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Sergey Lavrov Full Interview: US Missile Threats, Strategic Partnership With China, Ukraine Conflict

© Sputnik / Alexey Filippov / Go to the mediabankRussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a meeting of the Russian Foreign and Defense Policy Council Assembly, in Moscow, Russia
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a meeting of the Russian Foreign and Defense Policy Council Assembly, in Moscow, Russia - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.05.2024
In a big interview to Sputnik, Russia's foreign minister discusses several critical topics, including the potential threat posed by US missiles in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, the expansion of military cooperation with China, the special military operation's progress and Zelensky's illegitimacy after his term ended.
Russian strategic objects, including nuclear ones, may come under threat from American short-range missiles if the US deploys ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. What additional nuclear deterrence measures might Moscow take in this case? Would a reciprocal response from the Russian side be sufficient?
Sergey Lavrov: You are undoubtedly correct that the deployment of American ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles (INF) in the mentioned regions would pose a serious security challenge for us. This issue is not only significant for us. In a joint statement following the recent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China, it was noted that such destabilizing actions by the US represent a direct threat to both our country and China. Therefore, we have agreed with our Chinese partners to increase cooperation to counteract Washington's irresponsible behavior, which undermines international stability.
The implementation of US plans to deploy ground-based INF missiles will not go unanswered by us. Specifically, in this scenario, the abandonment of unilateral self-imposed restrictions introduced by Russia after a US withdrawal from the INF Treaty is inevitable. Additional steps in the field of nuclear deterrence are also not ruled out, as forward-deployed American missiles could target our command posts and locations of our nuclear forces. Decisions on these matters are within the competence of the president of the Russian Federation.
Is Russia considering increasing joint military exercises with China in response to US actions in the Asia-Pacific Region?
Sergey Lavrov: The foundation of our military cooperation with China is a high level of mutual trust. Russian-Chinese collaboration aims to strengthen international security and is conducted in accordance with international law.
Our joint efforts are not directed against third countries. However, both Russia and our Chinese friends must consider the negative military-political trends in the Asia-Pacific region and take measures to mitigate their effects.
We agree on the importance of enhancing defense cooperation not only bilaterally but also within multilateral formats. This understanding was recorded in the joint statement signed following the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China. Specifically, this involves expanding the scale of joint exercises and combat training, conducting naval and aerial patrols, and developing joint response capabilities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony following a meeting in expanded format at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.05.2024
Putin's Trip Sends Message of Growing Russo-Chinese Partnership
With the end of Volodymyr Zelensky's presidential term, does Russia see any forces in Ukraine with whom it is ready to engage in dialogue for peace? Is there any understanding of when the special military operation might be concluded?
Sergey Lavrov: In Kiev, the "party of war" is in power, striving, at least rhetorically, to defeat Russia "on the battlefield." Under these conditions, a dialogue for peace is hard to imagine. Furthermore, since September 30, 2022, a legal ban on negotiations with Russia's leadership has been in place in Ukraine.
Regarding Volodymyr Zelensky's legal status after May 20, when his presidential term ended, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke clearly on this matter at a press conference in Minsk on May 24.
 Президент Украины Владимир Зеленский сидит в машине возле дворца Бельвю в Берлине, Германия - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.05.2024
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Let's hope that sooner or later, political forces will emerge in Ukraine that care about the interests of the people. For now, there is no other option but to continue the special military operation until its goals are achieved.
Is there a possibility to speed up the process of political settlement of the situation around Ukraine?
Sergey Lavrov: Theoretically, yes. For this to happen, the West must stop supplying Ukraine with weapons, and Kiev must cease hostilities. The sooner this occurs, the quicker a political resolution will begin.
We have repeatedly stated, including at the highest level, that Russia remains open to negotiations. However, it is crucial to understand that we seek peace, not just a ceasefire. There is no point in granting the opponent a pause, which they will use once again for regrouping and rearming. Negotiations must be based on the principle of indivisible security and the realities on the ground.
Is it worthwhile for Russia to continue cooperation with the OSCE given the organization's pro-Ukrainian stance?
