What Could Possibly Go Wrong When Dealing with the Russians?

February 22, 2017

Thomas A. Loftus (Norway, 1993-1998)

Cross-posted from The Cap Times of Madison, Wisconsin

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A look at history should give President Donald Trump pause if he and his administration think they understand the workings of Russian minds. The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provides a lesson in how the Soviet Union and the U.S. miscommunicated and misunderstood each other — with long-lasting, dire results.

On Sept. 21, 1995, as Norwegian ambassador I hosted a private lunch for Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and Admiral Stansfield Turner. Vodka was served.

Dobrynin had been the Soviet Union’s ambassador to the United States from 1962 to 1986, from JFK through Ronald Reagan. His book “In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to Six Cold War Presidents” is a must-read. Stansfield Turner was the head of the CIA for Jimmy Carter.

It was a sunny day in Oslo and the three of us chatted like old friends, as we had come to know each other over three days at a closed-door conference hosted by the Nobel Prize Institute recounting the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

The conference can best be described as “What didn’t we know, and when didn’t we know it?”

All of the actors making decisions during the 1979 invasion were at the conference, including the head of the KGB and the head of the White House National Security Council. It was to be an oral history of those in the Soviet Union involved in the fateful decision to invade Afghanistan and those in the Carter administration who decided how to respond.

The 1979 invasion was the end of “detente” — the thaw in the Cold War that began in 1969 as the new policy of President Nixon and that produced the SALT 1 treaty reducing nuclear weapons.

A direct telephone link between Washington and Moscow — “the red telephone” — was installed at that time so the leaders of the two world powers could talk and avoid a crisis that could escalate into war.

That phone must have been off the hook in December 1979 because it became clear from the conference — my memory helped by reading the now-available transcript — that neither side knew what the other was doing or thinking despite being sure they did.

The Soviets thought that the U.S. would understand that this action was directed at keeping a Muslim country on their southern border from falling apart. The inept government the Soviets had been propping up was about to be overthrown.

The Carter White House thought the invasion was part of a grand plan to expand the Soviet Empire and that the Soviets were creating an “Arc of Crisis.”

The Soviets’ reading of Washington was that this local matter in their “near abroad” would be criticized but would not harm the U.S. relationship under detente.

Dobrynin: “I am trying to tell you how we really thought. There was no discussion in the Kremlin of any Grand Design. There was no discussion in the press — well, the press did not matter — nor in the Politburo, or the Foreign Ministry. I spoke privately with Brezhnev at the time and there was never a single word about it. … In one of the meetings Brezhnev even asked me, “Anatoly, where is the ‘Arc of Crisis?'”

As a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there was a Western embargo and sanctions on the Soviet Union, and President Carter pulled the United States out of the Moscow summer Olympics in 1980.

The war lasted nine years, over a million civilians were killed and millions more fled as refugees to Pakistan and Iran. The CIA started a not-so-covert action to harass the Soviets: “Charlie Wilson’s War.” The fighters against the Soviets became radicalized and when President Mikhail Gorbachev ordered the Soviet 40th Army to return home, what was left in Afghanistan was a mess that turned eventually into the Taliban and al-Qaida.

If President Trump deals with the Russians thinking he knows how they think, there will be disappointment — not deals. And, if President Putin, a man too clever by half, thinks the new administration gives him license in his “near abroad,” tragedy will result.

Treat Mexico as a Strategic Partner

February 21, 2017

John D. Negroponte (Mexico, 1989-1993)
James R. Jones (Mexico, 1993-1997)
Jeffrey Davidow (Mexico, 1998-2002)
Antonio Garza (Mexico, 2002-2009)
Carlos Pascual (Mexico, 2009-2011)
Earl Anthony Wayne (Mexico, 2011-2015)

An edited version of this piece appeared in The Washington Post.

______

Mexico is of enormous importance to the United States. We have strong strategic interests in a relationship of respect and collaboration with Mexico while we work through differences on trade, security, and migration.

US-Mexico relations touch the daily lives of more Americans than ties with any other country, whether through culture, commerce or travel. US prosperity and the security of our homeland are deeply affected by the type of relationship we have with our southern neighbor.

