Monday, June 24

Working meeting of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

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Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,

We have been working on your behalf since mid-December 2021, when our initiatives were presented to the United States and the members of the North Atlantic Alliance. In mid-January of this year, meetings were held with the American delegation and within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council, during which we explained in detail the importance of our initiatives for solving key security problems in the Euro-Atlantic area. Then US Secretary of State E. Blinken asked me for a separate meeting to further clarify some issues, which we did when we met in Geneva on January 21 this year.

A few days later, on January 25 this year, the United States and NATO sent answers. They were carefully studied together with colleagues in an interdepartmental format. First of all, we are interested in the US response, because it is clear to everyone who plays the main role in solving these issues in the Western camp. It consists of two parts. The first one responds to our three key problems that we have identified: the non-expansion of NATO, the non-deployment of strike weapons that threaten us, and, in general, the return of the military-technical configuration in Europe to the position of 1997, when the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed. It was the first time in this format that the task of ensuring the indivisibility of security was voiced.

The answer to these questions is negative. He can’t satisfy us. It is said that the right of another state to choose unions, join them and change them is above all. This is supposedly “not discussed.” We remind the Americans and other Western colleagues that this right, enshrined in the decisions of the OSCE at the highest level at the summits of 1999 in Istanbul and 2010 in Astana, in the Rome Declaration of Russia-NATO 2002, in the Lisbon Declaration of the Russia-NATO Summit 2010, is not unconditional. It is directly conditioned by other things supported by consensus as a package.

The second part of this package is that the right of each State to choose unions is limited by its own obligation not to strengthen its security at the expense of the security of any other State. An important point is that no country, group of countries, organization can dominate the OSCE space. Unfortunately, we are witnessing attempts by NATO colleagues and the European Union, which is looking for its place, to somehow make it so that they should determine the further development of our continent. Therefore, in the intervals between your contacts and through the foreign Ministers, I sent a special message to all our Western colleagues. I drew their attention to the fact that the obligations on the indivisibility of security are much more complicated and complex than they are trying to imagine, justifying Ukraine’s accession to NATO. In parentheses, they assure that “it has not come to this yet”, “it will not take place soon”. We all know how such assurances work.

I received unsatisfactory answers. None of my ministerial colleagues responded to my direct message. We received two small pieces of paper, one from the official Y.Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, the other – from the official Zh.Borrel, head of the European Foreign Policy Service. They say that we “should not worry”, “we need to continue the dialogue”, the main thing is “to ensure de-escalation around Ukraine”. I think this is a disregard for the norm fixed at the highest level, according to which no organization can consider itself the main and dominant in the Euro-Atlantic area. We will continue to seek a specific response from each country. All the mentioned documents were signed in a national capacity. In the same national capacity, it is necessary to be responsible for their content and obligations under these documents. This concerns the first part of the American response that does not satisfy us.

The second part is constructive to a certain extent. It provides for fairly specific measures to address the problems of medium- and shorter-range ground-based missiles (after the United States destroyed the relevant INF Treaty). It also contains concrete proposals for a number of steps to reduce military risks, confidence-building measures and military transparency. Interestingly, almost all the components included by the Americans in their response reflect the initiatives promoted by the Russian Federation over the past few years. On medium-range and shorter-range missiles from September 2020, we are waiting for answers to your message. It proposed to agree on mutual and mutually verifiable moratoriums on the deployment of these types of weapons in Europe. No one has answered it. We are talking about measures to withdraw exercises from the Russia-NATO contact line, to coordinate the maximum approach distance of combat aircraft and ships, and a number of other military-technical measures in the field of confidence-building, which were contained in the proposals of the Russian General Staff sent to NATO in 2020. They were also ignored.

Now there is a rather concrete reaction to all Russian initiatives – a willingness to enter into serious negotiations. It is clear that the initiative we put forward on security guarantees, which we put forward and outlined our fundamental interests in it, shook up our Western colleagues and served as the reason why they were no longer able to ignore many of our previous appeals.

Here we can consider how to move forward in these areas, but only within the framework of preserving the integrity of our initiative of December 2021 and ensuring an integrated approach. It consists not only in some specific agreements on important, but sectoral, separate, secondary aspects of maintaining military security, and above all in the context of the legal settlement of issues threatening the Euro-Atlantic region today. I am referring to where we started the Russian initiatives (you have also repeatedly stressed this, including during recent telephone conversations, at a press conference): ensuring the indivisibility of security, including non-expansion of NATO, non-deployment of strike weapons and a return to the 1997 configuration.

The Foreign Ministry is convinced that this approach should remain on our priority agenda. Developing a dialogue on some aspects of practical importance today with our Western, primarily American, colleagues, we will simultaneously seek their answers to legitimate questions that we have raised and you have repeatedly confirmed. At a press conference with French President E. Macron, you clearly showed the prospects of Ukraine’s involvement in NATO in modern conditions, given the ambitions that the Kiev leadership harbors.

Vladimir Putin: In your opinion, is there still a chance to agree with our partners on key issues of concern to us? Or is it just an attempt to drag us into an endless negotiation process that has no logical conclusion?

Sergey Lavrov: You, we and other representatives of Russia have repeatedly said that we warn against the inadmissibility of endless conversations on issues that need to be resolved today. As the Foreign Minister, I must say that there is always a chance. You have had contacts with the leaders of the United States, France, and the German Chancellor is coming tomorrow. My colleagues come to me. The Polish Foreign Minister will be in Moscow tomorrow, and the Italian Foreign Minister in two days. Other contacts are also planned. We are consistently working, committed to explaining our rightness while being ready to listen to serious counter arguments. It seems to me that our possibilities are far from exhausted. They should not continue indefinitely, but at this stage I would suggest continuing and increasing them.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Do you already have a draft response to the documents that we received from Brussels and Washington? Is it formed?

Sergey Lavrov: It is formulated on 10 pages.



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