State Duma deputies in the foreign policy

Yesterday Alexei Pushkov, head of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, held a press conference and spoke on the main challenges of Russian foreign policy relevant for the legislative authorities.




It is extremely complicated to predict the development of the Syrian situation. I see there a government that is unable to suppress the armed opposition, primarily because the armed opposition is financed and equipped from abroad, enjoys political support from abroad, and on the other hand, the armed opposition is unable to overthrow the current government.


When we are told that the opposition holds meetings in the center of Damascus, but this is an exaggeration, because it gives the impression that Damascus is involved in a war zone. This is not the case. There are some attacks. Indeed, one of the organizations related to al-Qaeda destroyed the telecommunications company which was considered to be a company that supported al-Assad in one of the central districts of Damascus. But it was an attack on the company; they destroyed the office. Everything lasted 4 hours, and the next morning, the company continued to broadcast. It was a spectacular event, as if there are fights in Damascus, but in fact it had a very limited share of influence. In Damascus, some attacks are carried out; one of the generals of the Syrian Air Force was kidnapped recently; the head of the military hospital was killed. That is, there are some attacks, it's true. Sometimes a group of suicide bombers captures a small building in the center of Damascus and fires back. They certainly die or are arrested there, but it must show that the fights are conducted in Damascus. In fact, of course, the situation in Damascus is rather tense, but Damascus is not in a combat zone. The same is true of Aleppo, the second largest city of Syria.


We have a conflict in which no side can win by force of arms. In these circumstances, of course, the only way that the Russian Federation sees is the start of negotiations. And the formula that was worked out in Geneva, the creation of a transitional government, it certainly looks unrealistic. A realistic one is a continuation of the civil war. That is, we already have it. But it leads us nowhere. And so the end of the civil war is possible only by means of political negotiations.


What do we need? To do this, we need the readiness of the current leadership of Syria, on the one hand. But the militants should be ready to seek a solution, too. And what do we hear? Hillary Clinton signed an agreement in Geneva on the transitional government. Exactly two hours later, the militants say no, they will not participate in negotiations on the transitional government. That is, the political clients of the "friends of Syria" say they will not consider the agreement, with the signature both of Clinton and of the leaders of the Gulf States and the Arab League states, and so on. What does this mean? This can only mean one thing: one hand signs the agreement, and the other hand sends a signal to say: "guys, continue to act as you act, continue to wage civil war."


This creates the appearance of some movement in this direction, and at the same time, of course, we are accused that we will pay something to somebody. Hillary Clinton said that Russia will pay. I do not quite understand how it will pay. This is another attack on Russia; we supposedly interfere in settling the Syrian crisis. I have recently given a press conference in London, and I told the British reporters: thank God you have Russia, because by criticizing Russia you pretend that you have some kind of general policy on Syria.


The West has no policy on Syria. They want Assad to go away. That’s all. What's next? Who will come to power? What is the scheme? What forces will come to power? Will they be Islamic radicals, the Wahhabis, the Salafis? Who will it be? The U.S. administration does not even know who is fighting there. How can they proposing the overthrow of the current government, despite the fact that they have no idea who will replace them? Those people who are struggling against Assad in Syria, or at least part of them, carry out terrorist attacks in Damascus and in Aleppo; there were already ten such attacks, and almost 1000 people were killed just by them. They are the same people who blow up NATO troops and the Iraqi military in Iraq. These are the same people who are fighting against them in Afghanistan. This is the same thing. But for some reason there are terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there are, of course, freedom fighters in Syria. These are the same people.


This lack of serious, well thought-out policies on the Syrian issue (there are such and such forces, such and such negotiations are conducted, they come to such and such a scheme of such and such political orientation), the absence of such a policy leads to a constant attack on Russia. "Russia supplies new combat helicopters to Syria." It is not true. "Russia will pay." "Russia defends al-Assad." It seems to me that the intensity of attacks on Russia by the United States is primarily concerned with the fact that the U.S. does not have any possibility of conducting a military operation in Syria on the eve of the election. Indeed, I would say, there isn’t a critical mass supporting intervention in Syria in the U.S. The combination of political struggle, weapons and funds sent to the militants and information warfare creates a distorted reality. But the correct reality is that there is a fight, which, at least in the short term, does not have any military solution. No side can defeat the other. And, of course, I think we need to just make all efforts for the political solution of the issue, but the forces opposing the government refuse to participate in this political dialogue. The Annan plan was not accepted, and now they abandon this agreement on the transitional government. In these circumstances it is very difficult to make forecasts. I’m afraid that we will have the same situation as now in the long view.




