THE WEIGHT OF WORDS
ARMAN NAVASARDIAN
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, YEREVAN

 
 
 
 
 
The significance of the word, both uttered and written, in diplomatic relations is immense. The forefathers of classical diplomacy in ancient Greece understood this very well. The knowledge of the word was greatly appreciated. The Athenian philosopher and orator Demosthenes, who lived two and a half thousand years before us, said: "Ambassadors have no battleships at their disposal, or heavy infantry, or fortresses; their weapons are words.” The Greeks have also stressed that the ambassador’s words are not his own but they represent his country’s attitude toward another country and his country’s position in international relations. 

It has been like that in the distant past and it is like that today. The words uttered by a country’s leader or an ambassador don’t belong to him alone but to the state as well. The state bears the responsibility for everything. And if the words are unsuccessful, they return as a boomerang and defame the state. 

 In 1967, right before Israel’s attack on the Arab states, the US President Lyndon Johnson ceremoniously declared that he would defend the political independence and territorial integrity of all the countries in that region. However, when Israel attacked Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, and occupied their lands, the US adopted a duplicitous position, bringing the "delicate situation” of the conflict as an excuse. 

The same can be said of all the Soviet leaders, who paraded themselves as effective advocates of peaceful resolution during the wars and conflicts in the Mediterranean region, but who in reality were arming and helping the Arabs. And so, during the Cold War years, Moscow was against those who were with Washington, and vice versa. The superpowers would say one thing and do another. Their words were often far from their political actions. 

The higher the politician’s status is, the weightier his words and the deeper the consequences are. 

In 1967, during an official visit to Canada, in front of a huge crowd the President of France, Charles de Gaulle, declared from the balcony of the Montreal City Hall: "Vive le Québec libre!” (Long live free Quebec!”). This was, in fact, a call to separate the province of Quebec from Canada. Quebec remained an integral part of Canada and, needless to say, the French-Canadian relations soured for many years. 

 The same Canada put India in a pillory for not keeping a promise. What happened? Canada supplied India with nuclear fuel for the newly built nuclear power plant. The Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau asked Indira Gandhi to pledge that they would not use Canadian uranium for making a nuclear bomb. Gandhi gave her word. Soon after India was testing a nuclear device code-named "Smiling Buddha,” which was confirmed by international intelligence. The relations between the two prime ministers and their countries cooled down abruptly. Trudeau didn’t forgive Gandhi.
DIPLOMATIC ESSAYS
3002 reads | 03.07.2014
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