Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

11
Dec

Gratz_RevolutiononthemBy Jonas Grätz

In the weeks leading up to the European Union’s Vilnius summit in late November, it seemed all but certain that Ukraine was pivoting West. At the meeting, the EU and Ukraine were expected to sign an Association Agreement, which would have abolished trade barriers between the two and required Ukraine to undergo some EU-mandated political and economic reforms.

But then, days before the summit, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced that any agreement with the EU would have to be put off due to reasons of national security. Ukraine, its occasionally authoritarian president had concluded, would not be able to withstand the intense economic pressure that Russia would apply if he signed the deal. Russia’s aim? To goad Ukraine into joining its own Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which would preclude association with the EU.

Yanukovych’s unexpected decision has made his job more difficult. Enraged citizens, carrying Ukrainian and EU flags, took to the streets of Kiev to demand that Yanukovych and his government resign. Protestors, mostly from the capital and the country’s Western reaches, have occupied Kiev’s central Independence Square and some administrative buildings for more than a week. For them, the EU is their country’s last hope for better domestic governance and protection of civil rights. They fear that Yanukovych’s latest move toward Russia will further entrench Ukraine’s dysfunctional and ineffective political elite and diminish the country’s independent national identity.

The revolution on Euromaidan, as the protest has been called, in reference to Kiev’s main boulevard, has a hard road ahead of it. It lacks real leadership, and the opposition parties that could fill that role are untrusted by the public and at loggerheads with each other. Still, the anger of a sizable part of Ukrainian society cannot be ignored or discredited. And Yanukovych has nowhere to hide. Even his support base in Ukraine’s east is disappointed. His unreliability — he was for the deal before he was against it — alienated his supporters long ago. Should elections be called, as the protesters insist, he would have little to no chance of winning. Read more…

JONAS GRÄTZ is researcher with the Global Security Team at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich.

As published in Foreign Affairs on December 9th, 2013 http://www.foreignaffairs.com

7
Nov

Alan D. Solomont, former United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University and professor of Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at IE School of International Relations, is interviewed by Arantza de Areilza, Dean at IE School of International Relations.

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6
Nov

By Peter Tan Keo

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Foreign aid has a long track record. The biggest upside appears to be the injection of large sums of money into developing countries otherwise gripped by poverty, war and conflict. For better or worse, that money should, in theory, improve lives and raise people out of poverty, leading to sustainable growth and development. The unfortunate truth, however, is that foreign aid has often presented more challenges than opportunities to aid recipients. In the sixty-plus years aid has been mandated by government – versus relying solely on private donations – we’ve seen small improvements across the globe, from reducing poverty to slowing population growth to curing and preventing diseases. Progress that otherwise would have been absent without an outpouring of foreign support.

However, the impact from aid has not been proportionate to the amount of money donated. Foreign aid’s biggest downside is that no clear, effective system has been put in place to hold aid recipients and their governments accountable for resources illegally taken from public sector coffers – a long-standing, and still very present, trend from Asia to Africa to Latin America/Caribbean to Europe. Unfortunately, the absence of that system reinforces social inequities and perpetuates cycles of political abuse that has led to a sophisticated new form of authoritarianism – one that empowers the elite few, while keeping a majority of people in abject poverty.

Discussions about foreign aid remind me of James Bovard’s nominal 1986 article, “The Continuing Failure of Foreign Aid.” Analyzing world events over a period of more than 40 years, Bovard argues convincingly that the success of foreign aid is often measured by intentions, not results. Using the U.S. as one example, Bovard writes, “[F]oreign aid has routinely failed to benefit the foreign poor…the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] has dotted the countryside with “white elephants”…the biggest…of them all – a growing phalanx of corrupt, meddling, and overpaid bureaucrats.”

This trend is apparent in countries like Cambodia.

Sophal Ear, an assistant professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, is among a handful of scholars to write persuasively about the dark underbelly of foreign aid in Cambodia. His argument, clearly presented in Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, is this: “[E]ven though aid is meant to encourage development, aid dependence results in bad governance, stunting development.” Two pages later, he goes on to note, “I am convinced that, on balance, the long-term effects of aid dependence have made it difficult, if not impossible, for Cambodia to take ownership of its own development.” Read more…

As published by The Diplomat on November 5, 2013.

