How war changed Ukraine's communication with international partners

Monday, 15 April 2024 —

On Friday, 12 April, the first Wartime Diplomacy Forum was held in Kyiv and discussed both the success and the problems of Ukraine's work at an international level.

It is worth taking a closer look at this event and at the keynote address given by Minister Dmytro Kuleba. In his speech, the Foreign Minister outlines in detail for the first time the rules and principles of Ukraine’s diplomacy during the full-scale war.

The speech sets out and explains Ukraine's approaches to diplomacy. Sergiy Sydorenko, European Pravda's editor, has recorded and summarised the speech in the article - No room for "plan B" or old protocols. Seven principles of Ukraine's wartime diplomacy.

Our president laid the very foundations of Ukraine's wartime diplomacy, literally from the first hours of the full-scale invasion. In his telephone conversations, his first engagement with foreign leaders, he might have come across as a bit too stern and a bit too harsh, controversial to external observers, they violated stereotypes, but it did bear some good results.


What is the key difference between wartime diplomacy and peacetime diplomacy, he asks, other than the fact that diplomats all of a sudden start using military jargon and military acronyms? 

We have formulated seven principles of wartime diplomacy for ourselves over the past two years. They were all developed, as they say, not out of choice but of necessity. But they work.

The first principle is stubbornness. Where a classic diplomat in peacetime, hearing "no" several times, would have long since stopped and postponed negotiations, a wartime diplomat does not have that right.

He has to persevere and keep looking for that positive answer.

The second principle: not being afraid of placing friends in uncomfortable positions. So if the price of your survival is to push your friends outside their comfort zone, then you need to do it. If a friendly, quiet conversation behind closed doors doesn’t work, you need to speak your mind with friends and in the presence of others until you achieve a result.

The third principle is that we don’t need a "plan B." But the issue of there being no "plan B" is not about our being stupid and not having come up with a backup plan. It's just that wartime diplomacy assumes that you either achieve the result or it's over for you.

The fourth principle is maximum time compression for decision-making. Classic diplomacy involves the maximum filtration and screening of every issue. And it's better if the decision is delayed a bit, "matures". Perhaps circumstances will change, additional factors will arise.

But in times of war, you don't have time for that.

When people die, you do not think primarily about protocols and procedures.

The fifth principle is flexibility in decision-making.

Wartime diplomacy requires the art of combining toughness, principle and flexibility.

As Sun Tzu wrote, war is both offensive and maneuvre.

Offensive is where you're tough and principled. Maneuvre is where you show flexibility.

So when President Zelenskyy came up with the "peace formula" idea, it included this element of flexibility: you can choose the items you want to get involved in, the ones you want to engage in.

The sixth wartime diplomacy principle I would call: "everyone talks to everyone."

In a country at war, everyone, from top officials to secretaries and aides, should communicate with their counterparts in the countries with which certain issues need to be resolved.

And the seventh principle is clarity, directness of speech, relevant in a specific context.

In times of war, it's better to look clumsy than to speak in a way that your words will have no effect.

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