Sergei Lavrov: International Diplomat Extraordinaire Opens Up About the Details of the Dangerous Pro
His performance capability sparks legends. His name arises in the newspapers of many countries almost every day.
Let's talk to one of the best-informed and most highly-regarded actors in the international arena, Minister Sergey Lavrov, about international relations and how to negotiate.
— Hello, Nailya, nice to meet you.
Don't miss in today's program:
— Remember your joke about the coat of Boris Johnson, who had nothing in his pockets. What do you usually have in your pockets?
— Nothing, just my hands.
— What happened to the American partners?
— This mass psychosis has swept them clean of any rationality.
— What should be our reaction to the supplies of lethal weapons to Ukraine?
— We can't prohibit the US supplies. But we'll draw conclusions.
— How to reach a compromise between the US and North Korea?
— The one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back.
— Does the Minister have time for anything except work?
— I rarely get the chance to go to the cinema. So I mostly watch films on disks or online.
This interview was made before the professional holiday of all the Foreign Ministry staff, the Diplomatic Worker's Day. It was introduced in 2002 and was timed to the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian Foreign Ministry. More than 10,000 people are going to celebrate this professional holiday, most of them being far away from the homeland.
— Does the Foreign Ministry have any traditions of celebrating this holiday?
— Yes, we hold an event on February 10 every year or right before if it falls on the weekend, during which those diplomats who worked especially well during the preceding year are decorated with government and state awards. A presidential executive order is usually issued by that time naming the awardees of state orders or other decorations. We always invite our veterans to these events. After the ceremony, we go on with unofficial communication at a reception, These office parties are always very homelike, in the best meaning of this word. Of course, our foreign missions and our offices in Russian regions hold official events to which foreigners, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the host country are invited.
It is about the U.S., too, of course. Although, the recent years have seen an upheaval in the relations of the two superpowers. They've become worse than during the cold war. It seems to be the most widespread wording. How else can we interpret the seizure of the diplomatic facilities in San Francisco and Washington, temporary suspension and stricter rules of issuing visas to the Russians, sanction initiatives or, finally, the Kremlin Report? The paper had been prepared for half a year, it comprises 210 names: almost all the President's administration staff, ministers, heads of state companies and major businessmen.
— You are No. 65 in the so-called Kremlin Report. I guess you are the first Foreign Minister to be blacklisted in office. What were they trying to achieve?
— To tell you the truth, I don’t care about the situation around the Kremlin Report or any other goings-on in Washington that are associated with the so-called Russia Dossier. The report and the lists you have mentioned are simply ridiculous. They could be compiled within 30 minutes. I agree with the former US Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, who has said that his research assistant could have done it in less than an hour, copying the names from the Russian Government and the Presidential Executive Office phone books, as well as from the Forbes magazine. When it all began, I had a very bad feeling. I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears, considering that I am personally acquainted with many officials from the Washington administration and the Congress. They are serious, smart and reasonable people. Therefore, I was shocked to see this mass psychosis sweeping them clean of rationality. But as this trend continued, and it has been for over a year now, I gradually lost any interest in it.
Sergey Lavrov had 2 long missions to the U.S. The first one started in 1981, he was secretary, counselor, and then senior counselor at the then Soviet Permanent Mission to the United Nations. In 1994 he was appointed Russia's Ambassador to the UN. The bilateral relations went through various periods during that time. But what is happening now is an absolutely new experience for the Russian diplomacy.
— I read the articles by your colleagues who say that we need to overcome this deadlock somehow. Dmitry Peskov has described the bilateral relations as «collapse», and I can offer many other synonyms. When urged to look for a way out «creatively», I assure you, we have been doing this and will continue to do this. We have offered many practical solutions to our American partners. During my regular contacts with Rex Tillerson, we proposed ways to move back from the dangerous and rather silly line. There has been no reaction in most cases.
