Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.
June 1, 2007
EDWARD ALDEN: Thank you all for coming. Let's get started here. I'm Ted Alden. I'm the Bernard Schwartz fellow here at the council, and until very recently, a guy asking questions rather than answering them. So I'm much more comfortable in your role than I am in the role I'm playing today, but I will get used to it.
I appreciate you all getting out here bright and early. It shows this is definitely a summit that has attracted a lot of interest this year and is very much at the top of the news, both the top two stories in The New York Times this morning, about U.S.-Russia relations and Bush's climate change proposal. So all of that is on the agenda.
We have three senior fellows at the council here, experts to help guide us through some of the issues that will be on the agenda for the G-8 leaders next week. We will start with Charlie Kupchan, who is former director for European affairs at the National Security Council. He'll give us a broad overview of the issues that are going to be on the agenda. You all have bios, so I won't go into great detail.
We're going to follow that with Steve Sestanovich, who was former ambassador at large and special adviser on Russian issues for the secretary of State under President Clinton, and he's going to deal primarily with U.S.-Russia relations, which are obviously top of mind. And then finally we'll turn to Gene Sperling, former National Economic Council director, who is going to talk primarily about Bush's comments yesterday on education and international education initiatives, which is an area he has been working on for many years now at the council and elsewhere.
So without further ado, I'll turn it over to Charles.
CHARLES KUPCHAN: Thank you.
I'm going to take most of my time to give you a kind of lay of the land, where are we in U.S.-European relationship in general, and Bush's ties to specific European leaders. And then I want to touch very briefly on two substantive issues. One is climate change, and then two flash points, Iran and Kosovo. But Steve's going to talk about them as well, so I will be very brief on those two issues.
In terms of the overall U.S.-European relationship -- and that will be front and center because this is taking place in Germany, Merkel is the host -- we're certainly on a much better footing in Bush's second term than we were in the first term.
The Americans have essentially reached out to the Europeans; the Europeans have reciprocated. There is a sense that a mending of fences has taken place, and I think it's very much a very pragmatic mending of fences. It's not about a fundamental change in the domestic politics on either side or a strategic reorientation; I would call it more a tactical reorientation. The Bush administration has realized that it needs help on just about every front in the international agenda; Europe is the best place to get that help.
The Europeans, despite the refrain of Chirac and Schroeder, that they wanted an EU to emerge as a counterweight to the United States, have essentially realized that they're not so wild about life after Pax Americana after all. They got a taste of what it might look like amid the rift over Iraq, and I think that in the end of the day, most Europeans want an EU that is Atlanticist in orientation, not an EU that goes off and charts its own course in a way that leads to (killing ?) confrontation with the United States.
Overall, I would say that the shift in leadership that is taking place as we speak works to Bush's advantage and to the betterment of U.S.-European relations in the following sense: Yes, he is losing his best buddy in Europe, that is, Tony Blair, but Tony Blair was of little utility to Bush in terms of a solid U.S.-European link, because Bush didn't have much credibility within the EU because he was seen as too close to Blair -- didn't have much credibility in the EU because he was too close to Bush. And also, the Brits have always kept their distance from the EU, and therefore they weren't the conduit into Europe that Bush might have wanted.
Brown will be quieter than Tony Blair. He will distance himself from Bush. He is more someone who thinks of the world in geoeconomic terms, not in geopolitical terms, so there will be a downgrading of the relationship there. But on the other hand, Bush will have in Berlin and in Paris two more pragmatic leaders, both of whom are somewhat pro-American in their orientation, and I think now we will see the Franco-German coalition come back to life to some extent. And rather than trying to influence Europe through London, which was more difficult, Bush will have direct access to the Franco-German corps and an EU that is more Atlanticist in its orientation. I think that's good news for the White House and good news for U.S.-European relations.
It's also worth pointing out that at the G-8 summit, there will be a collection of center-right governments across the board with one exception, and that is Prodi in Italy. But even Prodi, with the help of his foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, have tried to keep U.S.- Italian relations on an even keel, and this has not been easy. Keep in mind that the Prodi government fell a few months ago over two issues: Afghanistan and the enlargement of the American base in Vicenza in the north, and so there's a lot of domestic pressure on Prodi to stand up to Bush, and I think he's done a pretty good job of maneuvering around that domestic pressure.
The obvious flash point is Putin. The rhetoric seems to be escalating on both sides. Whether both are on best behavior in Germany is anybody's guess. My own hunch is that they will be, but clearly if there is a bilateral relationship that has the potential to blow up during this trip, it is the U.S.-Russia link.
Let me end with a few comments on climate change and then flash points. I think it's difficult to exaggerate how important the climate change issue is to Europeans.
