Global Leadership?
Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy in the Run-Up to the G-8 Summit
About This Event

The prelude to the G-8 summit in Saint Petersburg provides an opportunity to stand back and assess where America's foreign policy stands today and how it will meet emerging challenges from across the globe. From the rise of China to the continuing stalemate over Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs, Listen to Audio

Download Audio as MP3
and from the new "authoritarianism" of Putin-led Russia to the continuing crisis in post-Saddam Iraq, Washington faces a host of issues that will severely challenge its capacity to act as the leader of the world's major democratic powers. At this event, AEI scholars and four panels of experts will assess the current state of U.S. foreign policy and look to the year ahead.

8:45 a.m.
Registration and Breakfast
Panel I: China & North Korea
Randall Schriver, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI
Jacqueline Newmyer, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Gary Schmitt, AEI
Panel II: Russia
Leon Aron, AEI
Janusz Bugajski, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Stephen Sestanovich, Council on Foreign Relations
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
Panel III: Iraq
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
Michael Rubin, AEI
Judy van Rest, International Republican Institute
Danielle Pletka, AEI
12:30 p.m.
Panel IV: Iran
Reuel Marc Gerecht, AEI
Danielle Pletka, AEI
Ken Pollack, Brookings Institution
Michael Rubin, AEI
Event Summary

July 2006

Global Leadership? Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy in the Run-Up to the G8 Summit

The prelude to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg provides an opportunity to stand back and assess where America's foreign policy stands today and how it will meet emerging challenges from across the globe. From the rise of China to the continuing stalemate over Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs, and from the new "authoritarianism" of Putin-led Russia to the continuing crisis in post-Saddam Iraq, Washington faces a host of issues that will severely challenge its capacity to act as the leader of the world's major democratic powers. On Thursday, July 13, AEI scholars and four panels of experts assessed the current state of U.S. foreign policy and looked to the year ahead.

Panel I: China & North Korea

Nicholas Eberstadt

It is imperative that the international community does not underestimate North Korean leadership; sometimes they mean what they say. One example of this is when the regime launched the slogan “Building a Powerful and Prosperous State,” emphasizing that its military industry is the key to national development. In addition to North Korea’s international military extortion, the regime also aims to absorb South Korea unconditionally, thus unifying the Korean peninsula. The regime can move toward this goal by breaking the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance through developing their long-range ballistic missile program and undermining the credibility of the U.S. defense guarantee in South Korea.

North Korea has suffered almost no penalties for its increasingly provocative nuclear violations. In the first attempt of a test-run for imposing a penalty for the recent missile launches, there has been confusion at the United Nations. It may be in the best interests of the United States to force Russia and China to choose whether or not they will veto a resolution for sanctions against North Korea.

Jacqueline Newmyer
Harvard University

It is important to understand how China defines its own rise and how it measures its progress. Under the concept of comprehensive national power, there is a strong connection between internal and external components. Beijing, therefore, may not only view its rise in terms of military capability and external affairs, but may also measure its progress with consideration to economics, domestic stability and security, and internal affairs.

It is important for the United States to define its goal with respect to East Asia and to determine what levels of engagement, military involvement and basing, and alliances will satisfy U.S. security needs in the region. There are three possible outcomes of a nascent power transition: First, the United States could accede to China’s rise, allowing for a smooth power transition. The second option is partnership, which is not practical because of the complications that would arise within the U.S. religious community and labor organizations. A third option for the United States is to maintain its preeminence, which may only require shifting its strategic attention to East Asia.
Randall Schriver
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

The rise of China is the most important issue of current global politics. The debate within the administration about the U.S. policy response to China’s the rise revolves around this central question: do you get Asia right by getting China right, or do you get China right by getting Asia right? The second proposal seems more accurate, and therefore the United States should approach the issue of China’s rise from a regional perspective instead of a bilateral one.

Because China’s most important regional relationship is with Japan, the U.S. should support Japan’s normalization as a more proactive participant in Asian affairs. We should also understand the importance of our alliances with South Korea, Australia, India, Vietnam, and New Zealand in “getting Asia right.” By almost any objective standard, Asia will be the center gravity of human activity in this century. Despite the challenges we face in the Middle East, the U.S. must focus its attention on the critical Asian region.

Panel II: Russia

Leon Aron

The current dynamic of U.S.-Russian relations has been shaped by the strategic divergences between the two countries. The United States, in its post-9/11 agenda, is pursuing an activist foreign policy with an ideological basis and attempting to transcend the status quo by furthering democracy as its best interest. Russia, however, is moving in the opposite direction. After the recent change in domestic policy, integration into the Western democratic family is no longer Russia’s aim; instead, its foreign policy is based upon pragmatism. This realpolitik focuses on maximizing Russia’s international prestige and benefits today through various methods, including diplomatic arbitrage and pursuing friendly relations with Syria, Hamas, and Belarus; the present dividends are a higher priority than long-term results.