Much can be improved between Mexico and the US for the good of both countries, but tackling these challenges need not be a win-lose proposition. Both countries can gain security and prosperity. Reviving the animosity and “distance” that characterized our relationship in the seventies or eighties is dangerous and runs counter to our interests.

The six of us have served as U.S. Ambassadors to Mexico, managing the ever-improving relationship across Democratic and Republican administrations since the late eighties. We have seen firsthand the strategic value of working cooperatively with Mexico to tackle common problems, including crime, terrorism and global economic competition. Along the way, Mexico has become a more democratic and prosperous country, making it a better and more reliable partner.

We are now deeply concerned to see this foundation shaken. Public attitudes in both countries are being soured by exaggerated public accusations. Mexicans believe that their national “dignity” has been insulted. Champions of closer cooperation with the US are on the defensive. Nationalist voices are gaining traction. This is not in America’s long-term interest.

The United States and Mexico started our modern journey to closer partnership with the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement. Collectively, the six of us have worked through every stage of NAFTA. This is not a perfect agreement, but neither is it the job killer some have construed. Since NAFTA was signed in 1993, U.S. jobs linked to trade with Mexico grew from 700,000 to 4.9 million. The value of our two-way trade has grown six fold, reaching $584 billion in 2015. Mexico is now the second largest market for US exports, larger than our exports to China, Japan, and Germany combined. Mexico is the third largest buyer of US agricultural products. We build many things together, with parts crossing borders in both directions – so much so that finished Mexican manufactured exports were found to have 40% U.S. content.

US jobs moved to Mexico, but others were created by NAFTA. A 2013 study estimated that the US is $127 billion richer each year because of extra NAFTA trade. New studies have made clear that the big causes of US manufacturing job losses are automation and trade with China, not NAFTA. NAFTA can be improved to help boost the US economy in such areas as “rule of origin,” services, e-commerce, border inefficiencies, and labor standards. Those are the issues that should be negotiated based on facts to strengthen a long-term relationship that makes both countries more competitive.

Energy deserves special mention. Under NAFTA, Mexico’s nationalized energy sector was still off limits to US companies. In 2013, Mexico opened investment and trade in oil, natural gas, electricity, renewables, and refined fuels to US and other companies. Today, the US exports more natural gas and gasoline to Mexico than to any country. In December, major US companies won licenses to develop Mexico’s oil reserves, while others are partners in new pipelines. These openings make North America more energy secure.

The US deficit with Mexico gets more public attention than it deserves. Mexico represents 8% of our deficit. Our deficits with China, the EU and Japan are larger. The deficit with Mexico declined by over 40% between 2010 and 2015, even as our trade grew 35%.

A sharp point of contention has been over the border wall and migration. The great irony is that today there are 1.1 million fewer undocumented Mexicans in the US than in 2007. Apprehensions of Mexicans at the border have reached the lowest levels of this century. Mexico has joined us to manage the surge in migrants from Central America, deporting over 165,000 from its southern border in 2015, more than the United States did. Publically demanding that Mexico pay for a wall that Mexicans don’t think is needed has fueled anti-American nationalism. That limits the capacity of Mexico’s government to work with us to find solutions.

Common borders also made Mexico and the United States partners in national security. Ever since 9/11, Mexico and the US have worked closely to stop potential terrorists from entering the US. We also work to improve the fight against illicit trafficking. The trafficking of heroin and other drugs into the US and the smuggling of weapons and drug profits into Mexico fuel violence, corruption, and deaths in both countries. Still, during the years of our collective service, law enforcement officials have built trust, competency and legal channels to act against criminal networks. That cooperation needs to be strengthened, not undermined.

Together, the authors have witnessed profound and positive changes in the US-Mexico relationship over the last quarter century. We urge that the US engage in serious, fact-based negotiations over differences on trade and other issues. Intimidating or denigrating remarks make it harder to reach outcomes that support American economic and security interests and fuel anti-Americanism in Mexico. Workers, companies, and communities of both countries will prosper with a long-term strategic partnership between the US and Mexico. Let’s keep building it.

‘Mr. Apprentice’ Can Look To Switzerland For A Model To Help Close U.S. Youth Skills Gap

January 27, 2017

Faith Whittlesey (Switzerland, 1981-1983 and 1985-1988)

Patrick Gleason (Director of State Affairs at Americans for Tax Reform)

Cross-posted from the January 26, 2017 issue of Forbes

Chief among the problems facing Donald Trump as he takes presidential office is the youth skills gap between what the U.S. education system currently produces and what employers actually need to compete nationally and globally in the 21st century.

