Friday, 22 March 2019

Time for A Decade of Rule of Law and Independent Justice

The Eastern Partnership approaches its tenth anniversary in May 2019. On 26 February, in Brussels, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum launched the latest Eastern Partnership Index, edited by New Diplomacy Chair Jeff Lovitt.

In the introduction to the Index, Jeff Lovitt set out some of the big policy challenges facing the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries in 2019 and beyond, noting that the Association Agreement signatory countries are now implementing Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreements with the EU, and have all secured visa-free short-term travel to the Schengen countries, but that "their aspirations of closer alignment with the EU are far from assured".


The following encapsulates some of the main points of the introduction to the Index. Although the Index data covers 2017, the narrative also covers developments to the very end of 2018, and the recommendations (see the Top Challenges for 2019 below) look forward to 2019.

The parliamentary elections in Moldova on 24 February 2019 resulted in a stalemate, and there is evident concern that the ruling Democratic Party (PDM) will connive to continue in power, and to perpetuate its leader's stranglehold over the economy and the judiciary. We now face first presidential, then parliamentary, elections in Ukraine, a country where substantial reforms have been implemented (not least local government reform), but where the fight against corruption continues to face entrenched interests of powerful business interests. On the other hand, the Velvet Revolution in Armenia has raised hopes that civil society and new political forces can turn the tide against entrenched interests.

Below, after the Top Challenges for 2019 listed in the Index, some of the introduction's main points on justice reform and conflict de-escalation are shared in abridged form.


From the Eastern Partnership Index 2017:


TOP CHALLENGES FOR 2019
  • The governments of the Eastern Partnership countries must focus on the professionalisation and independence of the justice system, and the EU should make financial support to the respective governments strictly conditional on prompt and comprehensive reforms of the judiciary and prosecution service, and genuinely independent anti-corruption agencies. The freezing of EU assistance to the government of Moldova should continue until a government emerges that shows a commitment to tackling this challenge with integrity.
  • Where financial assistance to government is frozen, support to civil society should continue, indeed be strengthened, in the EU’s new multi-annual financial framework. There is an urgent need for strong EU support for civil society and independent media in all six countries, including Belarus and Azerbaijan, where the media are least free.
  • The EU and NATO should build on the decisions of the Warsaw NATO 2016 Summit to restore confidence in Europe’s security architecture. The EU can also take a lead on easing tensions and launching dialogue to resolve the territorial disputes in the region and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
  • The democratic progress made in Georgia and Ukraine is far from complete, and the energy of the Velvet Revolution in Armenia must be sustained. The EU and international donors can empower civil society to not only monitor the implementation of policies, including the spending of EU financial support, but to become an active partner in shaping EU programme assistance priorities. EU support is also essential to enable civil society to undertake comprehensive, country-wide monitoring of elections to ensure that there is no democratic slippage.


Justice Reforms and Conditionality of Financial Support

All six EaP countries face challenges in addressing corruption and political cronyism, not least the “state capture” that has become entrenched in Moldova. The lack of progressin forging an independent judiciary and prosecution service has also stood in the way of effective anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine. The urgency of effective anti-corruption agencies, backed up by independent prosecutors and judges of the highest integrity, must be embraced by the EU as the top priority in the region. The absence of comprehensive justice reform undermines democratic development and entrenches corrupt elites (there is nothing pro-EU about the abuse of power for the private gain of political leaders, whether they are in office or steering those in office from behind the scenes)....

... Until the respective governments embark on credible, comprehensive reforms that will inspire citizens with confidence that they will experience a fair trial in the justice system, where bribes are not extracted for acquittals, and where the rule of law is not applied arbitrarily to serve the interests of
powerful groups, the EU should apply strict conditionality and freeze all financial support to those governments.

Hard choices must be made, but in the end strict conditionality will be necessary, and it is unacceptable for both EU taxpayers and for the citizens of the EaP countries if EU financial support goes to governments where the state has been “captured” by corrupt business groups.

