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‘Churkin did enormous damage to West's evil view of Russia’

‘Churkin did enormous damage to West's evil view of Russia’
An extraordinarily professional diplomat, perfect for the job at the UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin was a handsome, self-confident man capable of irony that won him friends. Diplomats shared their memories of Russia’s late representative to the UN.

Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin died in New York on February, 20 a day before he would have turned 65.

RT discussed the professional life and personal qualities of the Russian ambassador with his counterparts, diplomats from other countries.

‘Destroying Western demonic view of Russia’

Gregory Clark, a former Australian diplomat, suggested that “you will find it very hard to discover another representative as skillful, as able and as well-loved as Vitaly Churkin… Russia has an ability to produce good diplomats.”

People in the West, he went on to say, “have a demonic view of Russia, they see Russians as demons.”

“A man like Churkin who could joke, who spoke excellent English, who had wide experience, did enormous damage to this evil view of Russia. People could realize that Russians are intelligent human beings and superior to quite a lot of Western diplomats,” he added.

‘Example of Russia’s professional diplomatic service'

Former US diplomat John Graham argued that “Russia has a very good, professional diplomatic service. And to use a sports metaphor, they have a lot of bench strength – there are a lot of other people who will step into Ambassador Churkin shoes, perhaps, not as ably but close to it. And Russian foreign policy shouldn’t change that policy of course, is determined by Russian President Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior people in Moscow.”

‘Perfect man for the job’

Jim Jatras, former US diplomat, said he hopes Churkin’s example “will inspire not only his successor but others in the diplomatic profession to see what a diplomat should look like, how a diplomat should act: not bombastic, not guided by ideological stubbornness but in a very pragmatic, reasonable, limited way which is itself reflective of Russian diplomacy.”

In Jim Jatras’s opinion, Vitaly Churkin was a “perfect man for the job,” particularly in the Security Council.

At the UNSC, “it is unfortunately the responsibility of Russia in so many instances to be the block, to be the entity that stops some of these more irresponsible initiatives coming out of Washington along with London and Paris for things like regime change in Syria. That was Mr. Churkin’s job to be the face that said ‘No’ and ‘this is why, and these are the reasons for it’ in the face of frankly a lot of abuse and insults.”

‘The dean of the Security Council’

The Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the UN Elbio Rosselli told RT that in spite of the short time he knew Ambassador Churkin, “one could clearly see his incredible influence on the entire [Security] Council.”

“He was the dean of the Council, he knew the Council inside out, he knew the agenda and the issues in front of the Council in every single detail. So, you would always be receiving from his interventions, dialogues, speeches, and debates not only information but a clear, sharp analysis of the situation, including proposals for moving forward,” he added.

“Vitaly had a very keen mind coupled with a decade long experience in the Council. He was a formidable participant in the work of the Council. He is going to be sorely missed,” Rosselli continued.

‘The voice of many unrepresented in the UNSC’

Churkin was an incredible diplomat who knew how to defend Russia’s position on international issues at the UNSC “with dignity and very strongly,” says Maria Rubiales de Chamorro, Nicaragua’s permanent representative to the UN.

“He was a very sweet man who always had a smile on his face yet he was very firm when he had to defend the position,” she said. “Also, at the UNSC he was the voice of many of us who are not represented in the Security Council. It is going to be a great loss.”

‘Golden boy with gray hair’

Jeremy Kinsman, former Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (2000–2002) and former Canadian Ambassador to the EU (2002–2006), who knew Vitaly Churkin very well, told RT that “he was a golden boy. Golden though his hair turned gray very prematurely.”

“Vitaly carried some of his acting talent into diplomacy. He was a remarkably effective communicator,” he told RT.

“I liked Vitaly enormously. My wife and I very much admired his wife. They were modern, they were part of that young cohort of absolutely outstanding Russian diplomats that jumped to the fore in the 1990s when the upper echelon moved on. And particularly, as the action transferred to the Russian Federation, he was the generation of Kozyrev, of Lavrov.”

Kinsman said Churkin “was terrific, handsome, self-confident. And those things didn’t always win you friends from all of your colleagues who perhaps didn’t have these talents and skills. But Vitaly was also a nice guy. And so ultimately people became his friend.”

‘Irony in good faith’

“He was capable of irony. He was ironic when necessary. And sometimes he used [it] to try to mitigate tension around the table,” recalls Franco Frattini, former Italian Foreign Minister.

“It was a very important virtue in diplomatic activities because you can have divergences, you can have a contrast but in the end, if you are in good faith – everybody will recognize you, it was a very important added value for his extraordinary diplomatic career.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.