by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor
Recently, Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with the Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Levan S. Dzhagaryan, at the Russian Embassy in Colombo. The interview covered a range of topics including the longstanding relationship between Sri Lanka and Russia, the current state of bilateral relations, the de-dollarization campaign of Global South, and the Ambassador’s message to foreign diplomats.
Ambassador Dzhagaryan shared his thoughts and insights on these important issues, providing valuable perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing Sri Lanka and the wider international community. The interview provided a unique opportunity to gain deeper insights into the perspectives of one of the most senior Russian diplomats in the region, and sheds light on the current state of relations between Sri Lanka and Russia, as well as the broader geopolitical dynamics shaping the world today.
Levan S. Dzhagaryan has an extensive diplomatic career that includes working in various regions around the world, including the Middle East. He has served as a diplomat for over three decades, beginning his career in 1987. He has worked in Iran, Afghanistan, and other countries in the region, gaining invaluable experience in dealing with complex political and diplomatic situations.
In the late 1980s, Dzhagaryan served as a diplomat in Afghanistan during the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, a period of intense conflict and political turmoil. This experience provided him with a unique perspective on international relations, conflict resolution, and the importance of dialogue and cooperation between nations.
Read the excerpts from the interview;
Question: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for accepting our request. Let’s start this interview with your assessment of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. How is the situation there now?
Answer: This is not a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but rather a conflict between Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States of America. What we are expecting is for Ukraine to announce that it is a NATO country. Then they can officially deploy their forces, which they are currently doing unofficially, near the Russian border by forcing a direct threat.
Imagine if Russia deployed our missiles close to the United States, as happened in Cuba in 1962, and everyone knows what happened. Now the same thing is being done by the United States in our border countries. How on earth can that be justified? When they do it, it is justifiable, but when others do it to ensure their borders, it is not acceptable and is called an “unprovoked war” or “invasion.” This is nothing but a double standard.
Question: You are pointing at the West, but the more the crisis drags on, the more people suffer. Responsible parties must take immediate steps to solve this problem. Do you have anything in mind in terms of conflict resolution?
Answer: To resolve this crisis, China is playing a significant and remarkable role. To cease the ongoing violence and find a lasting solution, China last month proposed a 12-point peace plan. Some provisions of this plan that may lay a foundation for peace negotiations, but Ukraine is continuing to play a hoodwink as they cannot decide by themselves. Ukraine is obviously a puppet government. They are under American and certain European countries’ control. Ukrainians are not decision-makers. Everything they do depends on Washington. Therefore, they are afraid of a ceasefire, as a ceasefire would benefit unarmed civilians. What they want is more suffering for civilians and for the war to continue. These manipulators don’t want peace, and if they continue like this, we have no alternative but to continue the war and upgrade it into a full-scale war.
Question: If you can talk about the geopolitical landscape in this crisis, what is the biggest threat to Russia at the moment?
Answer: The current geopolitical scenario is a threat to our sovereignty and independence. Russia is an independent country, and the US does not like independent countries. That is why they are trying to undermine China. The new world order is giving us an opportunity to understand who we are and how the West has bullied us. The threat Russia is facing is not an isolated threat. This is exactly what the Global South is facing at this moment. That is why the Global South is coming together.
Question: You have repeatedly stated that Russia is unfairly targeted by the West. Can you explain your perspective on this issue?
Answer: Indeed, we firmly believe that Russia is unfairly targeted by the West. We have always been willing to cooperate with any country on an equal footing. In the past, we have had strong relationships with charismatic political leaders in the West who understood Russia’s integrity. We worked together while protecting mutual respect and sensitivity. One example is Germany, where Russia helped to prosper its economy. However, some countries have recently blown up energy pipelines, attempting to blame Russia, but their efforts have been unsuccessful. We have urged the UN Security Council to set up a working group to investigate this crime, but it is being refused. Everyone knows who is behind this attack, and it was not simply a group in Ukraine, but a sophisticated attack. Therefore, after the incident, President Biden, Under Secretary Nuland, and others shared their joys. It is evident that Americans were using trade with European countries to promote their trade, and this is precisely what has happened. As a result, Europeans are now forced to purchase expensive LNG, and they will soon realize who their true enemy is.
Question: Many countries abstained from voting on the Russian resolution at the UN Security Council on Nord Stream Sabotage. Can you comment on this?
Answer: Yes, only three countries stood in favor of our resolution. Other countries refrained from voting due to enormous pressure from the United States and its allies. We have to ask, if these countries had nothing to do with this international terror act of sabotaging the pipeline, why are they afraid of conducting an impartial investigation? Why won’t they allow Russians to be a part of this investigation?
Question: The West has responded to your allegations by saying that they are unproven. How do you react to this?
Answer: If our allegations are unproven, then we are willing to participate and cooperate in an investigation. However, they have continued to deny our demands for an impartial investigation. This attack is an act of state terrorism and shameful inhumanity. They have no right to blame other countries. The country that created ISIS has no right whatsoever to criticize other countries. President Trump even publicly told Hilary Clinton, when she was Secretary of State, “You should be rewarded by ISIS because you have created them.”
Question: Let’s talk about your role as a Russian diplomat. You served as the Russian Ambassador to Iran before your assignment here in Colombo. What do you see as the biggest threat Iran is facing today, and how can Russia help address it?
Answer: Iran is a beautiful and rich country with friendly people. However, since 1979, Iran has been suffering from unfairly targeted sanctions imposed by the US and EU. Despite this, Iran has managed to create a strong economy. I particularly saw that Iranian youth are true patriots and are well-versed in mathematics and sciences, which is a huge national potential. But the US is always poking Iran and trying their best to destabilize the country using different tools. Certain media outfits and social groups funded by the West situated abroad are trying to defame Iran and topple the government. The West can’t tolerate when there is an independent country. As a true friend with historic roots, Russia maintains a strong relationship with Iran, and we have mutual respect for each other. China’s move to normalize relationships with other Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, is significant, and I hope we can work towards strong relationships with other Arab countries, particularly Turkey and Syria.
Question: The interesting point is the US doesn’t have a physical mission in Iran, but during the Obama administration, they started nuclear negotiations. How do you see this?
Answer: Switzerland is keeping a special unit to maintain the Iran-US relationship, and there are a few other Western missions operating in Tehran. At the time, they were very cooperative, which ultimately resulted in a good deal. But later, it turned into a blunt attempt to interfere with Iran’s internal affairs.
Question: The Iraq intervention is now 20 years old, and the crisis in the Middle East continues. Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel in the region?
Answer: Many issues need to be solved, and as a diplomat, I’m optimistic about it. However, the Iraq intervention by the US and its allies, like in many other countries, is a gross violation of international laws and conventions, as well as the United Nations Charter. Just like how they destroyed Iraq, Americans are destroying Syria. The presence of American troops in Syria is not only unnecessary but also a gross violation of the country’s sovereignty. Who invited them to Syria? Nobody. They are just there to loot, yes; loot the natural resources from Syria. Our demand is to withdraw the American troops from Syria quickly and start a dialogue with the government headed by President Asad. As far as I understand, the President is ready for a dialogue with opposition groups. I think all parties should come to a compromise to end this brutal crisis instigated by the West.
Question: But at the same time, those regimes, be it Syria, Iraq, Libya, or elsewhere, are blamed for serious violations of human rights?
Answer: What are human rights? It is a well-formulated tool for double standards. Americans have a lot of problems inside their country; if they are concerned about human rights, they should solve their issues at home first before dictating to other countries on how to protect human rights. They turn a blind eye to certain countries of their choice but attack other independent countries for not bowing down to their dictations. Look at Latvia and Estonia; many Russians are there without identities. Does the West talk about that? No, because they maintain friendship with them. What about the killing of Darya Dugina by Ukrainian assassins? Do any “human rights nations” or any human rights protection and promotion organizations talk about it? Not at all. Their hypocrisy is crystal clear. Those who deny the actions of the Ukrainian government are not persecuted, and those who speak against it are. In my opinion, whenever the Western allegations on human rights come up, first see their ulterior motives and track records, then you can see the double standards and hypocrisy there. What you have to be careful of is not allowing those hypocrites to interfere in your internal affairs.
Question: Do you think, in this situation, the Global South moving forward to establish a multipolar world is a realistic dream?
Answer: It is indeed realistic, and more and more countries in the Global South are coming together after centuries of bullying and undermining. The West has deceived us with their lies right from the beginning; how can we trust them? The United Nations itself rules out that Americans violated international laws and conventions. If they start bragging about human rights protection and promotion, my message is very clear: please stand up and see yourself in the mirror. In Syria, my message is even clearer: “Yankees, go home!”
Question: Well, give us your take on the recent visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Answer: We are very happy about this significant move. We are not a military alliance. We don’t force threats to anyone else, but we stand for securing our borders and sovereignty. We are focused on the humanitarian field, more importantly, the economy of each other.
Question: However, the US Dollar is still dominating the global economy.
Answer: We must work towards getting rid of the US dollar as the dominant currency. Our priorities are to establish an undisrupted supply chain, prevent external meddling in internal affairs, and achieve independent economic sustainability. The de-dollarization campaign is gaining momentum and trades between countries using local currencies are increasing. Russia, China, Iran, India, and Saudi Arabia have all seen success in these trades. The era of US dollar dominance is coming to an end, and these are positive signs. I hope the Global South will become even more united and strong to face future challenges.
Question: But whenever this discourse on de-dollarization comes to light, there will be a Western-sponsored war that breaks out. For instance, when Saddam Hussein started selling oil to Europe using European currencies, the United States bombed Iraq. When Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya started selling oil for gold, the United States bombed Libya. I’m afraid the same scenario might be repeated soon to divert attention from the deepening financial crisis in the West.
Answer: It is indeed possible. As you correctly point out, Western powers may create a tipping point to divert attention from their domestic issues and focus on external enemies. It is ironic that most of the time, the “external enemy” is also created by them. For instance, in the case of Libya, it was a transit point connecting the West and Africa. Muammar al-Qaddafi was a nice man to the West and bribed many Western political leaders. Ultimately, he paid the price, but at what cost?
Question: With complex and interconnected challenges, how can a country like Sri Lanka work together with Russia and other like-minded countries? You know Sri Lanka is under many obligations over its current financial predicament.
Answer: I understand that the situation in Sri Lanka is crucial and serious. We are pursuing a very balanced position on Sri Lanka, in terms of our bilateral relationships and other international issues, including the Ukraine crisis. We hope Sri Lanka will be able to settle its domestic problems soon. As the Russian ambassador, I would like to reaffirm that we do not interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. Our message is that Sri Lanka is rising by itself and overcoming challenges, and I don’t think anyone has the right to lecture Sri Lanka on what to do.
I may sound like I’m extremely anti-American, but I am not. American people are a grateful people, and they have created a very strong nation with many talented people in many subjects. We respect the American people, but we cannot agree with the aggressive and provocative actions of the United States government, including the Congress.
Question: Sri Lanka and Russia have maintained longstanding relationships since the USSR era. How do you plan to strengthen our bilateral relationship during your time as the Russian ambassador to Sri Lanka?
Answer: As a new ambassador to South Asia, I have proposed several projects to the Sri Lankan government that can take our relationship to the next level. Although our focus is currently on Ukraine and defeating its puppet regime, we are also looking to expand our agricultural and trade ties while encouraging more Russian tourists to visit Sri Lanka.
Question: Finally, as a senior Russian diplomat, what message do you have for foreign diplomats?
Answer: My message is simple: Learn, learn, and learn. Try to study the true history of the country you are working on and be modest. Be open to dialogue and listen to each other. While dedicating yourself to your motherland, also try to love and respect the country you are working in. Arrogance or the desire to interfere in the internal affairs of a country will only complicate the situation and lead you nowhere.