Exclusive: A shifting international landscape does not affect China-Russia mutual political trust, says Russian Ambassador to China
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Published: Feb 27, 2023 10:16 PM
Editor's Note:

The Global Times (GT) recently conducted an exclusive interview with new Russian Ambassador to China Igor Morgulov (Morgulov), which was the first time that Morgulov gave an exclusive interview to Chinese media since he arrived in China on October 20, 2022. He told the Global Times that despite many changes in the international landscape, Russia and China have a high degree of mutual trust and anyone who tries to "drive a wedge" between the two countries' friendship will not succeed. As for the Ukraine crisis, he said that Russia has never refused to engage in dialogue with Kiev and the West. And of course, this can only happen when they "take Russia's fundamental interests and concerns into account."  During the interview, Morgulov noted that Russia appreciates China's independent foreign policy, and respects China's balanced position.

Russian Ambassador to China Igor Morgulov  Photo: Courtesy of Russian Embassy in Beijing

Russian Ambassador to China Igor Morgulov Photo: Courtesy of Russian Embassy in Beijing

GT: What are your priorities as Russian Ambassador to China?

My top priority as Russian Ambassador to China is very simple - to serve my country and to safeguard the national interests of Russia within the scope of my mandate during the time I have the honor of representing the Russian Federation in China, which includes the all-round development of friendly and cooperative relations between our nations.

GT: The Russia-Ukraine conflict, the China-US geopolitical game, and many other factors ha    ve brought about significant changes in the international landscape. How do you assess current China-Russia relations? What are your expectations for China-Russia relations in the next few years?

Under the strategic guidance of leaders of our two countries, Russia-China relations have reached the highest level in history and have the nature of a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. The two sides have a high degree of mutual trust, respect each other's interests, and carry out mutually beneficial and close cooperation in all fields. We are good neighbors. There is a Chinese proverb that goes well: A distant relative is not as good as a close neighbor.

At the same time, Russia and China are not building a military-political alliance resembling that of the Cold War times. Our relationship, in many ways, transcends this outdated form of cooperation and allows us to act flexibly and effectively to protect the national interests of both countries, instead of establishing a "hard hook" in a "dominant and subordinate" way. Relations between Russia and China are not aimed at third countries. But in a complex geopolitical environment, we cooperate closely - and this cooperation helps to maintain stability in the international arena.

No matter what the circumstances, whether it's the pandemic or the crisis in Ukraine, our mutual trust will only grow stronger. Living evidence of this is the record trade volume between the two countries in 2022, which increased by 29 percent to $190 billion. There is still a vast new world ahead of us. Obviously, if the current speed is maintained, the goal of increasing bilateral trade volume to $200 billion proposed by the two heads of state can be achieved this year.

Now that China has optimized its COVID-19 response measures, we hope to resume face-to-face contact and mutual visits between our citizens as soon as possible, and spark a new wave of people-to-people exchanges.

I believe that the prospects for the future of Russia-China relations are bright and the road is straight and broad. Anyone who has ill intentions against us and tries to "drive a wedge" between our friendship will not succeed.

GT: How does Russia view the stance that China has adopted in the Ukraine crisis?

Since the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, China has taken a balanced position, stressing the need to resolve the crisis through political and diplomatic channels and to respect the territorial integrity and legitimate security interests of all parties concerned. We respect that position.

Chinese leader proposed "four shoulds" and "four commons." Chinese friends also put forward a "six-point proposal" to prevent a large-scale humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

In addition, China has repeatedly stated that it understands the root causes of the conflict. With regard to their intention to push NATO's military infrastructure toward our borders, China is aware of what this means for Russia and always assesses the situation objectively. China knows the causes and consequences of the 2014 Ukraine crisis. China opposes the revival of the Cold War mentality, bloc confrontation, and unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law.

I would like to note in particular that we highly appreciate China's principled stance and spirit of perseverance in pursuing its independent foreign policy, including the further development of comprehensive cooperation with the Russian Federation.

GT: In the future, will Russia seek more energy cooperation with China? Does it also mean that Russia will increasingly "turn to the East" diplomatically?

