Tag Archives: Diplomacy

Syria and «assadization» of G20

After he canceled bilateral talks with Russian counterpart (and remained with two days off on the presidential agenda), Barack Obama seems to be very interested in relations with the Northern countries. So en route to G20 Summit (Sankt Petersburg, Russia), he is doing a stopover in Stockholm (Sweden), where the leader of the White House will meet with PM Fredrik Reinfeldt and King Carl XVI Gustav and will get dinner with leaders of the Northern countries from Western EuropeNorway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark.

This visit comes as a follow of last week, when Obama met in Washington with the heads of the Northern countries from Eastern Europe – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Of course, from discussions in Washington did not miss the conflict in Syria, as it probably will not miss to the meetings in Stockholm, although on the official agenda we can to find: the challenges arising by climate change (it is known that the northern European states are on the top list of the ‘greenest countries’ in the world!), regional security and development of bilateral trade. I don’t know which are the final results (in the medium and long term) connected with this new diplomatic approach and the strategic vision of Washington regarding  the Northern states. However, (in the short term) Obama seems trying to prepare for his diplomatic offensive at the G20 Summit.

782290660Assad’s fate will warm up the atmosphere of the meeting in the northern and cold capital of Russia, St. Petersburg, where Obama – willing or not – will meet with the “repudiated” leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin; also with the leader of China, Xi Jinping; the both countries actively oppose to the foreign intervention in Syria, but also Obama will meet with David Cameron, British Prime Minister, who washed his hands like Pontius Pilate, and passed the decision to support military intervention in Syria to the British Parliament, parliament which, despite arguments delivered for several hours by the chief of executive in London, gave negative vote.

If on these three cases things seem somewhat clear (though American leader has provided a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping) and extraordinary changes are difficult to predict (except if Obama will “pleasantly” surprise the Kremlin leader and will put on the table of world heavyweight undeniable evidence that incriminates the Assad regime), however, the U.S. leader has the chance even to keep solidarity of France and Germany ( in last case only one rather declarative and quite elusive). And to obtain declarative consent of other leaders – argument can be put forward to the United Nations. Well, I say keep because president Hollande has just spoke yesterday that he could ask the French parliament, a declaration that, associated with the deprivation of principal ally, Great Britain and the step back made by Obama himself who will request advisory agreement of US Congress, seems rather a step in retreat. Germany, which is in full Bundestag election campaign, most likely will still choose a moderate way and will try to be as low voice on this issue.

When hosting an international event of such importance, Russia knows every time to catch a large part of the benefits in terms of image and external perceptions, and it is easy to predict that this time will not be different. Regard the signals from the Kremlin, Barack Obama is right to expect an offensive campaign of the Russian leader, who recently, slightly ironical, said that “was surprised” that the Western community no longer runs “without comment” everything that Washington decides. Last public appearances of Vladimir Putin (including Channel One Russia tv & AP interview in the preamble G20 Summit that was published today) shows that (even if regarding domestic policy, things not look pretty good) when is about foreign policy, Russian president feels excellent in his skin and knows that he is not an opponent easy to overcome. Most likely Putin will try to convince the leaders attending to the Summit that by sending in ridiculous a conference where the both sides of the Syrian conflict to sit at the same table was a mistake and that a diplomatic solution is better than a military intervention against Assad (however limited it may be), with small chances of removing the Syrian leader from power but with big chances of turning into a regional conflict.

Even if on the official agenda of the 8-th meeting of the G20 is not found Syrian issue, it certainly will dominate the formal&informal discussions to the detriment fo economic priorities. Which also are not few, and are not unimportant (but we’re talking about in the coming days). Leaders of emerging economies have already a list with the important topics that they would like/need to be addressed, and political saturation of event can be rather counterproductive for both leaders, of the Kremlin and the White House. We will see whether the two leaders will be able to avoid as a major economic summit –  with (uncommon but necessary) a major political stake – to become a battle of vanities with null result or not.

