Press Briefing by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy on 30 March 2021
Dmitry Polyanskiy: I'm very glad to greet all of you here today. It's already becoming a tradition. It has been quite an interesting month. Our American friends have done a very good job [as President of the Security Council]. They have been very efficient and interacted well.
If you are interested in certain moments or topics, please don't hesitate to let me know, but I will start with your questions. I received a couple of questions on Syria: “At the last Security Council meeting, Mr. Pedersen sounded optimistic about the political track. Do you share that optimism and do you think a similar breakthrough, like the one in Libya, is feasible in Syria any time this year?”
Well, we definitely share Mr. Pedersen's optimism because we see that the two sides of the Syrian conflict are starting to engage together. There is still a lot to be done and there are important meetings to come, but there is no other way but the dialogue. Everybody agrees, including ourselves, that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. We are looking forward to the next meeting of the Constitutional Committee, which we expect will give the sides a possibility to better understand the positions and maybe come to certain commonalities. But it's up to them to decide. It’s a Syrian-owned and a Syrian-led process. As you know, we are against any foreign interference in this process.
As for Libya and Syria, these are two different scenarios, two different situations. There are certain complications in Libya. There are certain complications in Syria. In Syria, they seem to be more persistent and more difficult to overcome. I don't know whether in Libya there is a certain area controlled by terrorists where the population is de facto held hostage, with certain external powers supporting this territory. At the same time, a big part of Syria is still occupied by the United States, which was not invited there. It complicates very much a comprehensive settlement in the country. But this is not the case in Libya. To my mind, in Libya things look quite optimistic. We are very happy about this and we expect things to progress quickly. We hope that Libyans will find an understanding and a common denominator on very difficult issues that the country faces.
Q: Today is the 30th anniversary of the decision by the Security Council to establish a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, which impacted me personally, my family and millions refugees. That decision made us able to return to our home but complicated the Iraqi situation in general. It was a beginning of a period of what's known as “humanitarian interventions”, when the Security Council allows the use of force in the name of saving lives. I just wanted your perspective on this after three decades of a start of the so-called humanitarian interventions. Do you think it's still the responsibility and the function of the Security Council to intervene in case of a threat or a perceived threat of mass killings in a certain country and to give the international community the right to override their sovereignty?
A: The world is now obviously different from what it was 30 years ago. There were expectations and hopes that international interactions, the international cooperation will take a positive shape without any confrontation and with countries being able to put aside their differences and work together to achieve certain results. We are now 30 years from that. The expectations didn't come exactly true. There are certain things that we can be really proud of, other things we could have done in a different way.
It's not only about Iraq, but it's also about Libya. Now we are celebrating the breakthrough in the Libyan negotiations, but we don't need to forget the fact that 10 years ago the military operation by NATO turned this country to what it is now. Nobody has a “magic wand” to solve the problems in Libya except Libyans themselves. It's a painful way. This country has suffered enormously. The whole of North Africa has suffered and continues to suffer because of this. Iraq is a different case, but there are certain similarities. I will not go back to the history, I'm not a historian, but we are now analyzing and trying to draw conclusions from what happened – Why did it happen? How could it be done in a different way? That, of course, affects our positions today.
As for humanitarian interventions, we do not advocate for this concept. It's a philosophical question – how we determine whether it's a good guy or a bad guy or whether this government is a good one or a bad one, even if it seems obvious in some cases. But what would be the safeguards in this sphere in the future if we added the humanitarian intervention right to the toolbox of the international community? Who can guarantee that tomorrow some influential countries which disregard positions of others will not decide that this one is a bad guy deserving a humanitarian intervention on a certain pretext? We know that there are blatant double standards in the world and we think it's a very dangerous scenario to intervene, rather than seek agreement with a country in question.
There are situations where countries that face problems specifically ask for foreign help, even military help. That's one thing. Another case is when the situation in a certain country is worrying, when, for example, there are protests, casualties and victims. It's a difficult situation, but it doesn't give us the right to intervene and to solve the problems instead of citizens and authorities of these countries. It will not be a long-term solution. It will create a very dangerous precedent.
