29 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Describing the current security architecture in Europe as insufficient and flawed, Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called today for its revamping and rebalancing in accordance with the principle of equality and in order to provide stability for all countries of the region.

Speaking a Headquarters press conference this morning, he said a new dividing line was being created with the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the moving of its military assets into the territories of new members, including Romania and Bulgaria, which could not but cause concern.  In that context, the centre for real security measures had shifted to NATO, despite the existence of such structures as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  That contradicted the commitments of all the countries in the OSCE space, which were based on the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of States and, most importantly, the indivisibility of security and the need to avoid strengthening one’s own security at the expense of the security of others.

Citing examples of strains on Europe’s strategic stability, he mentioned the withdrawal of the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had been followed by negotiations to deploy the third positioning area of the strategic missile defence system of the United States and Europe.  Negotiations between Moscow and Washington to ensure a meaningful strategic arms control regime after the expiry of the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START-1) in December 2009 were “heading nowhere”.  “We have a situation whereby the security structures, most of which have been inherited from the cold war, are fragmented and not very efficient in promoting real stability, based on accounts of interest of all countries in this space.”

In trying to address that state of affairs, President Dmitry Medvedev had put forward a formal proposal to start negotiating a new treaty on Euro-Atlantic security, which should embrace not only all the countries in that space (basically the OSCE membership), but all the organizations existing in the area, including NATO, OSCE, the European Union and security structures in the post-Soviet space as well.  An open and honest discussion could make a difference, based on taking an inventory of all existing principles.

The system had failed to prevent the attack by Georgia against South Ossetia, he said, recalling also that after its first war against South Ossetia, the Georgian Army had been “armed beyond any meaningful defence needs”.  A huge amount of heavy weaponry had been sent to the country, including by covert means, in violation of OSCE and European Union codes of conduct, which called for utmost caution when sending arms to areas of conflict.  The codes had been ignored -– not by OSCE or the European Union, but by individual Member States of those organizations, which must be guided by those principles.  Apparently, by July 2008, Mr. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had tried “to achieve a blitzkrieg”, deciding that he had been armed enough to start the war again.

Asked about his vision of the global anti-terrorism coalition for which he had called in his speech to the Assembly, he stressed the importance of equitable patterns of cooperation and interaction among States in tackling international crises on the basis of international law.  There was a need for everybody to observe the same principles and avoid “monopolizing the truth”.  From the very start, all participants should “sit down together and analyze the situation”, agree on the steps needed to resolve the problem and proceed to the implementation of those collective decisions.

Such an approach could be applied to both old and new situations, he continued.  For instance, had the parties followed the approach suggested by the Russian Federation in connection with the anti-missile defence in Eastern Europe, all tensions around that problem would have been removed.  But the United States had declined the proposal for a joint analysis of the character of the threats, saying it had already conducted an analysis and that to counter those challenges, a third positioning area must be established in Eastern Europe.  However, there were real means to follow up collectively on the threats without creating new risks to anyone’s security.

On Iraq, he said his country had been against the war, but had agreed to work within the framework of the Security Council when the United States and other members of the Coalition started looking for solutions within the United Nations.  However, some of Russia’s assessments had been ignored.  For instance, the Russian Federation had repeatedly advocated the need to let the Iraqis decide the composition of national power structures.  That had not been done.  Another Russian idea, rejected some five years ago, related to the need for a national reconciliation conference.  In a couple of years, the United States had recognized that its approach had been a mistake, and national reconciliation was its main objective today.  Had there been agreement on the matter five years ago, the situation might be more stable now.

Regarding Afghanistan, he said that although ongoing terrorist raids were financially supported by illegal drug trafficking, Russia’s persistent calls over the past four years for the establishment of cooperation between NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization had met with harsh refusal.  That reflected a kind of “prejudiced ideology”, although the mutual benefits of such cooperation for both the Afghan people and the countries where drugs were delivered “by carloads” from Afghanistan were obvious.

Asked about the press coverage of the war in Georgia, he said many media sources in the West had presented inaccurate information.  For example, CNN had captioned “Gori destroyed by the Russian army” a picture it had obtained from Russia Today, which showed the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, after it had been shelled and bombarded by Georgian forces.  Later, the network had admitted its mistake, but just once, while the pictures of “Gori destroyed” had been run for hours.  That was not an isolated case.

As for the actions of the Georgian leadership, he said they could unequivocally be characterized as State propaganda of aggressive war, trying to dictate to the media how to cover events.  The press had had no opportunity to cover the developments frankly and openly.  From the first days of the war, the Georgian leadership had blocked alternative sources of information for Georgian citizens, including Russian TV channels and the Internet.  According to some sources, some journalists had been prosecuted and even arrested.

In response to several questions about his country’s military presence in Syria, he said military and technical cooperation between the two countries did not violate international law and was aimed at supporting stability and security in regions adjacent to Russia and elsewhere in the world, irrespective of whether someone liked it or not.

“We are not doing anything that will distort the balance of forces in any regions,” he said.  “We are trying to support that balance by preventing outbursts of conflict.”  Russian-Syrian cooperation did not mean that the Russian Federation had changed its position on the Tribunal on Lebanon.  Recently, it had made a contribution to that court to show its practical support for the investigation of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Responding to a question about Nazi glorification in several, newly admitted members of NATO, including Latvia and Estonia, he warned against the “heroization” of SS members there.  It was sad that entities and structures in the North Atlantic region were turning a blind eye to the “mistakes”, to put it mildly, of the young members of such movements, which should be stopped from the very inception.  Together, with its partners, the Russian Federation would consistently insist on such an approach, and on a firm position by the United Nations.  A revised draft resolution on that matter would be submitted at the current session of the General Assembly.

Asked to comment on the statement by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that his country should not be allowed to decide the destiny of NATO, he said the Russian Federation had no intention of making such decisions.  To see Russia’s proposal on a new security system as an attempt to substitute NATO was not a correct approach.  The destiny of that organization was being decided in Afghanistan and elsewhere.  A serious dialogue on the new security system was needed, involving all countries and structures on an equal and honest footing.

In response to another question, he denied the rumours that his country would veto the continuation of an international presence in Iraq, calling them “a lie and a provocation”.  Should the Iraqi leadership be unprepared to sign a document that the Russian Federation considered not to be fully in its interest, it would have no problem in supporting the continuation of the mandate of the international force in Iraq.

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For information media • not an official record