Address by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov at the General Debate of the 76th session of the General Assembly, New York, September 25, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to have this opportunity to speak from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly. The fact that we have once again gathered in this hall symbolises our collective readiness to resume normal communication that had been suspended since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Essentially, we have no other option, as broad cooperation at the United Nations is particularly relevant now when the number of problems on the international agenda continues to rise. The range of transborder threats is expanding. Numerous regional hotbeds of tension have a substantial destabilising potential. We are seeing increasing attempts to use the “might is right” approach instead of “right is might”. There is no consensus among the leading powers as to the principles of the world order.
For Russia, it is obvious that threats and challenges can be countered effectively only through concerted efforts in strict compliance with the universally recognised norms of the international law, first and foremost, the goals and principles of the UN Charter. This global organisation should play the central coordinating role in global politics, fully unlocking its potential of universal multilateralism and legitimacy.
Recently we have been witnessing persistent attempts to diminish the UN’s role in resolving the key problems of today, to sideline it or to transform it into a malleable tool promoting someone’s selfish interests. Such attempts are clearly visible in the so-called “rules-based order” concept that the West is persistently introducing into political discourse as opposed to the international law.
Naturally, no one can be opposed to rules as such. After all, this is exactly what the UN Charter is – a set of rules. However, these rules have been approved by all countries of the world. Similarly, any new norms governing international interaction must be agreed upon at universal platforms, above all, here. On the other hand, when rules are established behind closed doors, in circumvention of this universal organisation, they cannot have a comprehensive legitimacy.
By shifting the discussion on key issues to formats that suit it best, the West wants to exclude from the global decision-making process those who have their own, different point of view. Following this logic, Germany and France have recently announced the creation of the Alliance for Multilateralism, even though what kind of structure could be more multilateral than the United Nations? Berlin and Paris, however, have decided that at the UN there are too many “conservatives” hindering the efforts of the “vanguard”. They have proclaimed the European Union to be the epitome of “effective multilateralism”, and all others are supposed to emulate it.
There is a recent example: the US administration has come up with the idea to convene a Summit for Democracy. It goes without saying that Washington is going to choose the participants by itself, thus hijacking the right to decide to what degree a country meets the standards of democracy. In its essence, this initiative is quite in the spirit of the Cold War, as it declares a new ideological crusade against all dissenters. It is noteworthy that this policy is being implemented against the background of President Biden’s words that the United States is not seeking a world divided into opposing blocks. In fact, though, the Summit for Democracy will be a step towards dividing the global community into “us” and “them”.
It is also telling that while it declares the precedence of democracy in its relations with all partners, Washington is only concerned about the domestic situation in relevant countries. When it comes to establishing democracy in international relations, the United States – as well as its allies – quickly loses any interest in the discussion, because no one could dare to encroach on the authority of NATO and the EU. These are the rules.
President Biden has recently announced the rejection of military methods used, as he put it, “to remake other countries”. We expect the United States to go one step further and reject not only the use of force, but any other methods of imposing their development model on others.
The “rules-based order” is founded on double standards. When it serves the West’s interests, peoples’ right to self-determination is rendered absolute. In such cases, an artificially created entity of Kosovo, earlier forcefully seized from a European country, Serbia, is recognised as an independent state in violation of the Security Council resolution and without any referendums. It doesn’t bother anyone that the Malvinas are 12,000 km away from Great Britain, and that Paris and London still control their former colonies, despite the UN and International Court of Justice decisions, and have no intention of giving them freedom. On the other hand, when the right to self-determination runs counter to the West’s geopolitical interests, as it did in the case of the people of Crimea’s expression of free will at the 2014 referendum on reunification with Russia, it forgets all about it and introduces illegitimate sanctions for the exercise of this right. The reason is simple – the Crimean people were trying to break free from the ultra-radicals who were behind the coup in Ukraine supported by the West. Which means that since “the good guys” came to power in Kiev, they are, according to the Western rules, to be protected and exculpated.