During the previous century, we had at least a couple of devastating world wars. We need to take lessons out of these situations. I do not want to create direct parallels, but history is the mother of science and the mother of diplomacy. We always have to look back searching for solutions for our today’s situations. I'm not in favor and my country is not in favor of the concept of humanitarian interventions. It's a very dangerous one. We think that everything should be, first of all, decided through a dialogue by the countries in question and without foreign interference. It also applies to the policy of regime change, which was promoted by our host country and which seems to be out of question given certain remarks by Secretary of State Blinken. We still need to see whether it is true or not. So we are for cooperation, we are for non-interference into internal affairs of other states.
The next question: “Turkey is threatening to launch a military campaign into the bordering district of Sinjal, a major concern for Iraq. This is mainly due to the fact that Sinjar is becoming a stronghold for militias, including PKK-linked fighters. Iraq previously expressed concern and submitted complaints about Turkey's military activities inside the Iraqi borders. Do you think the Council should express a position on this before it develops into a major crisis?”
Well, it's up to the members of the Council to decide. We are a permanent member, but only one member of the Council. We are absolutely convinced that any military operation on the territory of another country should be agreed with the authorities of this country. So it is related directly to what I just said. The cause might seem right, targets might seem obvious, but there might be very important details which might develop into big problems and headaches for the international community. We are not in favor of unilateral moves in this situation. As for the Council, again, there are different members and different positions. We need to see whether we can find a common denominator on certain issues. We don't want our position to dominate in the Council.
The next question: “I noticed that on Friday Russia voted in favor of the resolution extending for one year the experts mandate on North Korea. At the same time you disagree with the wording “barrels” or “tons” for the North Korean oil importations. Can you explain the logic?”
I can easily explain you the logic. The fact is that your information is outdated. I think we agreed on these “barrels” and “tones” back in January, the discussions in the Sanctions Committee were very fruitful in this regard. There were technical difficulties, but as far as I am informed they have been overcome. So I don't think your question is related to the situation that we are facing right now. It's up to the Sanctions Committee to formulate the exact language. As far as I know, it's “tons”, but also “barrels” in some cases. So it's a flexible solution. I just wanted to say that in any case it's about oil. That's for sure.
Q: As a follow-up on the DPRK issue. Can you just speak a little bit more generally about how you understand this moment in terms of the Security Council diplomacy, in terms of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula? Do you think that you have an opportunity here with the new Administration? Are you reading any new signals from them or is this just “business as usual”?
A: It's up to the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to engage or not to engage in settlement discussions. It takes two to tango. We are following this dossier. There were dramatic and breakthrough developments with the previous Administration. We don't know what the current Administration is thinking about this file. I believe it's in the preparation process. But it's a bilateral issue.
We welcome any kind of a dialogue, bilateral and multilateral. There are multilateral tools for the resolution of this issue. They are still working. We can activate them as soon as everybody's ready. If our American friends decide to engage with our North Korean friends and this is to the mutual satisfaction, why should we not applause this development? But it's still some way to go, as we have seen recently. We hope that there will be no tensions on the Korean Peninsula and that all sides will refrain from provocative acts and rhetoric, which don’t help achieve our goal of establishing durable peace in this part of the world.
Next question: “During the recent virtual meeting with Joe Biden, Russia decided to be represented by Anna Evstigneeva, nor by Vassily Nebenzia neither by you, First Deputy Permanent Representative. And Russia also refused to speak, contrary to other Security Council members. Why these two decisions?”
I would like to ask you not to diminish the significance and the rank of Mrs Anna Evstigneeva. She's an Ambassador, she's a Deputy Permanent Representative. She's quite a high ranking and a very much respected official. That's why she being there, representing the Russian Federation is a normal development. She can be an Ambassador in any country and she can be an Ambassador for this meeting.
Secondly, the update on the US moving this invitation to the White House came on a very short notice. It arrived on the eve of that day. Ambassador Nebenzia and myself had some previous engagements, and we decided to honor them.
Thirdly, why Russia refused to speak contrary to the other Security Council members. In the context when our Ambassador was called to Moscow for consultations, we thought it would not be very logical for us to say anything because our relations with the United States are undergoing a very deep review right now. So we were present at the meeting. We were polite. Anna is a well-known and respected high-ranking diplomat. But we decided not to say anything because it is difficult to say anything at such meetings and in such situations. I hope you will understand the context. So that's it about our participation in the meeting with Joe Biden.
