Seven Embassies
for Seven Dippers

Larry Peery


Okay, so you've just gotten suckered into your first PBEM Dip game that features huge amounts of press; and you've suddenly realized that you know absolutely nothing about the country you've been assigned to play. What do you do?

Panic? No!

You could do what Manus does, appoint a committee to find a solution to your problem. Or you could do what Simon does, pass the buck to Thad Black. Or you could do what Vincent Mous does, con somebody else into writing your press for you. Or, if all else fails, you could adopt a Peericratic approach to the problem. Here's what I would suggest.

Take advantage of the power of the Net and make it your own. Each of the seven powers of the regular Diplomacy game have Web addresses for their embassy in Washington (and probably in your country as well unless you are in The Maldives or Vanatu) and, usually, a separate one for tourist information (a few combine both into one site). Check out the site, find the appropriate official, and send him/her an email and explain your situation. Ask them for information. Believe me, you'll get more than you ever dreamed of.


I started doing this when I was in high school back in the early 1960s (Long pause for shocked silence, followed by gasps, and then "My God, is he really that old? --- The answer is yes. How old? Old enough to have advised God on the creation of le monde.)

During my days as a Model United Nations participant (along with other local Dip legends Rod Walker, Conrad von Metzke, Hal Naus, et al.) I regularly wrote various embassies and UN delegations asking for help. I always got something. The quantity and quality varied greatly but I always got at least an interesting letterhead for my collection. The most personal response I got was from the Ambassador to the United Nations from the Maldives who also served as that country's ambasador to the USA, Canada, Mexico; and Foreign Minister. He was the brother of the elected Sultan who ruled The Maldives at that time. He sent me a hand-written note on what looked like a brown bag from Sammy's Deli in NYC and an invitation to contact him with any questions. Questions and answers followed and I actually got to meet him (no brown bag lunch, however) years later. The French UN delegation, on the other hand, sent me boxes of information, press releases, background notes, pictures (including an 8 by 10 inch glossy of French President Georges Pompidou), and put me on every mailing list in France. I was still getting their newsletter when I finished my university studies six years later!

Today it is all much easier, of course, you can just crank out a form letter and send it out by email; and you'll get a lot of form letter responses. But if you take a few minutes to write a letter that can't be answered with a form letter, and address it to a person (even the wrong person) by name, you'll probably get a personal response and personal help. I have experienced this recently with some communications with the Belgian Embassy in Washington. It took six people to provide the information I had asked for, but they did it.

Here's a bit of background for you U.S. players. Most embassies in Washington, D.C. are located along and around Massachusetts Ave. They range from old mansions to ultra-modern buildings, and some have both. Staffs range from a few dozen to over a thousand people. Technically, the embassy exists to support one person, the ambassador to the United States from that country. In practice, the embassy is a living organism with its own unique character because individual ambassadors come and go, although a few of them have been in Washington almost forever. Today most ambassadors are professionals, although Washingtons still attracts (and sends) a few political appointees to choice spots. Each ambassador is supported by a team of experts (who are supported by their own experts and specialists) covering a variety of fields: political affairs, military affairs, economic affairs (now perhaps the most important sub-field), cultural affairs and, of course, intelligence. All embassies worthy of the name have a resident spy or two. Normally the spy in charge is a second secretary or counselor, and the grunts, so to speak, are found among the embassy's chauffeurs and support staff. An area that is getting more and more attention from embassies (and national tourism offices) is tourism. It can mean big bucks to a foreign country. Your initial query will probably go to the embassy's press and information office; which handles most incoming mail. From there, with luck, it will go to the appropriate office or official.

Keep in mind that each embassy reflects the current status of the relations of that country with the United States. Information on that subject, among others, can be found in The Department of State's Background Notes.

It also helps to know something about the current situation in the country. For general background information on countries, The Washington Post's International site can't be beat.