The only positive exception is our professional work on amendments to the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or New START. American partners say they are willing to do this after we «take the first step and repent». This has become a philosophy. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which is ruled by U.S., British, and other Anglo-Saxon representatives, wants us to repent as well. We must repent in all other cases. And then our Western partners will generously agree to gradually normalize relations. We always offer practical solutions in situations that could degrade into a crisis.
— Is it possible that they are provoking us into responding? How should we react?
— I believe they would be glad to see a situation in which Russia will take some nervous or dramatic measures. But our policies, formulated by the President, aren't based on such improvisation or impromptu actions. We have a consistent line which we advance regardless of the global landscape. Some people would certainly like to provoke us into taking actions that would allow them to increase the sanctions pressure on us and to take other coercive measures Although, they continue to increase pressure on us, which is another reason for wondering about the abilities of those who continue to mindlessly buildup the sanctions. I believe that those who know at least something about international affairs, or life, for that matter, should have long seen that no sanctions will force us to change our policy. We are always ready to discuss our partners’ questions regarding their legitimate interests. But as Americans say, it takes two to tango, which is also applicable to negotiations. It takes two to negotiate.
Tango is another metaphor for the current relations. At an informal dinner with the NATO foreign ministers, US State Secretary Tillerson said that they could dance the tango with Russia, but they couldn't dance with Lavrov because he wasn't allowed to. The Minister's answer was clear.
«My Mom would also prohibit me from dancing with boys. If Rex Tillerson feels that he can't dance with everybody yet, we're ready to help him».
— Last year the Russian-US relations were said to have hit rock bottom. What next?
— I am not going to talk about rock or any other bottom, which is a popular phrase. I am against making any wild guesses. I am for acting openly and honestly so as not to punish anyone but to bring together all countries that can really and effectively deal with global problems, primarily terrorism as well as other global threats such as drug trafficking, organized crime, and illegal migration.
— There is a time difference between Moscow and Washington. Do you wake up calmly in the morning or anxious about what could've happened in the US overnight?
— Why should I be anxious? Of course, I read and watch the news in the morning. In most cases, you can expect something will have taken place. For example, there have been hints. There are some surprises, but only very rarely. I was pleasantly surprised when the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld our athletes’ appeals. But it did not come as a surprise when the WADA and USADA leadership said that this outrageous CAS decision had cast a shadow over all «clean» athletes and undermined the Olympic principles. You see, when people can't curb their negative or evil emotions, they give themselves away. When the leader of an anti-doping organization has a nervous breakdown over a court decision, considering that the court is sacrosanct in the US, it proves that this campaign, even despite the negative facts about some of our athletes, is politically charged and designed to demonize Russia through the Olympic movement.
Sergey Lavrov was born in Moscow. He partly spent his childhood on the outskirts of Moscow. He studied in the primary school in Noginsk. He graduated from a Moscow school with advanced English learning. An excellent pupil, a silver medalist, Lavrov decided to apply to 2 universities at once, Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs and Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. but entrance exams to MGIMO were a month earlier, so he chose the diplomatic career. Besides, being a student, Sergey Lavrov composed a song which remains the MGIMO anthem even now.
«It's our institute, it's our stigma,
but we don't need anything else.
Our unique MGIMO, always remain
the stronghold of the student's friendship».
Sergey Lavrov is what is called a «career diplomat». His work in the Soviet Foreign Ministry started right after he graduated from the university. He was first appointed in 1972 at the Soviet embassy to Sri Lanka. The country was chosen because Lavrov speaks Sinhalese apart from English and French, and Sinhalese is the language of Sri Lanka's biggest ethnic group.
— You had both successful and unsuccessful negotiations. Can anything amaze you now?
— I never proceeded from my amazement while assessing situations. For a long time, I've been taking the world developments at face value. Perhaps, at the beginning of my diplomatic career, some things could arouse my special interest or amaze me, as you've said. Now that I've worked in diplomacy for so many years, I realize what I should expect from partners. Now we see that we should expect from the USA far more than we used to expect. But one can get used to anything. Just mind your country's interest while thinking if you should react to other countries' domestic processes and actions if they affect your country's interests, or you can ignore some steps taken by people blinded by Russophobia. So, I'm just trying to be impartial. It's the life, you must analyze what's going on.
THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE
US Congress approved the supplies of weapon to Ukraine 3 years ago. Russia warned Washington against such plans many times, saying that such a step would only entail further escalation of the conflict in Donbas. So far, there are no state US supplies of weapons to Ukraine. Nevertheless, a private company from Texas confirmed having supplied modified Soviet RPGs to Ukraine. At the end of the last year, the Trump administration issued the first license to sell lethal weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine will get sniper rifles and RPGs, but won't have any missiles.
— Today it is no secret that the USA supplies lethal weapons to Ukraine. Why is Europe keeping silent?
— It isn't. It is opposing it, but not loudly or publicly. According to our sources, talking to the USA, it vents opposition to Washington's insisting that Europe join the supplies of weapons. The USA is trying to lure the countries with Russophobic trends, for example, our Baltic neighbors, Poland. But according to our sources, big strong European states are perfectly aware of how dangerous such moves are and try to bring their neighbors to their senses because the US and Canada have already launched these sales. It's lamentable.
— What will our reaction be?
— We can't prohibit the US supplies to anywhere. Of course, we'll draw conclusions. It's a fact that the representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk, who can protect themselves, are witnessing it. I think we must consider it.
— Maybe, we also should move from words to deeds and, for example, recognize the DPR and the LPR?
— Unlike some of our international colleagues, we are still people of our word, and this word, especially when it is the subject of negotiations, and when it is approved by the Security Council, we always keep and fulfill it. Nobody canceled the Minsk agreements. And I think that the one who takes the first step breaking them will make a colossal mistake. Actually, the Kiev authorities are one step from this mistake if they adopt the reintegration law that has passed the second reading. We'll see. I think the West is growing more and more convinced that it is necessary to bring president Poroshenko to his senses as well as those who are governing Ukraine with him both regarding the provocative reintegration law, that's still just a bill, and the education law which was adopted. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe demanded that it should be changed as it is discriminating against all the languages of ethnic minorities. According to our sources, the emissaries who visit Kiev, European emissaries, do convey such a message, strongly recommending that Kiev understand that these measures are counterproductive and change its behavior. They can't say it publicly yet but I think that if the current Kiev regime doesn't change its behavior public statements will follow shortly because Europe is very wary of the processes that are taking place in Ukraine, especially regarding the sharp rise of the radicals and Neo-Nazis.
— When talking to your Ukrainian counterpart during rare telephone conversations, meetings, which language do you speak?
— As well as your counterpart?
— Yes. He comes from Kursk.
Opinion polls show that Sergey Lavrov has long been one of the most popular and quoted ministers in the Russian government.
— Can talks be held in a raised voice?
— It depends on the person, there are no rules providing that talks can only be held at 0.3 decibels. Some have low voices, others have stronger ones, bigger ones.
— Have you ever raised your voice?
— You know, probably, you can put it this way. Because when discussing something, stating your case, defending proposals, amendments to a paper, or standing for certain a wording, naturally, one gets more emotional, and emotions sometimes help make oneself clear.
Usually, cameras aren't let in here. Here, the after-talks dinner takes place. Foreign guests sit with their back to this fireplace.
— Is it a way to warm them up before the talks?
— No, it's just the way the hall is organized. The host is supposed to sit facing the door, and the door is over there.
— To control the situation and see who enters the room?
— This is just the way it's done.
— There's a phrase «they continued the talks at lunch». Do you eat or hold negotiations?
