December 30, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9704

Russian Journalist Rostovsky: Kremlin Has Successfully Forced The West To The Negotiation Table, It Is Now Time To Dial Down The Bellicose Rhetoric

December 30, 2021
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9704

Mikhail Rostovsky, who has been with Moskovsky Komsomolets since 1991 can be classified as a systemic liberal. He generally supports Putin, and in a 2019 he interviewed Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, and essentially lauded Shoigu for saving and modernizing the Russian army.[1] Rostovsky wants like the regime to display more tact and finesse whether in dealing with the internal opposition or with foreign countries. This combination is apparent in his commentary on the crisis caused by the Russian buildup on the border with Ukraine.

On substance, he agrees with Russia's leaders that something was needed to shock the West out of its cavalier attitude to Russian security concerns. He also agrees that given the lack of a Western response to repeated Russian demands on the topic, it was necessary to buttress them with a military threat. However, he fails to understand why the apocalyptic rhetoric continues after the West has agreed to negotiate. Yes, it is necessary to maintain a poker face and not divulge Russia's fallback position. The constant threats eventually lose their effectiveness and make Russia look like a crazed bear indifferent to the fate of the world.

Rostovsky's commentary follows below:[2]

"We won't be clinking glasses of champagne on the night of January 1 against the backdrop of hostilities with the 'aggressive NATO bloc.' However, we cannot make any promises regarding what will happen after the New Year vacations. These two sentences are basically a rhetorical 'present' that the Russian government has placed under the Christmas tree for all the country's citizens.

"Dmitry Peskov: 'We have come to a situation, in which our security is under a threat... It's already an issue of, well…, it's actually a matter of life and death for us.'

Sergei Lavrov: 'The fact that they have already moved in on our doorstep, as Putin put it, naturally, cannot leave us indifferent.'

"Perhaps never before in modern Russian history has the sound of the 'war drums' been so deafening. With all the aversion towards the actions of NATO, which has lost it, it forces one to ask the utmost uncomfortable questions, whether the actions of the Russian leadership are guided by pure emotion, and does Putin have a 'plan B?', or 'does the Kremlin know exactly what it is doing?' If one to concentrate not on the rhetorical, but on the substantive results of Russian diplomacy in 2021, then, at this point, it turns out that [the Kremlin] knows.'

"The following celebrated saying is attributed to the famous American Mafia leader Al Capone, 'You get a lot more from a kind word and a gun than from a kind word alone.' International politics seems to function according to very similar laws. A brief period of Russian troops' buildup near the Ukrainian border has jolted relations between Moscow and the West, yanking the US and Europe out of their comfort zone.

"The familiar post-Cold War era status quo that reads 'the Kremlin loudly declares that it won't tolerate…', and NATO's usual reaction to it 'as background noises,' found itself broken.

"[The West] has heard Moscow and immediately adjusted its stance. The old Western negotiating position, 'We have nothing to discuss with you. We will deal with everything within our circle, without any outsiders, such as you' ended up in the 'political landfill.' The boycott policy has been replaced by a policy of a strong desire for dialogue. To paraphrase Lavrov, 'a line of potential negotiators has formed at the Kremlin's doorstep.' The Americans and the entire NATO bloc are ready to engage in 'fruitful discussions.'

"It doesn’t' feel like a happy end whatsoever. Instead, there is a sense of fear that stubbornly don't want to fade. Perhaps it could not be otherwise. One cannot convince the West that one's intentions are serious, without first convincing one's own population of the same thing. In global political bouts, the winner is always the one who manages to seize the initiative and retain it without revealing his own cards to the end.

"In an interview to 'International Affairs' magazine, Lavrov's deputy, Sergei Ryabkov said with unusual candor for a Russian diplomat, 'In English there is an expression 'poker face.' Lady Gaga even has a good song written about this expression. It means a face of stone, without a single muscle flinching [that is put on], when your opponent on the other side of the card table makes a move... To announce in concrete terms that a 'plan B' can be reached (in case negotiations with the West fail. - 'MK') means weakening our own position, and make it easier for the opponents to solve this problem.'

Sergey Ryabkov (Source:

"I agree many times over with this statement. But here's what Lady Gaga didn't sing about in her song. The famous American diplomat, Paul Nitze of the US-Soviet confrontation era once said, ' One of the most dangerous forms of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve.' Paul Nitze knew what he was talking about.

In the history of world diplomacy, he is best remembered for his legendary 'walk in the woods' with the Soviet Foreign Ministry Ambassador-at-Large Yuli Kvitsinski. In July of 1982, in another period of sharp deterioration in Moscow - Washington relations, the heads of the US and Soviet delegations to the nuclear arms limitation talks went for a walk in the woods near Geneva. The outcome of this walk was a negotiating breakthrough that was initially disavowed by the top leadership of the two countries, but was partially put to use a few years later.

Paul Nitze (Source:

"Why did I bring up this story now? Because I have some very serious stylistic (not substantive) beefs with the rhetoric of our official 'talking heads'. To put it simply, I would like to say to these heads the following, 'stop scaring us!'

"Everyone has already gotten it. Why repeat 'horror stories' over and over again?! This only makes them obsolete and much less convincing. Additionally, they contribute to an effect that Russian diplomacy must avoid. Russia shouldn't present itself as a rabid bear that went off the rails and screams to those around it, 'I don't care what happens! Give me what I want, or else let the whole world go to hell!'

"This is not our style of conduct. This in style of Vladimir Zelensky, who is being criticized so much and so justly in Moscow. Our 'official Russian bear' shouldn't fuss about and repeat himself, also he should remember his main goal, which is to ensure the country's security.

"Perhaps, I don't get something about the art of diplomacy. But it seems to me that the constant repetition of the 'the world is on a precipice' thesis doesn't increase confidence that this precipice will be safeguarded at the appropriate level.

"Anyways, happy New Year to us all! May the year 2022 not bring us war as well, against the backdrop of COVID-19."

Mikhail Rostovsky (Source:


[1], September 22, 2019.

[2], December 27, 2021.

Share this Report: