'Nobody did more than Russia to Support Ukraine'

Global Centre Stage

Speech by Mr Sergey Karmalito, Senior Counsellor, Russian Embassy in India, at a seminar ‘Russia’s Foreign Policy in a Changing Global Order, Its Regional Implication and Impact on Indo-Russian Strategic Partnership’ Organised by CLAWS at Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi on June 18, 2015.
[The following text is an edited version of the original speech]

Rather significantly, this meeting takes place in the middle of the year that is marked by very important events in the history of Russian-Indian relations and the world at large. On May 9, Russians and CIS countries celebrated the 70th anniversary of the victory over fascism in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) . . . . Many generations of . . . my country and the people of the erstwhile USSR see it as the most sacred and important event which brings together and unites representatives of various nations, irrespective of their profession, religion or citizenship.

It’s very indicative that despite the sanctions imposed on Russia, and other attempts of the Western powers to isolate my country, leaders of almost 30 countries, including the German Chancellor Ms Angela Merkel, visited Moscow to commemorate the date.

We must never forget the lessons of World War II. Therefore, it is unacceptable when some irresponsible politicians in the West encourage neo-Nazism, which stirs up inter-ethnic strife and escalates military threats today. Regarding the cynical, hypocritical and dirty attempts on the part of some forces to rewrite the real history of the world . . . such countries show immoral and shameless amnesia to our sacrifices and sufferings. Such forgetfulness, today, results in destruction and devastation in various parts of the world, be it Syria, Iraq, Yemen, southeast Ukraine or elsewhere.

This year is also associated with another important date-the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, which was one outcome of World War II. Today, there is no alternative to the development of consensus regarding the rules of sustainable global governance in the new historical circumstances, with full respect to the cultural and civilisational diversity of the world and the multiplicity of models of development. Together with India, we stand for sovereign equality of states, non-interference in domestic affairs, mutual respect and taking into account the interests and concerns of each other as in the case, for example, of the framework of UNSC, BRICS, SCO, G20, RIC, EAS, etc.

We proceed from a common understanding that in order to reflect new realities the UN needs a comprehensive reform, especially with a view to make the Security Council more representative and effective so that it can adequately respond to the changing security environment. Russia strongly supports India as a responsible global power to take permanent membership in the reformed UNSC.

On the UN platform as well as at various other international forums, Russia and India decisively condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stand for collective efforts in fighting global challenges and threats. At the same time, our message to the world is that there is an urgent need to refrain from double standards in the settlement of regional conflicts as well as from attempts to dismiss undesirable regimes under the pretext of fighting terrorism or defending human rights. Unilateral actions and use of force without the UNSC mandate, which led to dismal outcomes in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and worsening the situation in Syria, are absolutely unacceptable.

Considering such dangerous tendencies in the global environment and their regional implications, Russia stands for the soonest adoption of India-sponsored Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. We also hope that India will join the Russian proposal for an in-depth study of the extremist and terrorist threats (from the so-called Islamic State) in all their aspects across the West Asia North Africa (WANA) region. The integrated approach also implies that the long-standing conflicts, primarily between the Arabs and Israel, should be examined. The absence of settlement of the Palestinian issue over several decades remains, as is widely recognised, as one of the main factors of instability in the region and helps the extremists to recruit more and more jihadis.

The year 2015 is very special for my country in the context of strengthening cooperation in the BRICS format. As you are well aware, Russia assumed the presidency of BRICS from Brazil on April 1, 2015. The 7th BRICS summit will be held from July 8-9 in the Russian city Ufa. We are happy to welcome the participation of the Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, in this important event.

In fact, today when we speak about changing global order, one can’t but admit that cooperation in BRICS is one of the pillars of the Russian-Indian special and privileged strategic partnership. According to Russia’s foreign policy perceptions, BRICS contributes to shaping the emerging world order on the principles of multi-polarity, central role of the UN, respect for international laws, avoidance of double standards in addressing development matters, regional conflicts, dealing with new challenges and threats. The commitment to comprehensive strengthening of BRICS, outlined in the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, is one of the priorities of our diplomacy.