5
Nov

It is unclear whether a system that is geared to growth can also provide clean air and water

By Gideon Rachman

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Foreign commentators and local bloggers regularly predict that China is heading for an economic and political crisis. But the country’s leaders are in strikingly confident mood. They believe that China can keep growing at more than 7 per cent a year for at least another decade. That would mean the country’s economy – already the second-largest in the world – would double in size. And, depending on the assumptions you make about US growth and exchange rates, it would probably mean that China becomes the world’s largest economy by 2020.

Nobody embodies the leadership’s confidence better than the burly, imposing figure of Xi Jinping, China’s president. Last week, I was part of a group of foreign visitors – brought together by the 21st century Council, a think-tank – who met the Chinese leader in Beijing. Mr Xi’s manner is warmer and less formal than that of Hu Jintao, his slightly robotic predecessor. Yet the staging of the meeting had faint echoes of Chinese history, in which foreign barbarians paid tribute to the leader of the Middle Kingdom.

The president sat in an armchair in a cavernous meeting room in the Great Hall of the People, with a vast mural of the Great Wall of China behind him. Arranged in a semi-circle in front of him was a group of former presidents and prime ministers from other nations, including Gordon Brown of Britain and Mario Monti from Italy. In the semi-circle behind them were some western business leaders, and a smattering of “thinkers”. President Xi started his remarks by pronouncing himself “deeply moved by the sincerity you have shown”. He then proceeded to give a confident presentation of his vision for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

In remarks that were widely picked up by the Chinese media, Mr Xi dismissed the idea that China risks falling into a “middle-income trap” that stalls its development and said he was confident that rapid growth could continue, without the need for further stimulus measures.

Exactly how China will sustain its growth and strengthen its global position is, however, the subject of intense discussion among the country’s leadership – as became clear in a series of other meetings arranged for our group with top military, diplomatic and economic policy makers. Read more…

As published in www.ft.com on November 4, 2013.

4
Nov

By Ryan C. Crocker

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There were high expectations after President Obama and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, talked on the phone in late September. Those hoping for a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff were excited that a breakthrough was imminent; meanwhile, some American allies, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, expressed deep skepticism over a potential American rapprochement with Iran.

No breakthrough was achieved when American and Iranian officials met for negotiations last month, but few observers expected one. Later this week, another round of talks is scheduled to begin in Geneva.

The window for achieving a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis is not open-ended. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani face domestic pressures — from skeptical members of Congress in Washington and anti-American hard-liners in Tehran.

Nevertheless, despite three decades of frosty relations and although most Americans may be unaware of it, talks with Iran have succeeded in the past — and they can succeed again.

Immediately after 9/11, while serving in the State Department, I sat down with Iranian diplomats to discuss next steps in Afghanistan. Back then, we had a common enemy, the Taliban and its Al Qaeda associates, and both governments thought it was worth exploring whether we could cooperate.

The Iranians were constructive, pragmatic and focused, at one point they even produced an extremely valuable map showing the Taliban’s order of battle just before American military action began.

They were also strong proponents of taking action in Afghanistan. We met through the remaining months of 2001 in different locations, and Iranian-American agreement at the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was central to establishing the Afghan Interim Authority, headed by Hamid Karzai, now the president of Afghanistan.

I continued to hold talks with the Iranians in Kabul when I was sent to reopen the United States Embassy there. We forged agreements on various security issues and coordinated approaches to reconstruction. And then, suddenly, it all came to an end when President George W. Bush gave his famous “Axis of Evil” speech in early 2002. The Iranian leadership concluded that in spite of their cooperation with the American war effort, the United States remained implacably hostile to the Islamic Republic.

Real cooperation effectively ceased after the speech and the costs were immediate. At the time, we were in the process of negotiating the transfer of the notorious Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, from Iranian house arrest to Afghan custody and ultimately to American control. Instead, the Iranians facilitated his covert entry into Afghanistan where he remains at large, launching attacks on coalition and Afghan targets. Read more…

Ryan C. Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A & M.

As published in www.nytimes.com on November 3, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appears in print on November 4, 2013, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Talk to Iran, It Works).