The Return of Diplomacy?
Diplomacy as a Way to Strengthen Sovereignty
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On March 28, 2024, the Valdai Club presented its new report, titled “Crafting National Interests: How Diplomatic Training Impacts Sovereignty”. The moderator was Andrey Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Club.

Nikita Neklyudov, an expert at MGIMO University’s Institute for International Studies, noted that the report returns us to the discussion about resources in international politics. We are accustomed to talking about resources as something material, but it is diplomacy that allows us to convert these material resources into foreign policy influence. This leads to a second important question: how can we measure the quality of diplomacy? The report’s authors take a step in this direction. Neklyudov said it was an important (and unusual for the Russian school of international relations) feature of the report that the development of a national school for training diplomatic personnel is seen as a strategic choice on the part of the state, rather than a function of the state’s place in the international system. At the same time, there is a clear correlation between a country’s positioning oneself as an independent centre of power and cultivating such a school and independent international expertise.

Ilya Dyachkov, Associate Professor at the Department of Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and Mongolian languages at MGIMO University, spoke about the procedure used in creating the report, emphasising that the methodological framework involved a detailed study of specific countries. In fact, the report is based on detailed information about each of the states under consideration, taking into account a number of parameters: the presence of a specialized educational profile in international relations, forms of selection for the diplomatic service, the content of educational programmes, the availability of domestically written textbooks, and the educational path of the leadership of diplomatic departments. This provided a clear correlation with the seriousness of the country’s bid for sovereignty. Dyachkov demonstrated this in more detail using the example of the Republic of Korea. “In general, we confirmed our primary position that fundamental humanitarian training allows a country to realize its sovereign interests, instead of considering diplomacy as a kind of version of universal mathematics in the format of unipolar globalisation,” he concluded.

Alexander Kuznetsov, Professor at the Department of Diplomacy at MGIMO University, pointed out that it makes no sense to analyse the training of diplomatic personnel in isolation from the situation of regression that has developed in international diplomacy as a whole. In particular, he referred to the latest edition of the Concept of Russian Foreign Policy, which talks about the degradation of the culture of dialogue in international relations and the reduction in the effectiveness of diplomacy as a means of resolving conflicts. “If we look at relations with the West, unfortunately, we have to admit that they are completely destroyed,” Kuznetsov added. According to him, this crisis began at the end of the Cold War. In celebrating victory in the Cold War, the United States not only failed to discuss the principles of constructing new international relations, but also pursued the destruction of previous agreements. Thus, Kuznetsov noted, the issue is not the quality of diplomacy or the level of training. “If diplomacy is not in demand, if it is marginalised and thrown to the side-lines, then, of course, nothing can be expected,” he added. However, it is too early to bury diplomacy; it continues to exist and new horizons are opening up in it. The process of forming a new world order is underway, and diplomacy must play a new role in it.