As I’ve already mentioned, one of the most important areas of interaction within BRICS is comprehensive cooperation and coordination in the UN. It will prevent any country from the possibility to impose policies for regime manipulations and attempts to push through their unilateral solutions to conflicts by means of sanctions and military force.

Various BRICS dialogue mechanisms are aimed at promoting further coordination on strategic stability, international and regional security, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, settlement of regional conflicts and maintenance of regional stability. The consolidation of the BRICS countries against the threats of international terrorism, arising from the hotbeds of local wars and armed conflicts such as Syria and Afghanistan, shall be of primary importance. Strengthening international information security and combining efforts to fight drug trafficking are no exception.

International financial and economic cooperation within BRICS will remain the core of financial stability and economic security in the long-term perspective. As you know, one of the major outcomes of the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, held in July 2014 in Brazil, was a decision to create a New Development Bank and a Contingent Reserve Arrangement. They will contribute to shaping a sustainable and fair global financial architecture and provide for stronger positions of the emerging economies reflecting their enhanced role in the global growth.

Economic complementarity is a serious advantage in reducing vulnerability to unfavourable economic environment, unilaterally imposed sanctions and in creating a huge potential in the international trade. The upcoming summit is expected to deliver a BRICS Strategy for Economic Partnership, give a strong impetus to mutual settlement of accounts in national currencies, extend the BRICS Business Council and Business Forum agendas, promote scientific and technological cooperation within BRICS, etc.

During Russia’s presidency, we will aim at facilitating migration mechanisms and improving efficiency of interaction in labour sphere and healthcare. Particularly, a set of practical arrangements, BRICS Contribution to Improving Global Health Security, is to be included in the final communiqué of the summit.

Advancing parliamentary forum, civil society, trade union and young leaders’ forums, global university summit and BRICS Network University are also on top of the agenda. In terms of increasing people-to-people contacts, creation of cultural dimension of BRICS should be launched.

The achieved quality of cooperation within BRICS on a wide range of problems and coordination in the international arena prompts to put a new task, i.e. elevating the BRICS external relations. This can be achieved by holding regular consultations with leading international and regional organisations such as the UN, Eurasian Economic Union, African Union, the League of Arab States, Islamic Cooperation Organisation, Latin American Integration Association, ASEAN, etc. Particularly, on the sidelines of the Ufa summit, the outreach event with participation of Eurasian regional organisations will be held. Last but not the least, interactions of the BRICS leaders on the sidelines of the G20 remain a matter of great importance.

Let me stress that the long-term objective of the Russian Federation in BRICS, and accordingly a cross-cutting task of our presidency, is aimed at gradual transformation of BRICS from a dialogue forum into a full-scale mechanism for strategic and day-to-day interactions on key political, economic and social issues. This will require progressively expanding the areas of cooperation and to create an extensive system of interaction mechanisms, including the BRICS Secretariat.

All this is intended to raise BRICS to the level of an important element in the global governance system of the 21st century. Jointly with closest like-minded partners, we will deepen interactions to raise cooperation in the framework of BRICS to a fundamentally new level. We are committed to giving this cooperation a shape of multilateral strategic partnership on a wide range of global economic and political issues. Thus, we aim at positioning BRICS as a new model of global relations, overcoming the single-dimension ‘North-South’ or ‘East-West’ scheme.

The coming BRICS forum in Ufa will be followed by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, where important political decisions will be taken to officially approve India’s bid for full-fledged membership. In the context of the changing global order, specifically new scenarios in West Asia and the Asian-Pacific region, it will be a huge step forward in promoting regional partnership. Russia believes that the SCO with India on board will become much stronger, given its expertise in countering regional challenges and threats, especially emanating from still unstable Afghanistan. The formation of Afghanistan as a strong, sustainable and prosperous state is a priority of both Moscow and New Delhi. It is of principled importance for us that the actions aimed at ensuring security, especially in respect to foreign military presence, should be undertaken with the coordinating role and mandate of the UNSC.

