Vladimir Putin’s attempt to impose a longtime Kremlin loyalist as his ambassador to Ukraine, something Kyiv has rejected and prompted Moscow to say that it won’t appoint anyone else, highlights the Kremlin leader’s view of what diplomats are for, Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko says.
For Mr. Putin, Mr. Yakovenko says, diplomats are not those who succeed by finding points of agreement among countries and thus minimize or avoid conflict but rather foot soldiers engaged in his war against other states whose job is to recruit allies within those states and misinform the world about what Russia is doing (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57A6415100DBD).
By ignoring the customary practice of seeking agrement before announcing its preferred ambassador in Kyiv, Moscow sought to force Ukraine to accept Mikhail Babich, someone who has never had any involvement with diplomacy and can only be described as “an ambassador of war.”
Already twenty years ago, Babich figured out that “the most profitable business” in Russia is “love for Putin. And he began to involve himself in this in a professional way.” Not surprisingly, “such devotion and unqualified love have not remained unnoticed,” and Babich has received progressively more important assignments – none of which are about diplomacy.
As Mr. Yakovenko points out, “diplomacy in international relations is the art of conducting talks with the goal of avoiding war. The mark of a diplomat’s success is his increase in the number of allies and friends his country has in the world.” But under Mr. Putin, diplomacy has been reduced to the rudeness and dishonesty of Sergey Lavrov and Mariya Zakharova.
And it has become “to a significant degree” about “the total trolling of opponents,” with the most obvious example being Mr. Putin’s earlier appointment of Dmitry Rogozin to represent Russia at NATO, an appointment that had the effect of making any real discussions between Moscow and Brussels impossible.
All this has roots in the Soviet past, Mr. Yakovenko continues. In May 1939, Stalin replaced as foreign minister Maksim Latvinov with Vyacheslav Molotov, a change which opened the way to the war with Finland and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which in turn opened the way to the second world war in Europe.
“Putin’s world,” the Russian analyst says, “is constructed quite simply.” Diplomacy is “a secondary sphere,” and a diplomat is little more than “a cover for the conduct of special operations, above all those involving force.” Thus, for Mr. Putin, the task of a diplomat is to “babble, distract attention … while real people do real things” and then to lie about what has happened.
As a result, Mr. Yakovenko says, “while other governments have diplomacy, Mr. Putin’s Russia has developed a factory for the production of chaos in the entire world. The task for the Russian MFA is to find marginal and lowlifes in all countries of the world and to attract, instruct and support them in all possible ways.
Thus, for Putin, foreign policy is “the same information terrorism which RT conducts throughout the world, mimicking media and infecting the citizens of other countries with lies and provocations.” That of course reflects Mr. Putin’s view that the media of all countries lie and that if he lies more boldly and creatively than they do, he will win out.
“This policy of Putin has completely rational explanations, the commentator continues. “Putin’s Russia has not values or ideas. It has nothing to say to the world … the only memorandum which Putin and his band could honestly and openly offer is to report that they want to rule and steal forever.”
Of course, they can’t say that openly. It wouldn’t be understood. And “therefore the task of foreign policy [for them] is to spread chaos among the citizens and elites of each country” to distract them from what Russia is doing and thus make it easier for Moscow to do what it wants against them.
Mr. Putin can’t agree with the EU or NATO, Mr. Yakovenko says. Consequently, he seeks to rely on Euroskeptics to destroy the first and on Trump to destroy the latter. “For the realization of these plans, he needs soldiers, devoted and unquestioning.” At home, he is achieving this by naming his bodyguard a governor. Abroad, he is trying to do so by naming what are no more than “soldiers of [his] hybrid war.”