Sergey Lavrov spoke to members of the Gorchakov Club

21 April 2020

On April 21, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov addressed members of the Gorchakov Club during the online meeting. When speaking to the audience, the head of the Foreign Service said:

“I am grateful to the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund for inviting me to take part in the discussion that opens, as I understand it, a cycle of lectures the fund will hold online.

Life compels us to find creative ways to continue the discussion on the future of humankind. They are highly relevant under the current conditions. 

The coronavirus pandemic has become a major challenge for all countries and many international organisations. It should certainly compel us to ponder over what is happening in the world, and also to understand how we should live in the future and how we should advance to ensure peaceful, safe and stable future for all humankind.

It has long been clear, and the pandemic has confirmed it definitively, that we live in an interdependent and intertwined world. In the age of the free movement of people, capital, services and goods in the whole world, threats also move freely. We have faced terrorism, drug trafficking, other forms of organised crime, the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and now the threat of the pandemic that knows no borders and from which it is impossible to fence ourselves off.

It is clear that under these conditions we must adopt collective approaches to international relations. Concepts and practices of hegemony and domination are absolutely inappropriate in the 21st century. The world is confidently moving towards the formation of a new, more just and democratic system of international relations and a polycentric world order. This is not happening artificially; it is a result of a natural upsurge of many economies and financial centres. Economic and financial influence is naturally followed by influence in international politics. We are seeing these processes primarily in the Asia-Pacific Region, Latin America and also in Africa, whose resources are linked by many with the future of humanity in a very long-term perspective. The countries that are making strides in this way today and strengthening their national economies and financial opportunities also pursue an independent, nationally oriented foreign policy. And I must admit that many achieve quite positive and impressive results in this area.

The attempts we are seeing to impede this process are certainly doomed historically. Understandably, the countries that set the tune in international affairs for almost half a millennium want to preserve their privileged positions when they see their new competitors growing stronger. They are using different instruments, some of which are not absolutely honourable. Let me emphasise once again that the attempts to impede the objective process of the formation of a multipolar system are doomed historically. The understanding of this is reflected in many cases, in part, in the formation and functioning of the G20, where the G7 and BRICS countries are represented. Without their cooperation and consensus it is very difficult to resolve any serious problems in the global economy and finance, or in international politics, by and large.

Other associations in which the Russian Federation takes part also work under the principle of consensus. I would like to mention the SCO and other integration associations in the post-Soviet space – the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the CSTO and the CIS.

I work under the premise that the current coronavirus crisis is compelling us to consider more seriously and probably more quickly the decisions that many international actors have postponed for various reasons. Unlawful unilateral sanctions and sanctions that were taken without regard for the UN Charter are doing tremendous damage to the people in many countries. I am primarily referring to countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea. Even now when these countries badly need equipment, medications and special protection gear to counter the pandemic, they cannot receive them because Western countries, primarily the US are categorically rejecting proposals to take a humanitarian pause and make an exception for goods that are essential for countering the pandemic. This is regrettable. An appeal to this affect has been forwarded by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also made a similar appeal. At the online G20 summit, President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed green corridors that would be free of trade wars and sanctions so the countries in need could receive medications, food, equipment and technology.

Before going over to interactive communication, I would like to draw your attention to an important conceptual issue that we have paid much attention to recently. I mean the trend of our Western partners to make fewer references to international law or even remove it from the international lexicon altogether. Instead of the well-established term “international law” they are attempting to use a new expression, “a rules-based order.” We see how this concept is taking shape and being used by our Western partners in practice. Their approach to issues goes beyond universal, multilateral institutions. They want to uphold their exclusive position on these issues and do not want to negotiate.

Note that when there is a problem in well-established and universally recognised mechanisms, on which the West is facing resistance, in many cases it stops seeking consensus and simply takes this problem beyond the framework of multilateral structures. I am referring to what is happening in the OPCW with attempts to initiate votes to change consensus-based Convention documents and many other things.

We will certainly uphold UN-centric universal institutions and the entire system of international ties that have been formed based on the UN Charter. The principles of the Charter, primarily, the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes maintain and even enhance their importance today.

We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II and the 75th anniversary of the UN. I think this is a good reason for all of us to unite and concentrate on consolidating universal mechanisms rather than on creating flawed alternative structures in order to replace multilateral diplomacy with different terms, such as “a rules-based order” or the newly coined expression, “the Alliance for Multilateralism.”

Those who want to support multilateralism must recognise that the only and true multilateralism is embodied in the UN which has unique legitimacy. Therefore, supporters of multilateralism must come to the UN and come to terms with all other countries there, instead of negotiating within the narrow circle of soulmates and imposing their opinion on others as universal and the only correct approach.

This is what worries us. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to discuss these issues. We are always trying to hear and consider the assessments made by Russian and foreign experts and political scientists.

Thank you very much for your attention. I am ready for more work.”

Source: MFA of Russia