In the same vein of the “rules-based order”, the United States preserves the obsolete trade embargo against Cuba and strives to impose its will on the people of Venezuela and Nicaragua – in flagrant violation of the Charter-based principle of non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states. The use of unilateral restrictive measures undermines the prerogatives of the Security Council and runs counter to the UN Secretary-General’s call to suspend them at least for the period of the pandemic.
A number of countries’ efforts to rewrite the history of World War II are also intended to weaken the UN-centric world order. The EU and NATO member states refuse to support the General Assembly resolution on the inadmissibility of the glorification of Nazism, and reject proposals to condemn the practice of destroying monuments to those who liberated Europe from the “brown plague”.
Instilling a “rules-based order” rather than ensuring unconditional compliance with the international law is fraught with a dangerous relapse into bloc policy and creation of dividing lines between a group of Western countries and other states. However, recent events have shown that arbitrary rules can be applied inside the Western bloc as well, if one of its members becomes too independent. At least, many world media have perceived the plot twist of the story around supplying submarines to Australia as a response to the talk of Europe’s “strategic autonomy”, which has intensified since the US’ hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. The chaos that accompanied this withdrawal is a further demonstration of the rules the West is going to build its world order on.
We are convinced that it is time to draw lessons from the dangerous repercussions of the policy aimed at undermining the UN-centric architecture, which was shaped in the aftermath of World War II and has repeatedly proved to be a reliable insurance against disastrous scenarios. In the face of global challenges, the world needs unity rather than a new divide. Russia strongly advocates rejecting any confrontation and stereotypes, and joining efforts to address key tasks of the humanity’s development and survival. We have enough instruments for this. First and foremost, it is the UN and its Security Council, which needs to be adapted to the reality of a polycentric world order by expanding it with increased representation of Asian, African and Latin American countries.
The UN Security Council permanent members, who, according to the UN Charter, bear a special responsibility before the Organisation, can and must encourage genuine collective action. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has proposed to convene a P5 summit to hold a frank discussion on global stability issues.
Great expectations are also linked with the prospect of the Russian-American dialogue on the future of arms control the start of which was agreed upon at the Russian-US summit in Geneva. When there is good will, finding mutually acceptable solutions becomes very real. The world was encouraged when the new US administration agreed to our proposal to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty without any preconditions. Of enormous importance was the fact that the joint statement by the presidents of Russia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the principle according to which there can be no winners in a nuclear war and it must never be fought.
A responsible approach is also needed in other spheres of strategic stability. Since Washington’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Russia has made a unilateral commitment not to deploy such land-based missiles – either nuclear or non-nuclear – in regions where no similar US-made weapons will appear. We continue to await NATO members’ response to our proposal to proclaim a similar moratorium, reinforced – and I would like to emphasise it – with mutual verification measures.
Among new challenges and threats is also some states’ intention to militarise the Internet and unleash a cyber arms race. Russia advocates agreeing upon ways to ensure international information security at the UN platform. Here again, the process should not be based on anyone’s “special rules” but rather on universal agreements allowing countries to examine any concerns in a transparent manner, relying on facts. This is the goal of our initiatives on elaborating uniform norms of states’ responsible behaviour in the use of information and communications technology and on preparing a universal convention on combatting cybercrime.
Along with the digital space, some countries view the outer space as an area of confrontation. We believe it is a dangerous trend and propose to prohibit the placement of weapons in outer space as well as the threat or use of force in space. The relevant Russian-Chinese draft treaty remains on the table of the Conference on Disarmament.
Russia consistently comes up with initiatives on other issues requiring concerted action.
Today, twenty years after the atrocious terrorist attacks in New York, President Putin’s call to form a broad anti-terrorist coalition – without double standards, on the basis of the international law – is more relevant than ever. We are awaiting a response to the Russian initiative to elaborate a Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism.