Iran is the epitome of this realpolitik. Russia’s position on Iran is driven neither by monetary concerns nor by any ideological opposition to either the U.S. or its ally, Israel. Instead, Moscow’s guiding principle is that of prestige: becoming indispensable on the world stage of conflict resolution is one way for Russia to return to its former position of superpower.

Thus the U.S.’s post-9/11 concern about democracy, which leads it to strongly consider Russia’s domestic causes, comes into sharp conflict with Russia’s trend toward the centralization of economic and political systems, along with their application of realpolitik. In order for the two nations to work together, one or both of them must moderate their policies. It is possible that this could occur with new Russian leadership in 2009. Until then, though, the U.S. can only manage its relations with Russia, not develop them. There will not be a second Cold War, but the U.S. and Russian agendas will continue to clash, more frequently and more loudly, requiring the employment of greater diplomacy.

Janusz Bugajski
Center for Strategic and International Studies

There are three areas of U.S.-Russia relations which need a more effective and more determined American effort. The first is the West/East dimension. The reintegration of post-Soviet space is high on Putin’s agenda. He wants to decrease the influence of NATO and the European Union (EU), while increasing Russia’s influence over its western and southern neighbors. In short, Putin prefers stable dictators to unstable democracies. The United States needs to provide more sustained support for the coalition in Ukraine, dissent in Belarus, and reintegration of the divided Moldovan and Georgian states.

The second area which requires more effort from the U.S. is Europe’s energy. Russia sees itself as an energy superpower. As we saw earlier this year, Eastern Europe is particularly vulnerable to Russia’s manipulation of energy and has started looking for alternative sources. Russia is also looking for alternatives--more pipelines from their sources to the west and other ways to continue controlling the oil in this region. The U.S. and the EU must coordinate their energy policies as a security measure and should pour funding into the development of alternate routes from the Caspian Sea.

Finally, there is the future of Russia itself. The U.S. needs to draw up contingencies for a potentially unstable post-Putin Russia. This situation could certainly occur, as Russia is facing instability in many areas, including demographics and ethnic and religious conflict, as well as the economic, social, and political spheres. It is important to remember that while the U.S. cannot lose Russia, having never won it in the first place, it still has the potential to win Russia’s neighbors.

Stephen Sestanovich
Council on Foreign Relations

U.S.-Russian relations are important because Russia is involved in most areas of the U.S.’s national security and foreign policy: nonproliferation, terrorism, China, and energy security. The central question of U.S.-Russian relations is what is the right balance between ideology (democracy) and security (the situation in Iran)? From the Russian side, there is no such tradeoff. Russia will cooperate on Iran if it is in Russian interests and will refuse to do so if it is not. The tradeoffs for the U.S. are irrelevant and the attempts at manipulation may even hurt bilateral relations. Many Russians feel that the U.S.’s concerns about democracy lack credibility. This is worrisome for the following four reasons.

The first reason is the short-term concern that the Bush administration will face more difficulties getting Congress to accept the Russian World Trade Organization deal if it cannot show that it is making progress on the democracy concerns. The second reason is midterm and relates to the U.S. focus on the non-electoral aspects of democracy in Russia, which allows Russians to ignore the electoral aspect as well. There is a danger that the 2008 transfer of political power in Russia will be seen as illegitimate. Thirdly, another midterm concern is the fact that Moscow does not like the idea of having democratic neighbors. And the final, long-term reason is that the strength and stability of the constitutional pluralistic system in Russia is called into question because it has not been supported or upheld under Putin. This makes Russia more susceptible to an outside, ideological, and probably anti-West threat in the future.

Panel III: Iraq

Judy Van Rest
International Republican Institute

The United States’s role in the development of the Iraqi state has changed significantly since the period immediately following its initial invasion. There are a variety of signs which indicate that the new Iraqi government and its leaders are taking greater responsibility for political and economic affairs in Iraq. The U.S. government, however, must continue to provide support, training, and advice for Iraq’s nascent political institutions. Though some American citizens and members of Congress have demonstrated impatience at the U.S.’s continued involvement in Iraq, a premature withdrawal would risk disaster for a state which is only beginning to develop the functions necessary for successful governance.

Despite broad-based pessimism regarding political and economic development in Iraq, there has been a series of notable successes in the state’s reconstruction. While the Iraqi Council of Representatives is viewed by some as a weak governing body, the executive branch of the Iraqi government has demonstrated great promise by generating widespread support for the prime minister’s national reconciliation plan, among other initiatives. Activity among civil society organizations--carried out in the face of significant security risks--represents positive developments in the political reconstruction of Iraq.

The sort of democratic reforms which the U.S. hopes to implement in Iraq will not occur overnight. Thus far, the United States has provided integral support in the construction of an Iraqi national unity government. The U.S. must remain involved in Iraq to ensure that members of the government develop the leadership skills necessary for good governance.

Michael Rubin

In 2001, President George W. Bush made clear to the American people that the war on terror would be a grueling one, characterized by ambiguous successes and failures. The conflict in Iraq represents one front of this war on terror. Throughout America’s history, however, Americans have demonstrated their lack of patience for conflicts without clear objectives and guidelines for victory. America’s enemies have noted its distaste for complicated and muddled conflicts and have thus assumed that in the face of a long, violent, open-ended struggle in Iraq, the U.S. will eventually withdraw its forces in retreat. For the sake of maintaining credibility among its allies and an influence in the region, the U.S.  must persevere in creating a peaceful, democratic Iraq.

