Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 6th ed.  –  Online updating pages

Chapter 8: Telecommunications

p. 125, ‘…spoken or written message delivered by a special envoy or head of a diplomatic mission’: It’s very interesting that, despite the familiarity with video-conferencing and telephone diplomacy, in the Ukraine crisis we have seen a limited return to the older method. The NATO Secretary-General has also called for the restoration of ‘diplomatic channels’ between Russia and NATO; that is, the re-opening of a Russian office at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels and a NATO office in Moscow. What does that tell us about the uneasiness with telecommuncations in a serious crisis? See ‘Further reading’ below, noting that the excellent news website Politico has no paywall. On the other hand, see also the article by Patrick Wintour.

pp. 126-7, Telephone diplomacy flourishes: Another reason for this is suggesed (indirectly) by a conversation between Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve from 1987 until 2006, and Ken Clarke, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 to 1997, reported by the latter on p. 384 of his memoirs (see in Further reading below). The huge increase in the number of personal encounters between government leaders, ministers and senior officials in the later twentieth century, and the deeper knowledge this gave them of their foreign counterparts, gave them more confidence to speak to them by telephone when the occasion demanded it.

p. 130, line 4 down, the Moscow-Washington ‘hotline’: In the Ukraine War, starting 24 February 2022, a ‘deconfliction line’ between the Russian and American militaries, similar to the one that operated in Syria for some time, was established. According to a Reuters’ report of 29 November 2022, this appears to be a telephone line connecting the US European Command’s facility at Wiesbaden in Germany to Russia’s National Defence Management Centre. The language spoken is Russian and the line is tested twice a day, which is reassuring. There are also high level telephone communications between the respective defence ministries and general staffs.

Further readingClarke, Ken, Kind of Blue: A political memoir (Macmillan, 2016), p. 384

Herszenhorn, David M., ‘US, NATO deliver written replies to Russia on security demands’, Politico, 26 January 2022

Leali, Giorgio, ‘Italian government asks businesses to cancel video call with Putin’, Politico, 26 January 2022

Leali, Giorgio, ‘Putin’s meeting with Italian business leaders turns into political battlefield’, Politico, 26 January 2022

Stewart, Phil and Idrees Ali, ‘Exclusive: U.S., Russia have used their military hotline once so far during Ukraine war’, Reuters, 29 November 2022

Wintour, Patrick, ‘The phone has become the Ukrainian president’s most effective weapon’, The Guardian, 28 February 2022

Young, John W., David Bruce and Diplomatic Practice: An American ambassador in London, 1961–9 (New York, 2014), Ch. 3