Snapchat Diplomacy

Staying on the subject of Russia, consider this:

This is a pretty major allegation, one that even two years ago would not have been made without strong supporting evidence. But nowadays, accusations that Russians are “interfering in democracy” can be thrown around like confetti without anyone having to produce the slightest shred of evidence. We’re all just supposed to believe our dear leaders, who would never lie about such things for their own ends.

Now of course Russia engages in mass disinformation, and they have done since at least 1917 and probably before that. But nothing I’ve seen comes even close to what they were up to during the Cold War, when they were deeply embedded in western academia and funding trade unions. The only reason this is an issue now is because Hillary lost in 2016. I don’t mind dealing with Russia in a robust fashion – and we should have after MH-17 and the annexation of Crimea – but not for this reason.

And “interfering in democracy”? If that was an offence which got diplomats expelled from a country, US embassies around the world would be staffed mainly by janitors on local contracts. The US actively supported Boris Yeltsin in elections, and boasted about it, for goodness sake.

I have no problem with Canada throwing out these diplomats in solidarity with Britain over the Skripal poisoning, but spare us the bandwagon-jumping bullshit justification tagged on the end. If these four were doing what Canada accuses them of in any meaningful sense, they should have been turfed out independently of what happened in the UK. I suppose one shouldn’t expect anything else from a government headed by Justin Trudeau, but this smacks of someone wanting to fit in rather than a serious policy decision. This whole business is not being handled well at all.

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21 thoughts on “Snapchat Diplomacy

  1. But Tim, my internet went down yesterday, and the Russians did that (it happened at almost the exact time that a Russian diplomat was expelled), so shut up, right?

  2. Putin dipped his toes in the water and now he knows how warm it is, it remains to be seen if he will be a little more restrained in future, I for one think he will be

  3. “But nothing I’ve seen comes even close to what they were up to during the Cold War, when they were deeply embedded in western academia and funding trade unions”

    Seriously? They are way up the food chain now. Ever heard of Schroeder, Zeman? And it does not have to be quite that direct, there’s always just one step from the siemenses to the merkels of the world.

    Basically, we are seeing the MeToo campaign of the international political Hollywood, with intense virtue signalling from those who have been (at least) passively complicit for many years. But it’s still better than just letting the “Harvey” get away with it. Apparently this is as much as one can hope for from today’s “elites”

  4. This is a pretty major allegation, one that even two years ago would not have been made without strong supporting evidence

    No, it’s not. For just one example here is a report from 1986 about Russians being expelled from the USA, which alleged (without much public evidence) that they were ‘intelligence agents’ (and being an undeclared intelligence agent would certainly count as ‘[using] diplomatic status to undermine [the host country]’s security’):

    https://www.nytimes.com/1986/11/01/world/55-expelled-russians-leave-washington.html

    Declaring that foreign diplomatic staff are using their status to undermine your security by being undeclared spies, without providing evidence, and requiring them to leave the country, is not a new thing: it’s a standard part of international relations when things get tense and has been since there were such things as embassies and spies.

  5. If these four were doing what Canada accuses them of in any meaningful sense, they should have been turfed out independently of what happened in the UK

    No, don’t be silly. Every country in the world maintains lists of which of the staff of other countries’ embassies it believes to be spies, without ‘turfing them out’, for several very good reasons, inter alia:

    (1) it’s a bit of an international diplomatic incident if you do, and it invites them to do the same to the spies you have in your embassy in their country, and who needs that hassle?

    (2) they’d only be replaced by other spies; at least when you know who they are you can keep an eye on them, whereas if you get a whole new lot in you then have to go back to the start of working out which ones are spies. May as well just keep an eye on the ones you know about.

    (3) it means that when something like this happens and you do want to make a diplomatic point, then you have your little list all ready to go, so you can chuck ’em out without wasting time.

  6. For just one example here is a report from 1986 about Russians being expelled from the USA, which alleged (without much public evidence)

    Following your link:

    The expulsions and sanctions began in August with the arrest in New York of a Soviet employee of the United Nations on charges of spying.

    Arrested and charged with spying requires evidence, even if none is made public. Gobbing off on Twitter requires none.

    Declaring that foreign diplomatic staff are using their status to undermine your security by being undeclared spies, without providing evidence, and requiring them to leave the country, is not a new thing

    I never said it was.

  7. Every country in the world maintains lists of which of the staff of other countries’ embassies it believes to be spies

    Canada didn’t only say they believed this person to be a spy, they accused them of “interfering in its democracy”.

  8. Canada didn’t say they believed this person to be a spy, they accused them of “interfering in its democracy”.

    The Twitter says:

    ‘Canada says the four Russian diplomats have been identified as intelligence officers or individuals who used diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in its democracy’

    ‘Identified as intelligence officers’: spies.