It’s true that today the world order is dramatically changing. Profound mutations of political and economic landscapes and tectonic shifts in the centres of power in a global scale are underway. The results of this process are being witnessed in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia Pacific region and in Europe. It is becoming more and more obvious that in the 21st century, international relations are moving towards establishment of a polycentric system. In other words, deciding the world’s fate cannot and must not be the prerogative of one state (however powerful it may be); or opposing military and political blocs, as it used to be during the Cold War; or a narrow group of ‘the chosen’ powers staking claim to global diktat. The necessity to create a just, democratic, sustainable and, in a perfect scenario, a self-regulating structure of international relations becomes more and more obvious.

I’m happy to state once again that Russia and India are principled natural stockholders in this endeavour. Intensifying multifaceted cooperation with India has always been and remains a key priority of Russia’s foreign policy. It is especially topical today when the process of shifting the centre of global economic growth to Asia is taking place. The objective process of forming a multi-polar system, which includes the emergence of new centres of economic growth and financial power, and consequently, political influence, conflicts with attempts to keep everything under control, which are pursued by, as they say now, the ‘historical West,’ led by the United States. Due to these specifics, it’s not correct to claim that today the most important issue for Russia is the Russian-US relations. The primary point for Moscow is to ensure that everybody agrees that today the world’s problems cannot be resolved by any one or two countries. It is true that, due to many factors, if Russia and the United States agree to act together, they still manage to make progress immediately. This was the case with Syria’s chemical disarmament and it is also happening with regard to the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, the fight against piracy and other regional situations. Russia is not refusing to cooperate with US on Iran, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian settlement, Yemen, and other important issues just because the Americans are behaving the way they do. We engage in cooperation because these spheres meet our interests and relate to issues that create risks for our country as well as the world at large. This is our basic approach.

Let’s be honest: factors encouraging instability and conflict continue to accumulate in international relations. This is a very difficult stage in the formation of a more just and democratic polycentric system, which is objectively occurring, reflecting the geographical and civilisational diversity of the world today. We keep coming up against the desire of the US and its allies to reverse this trend and impose their will, approaches and values on other participants of international relations.

The stakes are high. The fundamental principles of the UN Charter are systematically violated, double standards are widely used, and there is interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states in order to reaffirm a unilateral world order. An array of measures is in store for those who object–from unilateral illegitimate sanctions to direct military interventions. We deem this approach not only unlawful but also short-sighted, ignoring the fact that the fate of the world today cannot be determined by a single state or a narrow group of states.

Russia will continue to firmly uphold truth and justice in international affairs, as well as the rights of our compatriots. No one who is trying to impose sanctions against Russia or to exert any other methods of pressure on the country will ever force us to abandon our position of principle on key issues. As President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stressed, we were not the ones who spoiled relations, and the main condition for restoring them is respect for Russia and its legitimate interests.

Russia is convinced that negative developments in today’s international relations are influenced by the recurrences of one-sided actions, attempts to impose one’s values on others, to achieve geopolitical advantages under the cover of most noble slogans. All this can lead to uncontrolled chaos in some states and regions, as well as anarchy in global affairs. We have witnessed such alarming developments in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and a number of other countries. Unfortunately, this very tendency is evident today in Russia’s closest neighbourhood–Ukraine.

We consider the situation in Ukraine to be a great challenge to the present international system. A deep and pervasive crisis, which fraternal Ukrainian nation is going through, especially since the end of 2013, causes serious anxiety in Russia. In our assessment, dramatic events in that country clearly show that in the minds of some politicians, especially in the West, there still prevails aversion to self-determination of other states and, consequently, disregard of the interests of others, disrespect for history, which is the pursuance of double standards.

Let me be absolutely clear: nobody did more than Russia to support the Ukrainian state for more than two decades since it has been independent. Throughout this period, the country faced most complicated tasks of self-development as a sovereign state, finding the balance between its regions where people often had different historical and cultural roots, spoke different languages, differently evaluated its pasts, presents and perspectives of developing international ties. We’ve subsidised Ukraine’s economy through low price of energy resources. According to published calculations, the total sum of these subsidies exceeded $ 200 billion.

