Friday, June 27, 2008

A Matter of Trust

I am grateful for the continued discussion over some of the themes raised in this past Monday's panel on U.S. foreign policy.

There is a further element, that arises out of Dan Twining's presentation--trusting what foreign leaders and pundits have to say about the United States and its role in the world. It's clear that a good deal of hedging is going on. But at some point, when a hedge has to become a choice, where will another country come down?

India's one of the best examples of the hedger. They cultivate the "democratic" side by talking about closer ties with the U.S., Australia and Japan; their foreign minister talks a different line when he is with his Russian and Chinese counterparts in Yekaterinburg.

The Gulf emirates say they want a greater and stronger U.S. presence but also invite President Ahmadinejad to their meetings and facilitate Iran's economic and business presence in the region.

Europeans come to Washington and talk about their fears about a resurgent Russia; the EU turns around to sing the praises of President Medvedev and proclaim that a new chapter has now opened up in Europe-Russia relations after the Khanty-Mansiisk summit.

Is this hedging going on because other countries don't trust America's staying power and are covering their bases, or because they see America as a dysfunctional power and want different options?

Whose opinion should I trust--what the European, Arab or Indian tells me here in Washington, or what I hear they might say in Moscow or Beijing?

It seems to me that there is a fundamental difference between diplomacy and foreign policy Mr. Gvosdev.

So long as India's military dealings go on with Russia, the US shouldn't see India as an ally.

On the other hand, as long as the EU remains integrated in NATO, it is unlikely any cooperation with Russia will extend beyong economic treaties.

Deeds matter more than words...
I would think that different interests are involved in the diplomacy of these other countries with different partners. But I also think there is reason to be concerned if European positions limit the possibilities of common action with the United States on security questions.

BTW Nikolas I just noticed in the side column that you are leaving The National Interest for the Naval War College. I do hope you plan to continue this weblog.
The main reasons is that the current US administration does not want to hear opinions that are different from the official US policy line. Countries must show their support, or else... It's because if you are not with us, you are against us.

However, the world isn't black and white, and other countries have their own important interests and priorities, especially in their own neighborhoods.
Many countries already live in a multipolar world, which means (1)there performing a balancing act with every point of gravity, (2)they'r not betting on one horse.

People whose worldview is monopolaire interpret talks with other nations as a sign of 'leaving the one protector for the other'. Unfortunately fear for such consequences often makes such a person more convinced that a hard and self assured line is needed to convince the partner not to shift sides.

The US elite should take well care not to become the last people to live in a monopolar world. When EU reluctantly talks to Russia about PRO, when NATO states express desire to come to a common point of view on the subject of missile defence, perhaps it is wise to realise EU members are somewhat scared to raise this point with Washington directly, or even have become convinced Washington will not listen to them. Perhaps the US should show it CAN listen. Sharing resonsibility with EU and Russia after all does not mean that the EU will suddenly employ Russian rockets on their soil. The bipolar and monopolar world are bygone.
Nik, to answer your question, listen to what you hear, listen to what you hear they tell others in Moscow or Beijing, and split the difference.
Perhaps what they speak among themselves is the most important, isn't it?
Actually, the communication issue is interesting one. I think the tradition of American meadia having their pet locals in many countries is very counterproductive.
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