For the latest news on a specific country consult a wire service, such as WebNews - Up-to-the-minute news

The Diplomacy Embassy Grand Tour

So, let me take you on a personal guided virtual tour of eight (Eight? Yes, eight!) key Diplomacy & diplomacy embassies in Washington and related sites. You may wish, as we go along, to check out each site on the Web. I've provided a URL (and Simon, clever guy that he is, has no doubt put in a direct link for you to use) so you can find them. I wanted to list them in order by the date of accrediation (which determines the hierarchy and pecking order in Washington protocol), but I couldn't find that information. Instead, I'll use the traditional Diplomacy ranking.

For each site, I'll provide a list of the most important types of information it provides, a numerical ranking (from 1, low, to 5, high), and perhaps a comment on the over-all impression I got of the site.

Austrian Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Austrian Press and Information Office, Washington, D.C.
The Austria of today is a far cry from the Austro-Hungarian Empire of WWI days. Since then Austria has managed to rid itself of all of its problem children and retains only the most important parts of its former empire: The Vienna State Opera, the Hotel Sacher and its torts, and Hamel's coffee shop. Despite, or perhaps because of, its shrunken size, Vienna is a major player in today's international diplomacy. Vienna is second only to New York in its number of UN employees, for instance. There are more than 100,000 foreigners in Vienna working for various international organizations and corporations. And Vienna claims, with some justification, to be the "capital of Eastern Europe." It is appropriate then for the Austrian Embassy's Press and Information Office to be our first stop.

The hardest thing for any Dipper or diplomat to do in Austria is to get behind the surface veneer or mask of whipped cream that Austria uses to hide much of what it is thinking. Most Dippers and many diplomats think that all of Austria is just like Vienna, and that is a big mistake. Vienna is no more Austria than New York City is the United States, as many UN delegates assume. There is another Austria. To understand it you have to brush up on your 1930s Austrian history and take a look at current domestic Austrian politics. If you do that, you'll see that there is much more to the Austrian psyche than just whipped cream and pastries.

The Austrian Embassy site is a barebones site for essential information and contacts only. However, their Press & Info site includes everything except a recording of The Sounds of Music. Very nicely done with lots of info: home page, news, tourism, history, cultural, staff, and other organizations. It also includes a variety of links to sites in Austria.

Rank: 5

British Embassy, Washington, DC
British Information Service
Surprisingly, the British Embassy's site in Washington was the hardest to locate on the Net. I tried several searches and failed each time. As I tried and failed I kept telling myself that they had to have one, but maybe it was a secret. Eventually I did find it and when you study the address you'll see why it was so hard to find. Leave it to the Brits. As you would expect from our best friend and worst enemy overseas, the Brits have a killer presence in Washington. Their Embassy is only slightly smaller than the White House, and the British Ambassador lives better than the Queen. So what does this site have to offer us?

Britain is going through another of her occasional post-midlife crises. For years the Brits have preoccupied themselves with The Royals and a variety of sitcoms as a means of diverting themselves from the real problems that face them. Now, with Tony Blair in charge of a massive Labor majority in the Commons, Britain is making up for lost time. For better, as some think, or worse, as some fear, Blair is moving Britain into the 21st century. One thing is certain, Britain will never be the same.

The British have followed the Austrian example. The actual Embassy site is pretty basic, but the Information Service site is filled with lots of goodies: home page, news, tourism, history, staff, other organizations and more. I loved the graphic that combined the British and American flags.

Rank: 5

Embassy of France, Washington, DC
Info France-USA
Again, not surprisingly, the French Embassy's site is one of the most sophisticated, computerwise, on the Net. The French don't make it easy to use, however, if you don't speak French. But if you stick to it, and make use of all their links to other organizations and publications, you will eventually find what you want.

France is another major European power that is undergoing a stressful period. Most of the French believe it is possible to have both a Big Government and The Good Life. They are unwilling or unable to accept the notion held by some other Europeans that that is not possible in an integrated Europe. The conflict resulted in the overthrow of the old regime and a shift toward a more socialist one, a trend seen recently throughout Western Europe. France has still not come to grips with some key internal problems: reforming its education system, dealing with a large immigrant population of Arab muslims, and finding a proper balance between the needs of Paris and the demands of out-lying cities and regions.

