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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Return of "Tantrum Politics"

The LA Times reports that Russia has returned to the childish Soviet tradition of "tantrum politics" as it's sole pathetic means of responding to being denied what it wants (well, that and murder):

Russia has brandished a new weapon in its diplomatic arsenal: the Security Council tantrum.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin barged out of the U.N. chamber Dec. 11, canceling a crucial meeting on Iran's nuclear program.

Asked to explain why the 15-nation council's major powers would not be able to address the Iranian nuclear crisis, Churkin said: "Because. Because I said so."

The Russian's outburst reflected anger over a U.S. decision to raise concern about political developments in Belarus, a Russian ally that has gained international condemnation for its repressive policies.

But it also echoed a classic Soviet practice at the United Nations dating back to 1945, when Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin's envoy, Andrei Gromyko, also used bluster to exact political concessions, threatening to pull out of the newly created organization unless the Security Council veto was expanded. Stalin won that fight.

The practice reached its peak more than a decade later when another Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, famously banged his shoe on his table in the U.N. General Assembly.

'A negotiating tactic'

It's something we used to associate with the Soviets, but the Russians have sort of taken this over," said Edward Luck, a Columbia University historian who studies the United Nations. "This is a negotiating tactic. The other side has to make it up to you as though you have been deeply offended. We've done it at times, and others do it."

Churkin's angry reactions to diplomatic affronts have become so common that some U.N. diplomats have invented a word to describe it: Vitalyation (rhymes with "retaliation"). But the former Soviet official has parlayed Russian outrage into tactical diplomatic victories.

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