Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s news conference on European security issues, Moscow, December 1, 2022

Esteemed journalists,

Good afternoon.

Thank you for responding to our invitation. We considered it important to discuss today problems of European and, hence, global security. In Europe, NATO’s members are increasingly claiming global domination. The alliance has already declared the Indo-Pacific region a zone of its responsibility. Events on our continent are of interest not only to the Europeans or residents of North America but also to representatives of all countries, primarily the developing nations who want to understand what initiatives the NATO states, which have declared their global ambitions, can draft for their regions.

Why did we decide to hold this news conference today? The event that used to be called the OSCE Ministerial Council opened in Lodz today. This is a good reason to see what role this organisation has played since its establishment.

The Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975 and was qualified as the greatest achievement of diplomacy of the time, a harbinger of a new era in East-West relations. Nevertheless, the number of problems kept piling up. Now the OSCE has amassed a huge amount of problems. They have a deep historical projection that is rooted in the late Soviet period, the 1980s and 1990s when the number of missed opportunities exceeded all possible expectation of even the most pessimistic analysts.

Let’s recall the year 1990 – the anticipation of the end of the Cold War. Many even declared the end of it at that time. The world was expected to focus on universal values and receive “the dividends of peace.” A summit of the organisation that was called then the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was also held that year. During that summit, the participants, including the NATO and Warsaw Treaty members, adopted a Charter of Paris for a New Europe that announced that “the era of confrontation and division of Europe has ended” and declared the elimination of barriers for building a truly common European home without dividing lines.

It was 1990. You would think if everyone had made such sound declarations, what was it that prevented them from delivering on them? The point is the West had no intention of taking any steps to put these nice words and obligations into life. It could be said with confidence that the West at the time supported this type of slogans as it reckoned that our country would never again regain its positions in Europe, let alone in the world. The Westerners believed that it was “the end of history”, as they said at the time. From then on, everyone would live by the rules of liberal democracy, so they could relax and promise anything. Those attractive slogans ended up hanging in the air.

Here’s an interesting fact from that period. In 1990, at the closing stage of the CSCE Summit in Paris, US Secretary of State James Baker warned the US President that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe might pose a real threat to NATO. I understand him – this is really so. When the Cold War was over, many sensible and farsighted politicians and political scientists said it would make sense if not only the Warsaw Treaty, which had ceased to exist by that time, but also the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was dissolved and if every effort was made to turn the CSCE into a genuine bridge between East and West, and into a single platform for achieving common objectives based on a balance of interests of all member countries. 

This never happened. In reality, the West sought to maintain its dominance. Allowing the calls for equality and removing dividing lines and barriers, as well as for a genuine Common European Home to come true was seen by the Westerners as a threat to their position, which was to preserve the dominance of Washington and Brussels in all global affairs, primarily in Europe. This basic instinct that both the Americans and other NATO member countries never lost explains the policy of expanding NATO heedlessly, thereby eroding the main idea of the OSCE as a collective tool for ensuring equal and indivisible security, and makes all those beautiful documents that this organisation has approved since the 1990s worthless. It was of principal importance to the West to show who the master of the Common European Home was – a home that all [countries] had collectively undertaken to build. Essentially, this is where the notorious concept of a “rules-based order” is rooted. It was already at that time that the West regarded these “rules” as an indispensable element of its position in the world arena. This perception that the Western “rules” can resolve any problem without consulting anyone allowed the West to feel free to subject Yugoslavia to barbaric bombing for 80 days and to destroy its civilian infrastructure. Later, under a fictitious pretext, the Westerners invaded Iraq and bombed it destroying everything that civilians needed and that was essential for the life support system of the country. Next, Libya as a state was destroyed. Then followed many other risky ventures, which you know well.

We talk about the aggression against Yugoslavia because we can still feel its effects. It was a flagrant violation of the Helsinki principles. In March 1999, NATO, seeking to show that it can do whatever it wants, opened Pandora’s box by trampling underfoot the fundamentals of European security adopted by the OSCE.

Russia hoped that the Helsinki principles could be revived. We continued fighting for the OSCE. We proposed drafting a legally binding document, an OSCE Charter based on the Helsinki Final Act. The West did not accept our initiative.