Around 2008, German carmaker Porsche invested about $2.12 million in its Leipzig apprenticeship training center.

It’s no secret it has become all too easy to get a college degree today without having learned much of marketable value, which helps explain unacceptably high levels of both youth unemployment (above 10%) and youth underemployment (estimated at 40% for recent college graduates).

The President might look to Switzerland, with youth unemployment at 3% and its global gold standard apprentice system, as a possible model for the U.S. in closing the skills gap. The good news is that Trump already has. As we recently learned, Switzerland’s apprentice system was very much a subject of discussion of a Dec. 21 phone call between Trump, who praised the Swiss education system, and Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann, who called to offer congratulations to the President-elect.

Nancy Hoffman—who co-leads the Pathways to Prosperity Network program involving Harvard Graduate School of Education and a number of states working to ensure more young people complete high school and attain a postsecondary credential—explains how the Swiss apprentice program works:

“Seventy percent of teenagers [16 and older] in Switzerland spend their week moving between a workplace, a sector organization [such as the machine tools industry], and school. … They do everything an entry-level employee would do, albeit under the wings of credentialed teachers within the company. They are paid a monthly starting wage of around $800, rising to around $1,000 by the time they are in their third year.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Will Mexico and Canada Be Willing to Reform NAFTA?

January 23, 2017

G. Philip Hughes (Barbados and Eastern Caribbean, 1990-1993)

Cross-posted from the Latin American Advisor, a publication of the Inter-American Dialogue

Also appears on the White House Writers Group website

President-elect Trump has been relentlessly critical of NAFTA from the beginning of his candidacy. After almost a quarter century, it is perfectly plausible that the tripartite NAFTA agreement could use a review—updating and improvement. President Trump will certainly have the power and authority to propose—and, if necessary, insist on—re-negotiating NAFTA with Mexico and Canada. It is hard to see how or why Congress would try to stop him. But if they don’t already know, USTR-designate Richard Lighthizer, and Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross will soon discover that Mexico and Canada will have their own lists of grievances, frustrations, demands and ambitions for a re-opened NAFTA negotiation. The result will be a product of give-and-take horse-trading—just as NAFTA is. Only better, the administration will explain. It would have to be. Where can you go but up from what Mr. Trump calls ‘the worst trade deal … in the history of the world’? Re-negotiating NAFTA, in whole or part, is plausible and probably do-able. Abrogating NAFTA is not. While the ability to ‘walk away’ is a hallmark of ‘The Art of the Deal,’ the new Trump trade team must know that, over the last two decades, the production base of most of the U.S. economy’s real sector has become quite thoroughly integrated across the Canadian and Mexican borders. Disrupting that would play havoc with supply chains, prices and employment on a continental scale—probably not a sure-fire vote-getting strategy.

Here’s What Plan B in the Middle East Should Look Like

January 17, 2017

Stuart E. Eizenstat (European Union, 1993-1996)

and

Dennis Ross (Special Assistant to President Obama, 2009-2011)

Cross-posted from the January 12 issue of The Washington Post

We have long worked to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, believing that with two national movements, the only realistic answer is two states for two peoples. Unfortunately, this objective has never been less attainable. We believe, therefore, that it is time for a Plan B — an approach that incoming president Donald Trump might broker.

Ironically, the ill-conceived and deeply flawed U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity has made a Plan B even more necessary. By declaring all settlements “a flagrant violation under international law,” the resolution undercut the sole formula that stands a chance at some point of reconciling Israeli and Palestinian needs on final borders — accepting settlement blocs and engaging in territorial swaps. Instead, it has hardened positions on both sides.

Even without this counterproductive resolution, realities on the ground and political and psychological gaps between Israelis and Palestinians make a comprehensive two-state peace agreement illusory at this time. But doing nothing is a prescription for drifting toward a one-state outcome, a result that, due to demographics, would mean Israel over time would become a binational state and no longer majority-Jewish and democratic. Our Plan B would promote peaceful coexistence through practical steps that restore shattered trust on both sides, protecting Israel’s security while creating a more prosperous and less resentful and violence-prone Palestinian population. Plan B can help resolve the dilemma facing Israel, a high-tech wonder thoroughly integrated into the global economy but more politically isolated than ever. Meanwhile, it could provide Palestinians more living space for development, reduce incentives for Palestinian violence and help preserve effective counterterrorism cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces.

