President Medvedev addresses Russian diplomats

Text of report "Meeting with Foreign Ministry staff 9 February 2012, 1330, Gorki, Moscow Region" in English by Russian presidential website on 9 February; asterisks and ellipsis as received

Dmitry [Dmitriy] Medvedev held a meeting with Foreign Ministry staff on the eve of their professional holiday, the Diplomats’ Day.

The meeting was attended by state diplomatic service officials who have recently been awarded the highest diplomatic ranks, as well as the Foreign Ministry leadership, Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to a number of countries, and Russia’s permanent representatives to international organizations.

***

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Good afternoon, colleagues,

This is our first meeting in this format and I think it’s an excellent idea. First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on receiving your new posts and the high diplomatic ranks. This testifies to our recognition of your experience and professional achievements, and your efforts to strengthen Russia’s standing in the world.

Since the inception of the Diplomatic Chancellery, diplomacy has always been a solid foundation of our statehood, one of the key instruments for securing state interests. These tasks were brilliantly performed by your predecessors, whom our diplomats never tire of quoting, regardless of the diplomatic school to which they belong. I will also quote them because it a tradition. The essence of Russian diplomacy was once very vividly defined by Alexander Gorchakov: "Our foreign policy has had no aims other than our domestic affairs, and has removed anything that might upset them." This is truly the essence of what our diplomats do: they defend their country’s interests in a variety of conditions using a variety of means, mostly diplomatic, but not always. These words still ring true today. Modern diplomatic service is the successor of the past, of all our achievements and challenges.

Foreign Ministry employees must work hard in a rapidly changing world, which we now call the global world. Its twists and turns and constant changes require that we conduct an in-depth analysis of the situation in the international arena, forecast future developments and have a solid understanding of the processes inside the country. In order to protect our state interests, we must understand what is happening within our state, what is happening at home, and that also requires a great deal of skill.

I am certain that you and the Foreign Ministry in general have all the intellectual and organizational capabilities required to tackle these tasks. The Executive Order on the Foreign Ministry’s Coordinating Role in Conducting a Uniform Foreign Policy, which I signed last November, is also called on to mobilise the Ministry’s potential. The executive order very clearly sets out the Ministry’s powers and responsibilities. As I address the Foreign Ministry’s leadership today, I also want to remind the heads of other ministries and agencies that they must be guided by this executive order as they implement various foreign policy and economic initiatives to make sure that all activities follow a uniform strategy and no one engages in senseless independent activity. I am confident that this will lead to a new quality of work at all state agencies.

I outlined Russia’s foreign policy priorities, and, therefore, the priorities of the Foreign Ministry, in the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. I would like to emphasise once again: I expect novel and useful initiatives from you to address the strategic objectives of the state, including protecting our interests abroad, as well as ensuring the rule of international law, providing conflict management assistance by political and diplomatic means, and building partnerships with our foreign colleagues on an equal and mutually beneficial basis.

It is not enough to declare these principles; they must be implemented, and for that you need a creative approach, and a set of steps and measures that will ensure the implementation of these decisions.

There is always tension in international affairs, which are periodically exacerbated by crises – we can list such crises today as well. Last year was very difficult, starting with the Arab Spring and continuing to the present day with the crises in Syria, Iran and North Korea; the situation in the Arab world as a whole remains extremely tense. There are plenty of other hot spots in the world today.

Everything you do must ultimately amount to a well-coordinated state policy. I read your daily reports ex officio, as lawyers and diplomats say, and practically every day I receive an update on the current events. All of this should be the subject of an in-depth analysis not only by the Foreign Ministry staff, but also by other agencies. In fact, the value of such reports remains extremely high. It is always gratifying to receive fresh, relevant, interesting information, and not just a rehash of events from the Internet or other media. This applies not only to the Foreign Ministry but to all agencies that prepare the analysis, including the Foreign Intelligence Service and other agencies that are involved in this effort.

Together, we are working on modernising our country and the economy, so you must use all the technologies available to you today. It seems to me that the Foreign Ministry should make full use of the technology and skills that are successfully employed by our partners and colleagues in the international arena, such as the new communication tools, including Twitter and other social networks that enable you to communicate with your audience online.

We must not be deterred by the fact that comments in social networks sometimes lack depth or amount to an endless stream of expletives and sometimes contain insults. We must firmly pursue our policy, just as our colleagues do in other countries. It is crucial to keep up with the times. This applies not only to the Ministry’s central office, which is already doing these things, but even more so to our embassies and other overseas agencies. As I am sure you are aware, people around the world form their opinion of Russia and how friendly our foreign policy is based on the work of these overseas agencies.

