Sergey Lavrov: As our Serbian friends told me, the programme they prepared includes a meeting with the President, the Prime Minister, the First Deputy Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister of Serbia. We will also have a cultural programme dedicated to the great anniversary of our relations, including a visit to the Church of St Sava.
The agenda is traditional and includes all aspects of bilateral relations, primarily our interaction on trade, and economic and investment issues, although we are unlikely to get into details on these topics since there is an Intergovernmental Commission that works comprehensively with them. From the Serbian side, it is headed by Mr Dacic. We will concentrate on our ties in scientific research, healthcare, education and culture, as well as our regular political consultations. We will mostly focus on international issues, such as the situation in Europe, the Balkans, and cooperation in the UN. We will touch on the need for full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on the Kosovo settlement.
Question: How, do you think, the aggravation of relations between Russia and the West in the wake of the Ukraine crisis affects the Balkans and the relations of the countries of that region with such global powers as Russia, the United States and the EU?
SergeyLavrov: The Ukraine crisis is not behind the current state of relations between Russia and the West. Rather, it is a consequence of the policy that the Western countries, primarily the United States and NATO countries, conducted after the end of Cold War. Instead of taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime historical chance to form a truly pan-European structure of security and cooperation, the West opted for NATO expansion breaking all the promises made by the leaders of the United States and many European countries in 1990 to the effect that the Alliance would not advance a single inch eastward. This was not enshrined in any treaty or legal document (perhaps, it should have been), but a so-called gentlemen’s agreement was reached back then, which was, in fact, trampled upon by our Western colleagues. Perhaps, in the future, we will make better use of our judgment in order to be able to tell a gentleman from someone who is not. However, the official documents from the US archives, which were recently declassified, unequivocally show that such iron-clad assurances were provided during a dialogue between the Soviet Union and the United States, Moscow and Berlin, and Moscow and Paris.
The developments in Ukraine did not come as a surprise to us. They came, as I said, as a consequence of the policy pursued by NATO. After the Cold War ended, three waves of NATO expansion took place, and each brought NATO military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders. Now, they want to involve the Balkans in this game by putting the Balkan countries in a position to make a choice: you are either with the West, or with Russia. They required Ukraine to make the same choice and, as a result, Ukrainian society and the state snapped, which led to an unconstitutional coup and a dramatic increase in the role of radicals, including neo-Nazis, in our neighbour’s domestic political life. This is certainly a matter of grave concern, but we are committed to the Minsk agreements, and we hope that these agreements, which were not just “gentlemen’s'” agreements, but legally binding, and were enshrined in the UN Security Council resolution, will be implemented.
To be continued…