I also have a question on the Iranian nuclear issue and on Security Council resolution 2231. “The United States, a member of the UN Security Council, has violated UN Security Council resolution 2231 and continues to do so. It imposes unilateral sanctions on various countries, including Russia. But 190 members of the United Nations, even the veto-wielding powers, such as Britain and France, have failed to act. Perhaps it is safe to say that they have been accompanied by sanctions” This is the quote that I'm reading, not my interpretation. What is Russia's mechanism for countering this unilateralism? I think I can combine this question with another one: “Are the broader tensions between the United States and Russia making it harder for the two nations to cooperate in finding a way to revive the Iran nuclear deal?”
First of all, of course, we are against any unilateral sanctions and unilateral actions. We don't think that the United States, when acting this way and when imposing extraterritorial sanctions on sovereign States, acts in accordance with international law. This is our firm position. We always reiterate this position and we have our own ways, how to deal with this issue. I am absolutely sure that other countries that face US sanctions have also their own ways to deal with this issue. That's why I will not comment for them. I would just express the opinion that it is not quite decent for a great country like the United States to act in such a way in the international arena and to pretend to be a kind of a world's policeman. This concept dates several decades back, it is not for today. The sooner the United States realized that the world has changed and that there is no place in the world for such tools, the better for everybody, including the United States. That's a general remark.
As for resolution 2231, JCPOA and everything related to that, we are still optimistic. We know of the positions of the parties. We don't forget who started first, who did what. We think that does matter. We expect that when the United States rejoined the JCPOA – as is logical to expect – that all the moves that were taken in breach of this important agreement would be repealed. We also at the same time think that the moves that Iran has taken in retaliation – I would like to stress this – should also be repealed. Now it's time to determine the consequence of these steps. Again, there is logic, clear logic, in the Iranian position. There is some logic in the United States position. We try to be very instrumental and constructive and to bring the parties to an agreement, which we hope we will see quite soon, provided we all act in good faith and that we all are forthcoming. That's why I don't think we should be extremely worried about this. We should give the parties the time to engage in dialogue, to understand better each other's position. We know that the new United States Administration continues to work on its position on the Iranian file. We welcome the transformation that happens with the new President. And we expect this position to yield concrete and feasible results in the near future.
Q: My specific questions are on Syria, following up with what you've said. So I have two specific questions, if I may. Number one, you have seen the call yesterday from Secretary of State Blinken to open lots of border crossings. You've seen Mr. Lowcock saying that nothing is making it cross-line. And there's a speech from the Secretary-General in the next hour where he is going to talk about cross-border and the need for cross-border. What is Russia's current position ahead of those negotiations? Do you think that cross-border crossings, one or more are now needed? And my second question feeds into the diplomacy on Syria you were talking about, in addition to the ongoing meetings of the Astana Sochi group, which is Turkey, Russia and Iran, there was another formulation of countries that met in Doha recently, Russia, Turkey and Qatar. And I'm wondering what that discussion is about and how you see the diplomatic momentum on Syria going forward. Is it just the Constitutional Committee or are there wider discussions underway?
A: On the border crossings and on the humanitarian Syrian file, yesterday, we indeed had a very interesting discussion in the Security Council and Secretary Blinken personally participated in it. I would say that we're still where we were before. I haven't seen any dynamics since then. So what is the problem? We all care about Syrian refugees, displaced persons, the population in Idlib. We all care about them in the same way. The problem is that we don't think that opening additional border crossings would make life easier for these people. As I already said previously, we think that there are other means for delivery of humanitarian assistance, namely through cross-line. And the Syrian government is ready for such deliveries.
We know that, for example, there is a convoy from the Red Cross ready to go to Idlib from Damascus. And this convoy has received the necessary clearance from the Syrian government almost a year ago last April. So it means that the other side, which is influenced by the position of many countries, is not ready to move and is not ready to make any necessary concessions, because we all speak about sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. Nobody is questioning the future of Syria as a country within its borders. Idlib is also a part of Syria. What do we have in Idlib? In Idlib we have an internationally recognized terrorist group, quite numerous, controlling quite numerous population and making hostages out of this population. And this situation, this status quo is not sustainable, nor for Syria, nor for us, and it's not sustainable for these people.
