ARCHIV - ARCHIV - 20.03.2014, Berlin: Die russische Flagge weht auf dem Gebäude der russischen Botschaft in Berlin. (zu dpa «Deutschland weist vier russische Diplomaten aus» vom 26.03.2018) Foto: Britta Pedersen/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

For 22 years, Boris Bondarev was a diplomat in the service of the Russian Foreign Ministry, first as an intern and then as a UN adviser in Geneva. At the end of May, he resigned in protest against his country’s war of aggression against Ukraine, saying “enough is enough”.

In an article for the business magazine “The Economist”, Bondarev now accuses Russia’s diplomacy of having lost one of its ultimate principles with the attack on Ukraine: “To serve peace and not war.”

But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the “romantic” world and the high status of diplomacy changed drastically. Many employees left the service to work in the private sector. Those who stayed were those “less ambitious, less talented,” Bondarev speaks of “gray bureaucrats.”

It was precisely those bureaucrats who made his own entry into the career less significant than he had hoped. He wanted to protect Russian interests and at the same time create “peaceful and profitable cooperation with other countries,” writes Bondarev. But the bureaucrats he criticized couldn’t even turn on a computer.

But the ex-diplomat describes the handful of diplomats who took on high-ranking posts after the collapse of the Soviet Union as the much bigger problem beyond the sluggish and ignorant colleagues and today form the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Again and again, these top foreign ministry diplomats advised him against making decisions – with reference to the Kremlin.

As an example, Bondarev cites a situation from his time in Mongolia from 2009 to 2013. He suggested financial support as “soft power”, but the responsible ambassador immediately rejected it. “Moscow would not support this idea,” he said.

As a result of this bondage to the Kremlin, the Foreign Ministry has become “a childish bunch of diplomats,” writes Bondarev. The ministry has increasingly lost value over the years, everything was based solely on the political will of the leadership in Moscow. The credo for all diplomatic action: “Don’t annoy the Kremlin!”

Bondarev also finds the Foreign Ministry’s stance on Vladimir Putin’s confrontational political course since the 2010s to be slippery and conformist. None of the diplomats dared the slightest protest, not even himself. “I thought the situation would somehow be solved by diplomacy,” he writes in retrospect.

The years that followed were characterized by growing propaganda in the Foreign Ministry, which ultimately caused the diplomats’ professionalism to disappear completely. The older ones went back to the diplomatic formulas of the Soviet era, clichés of the past were brought out again.

With Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the time had come for Bondarev to draw a line. This war, he writes, is the “most serious mistake of modern Russia”. He had no choice but to resign from office.