03/22/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/22/2019 05:11
Question: Mr Lavrov, the bombing of Yugoslavia was carried out 20 years ago. What were, in your opinion, the main geopolitical reasons why the United States launched this large-scale military operation?
Sergey Lavrov: As I see it, it was the beginning of the period when Washington decided that they had won the Cold War. The Soviet Union had disappeared, Russia was weak and sought to convince everyone that it wanted to join the Western democratic processes and become part of the civilised world, as the Russian leaders of the time said. Obviously, they thought we were uncivilised in the Soviet era. But Washington felt tempted to take the situation in the entire world under its full control, to abandon the principles of coordinating approaches to international problems based on the UN Charter, and to address all arising issues in such a manner as to dominate in all regions of the world. It goes without saying that the Yugoslav story also had to do with the desire to promote NATO's eastward expansion closer to the Russian Federation's borders. There is no doubt about that. The subsequent developments prove this to be generally the case.
Question: How was this accepted in Moscow at the time? Wasn't the political elite split down the middle? Did you feel that we could enter into a military confrontation with NATO on this account?
Sergey Lavrov: No. At that moment, we were discussing, including at the UN, the possibility of sending a peacekeeping mission to prevent clashes and reduce tensions around Kosovo. The West, primarily the United States, was categorically against this.
Question: Why didn't they want our peacekeepers?
Sergey Lavrov: Because they wanted to address the issues on their own. They were not interested in reducing tensions. They needed a situation where Yugoslavia would break up. By that time, Yugoslavia had already disintegrated, but obviously not until the end, the end that the West desired. The Kosovo gamble was aimed precisely at this. In the end, we had a paratroopers contingent on the ground that had entered the territory at our initiative, in line with a decision by the Russian leadership, rather than in the context of some grand international peacekeeping mission. I remember well how the Western representatives grew pensive when it took the Slatina airport under its control. Thank God, the hotheads in Washington and other capitals, specifically London, who were urging that the Russians be reined in, did not prevail. What did prevail was the professionalism of the Western military, including British soldiers, who were deployed on the ground. There was an incident where our contingent had a close encounter with the British but, I repeat, the top professionalism of the military on both sides prevailed.
To be continued...