The ultimate goal of the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by some Western nations is to stir public protests and oust the government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“Western leaders publicly state that the sanctions must hurt [Russia’s] economy and stir up public protests. The West doesn’t want to change Russia’s policies. They want a regime change. Practically nobody denies that,” he told a leading think-tank in Moscow.
Lavrov said that the tensions between Russia and the West had been brewing for years before the Ukrainian crisis, adding that now the Europeans had decided to go for all-or-nothing and play chicken with Russia. But at least the positions have been made clear, Lavrov said.
Russia and the EU are having a moment of truth focused on Ukraine, Lavrov said, but stressed that Moscow would not be the one to break off ties with Europe. However, Russia won’t simply go back to how things were before the crisis hit, he said.
“The EU is our largest partner,” Lavrov said. “Nobody is going to shoot himself in the foot and reject cooperation with Europe, but everyone understands that it won’t be business as usual anymore.
“But we don’t need the kind of business we had. [That] was like ‘Russia must do this and must do that,’ and we want to cooperate as equals,” he added.
He laid the blame for the escalation on an “aggressive minority” among EU nations, who pursue ideologically-driven grabs of power in eastern Europe, including Ukraine, instead of focusing on the serious problems that Europe is facing due to the turmoil across the Mediterranean in North Africa and the Middle East.
“Exporting any kind of ideology, whether it is democratic or communist or any other kind, won’t do any good,” he warned.
Ideology blinds Europeans to some problems, which Russia believes need to be solved, Lavrov said. For example, EU officials are reluctant to speak about the persecution of Christians by Muslim militants in Iraq and Syria or elsewhere, because they fear that this would be perceived as politically incorrect. Meanwhile there is a growing Christianophobia in the world, he said.
“Most of EU members avoid discussing this issue. They are ashamed to pronounce it as they were ashamed to put a phrase acknowledging the Christian roots of Europe into the EU Constitution,” Lavrov said. “If you don’t remember and don’t respect your own roots and traditions, how can you respect the traditions of other people?”
‘Russia not anti-American’
Lavrov blamed the US for claiming global leadership at a time when both its resources and leadership skills are in decline. Particularly, he said, Washington is increasingly tuning its policies with electoral cycles, as long-term goals are sacrificed for short-term gains of popularity among voters.
“We cannot accept the position of those who tell us: ‘Put up with it. Everyone has to suffer from America having elections every two years, and nothing should be done about it. Relax and take it as a given’. This won’t do. We won’t take it because the stakes are too high,” Lavrov said.
He added that while some take Russia’s opposition to America’s global influence as anti-Americanism, this is not the case.
“It’s not about anti-Americanism or forming some sort of anti-American coalition. It’s about the natural desire of an increasing number of nations to ensure their vital interests and doing it in a way they see right, not the way they are being told by a foreign party,” he said.
If the US pursues leadership not out of a false perception that it has a God-given burden to take responsibility for everybody, but by developing the skill to form a consensus, Moscow would be the first to back Washington, Lavrov said.
But now Washington is bullying other nations into toeing their line, and few dare to object publicly out of fear of reprisal, while complaining in private, he added.