Russia and Western countries will no longer have a relationship like the one that existed between them before the conflict in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday at a press conference dedicated to European security. The person in charge of Russian diplomacy accused the West of handcuffing the European security organization, the OSCE, and preventing it from being a bridge in relations with Moscow.
According to Lavrov, it is clear that "if at any time Westerners are interested in restoring joint work on security in Europe, that restoration will not be possible. And the restoration means that everything will be as before. But business will no longer be like they used to."
The Russian minister called the press conference on the same day that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) began in Lodz (Poland), which is held on Thursday and Friday.
The Polish government refused to allow Lavrov and members of his delegation to participate, and did not grant them visas to travel to Lodz. He argued that Moscow could be represented by his permanent delegate to the OSCE. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not take this decision well, calling it "provocative" and "unprecedented."
Lavrov had to settle for exposing the Russian vision of security in Europe in a press conference that was held virtually from the headquarters of the Russian Foreign Ministry, in Moscow's Smolensk Square.
The minister reviewed the list of historical grievances that Russia blames on the West, which according to him has devalued the fundamental principles of the OSCE with the "reckless enlargement" of NATO. He assured that big problems have accumulated in this organization and accused the West of preventing it from becoming a true bridge with Russia after the cold war. "It tries to subdue this last platform for regional dialogue," he asserted.
This organization was created so that "everyone was heard" and no country felt excluded from the general process, he argued. Also to ease relations between East and West, but the inclination of the West towards its hegemony has prevented this, declared the head of Russian diplomacy. "The West is doing the exact opposite of what the OSCE was created for: it is digging dividing lines. And where it is dug, someone can be buried. I am afraid this is done especially for the OSCE."
Lavrov assured that Russia has never asked to negotiate with Ukraine, but that it is willing to listen to proposals, both from Kyiv and from the West, including the United States. "When they accuse us of constantly asking for negotiations to gain time, to find reinforcements for the special military operation, that is absurd and disgusting, because they are lying," he said.
"We have never requested negotiations, but we have always said that if someone is interested in holding talks, we would be willing to listen to proposals," he stressed.
To support his words, he recalled the failed negotiation attempts last March in Istanbul. Russia was ready to "reach an agreement on security guarantees for Ukraine by respecting its neutral status", which implies that Kyiv will forego NATO membership. "But the war still did not bring the necessary results to those at the helm: the US, first of all, and the British," the head of Russian diplomacy maintained.
According to him, even earlier the United States had been able to avoid the current conflict when in December Moscow proposed that the Atlantic Alliance stop expanding and not allow the entry into its midst of Ukraine or any other ex-communist country, such as Georgia. Washington did not accept these demands, since they contradict the principles of military organization.
And he noted that now both the US and NATO are direct participants in the current conflict, because they send weapons to Ukraine and conduct military training on its territory.
If the West "admits its mistakes" and decides to resume those December proposals, Russia would return to dialogue. "But I doubt they will find the strength and common sense to do it. But if it did happen, we would be willing to resume talks," he said.