May I remind that in November 2013, at the very beginning of the current crisis, we supported the idea of Kiev to hold consultations in Ukraine-Russia-EU format to discuss ways to harmonise integration processes. The United States and EU were absolutely against it. Such position per se reflects unconstructive and dangerous course that has been pursued by the US and the EU for a long time.

We understand that this is a part of the big game of the Western states towards extension of NATO and expansion of EU in order to subdue Russia, to once and forever remove her as a strong independent world power. To reach these aims, they have thrown the Ukrainians into a painful dilemma of a choice between the West and the East, thus exacerbating its domestic contradictions. Regardless of the Ukrainian realities, massive open support was provided to the political movements that were considered conduits of Western influence. Moreover, it was done in violation of the Ukrainian constitution when power in Kiev was seized through violent street rioting, supported by direct involvement and at the connivance of ministers and other officials from the US and EU.

The new Kiev authorities, relying on the indulgence of their Western puppeteers, opted for suppression by force of the part of the Ukrainian people that had rejected the attempts to impose the anti-constitutional way of life to the entire country and wanted to defend its rights for the native language, culture and history. It is precisely the aggressive assault on these rights that compelled the population of Crimea to take the destiny in its own hands and make a choice in favour of self-determination. This was an absolutely free choice, no matter what was invented by those who are responsible in the first place for the internal conflict in Ukraine.

The mendacity of the West and those who came to power in Kiev, over their acts committed in the Maidan and later in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov and other cities of southeast Ukraine is striking. The attempts to distort the truth and to hide the facts behind blank accusations have been undertaken at all stages of the Ukrainian crisis. Nothing has been done to track down and prosecute those responsible for the February 2014 bloody events at the Maidan and the massive loss of human lives in Odessa, Mariupol and other regions of Ukraine. The scale of appalling humanitarian disaster provoked by the acts of the Ukrainian army in southeastern Ukraine has been deliberately underscored. According to the latest statistics, more than 6,000 people have been killed there since April 2014 when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters who refused to recognise the country’s coup-imposed government, held a referendum in May last year and finalised its secession by creating Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics with their own governments. Russia is concerned with the fact that despite UNSC Resolution 2166, a thorough and independent investigation of the circumstances of the loss of the Malaysian airliner over the territory of Ukraine has been protracted. The culprits of all these crimes must be identified and brought to justice. Otherwise the national reconciliation in Ukraine can hardly be expected.

The way to overcoming the crisis has been opened with the achievement of the Minsk ceasefire agreement in southeastern Ukraine reached early this year on the basis of negotiations initiated by Russia, Germany, France and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation. Russia continues to actively promote a political settlement. We call for the strict and complete implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement. Let me remind that the agreement calls for halting of fighting, withdrawal of heavy weapons including artillery from the line of contact by both sides of the conflict and initiating peaceful, inclusive political dialogue. It also conditions the reintegration of two self-proclaimed republics into Ukraine on Kiev overhauling the country’s constitution so as to grant them a special status within the nation’s borders. Russia is convinced that a constitutional reform, with participation of all regions, is the most important prerequisite to achieve political stability, peace and tranquillity in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, new rounds of fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine in the first week of June. The local independence supporters accused the Kiev forces of launching an offensive near the city of Marinka in Donetsk region. Kiev forces claimed that the shelling was a response to militia’s advances. Each and every day brings news about fresh incidents of breaking the ceasefire. The Ukrainian forces continue daily indiscriminate shelling of Donetsk city and small towns in the DPR territory, leading to dozens of new casualties among civilians. The EU Foreign Affairs spokeswoman qualified the renewed hostilities as the biggest ceasefire violation since the Minsk peace deal came into effect.

Actually, it looks as if Kiev used the Minsk ceasefire agreement just to regroup and strengthen its forces to get them ready for the new assault. This is proved by the statements recently made by President Poroshenko and some radical representatives of the Ukrainian regime. So, it’s not at all surprising that, reacting to such provocations, DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko said that ‘whatever happens in Minsk, DPR is an independent state and will never be a part of Ukraine.’

