Tag Archives: international community

A Diplomat’s New Life

I am back.  On July 22 this year I departed Estonia for the last time as U.S. Ambassador and launched the transition from 35 years in my country’s Diplomatic Service into my new life as a private sector diplomat.  On October 1, I joined the new McCain Institute for International Leadership as Senior Director.  Located in Washington, D.C. and supported initially by a $9 million gift from the McCain Institute Foundation, we are part of Arizona State University (ASU), America’s largest public university.  Our mission is to advance leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom, and human dignity, in the United States and around the world.

I will be directing a unique new global leadership fellows program that will bring emerging leaders from around the world to the U.S. to engage in a year-long deepening of their “character-driven” leadership skills, along with professional development in their respective fields.  As an ASU Professor, I will also be passing on 35 years of diplomatic and international leadership experience to the next  generation of U.S. and international foreign affairs leaders.

And of course the issues and subjects that have been important to me in the past continue to excite me in my new capacity:  cyber security, e-governance, U.S. global leadership, the trans-Atlantic relationship, American values, and technology and policy, to name just a few.  Thank you for your patience with my temporary absence from the blogosphere and stay tuned — you will hear from me on these and many other issues again from now on.  Follow me and the McCain Institute also on Twitter and Facebook.

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An American Diplomat’s Message in Support of Europe

As I prepare to depart my mission as U.S. Ambassador to Estonia in a few days, the future of European unity — economic, political, and perhaps most importantly, emotional, remains hotly debated by our friends in Estonia and the rest of the continent.  Governments, parliaments, and supreme courts are passing judgments.  Their sovereigns — the people of Europe — are expressing their views forcefully.  In a determined effort to emerge from the current economic crisis, European leaders are seeking to put systems in place to heal current ills and prevent future disease.

With its decision last week, the Estonian Supreme Court supported Estonian Government’s participation in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), designed to create a rescue fund for ailing economies.  Despite the burdens such participation places on his country’s finances, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is quoted as saying:”I have always believed that our interests are protected through cooperation.  In the last 20 years, Estionia’s primary foreign policy goal has been integration with ….European institutions.” 

The firm and politically courageous (and risky) statement by this European statesman again demonstrates the model role Estonia continues to play in European affairs today.  One of the smaller members of the Union, Estonia is also one of its most courageous and most committed.  Courage and commitment in support of European cohesion — and correction — are exactly what is needed right now, along with further swift action.  The U.S. position is clear:  we support a strong and united Europe and any and all actions in support of this unity and common success.

Clearly failure is not an option.  Errors of the past matter only in so far as they inform future success.  Stakes are too high for both sides of the Atlantic, as are the opportunities for greater prosperity of our 800 million people in the U.S. and Europe.  It is at times like this that as an American diplomat I am reminded of our first, and infinitely more emminent  American diplomat, who in a wholly opposite context spoke words that nevertheless have some meaning in Europe today:

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

– Benjamin Franklin, in the Continental Congress just before signing
the American Declaration of Independence, 1776.

 

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Smart Power in Austere Times

There has never been a better time than right now to set in motion Smart Power as the new pardigm of American foreign policy than during current belt tightening by governments on both sides of the Atlantic.  I have always disliked what I would call the predecessor of Smart Power:  “Do more with less!”  Unless we are talking about nuclear breeder reactors, there really is no “more with less.”  In an organizational context  that term has always suggested to me that people should work more hours, achieve all the same goals with little or no prioritization, and with fewer resources and even less compensation for their efforts.  You can do this for a brief period to bridge a temporary crisis, but in the long term, any organization that demands more with less ends up only achieving less with less and demoralizing its workforce, robbing it of its  creative energies.

In contrast, Smart Power proposes to to do more and to do it better by combining the energies of more contributors to a common goal, even as program and human resources of individual organizational units are being reduced.  Take as an example Secretary of State Clinton’s “3 D’s ” of U.S. foreign policy:  diplomacy, defense, and development.  Through the combined efforts of the Department of State, the Pentagon and USAID, along with those of other U.S. government entities in support of the 3 D’s, U.S. foreign policy becomes smarter and more effective, even as the budget knife cuts into U.S. government outlays.