The start lies in a new vision for Israel’s West Bank settlements, formally recognizing that not all settlements are the same when it comes to preserving a two-state outcome. They would continue to be protected by the Israeli military; there would be no unilateral withdrawals, as disastrously occurred in Gaza; and three major new sections of the incomplete security fence would be built to block infiltration by terrorists.

To reduce tensions with Israel, building could continue unabated within the three major settlement blocs near the pre-1967 Green Line, where over 8 in 10 of all settlers live on less than 5 percent of the West Bank. These blocs are consistent with a two-state outcome and in a final settlement would become part of Israel, with other land within Israel swapped and becoming part of the Palestinian state.

But settlement expansion would cease in those areas outside the blocs in what could eventually become a demilitarized Palestinian state. No hilltop and other outposts, now illegal under Israeli law, would be legalized retroactively, and strict rule of law would be observed to prevent construction on Palestinian private land and to preserve the option of a Palestinian state with contiguous territory. While politically difficult for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu given his current coalition, his “hard-line” defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has come out in favor of reaching an agreement with the Trump administration allowing Israel to build within the blocs but not outside them. Under Netanyahu, only a small percentage of settlement expansion has occurred in these isolated settlements during the Obama years.

The other centerpiece of Plan B would be empowering the Palestinian economy through the kind of private-sector development the Trump administration should like, rather than sending more U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. The 1995 Oslo Interim Agreement divided the West Bank into three areas, in two of which the overwhelming majority of the 2.7 million Palestinians live with no Israeli settlements, and only in the largest of which, Area C, the Israelis retain complete control.

Today, Area C is 60 percent of the West Bank and contains almost all of the West Bank’s natural resources and agricultural land. The key to economic advancement for the Palestinians lies in their residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial development, none of which is now allowed without Israeli permits, which are almost never granted. Palestinian access to land, water, electricity, education, health services, bank branches and even ATMs is very limited, while Israeli settlers benefit from all of these and even have their own roads. At a time when the Israeli economy continues to grow healthily, small wonder the Palestinian economy is in shambles, with high rates of unemployment.

There should be broad Israeli political support for taking concrete steps to improve these dire conditions by increasing the number of Palestinians working in day jobs in Israel, thereby reducing the 50,000 illegal Palestinian workers and increasing remittances that could be invested in the West Bank. Building permits in Area C could be vastly expanded, along with greater access to water, electricity and other essential services for Palestinians throughout the West Bank, spurring development. Israeli and Palestinian banks could be connected through the SWIFT interbank system.

The World Bank estimates these steps could add 35 percent to the Palestinian gross domestic product and increase Palestinian jobs by an equivalent amount. In addition, U.S.-supported Qualifying Industrial Zones allow products with at least 10 percent Israeli content to come to the U.S. duty-free: These exist in Jordan and Egypt and could be established in the West Bank to foster Israeli-Palestinian business cooperation and create employment.

Plan B is not a substitute for a political outcome; it is designed to change conditions so that meaningful negotiations not feasible today might become possible over time, while reducing tensions in the meantime. By starting with Plan B, the next president could pave the way later on for the ultimate, elusive deal.

More Citizen-Ambassadors, Please Mr. Trump

January 9, 2017

Faith Whittlesey (Switzerland, 1981-1983 and 1985-1988)

http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/06/more-citizen-ambassadors-please-mr-trump/

Cross-posted from The Daily Caller of January 6, 2017

In 1995, I wrote an op-ed published in the International Herald Tribute entitled “No More Embassies for Sale, Please.” I argued for an end to the long-standing, bipartisan practice of appointing wealthy donors with limited foreign policy knowledge from the Presidential victor’s camp to plum ambassadorships, usually numbering 30 to 40% of the total. In the 20 years since, we have gone through five presidential election cycles and, therefore, five cycles of political appointments with, I would maintain, no abatement of the practice.