On the eve of new round of talks between members of the Minsk Contact Group in the capital of Belorussia, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry held a phone conversation to discuss recent developments in the Ukrainian crisis. Both sides stressed the importance of additional efforts to stop violation of ceasefire, especially the shelling on residential areas. They reaffirmed that all signatories of the Minsk agreements must strictly implement the ‘Package of Measures’ and seek a direct and sustainable dialogue between Kiev authorities and self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

As we see it, right now, while declaring their full commitment to the Minsk Agreements, Kiev authorities actually reject the underlying principle spelled out in the Package of Measures, namely, direct dialogue with Lugansk and Donetsk. But for Russia, it’s absolutely clear that a direct dialogue is the key to resolving, even if temporarily, the special status issue to holding municipal elections there and to carrying out constitutional reform, which should fully take into account the position of Donetsk and Lugansk with regard to these territories. The constitutional reform is largely aimed at transforming the temporary special status into a permanent one. It was all written down in Minsk Agreements.

In the prevailing situation, Moscow stresses the need for Washington to influence Kiev so as to, firstly, prevent Ukrainian authorities from sliding into any force-based scenarios and, secondly, help launch a political process through direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. Unfortunately, there are certain forces in the ruling Ukrainian regime which claim that the more the military hysteria is whipped up, the easier it will be for the Ukrainian authorities to persuade the West to step up pressure on Russia. This is the root of the problem. And that is why, while Russia is continuously sending thousands of tonnes of humanitarian aid to the southeastern regions of Ukrain, Kiev–with the connivance of the West–is organising military provocations that bring new casualties among civilian population and lead to deepening humanitarian catastrophe in these territories.

The West’s position is well known. It was clearly articulated at the recent summit of G7: if the Minsk Agreements are implemented, sanctions against Russia may be softened or even lifted. As if Russia, openly described as aggressor, was the only country to sign the Minsk Agreements and should, therefore, be the only one to implement them. But that is not so. When asked how they will react to more and more instances of Kiev failing to honour its commitments, substantiated by evidence, Western leaders prefer to keep silent. In fact, we regard it as a sign of hypocrisy and duplicity of their positions. They clearly see that Kiev is trying to avoid implementing the Minsk Agreements in its actual letter and spirit. For example, the agreements stipulate that economic blockade must be stopped, social payments resumed and the banking system restored. None of that is being done. Another problem is amnesty for everyone involved in the events in southeast Ukraine. Without that, how can one expect participants in the elections to represent all social strata? It’s impossible.

However, there is growing evidence that the West does not intend to abandon its plans of increasing its military presence near Russian borders. Now the Pentagon is planning to position arm warehouses in NATO’s eastern European member countries for the purpose of rotational training. The possible destinations for the deployment of up to 1,200 vehicles, including 250 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and armoured howitzers include Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Estonia and possibly Hungary. These “pre-positioned” weapons would be enough to equip a brigade of 3,000 to 5,000 military personnel. These plans are expected to be coordinated in time for approval at the upcoming NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels in late June. The proposal, if approved, would represent for the first time since the end of Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence. The arguments used by Washington to justify these plans are quite predictable: it claims that these measures are necessary to reassure its European allies in the face of alleged Russian threat.

In fact, Washington and its European allies know that the perceived Russian threat is but a myth, which can be used to relieve the US of the responsibility for the anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine and the activities of certain forces in Kiev that refuse to end the fratricidal war in Donbass. The US is fuelling tensions and nurturing its European allies’ anti-Russian fears, also because it plans to use current tensions to expand its military presence and hence strengthen its influence in Europe.

According to Russian Foreign Ministry perception, there is a growing risk that the US military strategy on NATO’s ‘eastern flank’ will take on a life of its own, disregarding realities and Europe’s political interests, in the process of acquiring inertia that would be difficult to reverse.

However, Russia is still hopeful that reason will prevail, and that the situation in Europe will be stopped from sliding into a new military confrontation with destructive consequences.

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