Staunton, April 15 – Commentators Russian and Western have had a field day with the outrageously undiplomatic comments of Moscow’s representative in the UN Security Council, but in the latest example of an inability to see the forest for the trees, to focus on an individual case and to ignore or even downplay the way in which it is part and parcel of the whole.
Vladimir Safronkov’s language is nothing original: He has simply repeated the kind of thing his bosses, Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov, have been saying for years, but attacking him is easier because he is a mid-level official and is thus not the same as condemning Putin or Lavrov for the same thing. (Cf. youtube.com/watch?v=tQK5vsTT0bk&feature=youtu.be).
Now, however, two Moscow commentators have focused on that problem, with Ilya Milshteyn addressing how Putin regime has recruited and thus corrupted those who work for it (graniru.org/opinion/milshtein/m.260244.html) and Stanislav Kucher considering how statements like Safronkov’s reflect their true nature (kommersant.ru/doc/3270314
When he enrolled in MGIMO, Russia’s diplomatic training center, in 1989, he saw such crudities that he realized that the country’s future diplomats were “little distinguished from their provincial coevals.”
“You’ll remember the old joke about girls and diplomats,” he continues. “If a diplomat says ‘yes,’ this means ‘perhaps;’ if he says ‘perhaps,’ this means ‘no.’ If, however, the diplomat says ‘no,’ then he is already not a diplomat.’ With a girl everything is just the reverse: ‘no’ means ‘perhaps,’ ‘perhaps means ‘yes,’ and ‘yes’ means that she isn’t a girl.”
Putin has introduced a new trend, and Russian diplomats don’t speak or act like diplomats, Kucher says; and in one way, Kucher says, one can even be grateful for him: now Russian diplomats like the Russian president feel free to speak exactly as they think in an unvarnished way – or more precisely how they assume the Kremlin leader does the same.