Sergey Lavrov: It cannot be denied that the OSCE is in deep crisis. This is the result of the West trampling on all the principles upon which this organization was founded. The total 'Ukrainization' of its agenda nearly nullifies its activities in traditional areas: military-political, economic-environmental, and humanitarian.
Perhaps the only reason for Russia's continued participation in the OSCE is the opportunity to directly convey our position on current issues to the other 56 participants, including those Western states that have 'frozen' dialogue with us in other formats. Additionally, the organization's consensus rule allows us to block proposals from unfriendly countries that do not suit Russia.
It has been reported that F-16 fighters provided by some NATO countries will soon appear in Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated that Moscow views these aircraft as carriers of nuclear weapons. What will be Moscow's response to the presence of such fighters in the Ukrainian Armed Forces?
Sergey Lavrov: The supply of increasingly destructive weapons to the Kiev regime indicates the West's lack of interest in ending the conflict.
The delivery of American F-16 fighters will not change the situation on the front lines. These aircraft will be destroyed, just like other types of weapons supplied by NATO countries to Ukraine.
It is important to note that F-16 fighters have long been a primary means of delivery in NATO's so-called joint nuclear missions. Therefore, we cannot help but view the supply of these systems to the Kiev regime as a deliberate signaling action by NATO in the nuclear sphere. They are trying to convey that the US and NATO are ready to go to any lengths in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, we hope that the ongoing Russian-Belarusian exercises, which involve the practice of using non-strategic nuclear weapons, will serve as a sobering reminder to our opponents of the catastrophic consequences of further escalation up the nuclear ladder.
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How do you assess Washington's statement about the potential halt of certain arms supplies to Tel Aviv in light of the Israeli operation in Rafah? Why was there no similar US reaction after the Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled Russian cities?
Sergey Lavrov: Our experience with the Americans clearly shows that their statements cannot be trusted. We wanted to believe them for a long time, engaged in negotiations, and reached agreements. However, it turned out that Washington did not intend to fulfill any of its "promises," even those documented on paper and in UN Security Council resolutions.
The Americans continue to publicly speak about their commitment to a just solution to the Palestinian issue, while in practice, they generously fuel armed conflicts. For six months, Washington blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council decision to cease fire, effectively giving a "green light" to the destruction of Gaza. When the Americans were forced to abstain from voting in March this year, allowing the Council to approve a resolution demanding a halt to hostilities, the US representative shamelessly declared that the UN Security Council document was not binding.
Washington's statement about halting the supply of munitions to Israel pertained to one type of ammunition - air bombs - and only from a "single batch of short-term aid." A few days later, the US House of Representatives approved a bill to lift the "pause" in arms supplies to Israel. If the document, prepared by Republicans is also passed in the Senate, it will prevent the White House from denying military aid to Tel Aviv.
Regarding the second part of your question, the answer is quite obvious. In the US National Security Strategy, Russia is identified as an immediate threat. The US and NATO openly state that their goal is to inflict a "strategic defeat" on our country. In this context, the fate of the civilian population of Russian cities does not concern the White House, which has become an accomplice in the crimes of the Kiev regime.
Boys watch smoke billowing during Israeli strikes east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.05.2024
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Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that Beijing would support a peace conference recognized by both Russia and Ukraine. How does Moscow view Beijing's position on the Ukrainian crisis? If Beijing proposes holding a peace conference on Ukraine, will Moscow support such a proposal? What topics, in Russia's opinion, could be discussed at such a conference?
Sergey Lavrov: We highly value Beijing's constructive stance on the Ukrainian crisis. Our Chinese friends understand the nature and essence of the situation. In February last year, they proposed a plan to resolve the conflict. This April, Chinese President Xi Jinping called to reduce tensions to establish peace and stability, rather than escalating the situation for selfish interests. We hope the West and Kiev will draw the right conclusions.
Regarding the idea of convening an international peace conference that ensures equal participation of Russia and Ukraine and discusses all existing peace initiatives, we see it as a continuation of Beijing's efforts to create conditions to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. We share the view that it is crucial to address the root causes of the crisis, ensure the legitimate interests of all parties, and reach agreements based on the principle of equal and indivisible security. I emphasize once again: this implies respecting the realities on the ground, which reflect the will of the people living there.
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