Warsaw, Poland – In an article published last week in the EU Observer, strategic analyst Katarina Kertysova argues that “Poland recently made an ostensible move against Russian interests in Warsaw by sidelining Soviet-era graduates of Russia’s most prestigious academic institutions – the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) – from its foreign ministry.”
The author, herself an alumni of MGIMO, considers that this “gradual dismissal” of MGIMO graduates started as soon as PiS came to power three years ago. “Rather than diminishing Russian influence – purportedly exercised through MGIMO graduates – the move weakens vital expertise at a time when Russian-speaking specialists with the necessary regional knowledge, appreciation of current events and contacts across the region are most needed”, M. Kertysova, an analyst at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, argued.
Founded in 1944, the Moscow Institute of International Relations is a prestigious university that still plays, including through its vast network of alumni, an important role in Russia’s ‘soft-power’ ambitions throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz previously boasted that “currently in management positions there are no persons who were members of the communist services, or graduates of the Moscow MGIMO”, arguing this turnover was “necessary for the effectiveness of the ministry”.
Well-known European Soviet-era graduates of MGIMO include Maros Sefcovic, the Slovak European Commissioner for energy and candidate for EU Commission presidency, as well as Slovakia’s current Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, former UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova and former Czech Minister for European Affairs and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule.
Ms. Kertysova argues that this can be seen as “a pre-emptive move to prevent diplomats from pioneering a Polish-Russian rapprochement”, while others believe this was motivated “by fears of infiltration of diplomatic ranks”. “At a time when much attention in Poland focuses on the threat emanating from the East, the government should invest in people who understand the Russians, instead of firing them”, the author points out.
Earlier this year, Poland expelled four Russian diplomats from the Warsaw embassy over the Skripal poisoning case.