Putin and the subtle art of diplomacy

On Thursday, US president Barack Obama announced the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats working out of the Russian embassy in Washington. They were declared ‘persona non grata’ and given 72 hours to leave the US with their families.

American intelligence agencies have accused the Russians of cyber-attacks on the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to influence the recent presidential election in the US.

President-elect Donald Trump responded by reiterating a call for people to “move on”. The actions of the Obama administration sparked fears that the Russians would retaliate with the old tit-for-tat response of the Cold War period, when both sides retaliated with similar measures against each other.

There were reports from Moscow that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for the expulsion of 35 American diplomats, as well as the closure of the Anglo-American School in Moscow, attended by the children of American, British, and Canadian diplomats.

Russian president Vladimir Putin then announced, however, that there would be no expulsions, and the school would not be closed. In fact, he invited all children of American diplomats in Russia to participate in the traditional new year parties at the Kremlin.

Ironically, the state papers just released for 1986 deal with Mikhail Gorbachev’s first year in power when Irish diplomats in Moscow seemed to suspect that the openness — or glasnost, being advocated — seemed too good to be true. Now we should all be hopeful that diplomacy and international politics are not reverting to darker days.


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