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    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during a press conference after the BSEC session in Belgrade on December 13, 2016

    'Mr. No' Lavrov, a Bulldozer That Made Clinton Hysterical

    © AFP 2017/ ANDREJ ISAKOVIC
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    He's respected and admired by some, and feared by others; Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leaves no one indifferent. Although his steadfast commitment to Kremlin policy has irritated many opponents, no one has any doubt about his competence and diplomatic skill, a Swedish journalist admitted.

    When Sergei Lavrov enters the room, it is impossible not to notice his appearance. He's tall and charismatic, and makes slightly exaggerated gestures. Most often, he is dressed in elegant suits with silk ties; his attentive eyes peek through steel-rimmed spectacles. Sometimes he can be spotted with a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, Swedish journalist Gunilla von Hall wrote in Svenska Dagbladet.

    In her accolade to Lavrov, von Hall lauded his solid defense of Russia's uncompromising approach to foreign policy, which drove US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton to the verge of hysteria. Foreign statesmen now refer to him as "Mr. No," a moniker he inherited from several predecessors: Soviet Foreign Ministers Vyacheslav Molotov and Andrei Gromyko.

    He revealed his uncompromising character in Geneva during the endless negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons, Iran's nuclear weapons and the peace initiative in Syria. More recently, it was seen in his response to US demands that Russia relinquish Crimea.

    "Although most of the time, the world sees a gloomy and harsh Lavrov, behind this façade, there is an incredibly competent, witty and talented diplomat. Many rank 63-year-old Lavrov to the most skilled politicians in the world," Gunilla von Hall wrote.

    Lavrov entered Soviet diplomatic service after graduating from at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) in 1972. After using his first job in Sri Lanka as a springboard, Lavrov landed in the United Nations, where he represented the Soviet Union and Russian Federation for 15 years.

    Lavrov's intuition and skills, which he demonstrated in the UN, led to his appointment as Russian Foreign Minister in 2004. Ever since, Lavrov has protected Russian foreign interests, sometimes with a zeal that has been nicknamed "bulldozer diplomacy." Despite the fact that Lavrov is fluent in English and French, he insists upon speaking Russian during official meetings as a matter of principle.

    When it comes to principles, Lavrov is not averse to barring his teeth. When former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan introduced a ban on smoking in UN headquarters, Lavrov retorted that he "did not own the building" and continued to smoke when given the opportunity.

    Gunilla von Hall described Lavrov as a bon vivant with a taste for earthly delights. Lavrov is known to enjoy top-shelf drinks, poignant jokes and the company of beautiful women. On vacation, though, Lavrov ditches his expensive suits to become a keen paddler and skier. He is also notorious for switching off his mobile phone when he takes time off work.

    Last year, Lavrov showed his generous side by "donating" pizzas his US counterpart John Kerry ordered for the Russian delegation to reporters during protracted negotiations on Syria. He also treated the hungry journalists to several bottles of vodka, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zacharova relayed on Facebook.

    However, Lavrov may also lose his temper. Once a photographer asked him and John Kerry to step closer for a photo with UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi during a meeting in Geneva only to hear Lavrov's roar: "You are not here to give us orders, but to seize the moment yourself."

    "That's how he is, the tsar of Russian Foreign Affairs, sometimes charmingly friendly, and sometimes poisonously impudent. A difficult negotiating partner," Gunilla von Hall concluded.

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    Tags:
    Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Vyacheslav Molotov, Sergei Lavrov, Russia
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