Such constructive interagency cooperation is far from routine in an environment famous for interagency disagreements and outright bureaucratic battles.  And while the leadership of President Obama and his relevant cabinet officers is a decisive factor in making Smart Power work, necessity also plays a key role.  The common enemy of deficits and economic downturn is no small motivating factor in turn bureaucratic warriors into Smart Power players.  In Washington and around the world, we have already made a strong start down the Smart Power road and the coming years will show whether we can sustain this new foreign policy paradigm even as our fiscal situation improves.

Our friends here in Estonia are also Smart Power players.  Estonia, since regaining its independence 20 years ago has been a Smart Power nation.  The rewards for the country and its people have been remarkable, making Estonia today one of the most economically and politically stable and future-oriented places in the world.  And here too, sustainability of Smart Power policies will be tested as things get better, as prosperity and popular demand for public services grows, and as government’s ability to do more with more becomes possible.

In the United States and in Estonia, we should look forward to that happy dilemma, but remain unalterably committed to Smart Power.

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Diplomacy: High Value – Low Cost

Things are tough right now.  The U.S. and European economies are seeking to regain their footing after a recession.  In the midst of European countries’ debt issues, the very structure of European unity is being examined.  Many government budgets are in defict and on both sides of the Atlantic we are faced with tightening our belts and reducing public expenditures.  People without jobs are struggling and many with jobs are deeply worried about their future as well.  In this hard reality, no public outlay can be held sacrosanct.  Of course our political leaders are looking for equitable ways to distribute cuts in spending, including in our diplomatic services.  

In nearly 35  years as an American diplomat, this is hardly the first time I have seen, discussed, and experienced reductions in my country’s foreign affairs budget affecting, among other things, our diplomatic capacities.  A few short decades ago, our intake of new diplomats had fallen to such a low level that we literally could no longer staff some positions in our embassies.  The watch word was “do more with less.”  In fact, our dedicated Foreign and Civil Service team worked long and hard hours to do what had to be done.  Morale stayed amazingly high, but at some point “more with less” in reality became “less with less” and U.S. diplomatic engagement inevitably suffered.  Eventually, under inspired foreign policy leadership, we rebuilt our diplomatic strength, enabling us today to strongly serve American interests globally, including in the most complex and dangerous environments such as Afghanistan and Iraq.   

Today I see cost cutting challenges facing European diplomacy.  Here in Tallinn, and in other parts of Europe, some European embassies are closing or reducing staff, in some cases even after opening diplomatic missions only a few years ago.  All public expenditures are understandably subject to scrutiny.  That said, it is important to recall what the cost and value of diplomacy is to any nation.  In the United States and in Europe, the foreign affairs part of national budgets generally hover around the 1% mark or even lower.  That means that for most if not all countries, even the complete elimination of all diplomatic functions and facilities (a ludicrous notion no one is suggesting) would mean a reduction of no more than a tiny precentage of public outlays.

Unacceptably high budget shortfalls will not be fixed by cutbacks in countries’ embassies or diplomatic staff.  On the contrary, just at a time when we need maximum diplomatic cooperation, coordination, and contact, the loss of even one diplomat or one embassy makes a difference.  In short, we need the 1% to help fix the 99%.  Really!

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The Importance of International Schools

Everyone is talking education these days.  Education for the very youngest of our children.  Secondary education.  Higher education, and adult learning.  International education is an important subset of all of these discussions.  For international families in the business, NGO, military, and diplomatic sectors, international primary and secondary education is not just important, it is essential.  As these “nomadic professionals”  circle the globe with little time spent (as little as one or two years) in any one location, they desperately search out consistency for their children’s education:  an International School.  The presence of such a school thus becomes a critical asset for any country that wants to play on the international economic and politial scene and attract the players that play on there.

An truly international school offers offers kindergarden through high school education of an international standard that transfers easily from country to country and continent to continent.  The International Baccelaureate (IB) offers this universal standard with some 900,000 IB students in 140 countries around the world.  An international school has an international faculty, uses English as the primary common language of instruction, and offers wide flexibility for students to enter and leave school at other than standard starting and completion points.  For students not yet ready to function in English, support programs quickly bring them up to speed.  Finally, international schools must be fully adaptive to accomodate students at all levels of learning ability, including students with special needs.  In other words, international schools do not have the luxury of simply picking the best and letting “the system” take care of those less capable.  There is no other “system” for nomadic professionals.

