Russia would be ready to accept any mutually acceptable solution to be reached by Belgrade and Pristina through a dialogue, in compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which still remains in force, has said the Russian Ambassador to Albania, Alexander Karpushin. In an exclusive interview with Albanian Daily News the Ambassador touched upon certain crucial issues like the question of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the question of the new name of Macedonia under the Prespa agreement between Athens and Skopje, the Middle East and concretely Iraq, Libya, Syria, as well as the latest developments in Venezuela. With regard to the relations with Albania Mr. Karpushin said cultural projects along with the promotion of the Russian language and various educational programmes are among the Embassy’s top priorities. “I hope that this year Russian performers will take part in such major events in Tirana, as the International Festival of Operatic Singers “Marie Kraja” and the International Albanian Brass Festival. We will also continue our efforts to organize the concerts of Russian folk groups in Albania. In particular, we are planning to invite to Tirana in May a folk ensemble from the city of Perm,” said Russian Ambassador Karpushin in the following interview:
– Mr. Ambassador, in the first place please accept best wishes on the occasions of Russia`s Diplomat Day. Could you please tell us something on the significance of this Day? How popular is it in Russia?
– Diplomat`s Day is a young holiday, and this year it is celebrated only for the 17th time. However, its youth does not diminish the importance of this day. Historically, the mission of Russian diplomacy has been one of the cornerstones in strengthening the statehood and power of our country. The history of the Russian diplomatic service dates back to 1549, when Tsar Ivan the Terrible created the Ambassadorial Department (or “Posolsky Prikaz” in Russian). Such a service appeared in Russia earlier than in some countries of modern Western Europe. Subsequently, difficult geographical and political conditions for the development of our country dictated the need to create one of the largest and most important government bodies – in 1802, Emperor Alexander I of Russia formed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, the forerunner of today’s Russian Foreign Ministry. This is the anniversary we are celebrating nowadays.
– In what way is Diplomat`s Day observed in your country and in your diplomatic missions abroad?
– Every year on this day several generations of diplomats gather in the Great Hall of the historic main building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR (nowadays – of the Russian Federation). The Ministry honors diplomatic service veterans; experienced diplomats share stories of their life and professional career with younger generations. In our missions abroad, all the embassy staff come together to celebrate this holiday like one big family. Yes, we are a big family – we all serve for the benefit of our Motherland, being faraway from it. I am proud of the staff of my Embassy, they are great professionals in the respective fields and know this country very well. I confess that I am very pleased when our Albanian colleagues speak highly of the Albanian language skills of our diplomats. High professionalism, exemplary discipline and resistance to stress – these qualities have always distinguished Russian diplomats. I have mentioned resistance to stress on purpose – to my regret, nowadays the Russia-Albania relations are going through a difficult period. Increasingly, we notice undisguised anti-Russian attacks. From the high tribunes some proclaim Russian interference in the internal affairs of the Balkan region. It is in spite of the fact that everyone – ordinary citizens, Albanian students studying in Russia, and even politicians themselves understand perfectly well that this is not true. The activity of the Russian Embassy is transparent – one can see it on the Facebook page, in our numerous cultural events, and in our contribution to the education of local youth and students. It refers not only to offering university scholarships, but also to the revival of teaching the Russian language in Albania.
–Mr. Ambassador, the US President, Trump has confirmed that the US is leaving the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, saying his country will move forward with developing its own military response options to Russia`s suspect missile. However, he has left the door open to the treaty being salvaged in that 180-day window if Russia destroys all of its violating missiles, launchers and associated equipment. Which is your comment on this?
– Undoubtedly, the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty will lead to both grave and far-reaching negative consequences for the entire architecture of international security and strategic stability, primarily in Europe. The United States is entirely responsible for this. The Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries have used all the platforms, starting with the UN General Assembly, to save the Treaty. With the help of our defense experts, we worked specifically with the diplomatic corps in Moscow, we held meetings with our American colleagues at neutral sites. I would stress that the Russian side has used every opportunity to preserve this important treaty in the field of international stability and security. By showing goodwill, we resorted to unprecedented transparency measures that went beyond the requirements of the Treaty. However, all our efforts were ignored or blocked by the United States, who had long ago set their course on destroying the INF in order to get rid of the restrictions on building up their missile potential. The accusations made by the American side are absolutely groundless. Washington has long been violating the INF Treaty: the Americans unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) and, despite Russia’s attempts to reach a compromise, they have deployed launch areas in Romania and are planning to do so in Poland and Japan. The elements of the American Anti-Ballistic Missile systems, Mk-41 VLS, are also suitable for launching intermediate-range attack missiles similar to target missiles. Not to mention the US reluctance to let Russian inspectors check submarine-based Trident missile launchers and a number of heavy bombers. This already demonstrates the violations of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-3) by the USA. However, for some reason they prefer not to talk about it, hiding behind asmokescreen of contrived accusations against Russia. In the face of the new threats posed by Washington, we will be forced to take all necessary measures to ensure our national security. Russia reserves the right to give a symmetrical response to the development, production and deployment of intermediate-range and shorter-range ground-based missiles. However, as Russian President Vladimir Putin put it, being conscious of its special role in maintaining global peace and security, our country will not deploy medium and shorter-range missiles in Europe or elsewhere unless the US does it. In case Washington finally reconsiders its destructive policy and returns to the compliance with the INF Treaty, we are open to a meaningful dialogue on the subject of the Treaty and on all other issues of strategic stability based on mutual respect and taking into account each other’s interests.
