On Monday, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations for the last decade and one of the world’s most effective diplomats, passed away.
I was America’s permanent representative to the United Nations from 2013 until President Trump took office, and over the last few years I was probably Ambassador Churkin’s most visible foe. He faithfully defended President Vladimir V. Putin’s deadly actions in Ukraine and Syria.
At the same time, Vitaly was a masterful storyteller with an epic sense of humor, a good friend and one of the best hopes the United States and Russia had of working together. I am heartbroken by his death.
I am also saddened that, in our hyperpolarized environment, praise for Vitaly — the diplomat and the man — has been interpreted as acquiescence to Russia’s aggression.
When, upon learning of his death, I referred to him as a “diplomatic maestro” on Twitter, I was slammed for whitewashing Russia’s crimes and “mourning its biggest enabler.” “Ask Syrian and Ukrainian children what they think,” read one typical tweet.
I believe Mr. Putin’s Russia poses a grave threat to American interests and that those, like President Trump, who praise Mr. Putin — or falsely equate the destabilizing role that Russia plays in the world with that of the United States — are profoundly misguided. The Russian government has murdered its political opponents, seized territory that belongs to its sovereign neighbors, killed countless civilians in Syria and meddled in democratic elections, including in the United States…
(Cont) NEW YORK TIMES