Iran has attacked no one in recent years. Iran has not taken any hostile action in relation to any state. The exceptions are the statements of Mr. Ahmadinejad regarding Israel. Here we must recognize that Iran has, in my opinion, made radical statements that have caused concern in Israel, and it has become a topic of constant accusations against Iran and Israel's concern for its own safety. This, in particular, was said during the recent visit of Putin to the Middle East; Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke about this. But at the level of real activities we do not see any aggressive tendencies with respect to the surrounding states. On the contrary, Iran is showing a high degree of restraint. Look at the situation around Syria. We know that there are not only refugee camps, but militants sheltering in Turkey. According to U.S. press reports, there are already employees of the Central Intelligence Agency working there, this is public information, it is no secret; they help to coordinate the flow of weapons, cash flows, they establish relations with opposition groups, with the leaders of the rebels. But Iran is not developing any type of military activity. As far as I know, the Iranian services are not involved in the civil war in Syria, even indirectly, while the intelligence agencies of a number of neighbouring states and of the United States are involved in it. Therefore, Iran, in my opinion, is a state that is just showing that it is quite a responsible member of the international community. By the way, there are very serious doubts about the fact that Iran is really going to create its own nuclear weapons. Yes, it seems to work on nuclear technologies. But does this mean it's going to actually create an atomic weapon? This is a big question. As you may recall, 16 intelligence agencies of the United States issued a report in 2003 saying that Iran had stopped working on the creation of its own nuclear weapons. Since then we have not heard the American intelligence agencies officially denying this position and said that they have data that accurately confirm that Iran is developing nuclear bombs. The last assessment said that Iran had stopped this work. So I have a feeling that in fact it is not so much about the nuclear program, but about how to create the conditions for a change of power; the same thing is happening now in Syria. But in Syria there are direct methods, and in Iran the challenge is to change the power and to bring the people who are found more appropriate for the system of the U.S. national interests in the Western countries. The unilateral sanctions we are talking about have little or no direct impact on the Iranian nuclear program. But they complicate the overall economic situation of Iran. They seem to hit the daily living conditions of people and are designed to cause dissatisfaction with the current regime among the population. I would suggest that these efforts are seen as aimed at weakening the existing political regime in Iran.


Human rights abroad


This is a fundamentally new direction in the work of the Committee. On May 14 we had a hearing on the human rights in the European Union. Until now, the State Duma of the Russian Federation is not involved in human rights issues in this expanded volume. We examined different situations of human rights violations, concerning, in particular, our compatriots, Russian citizens abroad. We discussed the situation of our compatriots in the Baltic region. But the situation with the entire European Union, the case of human rights there, the main ways in which human rights are violated have not been discussed yet. The discussion was attended by the ambassadors of all the EU countries, or, more precisely, their representatives. Among them there were a few, five or six heads of diplomatic missions. There was quite a wide resonance in Europe about this hearing. And, of course, no one could question the right of the State Duma to get involved in these issues. Our European colleagues had to take into account the fact that there was no monopoly on human rights. Even if for the first time the human rights issue has been raised by the Western democratic states, it does not mean that, first of all, they cannot commit human rights abuses themselves; just remember the scandal, which, incidentally, continues to unfold concerning secret prisons of the CIA in Poland. And secondly, if they really propose the doctrine of human rights and declare it a universal one, they should be prepared for the fact that other countries will also consider the human rights situation in the United States, the European Union and so on. By the way, we scheduled October hearing in the State Duma of the human rights situation in the United States, so we hope and expect to continue this line, and the State Duma is now involved in human rights activity. We will monitor the situation no less carefully than our Western partners monitor the human rights situation in our country.


The Baltic states


It is our relationship with the Baltic states in light of the ongoing march of former SS units and the continuing practice of so-called non-citizenship (310,000 people in Latvia are non-citizens; it is a considerable part of the population). On this occasion, the State Duma adopted the statement on the situation in the Baltic states, and this theme will remain on our agenda.




