cc. The intensified confrontation between the USA, NATO and the EU on the one side and Russia on the other has resulted in the fact that here in the West we no longer receive unbiased reports on the position of the Russian side. Our Western media generally report the Russian position, if at all, very briefly, out of context and distorted. This does not serve a political solution to the conflict. That is why we are once again documenting official statements from Russia. The public in the West should also at least take serious note of the Russian position. The English translation of the following two statements can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
Question: You have received the Americans’ response to Russia’s security guarantee proposals. What does it say? What is their reaction? Antony Blinken has said that they are against releasing the document publicly. What has Russia decided on this score?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe that the general public will know the essence of this document soon. As our American colleagues have said, although they would like to keep this document confidential so as to provide space for confidential talks, they have coordinated it with their allies and with Ukraine. Are they sure that it will not be leaked very soon?
As for the essence of the document, the responses offer grounds for serious talks only on matters of secondary importance. There is no positive response to the main issue, which is our clear stand on the continued NATO enlargement towards the east and the deployment of strike weapons that can pose a threat to the territory of the Russian Federation, which we consider unacceptable. This stand did not appear out of the blue. As you may know, the issue of NATO’s non-enlargement or enlargement, however you put it, has a long history. In the early 1990s, or more precisely in 1990, when Germany was reunified and the issue of European security was raised, they solemnly promised that NATO would not expand even an inch eastward beyond the Oder River. These facts are well known and have been included in many memoirs by British, US and German officials. But now that this issue has become a matter of fierce debates, we have been told that the promises were only verbal. When we mentioned the memoirs, our Western partners responded that they were not serious and that their words were misinterpreted. They chose a rather immature way to explain the reckless expansion of the alliance.
But now that we have cited the promises made not in word but in the form of documents signed by the leaders of all OSCE states, including the US President (the 1999 Istanbul Declaration and the 2010 Astana Declaration), our Western partners have to find a way out of a very serious situation. The point is that both declarations set out the participating states’ commitment to the principle of indivisible security and their pledge to honour it without fail. This principle was formulated very clearly. It includes two interconnected approaches. The first is the freedom of states to choose military alliances. The second is the obligation not to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states. In other words, the freedom to choose security arrangements is conditioned by the pledge to respect the security interests of any other OSCE state, including the Russian Federation.
It is indicative that now when we propose coordinating legally binding security guarantees in the Euro-Atlantic region, our Western colleagues respond by urging us to respect the coordinated principles of security guarantees in that region. After saying this, they add that this means that NATO has a right to expand, and nobody can prohibit it from considering any country’s request for joining the alliance. The principle according to which no state may strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states is being deliberately ignored. Our Western partners make no mention of the Istanbul or the Astana declarations during the ongoing discussions on European security. They are keeping away from this matter. We cannot accept this. They explained their failure to honour the non-enlargement promises in the 1990s by the absence of written obligations, but such promises were given in writing later. They have been reaffirmed within the OSCE framework several times, including at the top level. We will now focus on getting clarity regarding this hypocritical position of our Western partners.
During my talks with Antony Blinken in Geneva, I asked him to explain why they regard the obligations made within the OSCE as a menu from which they are free to choose the dishes that taste good to them, and why they are disregarding or talking round their pledge to honour the interests of other countries. Mr Blinken did not reply to my question. He only shrugged his shoulders, and that’s it. I told him, just as I have told our other colleagues, that we would shortly send them an official request for an explanation why they choose only one of their commitments and disregard the other commitments on which its implementation depends. It will be an official request sent to all countries whose leaders signed the Istanbul and Astana declarations. I hope that it will not take them long to explain the Western position.
Other than that, we are analysing the Americans’ response. As Antony Blinken has said, they have coordinated it with Ukraine and with the other Western countries, with US allies. We have also received NATO’s response from Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. We are analysing these two documents as a package, because they have been provided in response to the draft treaty and draft agreement we proposed in December 2021. After an inter-agency coordination of our conclusions, we will submit them to President Vladimir Putin, who will make a decision on our further actions. •
Question: Has Moscow responded to the Americans’ written materials that were sent following Russia’s proposals on security guarantees? What was the gist of your telephone conversation today with Antony Blinken? What contacts are planned for the future in this context?
Sergey Lavrov: Today, we heard from the US Department of State that they have allegedly received a response from Moscow to the document that the Americans sent in reply to our initial proposals on security guarantees in Europe.
This is a misunderstanding. We started studying the US response when we received it about a week ago. It was clear from the start that the Americans prefer to focus on discussing important albeit secondary issues. They asked if it was possible to agree on the non-deployment of offensive weapons on a reciprocal basis, including medium- and shorter-range missiles that had been covered once by the INF Treaty which the US destroyed. They mentioned transparency in holding exercises, measures for avoiding unforeseen incidents between combat aircraft and ships and other confidence-building measures.
As for the key issue that prompted us to send our initiatives to the United States and NATO, their response was negative. I am referring to our demands for honest implementation of the agreements on the indivisibility of security, which were reached in the OSCE framework in Istanbul in 1999 and in Astana in 2010. These agreements not only envisage the freedom to choose alliances but also make this freedom dependent on the need to avoid any steps that would enhance security at the expense of the security of others. We saw that the US and NATO response to our key question was extremely negative. They focus only on the freedom to choose alliances and completely ignore the condition that was approved at the highest level, notably, that it is unacceptable to encroach on the security of other states in the process.
We are also concerned over the position of other NATO countries, for instance, France. Its defence minister said not so long ago that they insist on the need to ensure security based on the documents that preceded the adoption of the Istanbul Charter and the Astana Declaration. The minister cited a document of the 1990 OSCE summit in Paris, which did not contain a demand not to enhance security at the expense of others. In other words, our Western colleagues are trying to consign to oblivion rather than simply ignore a key principle of international law accepted in the Euro-Atlantic space. To prevent this from happening, when we received Washington’s response to our initial proposals, I described in detail everything we are talking about now in a separate message and sent it to all foreign ministers of the OSCE states and some other countries to familiarise them with our position.
Today, I reaffirmed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that we won’t allow this issue to be dragged out. We will insist on honest conversations and explanations of why the West does not want to honour its commitments at all, or only selectively when it benefits them. Mr Blinken agreed that this is a subject for another conversation. We will see how it goes. At present, we are completing the interdepartmental work on US proposals on other issues. We will report on them to our President. •
cc. The OSCE Charter for European Security1, which was adopted in Istanbul in 1999 and reaffirmed in Astana in 2010, guarantees freedom of alliance in a sentence in point 8 of the Charter. It states:
“We reaffirm the inherent right of each and every participating State to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, as they evolve.”
More often, however, it speaks of the indivisibility of security within the space of the OSCE states:
“The Charter will contribute to the formation of a common and indivisible security space. It will advance the creation of an OSCE area free of dividing lines and zones with different levels of security.”
“We will build our relations in conformity with the concept of common and comprehensive security, guided by equal partnership, solidarity and transparency. The security of each participating State is inseparably linked to that of all others. We will address the human, economic, political and military dimensions of security as an integral whole.”
“We are determined to make further efforts within the FSC in order to jointly address common security concerns of participating States and to pursue the OSCE’s concept of comprehensive and indivisible security so far as the politico-military dimension is concerned. We will continue a substantial security dialogue and task our representatives to conduct this dialogue in the framework of the FSC.”
“We are determined to broaden and strengthen our dialogue concerning developments related to all aspects of security in the OSCE area. We charge the Permanent Council and the FSC within their respective areas of competence to address in greater depth security concerns of the participating States and to pursue the OSCE’s concept of comprehensive and indivisible security.”
The OSCE will work co-operatively with those organisations and institutions whose members individually and collectively, in a manner consistent with the modalities appropriate to each organisation or institution, now and in the future […] actively support the OSCE’s concept of common, comprehensive and indivisible security and a common security space free of dividing lines […].
Even Point 8 of the Treaty, which guarantees the “freedom of alliance” of OSCE states, there are conditions for this. The first sentence of point 8 reads: “Each participating State has an equal right to security.” And after guaranteeing the right “to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, as they evolve” but also the “right to neutrality", the following sentence reads: “Each participating State will respect the rights of all others in these regards. They will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States.” (emphasis cc)
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