Veikko Kala, The Deputy Head of Mission Estonian Embassy in Moscow 2018-02-09
Diplomacy Is Communication And Networking

What does it mean to work for an Embassy? A lot of Russian students are eager to represent Russia abroad. They study the language and the culture of the countries that they’re likely to be sent to. One must not only possess a deep understanding of the but also simultaneously always work in a fiduciary capacity with regard to one’s country, i.e. one must always keep the best interests of one’s home country in mind. "You must be able to negotiate, to win the confidence of the powerful and influence them, to understand what makes a foreign society tick", instructs Oliver Miles. 

I studied political science at Tartu University. My curriculum covered quite a wide range of themes starting with Baltic studies and finishing with comparative politology. Andres Kasekamp (director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute), who delivered a lecture at one of Russian universities, was one of my lecturers.

International relations were not on my radar back then, although they have always been a great interest of mine. My final thesis concentrated on discourse analyses of the Soviet Estonian cartoons. Kind of Sovietology stuff, I guess. It was not popular back then but now it has become quite handy again, especially while working here in Russia.

International relations are all about engaging and building bridges. That is why we are interested in cooperation with Russian universities and it has already received very positive audience. I hope we’ll have such projects in the future.

I was posted in Vienna from 2009-2012, where I was mainly dealing with international organizations. In diplomatic jargon, we usually make a distinction between multilateral and bilateral diplomacy. When I started my service I believed that the future belongs to the multilateral diplomacy, but here in Moscow I am not sure. 

Moscow is surely an interesting place for a diplomat – not only professionally. I guess the Russian public sector is more hierarchical than ours. That has cultural but also historical reasons, as well as considerations of the country’s size.

Modern communication tools make access to important and useful texts quite easy. The problem nowadays is that people tend to write more than read. Diplomacy is basically communication and networking – the most interesting ideas surface mostly by communicating with someone more competent or aware than you.  The same principle about communication applies at universities. Lectures are important, but seminars and direct conversations with professors are like ancient agoras, where one can settle and accumulate interesting and useful ideas.

The Embassy itself is not a for-profit organisation. Since our tasks involve facilitating trade, encouraging investments and promoting business contacts, let’s say it is a public sector organisation with some private company’s objectives.

The Embassy wants to help new students from the CIS, Baltics, and beyond. Baltic countries are like an undiscovered world for Russian students, even though many international students from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania study at Russian universities.