Discussion with Russia's First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN
Polyanskiy said Russia has been trying to establish a multipolar world and does not pose a threat to the world like the former Soviet Union did
Polyanskiy accused Western countries of relying on faulty evidence to address the use of chemical weapons in Syria and said the US is not genuinely interested in fighting terrorism
Polyanskiy questioned the British government’s methods of investigating the poisoning of Sergei Skripal
In regards to the Ukrainian conflict, Polyanskiy said the Ukrainian government should enter talks with rebels in eastern Ukraine instead of blaming the conflict on Russian aggression
Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, spoke to NYU students at an event hosted by the NYU UN Initiative on April 24, 2018. He spent most of the event discussing Moscow’s stance on Syria and the case of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who was poisoned in the United Kingdom, an incident that worsened already tense Anglo-Russian relations.
Polyanskiy began with an overview of the main goals of Russian foreign policy. He said Russia is trying to establish a multipolar world, calling such a world the “most efficient way for the world to manage its affairs.” However, he added that lack of trust between Russia and the West on many issues is leading to a “new Cold War,” echoing the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the wake of Western strikes against Syria.
The deputy representative said Russia does not pose a threat to the rest of the world since it does not have an ideology to promote worldwide — unlike the former Soviet Union. He said Russia tries to defend its own interests as a “normal, open, and friendly state.”
On Syria, Polyanskiy said Russia will support any solution that is “good for the Syrian people.” Though he suggested Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not unconditional, he said Assad enjoys strong support domestically and thus the interests of his regime must be taken into account in any solution to the conflict. In regards to the recent US-led strikes against Syrian government forces in response to the chemical attack in Douma, Polyanskiy accused Western governments of relying on faulty evidence to blame Assad’s forces for perpetrating the chemical attack.
Polyanskiy said the United States is “not interested” in fighting terrorism in Syria. Drawing parallels between US involvement in Syria and US involvement in Afghanistan, he said the US has a track record of propping up Islamic extremist groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda to further its own interests. He then attributed the decline of the Islamic State to the Russian military intervention in Syria, claiming that the terror group lost large amounts of territory after Russian forces entered the conflict on the side of the government.
On the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, Polyanskiy said the United Kingdom did not follow the procedures set by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in investigating the incident. He accused the British government of giving Russia an excessively short amount of time to absolve itself from wrongdoing while denying Russia access to evidence that may be crucial to the investigation.
Polyanskiy finally touched upon Russia’s relations with Ukraine. Calling the ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine an “internal Ukrainian issue,” Polyanskiy said the conflict stems from fears of an anti-Russian nationalist backlash in Ukraine. He said the “only way” for the conflict to end is if the Ukrainian government enters talks with the rebels instead of blaming the conflict on Russia.
Asked about Russia’s position on relations between North Korea and the US, Polyanskiy said the US bears some responsibility for continued tensions on the Korean Peninsula, as its threats against North Korea have only strengthened Pyongyang’s will to maintain its nuclear arsenal. Polyanskiy called for an agreement with North Korea similar to the Iran deal that would compel North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for guarantees of its security.
This report was compiled by Jamin Chen on April 24, 2018.