I’m a very proud graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), which is why I feel obligated to share my respectfully articulated disagreement with the over 1,400 graduates, students, postgraduates, and faculty that signed an open letter condemning Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. Just as I respect their right to share their dissenting views about this campaign, so too do I expect them to respect my right to dissent to the aforesaid because I quite frankly don’t want to be associated with their open letter.
I’m a very proud graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO according to its better-known Russian abbreviation, which is also run by the Foreign Ministry) that’s globally renowned for training Russian and other diplomats since its founding in 1944. I received my master’s in International Relations focusing on Governance & Global Affairs in 2015 and am currently finishing up my Ph.D. there on Russian-Pakistani relations. MGIMO is a wonderful university that’s truly earned its worldwide reputation as among the best in its field. It’s produced countless graduates who’ve gone on to do very extraordinary things with their lives. It’s truly an honor to be part of this family.
That’s why I feel obligated to share my respectfully articulated disagreement with the over 1,400 graduates, students, postgraduates, and faculty that signed an open letter condemning Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. Just as I respect their right to share their dissenting views about this campaign, so too do I expect them to respect my right to dissent to the aforesaid because I quite frankly don’t want to be associated with their open letter. I vehemently disagree with the way in which everything is framed in that document. I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who wrote and signed it but I believe that some urgent clarification is required in order for observers to not get the wrong picture from it.
What follows is a copy of the open letter that’s accessible here. I’ll respond to each paragraph separately, but prior to doing so, I kindly request those who are interested to read my personal testimony from last week titled “I’m A Proud American-Pole With Ukrainian Ancestry: Here’s Why #IStandWithRussia”. That piece explains my views more at length, which will be concisely incorporated into my respectfully expressed disagreements with each of the points made in MGIMO’s open letter against Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. I’ll then conclude my response by sharing some personal insight into some of the idiosyncrasies of my university that are confirmed by the open letter’s language.
* “We, graduates, students, postgraduates, and faculty at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University), by signing this letter, condemn unequivocally the military actions of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine.”
– The “unequivocal” qualifier suggests that Russia’s national security red line concerns as expressed by President Putin during his 21 and 24 February national addresses aren’t legitimate. This means that the signees don’t acknowledge NATO’s Ukrainian-based existential threats to Russia that veritably exist.
* “We consider it morally unacceptable to remain silent bystanders, when people are dying in a neighboring country. They are dying on account of those who preferred weapons to peaceful diplomacy.”
– With respect to the signees, they never published an open letter calling on Moscow to urgently intervene in Donbass to stop the Ukrainian government’s incessant killing of the indigenous Russian people there since 2014. US-backed Kiev, not Moscow, preferred weapons to peaceful diplomacy.
* “Throughout its history, Russia has repeatedly stood up in defence of the helpless and supported them, no matter the price. The leaders of our state have resolved the most complex crisis situations by peaceful means, despite ideological differences. We call for this foreign policy tradition to be continued today: withdraw the military forces from Ukrainian territory, cease the bombardment of Ukrainian cities, and start honest negotiations – without ultimatums or demands for the other side’s capitulation.”
– The immediate aim of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine is to ensure the safety of civilians in Donbass after Kiev refused to implement the UNSC-backed Minsk Accords for peacefully resolving the conflict. The US and NATO also refused to respect Russia’s security guarantee requests from December for ensuring the integrity of its national security red lines in Europe. Russia was thus compelled by urgent humanitarian circumstances to intervene, which also enabled it to pursue military-strategic goals related to ensuring the defense of its national security, especially regarding strategic stability.
* “Many of us have friends and family in the areas experiencing conflict. This war is destroying the lives of those who are under attack. It is also – albeit to a much lesser extent – affecting each of us individually. Our children and grandchildren will be the ones to suffer the consequences. It will take multiple generations of future diplomats to restore the loss of trust and rebuild Russia’s good relations with our neighbours and across the world.”
