Says on a visit to Spain, the official representative of Russian foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova claims about the intervention of its country in the electoral process in the United States, as well as the news that Donald trump has shared with the Russian representatives of the classified information, indicate that Russia used as “a political instrument in the war.” In an interview with ABC Zakharova responds to accusations of cyber attacks and intervention in American and French elections, expresses his point of view on issues relating to NATO, Ukraine, Spain and Korea. Speaking about the situation in Russia, she denies charges of “drifting towards authoritarianism”, and expresses a country’s democratic institutions, laws and civil society.
ABC: a few months relations between Russia and the United States have gone from the expulsion of Russian diplomats to rapprochement after the election of Donald trump, then they are “past the worst point since the cold war,” and almost passing classified data. What kind of relationship exist?
Maria Zakharova: When I read the newspaper and watch Western TV channels, you see that Russia is represented as a potential aggressor. Why is it considered dangerous? Throughout its history, Russia has never acted as the instigator of world wars, never been on the side of the aggressors. She has participated in many wars, but almost all did it to protect: from Asian nomads, the European tribes, of Napoleon, Nazi Germany… Our country was erased from the map. I just saw “Guernica” at the Museo Reina Sofia: what happened in Guernica, occurred in Russia not once but many times. Only one war against Nazi Germany, Russia lost over 20 million people.
The rejection of aggression in our DNA. Most Russians are afraid of war, we are afraid of the possibility of war. Those who argue that Russia is a potential aggressor, either do not know history, or don’t understand the mindset of the Russians. Often read journalistic nonsense that Russia can act as a potential aggressor. No more predictable country than Russia, and we will do everything possible to prevent war.
Unfortunately, in the US we see the unpredictable, and that scares us. As for the world’s major problems, each administration has their own view of the ways of solving them. It’s like a lottery. You never know what will happen two years from now, when they have elections to the Senate, and another two when the President is chosen.
During the Bush administration USA was almost ready to bomb Iran. When Obama signed the agreement and began to improve relations. But then came the new administration and said that this is the worst agreement in the history, and considering the power response. Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan… you Can cite many examples where unpredictable actions of Washington could lead to disaster. We want pragmatic, predictable cooperation based on international law.
— Trump has shared with Russian officials secret information. Does this facilitate closer cooperation between the two countries on Syria?
— You think this is news?
— Yes, it is so perceived.
— Did you see that the American media gave the news links to the sources? This information is not confirmed by any official statement.
The trump recognized the fact of providing this information…
— Discussed the situation in Syria and the fight against terrorism, and the American media are trying to present constructive negotiations as a sensational news. You have to understand that after the elections in the us media there is a struggle between political groups. Unfortunately, Russia has become a tool in this war. We want Syria was constructive dialogue with the United States. Russia was one of the countries that initiated the Astana process that develops parallel to the Geneva talks. We have actively invited the participation of the American side, but the US is only involved through its Ambassador as an observer, while the air strikes inflicted by the coalition led by the US, caused significant damage to the talks in Astana and Geneva. We do everything open and transparent. We don’t want to do anything in secret or someone to exclude.
— Russia will continue to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, despite reports of a crematorium designed for burning thousands of bodies, and of attacks using chemical weapons, which, in turn, led to the missile strike on Syrian airbase?
— Allegations that Russia supports Assad, constitutes an invalid simplification. We often hear from our Western partners that the main problem lies in the fact that Assad is in power, and once he leaves, everything will be fine. First, Assad was best friend of those countries which now show him their hatred. For more than ten years, we could see in Iraq, Libya and many other countries and the model that the West offers to Syria. Remember how the aggression against Iraq. The then U.S. Secretary of state Colin Powell (Colin Powell) brought to the UN Security Council alleged substance necessary for the production of chemical weapons to convince him of the necessity of military measures. Because the position of Russia, the security Council did not go for it. Then Washington took unilateral aggressive actions against Iraq. Then Saddam Hussein was hanged. Many years after the application of supposedly miracle model of salvation of Iraq, this country is not only not saved, he is buried in terrorism. Americans created terrorism in Iraq. Largely through their actions they contributed to the creation of ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx.ed.). In Libya — the same story. When Gaddafi was eliminated, the country plunged into chaos.
