Wednesday, September 19, 2007
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)
Who are the grown-ups in international relations?
Imagine for a second that the United States opposed the leading candidate for a leading international organization. Now imagine that in an effort to block that candidate, the U.S. decides to put its own candidate forward. To ensure that the candidate doesn't look like a complete toady, it would make some sense to propose a non-American. However, it would also make sense, at the very least, to make sure that the candidate's home country was on board with the idea. If there was no prior consultation, well, then the U.S. would look pretty incompetent.
Farfetched, you say? Well, consider that Russia just tried this gambit, according to the Financial Times' Catherine Belton, Katka Krosnar and Stefan Wagstyl:
Russia challenged western dominance of world international financial institutions on Wednesday by nominating a surprise candidate, Josef Tosovsky, the former Czech premier and ex-central bank chief, to run the International Monetary Fund.The funny thing is that the Russians make a valid point -- why should the US and EU have a duopoly on the heads of key international organizations? The need to cut large developing countries into the global governance game is going to be one of the important international relations questions over the next few years.
That said, this Russian attempt -- like other Russian behavior over the past year -- was unilateral and amateurish. There appears to have been no coordination and/or consultation with other countries. If the U.S. had tried to pull this stunt there would have been a tsunami of criticism leveled at incompetent U.S. foreign policy managers.
This is a small example, but it speaks to a larger problem. The Europeans and Americans might have policy disagreements, but (2002-3 excepted) they have been pretty decent at consulting each other. Russia is ostensibly a rising power, and even has some prior experiennce with being acting like a great power. Their diplomatic style, however, makes the Bush administration's first term look like a paragon of propriety and decorum.
Obviously, power and interest drive most of what happens in world politics. Diplomatic style does matter on the margins, however. And if this is what passes as diplomacy from a rising power, then world politics is going to start looking like a bad episode of The Real World.posted by Dan on 09.19.07 at 08:54 AM
Even if everyone agrees that this move by the Russians is "unilateral and amateurish", there are obviously two reasons (and maybe more) that no one is worried about it and doesn't attack Russia for it.
1) The Russian nomination simply will not win. Russia trying to appoint a World Bank or IMF president is like the Democrats (when they were in the Senate minority) trying to appoint an Attorney General or nominate someone to the Supreme Court. It simply has no value. Because of this, it is likely that Russia didn't put the energy into the nomination because they knew it had no chance to succeed.
2) There are enough people in the world (including world figures) who are sick and tired of the fact that the USA dominates the world, and they might simply enjoy to see someone in a position of some power stand up to the stupidity and arrogance of the USA. So why would they criticize Russia for this? Everyone knows it's an empty gesture, but they also (as you do) like the idea of it and like challenging the USA.
The funny thing is that the Russians make a valid point -- why should the US and EU have a duopoly on the heads of key international organizations?
Because we've got all the money? The U.S. and EU are 40% of the world's GDP; Russia has an economy smaller than Mexico's. It's not like we're talking about UNICEF here; it's the IMF.
What on earth are you talking about. Joe? By custom, the U.S. always appoints the World Bank president. So there's nothing "amateurish" about it.posted by: David Nieporent on 09.19.07 at 08:54 AM [permalink]
it was "amateurish" by the same convention dan uses against the russians, that it was made quickly and defensively and without consultation... not as a matter of protocol.posted by: Joe M. on 09.19.07 at 08:54 AM [permalink]
And if this is what passes as diplomacy from a rising power, then world politics is going to start looking like a bad episode of The Real World.
All I can say is thank god we have a competent administration who's got their eye on the ball, and the foresight to staff key positions in the bureaucracy so that we can effectively deal with this looming insanity.posted by: Hal on 09.19.07 at 08:54 AM [permalink]
Post a Comment: