Taking the stage at Rome MED is nothing new to Sergey Lavrov. Russia's Foreign Minister often speaks before the 1000 delegates representing Mediterranean businesses, politics and culture, and knows this audience quite well.
Even though it was announced that he will be speaking in Russian, and everyone has to turn on their interpreting headphones, Lavrov chose to address the participants in perfect English, going over serious issues, telling jokes and explaining Russian sayings, that would otherwise get lost in translation.
“If you are scared of me, then you respect me” 🇷🇺 Sergej #Lavrov gives the audience a masterclass in contemporary Russian foreign policy. Whether you agree with him or not, he sure is a gifted public speaker and a consummate diplomat: definitely among the best of #MED2018 Day 2 pic.twitter.com/vleLQdbCiz— Federico Palmieri (@fed_palmieri) November 23, 2018
The gap in understanding between Russia and its western partners is probably the most pressing issue, which worries key decision makers in the Mediterranean region, since Italy, which is Russia's long-term partner in many fields, suffers from sanctions and the recent general Russophobic trend in the EU politics.
Russia, in turn, is appalled by the lack of factual proof in all the recent accusations coming from across the Atlantic, and from the Albion, such as "meddling with the US elections", Salisbury and Amesbury incidents. And the list of things of which Moscow is being accused, is constantly growing, with "megaphone diplomacy" replacing the conventional one.
"Recently my good friend Timo Soini, the foreign minister of Finland said that ‘we have undeniable facts that Russia had meddled with that GPS signal during ‘Trident Juncture' training manoeuvres'" — says Sergey Lavrov — "My question is: why all this is being first announced to the media? If you have some concerns — normal, polite people raise a direct question: ‘Look, I don't like what I heard. This is what I know. Can you explain this?' I mean, if you have a problem or suspicion regarding your wife, you ask her directly, right? You don't go to the media and announce your concern."
According to Lavrov, the bigger problem, which overshadows Moscow's relations with its partners in London, Washington and Brussels, are attempts to replace international law with some new "rules-based order" — something that Russia, which is tired of being targeted by the constant "blame game" is not ready to accept.
"We know how the world order — the international law, the fundamental international agreements, are being ruined. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran is one example. The Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty (INF) is under threat. The principles of open trade, the WTO are also under attack, and quite aggressive attack."
Lavrov: “I don’t understand why intl law as a principle,which has been with us for centuries, is now not a popular principle to guide us. Attempts are being made in this logic of “rules-based order” to privatize global institutions”.Says attempts to alter OPCW rules is an example pic.twitter.com/ubbzisCbvO— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) November 24, 2018
Italy has had its share of problems caused by imposing "rules-based order" on neighboring countries. The 2011 "Operation Odyssey Dawn", which eventually brought chaos into Libya and led to the ousting and killing of Muamar Ghaddafi, caused massive inflow of refugees from Africa to the Italian Peninsula, threatening the country's security and social sphere.
FM #Lavrov: Russia supports political process in Libya aimed at settling civil conflict in this country. Any sort of external pressure or foreign military operation is unacceptable and can only make it worse. pic.twitter.com/h4ZySwUi1i— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) November 23, 2018
Mediterranean Dialogues (Rome 2018 MED) is an annual high-level conference organised by Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Institute for International Political Studies. The event focuses on shared prosperity, security, migration, civil society and culture. This year's MED is being attended by more than 40 high-level officials — heads of state, ministers and heads of international organizations.