Different models of support might include long-term engagement of experts who have directly turned around justice systems in other countries rather than secondment of experts to review the existing or planned legislation and processes.

The EU and other donors need to recognise that such reforms need to be hard-hitting. Where there is political resistance from entrenched interests, the money would be better spent on supporting democratic actors working to hold the authorities to account rather than supporting reforms where the political will is lacking.


EU Can Lead on Dialogue to De-Escalate Regional Tensions

The conflict in Ukraine needs a comprehensive approach, including the stabilisation of economic and democratic development, and a pre-emptive approach to guarding Ukraine against external economic risks, primarily from Russia. The EU can help in these security areas, just as it can in Georgia to equip the government to resist the Russian military’s constant extensions of the territory of the secessionist-held Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region further into Georgia-controlled territory. Diplomatic efforts should be intensified to enable the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia to be given access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The increase in contacts between the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan, including a communications hotline that has been accompanied by a reduction of the number of incidents around Nagorno-Karabakh, are an important development. While this progress emerged after the emergence of the new government in Yerevan, the democratic changes in Armenia do not mean a solution to the conflict with Azerbaijan will be found quickly.

The resolution of the competing rights and demands of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities that both lived in the autonomous territory before the war of 1988-1994 will require an ambitious, sustained mediation effort to open up dialogue and facilitate reconciliation. However, the scope for a de-escalation of tensions is now a realistic objective, and the window of opportunity should be embraced.

The EU is well placed to take a lead on launching such a dialogue, with a view to at least de-escalation of tensions in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh and the other territorial disputes in the region. With France as one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (the others are Russia and the US), the EU already has a place at the table, and should maximise its diplomatic engagement to build on the recently improved communications between the two countries.

The EU should strengthen its presence in the region and improve its in-country intelligence-gathering so that it is better prepared when both internal and external shocks materialise. Better staffed delegations should be combined with more resources and mandates for EU Special Representatives, such as the Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia.

The EU Global Strategy needs to be complemented by clear objectives and a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) strategy that intensifies co-operation with partners in the EaP countries and builds adequately resourced early warning systems.


Friday, 18 May 2018

Placing Strategic Thinking and Security at the Heart of International Relations


Keeping you informed, and sharing our news... 


Since its launch at the end of 2015, the founders of NEW DIPLOMACY have engaged with national governments, local authorities, intergovernmental organisations and private foundations to promote more participatory democracy and a strengthened role for civil society and independent media.

In 2016-17, with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), New Diplomacy ran a highly successful Eastern Partnership Journalism Fellowship scheme. Five fellows – three journalists from Ukraine, two from Georgia – were selected for the first fellowship round. The host organisations were internationally recognised media institutions, namely Hamburger AbendblattSpiegel Online, and ZDF public television in Germany, DELFI/Lithuania Tribune in Lithuania, and Eastbook.eu in Poland.

The founders 


Leila Alieva is an Academic Visitor at St Anthony’s College, Oxford University, and continues to provide analysis on political and security developments in the South Caucasus for a variety of think-tanks, publications and media, including as co-author of EU Relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan, a recent study for the European Parliament.


Jan Piekło has been serving as the Ambassador of Poland to Ukraine since September 2016, working to advance the role of civil society and to support Ukraine's democratic reforms and Euro-Atlantic integration at a crucial stage in the country's history following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and the entry into force of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.


Krzysztof Bobiński is the co-Chair of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in 2018, where he is working to engage with the EU and its member governments to ensure that civil society has a seat at the table when key policies are debated in intergovernmental fora. He is pressing the European Commission, the European External Action Service and national governments in both the EU and Eastern Partnership countries to prioritise key reforms across the region, including free and fair elections, independent media, and an independent judiciary.


Jeff Lovitt conceived, and served as lead author and editor of, two Council of Europe studies on Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Six Eastern Partnership Countries – Part One. Laws and Policies, published in 2016; Part Two: Practice and Implementation in 2017. Since September 2016, he has been a member of the International Experts Panel (IEP) of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). In 2017-18, he is launching a new participatory democracy academy, first piloted with the Council of Europe at the municipal level in Kyiv, Ukraine.