We do not give political support to Assad, while trying to prevent a repetition in Syria of the Iraqi and Libyan scenario. I would like to ask a question to Europeans: are you ready morally, economically, legally, to the collapse of another middle Eastern country. Syria is not Libya, this is a much larger and more complex country, and the results can be even more alarming.
Chemical weapons were removed from Syria under control of international inspectors, and everyone knows that it is at the disposal of terrorists. Provocations with the use of chemical weapons is often portrayed as the actions of the government troops. Russia has repeatedly raised this issue, but for some reason, our Western colleagues never supported us in this matter. Now unfolding in Syria is a real tragedy. We do everything possible to take actions on two fronts: the fight against terrorism and the political process in which the negotiating table should sit representatives of the Assad government and the opposition. Why do you have such a short memory and you cannot remember what happened just five or ten years ago? Unless Spain wants to repeat its participation in the anti-Iraq coalition?
— U.S. intelligence accused Russia that it was behind the cyber attacks during the election campaign. In France pointed to the fact that the Russian hackers during the elections acted to the detriment of the current President Makron. Russia denies it. They came up with all this?
— To date not presented any evidence. We Americans have a joint mechanism to combat cyber threats, which they never used. Please look at it from the point of view of internal political struggle in the United States. While France has won the macron. What are the kinds of questions to Russia? Unlike our European colleagues, who supported Hillary Clinton and Macron, we do not interfere in the internal Affairs of other States, do not support candidates in other countries, because we respect democracy. Remember Hollande, prepared the greeting, Hillary Clinton, and sent him before the results are known; the Minister for foreign Affairs of Germany, openly oppose trump; Supreme representative of the European Union for foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini And Russia accused of meddling. The USA is the biggest power in the world. You can imagine that Russia has intervened in such a powerful campaign? It’s impossible. In this case, they will have to recognize the full weakness of his intelligence.
— Recently it was confirmed that cyber attacks are a global threat. What Russia is doing to prevent it?
— We are exposed to cyber attacks to the same extent or even more than the rest. In 2014, the foreign Ministry’s website was not working for months due to cyberattacks. We have several years ago realized that cyber crimes constitute a real threat, and has taken in this area are important steps. Several years ago we offered to sign an international agreement in the field of information security, was appointed special representative of the President of the Russian Federation on this issue. Thirdly, we wanted to create with a number of countries two-way interaction mechanisms to prevent crimes in cyberspace.
Let’s see how the mechanism of interaction between the US and Russia. If Washington gets the message that the Russian Federation had committed the cyber attack, it will notify the Russian side about where it happened, but Russian experts checked the information and are taking concrete steps to neutralize it. Exactly the same can come to Moscow. The fact that Russia perpetrated the cyber attack we hear for more than two years. The existing mechanism has not been used even once.
We are faced with the following situation: if the election results are not satisfied, then they accuse some Russian hackers. And if the results are suitable, the Russian hackers did not appear.
In a referendum on Brexia something I have not heard that they were accused. Odd, isn’t it? No Russian hackers, but there is some story, invented in the United States in connection with their domestic political struggles. We are ready to work if there is truthful information. We are not questioning the existence of hackers. They are everywhere: in Spain, the UK… In Russia, hacking is prohibited by law. We do our all to fight this evil.
In addition to this virtual world, NATO has deployed a number of multinational battalions in the Baltic countries and in Poland. Russia, for its part, reinforces troops at the border with Europe. How dangerous tensions in the area?
