Vitaly Churkin’s posting as Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations provided powerful institutional memory and issue expertise to Moscow. This gave many advantages to Putin’s foreign policy, due in great part to Churkin’s ten-year UN term compared to other ambassadors serving less than half that time usually. Churkin’s staying power there and as a fixture of Moscow’s foreign policy elite meant that his word was definitive and unambiguous, albeit often problematic and frustrating for other UN member states.
On the Security Council Churkin reliably played the match or the firecracker, or both, but never the spectator. As a masterful member of the diplomatic guild, his ambassadorial tradecraft was state-of-the-art and respected among his peers and among students of the foreign relations chessboard.
Churkin cultivated over time a deep bench of Russian diplomatic talent at the UN which brought his trademark boldness to its many forums and sessions. This deep bench, not equaled in any other delegation to the UN, will ensure continuity of Moscow’s interests at the UN going forward while the diplomatic community there comes to terms with his sudden departure.