“If you can’t win, lead”

Maxim Sokolov

At the decline of developed socialism, there was a saying illustrating the rule for using the particles “neither” and “not”: “Wherever you work, just don’t work.” Kyiv diplomacy adheres to a similar principle: “No matter what you talk about, just don’t talk about it.” The experience of the peace agreements both this year and previous years is a fair proof of this.
The principle is valuable, but sooner or later it starts to bore everyone. Not only to the power with which Kiev is in sharp conflict, but even to those states with which he seems to be in cordial agreement. Because they also have their own interests and problems, not always solved by the eternal fairy tale about the white bull.
So a new move is needed, preferably a master one, and it was found. President of Ukraine V. A. Zelensky said that he is not against peace agreements (although he was strongly opposed recently), but he intends to “offer a public form of negotiations with Russia so that they do not take place behind the scenes.”
Press Secretary of the President of Russia D.S. Peskov, who worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1989 to 1999 and therefore has some knowledge of diplomatic laws and customs, showed strong skepticism about Zelensky’s new peace initiative. Not to mention the fact that “on the issue of negotiations with Russia, the Ukrainian authorities have seven Fridays a week,” he noted: “It is hard to imagine public negotiations at all – such negotiations do not happen.”
Indeed, the announcement of the results of the negotiation process can be public. For example, the text of a peace treatise. But the process itself is of necessity hidden from outsiders. Megaphone diplomacy is definitely out of place here.
This is due to the very nature of negotiations, that is, the search for a compromise. The parties enter the process with positions A and B, which are antagonistic and irreducible. In the course of negotiations, each of the parties gives up something and positions A’ and B’ are obtained – already closer. In the next iteration, A” and B” are even closer. And so long and tedious, as a result of which it is possible (or not possible) to find a compromise formula, which is presented to the public.
Whereas the work not yet done – all these intermediate A’ and B’ – are not shown to fools (that is, to the profane), since their intervention in the delicate process, carried out in an ignorant and contradictory form, will only hurt.
All this can be found in any diplomacy textbook. And if V. A. Zelensky’s ha-rd work in Kvartal 95 didn’t give him time to read different textbooks, then the skillful diplomats Ku-leba or Melnik seem to kn-ow such basics and could s-hare them with the principal.
Perhaps, however, V. A. Zelensky was inspired not by boring methods about A’ and B’, but by historical-revolutionary practice. On October 26 (November 8), 1917, immediately after the capture of the Winter Congress of Soviets, which took power into its own hands, adopted a Decree on Peace, which stated: “The government cancels secret diplomacy, for its part, expressing its firm intention to conduct all negotiations completely openly in front of all the people We appeal with a proposal to the governments and peoples of all countries to begin immediately open negotiations on the conclusion of peace.”
Two months later, on January 8, 1918, US President Wilson followed the Leninist course. In his 14-point programme, which formed the basis of the work of the Versailles Peace Conference, the very first point read: “Open peace treaties, openly discussed, after which there will be no secret international agreements of any kind, and diplomacy will always act frankly and on everyone’s sight.”
Then Wilson privately explained how he became an adherent of Lenin and Trotsky: “The poison of Bolshevism has become so widespread only because it is a protest against the system that rules the world. Now it’s our turn.” In other words, he became not so much a faithful Leninist as a faithful Machiavellian – it is the Florentine who owns the formula: “If you can’t win, lead.”
Although the negotiations, open to the whole world, turned out to be only a spectacular slogan, but by no means a practical guide to action. The Versailles Conference turned out to be the most private event ever known. Not only the defeated Germans, but also the small allies of the Entente, were excluded from the negotiations. And as a particularly striking and prominent example of openness, the story is given of how Wilson locked himself in a secret room at the Palace of Versailles with Lloyd George and Clemenceau, placing a sentry with a gun at the entrance: so that no one would interfere with open negotiations.
Soviet diplomacy also did not adhere to Lenin’s principles for long. Litv-inov, Molotov and Grom-yko can be treated as you like, but no one accused them of being open.
Which is natural. Throwing out bold slogans – as Lenin and Trotsky did, as well as Wilson, and as Zelensky is doing now – is one thing, but tossing bags is completely different.
True, at that time the presovnarkom and the president of the United States, perhaps, partly actually reasoned in the spirit of “We are ours, we will build a new world.” There are strong doubts that the President of Ukraine is now driven by such idealistic thoughts.