But with the election of Donald Trump, we are at a unique juncture. There is an opportunity now to break away from this custom. No President-elect in the modern era has arrived at inauguration with as few debts to large campaign contributors. President-elect Trump ran a highly unconventional campaign, largely on his own nickel. He was outspent by a huge margin–and won. No President-elect arrives less beholden to big contributors.

He has few debts as well to media and entrenched elites. Pundits and talking heads of the big networks, the editorial boards of major newspapers and think tanks, the circle of Washington insiders, all preponderantly were consistently critical or actively hostile. Viewing current coverage, they will be unlikely in my estimation in coming months to extend the incoming President even the ordinary benefit of doubt accorded other new Presidents.

President-elect Trump’s electoral debts are owed only to millions of everyday Americans who are counting on him to bypass the big donor class and leapfrog the media and the establishment to speak to and for them and to listen to their voice. They are counting on him to (borrowing from Frank Sinatra) do it his way, that is, the way he promised them. And his way includes getting things done efficiently and effectively (think of the bang-for-the-buck ratio that the Trump campaign achieved!) and with a laser focus on what’s best for America.

What’s best for America in foreign policy, I would maintain now as I did in 1995, is to staff embassies with citizen-ambassadors who first and foremost share the President’s vision and values and are knowledgeable about international affairs, willing to immerse themselves in learning about the countries to which they will be posted, and equipped with the particular qualities that will enable them to be eloquent, persuasive representatives.

An ambassador is the President’s personal representative to a foreign country–his eyes, ears, and spokesperson on the ground. The prerequisite for nomination to this critical position is the recognition that foreign policy is, indeed, a federal responsibility and that Americans elect a President to define and articulate their values and priorities in terms of a viable and coherent foreign policy. Our senior diplomat in a foreign country must be in tune with those values and priorities as the President sees them.

The antidote to the habit of rewarding donors isn’t the appointment of more career diplomats to ambassadorships. We depend on such technicians for their skills and knowledge–their expertise–but it is, ultimately, the American people who choose our foreign policy values and priorities when they elect a President. Career service officers, while valuable, hold no monopoly on diplomatic skills and, unfortunately, too often bring their own baggage in the form of prejudices against the elected President and their own career objectives. Uppermost, the senior representative of the President in a foreign country needs to understand and share wholeheartedly the President’s policy goals and vision.

There are many Americans among Trump supporters–in business, academia, and other sectors–who have the requisite knowledge and skills to make great citizen-ambassadors and who, because of their accomplishments in the private sector, could take on the responsibilities of representing America in the mold and spirit of a Benjamin Franklin or John Jay (among our first citizen-ambassadors), that is to say, as an act of selfless national service.

At this critical point, we need such citizen-ambassadors more than ever. Providentially, we have the opportunity because of the unique, paradigm-shattering circumstances of Donald Trump’s election to see them appointed in significant, game-changing numbers.

Remembering Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed

December 2, 2016

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

Ambassador Gabriel delivered these remarks at the November 29 Memorial Service for Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed held at the United Nations in New York.

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Mr. Secretary General, Honorable Ambassadors, distinguished guests, and Joseph’s family members and colleagues of the UN, it is my honor to say a few words about our friend, Joseph Verner Reed.

Joseph once wrote to his Deputy, Dick Jackson, “Morocco is the mystery, beauty, and exoticism that I myself experienced and was witness to for four unforgettable years as US Ambassador from 1981-1985″. My fellow colleagues and I, who followed Joseph as US Ambassador, would agree with his assessment.

There are now 8 former living Ambassadors who have served in Morocco, plus one current Ambassador, all following in Joseph’s footsteps. He personally touched the lives of each of us in many ways, and brought us together as good friends. And each of us has wonderful stories about Joseph.

Ambassador Tom Riley, who served as our Ambassador to Morocco under President George W. Bush, wrote me last week to say, “I am one of many with the experience of getting my first call of congratulations upon release of my nomination from Joseph. Not my family, not the White House, not any friends, but from none other than JVR.

Frecky Vreeland, US Ambassador to Morocco under President George HW Bush, said of Joseph, “he traveled widely in what he called ‘The Kingdom.’ Time and again when I was introduced to local Moroccans as the American Ambassador, they would object, saying that they do know the ambassador in question — and flash a photo taken of themselves with Joseph”.

