Who is Ambassador Sergey V. Lavrov and what does he want? In an April 2013 interview, he conveys Russia’s interests to engage with the US and the world. In another interview, “Minister Nyet” tells Susan Glasser essentially that “Russia is not sulking, and she is just about done composing herself”–to cite Alexander Gorchakov, a previous foreign minister from the mid-19th century.
In many ways, Mr. Lavrov’s work over the next six days represented the apex of a career largely spent trying to body-block what the Kremlin has long viewed as dangerous American unilateralism. It is a job he has done so effectively that it has earned him the nickname “Minister Nyet,” and senior American officials, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, have said they often found it infuriating to deal with him.
As the diplomatic technician for his boss, President Vladimir V. Putin, Mr. Lavrov maneuvered to hem in the United States, averting a unilateral military strike and reasserting Russia’s role — all while Russia was continuing to provide weapons to Mr. Assad and diplomatic cover for his effort to suppress an uprising.
More broadly, though, Mr. Lavrov has sought to force the United States into a conversation that the Kremlin hopes will set a precedent, establishing Russia’s role in world affairs based not on the dated cold war paradigm but rather on its own outlook, which favors state sovereignty and status quo stability over the spread of Western-style democracy.
To see evidence that Lavrov has been working on this angle for a long time, see the translation of an interview with him on Lebanese Television from 13 May 2013.