Formerly a university teacher, I am now a freelance writer specialising in the theory and practice of diplomacy from the earliest times until the present. As well as hoping to encourage the study of diplomacy, this site provides periodic updating of my textbook (see immediately below). This page contains some news and views. The contents of the rest of the site can be navigated via the column on the left-hand side.

Diplomacy: Theory and Practice

5th edition
(Palgrave-Macmillan: Basingstoke and New York, 2015)

Read more about this book on the publisher’s website.

Citations 2.5 times the ‘discipline’ average in 2018 (Bookmetrix)


berridge diplomacy 5th

From the back cover: ‘Probably the most prolific contemporary writer on diplomacy is Professor Geoff R. Berridge … Each of his many books is impeccably written and full of insights into the fascinating formation of modern diplomacy” (Robert William Dry, New York University, USA, and Chairman of AFSA’s Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics); “I discovered Geoff Berridge’s book on diplomacy after serving as a diplomat for over 30 years. It is well-researched, sophisticated, inspiring and, where the subject invites it, suitably ironic” (Dr Max Schweizer, Head of Foreign Affairs and Applied Diplomacy, ZHAW School of Management and Law, Switzerland); “Berridge’s Diplomacy is an enlightening journey that takes the student, the practitioner and the general reader from the forefront to the backstage of current diplomatic practice. The thoroughly updated text – also enriched with a stimulating new treatment of embassies – is an invaluable guide to the stratagems and outcomes, continuities and innovations, of a centuries’ long process” (Arianna Arisi Rota, Professor of History of Diplomacy, University of Pavia, Italy).

Diplomacy and Secret Service

A short introduction

(DiploFoundation: 2019)

Invitations to Diplomacy series

Available to purchase on the ISSUU platform here

Updating by chapter is available here

The front cover shows the building used as its headquarters by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) since 1994. Inspired in design by Art Deco, Mayan and Aztec architecture, it is sometimes described mockingly as ‘Legoland’ but more commonly referred to as ‘Vauxhall Cross’. This is because of its location adjacent to the major crossroads of this name in the Vauxhall district of south-west London; it is also close to Vauxhall Bridge over the River Thames. The building has served as a backdrop for a number of James Bond films. Photograph (cropped slightly for design purposes) by Jim Bowen, 22 November 2007, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

Who appoints the ambassador?

British foreign secretary and Tory leadership hopeful, Jeremy Hunt, yesterday told Foreign Office staff that ‘the UK government alone will determine appointments based on our national interest alone.’ This was a key line in a pep talk he clearly thought required by the demoralizing circumstances in which Sir Kim Darroch felt obliged to announce his resignation as British Ambassador at Washington in early July 2019. But it puts a gloss on the true position that reveals that, in making this statement, Hunt had more in mind the votes of the 160,000 Tory voters in the current leadership contest than the effect on his more savvy diplomats. For diplomatic law is unambiguous on the sensible point that new ambassadors can never be appointed without the prior agreement of their intended hosts: ‘The sending State must make certain that the agrément of the receiving State has been given for the person it proposes to accredit as head of the mission to that State’ (Art. 4.1, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961). In order to avoid the embarrassment of a public rebuff, in practice such agreement is customarily sought quietly before any individual is publicly named. It is true that, since it would rarely be in the ‘national interest’ of the sending state to try to send abroad an unwanted ambassador, strictly speaking Hunt’s statement is correct. But his statement deliberately gave the impression to the nationalist-minded members of the Tory Party that Britain can send out any ambassador it likes. This is definitely not the case.

Since Britain will have a new prime minister in a little over a week, it would in principle make sense for this person to have the decisive say over the appointment to such an important post as Washington. But the case for this disintegrates when it is remembered (a) that this is likely to be Boris Johnson, who was the worst foreign secretary I can recall, and (b) that he is unlikely to be in office for very long. Theresa May is known to be concerned about her legacy. Getting Trump’s agreement to the appointment of a first class professional diplomat to the Washington embassy before Johnson gets into No. 10 would be at least one important achievement by which she would be remembered.

July 12th, 2019|

Trump’s ‘stupefying ignorance’. Darroch or Johnson?