Mike Ussery, US Ambassador to Morocco also under President HW Bush met Joseph when he was a young political appointee at the State Department. Mike said, “He always stopped by to check on me during his trips to DC, and years later he helped me prepare for Morocco and made sure I was well received there… wonderful and kind gestures that helped me in my mission in Morocco”.

For me personally, Joseph was a mentor, friend and role model. He cared dearly that each of us succeed in a country he believed was so important to the United States. He was truly a Patriot’s patriot, and put Country ahead of personal glory.

At lunch with Joseph soon after I was nominated to be Ambassador by President Clinton, he gave me a written list of ten things I must do if I was to be successful in Morocco. Knowing of Joseph’s fame in Morocco, I was grateful for the advice and followed it in the exact order he gave it to me.

One of the ten things Joseph told me to do was get out into the countryside and see every corner of Morocco and visit as many Moroccans as I possibly could. Joseph and I actually shared one body guard, who stayed on through five US Ambassadors. His name is Bouchaib.

I remember travelling to the border of the Sahara in the Western edge of Morocco, almost to Mauritania, and asked Bouchiab, did Joseph ever come this far? Bouchaib answered, Yes Sir.

I went to the most remote and highest villages in the high Atlas, Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas, and even the small villages in the mountains of the famous Rif Mountains, where in 1904, Berber Chieftain Raisuli faced the wrath of Teddy Roosevelt for kidnapping an American. Each time during these many trips, I would ask Bouchaib, did Joseph ever come to these places? And each time he would answer, Yes Sir.

Finally, we are on the outer reaches of the desert in Eastern Morocco, past the town of Figig, within eye sight of the Algerian army in a tiny little town among Sahrawi nomadic tents. I asked Bouchaib, OK, was Joseph ever here, to which he surprisingly said No Sir. As we walked into the village and met with cheering crowds of adults and children, one young boy ran up to me and handed me a pencil, with an inscription, “compliments of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed”! This must have been one trip that even Bouchaib missed.

That’s just the kind of man Joseph was: generous and totally engaged. Every Ambassador to Morocco was asked by Joseph if they would kindly receive a package from him every quarter. We were instructed to carefully remove the outer package containing the embassy address and underneath was another wrapping addressed to the orphanage in Azroul, Morocco. The box was filled with clothes and other useful items. I do not believe Joseph missed sending a package since 1984.

David Rockefeller said Joseph was a true ‘character’ in the very best sense of the word. “He was a man of elegance, grace, wit, flamboyance and razor sharp intellect, a diplomat’s diplomat”. He said he will miss Ambassador Reed “more than words can express. We 9 colleagues of Joseph agree with you Mr. Rockefeller.

Joseph positively affected the mission and performance of each US Ambassador to Morocco who followed, and I know that each of us would say that although we were successful in our own missions, there has been no more successful US Ambassador to Morocco before or since than Joseph Verner Reed.

Thank You.

 

Human Potential is the Middle East’s Greatest Resource

November 30, 2016

Madeleine K. Albright (64th U.S. Secretary of State)

and

Stephen J. Hadley (National Security Advisor for President George W. Bush)

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/11/30/Human-potential-is-the-Middle-East-s-greatest-resource.html

Cross-posted from Al-Arabiya English

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There is something exciting happening in the Middle East. While many in the United States and elsewhere see only war and crisis, there is bigger change afoot that has the potential to break the current cycle of conflict.

Over the past eighteen months we have been engaged in a bipartisan initiative seeking to identify a new and better approach toward peace and prosperity in the Middle East. We visited with and listened to people from the region. We consulted the region’s experts. We sought voices from all levels of society, from refugees and students to business leaders and monarchs. What we found was a sense of confidence and determination, even amidst all the challenges that the region now faces.

At the heart of the Arab uprisings in 2011 was the idea that people in the region wanted the chance to define and pursue their own vision for the future. Where governments sought to suppress these aspirations, war and instability broke out, destabilizing not just the region but also setting off massive refugee flows and terrorist movements that have upended Western politics.

Yet in other parts of the region, governments took the uprisings as a signal that they needed to provide more opportunity for their people. In some cases, like Tunisia, this meant corrupt leadership being forced to step aside to let the people chart their own course. In others, like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, governments have sought reforms within the system, striving to put young people front and center in helping to shape their countries’ futures. While they still have much progress to make, they are moving in an encouraging direction.

