MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. Russia’s difficulties in relations with Western states began after Europe had been displeased with Russia’s refusal to ‘live in a house with a self-appointed master," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with RBC.
When asked why Russia and the West are currently unable to find common ground as they did in 1990s, Lavrov replied that relations were good "because no one in Russia had any objections about ‘who is the master of the house.’"
"And so they decided that this is it, the end of history. [US political scientist] Francis Fukuyama declared that from now on, the liberal concept will rule the world. Now they are again trying to bring the liberal idea to the forefront in this battle for influence on the international arena. But all those difficulties began when it became clear that Russia does not agree to live ‘in a house with a self-appointed master,’" Lavrov said.
Russia’s top diplomat said that when Putin became the president of Russia, he and his team tried to deliver this idea to its western partners through diplomatic signals that are readable for "educated and wise people."
"But no one was reading anything. After that, he had to say it, politely but frankly, during the Munich speech. When this signal was not received by anyone (to be more exact, they once again started to treat Russia as a ‘hooligan’ on the global arena and planned to ‘teach good manners’ to Russia again), all of this began. At least, this is when the West tried to create ideological framework for its current actions," the minister said.
Relations practically non-existent
The European Union perceives Russia as an outsider, and Moscow’s preparedness for a possible severance of ties with Brussels is due to the fact that those relations are practically non-existent, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
During the interview, Lavrov recalled EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s statement, made in May 2019: "Russia, our old enemy, is once again saying, 'here I am,' and has returned as a threat." "We sought clarifications at his protocol service. They replied that this is just a figure of speech and that he was misunderstood. But the mentality has found its way out. We are being perceived as an outsider," Russia’s top diplomat said.
"During an interview with Vladimir Solovyev, when I was asked if we were ready to sever ties, I gave a positive answer, because nothing is left from those relations already," Lavrov continued. "As former US president Barack Obama put it once - but at that point referring to Russia’s economy - the relations are now in tatters."
Speaking about the Russian government’s annual meetings with the European Commission and Russian-EU contacts within the framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Council, Lavrov said: "All of this has been ruined. <...> It was non-existent long before the Ukrainian crisis."
Speaking about trade and economic partnership with the European Union, Lavrov said trade turnover shrunk from $417 billion in 2013 to about $280 billion in 2019.
"What is the reason for this? It’s the sanctions, imposed by our dear biggest economic partner for reasons that have never been substantiated with any facts," he said.
A visa-free travel agreement between the European Union and Russia was ready back in 2013, but the EU stopped short of signing it for political reasons, Lavrov continued.
The Russian top diplomat recalled that the goal of introducing visa-free travel was set for 2015. Russia and the EU announced plans to introduce visa-free travel at a summit in May 2005. In 2006, an agreement on easing visa requirements was signed. In 2007, the parties launched dialogue on visa-free travel. The negotiations were suspended by the EU on March 6, 2014, as part of the first round of restrictive measures imposed over the Ukrainian crisis.
"The visa-free agreement was ready back in 2013. We met all conditions set by the EU: we agreed that visa-free travel will be available only to biometric passport holders and that all those who violate EU entry rules or terms of visa-free stay will be subjected to readmission. We signed a relevant agreement. We did everything they asked from us and what suited us," the minister said.
"After that, when the time has come to sign and subsequently ratify the deal, the EU said: ‘Let’s wait.’ The reason became known very soon, they made no secret of it. This community in Brussels decided that it would be politically incorrect to introduce visa-free travel with Russia before Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova get it," Lavrov added.