Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Russian top diplomat tries to keep the Kremlin’s few allies onside

Before the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was one of the world’s most well-traveled diplomats — jetting off to countries near and far to discuss strategic concerns, sign cooperation deals with allies and scold what he has called the “golden billion” Western consumers who gobble up the world’s resources at everyone else’s expense. But Lavrov’s world has shrunk in the past three months. He has been to China, for a meeting of Afghanistan’s neighboring states, and to India, a major purchaser of Russian oil and weaponry. He spent a day in meetings at the Turkish resort of Antalya in early March. In his most extensive trip since the invasion, he traveled last week to Algeria, a longtime Russian partner; to Oman, which prides itself as a neutral go-between in international disputes; and to Tajikistan for a meeting of Central Asian allies. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/05/19/lavrov-russia-allies-ukraine/) Official visitors to Lavrov in Moscow have been similarly few and far between. Pakistan’s foreign minister happened to be in the Russian capital the day the invasion began. The next day, Lavrov received “ministers” from the two eastern Ukrainian regions Russia has unilaterally recognized as independent countries. Counterparts from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates came in March to talk about Iran and oil; so did Iran’s foreign minister. He may have a reduced audience these days, limited to those who agree with Putin on Ukraine or feel they can’t afford not to, but Lavrov does not seem to have lost his style. The combativeness and ability to turn an insulting phrase remains, along with occasionally jarring interpretations of history.

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