If you want to read more about the founders of New Diplomacy, click here.

New Diplomacy partnered with the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD), Georgia, in 2016 on the project, Security Alert on the EU's Doorstep, and in 2017 with the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on the publication, Eastern Partnership Index 2015-2016. Charting Progress in European Integration, Democratic Reforms, and Sustainable Development.

Diverse channels of influence


New Diplomacy will continue to engage through both formal and informal channels with governments, foundations, and civil society in strengthening participatory democracy, and in putting strategic thinking and security at the heart of international relations. We will continue to share with you our news – and analysis of important news from other sources.

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About New Diplomacy


NEW DIPLOMACY was launched in 2015 to address the policy challenges facing global and regional policymakers in the eastern and southern neighbourhoods of the European Union, not least the insecurity in the post-Soviet space and the crises of democracy and instability in the Middle East. The founders are a group of policy analysts and media professionals, each with several decades’ experience leading projects in promoting EU integration and closer Euro-Atlantic relations, and in strengthening civil society in the post-Soviet space.

 NEW DIPLOMACY, z.s. is a non-profit association registered in Prague, Czech Republic.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Will Moldova – in an Election Year – Lose Its Crown as Pace-Setter in the Eastern Partnership?

'Moldova is the frontrunner in both dimensions of the Eastern Partnership Index 2015-2016, but is closely followed in Linkage by Georgia and in Approximation by Ukraine.' - Eastern Partnership Index 2015-2016, published by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum



Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in Moldova in November 2018, not long after the next Eastern Partnership Index is due to be published. Between now and then, the current tug of war in Moldova is likely to intensify – not just between President Igor Dodon's tilt towards Russia and the stated pro-EU policies of the current government, but also between those who value an active civil society and those who would rather independent civic actors kept out of politics, between those who cherish a diverse and independent media and those who want a media that backs their political and business interests, and between those who want an independent judiciary and prosecution service versus those who would prefer to continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the public purse.

This is not a split based on geopolitical orientation (there is even collusion between the so-called pro-Russia and pro-EU forces, for instance on pushing through the change to a mixed electoral system, strengthening the hands of business interests in the new single-member seats), and the future democratic trajectory depends on new political actors emerging, either to form government or to work intensely with civil society and independent media to hold the government to account.

Sound familiar? Yes, it could be said of other Eastern Partnership countries too (we all know that Ukraine and Georgia have their own problems with the nexus of political power, media, and business).

The latest edition of the Eastern Partnership Index covered the first year of the Association Agreements between three EaP countries (Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine), and saw Moldova retain its leading position, but a more comprehensive picture will be available in the next edition of the Index, due to be published in September/October 2018. Just as Ukraine had a later start with the new trade arrangements (the bilateral Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreements with the EU), so the forthcoming index will also reflect the fact that Georgia and Ukraine have caught up with Moldova in securing visa-free travel to the Schengen zone.

After a pause to refine the methodology, not least to reflect the increased importance of sustainable development, human rights, and security in the region, the new Index rests on two dimensions: Approximation and Linkage. What was formerly known as the Eastern Partnership European Integration Index (last edition 2014, published in 2015) has been transformed into the Eastern Partnership Index. The new Eastern Partnership Index (the 2015-2016 edition – Editor in Chief: Jeff Lovitt) is now published and online, events were held in Brussels and Kyiv recently, and more will follow.

The results show that the entry into force of the Association Agreements brought about considerable headway in integration with the EU in the case of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine within the period covered (the data takes in developments until the end of December 2016, although the narrative shows the full picture until the end of 2017).

Moldova emerged as the frontrunner in the 2015-2016 Index, albeit with only a slight advantage over Georgia in Linkage and over Ukraine in Approximation. Moldova may not maintain that leading position in the Index, due later this year. Indeed, already the 2015-2016 Index shows that Moldova lags behind Ukraine and Georgia when it comes to International Security, Political Dialogue and Co-operation. While Ukraine had by far the most intense political dialogue with the EU, it also enjoyed the highest position in International Security, Political Dialogue and Co-operation, and held the lead in Sectoral Co-operation and Trade Flows.