So what’s the problem?  Well, international schools are expensive to run.  Unless a host government helps finance such international education, tuition costs become prohibitive for professionals whose organizations, companies, or governments do not pick up the tab.  As an American “diplomatic nomad” for the past 35 years, I have faced the challenge, if not the cost, of international education for my children around the world.  I was always fortunate that my government covered the cost of our extraordinary education needs.  And I found that the countries that offered the best international education were also the best centers of foreign direct investment and important platforms for international diplomacy and civic society activity.  Estonia has one truly comprehensive, but small  international school, and ongoing ambitions in global business, government, and civic endeavors.  Twenty years into Estonia’s amazing growth as a free, independent, prosperous, and highly modern nation, now is the time to decide whether the country is interested in supporting and sustaining its unique international education platform for the long-term.

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Seizing the Future in the Balkans

This week the people of Kosovo and Serbia have sadly faced another set of violent incidents where those dedicated to peace have been harmed as a result of Serb mob action, and backward-looking political agendas.  NATO peacekeepers were injured, as were Kosovars and Serbs dedicated to putting an end to hatred and violence.  Estonia, its EU partners, and the U.S. and NATO have all called for the obvious from the Serbian and Kosovar governments:  fully engage in the EU-facilitated dialog process and refrain from precipitous actions, inflamatory rhetoric, and impediments  to freedom of movement.  And obviously, don’t attack KFOR peacekeepers or aid workers.  Pretty clear.

Amazing then that exactly the opposite occurred on September 27 and 28.  A violent Serb mob attacked a NATO-led KFOR unit.  A multi-ethnic group of USAID -supported community workers was similarly attacked.  What is it that the attackers don’t understand?  The U.S.  and Estonia — the EU and NATO — stand united in not allowing a better future for Kosovars and Serbs to be denied.  Their rights to a successful, Europe-integrated tomorrow are paramount.  The narrow and retrograde interests of some will not be satisfied.

As current U.S. Ambassador to Estonia and former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, for me the contrast between a people seizing the future and others being allowed to descend into a dark past is particularly poignant.  Estonians suffered  50 years of occupation — much harsher than anything experienced in the former Yugoslavia prior to the wars of the 1990’s.  Since regaining its independence only 20 years ago, Estonia has remade itself into one of the most successful and progressive countries in Europe, in the EU, in NATO, in the world today.  The long-suffering people of Serbia and Kosovo deserve a chance at similar success.  We cannot let mobs and mob mentality deny them their rightful place in the 21st century among their fellow European and American friends.

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A U.S./European Secure Energy Future

(Taken from a lecture delivered at Estonian Energy’s Forum:  “Where Will Tomorrow’s Energy Come From?” in Tallinn September 20, 2011.)

President Obama accentuated the state of the U.S. energy situation when in March this year he said “we cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security.”

Unfortunately this has been the case for far too long in America. Our interest in energy security rides a cycle from almost manic activity when gasoline prices are high, to indifference when prices drop back down again. It is clear that continuing this cycle is no longer an option. Global demand for energy is expected to rise 50% over the next 25 years. Driven by growth in China, India and the rest of the developing world, the rising price of oil and other forms of energy is an issue we must confront head-on with resolve and ingenuity.

We in the United States and our European friends and allies owe it to ourselves and our citizens to provide for a more secure energy future by harnessing all of our available resources, embracing a diverse energy portfolio, and investing in the most promising new sources of renewable power.  U.S. – European, U.S. -Estonian, and regional cooperation, along with free markets, are key elements to reaching an abundant, clean, and secure energy future.

When President Obama took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. This past March, the President pledged that by a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. He put forward a plan to secure America’s energy future by producing more oil at home and reducing our dependence on oil by leveraging cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

First, we will develop and secure America’s own abundant energy supplies: We need to deploy American assets, innovation, and technology so that we can safely and responsibly develop more energy at home and be a leader in the global energy economy. Developing our existing energy supplies means improved drilling for oil and natural gas. And it also means exploring exciting opportunities for U.S.-Estonian cooperation by putting together Estonia’s oil shale expertise with America’s vast oil shale resources. I very much look forward to seeing Enefit’s investment in Utah develop swiftly, and will continue to do all I can to ensure this project is a full success.