Those who honestly believed that any issues should be settled on the basis of common European principles worked towards the adoption of a series of vital documents, including the Charter for European Security, in Istanbul in 1999. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) was adapted to the situation that developed after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. The CFE was drafted in the era of two military-political blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO). When the latter was dissolved, the permissible number of the sides’ weapons coordinated in the context of the East-West confrontation no longer corresponded to reality, because many European countries were being drawn into NATO. After a series of difficult talks, the CFE was adapted, and the new text was signed in Istanbul in 1999. The adapted treaty was praised as the cornerstone of European security.

You know what happened to it. Trying to preserve the old document, the United States prohibited it allies from signing the adapted text, because the initial treaty provided legal grounds for NATO’s domination after the dissolution of the WTO. The United States subsequently pulled out of the ABM Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, as well as scrapped the Open Skies Treaty. The OSCE, although not completely indifferent to those changes, was unable to speak out in the treaties’ defence. The OSCE chairperson-in-office and secretary-general kept silent.

Another document adopted in Istanbul in 1999, the Charter for European Security, reads that no country should ensure its security at the expense of other states’ security. Nevertheless, NATO’s eastward expansion continued despite all the declarations adopted by all OSCE member states at the top level.

In 2010, Russia and other like-minded states, which did not lose hope of saving the organisation, adopted a declaration at the Astana summit, which said that security must be equal and indivisible, and that states should be free to choose alliances provided they do not try to strengthen their own security by weakening the security of others. The crucial formula is that no state or group of states have a right to claim pre-eminent responsibility for security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

If you have been following European developments in recent years, you will know that NATO has violated every one of its obligations. The alliance’s expansion created direct threats to the Russian Federation. The bloc’s military infrastructure moved closer to our borders, which ran counter to its commitments under the Istanbul Declaration of 1999. NATO stated unequivocally that the alliance alone could decide to whom it would provide legal security guarantees – that was also a direct violation of their Istanbul and Astana obligations.

We realised that NATO was simply ignoring those political declarations, thinking it was allowed to disregard them completely even though their presidents had signed those documents. In 2008, Russia proposed codifying those political declarations in order to make them legally binding. The proposal was declined, with the explanation that such legal guarantees in Europe could only be provided among NATO members. The alliance continued, absolutely consciously and knowingly, to pursue its thoughtless policy of artificial expansion with no real threats to NATO countries out there.

We remember the time when NATO was created. The first NATO Secretary General Hastings Ismay coined this formula: the purpose of NATO is “to keep the Soviet Union out [of Europe], the Americans in, and the Germans down.” What is happening now is nothing short of a return to the alliance’s conceptual priorities from 73 years ago. Nothing has changed. NATO is determined to keep the Russians “out,” while the Americans dream of keeping not only the Germans, but the whole of Europe “down” – and have in fact already enslaved the entire European Union. This philosophy of domination and unilateral advantages has not gone anywhere when the Cold War ended.

Over the time since the bloc was created, NATO has hardly been able to present a single real success story that would be to its credit. The Alliance brings devastation and suffering to those outside it. I have already mentioned its aggressions against Serbia and Libya, which led to the destruction of Libyan statehood; Iraq got added to the mix. Let’s also recall the latest example, Afghanistan, where the alliance unsuccessfully struggled to instil its version of democracy for 20 years. Security problems in the Serbian province of Kosovo have never been resolved, although NATO has been present there for more than two decades as well, and this fact is also telling.

Speaking of the US peacekeeping capabilities, look at how many decades the Americans have been trying to restore order in Haiti, which is a small country under their control. It is not Europe. There are numerous examples like this outside the European continent.

In 1991, NATO included 16 countries; now it has 30 members. Sweden and Finland are one step away from joining. The Alliance deploys its forces and military infrastructure ever closer to our borders, constantly building up its potential and capabilities, moving them towards Russia. They conduct manoeuvres and actually openly declare our country the adversary during exercises. NATO is intensifying its activities in the post-Soviet space. At the same time, it is laying claims to the Indo-Pacific region, and now also to Central Asia. All these aspirations to global domination are a direct and flagrant violation of the 2010 Lisbon Declaration, which was signed by all presidents and prime ministers of the North Atlantic bloc.

