The F Word Podcast: Ep.07 “Diplomats Expelled, Kim goes to Beijing, and Media talks Cold War”

This week:

Russian Diplomats are expelled from 20 countries, Kim Jong Un made a surprise visit to Beijing, and why the media is saying the world is getting ready for the New Cold War? 

Hi, I am Fabio and you are listening to “The F Word”.

The biggest collective expulsion of diplomats in History. Is it legal?

If you saw the news this week, you know that over 20 countries in Europe, North America and Australia expelled Russian diplomats, saying they were, in fact, Russian intelligence officers. This may be the biggest collective expulsion of diplomats in history.
The UK blames Russia for poisoning a former spy named Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England, earlier this month.
The UK has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats and many other countries are supporting United Kingdom’s decision.
A coordinated action like this, in my opinion, is rarely biased and not based on concrete facts. That means, Russia indeed killed its agent on the ground and the UK have sufficient proof to persuade its allies to also expel their Russian Diplomatic representatives.
To understand what happened, we need to go to the source of Diplomatic law, which is that area of international law that governs permanent and temporary diplomatic missions. A fundamental concept of diplomatic law is that of diplomatic immunity, which derives from state immunity, that every country has. It is related to sovereignty.
Key elements of the diplomatic law are the immunity of diplomatic staff, the inviolability of the diplomatic mission and its grounds, and the security of diplomatic correspondence and diplomatic bags. Some famous cases involving the breaking of diplomatic laws include the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, the shooting of a British policewoman from the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984, and the discovery of a former Nigerian Minister in a diplomatic crate at the Stansted airport in 1984.
It is also an accepted principle of customary international law and is recognized between countries as a matter of practicality. The diplomatic law is often strictly adhered to by states because it works on reciprocity. For example, if a country expels diplomats from another country, then its diplomats would most likely be expelled from the other country. But, the most fundamental rule of diplomatic law is that the person of a diplomatic agent is inviolable. Diplomats may not be detained or arrested, and enjoy complete immunity from criminal prosecution in the receiving state, although there is no immunity from the jurisdiction of the sending state.
The only remedy the host state has in the face of offenses alleged to have been committed by a diplomat is to declare him or her persona non grata, which typically means that the diplomat must leave the territory of the state. In 1999, for example, an attaché of the Russian Embassy in Washington DC was declared persona non grata for suspected "bugging" of the State Department.
When a diplomat is declared PNG, the sending state has two options: recall the diplomat (make him or she come home) or revoke the diplomat’s status as a diplomat. If the sending state chooses to do nothing, the receiving state has the option not to recognize the diplomat as a diplomat.
In this case, Russia chooses to expel diplomats from the other countries in tit-for-tat action. It was a retaliation when Moscow sent the same number of UK diplomats back and shut British cultural institutions in the country.
The point here is neither UK or Russia were illegally expelling Diplomats. They were acting on their sovereign power and in the jurisdiction of customary international law. The point is not if you agree with UK or Russia in this case, but the fact is that both were legally acting to defend their interests like democratic nations are supposed to resolve their conflicts.

Kim Jong Un surprise visit to Beijing

In past episodes of the Podcast, I mentioned how I thought North Korea had secret plans when scheduling a meeting with the President of the United States Donald Trump. The date for their meeting is still not set, but when President Donald Trump finally meets North Korea's Kim Jong Un, the specter of China will also be in the room, a potent signal to the American President that the young reclusive leader has support for his cause from the region's most formidable presence.
Even though South Korea admitted on Wednesday that it had not been involved in Kim's trip to Beijing, I am confident that it certainly opened the path. As I mentioned and predicted before, the United States is no longer the important or even relevant diplomatic articulator it was in the past. Now, the Chinese approach to diplomacy seems to be much more effective and dangerous as this surprise trip showed.
Definitely, the most important thing about this trip was the revelation of North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un plan. But what is this plan?
The official announcement came from the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said:
The "situation on the Peninsula" refers to not only the tension over North Korea's nuclear program but the presence of US troops to the south and the outlying waters where US and South Korean militaries regularly conduct naval exercises.
This was a direct message to the United States. To the US denuclearization is denuclearization of North Korea. But according to the Chinese president, to Kim Jong Un, denuclearization applies to the whole peninsula, which includes the South, in other words, when the regime talks denuclearization, they require the South Korea-US alliance to be ended, US troops removed from the peninsula and an end to extended deterrence and the nuclear umbrella. Once that condition is met, then the North will begin the process of denuclearization.
We will have to wait and see the next chapters, but in my opinion,  there are two main obstacles to be overcome:

  1. For the United States for the first time surpass its arrogance and centric way of seeing the world and accepting some of North Korea’s demands. I am not even saying all demands.
  2. For North Korea, and especially Kim Jung Un, to give his word and honor his word, which from past experiences don’t seem likely to happen.

Has a New Cold War Really Begun?

Ok, we talked about two superpowers that recently played major roles in the international political relations. Russia, who exercised its right to retaliate against also the rightful expel of Russian Diplomats from the UK, and the Nuclear crisis in the Korea Peninsula that for years created instability and now miraculously, China is playing a strong but dangerous part in the denuclearization of North Korea. For about four years now, since Russia’s occupation of Crimea and China’s launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, there has been much speculation about whether another Cold War between East and West is coming. In the last month alone, headlines have proclaimed that “The New Cold War Is Here,” or “Putin’s New Cold War,” and warned that “Trump Is Preparing for a New Cold War.” But are we really returning to the past? Contemporary politics is full of false analogies, and the return of the Cold War seems to me to be one of them.
At its peak, the Cold War was a global system of countries centered on the United States and the Soviet Union. It did not determine everything that was going on in the world of international affairs, but it influenced most things. At its core was an ideological contest between capitalism and socialism that had been going on throughout the twentieth century. It was a bipolar system of total victory or total defeat, in which neither of the main protagonists could envisage a lasting compromise with the other. The Cold War was intense, categorical, and highly dangerous: strategic nuclear weapons systems were intended to destroy the superpower opponent, even at a cost of devastating half the world.
Today’s international affairs are for sure challenging. It is a party with many different guests, that have different interests, big egos and doesn’t like each other very much. There are also friends and good neighbors, but they are a far cry from Cold War absolutes. Calling twenty-first-century great-power tensions a new Cold War, therefore, obscures more than it reveals. It is a kind of terminological laziness, and incredibly incorrect. 
Although many wishes to think that remnant of the Cold War is still with us, the determinants and conduct of international affairs have changed. The good news is that you should not be afraid of another cold war, since using that term to describe modern international politics is stupid, but a far more obscure game is in place, and that is what you should look at carefully.


That was our special podcast for this week. I hope you liked it.
Many thanks to ORQUESTA ARRECIFE for the opening and closing music.
You have any questions, or you want to share your opinion, you can join the conversation on my website, / it is, fabiofernandes.org / or you can follow me on Twitter @WordsbyFabio.
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Thank you for listening and see you next week.

Ciao

PodcastFabio Fernandes