UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s top diplomat denounced the United States and the West on Saturday as self-interested defenders of a fading international power structure, but he didn’t discuss his country’s war in Ukraine in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
“The U.S. and its subordinate Western collective are continuing to fuel conflicts which artificially divide humanity into hostile blocks and hamper the achievement of overall aims. They’re doing everything they can to prevent the formation of a genuine multipolar world order,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“They are trying to force the world to play according to their own self-centered rules,” he said.
As for the 19-month war in Ukraine, he recapped some historical complaints going back to the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, and alluded to the billions of dollars that the U.S and Western allies have spent in supporting Ukraine. But he didn’t delve into the current fighting.
For a second year in a row, the General Assembly is taking place with no end to the war in sight. A three-month-long Ukrainian counteroffensive has gone slower than Kyiv hoped, making modest advances but no major breakthroughs.
Ukraine’s seats in the assembly hall were empty for at least part of Lavrov’s speech. An American diplomat wrote on a notepad in her country’s section of the audience during Lavrov’s speech.
It accused the U.S. of, among other things, “whipping up hysteria on the Korean Peninsula.” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare foray out of his country last week by train to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, an unsettling development for South Korea and allies including the United States.
Under assembly procedures that give the microphone to presidents ahead of cabinet-level officials, Lavrov spoke four days after Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy and U.S. President Joe Biden.
Biden sounded a similar note in pressing world leaders to keep up support for Ukraine: “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” On North Korea, he reiterated criticism of the North’s violations of Security Council resolutions regarding its nuclear and ballistic missile programs but said Washington is “committed to diplomacy that would bring about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Since invading Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has offered a number of explanations for what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Among them: claims that Kyiv was oppressing Russian speakers in Ukraine’s east and so Moscow had to help them, that Ukraine’s growing ties with the West in recent years pose a risk to Russia, and that it’s also threatened by NATO’s eastward expansion over the decades.
Lavrov hammered on those themes in his General Assembly speech last year, and he alluded again Saturday to what Russia perceives as NATO’s improper encroachment.
But his address looked at it through a wide-angle lens, surveying a landscape, as Russia sees it, of Western countries’ efforts to cling to outsized influence in global affairs. He portrayed the effort as doomed.
The rest of the planet is sick of it, Lavrov argued: “They don’t want to live under anybody’s yoke anymore.” That shows, he said, in the growth of such groups as BRICS — the developing-economies coalition that currently includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and recently invited Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to join next year.
“Our future is being shaped by a struggle, a struggle between the global majority in favor of a fairer distribution of global benefits and civilized diversity and between the few who wield neocolonial methods of subjugation in order to maintain their domination which is slipping through their hands,” Lavrov said, adding that the United Nations needs to change to have “a fair balance of interests.”
Both Lavrov and Zelenskyy also addressed the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday but didn’t actually face off. Zelenskyy left the room before Lavrov came in.
Lavrov also sat out Zelenskyy’s speech at the General Assembly. “I had my own affairs to attend to. We know what he’s going to say. Why waste time?” the Russian explained at a news conference following his speech Saturday.
Nonetheless, he said he’d watched video of the Ukrainian president’s remarks there and in the Security Council and thought “he seemed rather grim.”
Associated Press journalists Mary Altaffer at the United Nations and Joanna Kozlowska in London contributed.