Belligerent and without giving an inch. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the man nicknamed “Mr. No” by diplomats, behaved this Saturday according to his legend and took advantage of his speech before the United Nations General Assembly to defend the invasion of Ukraine and blatantly attack the United States. United States and its Western allies, whom he accused of wanting to “wipe Russia off the map”, in addition to suffering from “unprecedented Russophobia” and “grotesque” dimensions.
The Kremlin’s foreign policy representative is an expert at capturing the mood among the public and, above all, its divisions. And this week, the plenary session of the 77th General Assembly had made clear the differences between its member countries. Among the members of the Security Council around the war in Ukraine. Between the West and a Global South that demands solutions to problems that come from afar – inequality, poverty, lack of political will to receive help against climate change – and have been aggravated by the conflict and the covid pandemic.
It was to this last bloc that Lavrov addressed his words, first in his speech and then in a press conference lasting almost an hour in which he was equally combative: to a journalist’s question about Russians fleeing forced mobilization mandated in his country, Lavrov responded with another question: “Do you know about freedom of movement?”
“Which country can say that it is better off after an intervention by the United States?” the head of Russian diplomacy alleged in his speech. Washington, he assured then, considers itself a kind of “heaven sent” with the right to interfere in the rest of the world, and “turn the whole world into its backyard” by imposing sanctions. A language that resonated among other countries presenting at the conference, from Venezuela to Ethiopia.
“It is a dictatorship in its purest form, unadulterated, or an attempt to impose it” and “any other who dares to disobey may be the next to be destroyed,” he said from the plenary podium. The “arrogant” European Union was not spared either: it is also, in Lavrov’s opinion, “becoming a dictatorial entity” where there is widespread hatred of Russia that was already detected for the first time in the Baltic republics. According to him, Western countries want to “dismantle” Russia, and the reason is that this country behaves “too independently”.
Lavrov, who just 48 hours earlier had reiterated a fiery defense of his country’s invasion of Ukraine at the extraordinary session of the Security Council before leaving without listening to anyone else, accused Washington and its allies of being part of the conflict, military and financial support to the government of Volodímir Zelenski in kyiv. Ukraine, he assured him, is simply “a bargaining chip in this war waged against Russia.”
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On a day in which pseudo referendums on annexation to Russia were taking place in Ukrainian territories occupied by Moscow’s troops, Lavrov defended the consultations, to which the West does not grant any validity. “They are a reaction to the words of Zelensky, who in August 2021 said that whoever felt Russian should go to Russia. That is exactly what this population is doing, and taking their ancestral lands with them”, he maintained, in a mocking tone.
In February, three weeks before the beginning of the invasion, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Chinese, Xi Jinping, met in Beijing to proclaim their strategic partnership and present themselves as champions of a new world order with a greater role for the Global South. . Lavrov reiterated this Saturday that call to counteract the “decline of multilateral institutions”, for which he proposed a reform of the UN that expands the Security Council and includes Brazil and India ―two countries aspiring to be permanent members of the Council, and who have been very critical of the current system―among the members of that body. “The unipolar model is over in the world.”
Washington and its allies “want to privatize the (UN) general secretariat with a neoliberal narrative, but we ask that the founding charter be followed and geographical representation be reflected so that there is no one country that dominates the secretariat,” he declared.
The United States “plays with fire” in Taiwan
And, in a nod to his strategic partner China, he also harshly criticized US support for Taiwan, the island that Beijing considers one of its provinces. “He’s playing with fire,” she warned.
Lavrov’s words came when tensions between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan are at one of their worst moments in history, after the visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taipei last August and China’s response in the form of unprecedented live-fire military exercises.
A few minutes earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had reiterated a similar position. In his speech before the Assembly on behalf of his country, the also State Councilor promised to continue Beijing’s efforts to achieve “peaceful reunification” with the island of democratic government and ideologically aligned with Washington. But he also warned that he will decisively combat any kind of “separatist activity,” or foreign interference, that might lead to formal secession by Taipei.
“Only by resolutely preventing separatist activities can we forge a true foundation for peaceful reunification. Only when China is fully reunified can there be a lasting peace in the Strait of Formosa,” the Beijing representative stressed.
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