Letter From the Editors: Sept. 18 - 24, 2017

Author: Xenia Grushetsky

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World...of Diplomacy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is a doyen of international relations. In terms of seniority, he could easily give other officials in Russia (and the world) a run for their money, having been in his post since 2004. But are storm clouds gathering over Mr. Lavrov? The New Times took a closer look at a few incidents that may point to that.

The first took place at the recent BRICS summit in Xiamen. While Putin and Lavrov were waiting for the Thai prime minister, Lavrov rifled through some papers left on the desk from a previous meeting. Putin allegedly quipped: "Do you work at the Foreign Ministry or in intelligence? What agency do you head?" A seemingly innocent remark, if not for an earlier incident - during a joint press conference with the Italian prime minister, Putin joked that Lavrov should be reprimanded for keeping classified information to himself. Apparently, this referred to intelligence information US President Donald Trump supposedly shared with Lavrov during their meeting.

Once again, those present in the Russian delegation - including Lavrov - shared a good laugh, at least on camera. But is this an indication of Putin’s increasing frustration with the work of the Foreign Ministry? Considering that Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky (who is running for president for the sixth time and is noted for his keen nose when it comes to interpreting signals from the Kremlin) promised to sack Lavrov as his first order of business if elected, that may indeed be the case.

Why is Russia’s foreign minister suddenly falling out of favor? You could say Lavrov represents a time when the "besieged fortress mentality" hadn’t yet become the building block of Russian foreign policy - those innocent days when NGOs were yet to be declared foreign agents and TV anchors ...

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