— We eat, why not? Everybody eats. When I graduated from MGIMO in 1972, I was immediately appointed to Sri Lanka as the Ambassador's aid. I was a young diplomat, and the Ambassador was Rafiq Nishonovich Nishonov. He's recently turned 90, may God grant him good health. My duties as the aid included not only preparing the mail report, but also translating and interpreting. So, when the Ambassador and his spouse organized lunches, breakfasts, I was sitting at the table. In Russia, interpreters sit at the table. In some other countries, they sit behind those eating. Our diplomatic protocol has always said that interpreters should sit at the table. I was young and hungry, I realized I had both to interpret and eat something. There I learned to reconcile these two things.
This is the working position of simultaneous interpreters. They are real spooks. They can both mitigate the talks and exacerbate the conflict. Simultaneous interpreters are not only in perfect command of languages but also well-read and have a good sense of humor.
— Do you feed interpreters now?
— Of course, they sit at the table. But many of them ask not to serve food to them as they try to concentrate on interpreting. I don't oppose them, but one can reconcile both things.
— Do you offer adult beverages to guests?
— Yes, as well as every country, except Muslim states. Even some Muslim states offer wine.
— Have you offered Crimean wine to Europeans, Americans?
— We have.
— Do they drink it?
— They do.
But politics is much more complicated than gastronomy. Iranian nuclear deal is a vivid example of it. In July 2015, Iran and the 6 international mediators: Russia, USA, UK, China, France, and Germany — seemed to have reached a historic agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. Americans agreed to lift all sanctions from Tehran. But at the beginning of this year, Washington changed its mind.
THE IRANIAN DOSSIER
— Will the agreement on Iran be respected, including by our West European allies, given that the United States refuses to do so?
— The US has not refused to fulfill the agreement but has demanded that it be revised, which is absolutely unrealistic. But this is what the US demands. It also wants the European signatories – Britain, France, and Germany – to start cooperating with Washington on this matter. The three European parties to this agreement have agreed to establish a working group with the US, with the caveat that the deal cannot be renegotiated but they are ready to discuss other concerns regarding Iran. The main concerns are Iran’s ballistic missile program, which has not been prohibited, the human rights issue and Iran’s behavior in the region, meaning Iran’s alleged negative effect on conflict situations.
The USA and 3 European countries — the UK, France, Germany — have created a working group to discuss the Iranian nuclear deal. Russia and China, who act as the international mediators too, were not invited to the talks.
— It is notable that neither Russia nor China has been invited to join in this work, although they are party to this agreement as well. I don’t think we'd have accepted the invitation, but it has not been extended anyway. We'd hardly accept their logic, but the Americans say, «if it’s not broken, don’t fix it». The deal with Iran is not broken. Moreover, it is very effective. But attempts have been made to fix it, and before fixing it, they are trying to break it. This is very bad. If there is a desire to discuss Iran’s ballistic missile program, do it. Those who consider Iran’s missile plans to be of a destabilizing nature must provide reliable arguments. Iran is not the only country with a ballistic missile program. There are other countries with such programs in the region. I believe that these US actions are openly discriminating, biased and unreasonably exacting. We proposed an alternative solution many times. The idea is that we should start building bridges between the Gulf countries and Iran.
Early in February, the USA issued a new nuclear policy, saying that North Korea has held 6 nuclear tests since 2006, including a most powerful hydrogen bomb test. The USA stresses that it poses a direct threat to the security of the US and its allies, warning that any North Korea's nuclear attack against them will mark the end of the regime.
— Which compromise between the US and North Korea would reduce the nuclear threat?
— I don’t even know. We have moved from Iran so smoothly. Iranian nuclear deal was very clear: Iran renounced the military aspects of its nuclear program in return for the lifting of UN and the unilateral US and other western sanctions. Today, the United States is demanding the same from North Korea: suspend its military nuclear program in return for security guarantees and the lifting of sanctions. But the US is now trying to revise or terminate the deal with Iran, which the North Korean leaders might see as a telling sign. However, we must not lose heart. The nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula is very serious, The problem of North Korea’s nuclear might is used to increase disproportionate US military presence in the region. The United States is looking not only at North Korea, which is being used to justify the growing US military presence but also at the South China Sea, where China and ASEAN economies are holding negotiations on territorial disputes through diplomatic channels. The build-up of the US naval and air force presence in the region can objectively, even if unwittingly, move these territorial disputes to a military dimension. I view this as a very dangerous game. One should find solutions instead of being blindly sure of their rightness. I have told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and before him, his predecessor John Kerry, who said that dual suspension was unacceptable, that the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back when the problem comes to a dangerous line.