Until recently, we did everything in our power to prevent a further deterioration in the Euro-Atlantic Region. In December 2021, President Vladimir Putin made new proposals on security guarantees – a draft treaty between Russia and the US and a draft treaty between Russia and NATO. In this situation, seeing how determined the West was to drag Ukraine into NATO – it was an obvious red line for the Russian Federation, which the West had known about for years – we suggested that the Alliance stops expanding and wanted to reach an agreement on concrete, legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine, the Russian Federation, all European countries and all OSCE member states. The attempts to begin a discussion failed. We received the same response to all our calls to approach the situation in a comprehensive and creative way: that each country, and Ukraine first of all, has the right to join NATO and nobody can do anything about it. All components of a compromise formula about the indivisibility of security, that it should not be achieved at the expense of the security of other countries and that one organisation should not claim dominion in Europe, all of them were simply ignored.

In December 2021, Washington preferred not to take advantage of the opportunity for a de-escalation. And it was not only the United States, but also the OSCE, that could have facilitated a de-escalation of tensions if it had been able to settle the crisis in Ukraine based on the Minsk Package of Measures, which was agreed upon in February 2015 and unanimously approved by the UN Security Council resolution that same month. The executive structures of the organisation turned out to be completely subordinate to the US and Brussels, which set a course for comprehensive support of the Kiev regime’s policy of eradicating all things Russian: education, the media, the use of the Russian language in culture, the arts and everyday life. The Westerners also supported the Kiev regime when it sought to introduce the theory and practice of Nazism in its legislation: the relevant laws were adopted without any reaction from the “enlightened” capitals of Western democracies. Its efforts to turn Ukraine into a foothold for containing Russia, a territory of direct threats to our country also received support. These facts are well-known now. I want to note that the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which has made its contribution to discrediting the OSCE in a blatant violation of its mandate, did not react in any way to the regular violations of the Minsk agreements by the Ukrainian armed forces and nationalist battalions.

The mission de facto took the side of the Kiev regime. After its activity was suspended, unseemly cases came to light of the mission’s interaction with the Western special services, as well as the participation of allegedly neutral OSCE observers in adjusting fire against the DPR and the LPR, and collecting intelligence data in the interests of the Ukrainian armed forces and nationalist battalions. They received information from the mission’s surveillance cameras installed along the contact line.

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine put a lid on all these glaring problems, many of which you brought to light and made public although your editorial offices did not always permit this. The SMM deliberately turned a blind eye to all the violations, including preparations for a military solution to the problem of Donbass, which the Kiev regime was planning while Poroshenko and later Zelensky openly refused to honour the Minsk agreements. The West silently played along with these unacceptable activities. In mid-February 2022, the number of artillery attacks at the territory of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics, which had gone on for years, increased tenfold. There is statistics that cannot be denied. A vast number of refugees flooded into Russia. This inevitably led to the recognition of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics and in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter begin, at their request, the special military operation to save the people of Donbass from the Nazis and to eliminate security threats to Russia coming from Ukraine.

I would like to say that there is an explanation for this objectionable policy of the OSCE. Taking advantage of its numerical superiority in the organisation, the West has been trying to dominate it for years, or more precisely, to take over the last remaining platform for regional dialogue. The Council of Europe had already been maimed by the West without any chance of recovery. Today the OSCE is the target. Its powers and competencies are being eroded and spread out among narrow non-inclusive formats.

The EU has been working to create parallel structures and conferences, such as the European Political Community. On October 6, 2022, this forum held its inaugural meeting in Prague. When preparing that event and announcing the initiative of creating the organisation, President of France Emmanuel Macron proudly stated that all countries apart from Russia and Belarus had been invited to join. Prominent foreign policy officials such as Josep Borrell and Annalena Baerbock immediately picked up the tune, saying that a [European] security order should not be built together with Russia but against it, contrary to what Angela Merkel and other European leaders had called for. Other platforms are being created to force confrontational methods on the other countries in the spirit of the colonial mentality, and to spread the OSCE agenda among narrow formats, platforms, initiatives and partnerships.

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