Foreign Policy Blogs

Watching Diplomacy Part II

Two weeks ago the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think thank, hosted world leaders in town for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly for separate, public discussions about current issues in world affairs.

Those distinguished leaders include: Ali Babacan, Turkey 's Minister of Foreign Affairs; Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina; Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine; Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia; Sergey V. Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation; Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile; and David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom.

Quite a distinguished bunch.

First, Mr. Ali Babacan of Turkey spoke about Turkey's role in regional diplomacy (watch this interview here).

“To many academicians who study geopolitics, the diverse regions surrounding Turkey are all fascinating case studies.  For us, they are a fact of daily life where, unfortunately, there is never a dull moment.  The Caucasus, the Balkans, Italy, Central Asia, North Africa — these are regions with their distinct dynamics and intractable issues.  This is why Turkish foreign policy is endeavoring to find feasible solutions to the many regional disputes and (frozen ?) conflicts we are today faced with.

We do this not just because it is in our interest, promotes security in our immediate vicinity, but also because, as experience shows, the cost of inaction is almost always much higher….”

Second, President de Kichner of Argentina related a Latin American perspective on the US’ recent unilateral turn (watch the video here):

“In the international arena, ever since the decision for — or in terms of multilateralism and when we think about the invasion of Afghanistan, as a result of the attacks on 9/11, we can see what happened starting at that point and what happened since then with broken multilateralism.  You know, we have seen unilateral decisions which have been heavily criticized not only within the U.N., but have also come under criticism from natural allies of the U.S.

This breaking of multilateralism is, in our view, a decision which has made the world less safe.  And we must — in order to give legitimacy and credibility to the fight against terrorism, we must make sure that decisions are universal and multilateral, acknowledging the United Nations as the appropriate instrument that can blend all of our differences, that can represent us all based on authority, relying not only on might, on the use of force, but on international law.

And why is it so important to reaffirm the concept of international law and of democratic civilization?  Because that is right at the heart of the fight against terrorism.  If we use similar instruments to those used by terrorism, in other words, not abiding by international law, we may run the risk of might, of sheer force not being enough in this fight that is profoundly cultural and political, a fight which we must wage from the democratic world.  And we firmly believe that the basic premise must be respect for international humanitarian law and international law as such.  That will give us legitimacy in the face of others…”

Third, Ukranian President Victor Yushchenko spoke about Ukraine's 17-year history as an independent nation and its most important goal–national security (watch the video here):

“When we talk about what is the most important in the current policy in order to maintain our territorial identity and our sovereignty and independence, this is a model of security policy.  What kind of security policy would be most appropriate for the interests of the Ukrainian nation?  European — European, general continental, Euro-Atlantic, model of collective security.

So when we speak about the first thing that Ukraine needs, the first service for 21st century, the 22nd century, this is our need to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic system of collective security.  This is a global fundamental answer, how to preserve Ukraine and our history from those tests against it that every decade of the 20th century forced us to suffer.  So when we speak about the main point of our foreign policy, this is the process of integration.  We want the world to recognize Ukraine and Ukraine to recognize the world.

We’re talking about European integration and we’re talking about the — Ukraine is a European country.  It always was.  And she is and she always will be European…”

Fourth, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, answered a wide array of questions from the moderator and audience. After speaking briefly about Colombia's relations with its Andean neighbors, said (watch the video here):

“I will not speak about my neighbors.  I need to speak about Colombia.  We are working for higher standards for our democracy to be better every day.  Security for all Colombians, freedoms, social cohesion, a state made up of checks and balances and our fight for transparency.  (Inaudible) — for people to trust in our democratic institutions.  One very important point in our country is that Colombians have — (inaudible) — institutions.  In Colombia, a president cannot choose one investor over the other.  Investors depend in Colombia on our institutions.  And our institutions are transparent and totally friendly to investors.

One key point you should keep in mind.  When you want to remember Colombia, please think of Colombia as a country of trying to do the best to have investment confidence.  Maybe Colombia, for its specific realities, reasons, has much more interest in bringing investors to the country than other countries in the region.  We are open for (any with ?) investment in our country…”

Fifth, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained why the U.S.-Russian relationship has recently been described as “rocky”:

“Well, first of all, thank you for this opportunity to meet again with the members of the council.  Since I was a bit late because of the meeting with Secretary Rice, we decided that I wouldn't make any opening remarks, but I have them and we will leave them with the council for you to consider how to use them.

