Lavrov Addresses Two Systems Before the World: Geopolitics or Nations Joining Together To Face Common Challenges

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov opened his annual year-in-review press conference Thursday, transmitted live in Russian, French, and English, with a theme which ran throughout the conference: there are “two conflicting approaches” in the intensifying “global rivalry” over the shape of a new international system. There are those who seek to form “a more equitable, polycentric international system,” and those who seek to slow that process down, so as “to maintain dominance in global affairs and to impose one’s will on others.”

These differing approaches were contrasted over the course of the press conference in his description of Russia-Chinese relations and U.S. relations with Russia. Lavrov said “the ties between Russia and China are going through their best period ever.” Russia has extensive mechanisms of cooperation with China as with no other country, and their relationship is being built on the basis of international law and the U.N. Charter.

U.S. relations with Russia, on the other hand, are shaped by the U.S.’s policy of trying to “contain” Russia, which began “long before the crisis in Ukraine.” Asked about a possible “re-set” of Russian-American relations, Lavrov had a useful suggestion for an overhaul of U.S. policy overall:

“We understand that the U.S. is interested in [having] fewer competitors, at least comparable with them. It is clearly seen in the U.S. relations with China and Europe…. The re-set is good, but it should be between the U.S. and the whole world.”

An English transcript of Lavrov’s opening statement is available as of this writing on the Foreign Ministry’s website, providing his overview of the global “crisis landscape” and the shifts which occurred over the course of 2015 from the conflicting approaches. He there held up the principles of “genuine equality, mutual consideration for each other’s interests, and joint efforts for common goals” which underpin the BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and other integration groupings in the “post-Soviet space” as exemplary of what is needed in the 21st Century. Russia stands “ready to work on harmonizing integration processes and building bridges, in particular, between Europe, Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific Region,” he specified, citing the agreement in principle to integrate Eurasian Economic Union activities with China’s Silk Road Economic Belt.

“There is no alternative to broad-based cooperation in searching for a way out of crises,” Lavrov said.

“… We are ready for the closest and most constructive cooperation with our Western partners, including Europe and the United States, and are open to a progressive development of cooperation with them. But solely and exclusively on an equitable and mutually beneficial basis, with parties refraining from interference in each others internal affairs and respecting each sides fundamental interests.

“Our Western colleagues sometimes say testily that there will be no ‘business as usual’ with Russia…. We agree with them on this point: indeed, there will be no ‘business as usual’ when they attempted to impose on us agreements that heeded primarily the interests of either the European Union or the U.S., and sought to persuade us that this would not harm our interests. This story is over. A story is beginning that can only develop on the basis of equality and all other principles of international law.”

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