Moscow raises the tone regarding the risk of a collision between powers due to the conflict in Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, predicts that relations with Europe will never be the same again and advocates redoing the entire security framework of the Old Continent from scratch. For the head of Russian diplomacy, the aid that the West provides to Ukraine could take the conflict to a much more dangerous dimension if two powers with weapons of mass destruction —Russia and the United States have them— clash over it. “The risk of escalating to a nuclear war is enormous,” Lavrov said Thursday at a lengthy press conference on European stability. According to the head of Russian diplomacy, institutions established since the Cold War to maintain peace on the continent, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), could no longer make sense in the future as a result of the conflict.
Lavrov wanted to point out that the main countries have recently promoted two international declarations that warn that no one can win a nuclear war and, therefore, it should be avoided: one of Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden in June 2021 and another in January of this year of the five large States that possess this type of weapons of mass destruction. Despite these appeals, the diplomat warned that the threat is still real, a situation for which he blames Western countries for their support for Ukraine: “We were ready to go further and say that not only should a war not be unleashed nuclear power, but any war between nuclear powers is also unacceptable. Even if someone decides to initiate it by conventional means, the risk of escalating to nuclear war is enormous.”
The high official justified the Russian attacks against power plants and other civilian infrastructure in Ukraine because “they provide combat potential to the armed forces of Ukraine, to the nationalist battalions, and on them depends the delivery of a large number of weapons with which The West fills Ukraine to kill Russians.”
After the September and October setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine, the Kremlin raised the nuclear rhetoric. On the one hand, by saying that he would defend the annexed territory in Ukraine “by all means”, to which Putin added that this determination “is not a bluff”. On the other, by assuring that kyiv was preparing to use “dirty radioactive weapons.” Washington warned that such an attack would not go unpunished, and the form that this US response would take was delivered in writing by CIA director William Burns to his counterpart in Russia’s foreign secret services, Sergei Narishkin, in Ankara. last November 14.
Lavrov opened the door to talk again, but on one condition: “If our Western interlocutors realize their mistakes and express their willingness to return to the discussion of the documents that we proposed in December.” In other words, to resume the demands that Russia put on the table before the invasion of Ukraine and that contemplated the withdrawal from NATO of all the countries that joined the alliance after the Founding Act of 1997, which would mean leaving out all the nations east of Germany.
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Lavrov was very skeptical: “I doubt that they will find the strength and intelligence to do this. But if this happens suddenly, we will be ready to talk to them again.” The head of Russian diplomacy added that Moscow’s proposals were “honest” because they did not initially demand the withdrawal of US forces from Europe and the dissolution of the Atlantic Alliance.
Statements against Borrell and the EU
In any case, Moscow considers the relationship with the European Union almost null. “To answer the question of whether Moscow is being isolated from European diplomacy, we must first find out if it exists,” said the senior official before charging against the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, for saying that “This conflict must end with the victory of Ukraine on the battlefield.” Lavrov snapped: “We need to know when sane people will appear in European diplomacy.” Later he affirmed that he misses “gestures through diplomatic channels” beyond the visits to Moscow to see Putin made by French President Emmanuel Macron; German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other European leaders before the war began.
Moscow believes that the cordiality of the past will not return and that it is necessary to negotiate a new security framework “on basically new principles.” “It is clear that if our western neighbors, and it is impossible to stop being in contact as neighbors, are interested in recovering the joint work on European security, its restoration will not be successful because restoration means going back to what was before, but we will not go back to a normal situation, the diplomat has predicted.
Lavrov targeted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an organization that was born during the Cold War as a communication platform between both sides. The Russian Foreign Minister considered that its existence “has been devalued” by the expansion of NATO since the 1990s. This institution has supervised compliance with the ceasefire in the Ukrainian region of Donbas since 2014 and its daily reports revealed all the attacks by both sides that had been registered until 2022. However, the mission was forced to leave the country after the offensive February Russian.
Criticism of the OSCE rained down on Thursday from all sides. While Lavrov assured that this independent organization is influenced “by the numerical superiority of the West” within its membership, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmitro Kuleba, pointed out on Twitter that the OSCE “is on its way to hell” and called for expulsion from Moscow because “everything has been tried with regard to Russia: please her, appease her, be nice, be neutral, compromise or not call things by their name.”
The head of Russian diplomacy also denounced the isolation to which his country is being subjected. Lavrov criticized the creation of parallel institutions to those that already exist without the participation of Moscow, such as the European Political Community, a framework for political dialogue promoted by Macron so that the EU can interact with countries that are not part of the community project. “President Macron proudly said: ‘We invite everyone except Russia and Belarus,” recalled the senior official.
The regime of the Belarusian Alexandr Lukashenko has also been involved in the war in Ukraine, and Lavrov advanced that this collaboration could have a more active role in the future. If in the spring it served as a platform for the Russian offensive on kyiv, in September Belarus announced the creation of joint forces with Moscow under the State of the Union, a supranational entity created in the 1990s to achieve greater political and military integration. “Our presidents are paying increased attention to this issue (joint deployment) due to ongoing provocations, including from Ukraine,” Lavrov said.
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