Moreover, the three Association Agreement signatories are not so far ahead of at least one of the other Eastern Partnership countries. The three were joined by Armenia as the leaders in Approximation to EU standards and international norms, a reflection of the progress that has continued in Armenia in spite of its government’s U-turn from signing an Association Agreement in 2014.

Most tellingly, the Index reflects the need to fight state capture and to strengthen oversight (including by civil society and other independent experts) in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. In Belarus and Azerbaijan, the EU must work for a place at the table for civil society, and apply diplomatic efforts to free political prisoners and foster an independent media. In Armenia, civil society has been vocal in its orientation towards the EU, and strengthened support from the side of the EU is key to the country's longer-term direction.

A few other snippets from the results:

  • The three South Caucasus countries and Belarus all have a significantly more favourable business environment than Moldova and Ukraine.
  • Armenia leads in Sustainable Development, and had put in place a sustainable development policy co-ordination structure, although concerns persisted on deforestation, ineffective management of water resources, and weak pollution controls. 
  • Azerbaijan is placed fourth for Sectoral Co-operation and Trade Flows, ahead of Belarus and Armenia, a reflection of Azerbaijan's stronger trade ties with the EU since Azerbaijan is not a member of the Russia-led trading bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union. 
  • Belarus has the worst record among the EaP in Deep and Sustainable Democracy, including sixth place for independent media, and – along with Azerbaijan – for freedom of speech and assembly. Azerbaijan has the worst record in democratic rights and elections, including political  pluralism.
With the new methodology in place, together with the publisher, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, and the wealth of experts who work with us on the Index, we are planning the launch of the 2017 Index in September/October 2018. True, by then we will have had presidential elections in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and in October also Georgia, but key parliamentary elections in November in Moldova and parliamentary and presidential elections will follow in 2019 in Ukraine (of course, in either country, the elections might be brought forward).

Eastern Partnership Index 2015-2016. Charting Progress in European Integration, Democratic Reforms, and Sustainable Development 
Editor in Chief: Jeff Lovitt
Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, December 2017, ISBN 978-2-930970-00-4

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Agenda for Media Reforms in the Eastern Partnership Countries



A New Diplomacy roundtable to address reform of public service and independent media

Time & Date: 11.30-14.00, Wednesday 5 July 2017 (coffee from 11.15, sandwich lunch included)
Venue: Conference Room, Gintama Hotel, 9 Trekhsvyatytelska Street, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01001
(five minutes' walk/400 metres from Independence Square – www.gintama.com.ua)
Languages: English and Ukrainian (simultaneous interpretation provided)

Space is limited. Attendance by confirmation only. Please RSVP to: kyiv@newdiplomacy.net
--- REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED ---

AGENDA FOR MEDIA REFORMS: What priority steps can be taken, and by whom, to:
strengthen the sustainability of new and existing independent media outlets?
establish and ensure the editorial independence and high-quality, balanced news programming of public service broadcasters?
raise the quality of news reporting and editorial and production standards at national and regional levels?
counter disinformation through winning audience loyalty through combining quality programming with accurate, balanced, and inspiring news reporting

