New Russian FM’s first press conference

RIA Novosti, Russia
March 17 2004


By Dmitry Kosyrev, RIA Novosti political analyst

After Sergei Lavrov was appointed foreign minister, Russian analysts
wrote there would be no major changes in Russia’s foreign policy,
while the work of Russia’s Security Council should be watched closely
because it is now headed by ex-foreign minister Igor Ivanov. This
forecast was proved perfectly correct during the first press
conference of Sergei Lavrov, who moved into his new office this week.

“I see no need to amend the strategic elements of the concept of
Russia’s foreign policy,” he said, recalling Vladimir Putin’s recent
statement: “We shall try to guarantee Russia’s national interests
without reverting to confrontation or aggression.”

Lavrov also said, “It is encouraging that Igor Ivanov has been
appointed Secretary of the Security Council, which is designed to
co-ordinate the work of all departments responsible for national
security.” The minister expressed the hope that the Security Council
will become more effective under Igor Ivanov.

Sergei Lavrov, who spent a lifetime in New York, is well versed in
international politics and the intricacies of Russia’s position on a
variety of issues. He clearly answered questions about Russia’s
relations with the EU and the USA, the Cyprus and Karabakh
settlements, the situation in Kosovo and Bosnia, co-operation with
Iran, etc.

The triumphant Moscow debut of Russia’s new foreign minister can be
attributed to Lavrov’s service at the UN, where he represented Russia
for ten years, from 1994 to 2004. However, some say he worked there
for 17 years, since in 1981-1988 he was first secretary, counsellor
and then senior counsellor in the Soviet Union’s permanent mission at
the UN. By studying “the world as it is” at the UN, he has a thorough
knowledge of virtually every international problem.

One consequence of this is the word “we,” which the minister
sometimes uses. When he says it, he usually means “we the
international community” or “we the UN Security Council.” Another and
far more serious result of that experience is Lavrov’s conceptual
view of modern developments. In his words, the new world system is
still under construction. The mechanisms that prevented many
conflicts in the past became ineffective after the end of the Cold
War, thereby giving rise to new crises to which the world is
straining to find a common answer. Taken together, this forces the
world community to search for new solutions in the dark and on the
move. The main thing is to do this collectively rather than

The new minister mostly replied to questions in a calm and easy
manner. Take the answer to a question about the right to pursue and
eliminate terrorists beyond national territory. “This is not a
question to Russia,” said Lavrov. “We should better recall the
actions of Israel and what has been done to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and
the Iraqi regime.” The minister pointed out that there were many
difficulties today, but said this was not a reason to avoid facing
problems or giving answers to questions that affect Moscow’s
legitimate answers.

Sergei Lavrov is a globally respected diplomat, which his first
confident actions as the new foreign minister of Russia show
convincingly. He is perfectly suited to the image of new Russia, a
country that has emerged stronger from the crisis of the 1990s and
whose role on the world scene will continue to grow.