Russia-China cooperation in the field of energy is strategic and mutually beneficial, which is a practical embodiment of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era. Our two countries have set up a special intergovernmental committee on energy cooperation. Trade in energy has been increasing for a long time.

Our cooperation in the field of energy is not affected by current geopolitical factors, and it has its own history and future. Projects jointly implemented by enterprises in our two countries will further contribute significantly to the growth of bilateral trade volume and help ensure the energy security of Russia and China. 

As for the notion of energy-related "turning East" diplomacy, I would like to stress that Russia will not, in principle, politicize questions of practical cooperation in this field. Russia is a reliable supplier of hydrocarbons and our cooperation with China is based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. However, the West keeps making baseless accusations that Russia is using energy exports as a weapon and has completely changed the mechanism for importing hydrocarbons. The result of this is that European industrialists and ordinary people have ultimately had to pay the price.

GT: Based on the current situation, do you think the Ukraine crisis will become more intense in 2023? Is it still possible for Russia and Ukraine to reach a ceasefire? If this possibility still exists, under what conditions does the Russian side think a ceasefire agreement can be reached?

A ceasefire and an end to the conflict is what we have consistently called for, but only if the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and its legitimate security interests are respected. We have never refused to negotiate with Kiev and are open to dialogue with its Western patrons. And of course, this can only happen when they are able to adopt an attitude of mutual respect and genuine interest, acknowledge current realities, and show a willingness to take our fundamental interests and concerns into account.

In the spring of 2022, we almost agreed upon the basic terms for a ceasefire. But the West was reluctant to end the conflict. The actions of the US and its NATO client states so far indicated that they intend to further escalate the situation. They not only provided Kiev with heavy weapons, including American and German-made tanks, but also discussed the possibility of sending fighter jets. 

These decisions are not made overnight. Effective management and technical maintenance and repair of such complex weapons would not have been possible without the participation of NATO military experts. In fact, they have waged a hybrid war against our country. We have not seen any sign that the opponents want to stop this war.

GT: The US, Germany, and the UK are scaling up their military aid to Ukraine, including sending Leopard II and M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. How will Russia respond to this latest move? 

German tanks had once appeared on Russian soil. I hope that Berlin does not forget how it ended that time. I firmly believe that this time, our people will still stand the test.

The decision by the US, Germany, and other NATO countries to supply Ukraine with tanks, as I have already said, led to a further escalation of the Ukrainian crisis and became irrefutable evidence of the direct involvement of Western countries in the conflict, which they provoked.

The White House is waging a "fight Russia to the last Ukrainian" war with Russia while trying to tackle several issues at once. The issues included diverting the attention of their own citizens from serious domestic problems, which have become more acute during the pandemic under the guise of aiding Kiev. Washington has continuously poured new funds into the country's military-industrial complex, thereby stimulating the growth of related industries. 

The US also disposed of obsolete weapons by handing them over to Ukraine, and used the conflict zones as testing grounds for new weapons. Meanwhile, financial and economic sanctions have forced Europeans to buy expensive LNG and shale oil from the US and Canada, thereby reducing the competitiveness of the EU industry compared to the US industry and impoverishing the population. Just like when the financial crisis broke out in 2008-2009, the US is using the dollar's monopoly and its coercive policies in the financial market to force other countries to pay for it.

The main goals of the US are to maintain hegemony, strengthen control over Europe, and weaken and subvert regimes in countries that pursue foreign and domestic policies independent of the US. Now, Russia has become the first target set by the US among world powers. But this political and economic war, known as "containment," is also being used against a vibrant and peacefully developing China. China has never threatened anyone and seeks to create a favorable external environment for itself through dialogue, cooperation, and friendship.

The supply of tanks showed that Washington has no "bottom lines." If Washington and NATO countries provide Kiev with weapons including tanks in order to strike deep inside our country and attempt to seize our constitutional territory, it will force us to take severe retaliatory action.

I should like to remind people that the Leopard 2 tank is equipped with a sub-caliber armor-piercing projectile with a uranium core, the use of which will contaminate the area, as happened in Yugoslavia and Iraq. If they hand over such shells to Ukraine, we will consider it a "dirty bomb" against Russia, with serious consequences to follow.