Second, there is also an important ongoing role to play for nuclear energy. Some countries in Europe decided to write-off nuclear power in the aftermath of the natural disaster in Japan this year. That is not the course the United States will take. Abandoning such an important stream of rather clean energy will only lead to higher electricity bills, increasing dependence on fossil fuels – which are often imported, and further complicate our uphill challenge in reaching climate change goals. Instead of abandoning nuclear energy, we intend to continue to make nuclear power function safely, and we have high hopes for new generation reactors being developed.  The United States will provide consumers with choices to reduce costs and save energy: Volatile gasoline prices reinforce the need for innovation that will make it easier and more affordable for consumers to buy more advanced and fuel-efficient vehicles, use alternative means of transportation, weatherize their homes and workplaces, and in doing so, save money and protect the environment. Increasing energy efficiency is something we can do now, with existing technology, and have a major impact on our energy and climate security.

Third, we will innovate our way to a clean energy future: Leading the world in clean energy is critical to strengthening the American economy. Our Government has invested over $90 billion in clean energy research and development over the past 2 years. This unprecedented investment demonstrates our commitment to one day creating limitless clean energy supplies. This process will take many years and until then we must use all we have responsibly: our oil, gas, oil shale and nuclear power along with nascent renewables.

Along with our domestic energy program, we will also pursue three main, interconnected components of our Eurasian energy strategy. We want to assist Europe in its quest for energy security. I recently wrote a blog re-stating the obvious: having strong European allies is essential for the health of the American economy and for our national security. The EU and the U.S. account for the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world. Europe is also our partner on any number of global issues from Afghanistan to Libya to the Middle East, from human rights to free trade and to peace and security for the citizens of those regions. Promoting energy security in Europe is good for America and good for Europe.

In Europe, energy security is a more pressing issue to some than to others. Some countries in Europe do not have a diverse energy mix and depend largely on a single supplier and transport route. When that route is disrupted, as we witnessed in January 2009 with the Russo-Ukrainian gas dispute, the consequences for countries downstream can be severe in the immediate term and profoundly unsettling for the future. Also, for the European side of the Atlantic, we want to encourage the development of new oil and gas resources and also promote efficiency and conservation in the use of all types of energy.

Because there is a fungible world market for oil, new production contributes to meeting growing demand anywhere in the world, including in the United States. Such a global supply chain does not exist for gas, but security of supply is equally important. We often speak about new natural gas production in the Caspian region, shale gas in Poland, and other potential gas resources in and near Europe. It is unlikely that any of that gas will reach the U.S., but these sources will improve the energy security of our European allies and add to international gas supply. Additional supply in one place naturally frees up supply in another. Also, as the market for liquefied natural gas continues to grow, we can start to plan for gas to move around markets in much the same way that oil does.

Finally, we want to help Caspian and Central Asian countries find new routes to a free market. To turn an old phrase, “happiness is multiple pipelines.” We want to help foster economic growth and prosperity in these countries. By expanding export routes, they can increase competition for their resources, demand a fair price, and create strong links to the global economy. These countries must also be able to make their own independent choices regarding how their energy resources reach the market.

So, how can we achieve our common energy security goals together with and in Europe? We know that energy markets work best when free market forces drive decisions on how oil and gas are produced, transported, and purchased. This is normally the case for private firms and can even be the case for state-owned oil and gas companies. Governments can and should play a facilitating role. They should put in place the right business climate to attract free investment and work with neighboring states to expand market access and increase interconnections. As with all other goods in a global trading system, the value added by the public sector is the creation of the political framework in which businesses and commercial projects can thrive.

At the heart of U.S. policy is our conviction that energy security is best achieved through diversity – diversity of suppliers, diversity of transportation routes and diversity of consumers. This of course applies to existing as well as future technologies, including renewable and other clean energy technologies, and products and methodologies for increased energy efficiency.

We strongly support the establishment of a new pathway, the so-called Southern Corridor, to bring natural gas to Europe, via Turkey, from the Caspian Region and potentially other sources beyond Europe’s south-eastern frontiers. Gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore fields will be the first significant volumes available to supply the Southern Corridor. Development of a major field in Azerbaijan is well underway and three separate pipeline consortia are laying the financial, technical and organizational groundwork to compete for the right to ship this gas to Europe. The best outcome of all these efforts is the one that brings the most gas, soonest and most reliably, to those parts of Europe that need it most. But at the end of the day, any solution for bringing Azeri or other gas to European customers must make commercial sense. In light of the momentum achieved over the past 18 months, we are confident that a commercially viable Southern Corridor will be realized. The investment decisions to make that possible should occur by the end of this year.