Participants: International media experts from Eastern Partnership countries and the EU, including:
Krzysztof Bobinski, President, Unia a Polska Foundation/co-Founder, New Diplomacy (moderator)
Тetyana Honcharova, TV and radio presenter, Era FM, Ukraine
Rita Ruduša, Executive Director, Baltic Centre for Media Excellence, Latvia
Zurab Alasania, Director General, Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine
Hrihoriy Shverk, MP, Member of Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy, Ukraine
Heiko von Debschitz, Adviser, International Relations Department, ZDF Television, Germany
Oles Doniy, Chairman, Art Association “Last Barricade", TV presenter, Ukraine
Boris Navasardyan, President, Yerevan Press Club, Armenia
Daria Yurovskaya, Director of Programmes, Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine
Oleksiy Mustafin, General Producer, News Department, Ukraine Channel
Ehtel Halliste, Communications Expert, Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership
Dmytro Khilchenko, Director, Digital Platforms, Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine
Olena Solodovnikova, New Diplomacy Fellow, and Reporter, Road Control newspaper, and Force-news.com, Ukraine
Emin Milli, Director, Meydan TV, Germany/Azerbaijan
➢ Tatiana Kotyuzhynskaya, President, Ukrainian Association of Media Lawyers
➢ Natia Kuprashvili, Executive Director, Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters
➢ Andriy Kulakov, Program Director, Internews Ukraine
➢ Tetyana Popova, Strategic Communications expert, NGO "Information Security", Ukraine
➢ Sergei Komlach, Senior Project Co-ordinator, Euroradio, Poland/Belarus
➢ Olha Vyazenko, Special Correspondent, TV channel 1+1, Ukraine
➢ Celia Davies, Strategy & Communications Manager, Meydan TV, Germany/Azerbaijan
➢ Taras Semenyuk, Founder, short.media, Ukraine
➢ Kyryl Loukerenko, Editor-in-Chief, Hromadske Radio, Ukraine
➢ Oleksander Buzyuk, Hromadske Radio, Ukraine
➢ Jeff Lovitt, Founder and Chair, New Diplomacy


New Diplomacy aims to contribute to raising the standards of reporting and to increase sharing of knowledge and news reporting skills across Eastern Partnership countries, and through the New Diplomacy Eastern Partnership Journalism Fellowship has in 2016/2017 placed journalists from Georgia and Ukraine in EU countries for five weeks in a placement in leading international broadcast or print media in those countries, such as German media, ZDF public television and Spiegel Online. The programme is supported by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Is Civil Society Ready to Sit at the Table with Policymakers? – New Study on Six Eastern Partnership Countries

Closing the gap between laws and procedures and their practice and implementation has long been both a thorn in the side of civil society actors, and also a challenge and a source of inspiration for citizens to hold authorities to account for their policies and actions. Examples such as the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) in Ukraine since 2014, or Electric Yerevan in Armenia in 2015, have seen civil society either taking the initiative in proposing policy reforms and drafting laws and amendments to existing legislation, or launching protests against the perceived unaccountability of government.

In all six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine), as outlined in the study, Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part One: Laws and Policies, there are "shortcomings in the clarity, effectiveness, and inclusiveness of their policy-drafting and evaluation procedures".

In the follow-up publication announced online today, Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part Two: Practice and Implementation, analysts in the six countries examine the extent to which those laws and policies are indeed applied and implemented. (The editor of both books is Jeff Lovitt, Chair of New Diplomacy.)

In the latest book, the authors first assess to what extent the statutory procedures have been followed in the policy-making cycle in recent years, and then look at a set of case studies in each country to examine in detail how participatory policy-making is working in practice. For each country, two case studies examine participation in the law-making process, and another two case studies consider civil society initiatives in policy-making. Some of the latter category include engagement in law-making processes through civil society initiatives – sometimes working to unblock particular law-making processes – while others involve more systemic initiatives to reform policies, and others amount to civil society protest movements in response to controversial decisions or unaccountable practices by public authorities.

The study includes country recommendations, a set of measures for strategic development of civil participation in decision-making in the Eastern Partnership countries, and five lessons learned:

  • High-level engagement can reap results even when participatory policymaking is not the norm 
  • Civil society needs to act quickly to avert laws that curtail freedoms, and to enlist international support
  • Sustained coalitions and campaigns to change policies and legislation build up expertise and strengthen arguments for reform
  • Adequate timeframes for review should be available for all stakeholders
  • Clear regulation providing for public participation in decision-making empowers civil society to become valued partners in inclusive policy-making

The case studies are as follows:

ARMENIA

  • Constitutional Amendments, 2013-2015
  • Law on Public Organisations, 2009-2016
  • Draft Law on Equality, 2014-2016
  • Electric Yerevan, 2015