Progress in settling regional conflicts can only be made by acting on the basis of international law, by involving all stakeholders and taking their interests into account. In Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and in other hotbeds, all external actors must show an understanding of the cultural and civilisational specifics of society, reject politicisation of humanitarian aid, and assist in the establishment of government bodies with broad representation of all major ethnic, religious and political forces of the relevant countries. Guided by such an approach, Russia has been constructively engaged in the promotion of the Afghan settlement via the extended Troika and the Moscow format, has contributed to stabilising the situation in Syria in the framework of the Astana process, and has been working with all Libyan parties to implement political reforms.
The processes underway in the Middle Eastern region should not sideline the task of reaching a sustainable Palestinian-Israeli settlement within the universally recognised international legal framework, providing for the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state coexisting in peace with Israel. We stand for relaunching direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, galvanising the role of the Quartet of international mediators in coordination with the League of Arab States.
Russia continues to contribute to the normalisation of relations between Iran and its Arab neighbours. Together with our partners we seek the soonest possible resumption of the full implementation of the JCPOA on settling the situation around the Iranian nuclear programme. A comprehensive approach is required to stabilise the entire region in the long term. This is the objective of the updated Russian Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf, which has been recently circulated as a UNSC and UNGA document.
In the context of searching for ways to overcome regional crises, we are ready to share Russia’s unique experience of peaceful coexistence of different civilisations, religions, and cultures. We expect the World Conference on Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue, which will take place in St Petersburg on May 16-18, 2022, to produce substantial practical results. The conference is enjoying the support of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the leadership of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Today the significance of the humanitarian, socio-economic, and environmental dimensions of the UN work is increasing manifold. It is essential to avoid the temptation to turn these spheres into yet another field of geopolitical games and unfair competition.
COVID-19 is our common enemy. In the interests of prompt lifting of restrictions on international travel, we support mutual recognition of vaccines that have been approved by national oversight bodies.
It is vitally important not to cease efforts aimed at implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We believe that the decisions adopted at the recent UN Food Systems Summit will promote the achievement of the SDGs.
We stand for strengthening the central role of the United Nations in building the environmental protection agenda on the basis of equality and respect for each other’s interests, including due account for relevant socio-economic realities. Otherwise it would be difficult to mobilise all states towards reaching global climate goals.
The work of all mechanisms that can impact the efficiency of global governance should be tuned to searching for a balance of interests. The capacity of such an inclusive association as the G20, which brings together “the old” and “the new” dynamically developing global centres, such as BRICS and the like-minded others, should be used to its maximum. It was with great interest that we perceived the Global Development Initiative proposed by President of China Xi Jinping, which resonates with our own approaches.
Russia, together with its partners and allies, supports strengthening of mutually complementary network alliances via the development of integrative processes within the CIS, EAEU, CSTO and SCO. President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to create a Greater Eurasian Partnership, which would also engage ASEAN – the key actor defining the norms of behaviour in Asia-Pacific – bears a positive impetus.
In general, the regional aspect of the world’s development is gaining momentum. Much will depend on whether we prove able to rechannel the growing rivalry between regions to a constructive track. Who is more important – Europe or Asia? The Indian or the Pacific Ocean? Will a “Latin American EU” be established? Why make Africa an arena for confrontation?
Chapter VIII of the UN Charter is dedicated to relations with regional organisations. Based on it, the Secretary-General brings such organisations together every year to hold an exchange of opinions on issues of global politics. We believe it would be very useful to make the next step in this format and use it to draft some proposals of ways to harmonise regional aspirations in order to give a maximum effective global response to the challenges of our time.
All of us are in the same boat. It falls within our shared interests to make sure that the boat stays safely afloat on the waves of global politics. We are all different, but this must not bar us from working for the benefit of our nations and all of humanity. It is the only way we may be able to fulfil the honourable mission of the United Nations: to save the current and future generations from the scourge of war, hunger and disease, and build a more peaceful, stable and democratic future for all.
In conclusion, I would like to propose a hashtag #UNCharterIsOurRules
ميثاقالأم _المتحدةهو _قواعدنا#