Published by PPW partner – Eurasia Review

Moscow closes US Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Russia

Agency for International Development U.S. ( USAID ) has ended its work in Russia, at the request of the Russian side, it said in a press statement issued by the State Department, without specifying the reasons that generated the request of the authorities in Moscow. U.S. State Department notes, however, that although the work of the Development on Russian land came to an end, Washington will continue to support democracy, human rights and building a robust civil society in Russia.

According to Reuters, citing a spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, stating that Wednesday, September 12, 2012 was received notification from the Russian authorities on termination of USAID mission in Russia. “The United States recently received the Russian government’s decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation”. This comes in the context where there were already concerns about restrictions on NGOs by new legislation adopted by the State Duma in the first half of this year. At the same time, Nuland expressed hope that USAID programs for Russia, financed by the U.S. will be continued with local funding. Each state is free to decide whether or not to accept assistance from us, Nuland concluded. But, this gesture (undiplomatic) will increase, undoubtedly, the existing tensions between the two countries.

Since 1992, the U.S. budget spent on projects in Russia about $ 2.7 billion, of which about one third – for civil society development. Among the groups to be affected by the withdrawal of USAID from Russia are Golos, which has been majority funded by the American body, the human rights group Memorial and the National Democratic Institute, a senior US government official said.

Agency for International Development was established by President John F. Kennedy through a presidential decree in 1961.

The European Diplomacy, Energy Security and Central Asian Stake

The events in Central Asian countries very rarely attract massive international media attention. It does not means that nothing happens here. In the last decade of May, the third annual meeting of deputy foreign ministers of Central Asian states (an event organized by the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy – UNRCCA and held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan) was focused on enhancing regional cooperation and sustainable development. In the same time, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan Mahmudjon Sobirov received the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Geoffrey Pyatt. Mr Pyatt expressed desire of the US side to facilitate trade between Central and South Asia. In his turn, M. Sobirov expressed hope that the US will also support the implementation of energy projects in Tajikistan that would contribute not only to the economic development of Tajikistan, but to the entire region, since these projects will allow Tajikistan to export energy to the countries of South Asia. In another part of the world, Europe – Germany announced that it will gradually close all nuclear reactors by 2020. Likewise, Switzerland. But until to this “green future”, existing energy alternatives cannot yet cover the energy needs of the European, American or Chinese. In this context, the fuel resources of the countries of Central Asia makes this space an issue for the diplomatic front where the battle is becoming increasingly fierce. Whether we speak of the European Union or China, the basic idea remains the same and was sound enough: diversify supplies in order to reduce structural dependence on Russia. In this discussion we will limit to the moves from the European side. Projects started, projects delayed and too few concrete results. Moreover, history seems again from Russia’s side. Unrest in North Africa and the Middle East increases the need of European Union to find new solutions to ensure energy needs. So no wonder there is a European Union diplomatic offensive on the all possible fronts.

Nabucco vs South Stream

When talking about the two major energy projects of European Southern Corridor, we mainly observed that Western European diplomacy has always tried, at least in public, a delicate balance by supporting both projects. Diplomats and officials from Austria, Germany or even Italy have defined open the option to support both projects. What mattered in the price of gas imported from Russia. In contrast, the countries of Eastern Europe, namely Bulgaria and Romania have tried without much success a dual approach. Berlin, for instance, was (and still is) interested in opening new pipeline routes out of Central Asia in order to diminish the European Union’s dependence on Russian energy. German diplomats also were on the lookout for ways to boost trade in ways that benefited German manufacturers. In addition, the German military was eager to retain access to a military base at Termez, near the Uzbek-Afghan border. More, the meltdown of Kazakhstan’s banking sector in early 2009 cost German firms an estimated 500 million euros in lost investments, 300 million euros of which will have to be borne by German taxpayers. But the economic debacle did nothing to diminish Merkel’s enthusiasm for engagement with Astana. But from Moscow the diplomatic offensive of Germany was overlooked, given the many economic and political projects common to both countries. In contrast, many of Romania’s diplomatic contacts in Central Asia (even though concrete results have minor) were born from the Kremlin a grumble; however, the relations between the two countries are not the happiest. Romanian diplomacy seems unable to adapt in real time to the dynamic changes in the international community. (Full text)

PublishedOriental Review, June 4, 2011