"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is a literal incarnation of William Shakespeare's familiar adage. His favorite acting role is that of the frustrated moderate. Russia, Lavrov says, is desperate for global cooperation and peace. The problem is that the West is simply too mean to Moscow.

Lavrov isn't just President Vladimir Putin's frontman on the international stage; he is the conductor of Russia's always-the-victim-propaganda. Lavrov fulfills his role with aplomb, reveling in his ability to distract his foreign minister opposites and shift the narrative to fictions more favorable to Moscow.

Such was the case on Friday, when Lavrov joined an assembly of foreign ministers at a virtual summit. The topic was multilateralism and international order. And once again, Lavrov was feeling very hard done by.

The foreign minister complained that the United States, Britain, and, to a lesser degree, the European Union are all unfairly restraining Russia and China. The Western powers conduct this effort through a "totalitarianism"-style agenda centered on "illegal unilateral sanctions." Also problematic, Lavrov says, is the Biden administration's plan to organize a summit of democracies. This summit will "exacerbate international tension" and "deepen the dividing lines in the world."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken rightly pushed back against this absurd hyperbole. He noted the Sino-Russian penchant for using its U.N. Security Council veto power to protect human rights abusers such as Syria and Myanmar. Referencing the United Nations offers Blinken a special utility in this jousting. After all, Lavrov loves to proclaim Russia's solemn adherence to its founding charter. As attested by Russia's treatment of sovereign borders and Syrian hospitals, this hypocrisy is stunning in both scale and suffering.

Lavrov's rhetoric might be absurd, but it is at least consistent. He is a master manipulator of foolish counterparts such as the EU's rather pathetic Josep Borell, the too-trusting John Kerry, or, back in 2009, the overly self-confident Hillary "Reset" Clinton. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a rare exception here, playing Lavrov at his own game.

Behind the scenes, in those rare circumstances of an alignment between Western and Russian interests, there is purpose to meeting Lavrov. And of course, diplomatic interchange is obviously valuable even if only to establish common understanding of national positions on important issues.

But Friday's performance was Lavrov as his favorite self: a performance artist first and foremost. One to make Shakespeare proud.