Members of both the U.S. government and armed forces have insisted that the American presence in Iraq is a significant cause of the insurgency. Polls of Iraqi citizens, however, indicate that violence remains abhorrent among the majority of the population. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that while Iraqi citizens are unhappy about the prospect of a prolonged U.S. occupation of their country, they recognize the immediate necessity of a U.S. military presence given the current state of security in their country.

The role of militias in Iraq represents a significant challenge for both U.S. policy and the Iraqi government’s efforts at national reconciliation. Militias impose with force what citizens are unwilling or unable to enact by the ballot box; the U.S. and Iraqi governments cannot underestimate militias’ influence.

Frederick W. Kagan

No single current issue in American foreign policy is as important as the war in Iraq. The U.S. military’s performance in the conflict, however, has jeopardized the chances of American success. America’s armed forces initially demonstrated a misunderstanding of the nature of the conflict at hand, and later, an unwillingness to carry out the operations which the conflict necessitated. The United States’s misguided approach to counterinsurgency in Iraq has resulted in a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country.

American military leaders in Iraq have stated that the solution to the insurgency is a political matter. All counterinsurgency campaigns throughout history, however, have included a significant military component. In the case of Iraq, the U.S. military has yet to commit to a consistent, aggressive strategy to effectively quell the insurgency. Instead, American military leadership has clung to the notion that the political process in Iraq will take care of the security situation. Concurrently, U.S. military leaders appear to believe that the training of an indigenous military force represents a sufficient contribution toward establishing lasting security in Iraq.

U.S. policymakers must acknowledge that the security situation in Iraq remains the most significant obstacle to the creation of a functioning Iraqi state. Military strategy in Iraq is in need of a readjustment if the U.S. hopes to properly combat the insurgency and broaden security.

Panel IV: Iran

Reuel Marc Gerecht

The greatest progress on Iran’s nuclear program was most likely made not under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but under President Mohammad Khatami. Contrary to the popular belief that there is internal dissent about the nuclear program, the ruling clergy is nearly unanimous in its desire to procure nuclear weapons. The only difference is the extent to which each cleric makes it a priority and how the clergy would use an atomic bomb. Few, if any, members of the clergy will be sympathetic to any type of argument or bribery. Neither soft power nor aggressive fiscal tactics will dissuade Tehran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, because the program is not dependent on “Western liberal” Iranians, but on the ruling clergy.

Danielle Pletka

Iran wants a nuclear weapon and will not be deterred from having one. The regime will not be cajoled, bribed, or intimidated from having one. Even if were there less objectionable leaders in Iran or a less objectionable regime, it is quite probable that Iran would still want a nuclear weapon because it sees itself as a major power in the region. A revolution to overthrow the clerical regime is unlikely before the nuclear weapons program becomes operational, and after the program becomes operational, the likelihood of a revolution is even smaller. A military strike on Iran--while it may ultimately be the only tool available to us--will not be without serious complications, and it will not put a decisive end to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Both the United States and Iran are buying time through the seven-party talks. Iran is buying time to continue to work on its weapons program and sees the end of August as a crucial date. The U.S. is trying to buy time as well, but for no clear purpose. We are trying to buy time both diplomatically (by sending Iran to the United Nations Security Council) and by putting a squeeze on their program (through disinvestment, ending nuclear cooperation between all countries and Iran, etc.) While not a panacea, international sanctions are the best option at this time. If the nuclear program cannot be stopped, the solution is to stop the regime that wants the nuclear program. We need to be reaching out to opposition leaders and dissidents on the ground in Iran. The possibility of a military strike cannot be ruled out even though it is not a flawless solution.

Kenneth Pollack
Brookings Institution

It is not the case that there are Iranians who do not want nuclear weapons. While every Iranian policymaker would like to have nuclear weapons, some value it enormously, and others less so. Importantly, many do not want to make tradeoffs to have a nuclear weapon. The gradual consensus within the P-5 plus Germany--that Iran should not have nuclear weapons--is making the choice between a nuclear program and a viable economy very difficult for Iran. As a result, there is a rather schizophrenic Iranian policy that is looking for a way to split the international community so the leaders can continue to try to have their cake and eat it too. Iran has a choice: choose ties with the international community or choose its nuclear program. The Iranians are trying to avoid making that choice, but it is crucial that the U.S. push them to make a choice.

The U.S. should promote democracy in Iran through its support of opposition leaders and dissidents. Moreover, the military option should not be dropped for the sake of diplomacy. Finally, the international community must start planning for the containment of a nuclear Iran.

AEI interns Mo'ayed Al Hawazi, Kara Flook, Georges Sassine, and Tim Sullivan prepared this summary.

View complete summary.
Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI Participants












Gary J.
AEI on Facebook