Some people have portrayed our energy policy and Russia’s as the next round in the “Great Game” in Central Asia. I could not disagree more. Energy security is no game. And we are not playing. Energy security and energy investment are topics for serious two-way discussions with Russia. The importance of these issues is reflected by the inclusion of a Working Group on Energy, chaired by U.S. Energy Secretary Chu and Russian Energy Minister Shmatko, under our U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. Russia is an important supplier of oil and gas, and we welcome market-driven expansion of its production capacity.

In Central and Eastern Europe, we support efforts to more effectively diversify energy sources. We encourage states throughout the region to coordinate work toward a common energy market and to increase gas and electricity connections with each other and with the larger, better-supplied economies of the rest of Europe. To this end, the U.S. is actively cooperating with Estonia and its neighbors in implementing the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), which strives for full integration of the states in the Baltic/Nordic region into the European energy market. We have already seen important successes on this front, for instance with the Estlink project between Estonia and Finland. I applaud Estonia for the hard work, leadership and patience it has demonstrated on regional energy cooperation.

New pipelines alone will not fully assure Europe’s energy security. The U.S. supports the other initiatives that Europe is undertaking to increase its own energy security. This includes building a single market for energy, unbundling the distribution and supply functions of energy firms, building interconnectivity of European gas and electricity networks, environmentally sound development of shale gas reserves, enhancing LNG import capabilities, increasing gas storage, improving energy efficiency, and exploring alternative and renewable sources. All of these are pieces of the puzzle to ensure European energy security.

In November 2009 our governments launched the U.S.-EU Energy Council to formalize our ongoing engagement. Through this body we have developed coordinated approaches to Ukraine, Russia, the Southern Corridor and Iraq. The Energy Council is also making important practical strides toward harmonizing battery and plug-in charging standards for Electric-drive Vehicles (EVs) and software for Smart Grids. We are also working to facilitate an unprecedented level of researcher exchanges in key areas of clean and renewable technologies research.

U.S.-Estonian energy cooperation fits seamlessly into the broader U.S. – European energy framework. Of course the most prominent area of cooperation between our countries is on oil shale. Putting together Estonia’s 90 years of experience utilizing oil shale with America’s immense oil shale resources could unlock 1.8 trillion barrels of shale oil. This year we have seen two significant steps further intensifying our cooperation: Eesti Energia’s/Enefit’s investment in Utah with plans to build a sizeable shale oil production facility, and the oil shale research cooperation agreement Minister Parts and I signed in February. My Embassy has strongly supported Enefit’s investment in the United States and I will firmly continue that support. Estonian oil shale investment is just beginning in the U.S., but the potential benefits to both of our countries are enormous. As to further research cooperation, I am happy to report that experts at the Department of Energy are already in contact with their counterparts in Estonia. Among the many things we can do together are enhancing the efficiency of oil production from oil shale, identifying new and commercially feasible processes to produce high quality oil from shale, and minimizing the environmental impact associated with shale oil production.

Naturally, our mutual interests go beyond oil shale. We have also encouraged development of renewable energy through initiatives such as the Clean and Green Energy Conference in 2009. This conference brought executives from clean energy businesses and leading American clean energy researchers to Estonia to develop contacts and share their knowledge. And again we have encouraged and applauded Estonia’s efforts to unify the Baltic electricity market and link it to NordPool and the rest of the EU. Estonia has routinely demonstrated leadership on this issue, through projects such as Estlink 1 & 2, by beginning the process of opening the electricity market last year, and by encouraging your neighbors to create a single Baltic electricity market. A very good step in the right direction is also Estonia’s commitment to the Visaginas nuclear plant project in Lithuania. I was happy to see that the American-Japanese consortium of General Electric and Hitachi was chosen to move the project forward and my embassy stands ready to assist in next steps and to further progress in any way we can. Nuclear energy will offer Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania a stable, reliable energy supply that will not contribute to climate change or be subject to political pressures.

Transatlantic energy security discussions are fraught with emotion born from frustration and burdened by repeated inaction as we go from shock to trance. Our governments and our publics don’t always agree on the precise path or the pace toward a secure energy future, but there is zero argument about the ultimate goal. In the end nothing succeeds like success. Whatever works in getting us there, and does so in the fastest and most economically sound way, we will be able to agree on. Our assets are not only fossil fuels and modern renewable energy resources, but also a joint commitment to free markets that literally keep energy flowing.  Together we will keep the lights burning.

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