— During all these years the NATO infrastructure getting closer to Russia, on the Internet you can look at all the bases of the Alliance. Russia surrounded by NATO bases. Our troops are nowhere. Over the past 25 years we have reduced our base. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russian authorities have received from NATO assurances that the infrastructure of the Alliance would not move closer to Russia, which signed the act. NATO unilaterally withdrew from it. In addition, the U.S. also unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty and began to create the European ABM. When asked against whom it is directed, they said that no matter against whom and not against Russia. Then we proposed to develop the system together. They even considered the possibility of our integration into the Alliance, but we are not allowed to. A few years ago, we convened in Moscow a scientific conference on the construction of the European missile defense system from external threats. Then we said that this threat is Iran. Using maps and mathematical formulas we have proved that this system is in any case will not protect from threats emanating from the Middle East. We asked U.S. and European missile defense, if they have already signed agreement with Iran. There was no answer.
— You say that the war waged by Russia, was defensive. It is also applicable to Ukraine and the events in the Crimea?
— From the point of view of Ukraine they fight against terrorists and are not at war with Russia. We have diplomatic and trade relations, until recently, Ukraine has used Russian gas, both countries have a visa-free regime, we have not reduced employment quotas for Ukrainians who come to work in Russia. We continue to be the country that feeds the Ukraine… have You ever seen war like this? I don’t. War with Ukraine is equally virtual, and fictional. The truth is that, when the second time occurred unconstitutional coup, some areas have not accepted the government, not elected in accordance with constitutional norms.
Then in one of the regions of Ukraine held a referendum, in which more than 90% of the population strongly supported the secession from Ukraine. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the Crimea tried to hold such a referendum, but Kiev either they were blocked or did not recognize the results. Crimea has always been associated with Russia, it is enough to read the history books. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it remained part of Ukraine, and its inhabitants suddenly found that the state language was not Russian. Thirdly, Ukraine has moved into the orbit of NATO, and its black sea fleet conducted joint exercises, in which as the imaginary enemy spoke Russian. Imagine that you were drafted into the army, began to teach shooting, and as a target used a photo of your father. And it was done against the entire population of Crimea, which he knew that it would not be democratic elections, who would be able to protect them.
— Let us look to the far East. What is the answer, according to Russia, must give to the testing of missiles by the DPRK?
We clearly declare that these missile tests are unacceptable as contrary to the UN resolutions. But we believe that the provocative policies of some countries in the region are also unacceptable. The only option is negotiation process, because if the case goes to a military scenario, it will be a colossal tragedy for the region. To start a war is easy but exit is very difficult.
— Since we are in Madrid, how would You characterize the state of relations between Spain and Russia?
We are interested in close cooperation with Spain in the extent that is interested in this Spanish side. We mean the economic, humanitarian, political sphere. And we see the same approach from the Spanish side. Contacts between people is very close. Over the last years is getting all more and more families, consisting of citizens of Russia and Spain. We are very interested in the development of bilateral relations. Both countries know what tragedies leads to terrorism, as experienced it myself.
— As for domestic policy, will speak about the obstacles placed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and about a drift towards authoritarianism. The Russians have lost rights and freedoms for stability and well-being?
— Alexei Navalny participated in elections of the mayor. As for the “drifting towards authoritarianism”, then I invite you to Moscow, so you could see what is true and what is false. As to the loss of freedom, it is very difficult to be poor and free. When there is no money for medicine and food, it is difficult to talk about freedom. It is impossible to put the question of the exchange of freedom for stability and to replace impunity for freedom. This is a different word. In the 90s, when everything crashed, nothing worked, there were a lot of people with guns, afraid to go outside. It was not freedom, but a collapse. Laws either did not exist or they were not working. Do not confuse the right with the lack of freedom. The necessary harmony between order, stability and democratic values. For this there is civil society, and when it will feel that violated democratic values, we should draw attention to these issues. Similarly, when the deteriorating material conditions, it is necessary to inform legal means.
And while democracy in Russia has only 25 years, seven of which were total chaos, we now have democratic institutions, civil society, non-governmental organizations, new laws. If everything is as we want? Of course not, because we are people, and life makes its own adjustments, but when journalists speak about our shortcomings, it would be nice if they talked about our successes, often because of an objective assessment against us do not exist. It is impossible to see only the bad. In our country there are also many opportunities for innovation and collaboration.