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After Leak of Comments by British Ambassador, Other Diplomats Pay Heed

FILE - British Ambassador Kim Darroch hosts a National Economists Club event at the British Embassy in Washington.
FILE - British Ambassador Kim Darroch hosts a National Economists Club event at the British Embassy in Washington.

At least one Washington ambassador believes the forced resignation of Britain’s chief diplomat in the American capital will prompt other envoys to change the way they communicate with their home governments.

Sir Kim Darroch announced he was stepping down after U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration would no longer work with him because of comments Darroch made about Trump in confidential reports to London that were made public by a British newspaper.

Sir Ronald Sanders has twice served as tiny Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador in London and currently represents his country in Washington. He believes the incident will force diplomats posted overseas to modify their means to communicate, including resorting to more face-to-face conversations on trips back home and by encrypting phone lines at embassies.

Sanders finds it disturbing that what was supposed to be strictly confidential diplomatic communication was made public, potentially for individuals, or a certain political faction’s, gain; the “sanctity of a centuries-old protocol of diplomatic communication” was violated by such conduct, he told VOA.

Christopher E. Goldthwait, an American career foreign service officer who served as ambassador to Chad from 1999 to 2004, told VOA, “Frank and forthright reporting on events in the host country” is a central duty of ambassadors.

Barbara K. Bodine, another former U.S. ambassador who now heads the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, thinks diplomats cannot assume that their communications will be secure.

“Every ambassador, and embassy, lives under the constant apprehension that sensitive, confidential and candid analysis will be leaked to the press,” she told VOA. “Awkward and embarrassing to have the cable leaked? Of course. A portend of major rupture in our most important bilateral relationship? Doubtful.”

Bodine thinks President Trump would have been better served “if he had said nothing” and instead left it to the spokesperson to “simply, politely and without drama dismiss it; as our British cousins like to say, keep calm and carry on.”

On Thursday, German Ambassador to the U.S. Emily Haber invited to breakfast at her residence Darroch, who will continue to serve as Britain's ambassador to the U.S. until London sends a new envoy, along with French ambassador, Philippe Etienne, barely a month into his post, and Stavros Lambrinidis, ambassador of the European Union to the U.S. This news, evidenced in their picture together, embedded in her tweet, received over 4,000 likes and more than 800 retweets.

“France, Germany, the UK, and the EU meet regularly in this so-called “P3+EU” format, but they don’t usually release a photo,” Rachel Ellehuus, an European studies expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told VOA, adding, “I’d take this as a sign of diplomatic solidarity.”