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Thoughts on Diplomacy from Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch

Book cover: Lessons From the Edge: A Memoir By Marie Yovanovitch

Editor’s note: In the introduction to her book “Lessons from the Edge: A Memoir”, former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch comments on the practice and importance of diplomacy. Excerpted by permission.

Diplomacy is an art, not a science. At its core, diplomacy is about building trust and creating relationships, so that when necessary we can call on a leader and a country to do what the U.S. needs them to do. And the U.S. can only do that successfully and over the long term if we work hard at maintaining our relations with other countries, and our partners believe that we have the integrity to hold up our part of the bargain and our adversaries believe that we have the resolve to carry out our threats.

Drive-by diplomacy is rarely successful. In the words of George Shultz, Reagan’s secretary of state, diplomats must “tend the garden,” working constantly to maintain good relations with countries around the globe. It is mostly unremarkable work, except for that moment when the crisis comes and we are successful in getting a country to accept refugees, allow us to use a military base, or contribute to bailout funds for a third country.

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