Russian ministers criticize US secretary: Is being a ‘normal’ country interfering with other nations?

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MOSCOW – It’s best not to be a “more normal country” if it means being as prone to invasion and coups as the United States, Russia’s top ministers said, reacting to the bizarre remarks of a new Pentagon chief.

On a visit to Paris this week, newly appointed US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said it would be “great” if the West “could make Russia behave like a more normal country.” This remark was not well received in Moscow, however.

“If he said that, he called us to act like a normal country [as such] and not like the United States,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in the Russian capital, where he and the minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, had a face-to-face meeting with French colleagues .

“Otherwise, we should be acting like the US, bombing Iraq and Libya in flagrant violation of international law … We should have supported violent and unconstitutional coups, as the US and its closest allies did in February 2014 [in Ukraine], “he added.

Moreover, if Russia were to follow Washington’s instructions, “we would have spent millions intervening in the affairs of other countries, as Congress has authorized $20 million to support democracy in Russia,” Lavrov said.

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For his part, Shoigu also said that normality has a different meaning for Moscow at the time.

“We will probably remain [an] [abnormal] country,” he said.

Meanwhile, visiting French authorities were defending the deal with Russia.

“The time has come, the time is right, to work to reduce distrust,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. Defense Minister Florence Parly added that “it is important to talk to each other to avoid misunderstandings and friction.”

The meeting comes weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin met his French colleague Emmanuel Macron at the end of August in Bregancon in an attempt to ease tension and break the ice in Russia-West relations.

On the occasion, Macron promised to create a “new security and trust architecture” between the European Union (EU) and Russia. He stressed that Moscow’s contribution is “essential” in helping to resolve crises in Iran, Ukraine and Syria and beyond, as well as working on nuclear nonproliferation.

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