Deputy Foreign Minister I.Morgulov’s interview with «Russia Today», (December 2, 2016)

Question: In May 2015, the leaders of Russia and China reached an agreement on cooperation between the two countries in order to harmonise the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt. Are there any concrete results in this area?


Igor Morgulov: We are working on it consistently and systematically. Talks between the EAEU and China are underway. In October 2015, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council adopted a decision to work through an agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China. Following the first round of consultations in Moscow in October, the parties proceeded to consider the draft document, which urges the sides to give a new impetus to integration cooperation in Eurasia.


In addition, our Chinese partners are reviewing Russian proposals regarding 20 major projects, which include, among others, creating a system that effectively protects and promotes mutual investments, as well as added-value chains with access to the third-party markets.


President Putin has set the strategic goal of creating a major Eurasian partnership with the countries that are members of the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN and other stakeholders in Asia and possibly Europe. The importance of achieving this goal was highlighted by the leaders of Russia and China at a bilateral summit held in Beijing in June. As a first step, it was decided to develop a concept of fundamental parameters and modalities for promoting this partnership. This job is done. Now, the heads of government of both countries have instructed their respective experts to prepare a feasibility study for the project. This work is underway.


The schedule of harmonising EAEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt remains busy. As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and both we and our Chinese partners are committed to continue our active cooperation in this area.


Question: The United States has announced its plan to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Earlier, Moscow said that this partnership is at odds with the requirements of the modern world. What does Moscow think about this situation today?


I.Morgulov: We do not have any information about the United States adopting any formal decision on this account. Regardless of future developments, we operate on the premise that withdrawing from or changing the terms of the TPP membership is the prerogative of the states that signed this agreement.


If we look at the TPP from the broader perspective of the international agenda for comprehensive development, our fundamental approaches to trade blocs of this type are well known. Establishing such off-limits regulatory forums that go beyond the WTO rules and norms with, in fact, the goal of maximising the technological rent is a dead end, which will lead to the fragmentation of the global economy.


We are pleased to note that Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which is the most representative Asia-Pacific forum for integration issues, is becoming increasingly supportive of this understanding. At a recent APEC summit in Lima, its participants supported our position on the need to establish a region-wide integration mechanism through harmonising, on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis, all relevant initiatives, including those implemented in Eurasia. The Eurasian Economic Union in general and Russia in particular are ready for this work.


Question: What is the agenda of the talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, which will be held in Moscow on December 3? Will they discuss the peace treaty and the Kuril Islands?


I.Morgulov: The talks between the foreign ministers planned for December 3 will be the final stage of preparations for the Russian President's official visit to Japan on December 15-16.


The agenda of the ministerial meeting is extensive and covers almost the entire range of bilateral relations and current international issues. Of course, the parties will focus on substantive issues of the Russia-Japan summit, including the potential agreements that may be achieved in its course. Our top priority is to expand trade and investment cooperation. We are now working on harmonising a number of important agreements in areas such as energy, industrial cooperation, high technology, urban environment, and healthcare.


With regard to the peace treaty, it will most likely be raised, but there will be no in-depth discussion, as far as I know. This issue is being substantively discussed at the level of deputy foreign ministers in accordance with the directives of the leaders of our two countries.


Question: In its dealings with Japan regarding the peace treaty, is Moscow considering handing over to Tokyo any territories at all, or is that completely out of the question? Where is Russia willing to compromise to sign a peace treaty with Japan?


I.Morgulov: Our position on the peace treaty has not changed: we believe Tokyo absolutely must recognise the results of World War II, including the territorial issues as regards the southern Kuril Islands. This is the starting point of any serious discussion on this issue. As President Putin recently confirmed during a news conference following the APEC summit in Lima, the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the Russian Federation over these islands is beyond doubt.


When we speak of a compromise, we mean looking for a mutually acceptable solution to this problem, that is, a decision taken by the peoples of both countries. At the same time, progress in achieving it can only be made if Russia and Japan enjoy trust-based relations on a qualitatively new level of mutually beneficial cooperation, especially in practical areas.


Question: Earlier, the president of the Philippines mentioned the possibility of a military alliance between Russia, the Philippines, and China. Are such talks already underway? Does Moscow believe such a union is practicable?


I.Morgulov: Frankly, I do not remember President Duterte ever using such language in his remarks. If I’m not mistaken, he spoke about open alliances with Russia and China, primarily economic ones.


We regard the Philippines as a promising partner in the Asia-Pacific region. We are willing to provide assistance to Manila in strengthening its defence capability. However, we are not talking about forming a military alliance between Russia and the Philippines. By the same token, Russia-China relations are not relations of allies, either. Russia and China have established a new type of interstate relations, namely, trust-based comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation.


Overall, we are convinced that the security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region with reliance on closed military alliances is a legacy of the Cold War and is unable to respond adequately to global and regional challenges. Not to mention the fact that the model of “narrow” alliances, by its very nature, cannot be a universal instrument for maintaining stability, as it does not guarantee the security of the countries that are not part of such unions.


Alternatively, we offer to combine our efforts and build a comprehensive security system in the Asia-Pacific region, which would correspond to contemporary realities and take into account the concerns of all regional states. Such a system must be based on the principles of indivisible security, respect for international law, peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts, non-interference in internal affairs, and mutual respect for interests. Upon Russia’s initiative, such work is underway as part of the East Asia Summits, and our Chinese and Filipino partners are making a significant contribution to it.