If I were to look back over the last six years and say what, other than Iraq, most causes angst and acrimony in Europe toward the United States, it's the climate change issue. If I were to be asked by the next American president, what can I do to win back confidence in Europe, I would say start off with a major initiative on climate change.
And I mention the next American president not by accident, because I think that the proposal that came yesterday really isn't going to do a whole lot for Bush. It was a step forward in the sense that Bush agreed to multilateral talks, he agreed that we have a problem here and the scientific evidence suggests that global warming is man-made. And he essentially said -- and I think the Europeans will like this -- that we need to get developing countries into the game, particularly China and India. But he gave no concrete targets or commitments to cap greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And it's very difficult for me to believe that Bush, when he comes to the end of his administration, is going to sign-off on some deal that he wasn't willing to sign-off on before that, because he's saying this is really going to start now, come into the end of 2009. But the end of 2009 is after the next presidential election. Clinton signed the ICC at the very end of his term, but that's because he really wanted to during his two terms. Bush is not that interested in getting a serious deal on this, in my estimation.
So I saw yesterday's speech as more of a palliative to the Europeans rather than a serious step forward. And my guess is that the Europeans will press Bush on this issue, but that there won't be a real head-butting over it, and that in the end of the day, the Europeans will bide their time, realize that it's probably the next president of the United States who's going to move forward on this, because it's clear that the political winds are blowing in that direction, especially since the mid-term elections in which the Democrats took the House and the Senate.
Finally, even though the G-8 summits are supposed to be about long-term issues -- development, Africa, fighting AIDS, global economy -- we are in a situation in which there are two breaking issues. The time clock is ticking on two issues. One is Iran and the other is Kosovo; Iran because the U.S. is going to be pressing for a new set of sanctions; Kosovo because there is a move to have a vote on independence sometime over the next -- over this coming month.
On Iran, I worry that we are actually getting close to some difficult red lines; it is to say that thus far, the U.S. has asked for sanctions that essentially constitute slaps on the hand. We're now getting to the point where these sanctions may be more biting, where we could talk about restrictions on foreign investment, potentially an economic embargo. I think it's going to be extraordinarily difficult to get the Russians and the Chinese to sign on that. But I also think we're going to start to see internal splits within the EU, within the EU-3, if we get to the point where we're talking about serious economic sanctions.
On Kosovo, had we been having this conversation six months ago, I would have guessed that Putin would not exercise his veto simply on the basis of what core Russian national interests are at stake, and the answer is there aren't any. There's no oil in Kosovo. Kosovo doesn't have a nuclear energy program. There's no trade between Russia and Kosovo. Why bother? Given the mood that Putin seems to be in, given the degree to which he seems to want to encourage confrontation with the EU and the United States, I certainly would not exclude the possibility that he would exercise the veto. And even though there is a conversation taking place now among the key players over some sort of face-saving compromise, I don't believe that the issues on the table are really going to do enough to win Belgrade's support. They include things like a special U.N. envoy for minority rights to protect the Serbs and the Serb religious sites. There is some talk about other small fixes to the Ahtisaari plan. But the one issue that I think could win over Belgrade and Moscow, that is the partition of Kosovo -- Mitrovica north, north of the river Ibar, going to Belgrade -- I don't think that's on the table; I don't think it will happen. And in that sense, this is an issue that could end up really splitting Russia from the United States and the EU within the next few weeks.
ALDEN: Very good. Thank you very much, Charlie.
We'll turn it over to Stephen.
STEPHEN SESTANOVICH: Thank you, Ted.
I know nothing about climate change, but I do want to call your attention to a hilarious speech given this week by Sergei Mironov, who is the chairman of the Federation Council, on "global cooling" -- a very provocative speech at a conference in St. Petersburg on climate change, which apparently outraged everyone present.
So among the other ways in which Russian officials are getting outside the G-8 mainstream, you will be interested in that one. I will just say -- and Mironov is not an inconsequential figure in Russian politics, by the way. He's the head of this new party that Putin caused to be created called Just Russia.
Let me say -- I've got three points, and I'll try to be really quick and leave some things out that we can talk about in discussion.
First, the backdrop to this meeting is the sharp decline in Russia's standing and reputation since the last G-8, not just with the U.S. but in all of Europe. This week the focus is on Russian-American polemic, as Charlie mentioned. But two weeks ago the story was the Russian-EU summit fiasco in -- on the Volga.
This decline in Russia's reputation is particularly striking because it's almost totally unnecessary. Putin with Blair is one of the two longest-serving leaders at the G-8. And for both of them this will be their last summit. It would not be hard for Putin to make this a kind of good-feeling, swan song appearance at the G-8, to show a new Russia with a leader who excites respect for confidence, strategic sense, historic achievement, helping his country to make a difficult transition to modern economic and political institutions.
