Coming soon: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy – the only diplomatic handbook you’ll ever need, and the most entertaining.
“These, however, are parsimonious days… The telegraphy has made a difference in the position of Ambassadors. When men can and do receive instructions hourly about the smallest details, and, indeed, ask for them as if anxious to escape responsibility, it is easy to conceive that the Foreign Office will not again insist on the Treasury behaving with boundless liberality.”
“The Times”, reporting on the debate about rebuilding Pera House, British Embassy in Istanbul, after the fire of 1870.
In Istanbul, 2015
Introducing “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy”
Diplomacy has been in flux for centuries. Who needs diplomats when you have the telegraph/the television/the internet? The Russia-Ukraine war has transformed the world and upended diplomacy again.
1993: my Russian driving licence. Soviet photographers tended to make subjects look… a bit Soviet
Like many jobs, diplomacy is about making the best decisions based on the best understanding of the issues. Priorities will evolve. But the need to have diplomats who understand countries, multilateral organisations and the people who make both tick will never change.
1986: photobombing The Princess of Wales
I started writing this book in 2021. The simmering Russia-Ukraine conflict, launched by President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Russia’s peaceful neighbour, Ukraine, in 2014, had already claimed 14,000 lives. Yet it seemed remote and obscure to many in Britain, the European Union, and the United States. Putin’s decision in February 2022 to launch a full-scale war of annihilation against Ukraine – a sovereign country larger than France with a pre-war population of over forty million – transformed the world and upended diplomacy.
This book sets the 2022 war in the context of events in 1980, 1989, 1993 and 2014. In chapters on Russia and Ukraine it explores the background to the conflict: what the world did wrong, what it did right and what Vladimir Putin does not understand.
Sections on the Berlin Wall and The Falklands, diplomatic immunity, espionage, the rusting of the iron curtain, women in diplomacy and how British politics prepared for Brexit in 1987-89 seek to place diplomacy at the start of the twenty-first in context – and to highlight the good times as well as the bad. How, where and why does real diplomacy happen, and what can it teach the rest of us?
What can Jonathan the tortoise on Saint Helena tell us about institutional stability? Why is diplomatic immunity a necessary evil? We explore why you can’t cure international terrorism; why unknown enemies are scariest; and why you should never over-estimate your opponents – neither Saddam Hussein nor Vladimir Putin. On the way, we meet some of the most fascinating people in the world, from HM The Queen, Vivienne Westwood and Jane Goodall through Paul McCartney and the wisdom of Deep Purple to General Lyn Sherlock, a US Brigadier dealing with Diego Garcia – and Satan, who I met one night in Moscow in 1992. More on him later. How to understand the Russians – or the Germans, or the Americans?
If you’d like to know more about “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy”, sign up for updates at the bottom of this page (“Sign up for update emails”). It’s going to be fun.
2010: the Ukrainian Strategic Missile Forces Museum
Something to read today
P.S. Until “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy” comes on sale, the “buy now” buttons on the left link to my author pages for the UK, US and Germany.