    ‘used diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security’: spies

    So that’s two out of three reasons that boil down to, ‘spies’.

    Arrested and charged with spying requires evidence, even if none is made public

    Read further: ‘The Reagan Administration then ordered 25 Soviet diplomats at the United Nations, whom it called intelligence agents, to leave the country’.

    They weren’t arrested and charged, they were just told to leave the country on the grounds that they were intelligence agents: exactly the same reason (and almost the same wording) used in the Twitter about Canada.

  9. Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has been banned in Russia for many years. She used to be a journalist in Moscow, with ties to Bill Browder, and regularly called for sanctions against Putin’s Russia. She’s ethnically Ukrainian, and apparently owns a place in Kiev. Her grandfather was some kind of “Nazi collaborator” in war-time Ukraine, though that can mean just about anything to Russians. Anyway, she’s not exactly a disinterested observer. But in multiculti Canada you are not supposed to notice such potential conflicts of interest.

  10. The Reagan Administration then ordered 25 Soviet diplomats at the United Nations, whom it called intelligence agents, to leave the country’

    Did he accuse them of anything other than being spies? No. Canada should have done the same. Instead, they started mouthing off on what these spies supposedly did. Poor form.

  11. She used to be a journalist in Moscow, with ties to Bill Browder, and regularly called for sanctions against Putin’s Russia.

    Bill Browder blocked me on Twitter, even though I’d not had the faintest interaction with him. Like Frances Coppolla, I think he goes around Twitter looking for people who like posts critical of him, and blocks them one by one.

  12. Canada should have done the same. Instead, they started mouthing off on what these spies supposedly did.

    We must be reading different Twitters. The one I saw read:

    ‘Canada says the four Russian diplomats have been identified as intelligence officers or individuals who used diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in its democracy’

    which doesn’t say at all what those who were ordered to leave after being identified as intelligence officers did, just that they were ‘identified as intelligence officers’ (ie, were spies).

    It also suggests that some, all or none of them may also have ‘used diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security’ which basically means being spies (the way you undermine a country’s security using diplomatic status is by gathering secret information, ie, being a spy).

    And again, that some all or none of them may have ‘interfered in its democracy’ but that is the third reason given and either of the first two would be enough reason on its own to kick out a foreign official.

  13. (And I mean technically ‘interfering in its democracy’ is so vague it could mean practically anything: you could say that gathering compromising intelligence that could be used to blackmail MPs is ‘interfering in democracy’, and that’s something any decent spy would definitely be trying to do).

  14. Given Justin’s performance, I think he is “undermining our democracy.” No chance of getting him on the next Aeroflot to Moscow, unfortunately.

  15. Switzerland didn’t have diplomatic relations with the USSR from 1918 until after WW2. This was because the USSR sponsored a general strike and attempted Bolshevik revolution, which the extremely democratically-minded Swiss took massive umbridge at, striking as it did not only at their system of government but also at their cherished neutrality.

    So in 1918, ALL Soviet diplomats were expelled, not to return until 30-odd years later.

  16. So in 1918, ALL Soviet diplomats were expelled, not to return until 30-odd years later.

    Sensible folk, the Swiss. We had a Labour government, who fell over itself to recognise the USSR as soon as they took office.

  17. Let’s face it the last bastion of natural justice is Australian cricket. Whilst we can collectively and immediately point the finger and find passport copies of who did the mass killings and downed aircraft, and completely lose the odd one as well, the ancient principles of cricket remain completely intact. Good on Australian Cricket for holding steady amid world demand for early blood and insisting on a thorough and proper investigatory process prior to the identification and sentencing of the perpetrators.

  18. So funny.

    Obama had his State Department send half a million dollars of taxpayer money to Netanyahu’s opponents to help their campaign to oust him back in 2015.

    How was this different from Putin’s people sending money for FB ads? How is this not an interference in Israel’s democracy?

    So much progressive horror over a popular progressive tool.

  19. This is a pretty major allegation

    So major I’d heard not a word, and I live here.

    Not that you aren’t correct about the magnitude of the accusation; it’s simply being treated as a humdrum non-news event, which it is.

  20. Freeland’s mother was Ukrainian, known as Halyna Chomiak before marriage. (Chomiak seems a Polish spelling; a direct transliteration would be Khomiak or Khomyak.) Historian John Paul Himka is (was?) married to Halyna’s sister. When Michael Chomiak – the sisters’ father and Freeland’s maternal grandfather – died, Himka went through his archive and discovered that he had edited a newspaper in Krakow when it was occupied by the Nazis, in 1940-45.

    Himka published at least two articles about his discoveries: “Krakivs’ki visti”: An Overview (1988) in Harvard Ukrainian Studies, available via JStor, and Krakivski visti and the Jews, 1943 in the Journal of Ukrainian Studies (1996), downloadable from archive.org.

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