We know that there were several efforts from the refugees in Idlib to cross to the territory controlled by the Syrian government. The Syrian government made the necessary efforts for it. They made the corridors open. They also opened certain schools for children from Idlib to be taught about the Syrian territory. But the Idlib population was prevented from doing so by the terrorists from HTS. Again, what is the intention with Idlib? Idlib should someday return to Syria. These people are Syrian citizens and the Syrian government is responsible for them. The Syrian government is ready to help them. It is ready to provide humanitarian assistance. And instead of facilitating this, the broad international community concentrates on opening border crossings, which are not transparent. Nobody knows what is happening there because apart from delivery of humanitarian aid a lot of things are being brought there [through the crossing points]. They are controlled again by the Syrian rebels, if you can call them so, Islamists, terrorists, or whoever. It's a very gray scheme and it's not well-known what is happening there. Of course, it's a breach of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
The situation now is different from what it was five or six years ago. And most of the Syrian territory is under the control of the Syrian government. The situation in Idlib until recently was relatively calm. And nobody did anything to convince these people who control Idlib to move forward and to do what they need to do. If they are internationally acknowledged terrorist, as we all know, then they need to face accountability. Then they need to give the way for the forces that would be ready to cooperate and to interact and engage with the Syrian government. That is why the Constitutional Committee is doing its work. And we hope that there will be progress there. But these people in Idlib, I mean the terrorists, they do absolutely nothing. And we don't need to create a cover-up for them. We need to call a spade a spade in this situation. We believe that the solution to humanitarian issues in Syria should be provided with due respect to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. And we know it can't be done overnight. That's why we were very flexible last year when we were speaking about the extension of the cross-border mechanism. But we haven't seen any problems so far. That's the problem now.
Now you referred to Mr. Lowcock citing figures and telling us facts. But what has been done in order to facilitate the cross-line deliveries to Idlib? I'm afraid nothing was done in this regard. And people are just betting on opening of other border crossings in Idlib. That would be a very good present for terrorists. This is not a sustainable situation. We think that something should be changed and we want to see a clear engagement of our partners in the Security Council in order to find a satisfactory solution for this problem in Idlib. And it should be done, first and foremost, by promoting cross-line deliveries. Unless we see any progress in this regard in the coming couple of months, it will be very difficult for us to be flexible on this file because we don't see any movement from our partners.
Q: To be clear there, Ambassador, you may not be able to be flexible. That means if there's no movement on cross-line, you may consider vetoing the one border crossing? I just want to be absolutely clear what you might do in the Council coming up in July.
A: I'm just saying that we are not going to be flexible. I just want to flag that we need to see progress. If there is no progress from now on, before July, then, of course, we will be in a very difficult position because our approach to this issue hasn't changed. I expressed it to you absolutely clear. And I tried to explain to you the logic.
We care for the Syrian population, whether in Idlib or not, in the same way that our Western colleagues are caring. But we need to find a sustainable solution that would respect also the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
You also asked about the meeting between Russia, Turkey, and Qatar. I wouldn't say that this is some breakthrough or some new format. This is just a normal exchange of opinions. We can think of different constellations in the Middle East or elsewhere. I wouldn't rush to any conclusions that there is a new “troika”. There are certain issues that we decided to discuss in this format to achieve better cooperation and coordination. It was about Syria. It was about Afghanistan, about everything in the Middle East. And we think it was a very fruitful exchange. Whether there will be a follow-up or not, it's up to the foreign ministers of these two countries to decide. Russia is open to dialogue with whoever is necessary in order to solve issues, and not to create problems.
Now a question on “broader tensions between the United States and Russia” and “whether they are making it harder for the two nations to cooperate on finding a way to revive the nuclear deal”. I will just shortly touch upon this.
Of course, when our relations with the United States deteriorate, it makes it harder not only for us, but for the whole of the world, including the United States, even when they don't understand it or don't want to acknowledge it. But we are absolutely ready to engage with the United States on the issues of common interest. That's the same position that the United States has. It engages with Russia on many issues when it is to the benefit of the United States. Our position is the same. Finding a good solution on the Iranian nuclear dossier, reviving the JCPOA is in the common interests of the United States and Russia. That's why I think that we cooperate there without any problems. And us, diplomats, manage somehow to shelter from the turbulences that sometimes affect our bilateral relations and to move forward on many issues.
I am absolutely sincere in telling you that we have excellent relations in the Security Council with our counterparts from the United States, from the United Kingdom. We manage to engage with them on different issues. At the same time, my colleagues in our Embassy in London or in Washington may wait for months to get an audience with some head of unit in order to discuss certain political issues. This happens in the same world, but we still think that engaging here in the United Nations is very important for the whole world. That's why we try to put bilateral issues aside when we can really achieve something. And it should be, of course, all-weather relations, whether it rains or there is a thunderstorm. We try to do it in the Security Council. We are not magicians, but we try to do what we can. And on the Iranian dossier, I think it's one of the very good examples where we join forces and where we really try to forget as much as we can about the bilateral agenda.