But here too there are signs of change. France has changed, at least on paper, its policy in Africa. France is reforming its military. And France is trying to find a way to rejoin NATO, now that NATO is more of a European police force and less an anti-Russian Empire military force. Still, when all is said and done, the French will do it in their own good time and in their own way and, as always, with style.

The French Embassy site is technically the best of all of them, but it does have some problems (e.g., I couldn't access it at all on a Friday afternoon during the busy summer season.). It includes all the basics: home page, ministry, news, tourism, cultural, staff, and other organizations links, but I found that many of the sites I picked led directly to French language only sites. Lots of information available, but not always user-friendly.

I tried twice to access the French Info site and couldn't get through either time. They seem to be very popular. Maybe Simon has some info on it?

[Temporary problems, I guess... I just tried and got through without any difficulties. -SS]

Rank: 4

Embassy of Germany, Washington, DC and a different site
Germany Info
Germany is in the midst of a three-way dilemma that has caused some real angst at home. First, the absorption of the former East German states has not gone as smoothly as Bonn would have hoped. The initial euphoria of being "one again" quickly wore off as both west and east Germans realized that there were real differences between their peoples and their economies. The recent flooding in eastern Germany has helped restore some of that old "oneness" spirit. We'll see how long it lasts. Second, Germany is in the process of reevaluating its past/current orientation toward Western Europe, and particularly its close ties with France (coming at the same time that the French are becoming more and more preoccupied with their internal affairs, this is a problem for all Europe). Third, Germany is trying to decide whether to turn, once again, to the east and fill the power (this time economic) vacuum left by the collapse of the USSR and its Eastern European empire. Finally, the power of the German mark and its general economy will determine the fate of the new single currency, the Euro. And on the success of that may well depend the future of Western Europe.

A very well done site with home page, ministry, news, tourism, cultural, staff, and other organization links. Very thorough and well organized.

There is also a second Embassy site that includes some information on the new German embassy in Washington with details on everything, except the keys to the wine celler. It was interesting to me to note that the new site and building cost just over $18M. By comparison, the land alone that the US embassy in Tokyo sits on is worth about $200M! The German information site is typically efficient and informative, just what you would expect from the Germans.

Rank: 5

Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC and Italy Info
Italy is another country with serious problems, although the average foreign tourist doesn't see them, and the average Italian doesn't seem to care about them. Still, the signs are there. The division between the wealth of the north (centered in Milan) and the poverty of the south (centered in Naples), with Rome stuck in the middle somwhere; continues to divide the country. Whether Italy really is a country is another matter. Regional loyalties and rivalries are as strong as ever. Perhaps the one thing that unifies all Italians is their common dislike for the central government's bureaucracy. Italy continues its long term love-hate relationship with the Mafia and despite some notable successes the Mafia isn't going to go away until something better comes along to replace it. Italy is finally coming out of its self-imposed isolation in foreign affairs and recently participated in a peace-keeping (or peace-making as it is becoming known) police action in Albania. Unfortunately it wasn't a sterling performance by the Italian military. The flagship of the Italian Navy went aground during one phase of the operation; and some soldiers of one of Italy's Army's elite fighting units got into trouble with civilians, resulting in the resignations of several generals. For some reason civilian government authorities seem unable or unwilling to understand that soldiers do not make good cops, unless they are properly trained. On the other hand, I don't think I would want members of the NYC Police Department doing a police action in Haiti after reading the papers recently.

The Italian Embassy site looked good until I started trying to access the individual pages. A lot of them aren't connected. Still, the basic information is there: home page, news, tourism, and cultural links. They say the site is in an "experimental" state; an Italian euphemism for "it probably won't work." However, the audio version of the Ambassador's Welcome and the National Anthem came through loud and clear.

Rank: 3

Embassy of the Russian Federation
Russia Info
Russia finally got a Net site. After the collapse of the USSR it was questionable when or if it would ever happen. Today, instead of dealing with one centralized government of the USSR, Washington has to cope with embassies from all kinds of new republics.