In this respect, Russia's G-8 chairmanship was almost completely wasted. You remember that critics of including Russia in the G-8 or letting Russia be the chairman used to say that this would encourage people to pretend Russia is a normal country, to legitimize its policies and make it harder to object to them. Nothing of the sort is happening. Instead relations with Russia, relations between Russia and most members of the G-8 are said to be in crisis. Of all the members of the G-8 in the past year, Russia has lost the most soft power.
Second point: Will the G-8 meetings deepen this crisis?
Almost surely not. The G-8 is not a forum for deepening crises, of any kind. G-8 summits are never train wrecks.
And where there is tough rhetoric in the run-up to G-8 meetings, it's often to make it easier for the leaders to be polite to each other in person. I would remind you that last year, in the run-up to the St. Petersburg G-8, we were all paying attention to President -- Vice President Cheney's harsh words about Russia in a speech he gave in Vilnius. It was clear at the time, I think -- and some administration officials were admitting this -- became clear that the point of Cheney's tough speech was to make it unnecessary for Bush to be at all confrontational.
Beyond this, G-8 summits rarely commit the participants to very much. Very little pressure is put on them to live up to their commitments that they do make, and very little of the discussion is about who has lived up to them, you know, over the past several years.
Bilateral meetings between leaders are usually short. They take place. There will be one between Bush and Putin. But the fact that a follow-up meeting a few weeks later has already been scheduled for Bush and Putin in Kennebunkport will further reduce the bilateral drama between the two of them.
Now, this isn't to say that there aren't opportunities for some kind of little unexpected glimpses of personal tension. Sometimes embarrassing comments are made in joint press conferences. Putin has shown himself capable of somewhat aggressive remarks that make news, like the press conference a couple of years back --
MR. : Bratislava.
SESTANOVICH: -- I'm trying to think what occasion this was --
MR. : Bratislava.
MR. : No.
SESTANOVICH: -- no, no, no, no, no, don't coach me -- (laughter) -- where he advised -- got into an argument with one of the reporters --
MR. : French reporter, on circumcision --
SESTANOVICH: -- on circumcision. He advised him to come to Russia for re-circumcision or something. (Laughter.)
MR. : A friendly offer.
MR. : Yeah.
SESTANOVICH: Or consider this -- rather strange comments that he made this week in a press conference in connection with the visit of the Portuguese prime minister, which had something to do with fluffy white good forces in the world and the hateful monsters who come out of the forest with corns on their feet. (Scattered laughter.) You know, you may get some comments from Putin that are of that "Huh? What is he saying?" variety. You always do.
But those will be, you know, the tick-tock entertainment at the margins of the meeting. The meeting itself will not be full of drama.
A third point -- as Charlie said, G-8 meetings are often shaped less by the long-term visionary agenda that the hosts try to define -- consider Blair's emphasis on Africa at Gleneagles two years ago -- and more by the unscheduled political events, like the London bombings that preceded Gleneagles, or a diplomatic calendar.
In 1999, for example, the G-8 was all about Kosovo. It was the forum in which major leaders came together to agree on the Kosovo Resolution leading to the end of the war.
This time Kosovo again has this same sort of potential. The U.S. and Europeans had hopes that this forum might be one in which Russia or Putin would not want to be isolated on Kosovo and might be, for that reason, conciliatory. It seems clear, as Charlie suggested, from recent statements, that this isn't going to happen. Russia is trying to make clear, trying to persuade other governments that it doesn't mind being isolated. Its position has been openly to drag out the process. June, you'll recall, was going to be the month where the U.N. Security Council had to act on Kosovo. Now, the Russian message is, no, it doesn't. There are no -- it isn't.
Russia-Kosovo diplomacy has been -- in the past two months has been superficially successful. For example, they got an agreement in the Security Council to send a mission, an inspection trip to the region -- Kosovo, Serbia, (Brussels ?), elsewhere -- but it's only superficially successful. In fact, the majority favoring the Ahtisaari plan in the Security Council now seems stronger than before, and Russia policy is more isolated. And for its effectiveness, it has to rely almost entirely on stubbornness, on an indifference in -- and this is something of some practical significance -- indifference to the risk of new violence in Kosovo itself.
Now, there are many variants -- Charlie's over here to do some of these -- of the Ahtisaari plan that the United States and the European Union want to endorse in the council. We can discuss these variants. But at the G-8, the Putin message is likely to remain, if you insist on a fast pace and if you insist on the Ahtisaari plan, we will veto. That's become much clearer.
It is conceivable that at the G-8 the U.S. and the EU will try to call Putin's bluff on this to see whether he does want to be isolated, but it's doubtful that they'll try, because he seems to have made it clear, as I said, he doesn't want to be isolated.
And remember, G-8 meetings are not supposed to be train wrecks.
We can take up other issues more broadly, the issues of sort of trajectory of the Russian-American relationship, in our discussion. Thanks, Ted.