AZERBAIJAN

  • Draft Law on the Right to Legislative Initiative of 40,000 Voting Citizens, 2012-2013
  • Law on Public Participation, 2011-2014
  • CSOs’ Participation in Formulation of the Open Government Partnership Initiative and its Action Plan for 2016-18
  • Civil Society Defence Committee, 2009-2017

BELARUS

  • Decree on Regulation of Entrepreneurial Activity, 2014
  • Draft Law on Treatment of Animals, 2015-2016
  • Revisions to Laws on Provision of Social Services 
  • Reform of Decision-Making on Environmental Impact, 2015-2016

GEORGIA

  • Amendments to the Law Concerning Constitutional Court, 2016 
  • Changes to the Election Code, 2013
  • Local Government Reform, 2012-2015
  • Reform of the Prosecutor’s Office, 2014-2015

REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA

  • Amendments to Law on Tobacco and Tobacco Products, 2012-2015
  • Amendment of the Electoral Code, 2016
  • Amendment of the “2% Law” and Adoption of Implementing Regulation, 2015-2016
  • Advocacy for the Adoption of draft Law on Social Entrepreneurship, 2013-2016

UKRAINE

  • Law on Civil Service, 2015
  • Amendments to the Tax Code, 2014-2015
  • Draft Law on Public Consultations
  • Civil Initiative Reanimation Package of Reforms

Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part Two: Practice and Implementation can be downloaded here.

The two studies are published within the Regional Project on Civil Participation in Decision Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries, carried out as part of the Partnership for Good Governance, funded by the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe, and implemented by the Council of Europe in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.


Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part One: Laws and Policies can be downloaded here.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Who Will Be the New Messengers of the Kremlin?

It can be hard to empathise with the messengers of the regime that annexed Crimea and threw Eastern Ukraine into a conflict that has cost thousands of lives, and displaced more than 1 million people – let alone those who defended the Kremlin's bombing of Aleppo.

But two new, thoughtful pieces of analysis – without justifying either the actions of Vladimir Putin's Russia or glibly saying "Don't Shoot the Messenger" – pose the important question. Who will follow Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations who passed away this week? Likewise, who will succeed Sergey Lavrov, Putin's Foreign Minister who since the annexation of Crimea has seemed to be less and less convinced of the words of justification he seems compelled to utter?

Samantha Power, who for the past four years was the Obama Administration's counterpart to Churkin at the UN, writing in the New York Times, makes a strong case for continuing close engagement with figures such as Churkin (although we don't yet know who will be his successor) – not least on the basis that he would often spend days trying to find a compromise on resolutions at the UN over Syria and other issues, only to have his hard work rejected by Moscow, compelling him to exercise the Russian veto in the Security Council.

Just on the eve of Churkin's death, Mark Galeotti, writing for bne IntelliNews, raised a similar question, but about the other top diplomat of Russia – Foreign Minister Lavrov. Lavrov "has essentially been excluded from the inner circle setting foreign policy and is instead relegated to the role of articulating and defending an increasingly untenable and incredible official line," writes Galeotti. Real authority "has passed to 'adhocrats', figures made presidential plenipotentiaries regardless of their official role," he writes. There have long been rumours that Lavrov wants to retire, writes Galeotti, but "the wider implications are worrying," he writes. "FSB security briefings appear to have more weight than ambassadorial cables. The result is an impoverishment of policy."

With the development in the first month of the Trump Administration that senior military staff were no longer core members of the US National Security Council, while Trump's Chief Strategist, ex-Breitbart News Chair, Steve Bannon, would be there, we were facing the prospect of "policy-setters" shaping the US security agenda without heeding the advice and reality check of military and security professionals. At least in the US, with the departure of Trump's initial appointee Michael Flynn, we now have in incoming US National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster a figure who is clearly not buying Bannon's populist agenda. In fact, the US foreign policy team (except the President himself) is beginning to look credible and professional – unlike his domestic policy team.

We now await Putin's choice for successor to Churkin, and in time, to Lavrov...