NewsAsia Interview with Sergei Lavrov: how to behave gracefully under pressure from an interviewer with a prejudiced agenda

NewsAsia “Conversation with …” Interview with Sergei Lavrov (2015)

For an example of an interviewee displaying grace under fire from a biased interviewer, I direct interested readers to this NewsAsia “Conversation with …” interview of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a range of issues with a particular emphasis on the Dutch investigation of the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Boeing Flight MH-17 in Ukraine in July 2014 and Russia’s opposition to the draft resolution that would lead to the establishment of a UN tribunal to examine the evidence and come to a conclusion as to culpability for the shoot-down. The video of the interview and its transcript can be viewed at The Vineyard of the Saker website here.

Lavrov is a very impressive if rather monotone speaker: he knows the details behind the push by various UN Security Council members and Malaysia to create a criminal tribunal to¬†investigate the shoot-down very well, and his staff who have briefed him have also done excellent work. The interviewer appears impatient and uninterested in what he has to say. Lavrov insists that the UN Security Council Resolution 2166 should be followed to the full and this has not been the case so far: the four countries initially involved in the investigation (Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine; Malaysia joined the investigation much later after its government complained¬†that as the country whose national carrier lost the plane it should have been included in the first place) have ignored this resolution. The interviewer seems to lose track of what Lavrov says and continues to ask loaded questions implying that Malaysia is being manipulated by Ukrainians or by another third party and its agenda. Lavrov deftly returns to his point that proper procedures have not been followed in the investigation of the jet’s downing.

Eventually both interviewer and interviewee agree to disagree on whether Russia was right to have vetoed the draft resolution proposed by Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine to establish the criminal tribunal and to insist instead on adhering to Resolution 2166 so the two go on to discuss a range of other issues such as Russia’s relations with various Asian countries such as China and Russian intentions in Asia. Again and again the interviewer seems to goad Lavrov into saying something that would incriminate Russia in some activity aiming at destabilising a part or parts of Asia, such as supporting Chinese military build-up in the South China Sea or anywhere near the Korean Peninsula or Japan. At one point in the interview, the interviewer insinuates that Russia is jealous of the level of trade that the United States conducts with ASEAN countries, and Lavrov laughs off the idiocy.

Lavrov comes off as a skilled and intelligent diplomat who prepared well for the interview. The interviewer herself, if she has brought an agenda to the interview, is frustrated at every turn and concludes the interview having not extracted from Lavrov whatever it is she was after. She appears to have been looking for a fight and has got none.

Incidentally what was left out of the interview – because the interviewer was unaware (and even if she had been aware, she probably would not have cared much for it) – is that Russia had good reason to veto the draft resolution for setting up the criminal tribunal: Article 7 of the statute is worded in such a way that, if used in the tribunal, would help place blame for the MH-17 shoot-down on Russian President Vladimir Putin. It becomes apparent that the tribunal, if allowed to go ahead, would have been a trap for Russia and a way of extending regime change to Russia. That the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 and the 298 people who died should be used as pawns by the West to bring down a democratically elected government is nothing short of cynical and malevolent.