Conversations (48)

Greetings to all.

These are all interesting questions and cannot be answered in a one-dimensional way. On Monday, I was privileged to speak to a group of postgraduate students from American University, most of whom could not think of a single achievement of the Commission on Human Rights. One said it was probably a start, but needed to go. Another was astonished when I indicated that it had provided a space for civil society greater than other areas of the UN and that the Council had built on that.

As with all issues, discussions of the Council would benefit from a long view. It is a political body which, of course, means that there will be politics. But there are achievements, many of which have been sponsored and supported by the US. Perhaps it would have been a different body if the US had engaged early on. Perhaps not, but US attention and membership have been crucial. Ahmed can certainly expand on this.

Will the house of cards topple if it withdraws?
Not topple, but the balance will shift and the UN’s peak body for human rights’ foundation will be less secure.
I listened carefully to Ambassador Haley when she came to Geneva last month and when she spoke at the Graduate Institute, and reached the conclusion that she was personally very compelled by human rights, albeit not a specialist in the area, and not on top of what human rights in short-hand means in long-hand.

Her questioning of the Human Rights Council focused on its members, and those which aspire to membership, and one of its agenda items. Many are suggesting a new review of the work and functioning of the Council, but I am not convinced much would be achieved, particularly considering the last review. The review of the Council’s status is an urgent need and careful preparation is required. A rerun of last year’s attempts at the General Assembly to review the Council’s work cannot be ruled out, and should be precluded by institutional change.

And the Security Council as the main vehicle for the protection of human rights? I am not so sure, the pillars are interlinked, but need sustained attention.
I definitely think the Tories can make deals with homophobes and misogynists. There’s no serious majority, nor even appetite, to re-open those types of issues at Westminster, and the sheer idea of re-winding the clock on them, as if the government doesn’t have enough on its plate right now, is borderline comical. By contrast, the idea that the Tories can bring in the DUP without jeopardising the peace in Northern Ireland is self-deluded even by the Tories’ recently unprecedented standards.

Off to Mexico now, and wondering the country will even be here when I return!
Enjoy Mexico, Prof – hope the conference is engaging and stimulating, and look forward to continuing our discussions in person after you return home.
You all seem to be saying that this "crisis" actually need not be a crisis at all. That the EU member states, as well as the neighboring nations, have the means to absorb the refugee community but they are unwilling to do so, and the EU has been unable to enforce its own internal policies on its own members.

And yet, here we are concerned with how bad the problem will get before it improves. So where is that change going to come from? Is there a dialogue within the upper level of government/s that will produce an actionable solution? Is it hopeless? (Tell me it's not hopeless.)
A little over a year ago the European refugee crisis was addressed with two distinct measures -- namely, the EU-Turkey deal and the closure of the Balkan route.

So where do we stand today? How would we grade those policies' effectiveness and what are the consequences to the flow of immigrants into the Balkan region, and into Europe at large?

I find little to argue with you about other than your comment about an "ill-conceived referendum".

On constitutional matters, however, I would argue that the people should have their say. And the entry of the UK into the then 'Common Market' was carried out on the understanding that there would be no transfer of sovereignty. As this proved not to be the case, then surely the people - and I write as one who was too young to have a say on the matter in the 1970s - should have a say.

I think that the referendum was essential. Or do you you believe that the political elites know better than the people?
Theresa May's decision to call a snap election has unsettled the UK political establishment - the opposition parties appear confused and rather lost about the position they find themselves in.

But despite the somewhat dismissive rhetoric, the European Commission must surely realise that a Conservative landslide victory in the UK would send out a strong message to the political elites in the other 27 member states that Euroscepticism wins votes, and the question of 'withdrawal' is no longer a subject confined to the political fringes, as it was in the UK until very recently.

The times they are a'changing...