Harnessing the power of youth and technology

We heard about young people eager to build their own businesses rather than relying on government to provide employment. We learned that 36 percent of Arab youth aspire to start their own companies, and are using the power of new technology to do so. We also found that one third of these Middle East start-up founders are women—more than ten times the rate of female founders in Silicon Valley.

This is a population that is full of ingenuity, using their resourcefulness to solve problems where their governments have failed them. Syrian refugees in Jordan are harnessing the power of 3D printing to build prosthetics for victims of violence. And in cases where people don’t yet have the necessary skills to accomplish their goals, they are using tech-enabled education tools to learn what they need to know, even in the absence of formal classrooms.

We believe that this vast human potential is the Middle East’s greatest resource. However, despite their growing self-confidence and capabilities, the people of the region still need help for these positive efforts to take root.

The single biggest barrier standing between the Middle East and a prosperous future is the continuing instability generated by the civil wars in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq. Regional actors have proven themselves as yet unable to bring these wars—and their worst atrocities—to an end. At the same time, they are more willing than ever to try, including through devoting their own resources to the effort. A relatively modest amount of leadership and assistance from the United States and other concerned members of the international community could go a long way toward helping to begin to wind down these conflicts.

‘Outsiders will not make the efforts’

But we should make no mistake here. The days when outside powers could dictate events in the region are over—if they ever existed in the first place. The days of massive troop deployments or military occupations by any outside power are past. Instead, outside help and support must be focused on empowering and enabling the people of the region and their leaders to chart and achieve their own vision for the future. The region needs more local initiatives that gain regional and global support.

Outsiders will not make these efforts, however, if the people and governments of the region are not taking the kinds of actions that will lead to sustainable peace, prosperity, and stability. For without such action by the region, outside efforts will be losing investments. What we learned from the region is that its governments need to make real progress toward transparent, accountable, effective, and fair governance free of corruption. They need to deliver for their people—for all of their people—regardless of gender, sect, tribe, religion, or family connections. And they need to create opportunities for their people not only through better education but also through regulatory reforms that can encourage and enable entrepreneurship and innovation.

If these changes take place, they can become a New Compact for the region—one which improves not only relations between regional states and outside powers, but also redefines how the states of the Middle East interact with each other and, most importantly, with their people.

There is a pathway out of the current regional crises. But our efforts of the past year and a half have taught us that a new strategic approach is required. The Middle East must bet on its people and on a new partnership among the international community, the states of the region, and their people. Only in this way can the Middle East realize its vision of a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable future.

Appropriate U.S. Response to Russia

November 1, 2016

Thomas F. Stephenson (Ambassador to Portugal, 2007-2009)

___

Post World War II history suggests convincingly that the best way to deal with Russian aggression is by demonstrating the strength and will to respond in a forceful fashion. Obvious examples are the strong manner in which President Kennedy dealt with Premier Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the way President Reagan interacted with Mr. Gorbachev at Reykjavik and in its aftermath as he laid the groundwork for the end of the Cold War and critical arms reduction agreements. Interacting with Mr. Putin, however, may well be even more challenging than dealing with either Khrushchev or Gorbachev as Putin gives all the indications of being the consummate bully. The only thing he understands or respects is strength and force, and little so far in the conduct of this Administration demonstrates the will power to take strong action. In fact time and again, the approach of “leading from behind” and “too little too late” has undermined whatever credibility we had with Mr. Putin at the beginning of 2009. Let’s review how we got to where we are currently in Ukraine and Syria.

To be fair to the current Administration, the preceding Administration had not provided a strong precedent, as it did little to prevent Russia under Medvedev from carving out South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the sovereign country of Georgia. But as Mr. Putin reclaimed the presidency of Russia in 2012, he had already observed 1) the absence of any supportive response from the Obama Administration to the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, 2) the cancellation, under pressure from Russia, of a promised missile defense system in Poland, 3) very modest support for the French led actions surrounding the overthrow of Gadhafi in Libya in 2011, and 4) the total failure to enforce the red line drawn in Syria regarding the use by Assad of chemical weapons in 2012. Why wouldn’t Mr. Putin doubt our resolve and have no compunction or concern about taking the actions that he has in Ukraine and Syria?

