Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with TASS News Agency, April 15, 2018
Question: State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert claimed that Russia failed to live up to its 2013 commitments to assist in the elimination of chemical stockpiles in Syria. What is your comment?
Sergey Ryabkov: The elimination process included close cooperation between the countries concerned, including the US, and went on under strict international control. At certain stages, Moscow and Washington were coordinating their moves in real time in the course of telephone conferences and continuous contact at various levels.
The US made a definite contribution to eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons by destroying the poisonous agent and the DF precursor on the Cape Ray, a specialised ship.
All of this was basically efficient and transparent, although we did have certain questions with regard to the DF formula, etc. Russia asked the US about the subsequent moves after the elimination of the precursor.
This is why I am unable to understand these endless, primitive and unfounded information plants concerning Russia’s alleged underperformance that come, among others, from quite high-ranking US officials. This is yet another example of planting false information, known today as “hashtag.” The second step is that everyone, all the US allies, start repeating it. This moves from one newspaper to another, from one blog to another and eventually turns into something that is taken for granted.
The United States is the only state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention that has failed to destroy its arsenals, while its stockpiles of chemical warfare agents are estimated to be in the thousands of tonnes. Instead of accusing Russia of what simply does not exist, nor is able to exist, or repeating shameless and insolent lies, the US should focus on destroying its own chemical arsenals.
Question: US representatives have not ruled out repeated strikes in Syria. How will Russia respond to this? Is there information on new chemical provocations being prepared?
Sergey Ryabkov: We have been spending some time on this, with our people in Washington and New York busy monitoring official US statements. For example, we listened to what the Pentagon was saying after the attacks and what other representatives said. They claimed to have delivered a crushing blow at Syria’s chemical weapons via this unlawful, illegal and aggressive missile attack, which runs counter to international law. They claimed to have caused “irreparable” or even “hyperphysical” damage.
First, how did they find those arsenals? Let me repeat, everything was destroyed under international control with the participation of the US. Second, if the arsenals had been preserved, where is the vaunted effectiveness of the US military and their strikes? Third, if, despite the lack of answers to the first, second and any other question, the US will go on saying that Russia has failed to complete its work there and that they will use force and deliver strikes again, where are the grounds for these strikes?
They tell us they used force on April 14 to deprive the Damascus Government of an opportunity to use poisonous agents in a combat environment. Now they say that the strikes can be continued. Now we will see what other explanations they will invent, if they do anything at all to justify new strikes.
There is a continuing and very alarming trend in US foreign policy where people in control of considerable military capability just don’t bother not only to come to terms with another party on something, but even to think on what grounds or for what reason they are taking their far-reaching decisions. Let me stress again, this is one of the most alarming and disquieting new developments in current international relations.
Question: The US ambassador claimed that Washington had contacted Moscow before the Syria strikes to minimise the number of victims. Does Russia retain a measure of coordination with Western countries on Syria?
Sergey Ryabkov: I don’t know what our US colleagues mean by “coordination.” Neither have I understood for years, where the thin line separating the interpretations of the word “cooperation” as proposed by different representatives in Washington is. For me, this is as incomprehensible as it was unclear how they differentiated between terrorist groups and the armed opposition, etc.
But I don’t want to start analysing these crafty and roguish semantics instead of the Americans. They are very good at it, although on serious issues they talk in increasingly primitive slogans.
There are functioning channels for communications and information exchanges that help us keep abreast of the developments, and, I hope, better understand each other’s intentions.
Yesterday we noted with what incredible speed our British colleagues refuted Moscow’s reports that Russia had been in contact with all members of the US-led coalition. Let me emphasise especially for our British colleagues that the Moscow reports did not specify the themes, the stories, the aspects and particularly the geographical location of these contacts. Therefore, I would like to call on those “lovers of precision,” who are so numerous in London, not to overdo their own interpretations of what Moscow says and does.
Question: The Russian draft resolution denouncing the Syria attacks has been turned down in the UN Security Council. Has Russia received the draft resolution that the US, France and Britain intend to introduce?
Sergey Ryabkov: We are studying these proposals. Of course, the Western trio’s course is clear: they want full and unquestioning political obedience from everyone else.
When a reasonable alternative is offered, they reject it; without batting an eyelash, these people start repeating all kinds of wild guesses or political insinuations or plunge into empty and senseless rhetoric. When they promote their own ideas, knowing in advance that they run counter to international law, disenable real progress towards settlement of the protracted bloody conflict in Syria, make it impossible to fully free that country from the terrorist threat and prevent the normalisation of the humanitarian situation, they start labeling everyone who does real, practical work in this area both within the Astana process format and in Sochi, who provides humanitarian aid and who is trying to establish the truth as to whether or not chemical weapons were used and if they were, who did it. All of this is rejected. They seek to impose another completely bankrupt political scheme aimed at a regime change in Damascus.
I think this has nothing to do with how the UN Security Council should operate. I mean the spirit of imperial domination, attempts to impose on the world their own models and solutions, while demagogically speculating about some civilisational issues, some right or wrong sides of history, as if they were talking on behalf of history itself.
Question: If so, is Russia ready to work with the draft resolution proposed by these countries?
Sergey Ryabkov: We will look at the Western trio’s proposals with a critical eye. We can’t rule out anything in advance, as far as we are concerned. If there are sensible elements, we will work on them. But regrettably, what was earlier called the culture of compromise and common denominator has been totally lost by the disdainful and arrogant approach that permeates virtually the entire behaviour of the US, British and French representatives at the UN Security Council and other venues.
It will be extremely difficult to reach a reasonable compromise or solution on this draft. I wouldn’t like to anticipate anything from the point of view of how this work will progress, but it should be understood that we have certain red lines of our own. The Western group must have some irrevocable red lines too.
In the past, it was possible, if episodically, to work out a path between these lines, a middle path of sorts, although it should be noted that this happened rather infrequently.
Today the political situation is extremely tense, the atmosphere is extremely charged, and so I will not venture any predictions. We will work calmly, methodically and professionally, using every chance to lead the situation from its current, extremely dangerous political nosedive.