Twenty years ago Montenegro broke away from the alliance with Milosevic's Serbia when the eternal PM Djukanovic recognized that Belgrade's Machiavellian use of ethnic nationalism and anti-Westernism had taken both countries on a self-destructive course. He shifted Montenegrin policy towards Euro-Atlantic integration and towards independence from Serbia.

For Podgorica, NATO membership is part of that policy choice.
For the EU and the US, NATO membership has been and remains part of this Euro-Atlantic integration as the only viable instrument at hand to support sustainable democratic and economic transformation in Montenegro, as in the rest of the Western Balkans. To put an end to almost three decades of regional instability that poses an imminent security threat to the EU and to wider Europe.

With the recent intensification of Russian activities in the region, of which its alleged lead role in the failed October '16 Montenegro coup is just the most prominent example, keeping Russia out of the Western Balkans has become the second primary reason for the West to support NATO membership. Because Moscow's approach - exploiting Western weakness, playing the spoiler to enhance its own international influence - represents a destabilizing factor for the Western Balkans and for the EU.

Dear Jeffrey,

I share your concerns that the West and Russia have been set on a dangerous collision course, already in Georgia, but much more so since the Russian annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s insurgent war in Eastern Ukraine. But I seriously doubt that any kind of detente approach aimed at striking a deal with Putin through US-Russian dialogue can be successful. Not because there is no need for dialogue with Russia – though such proposals seem often to pretend there had been no dialogue with Russia, which is simply not true. But the core question to me is what constitutes the basis for a dialogue, and what the aim. Here, it seems to be no coincidence that you refer to two key figures of US cold war policy – Kissinger and Brzezinski. In Germany, similar positions mostly come from Social Democrats who are nostalgic about the good old interwar times, who try to recycle the only original foreign and security policy Western Germany had during the cold war – the Ostpolitik. The problem is history doesn’t repeat itself. Russia isn’t the same as was the Soviet Union, nor the same as Soviet Russia, but a “regional power” - with nuclear arms. Nor is Russia’s near abroad the same any more. Neither is the West, are the US and the EU where they once were. In addition, such policy positions also seem to tend to take official Moscow ideology at face value.

What to me makes the current conflict between Russia and the West so dangerous is that it’s a clash between two sides being in crisis. Putin’s Russia is in crisis as a result of the self-destructive nature of its economic model. And in the West, we have a double crisis on both ends of the Atlantic. Both the US and the EU since the Iraq invasion and the Euro crisis have lost policy orientation and self-assurance in their value system when it comes to the global role of the West. The current Trump administration in a way concludes this development that ran from the Bush to the Obama administration – in its empty talk of US strength, its inconclusive, contradictory policy fragments and its isolationist, Jacksonian undercurrent. Mirrored in the absence of any meaningful joint European foreign and security policy.

This opens a vast space for all kinds of very dangerous political miscalculations and political sleepwalking as we have seen on both Russian and EU-US side in Ukraine. But neither a détente nor a containment approach to Russia will manage to de-conflict the relationship with Moscow under the existing circumstances. Any meaningful dialogue with Putin must be based on a position of strength. But for this, both the US and the EU need to (re-)define their global role based on re-assuring themselves in upholding the liberal democratic values on which they once built the international liberal order. But even under such a scenario, any arrangement on NATO perspective of Ukraine (and to a lesser extent Georgia) won’t solve the conflict. Because the real threat to Putin is not any hypothetical NATO membership of neighboring Ukraine. The real threat to him is that the majority of Ukrainian citizens in 2014 opted for democracy and European integration.

Trying to appease Moscow from the current position of Western weakness won’t function and is dangerous for global peace and security. Because it would invite Russia to believe and act as if it’s more than a “regional power” with nuclear arms. That’s what one can learn from the Western Balkans, where Russia has no genuine interest and would have no real leverage had it not been for the EU’s constant policy weakness over the last decade. This weakness prevented the Union from consistently using its huge leverage in the region and get the unfinished post-Balkan wars business finished, instead creating new openings for Russian spoiling.