Replacing ‘The Last of the Offended’ – Generational Change at the Russian Foreign Ministry

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 25, 2020)

The Moscow Carnegie Center has issued a podcast devoted to the discussion of generational change at the Russian Foreign Ministry and to what the rising generations, those in their 30s and 40s as well as those in their 20s are likely to bring to the table when they assume key positions in the post-Putin future (soundcloud.com/carnegieru/diplomats).

The discussion was prompted by Kadri Liik’s paper, “The Last of the Offended: Russia’s First Post-Putin Diplomats” released last November by the European Council for Foreign Relations (ecfr.eu/publications/summary/the_last_of_the_offended_russias_first_post_putin_diplomats). The Estonian scholar and journalist took part in the Carnegie session.

Her five key conclusions, listed in her paper and reiterated in the podcast, are as follows:

  • Russia’s new generation of foreign policy professionals bring with them a shift in attitudes that challenges the centrality of “the West” in Russian foreign policy.
  • Today’s young professionals are often bitterly affected by “disillusionment” with the West, but the youngest of them – people in their 20s – are free of such emotion, harboring an outlook that is sharply realist and pragmatic.
  • Russia’s young foreign policy professionals are neither Putin loyalists nor Western-style liberals: they are wary of ready-made ideologies, and prefer to attend to their own consciences.
  • Young diplomats’ ability to shape policy will depend on the balance of power between ‘civilian’ and ‘power’ ministries in Russia (such as, respectively, the foreign and defense ministries), with the former in retreat lately.
  • These shifts mean the West should not hold out hope for the optimism of the 1990s to return once Putin departs.

What these findings mean, of course, is that the tonality of Russian diplomacy is likely to change after Putin with less of the bitterness that informs many of “the disappointed” people now in charge but that the fundamental opposition of Russian interests to the outside world may become if anything even stronger.

[article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/04/replacing-last-of-offended-generational.html]