US Representative to the UN Nikki Haley undiplomatically threatened to “slap” Russia while speaking at a university late last week, reinforcing the impression that she’s cultivated over the past year of being an iconoclastic figure just like her boss in challenging all existing conventions of her profession. Instead of speaking obliquely and implying asymmetrical responses to the differences that she has with her country’s geopolitical rival like any other diplomat – especially a UN one – would ordinarily do, Haley decided to make a post-modern spectacle by personalizing the hitherto peaceful disagreements between the US and Russia in a condescending and mildly violent way. Instead of being ashamed of her rhetoric, Haley is visibly proud of it because she relishes in being the “anti-diplomat” and functioning as a Kraken-like systemic disruptor in shaking up the order of business at the UN.
What she’s doing is channeling Trump by returning to cruder, but more direct, forms of communication that don’t adhere to the socio-political standards that have developed with time, and just like with the President, “what you see is what you get” when it comes to his UN envoy. There’s no ambiguity over who the US’ friends or foes are at any given moment, and all of its counterparts know that there will be consequences if they don’t fall in line with Washington’s new “America First” ideology because the government has proven that it isn’t shy about flexing its unipolar muscles in bullying and humiliating other countries in its quest to “Make America Great Again”. Russia has refused to play “second fiddle” to the US, and that’s why it’s bearing the brunt of America’s insults lately.
In every which way possible, Haley is the “female Trump” and the embodiment of everything that he stands for. She’s inexperienced, yet very confident, and her very presence on the international stage is designed to be as disruptive as possible in order to create new opportunities for the US to exert its influence amidst the “calculated chaos” that it causes. She’s direct, assertive, and has a tendency to oversimplify complex developments by personalizing them through easy-to-understand but highly offensive examples that get the point across to her targeted audience. The more entrenched that a means of behavior is to the existing elite, the more that she endeavors to smash conventions through shocking stunts that capture widespread attention and lead to the conclusion that she’s an “agent of change”, for better or for worse.
Haley’s latest disrespectful remarks about Russia are also a form of psychological warfare against the Kremlin, just like Trump’s tweets are, in that they’re trying to provoke a reciprocally iconoclastic response whereby Moscow lowers itself to Washington’s level in eschewing all standards of politeness to “fight fire with fire”. Doing so, however, would constitute a self-inflicted wound to the country’s soft power because Russian diplomats aren’t professionally hardwired to behave that way, meaning that they’d uncomfortably be fighting on the Americans’ turf and would always be at a disadvantage. That said, what Russia truly specializes in and which drives the US crazy is its snarky replies to Western ridiculousness, which has apparently gotten under America’s skin and provoked Haley into her fit of rhetorical rage in threatening to “slap” Russia.
Given that it might actually be Russia leading the US on the path of reputational self-destruction and not the reverse, it’ll be amusing to see how its diplomats respond to this and whether they can infuriate her into making similar such statements that harm her country’s international soft power standing.