WASHINGTON VS BEIJING
Washington has long striven for a dialogue with China to improve mutual understanding on nuclear weapon policies, the US nuclear policy says. Washington stresses that it doesn't want to regard Russia and China as its enemies and that it seeks a stable relationship with them.
— Are China-US relations doomed to deteriorate, since both these countries will vie for the status of an economic and political superpower in the coming years?
— Competition is always there. It is known to be the driver of progress, just like private entrepreneurship, as famous literary character Ostap Bender once said. However, competition must be fair and honorable. It starts with the cyclical growth of the global economy propelling one country to the top. Then after a fairly long historical era, other countries catch up with it economically. As, for example, was the case with the United States after two world wars which did not affect its territory. I wouldn’t say that the United States has lost much of its standing or clout. However, other centers of power emerged, such as the European Union, we have an interest in seeing the EU overcome this confusion, internal squabbling and become united and strong. This, of course, includes China and India and, to a certain extent, Russia. However, neither we nor China have ever called anyone our enemy in our doctrinal documents. The United States has started doing so. However, probably, there must be some generally accepted methods of competition. However, wherever you look… For example, sanctions against our defense industry unquestionably represent unfair and unscrupulous competition, because, in addition to these sanctions, the United States trots around the globe and demands, through their ambassadors, that Latin America, Asia, and Africa refuse to buy military equipment and weapons from us, promising that the US will compensate for the equipment shortages in a particular country. This is nothing short of driving competitors out of the market using blackmail and ultimatums. I can see such an approach in a number of areas, namely the use of unilateral coercive, illegitimate and illegal measures to achieve unjustified and unfair advantages.
— Which areas in particular? You have already mentioned sports, politics, and economy. What's next? Will they get to the culture?
— I don’t think they will get to the culture. By the way, culture is the sphere where we are now also becoming competitive, but we are doing so in a fair manner. Take the cinema, for example. The share of Russian films has grown significantly and continues to grow. Our films are of high quality, and they beat box-office records. This is an example of fair competition. We started making films that our people enjoy watching.
— Do you watch them?
— I did.
— What was the last film you saw?
— Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to see Going Vertically, but some time ago I saw Legend No. 17 and Stalingrad. I rarely get the chance to go to the cinema, so I mostly watch films on disks or online.
— It's clear with the US foes. Who are our global friends and foes?
— We don't call anybody a foe. We are sincere in that. Our Foreign Policy Concept, approved by the President a couple of years ago, says that we are eager to cooperate fairly and effectively, proceeding from a balance of interests, equality, mutual benefit, with any country that is ready to interact based on the same principles. Take the USA. It is interested in continuing our space cooperation, including the International Space Station, purchases of jet motors. We don't want to shoot ourselves in the foot or cut our own throat to spite anyone. We keep implementing this genuinely mutually beneficial project. I think the more such concrete activities, the more chances for normalizing political relations.
— So, we aren't going to make friends with China to counter the US, are we?
— No, China doesn't want to make friends with us to counter the US either. We never make friends with anyone to counter anyone. Take NATO where the US every day briefs the member states on solidarity, Russian threat. They've been saying it every day for years, accompanying it with increasing NATO military infrastructure on the territory of the Eastern European members right at our border. US, Canadian, German, British units are already deployed there. And even Italians. Such heavy-handed discipline is obvious. However, during bilateral contacts many NATO and EU member states tell us that they realize the absurdity and the counterproductivity of this situation, but that the solidarity and the consensus principle make them follow this line which they don't like. It's regrettable. A great power, a great people behave in a way which is not decent for a great country.
