40 days since the death of Soviet and Russian diplomat Aleksey Obukhov

November 24, 2022

NOVEMBER 24th. MOSCOW. PIR PRESS. “Aleksey Aleksandrovich was a bright and outstanding personality – a skilled diplomat, an original thinker, a well-known art critic – he was an example of how a person can realize himself in many ways, even being limited by duty and the peculiarities of public service. His demise is a huge loss for those who knew him personally, but especially for Russian diplomacy and for the country as a whole,” – Gen. Evgeny P. Buzhinsky, Chairman of the PIR Center Executive Board.

On October 16, the outstanding Soviet and Russian diplomat Aleksey Alexandrovich Obukhov passed away. Today, 40 days have passed since the death of Amb. Obukhov. In the diplomatic service, Amb. Obukhov managed to make a significant contribution to the development of a number of important areas of Soviet and Russian foreign policy: he was one of the authors of a number of agreements in the field of arms control, supervised relations with the United States, from 1992 to 1996 he was the Russian Ambassador to Denmark, he also prepared the Treaty on the Russian-Lithuanian border.

The track record of Alexei Alexandrovich in the field of arms control and non-proliferation is impressive: he was a participant in Soviet-American negotiations on the limitation and reduction of strategic weapons (negotiations on SALT, START-1, START-2) and on a nuclear test ban, in 1987. was deputy head of the USSR delegation at the Soviet-American negotiations on nuclear space weapons. In 1988, he coordinated the draft Agreement on notifications of ballistic missile launches. Amb. Obukhov shared his experience and knowledge in a number of scientific papers on the subject of nonproliferation and arms control: “Towards Military Detente”, “Soviet-American Relations: Past and Present”, “Edward Teller: Legacy of the Thermonuclear Bomb” , “Nuclear Nonproliferation: A Concise Encyclopedia”. A number of his works have been published in PIR Center publications, in particular in the Security Index series. One of the most famous – “Nuclear Weapons and Christian Ethics” – was also translated into English and was highly appreciated by foreign researchers. In it Amb. Obukhov criticized attempts to find some connection between the deeds of the Russian Saint Seraphim of Sarov and the place where the first Soviet hydrogen bomb was created – the city of Sarov (until 1994 – Arzamas-16), where the monastery named after the saint is located: “It seems that one should not put the Orthodox tradition in a nuclear bomb, as it would mean committing  violence against Christian morality and assimilating involuntarily to the extremism of the fundamentalists who once called for the creation, for example, of an Islamic atomic bomb. It seems that any inclination to label the atomic bomb as Islamic, Confucian, Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic or Orthodox can only add an additional dimension to the historical dispute between confessions. Is it worth it to scatter seeds of discord, split the world on the basis of this or that civilization? This would be a backward movement in the direction of the era of religious wars. Saint Seraphim hand in hand with a nuclear bomb, is an unnatural image. Asking for physical or spiritual healing from the patron of the 50-megaton nuclear bomb, after the explosion of which the islands of Novaya Zemlya, according to rumors, changed their geographical coordinates, and herds of deer, blinded by an unprecedented celestial flash, roamed the tundra for a long time, it would hardly be possible for many numbers of believers and non-believers.”

Alexey Aleksandrovich has always been very warm towards PIR Center and has participated in PIR events. The latest such event was the PIR Center expert seminar “30 Years of Russian Nuclear Succession”, held on December 23, 2021. Even about the most difficult issues or moments in Russian history, he could speak easily, naturally, with his usual eloquence and humor, while investing in his words an important meaning. This was his parting word to the participants in the discussion: “I will refer to my experience as a participant in the Soviet-American negotiations on SALT. For a long time, I had the opportunity to draft speeches for the head of the Soviet delegation [in 1969], an outstanding diplomat, Amb. Vladimir Semyonov. Projects were carefully discussed at working meetings, there were many ideas. If something interesting, but unusual, was encountered, which is difficult to accept on the spot, Semyonov often – half-jokingly and half-seriously – proclaimed: consider that you have launched a flea in your ear. Let’s sleep, in the morning we’ll think about whether to include speech in the text or not. I proceed from the fact that the views expressed during the current discussion will serve as such an exciting flea in the ear, an incentive in favor of new constructive and equitable agreements for the benefit of peaceful development away from nuclear threats and confrontations.”

In memory of Amb. Obukhov, an obituary was published on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry: “At all posts and areas of work, Amb. Obukhov was an example of worthy service to the Motherland. He was distinguished by high professionalism, exceptional industriousness and determination, adherence to principles and exactingness, which harmoniously combined with kindness of soul and warm attitude towards people. The merits of Amb. Obukhov in the diplomatic service were repeatedly awarded state and departmental awards. The bright memory of Alexei Alexandrovich, an experienced diplomat and reliable comrade, attentive and sympathetic mentor, will forever remain in the hearts of those who worked with him.”

PIR Center expresses its deepest condolences to the family of Alexei Alexandrovich, relatives and friends of the outstanding Russian diplomat.