– Kiev destroyed the lives of Donbass residents and is responsible for the conflict expanding nationwide. Those children and grandchildren of the signees who’ll suffer the consequences are victims of the US-led West’s unprecedented sanctions regime targeted the Russian people’s socio-economic well-being. Russia’s diplomats are actively working to explain their country’s national security interests in this operation to world, which is why those non-Western governments with true strategic autonomy who successfully resisted US pressure abstained from voting against Russia at the UN General Assembly.
* “Composure, critical thinking, appreciation of the complexity of global processes, and tolerance of others’ opinions – these are undoubtedly the qualities instilled in MGIMO graduates. However, there are also things we do not tolerate – among them choosing violence over diplomacy.”
– It was Kiev, not Moscow, that chose violence over diplomacy. Russia was forced to act to ensure the human rights of the Donbass residents as well as the integrity of its national security red lines upon the US’ refusal to diplomatically resolve the crisis. This requires those true MGIMO qualities to understand.
* “MGIMO prepared us for life and work in an open world. We were trained to represent a country for which the entire world was open – and our country was supposed to stay equally open to the entire world. We were trained in diplomacy, international law, journalistic ethics; we learned to value international cooperation, collaboration, and cultural exchange. Our courses stressed in particular the importance of international efforts to create a global system of treaties for the limitation of nuclear weapons.”
– MGIMO hitherto prepared its students to operate within the liberal-globalist paradigm of the US-led international system. The world was abruptly closed off to their country as a result of the US’ unprecedented sanctions regime aimed at isolating and thus gradually weakening it from within. This preplanned response to Russia’s special operation that America itself provoked via Kiev contradicts the values of international cooperation, collaboration, and cultural exchange, et al. It was also due to the US refusing to enter into legally binding strategic security guarantees with Russia upon its request.
* “The actions of the Russian military forces on the territory of Ukraine have made impossible the realization of the values, which we internalized over the years of studying.”
– The actions of the Russian military in Ukraine are in defense of the true realization of those aforesaid values, which some MGIMO graduates wrongly believed were only ensured by the US-led West.
* “We, graduates, students, postgraduates, and faculty of MGIMO, are striving to defend Russia’s traditional foreign policy values: security, peaceful cooperation, and dialogue. We remain wholeheartedly committed to them, and even if these values diverge from the current position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Government – we are not afraid to state so openly.”
– I’m not afraid to openly challenge over 1,400 MGIMO graduates, students, postgraduates, and faculty in arguing why the entire way in which they framed Russia’s special operation and the language they used in their open letter is wrong. I remain committed to the true values that were internalized over my years of studying even if these values diverge with the misportrayal of this situation by the signees.
Upon reading the open letter and my responses to each point, observers might walk away with the impression that the signees and I went to two completely different universities. That’s obviously not the case though there’s certainly truth to the claim that my views are diametrically opposed to over 1,400 others from the same school. That’s because I never wavered in my criticism of the US-led liberal-globalist system that I always believed was unfair, unjust, and ultimately unsustainable. In my experience, however, many MGIMO faculty sincerely believed in the indefinite viability of this worldview even though some acknowledged that it’ll likely undergo inevitable changes with time.
To their credit, they always respected my responsibly articulated dissenting views, which is why I was able to graduate instead of potentially being held back for “politically correct” reasons like some abroad might have imagined would happen to someone who disagrees with staff at a school that’s run by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I’ve consistently expressed very sharp but private critiques of MGIMO’s general focus on the liberal-globalist model of International Relations (at least from my experience while studying there) but am now comfortable publicly sharing them because that same focus is the primary cause of this scandalous open letter.
That paradigm that so many students were instilled with was unsustainable and built upon false pretenses that nevertheless succeeded in influencing many well-intended political experts. It directly resulted in so many students becoming convinced of the indefinite viability of this inevitably doomed model of International Relations, following which they were left confused and some instinctively blamed their own government instead of its geopolitical opponents who provoked this sequence of events. Going forward, these systemic analytical-educational problems can be remedied by reputable security experts taking on more prominent teaching positions at MGIMO to clarify the true state of global affairs.