Q: Twenty-three nations signed a letter with the World Health Organization yesterday calling for a post-warlike treaty on pandemics to alert people to share vaccines. That would be on the level of Yalta or Bretton Woods. I didn't see Russia's name on it. US and China did not sign it yet but seemed to be supportive. Where do you stand on that? And, separate and apart, one clarification. You said in Moscow there is a review of US-Russia relations. Could you clarify that? Overall relations? New Biden Administration? What do you mean by that?
A: On the vaccine. I indeed saw the news on this letter yesterday. It's very moving, this initiative. But it's very fresh, we need to understand. I haven't seen the letter myself, I only saw it on the news. And there are nuances. The devil is in the details. We need to see what is there in the letter. I'm absolutely sure that my colleagues in Moscow will examine it. But it's not maybe important to create one letter signed by every leader, because we are here 193 nations in the United Nations and we can act together. We don't need formal letters to do so. Personally, I fully share the spirit of the letter about vaccines, about the need to get together, unite, solve all these issues.
At some point these things were indeed ridiculous, because countries were thinking, first and foremost, about themselves. A lot of bonds that were built over many years seemed irrelevant in case of the pandemic. Pandemic was an enemy which really took us all very unexpectedly and altered our lives. And we still need to find a solution to this. That's why, as you know, there is an initiative proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to get together, first and foremost, in the format of Security Council P5 in order to achieve better understanding on many issues, including how to fight the pandemics. We can do a lot of things together – bilaterally and multilaterally.
But again, it's a little worrisome that even against the background of these pandemics there are still efforts of certain countries or certain blocs to promote their products at the expense of other products, to block the way for other vaccines, to block the way for international cooperation on this matter. And this is very disappointing. There were certain statements, for example, by our European colleagues, by the members of the European Commission about the Russian vaccine, which totally contradicted the position of many national governments.
We really think that vaccine diplomacy shouldn't be about politics. It should be about helping people, about providing as many doses of vaccine, as many possibilities for all the countries to vaccinate as possible. And there should be absolutely no room for political maneuvering, for discrediting vaccines. Sputnik V, for example, has already been proven many times to be very efficient. Vaccines must not be discredited because they are Russian, or Chinese, or Indian, as long as they are efficient. I think many people need them and many people have no other choice but to seek vaccines from many other countries. If Pfizer was available in these countries, of course they would take Pfizer without any problems. But Pfizer is not available and nobody knows when it will become available. We all know the controversy around AstraZeneca, for example.
I think the countries should have the choice to get access to the vaccines that they want without any politics. They should be able to do this without being punished, ostracized, called the tools of Russia or China, and without accusing Russia, China, India or whoever of using vaccines for influence and selfish interests. There are no selfish interests in this regard. We produce vaccines. Our vaccines are quite good and that has been proven. We have three vaccines now in Russia nationally, and we are ready to share them with those who want it. And that's it. I think that should be the only framework for such cooperation.
Personally, I would be ready to vaccinate here with an American vaccine without any problem. It's a question of vaccination that matters. But the fact is that we still don't have such a possibility to get vaccinated here. Therefore, we will, possibly, solve this issue through importing our vaccine to New York. There is such a possibility for our staff. But again, it doesn't mean that I'm absolutely allergic to the idea of getting vaccinated with an American, a British or whatever vaccine. I think this should be really put aside and that we should concentrate on international cooperation in this field. We should, of course, give credit to our scientists. Not only Russian scientists, but everybody who is now ardently working on the vaccine and trying to help us. The politicians should be very wise and absolutely not selfish in this regard. That's where we need to unite and I absolutely share your position here. I hope I answered your question on vaccines.
Q: Yes. Just if you don't mind saying. Have you, have the staff of the Mission been vaccinated?
A: We are not considered to be essential workers in the United States. That was the clarification.
Q: They said anyone over 30 as of this morning.
A: Still too young to get vaccinated. I think people a little bit older than me have no problem with this. But again, it takes a certain time. You know, I'm quite a busy person. Even to go somewhere and to stand in a queue. Sometimes I really can't afford it.
Q: I'm sorry, but what about the US-Russia review?
A: US-Russia review. You know that our Ambassador Antonov is in Moscow now. He's consulting different bodies of our country. He has meetings in the Parliament, in the Foreign Ministry. And we try to assess what has happened and what's the way forward – how we can develop relations with the United States, given the latest statements and the latest initiatives that we saw and that leave us a little bit perplexed. I don't want to go into the details of this. I know that you all read newspapers and watch TV, so you don't need to be updated on the context, which is controversial. The relations with the United States are very important to us, but they are no more important than the relations with Russia for the United States. We can do a lot of things together. We are ready for this. We can't stop saying this all the time. But again, I can't stop repeating that it takes two to tango. So far, we don't see any partner there. The recent moves and recent statements of certain members of the American Administration leave us a little bit perplexed. Of course, it's not up to me, but up to my colleagues who are good professionals, first and foremost Ambassador Antonov, to provide an in-depth assessment of what has happened and what kind of implications it might have for US-Russia relations in the future. That's a normal tool of diplomacy. In such situations, it's quite common that ambassadors are called back to the capital for consultations. It doesn't mean that he's called back for good. I think he will return and he himself referred to it yesterday. I don't know when he will return and what will be the outcome of his meetings in Moscow, but I am absolutely sure that Ambassador Antonov will present the results himself. I don't want to eat his bread here.
Q: My question relates to a statement that President Biden made at his press conference last week in which he said that President Putin – and I quote – thinks that autocracy is the way of the future and that democracy can't function in an ever complex world. He also laid out that same dichotomy between the United States and China. So I'd like you to comment on whether Russia sees the difference ideologically between the United States and Russia in those same terms, and if not, could you articulate what Russia's view is from President Putin's perspective. Thank you.
A: I think it's a bit related to what I was just answering. Of course, we will have to deal with this – the issue that the United States is visibly keen to continue the policy of containment of Russia and China. Of course, as Russians, we are mostly interested in Russia. And this needs to be accounted for in our foreign policy calculation. That's one of the reasons that Ambassador Antonov is there.
As for models of social development, of democracy, there is no golden standard for democracy. When you live here in the United States, you watch all the news coverage, you read the newspapers, and you have an impression that there is a United States, a shining city on a hill, and then there is everybody else who just wants to get into this city on a hill at any price, and that the only standards of democracy that one can think of is the American standard of democracy. But I believe that all of you have some experience. You know the positions of other countries, so you understand that this is an illusion and this is a very dangerous solution.
Again, there is no golden standard of democracy. There is no golden standard of society structure and society model. Different societies have different models for themselves. And it's up to them to decide how to organize their own electoral and parliamentary systems, etc. Some of us are presidential republics, some of us are parliamentary republics, some of us are monarchies. We all have our voters. We have people who decide for themselves how and in what circumstances they want to live and what government, leader, president they want to have and for how long. It's up to them to decide. Again, nobody needs to lecture them and nobody needs to tell them what to do and not to do. I think that's the basic principle of diplomacy and international relations.
And I think it is the point where the United States is badly wrong, because they still consider themselves to be the reference point for democracy and society, but we all see the deficiencies of the American society. I think they were absolutely clear last year. I don't want to shed more light. You all live in the United States right now and you understand what I'm referring to. So we would be very much interested for the United States to heal from these problems, which are quite numerous.
And we are absolutely not interested in any lectures from the United States, in any insistent advice. And the thing we are the least interested in is policy of regime change and interference in the internal affairs of other countries. We don't need “the world's policeman” anymore, and I don't think we needed it previously. But now it's absolutely clear that the logic should be different. It would be for the benefit of everybody – the international community and the United States itself.
I hope that US politicians will really learn this lesson from previous years and will not repeat the mistakes. As for our bilateral relations, again, we are ready for very many things. We think that the world will win very much from better US-Russia relations. But again, it takes two to tango. We are ready to engage as soon as we see the same readiness on the American side. We're here, you know how to call us and where to find us. It's not a problem to get engaged with us. Thank you very much.
Q: Following up on what you just said that the world should not have a global policeman. One of the things that the Biden Administration and certainly the Trump Administration were very concerned about is a much more assertive global policy on the part of China. And for those of us who've been here at the UN for a long time, we've seen certainly much more assertive actions, presentations, policies by the Chinese mission. I wonder if you could tell us how Russia views this.