As to the meeting, I did not feel any rocky style.  Certainly a rocky style is not my style, and it was not secretary's approach to this meeting.  We discussed our relationship.  We, I believe, agreed that we have to be pragmatic.  We would never be able to agree on everything.  And of course we discussed the immediate things on which we disagree, the situation in the Caucasus.  But we, as I said, agreed that we must not make this situation a rock on which everything else would be hit.

And we considered our future areas of cooperation, including the issues related to nonproliferation.  And it's obvious that we have to get clarity.

And we — I welcome the pragmatic mood of the secretary and the pragmatic mood of the discussion, as I welcomed the pragmatic attitude of President Bush yesterday when he spoke in the General Assembly and devoted most of his speech to the issues which are indeed important to the entire humanity, including Russia and the United States, like terrorism, like human trafficking, drug trafficking, proliferation.  All these demand collective effort.  All this is impossible to do without uniting all assets we all have, and the Russian-American cooperation is certainly a key to such worldwide endeavor.

So it is also — it is also clear that pragmatism in our relations, after the very emotional reaction in the West — and in the United States, in particular — to the Russian action to stop the aggression of Georgia against South Ossetia, the action firmly rooted in the right for self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the charter.  Of course, this coming down of the situation between the two countries and coming back to the pragmatism, which always was a feature of the American policy and of the Russian policy of late, would take some time.”

For an American take on the current state of Russian-American relations, specifically Condoleezza Rice's, read this report by the Associated Press published today.

Sixth, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet spoke about cooperation between Chile and the United States in the global and regional context (watch video here):

“Let me begin by assuring the United States that it can count on Chile as a reliable partner, not as an unconditional ally, but certainly an open and frank one, a country that attaches great importance to multilateralism and international law, the principle of consensual solutions to international controversies, and the exhaustion of diplomacy in response to crisis.  This partnership with the United States goes beyond any administration in particular, and therefore Chile's ready to collaborate with the new president and his team.

We live in a complex world.  The United States is unique amongst nations in terms of the scope of its power.  However, globalization has expanded the list of worldwide problems and has made it clear that the only way to tackle global challenges effectively is through multilateral cooperation, given that — (inaudible) — and challenges are emerging worldwide, problems that affect us all, such as terrorism, climate change and the energy crisis, poverty, uncontrolled migrations, organized crime, pandemics and even (protectionism ?). And of course, to put it more in (the consciousness ?), today the — (IMF ?) said that the crisis will be — could be named as the three Fs, he said, the food crisis, the fuel crisis and the financial crisis.

Well, the strategy, then, to confront all of these problems should be collectively generated and to collectively generate the public good — the global public good so as to develop the governance capacity required for the 21st century.  In this perspective, we feel that the world, Latin America and Chile are ripe for renewed and strengthened multilateralism, and Washington's decisive engagement will be critical…”

Finally, UK Foreign Minister David Miliband spokeabout the significance of the U.S. presidential election for the future of transatlantic relations:

“I think you can make a pretty good case that this is the last election, the last U.S. presidential election that gives the winner the chance, with the European Union, to use the transatlantic alliance to forge and define a global foreign policy agenda.  But if the next president stays in office for eight years, in eight years’ time, the idea that a transatlantic alliance can come together and set a global agenda that is an inclusive global agenda of the rising powers — so we’re under no illusion, I’m not talking about recreating a transatlantic empire, but I do think that eight years’ time, it's easy to imagine that it will be practically impossible for a transatlantic alliance to set a global agenda for the global rules of the road…”

[this is because] “…there are three great shifts in power going on around the world.  There's obviously a shift in power from West to East.  There's a huge shift in power from the national to the international level.  And there's a critical shift in power, in my view, going from governments to people.

That's why I talk about civilian surge around the world, the benefits of — it goes to technology, the fact that there's an emerging global consciousness powered by those technologies.  That people are inspired by what they see and know about around the world allows them to recognize how other people live their lives and to ask questions about why they’re living their lives in a particular way…”

I highly recommend giving these discussions a full listen or read.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.