Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday denounced the EU and the U.S. for trying to dictate a world order according to their whims, and to force Russia and China to bend to the West’s will.
Lavrov’s comments — in a lengthy manifesto, published in Russian in the daily newspaper Kommersant, and in English in the journal Russia in Global Affairs — came just days after a high-stakes summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva had raised hope of new cooperation and, perhaps, an end to years of badly deteriorated relations between Moscow and the West.
But he seemed to allow little possibility for this new reality. “Without any false modesty, Washington and Brussels called themselves ‘an anchor for democracy, peace and security,’ as opposed to ‘authoritarianism in all its forms,’” he wrote. “In particular, they proclaimed their intent to use sanctions to ‘support democracy across the globe.’”
Lavrov’s article was also published just days after a European Council summit last week, where the 27 heads of state and government unanimously adopted unusually tough conclusions setting preconditions for Putin’s government before seeking the warming of diplomatic relations. The leaders’ settled on their statement after a fractious debate, in which Poland and the Baltics led a successful effort to reject a proposal by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for new outreach toward Moscow, including the possibility of a summit.
In his article, Lavrov bashed EU leaders as little more than Biden’s backup singers, who were handed their song sheets during meetings of the G7, at NATO headquarters and in Brussels prior to the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva. And he complained that U.S. officials immediately after Geneva began asserting that they had set new demands for Moscow and Russia would face increased pressure, including further sanctions, if it did not comply.
“European capitals immediately took heed of the Big Brother’s sentiment and picked up the tune with much gusto and relish,” Lavrov wrote. “The gist of their statements is that they are ready to normalise their relations with Moscow, but only after it changes the way it behaves. It is as if a choir has been pre-arranged to sing along with the lead vocalist.”
In accusing the West of hypocrisy in trying to dictate its worldview to Moscow and Beijing, Lavrov repeated false accusations, such as that the U.S., NATO and the EU supported a coup in Ukraine in 2014. In fact, President Viktor Yanukovich abandoned the country following months of sustained protests in Kyiv after he broke a pledge to sign an economic and political association agreement with the EU.
Lavrov, of course, also made no mention of Russia’s malign activities abroad, including assassinations, cyberattacks and election meddling. And he referred only obliquely to the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea, and Russia’s long financial and military support of separatists in eastern Ukraine, as “efforts to stand up for the rights of Russians.”
Lavrov also did not directly mention the opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was the subject of an assassination attempt before being arrested and jailed upon returning to Russia after recovering in Germany.
Instead, Lavrov noted that Putin’s oft-repeated stance that Russia will never bend to to the pressure of Western sanctions and he warned Western capitals that this view was widely shared among the Russian electorate.
“There have been no unilateral concessions since the late 1990s and there never will be,” Lavrov wrote. “If you want to work with us, recover lost profits and business reputations, let us sit down and agree on ways we can meet each other half way in order to find fair solutions and compromises.”
Lavrov is deeply schooled in the procedures of the United Nations Security Council from years based in New York and a highly skilled negotiator. But he can also be deeply cynical and dryly sarcastic to the point of defying reality, even to the discomfort of his own citizens, arguing they should be willing to forgo Italian parmesan cheese to send a geopolitical message.
Lavrov repeated Putin’s call for a summit meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S — a format Moscow has long preferred, though one that some analysts argue is outdated. He insisted Russia is willing to talk, something Western capitals don’t necessarily buy.
“We will always remain open to honest dialogue with anyone who demonstrates a reciprocal readiness to find a balance of interests firmly rooted in international law,” Lavrov wrote. “These are the rules we adhere to.”