There was a closed meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee with the participation of the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and several other organizations; we discussed the prospects of our relations with NATO at a time when there were clearly-detected conflicts that did not have a quick resolution, such as the problems with the missile defense system.


The adoption of Russian children in the U. S.


As you know, 19 Russian children have been killed in the United Stated since the adoptions began. Somebody would say that this is a minor figure, because the total of Russian children adopted in the United States is more than 50,000, and the vast majority of them are all right, let's hope for it. But 19 deaths are a very indicative figure. There is not such a great number of deaths of Russian children anywhere. In other countries, as far as I know, there are no such cases, and in the United States they are repeated with remarkable regularity. And, of course, this raises the question how we should act in these circumstances. One measure that was adopted is the ratification of the Agreement on the Adoption of Russian children in the United States. It was ratified yesterday. We hope that this agreement will allow us, first, to monitor the way of destiny of our children in the United States. Second, the United States commit themselves to monitor the situation of these children. Previously, children were given to the families, and the local authorities had to monitor the situation. Now, a structure responsible for it should be established within the State Department. And the third point is that we are going to seriously toughen the licensing of those organizations that do have the right to be engaged in this activity. That is, these organizations will be selected more seriously than they were until now. Therefore, although the agreement drew criticism from the opposition, particularly from a representative of the "Fair Russia", in our opinion, it is an important task: it is creating opportunities for more a streamlined adoption process of our children in the United States and allowing us to adopt new elements of control. I have no illusions that after signing this agreement, everything will be all right, but at least we have a legal basis on which we can appeal to the U.S. side and achieve greater attention from the United States to these children. We may also achieve more severe punishments for foster parents who have violated their commitments, let alone abused children (sometimes it causes deaths). It is also extremely distressing that the terms of imprisonment of those families where children were killed are quite conditional. There is the infamous story of Vanya Skorobogatov, who was killed, and the members of his family stayed 16 months during the investigation and were set free in the courtroom. What is that? At the same time, the American authorities tell us that there are different states, the states have their own laws, and they cannot influence them. They express their regret for it; for example, Eric Holder, the attorney general, did it. But the apology does not resolve the situation, and we hope that on the basis of this agreement we will have a greater influence on the U.S. side in these matters. The Americans, on the other hand, do not want to abandon this practice. They have a social demand for adoption, you know, not only from Russia. Americans are widely adopting children around the world. This is one of the features of American foreign policy - to provide conditions for ensuring that American citizens can adopt children from abroad. But if they consider it important for themselves, they must bear some responsibility. We hope that this agreement will increase the responsibility of the U.S. side for adopting Russian children.


The WTO and the Eurasian Union


The Customs Union of Russia and the Eurasian Economic Community are the most important priorities for our country. We consider them as important steps towards a full-fledged Eurasian Union, an economic organization, perhaps with a broader perspective in the future. As I far as I know, we will search for a compromise between our participation in the WTO and in the regional grouping, despite the fact that Belarus is not part of the WTO. You know what the WTO actually is a kind of umbrella organization, and under this umbrella there are all sorts of things. Under this umbrella, the United States, for example, has repeatedly practised protectionist measures for its metallurgical products. When we say that this violates WTO rules, they say, "Really? We’ll consider this problem". In general, they have been surprised for around six months, then they have been negotiating for another six months. Then they took some actions. That is, the WTO is the kind of organization that proclaims the principle of free trade, reduction of customs duties, and removal of trade barriers. But at the same time, in the WTO, you know, protectionist measures are implemented by a number of states, and special conditions concerning the specifics of any relationship or the participation of these states in these or other groups are specified. We will seek a formula that will combine our participation in the WTO with the unconditional promotion of the idea of the Eurasian Union. I think from the point of view of Russian priorities, a Eurasian Union is the number one priority on our current agenda. No wonder that Vladimir Putin, in his famous article on foreign policy, and in his first paper on foreign policy which he signed on May 7, the day of his inauguration, expressed the idea of ​​Eurasian integration as a top priority of Russian foreign policy. I do not think that our participation in the WTO will affect it.


Vestnik Kavkaza

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