Hague's blueprint for British foreign policy
William Hague has set out his blueprint for British foreign policy. He says that from now on it, "unashamedly pursues our enlightened national interest".
It is not easy for civil servants to swallow this kind of message, implying as it does that they have been failing to do so prior to the new government sweeping to power.
But Lord Renwick, formerly ambassador to Washington, reckons the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are more relieved to have a man of Hague's stature than they are worried by some of the political exigencies of today's speech.
He believes that Downing Street became too strong in formulating international policy under Labour, and that a "heavyweight like William Hague can restore the Foreign Office to its rightful position".
There is a good deal of code in a speech like today's. Does the emphasis on building new relationships or on the multi-polar nature of today's world mean a relative diminution of our ties with the USA? Or is Mr Hague, by emphasising how much of modern diplomacy is done by phone, e-mail, or even Twitter, implying that expensive embassies could be cut back in many parts of the world?
Both of those questions could probably be answered 'yes' given the widespread sense that power is becoming more diffuse in the world and that the prospect of 25% cuts across Whitehall means plenty of misery for Mr Hague's department. But he cannot say those things explicitly.
Speeches like today allow the secretary of state to talk about new challenges or priorities - but he or she cannot say they are giving up on certain things or dispense with the lists of worthy policy priorities prepared by their staff. No wonder former diplomat and MP George Walden describes the writing of addresses such as Mr Hague's as being, "like sculpting air".
The other thing about diplomacy is that it consists of partnerships that will only work if the other side finds them beneficial. This is particularly true of Britain's relations with Europe.
Mr Hague famously campaigned to keep the pound, and is widely regarded within the Conservative party as a Euro-sceptic. Yet today he paid due attention to improving relations with Europe and to regaining influence by reversing a recent trend downwards in the posting of UK civil servants to EU institutions.
Many people suspect that the new foreign secretary is emphasising bilateral relations with countries precisely because he suspects that multi-lateral forums like the EU, with 27 members, are hopelessly unwieldy.
If he manages to develop good ties with the likes of Germany, France or Italy, Mr Hague will manage to square the circle of maintaining influence in Europe while checking the growth of its institutions and removing various matters from their competence.
But the key really will be whether those countries think Britain is a worthwhile partner or whether by contrast it is too awkward, and indeed too poor, to be worth it.
Similar considerations will inform the reception given to Mr Hague and his fellow FCO ministers in New Delhi or Brasilia or the other places where they seek to build influence.
The descent of a British delegation is one thing, but ultimately the success or failure of the whole enterprise will depend on perceptions of how strong the UK is; culturally, militarily, in its intelligence services, the quality of its diplomacy and, above all, economically.