Following the Salisbury attack the EU has now recalled the ambassador to Moscow. In a tit for tat move which saw Britain expel Russian diplomats followed by Russia expelling British diplomats, the recalling of the EU ambassador escalates the expulsions. While withdrawing diplomatic staff may send a strong message of sorts does it not also create a vacuum of diplomacy?
If you consider that the role of an ambassador is to act as an informed official on the ground who is able to be a mediator and a lightning rod for geopolitical conflicts then, surely, the withdrawal of such a person creates a knowledge and power vacuum.
One of the most memorable instances in history of the successful role that a diplomat plays was, ironically, during the Cold War. George Kennan was an American diplomat based in Russia who devised America’s foreign policy strategy of containment which he conveyed through a ‘Long Telegram’ (8.000 words) sent to America in 1946. His advise became an integral part of the Cold War diplomacy that played out subsequently.
Sasson Sofer, an expert in diplomacy who wrote numerous books, said that military victory cannot serve solely as the foundation of an enduring peace and laboured the point that diplomats who practise the art of diplomacy were essential actors in constructing long lasting peace.
The Salisbury attack has induced a Hobbesian type insecurity which is completely understandable. In such a climate diplomacy may be seen as an unnecessary foreign policy tool kit. However, if a coalition of consensus is being sought among EU and other world leaders in responding to the Salisbury attack do we not need diplomats to convey this consensus to the enemy and to seek a counter-response? It can’t be left to the media surely especially given the ridiculously state biased coverage by the BBC and Russia Today. Recalling ambassadors seems like a hollow victory.