Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick ruffles UN diplomats
United Nations, N.Y.
The Russians are smiling. As recently as four months ago they found themselves isolated and resented because of their occupation of Afghanistan and their threatening posture vis-a-vis Poland.Skip to next paragraph
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But today it is the United States that is being viewed here as both insensitive to, and contemptuous of, the world community.
This abrupt turnabout is attributed by senior diplomats here, representing a wide range of countries and ideologies, more to the personal style of US Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick than to the Reagan administration's United Nations or third-world policies.
They are also perturbed about her lack of knowledge of UN diplomacy, which has resulted in several important tactical setbacks for the United States. Her lack of knowledge of international organizations is "abysmal," says one Western ambassador.
When a senior official at the United States Mission to the UN was asked by this correspondent to comment on these criticisms, he declined to do so.
"Arrogant," "dismissive," "discourteous," "coarse," "snappy," "hostile" -- these are just a few of the words being used in UN corridors to describe Mrs. Kirkpatrick's behavior here. Such comments are highly unusual in the clubby atmosphere of the United Nations. Ambassadors usually are on a first-name basis and tend, if anything, to be overgenerous with one another.
An earlier occasion when strong personal feelings about an ambassador surfaced here was in the 1950s, when Soviet Ambassador Jacob A. Malik was nicknamed "Mr. Nyet" (Mr. No) because of his intransigence. It is indicative of today's climate of opinion that Mrs. Kirkpatrick is commonly dubbed by diplomats of all ranks as "Mrs. Nyet."
The complaints about her are voiced privately -- but frequently -- not by ambassadors from communist or radical countries but by the representatives of many moderate third-world countries and by senior diplomats of some of the closest and most faithful allies of the United States. These seasoned professionals admit to being dismayed by the demeanor of the new US ambassador.
"Sometimes she treats us as so many natives and acts like those American ladies who walk about foreign cities concerned that someone will steal their handbag," says a normally understated Latin American diplomat known to be fiercely pro-US.
"She addresses us as if she were in possession of the Holy Grail, the eternal truth," says one ambassador who has never before been known to make a personal comment on a colleague, no matter what policy clashes have occurred between his country and others.
Many are also upset by Mrs. Kirkpatrick's tendency to remind people that she is "a professor of political science." They point out that many professors and famous scholars have served and are serving at the UN -- "some of greater international reputation than Mrs. Kirkpatrick," adds one Western diplomat.And others point out that in any event the United Nations is not a teaching institution, but a negotiating forum -- "a place to talk, to listen, to seek out compromises."