"I do not think that the term 'Iron Curtain' could be applied to the Russia-US relations at the current stage," Lavrov said in an interview.
The minister, however, pointed to problems in bilateral relations and a number of unfounded anti-Russia actions by the United States. He named the adoption of the law on sanctions, the seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds in the US, the pressure exerted by the FBI on Russian diplomats and the campaign against Russian media among such steps by Washington.
"And this is only a part of a long list of unsubstantiated anti-Russia actions," Lavrov noted.
The Russian minister provided his own stance on the situation, saying the United States was going through a new outbreak of McCarthyism, which American society has not yet developed immunity to.
The comment follows the December 20 US move, imposing sanctions against five Russian nationals including the head of Chechnya, a Russian republic in the North Caucasus, Ramzan Kadyrov, under the Magnitsky Act. According to the US Treasury's website, sanctions were also imposed against Yulia Mayorova, Andrei Pavlov, Ayub Kataev and Alexei Sheshenya.
"But I personally believe that just like once everyone in the United States became tired and abandoned the witch hunt organized by Senator Joseph McCarthy, in the current situation there will be a sobering up and recovery [in the bilateral relations]. Even though time will have been wasted in vain," Lavrov concluded.
He went on to say that the Russophobic hysteria in Washington has already become paranoiac.
"There are many problems, both old and new, or more precisely, artificially created ones in the relations between the two states. The main one is Russophobic hysteria, which has engulfed Washington's political establishment and has literally already become paranoid in nature. It does not allow us to move forward in areas important for our countries, provokes additional tension on the international arena," Lavrov said in an interview.
However, the minister stressed that Moscow was not planning to fuel confrontation with Washington, though it would retaliate to any aggressive actions, adding that despite growing anti-Russia sentiment in the United States, the Russian side was "acting pragmatically."
"We respond to aggressive attacks, but we are not going to spur on confrontation. We will continue to consistently and vigorously defend our positions by bringing our colleagues in Washington back to the fundamental principles on which a bilateral dialogue should be built. The main one among them is the consideration and respect of each other's interests. Without this, it is simply impossible to improve relations, nor are we likely to cooperate effectively in international affairs," Lavrov stated.
Speaking about the dates of a possible new meeting between the Russian and US presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, Lavrov noted that the issue has not been discussed, noting, however, that contacts between the two presidents had intensified lately, and were not limited to "only one topic," but covered a wide range of issues on bilateral and international agendas, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
"Dates for holding another personal meeting have not been discussed," Lavrov said, when queried on the matter.
The minister recalled that the two leaders had held talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, during which they had adopted a crucial joint statement on Syria. After that meeting, Putin and Trump held phone talks three times – on November 21, December 14 and December 17, according to the minister.
Positive Example of Cooperation
Lavrov has mentioned the recent prevention of a terrorist attack in the Russian city of St. Petersburg as a clear example of successful cooperation between the countries' intelligence services, adding that the dialogue with the US administration was carried out through various channels.
"In a recent telephone conversation, Russian President [Vladimir Putin] thanked [US President] Donald Trump for intelligence data from the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], which helped arrest terrorists who were plotting bombings in the Kazan Cathedral of St. Petersburg and elsewhere in the city. This is an example of real collaboration between Russia and the United States," Lavrov said.
On December 17, the Kremlin press service said Putin spoke with Trump by phone to express his gratitude after the CIA provided information that terrorists were preparing attacks in St. Petersburg. The Russian president assured Trump that Moscow's special services would also inform their American colleagues if they received intelligence on possible terrorist attacks in the United States.
Earlier in December, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had prevented the activities of Daesh (a terrorist group banned in Russia) supporters in St. Petersburg, who planned to carry out a terrorist attack in the city. Several members of the cell were detained in St. Petersburg in a special operation on December 13-14.
NATO Military Expansion
According to the minister, actions of the West, and, in particular, NATO, aimed at boosting military infrastructure next to the Russian borders and the deployment of US anti-missile defense systems in Europe cause "very serious concerns" in Moscow.
"Such destructive steps undermine the principle of the indivisibility of security and lead to further growth of tensions in the Euro-Atlantic area, deepening of divisions on the European continent. In this context, we are adopting reasonable measures to increase defense capabilities, protect national interests," Lavrov stressed.
He continued by saying that unlike the alliance, Russia doesn't strive to create military bases abroad.
Unlike a number of countries, we are not supporters of military expansion. Setting up bases abroad as a projection of strength, including in Latin America, is not a goal in itself for us," Lavrov said.
North Korean Issue
The Russian foreign minister has commented on the issue of the Korean crisis settlement and the mechanism for consultations on the road map, proposed by Moscow.
"For our part, we are seeking to maintain them [contacts] on the highest possible level. Naturally, we have worked out a mechanism for consultations on the issues related to the implementation of Russia's 'road map' for the Korean settlement," Lavrov said.
However, the minister has stressed that the attempts by North Korea to gain nuclear status are dangerous.
"Of course, we are seriously concerned with the desire of North Korea to gain nuclear status. We will never accept or approve this. The steps taken by Pyongyang in this direction have the potential of undermining the global non-proliferation regime. In the current tense situation on the Korean peninsula, [such steps] are simply dangerous," Lavrov said in an interview.
He recalled that Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, for many years had participated in the elaboration of the relevant resolutions that prohibited Pyongyang from carrying out nuclear tests and launching ballistic missiles.
The minister stressed that Moscow was guided not by the logic of "red lines," after the crossing of which North Korea supposedly needed to be "punished."
"Therefore, we do not share the desire of some states to exert ‘maximum pressure’ on North Korea, which they often interpret as the establishment of a complete economic and political blockade of this country by all available means. Besides, they do not take into account the fact that the implementation of such a plan will cause a real humanitarian catastrophe," Lavrov concluded.
US Military Presence in Syria
Sergey Lavrov has mentioned the issue of the US military presence in Syria, underlining that it hinders the political process and calls into question unity of the country.
"The Syrian government could de facto ‘tolerate' the Unites States there for the sake of a pressing task of anti-terror. Attempts to find justification for the preservation of their presence in Syria after the defeat of IS [Daesh] do not stand up to criticism. In practical terms, the illegal presence of the US military creates obstacles to the political settlement and calls into question the unity of the country," Lavrov said in an interview.
The minister recalled that the presidents of Russia and the United States had adopted a joint statement on the sidelines of November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam's Da Nang, in which "the common commitment to preserving the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and secular character of the Syrian state was reaffirmed." He noted that the Russian side regularly questioned the US partners on the issue of "the initial illegitimacy of their armed activity on Syrian territory from the point of view of international law."
The diplomat added that Russia would continue to assist the Syrians in normalizing the situation, restoring peace and order.
"We will continue to remind everyone about the need to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of this country when working with the regional and international partners," Lavrov stressed.
The minister's statement comes in the wake of the December 11 order by Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw a significant portion of Russian troops from Syria, follwoing the victory over the Daesh terror group in the country, announced by the president a few days earlier.
Following this stance, US President Donald Trump also announced that almost 100 percent of Syria and Iraq’s territory previously controlled by the Daesh terrorists had been liberated, but the US military presence in both countries has been maintained.