Sergei Lavrov

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Foreign Minister of Russia


“Russia's policy is neither pro-Arab nor pro-Israel. It is directed at securing Russian national interests, which include maintaining close and friendly ties both with the Arab countries and with Israel.” "[The] fight against terrorism has nothing in common with [the] fight against Islam. To present this fight as a kind of a religious conflict or a clash of civilizations would only play into the hands of terrorists who in reality have neither national nor religious identity."

“Our countries (Russia and Israel) are both in the crosshairs of terrorism. To fight this universal evil in a vigorous way is one of the areas where we can and should unite our efforts.”

“We want Iraq, which is our long-standing partner, to return to the world community as its equal member, including in terms of international economic exchanges. But it's hard for me to say what interests Americans may have in keeping Iraq in such a state. As I have already said, it is irrational to demand that it comply with Security Council resolutions and at the same time bomb it and call for toppling its regime.”

You are Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia. You were born in Russia in 1950. You graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations of in 1972 and began diplomatic work shortly thereafter with the Soviet foreign ministry. You speak Russian, English, French and Sinhalese (you lived and worked in Sri Lanka). You continue to work, are now married and have a daughter. In your spare time you are active in outdoor pursuits, including hiking and rafting. Friends say you are also an accomplished guitar player.

Public Service

You have held many diplomatic positions in your career, dating back to 1972. From 1992-1994, you were the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. From 1990-1992, you were the director of the Department of International Organizations and Global Problems of the MFA of Russia. From 1988-1990, you were the Deputy Head of the Department of International Economic Relations of the MFA of Russia. From 1981-1988, you were the First Secretary, Councilor and Second Councilor at the Permanent Representation of the USSR to the UN. From 1976-1981, you worked in the Department of International Organizations of the MFA of the USSR. And finally, you began work in 1972 at the USSR Embassy in Sri Lanka.  You first achieved international prominence in the role of Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, a position you held from 1994 until 2004, when you were also appointed Foreign Minister of Russia in coincidence with the second term of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As permanent ambassador to the UN you were especially active in the arena of nuclear program disputes, most notably concerning the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. At the time, North Korea was considered a much larger issue than Iran, and you were an instrumental part of the Russian delegation to the multi-party talks which made some progress towards the disbandment of the North Korean nuclear program. 

International Concerns and Russia’s Role in the Middle East

As Russia’s Foreign Minister you are responsible for managing Russia’s complex foreign policy, which must take into account relations with Europe, the Middle East and East Asia, all of which share land borders with Russia. Additionally, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin Russia has made serious efforts to create a new working relationship with its former enemy, the United States. Presidents Putin and Bush were said to get along very well with each other, but this goodwill has not extended to the larger bureaucracies of either government, which still contain many individuals who spent their lives training to defeat the other country in the Cold War. This relationship has been seriously threatened by the “War on Terror,” particularly the American invasion of Iraq. As Russia’s permanent UN ambassador, you have led the international opposition to George Bush’s interventionist foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. In 2003 you told reporters that the idea of invading another country to install “democracy” was a ludicrous proposition, and America was doomed to repeat the imperial mistakes which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union following its invasion of Afghanistan.

Beyond the Iraq war, 2003 proved to be a significant year for Russia’s relations with the Middle East, because in 2003 President Putin, through you and your diplomats, began to reinvigorate Russia’s relationship with its closest ally from the Soviet era, Syria. This renewed friendship was signified when you announced that Russia had forgiven Syria almost 13 billion dollars worth of debt, and intended to renew the old Soviet practice of inviting Syrians to Russia for training in technical and scientific fields. More significantly, you agreed to begin selling advanced missile systems to the Syrian military, including surface-to-surface missiles which could be used to threaten Israel. Israel and its American allies raised an uproar over this issue, but you contended that Syria was a crucial, and overlooked, broker in the Middle East Peace Process, which deserved the same arms purchasing prerogatives as other forces in the region.  The support of the al-Assad regime was reaffirmed in 2012 when, during a visit to Syria, you were welcomed by thousands of supporters, who had turned out to thank Russia for its recent veto of UN-proposed sanctions against the Syrian government.

From 2004 onward, international eyes have focused on the Iranian nuclear program, which is largely based on Russian technology. As a diplomat with experience handling nuclear issues you remained convinced that the Iranians could be dealt with peacefully and would eventually accept a nuclear agreement that allowed them to enjoy the benefits of nuclear power without also possessing the capability to start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which would surely bring in the Israelis along with their American allies. The nuclear issue is an important part of Russian foreign policy, because nuclear engineering is a premium commodity for the Russian government, which hopes to use Soviet expertise in the field to reinvigorate Russia’s status as a cutting-edge energy supplier. All of this promise will be for nothing if the Americans or Israelis blow up the Russian-built Iranian nuclear facilities, so you have stood strongly against any proposed effort to interdict the Iranian program militarily. All the same, Iran’s stubbornness has sorely frustrated the Russian government, which led to your agreement to UN sanctions against Iran in late 2006. Unlike America or the British, however, the Russian government insists that these sanctions should be targeted and mild, with the overall goal of forcing Iran to the bargaining table, not unilaterally punishing the Iranian people. Ultimately, your suspicions on Iran’s willingness to negotiate were proven correct, when following the P5+1 nuclear deal in 2015, you announced that Russia and Iran have “very ambitious plans for the development of Iranian nuclear power.” An additional benefit to the treaty is the prospect of future arms sales to Iran, given that as part of a provision that you personally helped shepherd into the final agreement, the international arms embargo against Iran will sunset in 2020, paving the way for a reported $10 billion deal with Russia.

Regionally, things seem to have come full circle for the Russian position in the Middle East. Throughout the Cold War, most of the deeply religious Middle East distrusted Russians for their atheism and perceived expansionist ambitions. Since the American invasion of Iraq, however, many regional governments have started to look on Russia with renewed hope, believing that the former superpower will be a new voice of neutrality in the region, now that the US is seen by most to have evolved into an outright empire which is interested only in the prosperity of Israel. As Russia’s chief diplomat, you have used this newfound respect for Russia to advocate for peaceful resolutions to the region’s many problems, based on the premise that a peaceful Middle East is only possible if all nations are given productive roles to play, which includes both Iran and Israel. You have publicly stated that Israel’s future success, if not outright survival, depends on reaching a negotiated peace with the Palestinians which results in a 2-state solution: you do not care whether this requires adherence to the “Road Map” or the “Abdullah Plan,” so long as it is reached peacefully and involves the creation of a climate that will allow future conflicts to be solved diplomatically. To this end, you have even proposed that future bilateral talks between Abbas and the Netanyahu administration take place in Moscow. To be sure, any sit-down by these two leaders on Russian soil would be seen as an enormous diplomatic coup, both for the Russian state and you personally.


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