One of the more amusing snippets to be found on WikiLeaks is a memo from a rather humourless American career diplomat describing a jolly-sounding lunch with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who was in Kyrgyzstan to promote British business interests.
The media tell us that the Prince has been “criticised” – for his remarks
...not by the business community! On the contrary, it is a pleasant change to see our business interests being represented by someone who sympathises with us and understands some of our problems. The American diplomat also refers to the Prince’s “unmitigated patriotic fervour” – which is just what any country would like to see in someone selling it abroad, and which one rarely sees in career diplomats. The Prince’s main points are summarised below in italics, followed by our comments.
1 “Doing business in Kyrgyzstan involves dealing with corruption.” Did anyone think any differently?
2 “...Just like France.” A bit unfair ... perhaps. France may not be quite that bad – but French officials certainly know how to make your life Hell if you do not play ball with them.
3 “Outsiders cannot change the culture of a country any more than they can cure someone of anorexia.” If only Western governments grasped this simple truth, a lot of unnecessary suffering could be avoided.
4 “Russia is playing the Great Game in Central Asia again and this time Western governments should win.” A brilliant analysis, putting current problems in their proper strategic and historical context, which has so far escaped the Western governments themselves.
5 “The media are not helpful when business deals are being negotiated.” You only have to look at England’s 2018 World Cup bid for proof.
6 “The British anti-corruption investigation of the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia was idiotic.” Self-evidently true.
7 “British and American governments plan for 10 years where people in Central Asia think in terms of centuries.” Another brilliantly perceptive observation.
8 “The British are better than the Americans at geography.” A generalisation to which there are numerous exceptions on both sides. However, British businessmen are generally pro-American and go to great lengths to find out about America, and are often shocked to find how little many American decision-makers know about the rest of the world. Our humourless American career diplomat seems to be a case in point.