– Does this mean a return to the pre-1980 Cold War as besides the revival of the nuclear arms race the US and Russia do not see eye-to-eye on many international issues like Ukraine, Syria, the Middle East in general, and recently on Venezuela?
– I do not think that this is a Cold War. The Cold War is a clash of competing ideological systems. Nowadays Russia and the United States, as well as the rest of Europe, are capitalist countries and are much more similar than 30 years ago. What we can see right now is not an ideological confrontation, but Washington’s attempts to place countries that disagree with it under its own control, and to impose on everyone its vision of a unipolar world in the political and economic spheres. However, such a strategy is not adequate anymore – the world has become multipolar. It seems that the American politicians are not fully aware of all the transformations that have occurred in the world over the past 20 years or just refuse to recognize them. In this context, the case of Venezuela is just a right example. We see how Washington is putting at stake almost everything in order to push through its own solution to the Venezuelan issue. As Minister Sergey Lavrov noted, a constructive approach, involving a national dialogue, is replaced by certain formats built on the logic of ultimatums and dictate. Representatives of the US security forces officially and explicitly declare that the incumbent president of Venezuela needs to be removed, that they do not recognize him as president, i.e. they do not recognize his immunity, status and decisions. At the same time, the US leadership hints at its possible military invasion, solving the problem by force, which is completely irresponsible in the current situation. We all can see the consequences of violent interventions carried out according to the recipes of our American colleagues in the Middle East (Iraq, Libya, Syria). The world will definitely lose by repeating a similar scenario in Venezuela. Considering that success of America’s foreign policy in other parts of the world is hardly noticeable, this actually may be another attempt to divert their own public opinion from failures in other problematic issues.
– As a follow up, Your Excellency, there are new developments in the Western Balkans among which resolution to the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia with the latter being renamed the Republic of North Macedonia. Secondly, there is talk on eventual talks between presidents of Serbia and Kosovo on a ‘border correction’ which would lead to recognition by Belgrade of Kosovo and the latter’s admission in the UN. What can you say on these issues?
– The developments of the recent months in Macedonia unfolded as a full-scale campaign to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, on which certain solutions, that are not supported by the majority of its population, are being imposed externally, by fair means or foul. As a result, the country’s name has been artificially modified, while a whole nation has been forced to give up its identity. As it is known, the referendum of September 30, 2018, in Macedonia has failed: two-thirds of the population did not agree to sacrifice their national interests in exchange for the country being dragged into NATO. However, neither the outcome of the popular vote, nor the position of the Macedonian president seem to be of interest to the West. The Western community is persistent in its reluctance to acknowledge the obvious: the Prespa agreement does not embody the will of the citizens, which means that it cannot provide a long-term solution to the dispute between Athens and Skopje. The Foreign Ministry of Russia has repeatedly stressed that progress in resolving differences should be based on a broad public consensus, rather than cause a split in the Macedonian society just in order to satisfy geopolitical appetites of one or another external actor. Currently, there is much speculation about Russia’s interference in some processes in Macedonia. I would, however, suggest that we recall the vote of October 19, 2018, in the Macedonian parliament on amending the constitution. The US ambassador stayed in the Assembly until the end of the session, while the necessary voting results were secured by bribing and blackmailing the MPs. Prior to that, it was US, EU and NATO officials that paid visits to Macedonia, one after another, shortly before the referendum, openly calling their mission a “diplomatic offensive”, blatantly intruding into the country’s internal affairs, and seeking to achieve, at any cost, the “renovation” of the constitution. While the accusations against Russia just served as a cover-up of a real and absolutely brazen interference in Macedonian politics. The Russian side expects the results of the talks between Macedonia and Greece to be considered at the UN Security Council, in accordance with the latter’s Resolution 845. As for the current negotiation process between Belgrade and Pristina, the position of Russia remains the same. As President Putin has said more than once, Russia would be ready to accept any mutually acceptable solution to be reached by the parties through a dialogue, in compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which still remains in force.
– With regard to relations with Albania, Mr. Ambassador, it is noted that your Embassy is engaged in continuous cultural activities not only in Tirana, but even in other areas. Please can you show how are they received by the Albanian public opinion?
Can you disclose your Embassy’s cultural agenda during 2019? – That’s right, we attach, indeed, special importance to our humanitarian cooperation with Albania. Cultural projects along with the promotion of the Russian language and various educational programmes are among the Embassy’s top priorities. The local audience has always given a very warm reception to Russian performers, and we can always feel Albanians’ love for Russian culture, as well as a strong emotional connection that emerged between our peoples in the post-war period when our country made a decisive contribution to a cultural “explosion” in Albania and to the training of its best creative talents. I hope that this year Russian performers will take part in such major events in Tirana, as the International Festival of Operatic Singers “Marie Kraja” and the International Albanian Brass Festival. We will also continue our efforts to organize the concerts of Russian folk groups in Albania. In particular, we are planning to invite to Tirana in May a folk ensemble from the city of Perm.