And I have two other quick questions about the events today and tomorrow. What do you think is going to happen out of the discussion in the Council today on the DPRK? Do you see any possible Council action, possible new resolution? And tomorrow there's going to be a discussion on the latest killings and the coup in Myanmar. Do you see any possibility that the Security Council might adopt a resolution in the face of these growing killings and basically the refusal of the military leaders to respond to any of the international calls to restore the path to democracy?
A: First on China. Well, China is our important neighbor and partner. We used to have complex relations in the near past, but we managed to overcome the problems that we have and now we understand each other quite well. We are engaging in very fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation.
We don't see any dangers from this. We don't see any dangers from cooperating with anyone. Of course, I'm not here to advocate for China. They have their own diplomats, and I don't want to eat their bread. But if you analyze Chinese foreign policy, you will not see any threats to anyone, any policy of regime change, any expansion apart from the trade and economic expansion, which has been very characteristic of China throughout several centuries of its history.
We don't see China as a threat. We see it as a very important player. Given the fact that it's the most populous country, it's also the fastest growing country, the one that everybody is relying upon. When you buy goods, most of them are still made in China. The components are made in China. So we are all interested in that country. We're all interested in helping China and cooperating with it.
China saw enormous progress in the last years. I think it's difficult to deny. The Chinese used to starve from famine just several years ago. And now they are self-sustainable in many issues, and they produce a lot of things. Well, they may look differently. They may think differently. They may have different ideas of how their country should be ruled and what its place in the world is. They may use different symbols for writing, but it doesn't make them aliens. They are part of the world, and they are the same people as we are. I think that we should embrace this and seek the best possible cooperation with China in the way that would be comfortable for the Chinese themselves. The same applies to India. The same applies to other countries. That's our approach.
We believe it is a big mistake to engage in the policy of containment, designating one or two countries as enemies of the world and trying to build a coalition of like-minded states around certain ideas of isolation and confrontation. This is a road to nowhere, and we should not follow this path. That's why in Russia we are very open in our relations with China and with every other country that is friendly towards Russia – then we are friendly towards this country as well.
On DPRK. I frankly would be very surprised if there were any kind of UNSC action or product after today's meeting. We think that we are still in the moment when we need to assess what is happening and what has happened. There are different positions of Member States, and there are different assessments sometimes. But we have managed and we will manage to work together on this. There are different developments, some of them very alarming and disturbing, but it's still the time of assessment, not the time of action, it is my understanding.
On Myanmar. It's a bit related to what I was saying when you asked me a question about democracy, the golden standards, and about whether we have the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries.
The position of the members of the Council was clear, it was already expressed in two documents. We are all worried. We want for the violence to stop, and for the events – to come back to the sphere of dialogue and national unity as soon as possible. There are, of course, nuances in our positions. But in general, we are united in this approach. We all relay these signals to Myanmar through all the possible means that we have.
We also have bilateral channels, and by these means, we also try to be instrumental in resolving this crisis. We also try to convey the information that everybody is interested in the situation coming back to normal. That was on the one hand.
On the other hand, we think that Security Council should help and not make the situation worse. I understand the anticipation and the desire of certain countries, certain media outlets to send a stronger, I would say, signal to Myanmar to formulate a kind of an ultimatum to the military. But there are two sides to this coin. On the one side, by doing so we would seem to make our position clear. On the other side, we would incite a bit of violence in that country. Because instead of asking everybody to stay calm and hold back to the constitutional norms, some countries, circles, or some media outlets are clearly inciting the protesters to continue their protest. Is it good or bad for the country? But the one thing that is absolutely clear is that it is a kind of interference in the internal affairs. Myanmar is a sovereign country. It is recognized by the other members of the international community. Myanmar’s situation is unfolding within its borders and even within its Constitution, which assigns certain powers to the military. If you read it thoroughly, you will see it.
Should we lecture Myanmar on the way it should better organize its life? I have doubts about it. Again, we are very worried about Myanmar, and we are relaying our worries to Myanmar’s authorities. They too understand that they are in the spotlight of the international community. I'm not sure that what we read in press, especially in mainstream media about the events in Myanmar, corresponds by 100% to what is happening on the ground.
