- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe., Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
Once, diplomacy was an art laboriously conducted in person, preferably in French. Later came missives, then cables. Throughout, it was predominantly carried out by staid men wearing dignified suits seated in palatial estates.
But that time is not now. Now, diplomacy, or whatever its antithesis may be called, is conducted on Twitter. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, trolling, sophomoric humor, emoji, and whenever possible, pictures of animals.
Exhibit A, of course, comes from the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom. Recent Russian Embassy in the U.K. tweets include
President Obama expels 35 🇷🇺 diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, incl 🇺🇸 people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm. pic.twitter.com/mleqA16H8D
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) December 29, 2016
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) January 8, 2017
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) January 9, 2017
To be clear, that last tweet features Pepe the Frog, symbol of the alt-right.
And during Russia’s spat with Turkey over the downing of its jet on the Turkey-Syrian border, the gloves really came off.
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) December 2, 2015
(The cyber bullying may have worked, because Turkey and Russia made nice a few months later.)
But don’t worry—the embassy intersperses its politically charged tweets with good morning wishes from cute woodland creatures.
Good morning! (Moscow Region, Russia) pic.twitter.com/C8OfWmVeL1
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) January 6, 2017
Antagonism and animal pics are not the natural purview of an entity charged with managing foreign relations, one might think. And one might be right! But the Russian Embassy in the U.K. is not the only culprit.
Another repeat offender: the English language account for the Spanish Embassy in Australia, which has used a Simpsons GIF to point out that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump likely has not read Don Quixote (yes, you read that sentence correctly).
— Spain in Oz (@EmbajadaEspAust) November 14, 2016
It has also used a Simpsons GIF to note that Australia still, in October 2016, had not legalized same sex marriage.
The situation of same sex marriage in Australia. (Approved in Spain since 2005) pic.twitter.com/B96Xio7m90
— Spain in Oz (@EmbajadaEspAust) October 12, 2016
They implicitly criticized their host’s stance on Muslims.
— Spain in Oz (@EmbajadaEspAust) September 15, 2016
— Spain in Oz (@EmbajadaEspAust) September 20, 2016
Now other embassies are dipping their diplomatic toes in this bizarre waters. On Tuesday, for example, the French Embassy in the U.S. must have noted “#SignsYoureASuperhero” was trending, because it then tweeted this:
— French Embassy U.S. (@franceintheus) January 10, 2017
That is a literal GIF of a beret-clad French superhero tweeted out by the French Embassy in the United States of America.
Last week, the Polish Embassy in the U.S. wanted to remind us all that Martha Stewart favors pierogi, which are Polish.
— Embassy of Poland US (@PolishEmbassyUS) January 5, 2017
There are, thankfully, still exceptions to this new rule. Israel, for example, just thanked Germany after the Brandenburg Gate was lit up in the colors of the Israeli flag to commemorate the death of four Israeli soldiers.
— Botschaft Israel (@IsraelinGermany) January 9, 2017
Photo credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images