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.