Numerology is the hidden flaw in American diplomacy
Readings of the phone call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin late last week make it clear that little has been achieved in the discussion.
The way forward for the negotiations that Washington and Moscow will launch in Geneva on January 10, with the aim of resolving the crisis on Ukraine’s border with Russia, is difficult to discern. What the Kremlin wants from these talks are legal guarantees of Russia’s security for its closest sphere of influence, as NATO’s anti-Soviet security alliance expands towards it. is. How it can happen occupies the brightest minds in diplomacy as preparations for the talks unfold in the week ahead.
Phone calls remain the cogs and pistons of international relations despite all the changes that have taken place in the world since the heyday of the 1950s in superpower diplomacy. For a quick guide on how to assess what’s really going on, it would be helpful to look at not the substance but the formatting of these commitments.
Numerology has increasingly become the key to international diplomacy. There are the meetings and discussions for two that form the most tense and laconic encounters on the international scene.
Mr. Biden’s four encounters with Mr. Putin in 2021 have gained an increasingly difficult edge each time. The Russian leader has made it clear that he is only interested in dealing with the United States. Its mission is to rewrite the post-Cold War outcome so as to remove some of the most difficult encroachments resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.
Biden’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping are another two-way forum. Then again, there is Mr. Xi’s definite preference to reduce the discussion to the tough points of one-on-one.
The ultimate result is still clearly to avoid future conflict. The modalities of achieving this are not yet clear, because the framework must be built in real time. The two leaders around the table are there to work as architects of this new infrastructure.
The twos don’t have to be about confrontation. When Italy and France signed a treaty in November, it was a declaration of intention to coordinate on a common front, within the EU, as partners.
To take it to the next level, we can see groupings of three emerging in response to the strained international balance.
When Australia, UK and US formed the “Aukus” alliance this year, something really important emerged. Based on a need to share nuclear technology that will extend to a whole range of Australian naval operations, the deal is in fact a new dynamic of defense.
He provides a military caucus under the long-standing “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing agreement when there are lines of tension within the group as a whole. The Five Eyes Arrangement covers the states of Aukus, as well as Canada and New Zealand.
The decidedly nuclear-free New Zealand could not join Aukus even if it mattered. Canada is hampered by minority governments and has been left on the sidelines. The other three nations can still move forward in what is a cohesive formation that can legitimately build not only on a common heritage, but also on close alignment with international threats.
Going back to the quadrilaterals – or groups of four – these are the most numerous in the international context. In fact, if there is a collective, it should be the curse of the quads.
The most popular quadrilateral format includes meetings between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. Although India is a proud pillar of the Cold War era “Non-Aligned Movement” and, by definition, not aligned with any particular group or superpower, it has nonetheless provided an enthusiastic voice for that. arrangement.
Another important quadrangle is the Visegrad Four, which includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and which acts as a caucus within the EU and a check on Western European domination over the bloc. .
The UK’s exit from the EU has brought about a certain change in the way the transatlantic is handled.
A US State Department memo this week took stock of the latest gang of four who are increasingly consulting on pressing matters. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the British, French and German foreign ministers. The group discussed the Russian-Ukrainian border crisis, shared concerns about developments in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Libya’s ongoing efforts to hold national elections, and the diplomatic row between China. and Lithuania.
At other times, this grouping is extended to a quint, with Italy constituting the fifth member.
Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna haven’t made as much progress as diplomats would like. The 2015 nuclear deal was struck by a group of six countries, known as E3 + 3 (three European countries including France, Germany and the UK, plus China, Russia and United States). The United States left the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, although talks in the Austrian capital are aimed at bringing Washington back.
And while efforts at the six-tier group level continue, the UK’s exit from the EU in 2019 has led these countries to more or less get rid of their old operational entity.
By bringing groups together, the United States has undoubtedly increased its leverage to conduct its diplomacy. There is no room for error in one-on-one interviews. But the big question must remain as to how effective the work in the outer circles is. It is the curse of the quad indeed.
Posted: Jan 1, 2022, 2:00 p.m.