Anyone with a tenth of a functioning brain and at least one eye on a responsible news outlet knows that what the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, said about Donald Trump and his White House in secret, classified messages to the Foreign Office is true. (Extracts from them leaked to the pro-Brexit Mail Online were published on 7 July 2019.) In fact, it’s been so fully broadcast for so long that one wonders why Sir Kim bothered to add his voice to this deafening chorus at all. But he did and his position has now been made acutely uncomfortable by the leak. Predictably, Trump – in the process confirming the common judgement of him – has now publicly returned the insults in tweeted spades. What should be done? The UK government has rightly stood by its first-rate ambassador and refused the demands of ranting right-wing journalists like Piers Morgan to withdraw him, meanwhile looking for the real culprit, the source of the leak. If the Trump administration wishes to see the back of Darroch it’s up to the State Department simply to declare him persona non grata and give him a week or so to pack his bags and leave.  By that time, the UK will have a new prime minister, the Trump-fawning Boris Johnson, who is as glaringly unfit for his office as Trump is for his. The ‘special relationship’ will then no doubt be given a steroid injection by a new ambassador, for as a self-obsessed opportunist Johnson would have no scruple about calling back Darroch in order to insert another Brexiter in his place. Who might this be? Nigel Farage, the English nationalist and spiv who leads the Brexit Party and is another Trump groupie, has been widely canvassed, not least by the US president himself. The idea might also appeal to Johnson since it would have the added advantage of removing his greatest rival for the support of those in the UK who still – in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary – regard Brexit as the political and economic equivalent of the Second Coming of Christ. Getting rid of powerful rivals at home by giving them a plush berth abroad has a long history in diplomacy. On the other hand, the prospect of Farage at the Washington embassy would horrify the Foreign Office and politicise Whitehall even more, so even Johnson might jib at this. Besides, it might not necessarily suit Farage to accept any such offer. Let’s hope that Darroch, who retires at the end of the year anyway, is eventually replaced by another career diplomat. Besides, with the renewed attention given to the fact that in the past Johnson himself – in a rare moment of insight – has publicly described Trump in unflattering terms, might lead Britain’s next prime minister to conclude that removing from public office someone guilty of more moderate criticism of the man-child in private might not be such a good idea after all. In 2015, Boris Johnson described Donald Trump as ‘out of his mind’ and betraying ‘stupefying ignorance’.

Post script: Only minutes after uploading this blog I learned that Sir Kim Darroch had resigned. The last straw for him was the failure of the contemptible Boris Johnson – despite being pressed on the point in last night’s Tory leadership TV debate with Jeremy Hunt – to confirm that he would support him in continuing at the Washington embassy should he become primes minister, as is widely expected, in less than a fortnight.

July 9th, 2019|

Petition on Russia and BREXIT

It has long been suspected that Vladimir Putin’s government, in part via the agency of the Russian Embassy in London, gave covert support to the campaign that secured the narrow victory for the Brexiters in the June 2016 referendum in the UK. This was clearly in its interests because it was always apparent that such a triumph would not only politically distract and economically weaken one of its most resolute Western opponents but also stir up trouble on Ireland’s frontier with the United Kingdom and encourage separatism in Scotland, where pro-EU sentiment is strong. But Mrs May’s Conservative Party government and its powerful supporters in the news media, which are stubbornly determined to drag Britain out of the EU in the face of concerted opposition from both business and trade union organizations, have refused even to notice – let alone investigate – the evidence strongly suggesting Russian interference. And the reason is obvious: confirming this would seriously weaken the legitimacy of the referendum result. A few eloquent voices have raised the alarm on the Opposition benches in Parliament, and the very worthy House of Commons Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has added its support in its Final Report on Disinformation and ‘fake news’ (para. 273). In consequence, the National Crime Agency has accepted an investigative referral to it from the Electoral Commission. But this agency is over-stretched and its remit limited. Britain needs its equivalent of the Mueller inquiry into Trump’s ‘collusion’ with Russia during the US presidential election campaign that overlapped with the Brexit campaign in 2016. This is why, having just stumbled on it, I have signed a petition urging this, which can be found on the UK Government and Parliament ‘Petitions’ website here. It is already not far short of 10,000 signatures, at which point the government is obliged to respond to it; at 100,000 signatures it is required to consider it for a debate in parliament. The petition, which was created by Neil Rosser, is open until 11 August 2019 and can be signed by any British citizen or UK resident. Please sign now and encourage others to do likewise!
Essential viewing from Chanel 4 News, 5 March 2019: The Banks Files: How Brexit ‘bad boy’ Arron Banks was eyeing a massive Russian gold deal. 

Pathetic Government Response: This petition passed the 10,000 signatures watershed some weeks ago (as at 4 April 2019 it has 14,097) and the Cabinet Office, on behalf of the British government, predictably rejected it. The defence of its position is pathetic: disjointed, repetitive, and stuffed with red herrings – all typical symptoms of the nervous breakdown brought on Whitehall by the Brexit fiasco and the semi-lunatic bunker mentality now exhibited by 10 Downing Street. Three arguments are offered. First, in line with what it said in its response to the DCMS Committee’s Interim Report in July 2018, it says that the government ‘has not seen evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes’,  repeating this mantra in the next line. But how can you see if you don’t look? In any case, why should interference only be of concern if it is successful? Should we refuse to investigate a house break-in because the burglar failed to find anything worth stealing? What is unsuccessful today might be successful tomorrow; the more so if it is not exposed and lessons are not learned. In 2018 the DCMS Committee took quite sufficient evidence of ‘a co-ordinated, long-standing campaign by the Russian Government to influence UK elections and referenda’ (p. 43) to warrant a full public inquiry. Second, the Cabinet Office response rehearses the steps taken by government ‘to ensure that there is a coordinated structure across all relevant UK authorities to defend against hostile foreign interference in British politics from any state’, as urged by the DCMS committee in its Interim Report (p. 52). But – while in principle a useful step – this obviously post-dated the 2016 referendum campaign and is in consequence little more than another attempt to throw dust in the public’s eyes. Third, its response having silently glided into admitting that interference as such is unacceptable (whether successful or not), and after trailing yet another red herring about the Security Services being too ‘independent’ to be tasked by ministers, the Cabinet Office claims that an independent inquiry into the 2016 referendum campaign is unnecessary because independent Russia-connected investigations, courtesy of the Electoral Commission and the National Crime Agency, are already underway. But as the DCMS Committee has pointed out, while these bodies are doing valuable work, they can only investigate individuals. The response of the Cabinet Office to this petition has done nothing to remove the suspicion that the May government will not countenance a public inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 referendum because of its fear that it would bring into question the legitimacy of the result, not to mention its continuous preoccupation with its lamentable consequences.