We should really avoid a situation when instead of helping to solve this issue, we are inciting more violence and encouraging the protesters. In many other parts of the world, we (I mean the international community) discourage protesters, saying that they need to return to their homes and remain calm. In some other situations, we clearly see that it should get back to normal, that there should be no violence, and that the government does the right thing when they try to preserve constitutional law and order. Perhaps we should do it in all situations, without making distinctions between Myanmar or not-Myanmar. The international community needs a universal approach towards situations which represent internal matters of this or that country, regardless of whether we like them or not.
Q: Just a very quick follow-up on Myanmar. Could you just tell us what would Russia support in terms of further action on Myanmar in the Council? I mean, are we at a dead end for you or is there any situation where you could see sanctions or an arms embargo, things that other countries have been calling for and doing unilaterally? Is there any circumstance under which you could see that?
A: As you know, never say never. It applies to any situation, and to diplomacy as well. But so far, I think that the Council has been very instrumental in formulating its position, finding a common denominator, and sending a very strong unified (which makes it even stronger) signal to Myanmar as to how we see the situation in the country and what we are worried about.
As you know, Russia is not a big fan of sanctions, nor of punitive measures. And again, I can say that there is a lot of controversy in every situation, including Myanmar’s situation. We may it one way, but the realities on the ground might be a little bit different. And again, I appeal to everybody to be quite cautious, because we there is a very thin line between condemning, blaming, and inciting internal violence. We see this not only in Myanmar, but in many other countries situations, where extensive appeals from the international community or action by certain members of the international community, direct or indirect, in fact incite violence. This also prevents the actors within the country from coming to a mutually acceptable solution, because the other party would say: “What's the point for us to get into negotiations? We are supported by the whole international community. We have the United States behind us. We have Great Britain behind us. Reuters writes articles in our defense. So what's the point for us to sit at one table with you guys? Everybody says you are bad”.
We shouldn't interfere like this. We should give them a chance to agree internally. Again, we can't claim to be the best experts on Myanmar. We can't be better experts on a country than the citizens of that country. Of course, this is a bit of simplification. I am sure you understand that there are many nuances to any country’s specific situation. But we shouldn't paint them pure black of pure white. We should not say that we are in favor of the whites or that the blacks should become the whites, etc. I hope you see what I mean.
As the Council, we will act, see, and monitor the situation. We are not against discussing this issue. We need more information. We have our Special Envoy, Ms. Schraner Burgener, who briefs us, and we have many other sources of information. We will share what each of us knows, and also work bilaterally in this regard. But again, we shouldn't overstep this very thin line between help and interference in the internal affairs of sovereign state, which Myanmar is.
Q: I would like to ask about the Quartet [of international mediators for the Middle East]. It's a failed mechanism. It has been there for over 18 years now. It meets very irregularly. They have not produced anything. And yet Russia is still clinging to this failed mechanism. Why is that? Is that the only mechanism to address the two-state solution and the peace in the Middle East?
A: It's very difficult for me to answer your question, because I do not agree that the Quartet is a failed mechanism. It meets at the level of senior officials. We now have a new representative in the Quartet, Ambassador Safronkov, who worked here in New York. You all know him. He's a very efficient person, who works personally to promote this settlements within the framework of the Quartet.
Everybody reiterates that the Quartet is a very good instrument. Both Palestinians and Israelis acknowledge that the Quartet has a role to play. Hopefully, we will see the Quartet meet some day soon, better sooner than later. We are waiting for the US Administration to understand for itself what its Middle Eastern policy is, and what the US wants from the Middle Eastern settlement. Because now there are conflicting or, I would say, vague signals about what they want to do and what their approach will be against the background of the approaches of the previous Administrations, which were not very helpful.
We'll see. I wouldn't write off the potential of the Quartet. I think we'll see a meeting quite soon. And I know that there are contacts. It doesn't mean that the Quartet is a kind of a monopoly that does not leave space for any other initiatives or formats. You mentioned that Quartet has been idle for several years. But you know, the Palestinian problem and the problem of the peaceful settlement in the Middle East is the longest-lasting problem on the agenda of the United Nations.
If it were easy to solve, then we would have solved it during the first days of the existence of the United Nations. But we all failed to do so, because this is too complicated and too many interests are involved. Both Palestinians and Israelis have their own interests, and they may be sometimes complicated and difficult to align with altogether. But we are diplomats, that's why we are working on this. So sometimes the absence of war is also a very good criterion that allows to see whether a mechanism is efficient or not.