— Are we afraid of the Chinese ourselves?
— You shouldn't be afraid of anyone. We are to rely on facts, which show that now Russia-China relations are unprecedentedly good. We have never had such good relations. The plans for our future relations are absolutely fair, open and mutually beneficial. Some people are ready to gamble on the topic we've just mentioned. But these speculations prove to be inconsistent. We just develop mutually beneficial projects which pose no threat to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. We will continue this line.
Sometimes two states seem to like each other, have common interests, but a decade-long issue is hindering them. It's about Russia, Japan, and the Kuril Islands, Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai islets.
— What are the prospects for our cooperation with Japan? Does the territorial dispute still dominate the agenda?
— For them, it does. For us, it does not. Of course, we'd like to conclude a peace treaty, as agreed in 1956 by the respective Declaration. We proceed from the idea that it is possible to solve a problem, including this one, under as favorable conditions as possible which can be created by deepening the cooperation between the countries in all the spheres, including trade and economy, politics and international relations. We are to create such an atmosphere in our societies that will help us find a mutually acceptable solution. The President and the PM have agreed on the joint business activities on the 4 islands. 5 concrete projects have been approved, but they are quite modest, in aquaculture, tourism. These projects are important, interesting, they create jobs, but they are quite modest so far. The Japanese-US relations matter too. They have a treaty which enables the US to deploy its bases in any part of the Japanese territory. We'd like to understand how it affects the security in the region on the whole. Without understanding these aspects, it's hard to discuss concrete points of a peace treaty. Perhaps, what is essential for us is the inviolability of the WWII results. Our Japanese counterparts don't recognize that the results of WWII are inviolable regarding these 4 islands.
— Has there been any progress on this issue? It seems as if Shinzō Abe only arrives in Vladivostok once a year, in September, to tell that they are ready to deal with the problem somehow. And that's it.
— Well, he did arrive in Moscow and I think he will visit it in future. You can't find a solution to this problem at a sitting. But joint business activities is already a step toward cooperation on the islands. We point out that the fringe benefits existing in the Russian Federation like the territories of advanced development, the Free Port of Vladivostok, look quite tempting. I wouldn't say there is no progress. We've improved our relations a lot primarily, the dialogue at the highest political level, which is really trust-based, sincere, friendly, fair.
— We've already covered Syria. Will the stability in Syria last or are we ready to resume the military operation if necessary?
— If the ISIS rises on the Syrian territory again, our personnel deployed at the Khmeimim base will help the Syrian Army to suppress such outbreaks.
— In December 2016 you were at a reception held in this building when you learned that Ambassador Karlov was wounded. At some point, diplomacy is no more a festive, but a dangerous profession. How can it go together?
— We just thought that times have changed, and what had happened to another ambassador, Griboyedov, couldn't repeat. But it turned out the opposite. And the profession of a diplomat is very risky. It is more probable in the countries where conflicts are ongoing. It was the case of the US ambassador to Libya who died in the US Consulate General in Benghazi. As for Turkey, it came as an absolutely unexpected blow because there was no unrest in the country back then, and our colleague, our fellow, our friend, Andrei Karlov, as you know, was just addressing the friendly community. I am very grateful to those who commemorate him.
For all his life, Lavrov has worked in the Foreign Ministry, he became the Foreign Minister in 2004.
— How many years does it take a diplomat to become a psychologist?
— I don't think a diplomat is bound to become a psychologist. Of course, psychological skills are helpful to a diplomat as diplomacy consists in reaching agreements. If you don't only see the cover of your interlocutor, but also their soul that you understand and their mind you can read, or it seems to you that you can read them, it is always much more interesting. You should take into consideration your interlocutor's personal traits, their likes, their hobbies, the fields of their interest. It does help.
— What is the difference between the negotiations with a male diplomat and a female diplomat? Is your attitude to a woman different? You have a rich experience.