The most important duty of the state authorities is to protect the freedom and security of the country’s citizens. This axiom fully applies to the Foreign Ministry, which tackles its own specific problems in this area and they are well known to you. Your priority is to ensure the legitimate rights of Russian citizens, to provide an all-round protection of their interests, promoting and preserving the ethnic and cultural Russian community abroad.

It is equally important to take measures to protect the interests and dignity of Russian citizens abroad, especially when people get into trouble for various reasons, sometimes completely random ones. In this context, we often hear remarks that something wasn’t done fast enough or help wasn’t provided when it was needed. These are subjective opinions that do not always reflect the true picture. However, I urge you all to be more responsive in communicating with our citizens who are experiencing problems abroad. They must feel confident that the Foreign Ministry will help them and that our diplomats have every opportunity to provide them with professional assistance.

A wide range of challenges facing our diplomacy determines the need to boost the capacity of our human resources, which the Ministry has always been famous for. The main criterion for promotion must be the diplomat’s a real contribution to upholding Russia’s foreign policy interests. Young, talented, and active employees should be promoted more readily and perhaps less priority should be given to the existing stereotypes about the length of service and diplomatic ranks, although these are also important considerations. Nevertheless, the real merits and intellectual capacity are even more critical. This will be a strong incentive for the Foreign Ministry’s personnel to remain at a high level – and that is a fact that no one in the history of our country has ever disputed.

Naturally, there must also be a reverse mechanism in place. Those who are unable to cope with their duties should not simply serve the term of their posting to the end. The decision should be made promptly by the Ministry and the Minister, and, where necessary, by the President.

The stringent professional and personal standards for diplomatic personnel are justified and predetermined by the current situation. The state has recently taken significant steps to strengthen the prestige of the diplomatic service. I am happy that I had the honour to sign the law on state civil service at the Foreign Ministry and the corresponding Government resolution. The issue was widely debated, and as usual there were plenty of arguments both for and against the law, as well as financial considerations. Nevertheless, the decisions have been made and they must be executed.

In addition, several days ago, I instructed the Government to draft a proposal to increase the pensions of former diplomatic service employees, which is very important because we must always take care of those who faithfully served their homeland for many years. The aim of these measures is not only to boost the potential of Russia’s diplomacy, but also to improve the living conditions of the Foreign Ministry employees.

Dear friends, this meeting is being held on the eve of the Diplomats’ Day. I sincerely congratulate you on your professional holiday and wish you continued success and all the best. I hope that you will continue to apply your skills for the benefit of our country, maintaining its authority in the international arena and ensuring its active participation in tackling all the relevant issues on the international agenda.

Thank you for your attention.

FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV: Mr President, colleagues,

First of all, on behalf of all of us here and the entire Foreign Ministry, I would like to express our gratitude to the President of Russia for this meeting. This is clearly an indication of the national leadership’s special attention to the foreign service and appreciation of diplomacy’s role in upholding the interests of the Russian Federation in the world today. Such attention and trust are a great honour that imposes an additional responsibility for mobilising our intellectual and creative abilities in our work, as Mr President has just said, as well as for building on the experience and the great legacy of our predecessors. We draw from this wealth of experience on a daily basis, finding new solutions by applying it to the current situation.

I would like to emphasise that we understand the need to increase attention to the quality of analysis and forecasts, and to raise our initiative in key areas that affect Russia’s standing in the world, and therefore, our security and interests of our citizens and our business community. Our aim in this work is to combine traditional diplomatic methods with modern technology, to deepen the good relations that have developed over the years with the scientific community, non-governmental organizations, the business community, the media and civil society.

I would also like to thank the President for addressing everyday problems of the diplomats, for the decisions that have been taken to upgrade the conditions of our service, to improve social guarantees and especially for your recent instruction to raise pensions.

Mr President, all of us here are professionals. We know that actions are more important than words, so I will not talk for too long. I will only stress our commitment to do our utmost for the nation’s benefit.

Thank you again.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I sincerely wish you every success, because during my presidency and before that, as a state official, I have seen a great deal abroad and have visited our diplomatic establishments on many occasions. I have seen the selfless efforts of our Foreign Ministry officials there, from the ambassadors to those who are starting their diplomatic career. Their work is highly demanding and requires extraordinary intellectual skills to sometimes push through the most basic solutions, to say nothing of truly challenging situations, such as voting for a resolution or organizing a presidential visit and related events.

I wish you every success in your endeavours and in your diplomatic careers. I am confident that if you have success, then our Foreign Ministry will also be successful in upholding our foreign policy priorities. All the best to you.

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Source: President of the Russian Federation website, Moscow, in English 1540 gmt 9 Feb 12

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