March 1st, 2019|

British Diplomats on Brexit

It’s always been blindingly obvious but it needed saying again, and has just been succinctly stated once more by more than 40 former, senior British ambassadors and high commissioners in a letter to Theresa May, Britain’s early generation robot prime minister, who has for far too long been in thrall to the political Neanderthals in her party: Brexit is a project of national self-harm of catastrophic proportions and should preferably be abandoned or at least postponed until the final destination is clearer, with a referendum to confirm the decision. Here are some extracts, reproduced from The Guardian of 14 February 2019:

‘As former diplomats who have served around the world we have a clear understanding of what contributes to Britain’s influence in the world. Our advice to Theresa May today is clear: we should not leave the EU when we have no clarity about our final destination. Instead we must use the mechanism at our disposal, above all we must seek to extend the article 50 negotiating period.

Our country’s national interest must always be paramount. The Brexit fiasco has already weakened the UK’s standing in the world. We strongly advocate a change of direction before it is too late. It is clear that Brexit has turned into a national crisis.

There is no possible deal that will be a sensible alternative to the privileged one we have today as members of the EU with a seat at the table, inside the single market and customs union but outside the Euro[zone] and Schengen [area].

There is now, in addition to extending article 50, a powerful argument to go back to the people and ask them whether they want the negotiated Brexit deal or would prefer to stay in the European Union.

If the prime minister’s deal is passed in parliament it will not be the end of Brexit but will in fact mark the start of year upon on year of negotiation and renegotiation – truly a “Brexternity” of endless uncertainty about our future for both citizens and businesses alike.’

The Guardian’s diplomatic editor adds the other blindingly obvious point that ‘There is also concern that the UK is leaving the EU at a time when the second pillar of UK foreign policy – the transatlantic relationship – has been put into question by the “America first” policy of Donald Trump.’

February 14th, 2019|

Q. Which London embassy needs 13 cultural attachés?

Answer: The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Why? Read on.

The employment of the Saudi consulate-general and consul-general’s residence in Istanbul in the horrifying murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in early October is now notorious. This has been followed by the revelation in a Channel 4 News report on 3 December (‘Saudi activist: “One tweet is enough to ruin your life”’) that the Saudi Embassy in Washington has been routinely intimidating Saudi students studying in the United States who voice criticisms of their government; for example, by severing grants, refusing to renew passports, and urging them to return home to an unknown fate. In these circumstances, the size, profile and declared aims of other Saudi missions warrant a closer look. A case in point is the Mayfair-based Saudi Embassy in London.

This embassy is enormous. According to the latest London Diplomatic List, it has the third largest diplomatic staff of any embassy in the British capital. With 99 diplomatic officers, it is exceeded only by China (116) and the United States (181). In fourth position, some way behind, is the German Embassy (77), which is followed by France (68), Japan and Brazil (each with 61), Canada (60) and Russia (50). There is another striking feature of the Saudi Embassy: it has no less than 13 cultural attachés. This puts it, in this regard, virtually in a class of its own. Its nearest rival is France, with nine cultural attachés, followed by China with six and Italy with three. As for the other London embassies, most either have no cultural attaché at all, just one, or one officer who wears this hat along with another such as press officer. What do all of these Saudi cultural attachés do? Helpfully, the section of which they are members, the ‘Diplomatic Office of the Cultural Bureau’ (aka the ‘Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau’ or SACB), which has separate offices in Cheswick High Road, answers this question in some detail on its own website. From this it is abundantly clear that its ‘core functions’ are exclusively concerned with university-level educational relationships, and most are unexceptionable. However, in so far as this involves Saudi students studying at British universities, of which there were over 8,000 at the last count, it is also apparent that the SACB holds them in an iron grip. Its website makes no bones about this (pun intended). It’s one thing to require reports at the end of every semester on the progress of these students at British universities, and to ‘urge’ them to participate in cultural activities that ‘do not conflict with Islamic faith and Saudi traditions’; but, in the circumstances, the further and last listed of the Bureau’s ‘core functions’ should ring an alarm bell. For this is stated to be the ‘supervision and monitoring of the activities of Saudi students and their clubs [emphasis added].’ No wonder Saudi Arabia’s cultural attachés represent, on a rough estimate, almost a quarter of all diplomatic officers of this class in the British capital.

December 10th, 2018|