There is neutral Istanbul with the Princes’ Islands

There is neutral Istanbul with the Princes’ Islands

Maxim Sokolov

A characteristic feature of the current crisis in relations with the West (as, indeed, in all major crises) is that urgent and even overripe issues are resolved in the most brutal way. Without showing opportunism and lubricating the issue.
Diplomacy in the narrow sense of the word, that is, the exchange of embassies, which traditionally took an active part in attempts to resolve contradictions between powers, was no exception. The present initiative of Europe puts an end to this very old custom.
The decision to expel employees of Russian embassies and close Russian consular offices was made by: Poland (45 diplomats), Germany (40), France (35), Slovakia (35), Italy (30), Spain (25), Belgium (21), the Netherlands (17), Denmark (15), Bulgaria (12), North Macedonia (five), Slovenia (33), Ireland (four), Sweden (three), Czech Republic (one), Romania (ten), Montenegro (one),Estonia (17), Lithuania (four) and Latvia (13).
Russia’s verbal reaction was not long in coming. The Russian Foreign Ministry promised retaliatory expulsions, which is pretty standard. Nobody canceled the rules “on the basis of reciprocity”, the talion law in such cases is quite valid.
The Kremlin, in turn, through the mouth of the press secretary D.S. Peskov, answering the question of the French TV channel LCI about the possibility of breaking off diplomatic relations between Moscow and Paris, noted that if the deportations continue, then “there is a potential risk that this will happen”. And this did not apply only to France, it was noted that the actions of European governments as a whole are “short-sighted”, since they “narrow the possibilities for diplomatic communication and work in such difficult crisis conditions.”
Actions are not only short-sighted, but sometimes mysterious. Of course, not the entire potential of the state is determined by the population, there are other parameters – and yet. The population of France – 67.5 million people, Slovakia – 5.5 million, that is, eight percent of the French. But both Paris and Bratislava expelled 35 diplomats each. Italians – 59.5 million, Slovenes – 2.1 million, that is, 3.5 percent. However, Rome sent 30 diplomatic workers, and Ljubljana – 33. Philosophize, the mind will spin. We are no longer talking about the decisiveness of the Baltic great powers.
The question arises how the heart will calm down.
In former times, expulsions were generally moderate. For activities incompatible with diplomatic status: that is, in other words, undercover spies were expelled in small numbers when they began to work quite rudely. This was followed by “tit for tit”, which was the end of the matter. This did not contribute to harmony in interstate relations, but it did not produce terrible disharmony either. What about the fact that from this side everyone understood: “You can spy, you can’t get caught.” And certainly the espionage routine is not a reason to break off diplomatic relations – “But how are we going to spy then?”
In modern times, the point is clearly not in activities incompatible with status, but in the fact that the cessation of all relations with a hostile power, that is, with Russia, should also be reflected in embassies. “Culture of cancellation” in all azimuths. There is an inexorable movement either towards a complete rupture of diplomatic relations, or towards lowering them to the level of chargé d’affaires. Attorney plus two or three technical workers.
This is not enough for interstate dialogue and for standard embassy functions in general, but one circumstance should be taken into account. Ideas about diplomatic laws and customs were based on the embassy practice of communication between sovereign powers, which really resolved among themselves important and most important issues. Monuments of that era can serve as the French embassy in the Roman Palazzo Farnese or the building on the Parisian street Lille, where before the Second World War there was a German embassy. But in the history of Europe, that era is long over.
The foreign policy of not only Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, but such former giants as Italy, France, Germany is determined partly by Brussels, partly by Washington. They themselves decide very little.
Of course, in addition to fundamental decisions, there were areas of mutual interest. Patronage to its citizens (although by tradition the consul is not quite a diplomat, but still). Economic, cultural, scientific relations. And even embassy receptions, when noble people appear in full harness and convey their position over a glass of wine, launch test balloons, listen to what is in the air, and then make reports about what they heard during casual conversations.
But if from now on Russian partners are declared toxic, if various relations are under state auspices, if there was an exchange of people and ideas, and all of them came out, then what should embassies do in the traditional sense? Nothing.
For the former embassy functions to be relevant, the host country does not have to be in cordial agreement with the accredited party, but it must be sovereign. This is what is observed in embassy relations with India, China, Iran, and some countries of South America. The old-mode customs of embassy life reign there.
However, in advanced Europe, which has lost its national-state sovereignty, these customs have also been lost. And then what do diplomats do? Especially when economic and even simple transport relations tend to zero.
Apart from the transition to the regime of temporary attorneys (and this is even in the best case), handing and receiving notes, nothing more serious is visible. If some European power wants to talk about something serious, there is neutral Istanbul with the Princes’ Islands.
But even this desire is still far away.

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