— No, it is not different as it would be politically incorrect. We equally respect women and men. They are the part of the mankind, it's better part.
— You are said to have made Nuland cry. Didn't you have on her?
— No, it never happened. It's a lie.
— You often joke. And nobody gets offended. Your jokes go viral. Do you do it on purpose?
— No, I don't joke against the collar, but if a joke comes in handy in a conversation, I don't think it's wrong to say it.
John Kerry: «So, I think today's discussion will be successful. And congratulations on your birthday. I hope this day will give you extra wisdom while holding these talks. You look terrific for 39».
Sergey Lavrov: «John, thanks, but if wisdom is measured by the number of birthdays, I will never catch up with you».
— Some of your speeches are emotional. For example, you teach ethics to journalists. You also mentioned US pen-pushers, did they react somehow?
— I have no idea. You see, we move on to the relations with journalists. I deeply respect journalists. Sometimes I snicker at them as well as they snicker at me. I think it's absolutely normal.
12 April 2017. Moscow
A journalist: «Mr. Secretary of State! The Russians don’t believe the intelligence!»
Sergey Lavrov: «Who was bringing you up? Who was giving you your manners? Honorable Secretary of State...»
12 October 2016. Interview CNN
Sergey Lavrov: «There’re so many pussies around your presidential campaign on both sides that I prefer not to comment about this».
A journalist: (laughing) «Oh, my God! I was unexpected…»
— It's very interesting to hear their questions that arise in the course of our negotiations. Sometimes these questions contain hints that we make use of.
— One of the most recent is your joke about Boris Johnson's empty coat pockets. What do you usually have in your pockets?
— Nothing, just my hands.
— What do you think is the reason for this global Russophobia? Have you ever expected it?
— To be brief, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, those who were ruling the new Russia made such steps, conducted such a policy toward the West, blowing the trumpet of their readiness to become a part of «the civilized world», that made the West think that, firstly, our country had never been part of «the civilized world», and, secondly, that 'the civilized world' meant the West and Russia wanted to join it with every fiber of its soul. That illusion gained ground in the turbulent 90s when Western, American, European advisors worked here, in key ministries, when they tailored the privatization, and so on.
And when in the 2000s, Russia started to mostly rely on its traditions, on its place in history, started to realize that our people felt this history inside them, were proud of it, willing to live and build the country based on its history, it was shocking for those who were trammeled by illusions about lawlessness toward Russia. And I guess they still can't get it together after that shock. When they realized that their attempts to hold us on a leash failed, all the current attacks and interference started. It started with the Magnitsky Act, when nobody wanted to figure out what had really happened, and an absolutely inadequate reaction to what happened with Edward Snowden when Obama canceled his visit to Moscow. More sanctions followed.
Then Ukraine was another pretext to put even more pressure on us. And now it's the interference in the elections. Not a single fact or evidence for speculations was found during the year-long investigation. It's impossible. If there were any facts, they'd have leaked long ago. I know how this system works in the US. It leaks immediately when such an amount of people are involved in the hearings, the investigation and so on.
Sport helps Sergey Lavrov stand his ground. Though it's hard to do sports regularly with such a schedule. The Minister's aids have counted that he spent 1/3 of the last calendar year on missions, which is about 130 days. And he spent 433 hours on a plane. When he has a spare minute, Lavrov goes rafting. He also has other hobbies.
— Do you like playing football?
— I don't only like it, but also play it.
— There was a football championship for the diplomatic corps. Was it your idea?
— No, it was the idea of my colleagues from the Association of Diplomats. There are the Young Diplomats Board and the Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps. So, it was a collective incentive that many embassies, as I take it, liked.
— Do you read newspapers? In print format or on iPad?
— So, do you have time to read something apart from documents? Books?
— Rarely. Rarely.
— It would be strange to ask you what country you'd like to visit. Is there a place that you want to visit again?
— It's Lake Baikal.