Gunboat Diplomacy in China Sea Can Lead to a Red Line

April 18, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s April 17, 2014 blog post.


The United States may be heading for another Red Line moment–this time with China. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel making his fourth trip to the China Sea region recently, wanted to reassure Japan and other nations that the U.S. stands with them if China pursues stated territorial annexation.

The “Sleeping Dragon” has arisen, hungry for the small mostly uninhabited islands in the East and South China Sea claimed by Japan, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Mr. Hagel’s visit comes on the heels of Russia’s takeover of Crimea which had been part of Ukraine. The fear is that China has been emboldened by Russia’s move, leading to similar action over the long disputed islands.

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Kerry’s—and Congress’s—valued partner in Morocco

April 15, 2014

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s April 14, 2014 special to The Hill.


Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry concluded his whirlwind tour through Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in Morocco, to co-chair the second US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue. With consensus with Europe on Putin’s expansionist policies only lukewarm, and the apparent derailment of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, one can imagine that Kerry was relieved to arrive in Rabat.

There, Kerry met with a partner that shares our vision of stability and security in the region, and makes common cause with the U.S. on how to move forward to achieve it. In summing up his visit at the second Morocco-U.S. Strategic Dialogue in Rabat, Kerry said, “The U.S. stands by and will stand by this relationship every step of the way.” He hailed Morocco’s “essential leadership role” on its reform program and its proactive strategy to enhance regional security and stability in Africa and the Middle East.

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Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer

April 9, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s April 8, 2014 blog post.


This old cliché is still apropos in President Barrack Obama’s saber-rattling standoff with President Vladimir Putin. In Europe last week Mr. Obama said that Russia was a declining “regional power”. In seizing Crimea, Mr. Putin was expanding Russia’s influence over Ukraine–part of the lost former Soviet Empire–was the inference. I am sure Mr. Putin is still fuming over those remarks. For the U.S. the annexation of Crimea is not a national security threat as was the Cold War era.

Containing Russia’s further incursion into Ukraine is important however the most pressing foreign security issues are the control of Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical stockpile. Mr. Putin is the key to both issues.

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A deal for Vladimir Putin

April 8, 2014

Mark W. Erwin (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 1999-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Erwin’s March 18, 2014 special to the Charlotte Observer.


Is President Putin missing the obvious in his pursuit of Crimea? Strategically, I can understand why he wants the territory, but his tactics need to be more peaceful and pragmatic. Throughout history, sovereign nations have purchased and sold portions of themselves to one another. The United States is not united because of military conquest alone. We are also who we are due to some great real estate deals.

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was a land deal between the United States and France, in which the U.S. acquired 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million dollars. President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of our young nation.

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The Rise of Rwanda’s Women: Rebuilding and Reuniting a Nation

April 3, 2014

Swanee Hunt (Ambassador to Austria, 1993-1997)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Hunt’s March 30, 2014 special to Foreign Affairs.


Twenty years ago, in 100 days of slaughter between April and July 1994, an estimated one million Rwandan men, women, and children were killed by their fellow citizens. It was one of the worst genocides in history, and its effects still ripple through Rwanda, central and eastern Africa, and the world at large.

It would be obscene to say that such a catastrophe has had even the thinnest silver lining. But it did create a natural — or unnatural — experiment, as the country’s social, economic, and political institutions were wiped out by the genocide. And in important respects, the reconstructed Rwanda that emerged over the next two decades is a dramatically different country.

One major improvement has come in the leadership of Rwandan women, who have made history with their newly vital role in politics and civil society. No longer confined to positions of influence in the home, they have become a force from the smallest village council to the highest echelons of national government. Understanding how and why such a transformation occurred offers not just an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. It also provides lessons for other countries struggling to overcome histories of patriarchy and oppression.

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To manage Putinism, look to Norway

April 1, 2014

Thomas A. Loftus (Ambassador to Norway, 1993-1997)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Loftus’ March 31, 2014 op-ed in the Cap Times.


Norwegians grow up with skis on their feet and Russians on their northern border. The choice of former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to head NATO puts a young man with a long and successful political resume in charge of what now has become an alliance faced with managing relations with Russia after the annexation of Crimea. This is a Russia with a saber-rattling bent and a mercurial leader.

It is not a new Cold War, let us hope, but certainly a frosty turn of events. Norway’s adept handling of relations with their Russian neighbors since the end of the Soviet Union gives the West some guidelines but knowing that history is only useful if understood in the context of two new realities.

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Ambassador Stephenson: Time to Abandon Leading from Behind

March 31, 2014

Thomas Stephenson (Ambassador to Portugal, 2007-2009)


Much has already been written about Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the challenges we face in trying to rein in Putin’s aggressive nationalism in the Ukraine. Most of the plausible steps we can take at this point have been well aired by others far more knowledgeable than I about eastern Europe and the former USSR. My purpose in writing at this point is to encourage us to focus on the dire consequences for the free world when there is an absence of strong U.S. leadership in dealing with aggression by countries with tyrannical leaders. It has not been a pretty picture over the last five years and is worth summarizing briefly.

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They told me so: Russia’s tactics toward Ukraine continue to bolster Romania’s fear of the country

March 28, 2014

Jim Rosapepe (Ambassador to Romania, 1998-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Rosapepe’s March 27, 2014 op-ed in the Baltimore Sun.


‘I told you so.’

That’s what I’m sure most of my Romanian friends would tell me about Russia’s heavy handed assault on Ukraine — if they weren’t so polite.

Almost from the day I arrived in Bucharest in February 1998 (when Boris Yeltsin, not Vladimir Putin, was President of Russia), Romanians tried to convince me that the U.S. was naive about Russia.

There was — and is — plenty of evidence to support their view.

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Russia’s Takeover of Crimea Needs Careful Action

March 26, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s March 25, 2014 blog post.


On Friday March 21 President Vladimir Putin signed the annexation treaty making Ukraine’s autonomous Crimea region a part of Russia. The port city of Sevastopol on the Black Sea, home to Russia’s naval fleet in the region, was included.

Russia flexing its muscle in Crimea was reminiscent of the World War II Stalin era. It was in 1944 that the minority Muslim Tatar’s were deported from Crimea, and shipped off to the Urals. Stalin had accused them of collaborating with the Nazis. Thousands of Tatars died along the way. Ironically male Tatars were serving in the Soviet army at the time. Upon their return home they found their families gone.


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America suffers from ADD — Ambassador Deficit Disorder

March 24, 2014

Richard W. Carlson (Ambassador to the Seychelles, 1991-1992)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Carlson’s March 22, 2014 op-ed in The Tribune-Review.


In the summer of 1991, after a friendly confirmation hearing before the Senate, I was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Seychelles, an archipelago of 155 islands in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles out from Mombasa on the coast of Kenya.

I had been a small-potatoes political donor to President George H.W. Bush — maybe a few thousand dollars — and he knew me slightly. But I had raised no money for him before he nominated me. Neither was I a Foreign Service officer, a professional diplomat, as are many ambassadors. I was a political appointee.

My principal qualification for the post was daily immersion in foreign affairs and national security issues as director of the Voice of America during the prior six years of the Cold War. That, and like other times in life being in the right spot at the right moment, obtained my appointment.

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