use of military force, as was the case during interventions in Yugoslavia in 1999, Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. The peoples of these countries who came under attack in these acts of aggression didn’t see any improvements in their lives. Libya’s very survival as a state is now in question, though we are all trying to help improve the situation.

In opposition to such an illegitimate and unlawful policy pursued by our Western colleagues, we maintain our stance, which is informed by the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the President of Russia, a revised version of which was adopted in 2016. First of all, it is based on the need to create the most favourable external conditions for the development of our country, in particular its economic growth, and to address its social problems. To this end, it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment, the most favourable conditions for our citizens and our economic operators across the world. These goals, according to the Foreign Policy Concept, must be achieved solely on the basis of respect for international law, primarily, its components such as the principle of sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs, respect for the right of the peoples to determine their own future without outside interference, peaceful settlement of disputes and a prohibition on the threat or use of force. These are the principles of the UN Charter.

When we analyse the activities of the UN General Assembly after each of its annual sessions, we can easily see that the vast majority of UN member states adopt positions that are identical to Russia’s. I believe it is simply ridiculous in the current situation to claim that the policy of Washington or Brussels seeking to “isolate” Russia has yielded any results. We never act out of resentment and are always open to candid discussions with our partners in the East, South or West provided such discussions are based on equality and respect for each other's interests, and also seek to find solutions to controversial issues based on a balance of interests.

Question: Yesterday we had a discussion on soft power with Prorector of the Higher School of Economics. What do you think about this concept? And what, in your opinion, are the main trajectories for expanding Russia’s soft power today?

Sergey Lavrov: Generally speaking, soft power is the natural manifestation of technological change around the world. Politics used to be limited to deciding matters of war and peace: someone invades the other, and then they talk, or they try to talk to each other before going to war. This is what foreign policy was all about in the days when technology like we have now did not exist. Today, you can promote your interests in various regions or countries by relying on methods that are far less destructive, without recourse to military power, that is by influencing the public opinion and using the whole range of the available opportunities offered by online resources and social media. I will spare you from a detailed review of all the ways in which we can convey our ideas, assessments and perspectives to anyone who wants to hear what we have to say.

The second important aspect in terms of soft power has to do with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Here in Russia we actively encourage the development of NGOs in the sphere of international relations. We have built partnerships with non-profits interested in foreign policy, and have been maintaining our ties with them. Unfortunately, there are not so many of them. For example, just over sixty Russian organisations have been granted consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is not that we do not assist them in obtaining this recognition. We are always there for those of them who would like to be granted this status. Sixty is quite a good result. There used to be very few organisations of this kind. At the same time, there are thousands of Western NGOs that were granted this status by UN agencies. So Russia’s civil society has a lot of room for improvement. We are proactive in our efforts to encourage the NGO community to work on international matters. Foreign Ministry departments hold monthly meetings with the corresponding NGOs, and my deputies are holding meetings with representatives of NGOs on a more or less quarterly basis. There is also an annual meeting that I attend to sum up the results of these interactions and to discuss what the NGOs need and how the Foreign Ministry can assist them in their efforts.

The media have to be mentioned among the soft power tools. There are a lot of questions here. On a level playing field, Russian NGOs, even though they are not as numerous, are serious competitors and can effectively stand up for justice, truth and international law. Unfortunately, these are not the principles pursued and preached by many Western NGOs who do not shun away from various dirty tricks in order to promote the agenda of their sponsors. In so many cases these NGOs are established and financed by the state. Most of the leading American NGOs receive funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which in turn gets its funding from the US budget. The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute rely on government support in one way or another. These structures provide funding to multiple organisations working on specific aspects of international affairs.

I believe that justice is on our side. We need to continue to defend it and expand Russia’s footprint within the international platforms. So far we are behind in terms of numbers. But let me repeat that if we are talking about the media, RT and Sputnik, just the two of them, created a situation in which they were referred to in the West as the main threat to the public opinion. By the way, London has recently hosted the Global Conference for Media Freedom. RT and Sputnik were not invited to attend under the pretext that they were propaganda mouthpieces rather than media outlets. What do you think about that? For this reason, when soft power is employed using principles and criteria of this kind, it looks like just another attempt to secure unilateral advantages through unfair competition.

We will continue to support all those in the Russian civil society interested in projecting our soft power on human rights, fighting poverty, environmental protection or any other problems that are discussed internationally. We will do everything to support your undertakings. If you are interested, if there are organisations that have not been involved with the Foreign Ministry thus far, please make sure to contact us. We will definitely support you.


To be continued...



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