Clear commitment to and demonstration of strength with only very judicious actual use of force are critical to convince the bullies of this world like Mr. Putin that the United States has the resolve and the ability to turn back inappropriate and irresponsible acts of aggression. I’ve had the privilege of listening many times to former Secretary of State George Shultz talk about how he and President Reagan chose to deal with such acts of unwanted aggression during the Reagan Administration. They, of course, took steps to restore our military strength, but they used very limited force only three times following the tragic bombing of our marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. We used a very modest amount of military force in Grenada very shortly after the Beirut bombing to rescue 300 Americans being held hostage there, we executed a surgical strike against Gadhafi in retaliation for an attack on our forces in Berlin in 1986, and in a very crisp response to mining activities by Iran in the Persian Gulf in 1987 we sank an Iranian ship that was deploying illegal mines after removing and immediately freeing all Iranian sailors on board. In all three instances a clear message was delivered. An attack on the United States and its allies will receive a proportionate response quickly and decisively.

Unfortunately, little that we have done so far with regard to Russian aggression in Ukraine or Syria has been either timely or appropriately proportionate. In Syria there was a point in time when one could discern the good guys from the bad guys and provide equipment, training, and support sufficient perhaps to enable the opposition to overthrow Assad. Creation of a “no fly zone” was an option recommended by a number of foreign policy experts, including former Secretary Clinton, but was never acted upon by the Administration. By the time we’d fiddled around for months and allowed the Russians to play the key role in negotiating the removal, supposedly, of all chemical weapons from Syria, we’d lost most of the leverage we might have had or been able to obtain, and Russia was in the driver’s seat in terms of protecting their friend Assad. ISIL/Islamic State has obviously complicated enormously the situation in Syria and clearly in Aleppo, but Russia has a very strong presence in Syria today and will be very hard to dislodge, largely because of “too little, too late” on our part. There is still some possibility, however, that it’s not too late to change the current course of events in Syria. A ‘no fly zone” and some sort of “safe-haven” enforcement could still improve the situation in Syria, but it will take resolve on our part and create risk of escalation that we have been unwilling to assume to date.

The situation in Ukraine is clearly very different. Putin’s aggressive actions to carve up and usurp as much of Ukraine as he can is all part of his longer range aspiration to recreate substantial parts of the Soviet Union or at least reestablish Russian influence, if not total dominance, in these neighboring countries. Our pathetically weak response to these actions in Ukraine have or will only encourage this type of aggression in the Baltic States initially and prospectively in other parts of Eastern Europe. Once again the impact of “too little, too late” is clearly being demonstrated. While our diplomats continue to participate in agonizingly unproductive discussions, Mr. Putin is shoring up his military positions in this greater theatre and will no doubt continue to use the excuse of protecting native Russians as he pursues his goals of territorial reclamation. As the remaining areas of Ukraine not yet under Russian control observe the lack of serious U.S. assistance in their plight, it must appear as though it is only a matter of time before they too are annexed by Russia.

Diplomacy and negotiation have been only very modestly successful at best to date with Russia relating to the terribly troubling developments in both Syria and the Ukraine. What incentive does Mr. Putin have to negotiate with us and our allies, when we demonstrate little evidence that we will back up our periodic threats with force. Recent shoring up and redeployment of NATO forces in the Baltics and Poland is a positive step, but we need to return to the Reagan-Shultz approach of saying what we mean in our interactions with Mr. Putin and being prepared to show that we mean what we say with decisive use of measured and proportionate force.

What Should be the U.S. Response to Russia in light of Russian and Syrian Government Attacks on Aleppo?

October 5, 2016

William J. vanden Heuvel (Ambassador to the United Nations European Office, 1977-1979)

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The security of the United States is unacceptably endangered without a cooperative respectful relationship with Russia. The problems that divide us cannot be solved by war.

The Charter of the United Nations obliges the Permanent Members of the Security Council to work together to prevent war. The Ukraine, Syria, the refugee and migration flow which threatens the stability of all of our European allies, the increasing threat of nuclear confrontation — all of these crises demand that diplomacy find a way to restore sanity to our deliberations and avoid a resumption of the Cold War. Those who have the power to make peace possible will bear the obloquy of history if war becomes their choice.