What can I say about Russia in this limited space? Not much, except to say that in my opinion as a student of Russian affairs for the past thirty-five years, Russia is going down the tubes fast. If you want my views on that, you need to check out my own Dip&dip home page. I have been trying desperately to find something good to say about Russia's current situation because I want them to make good on this, their first real experiment with democracy. Unfortunately, I can't find anything favorable to report. And, even worse, Russia's past history offers no encouragement at all. As for Russia's future, I am completely pessimistic. The Russians have always lived on hope. Now even that is gone. Or it would be if they really knew how bad off they are.

The Russian Federation site was done by a contractor and contains only the bare points information: home page, news, tourism, staff, and (!) some history. That last link shows courage given the current situation in Russia. The Russia info site is barebones and mostly relies on email links to various other sites. It's a start.

Rank: 2

Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
Turkey Info
Turkey also has its problems. Although it is a republic and a democracy, Turkey is still a unique country in that it is partially European, partially Asian, and partially Middle Eastern. This has both blessed and cursed it. Currently the blessings flow from Turkey's popularity as a reasonably priced tourist mecca. The tourists and their marks and dollars continue to flow into Turkey, bringing a lot of benefits to the country. One important by product is the growth of contacts between Turkish citizens and foreigners of all kinds. For better or worse, Turkey has become a part of the western world. The curses come in the divisions among its leaders fed by political rivalries and fueled by religious zealotry. While the government's factions fight among themselves in Ankara; the Army is waging its own war against Islamic extremists; which the military sees as a threat to the democracy it guard; and against the Kurds in its southeast and neighboring Iraq.

The Turkish Embassy site was very basic: home page and staff. The Turkish info site is a pleasant surprise. It is not quite as fancy as some of the others, but the information is well presented and very comprehensive. One treat I discovered was the ability to send a virtual postcard by email from a Turkish city. I sent 6 to friends in Israel and they all got there! Maybe there's something to be said for the cyberworld after all!

Rank: 2

Embassy of Switzerland, Washington, DC, and Switzerland Info
I would bet money that the Swiss embassy in Washington has had more Internet hits on its web site in the last month or so than all the other embassies I have mentioned combined. Why, you ask? Because of the posting of the list of Swiss bank accounts that may have belonged to victims of Nazi Germany, I reply. One look at this site will tell you that in normal times the Swiss embassy is preoccupied with economic affairs. Now, it is obviously devoted to damage control over this highly sensitive issue. You won't find all the information on this subject on this site, of course. For that you need to look elsewhere as well. But you will find the official statements of the Swiss Government, and those are quite revealing in their own way.

The Swiss Embassy site was one of the best with a home page, news, tourism, history, cultural, staff, and other organizations links. It also offered a good source of news and documents on the Swiss role in WWII, including the Gold.

Rank 5


I know I have painted a pretty dark picture, especially in light of some of the pie-in-the- sky sentiments currently being put out by the mass media, but that is my peerispective; and from a national perspective that's the way it is. Does this mean Europe is going to take its diplomacy into a Diplomacy game scenario? Not necessarily. Although the individual nations of Europe, including the traditionally most powerful ones, are having some serious problems, many of the mid-sized and smaller countries are playing a bigger and bigger role in moderating European affairs. In addition, many international and European organizations are assuming a greater and greater responsibility for Europe's external and internal affairs. (All of these organizations have Web sites of their own if you are interested.) If individual nations cannot solve their foreign and domestic problems, perhaps the collective nations can. A wide variety of economic, cultural, social, and even political organizations are taking more and more power from the traditional states. Even NATO has a new lease on life with its recent expansion into Eastern Europe (even though I oppose it, it may be good for the Europeans) and a new role as Europe's policeman on the beat.

I can't tell you what will happen to our contemporary Diplomacy board next. I doubt if anyone can. But I do know that the changes aren't through yet. However, if anyone can give you some of the information you need to keep track of what is happening in today's European Diplomacy and diplomacy, these embassy sites can.

Larry Peery

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