ALDEN: Thanks, Steve.
We will turn it over to Gene before opening up for questions.
GENE SPERLING: Thank you. I am going to make some comments on education. I'll make two drive-bys on just a couple of other quick points and then talk about the issue that I worked the most in.
Just one thing in terms of obviously with G-8s, people who host it also wonder what their legacy is going to be, and there's an enormous amount of time on that. I think that's still kind of quite open at this point. It wouldn't shock me if one of the legacies of this was China's participation in the second day and the whole issue of how much does one see China being involved as an endorsement of their still-inferior human rights record, et cetera, or one can also imagine that if they were within the G-8 process more, that some of their bad practices would be harder to sustain.
So, for example, if you've been part of the G-8 finance ministers over the last decade, there's been a huge focus on debt relief, obviously, through both the Clinton and Bush administration. It would be hard to be part of that process and then at the same time be lending significant new money in somewhat irresponsible ways to the same countries. So I just flag that.
Secondly, it's hard for me not to look at the climate change announcement yesterday as somewhat of an attempted parting gift to Prime Minister Blair. If you look at the comments by the environmental groups compared to Blair's comments, a huge step forward, I think for him, as Charles said, you know, I felt it was interesting, I felt like education got kind of crowded out. And it kind of reminded me one day of coming to meet with Blair and Brown's staff on education, and unfortunately, the day I got there there was a large climate change meeting, and I ended up meeting ting with everybody at about 7 p.m. because literally you could see the power of climate change over everything.
And I think if Blair is trying to look and say that he got something out of this partnership, perhaps this is his last chance to say that he laid -- he somehow moved President Bush, and that if there's something comes out of this, perhaps, I think presidents are very legacy oriented, prime ministers are too. So those are just two drive-bys.
Now, I run the Center for Universal -- founded and run the Center for Universal Education here. And I did this -- I've done this for the last seven years and I also am the chair of the U.S. Global Campaign for Education.
Now, I got involved in this issue precisely because I wanted to be involved in the issue that wasn't the front-burning development issue.
I was kind of hoping, by this year, it would be the front-burning development issue. And I was actually hoping, by yesterday, it would be, and there was some reason to think so. But let me try to do just a -- since I know this is not an issue that people here have spent as much time on as AIDS, et cetera, why yesterday was a disappointment but why I also think that you should be looking at the push for universal basic education as the next big thing in development and particularly coming out of the G-8, whether or not it's going to happen this year.
This was one case where one of those U.N. goals really made a difference. 180 countries got together in Dakar in 2000 and created a pledge to universal basic education. That got incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals, and it really had an impact.
I don't think countries looked much at their bilateral assistance. I know, as we were going out, it helped spur a large school lunch program; it helped spur another 80, $100 million going into the fighting child labor and getting an education. And debt relief, I think, always is seen as partly help to spur more resources for education.
But I think, after this, you really had more of a movement. At least something did come out of it. There became a bit of a global movement, this global campaign for education, which I'm the U.S. chair of, which is to have each country really having an ongoing coordination and push. Most significantly the question was, would education -- how would education go through the whole global fund issue. And in education what ended up happening was what you might call a virtual fund, which is called the Fast Track Initiative, the Education for All Fast Track Initiative.
So rather than all of the money being pooled in one pot of money, the idea was -- is that under somewhat of the coordination of the G-8, the world, developing countries, would present strong, nationally- owned plans, very much in the system of the Monterrey Consensus or the Millennium Challenge Account, even, strong national plans that would meet certain benchmarks. And therefore the developed countries would help. And the phrase was that no country with a strong plan would fail for lack of resources. So the somewhat good news has been that there has been this creation of a global Fast Track Initiative, that there are 31 countries who've had their plans endorsed and gone forward.
The bad news has been that the funding has been extraordinarily incremental. It has not gained from the kind of leap forward that you've seen in AIDS and other areas. So in other words, while most people would estimate somewhere around $10 billion of need for external financing, and that would be more if you really counted seven, eight or nine years of education, probably the world is giving around two-and-a-half billion right now.
So there's anywhere from seven-and-a-half to eight, nine billion dollars short. There has not been the kind of dramatic scale-up. Now why this really matters policy-wise actually points to a bigger issue that you're seeing both on the health and the education side, but you particularly see it in education, which is, 80 percent of the cost of education in any country in the world is teachers. And teachers are a long-term, recurrent cost.
So -- and for countries to actually go forward with bold plans, they can't just think they've got a little bit of funding for a year or two. If you have a lot of funding for two or three years, what you do is, you build a few more classrooms, you build (sic) a few more textbooks. You don't hire teachers, because teachers you have to pay for, for eternity. And so what you're seeing is in countries like Kenya -- they've added 2 million more students and zero more teachers. And so you lead to this tension, which is, the country wants to come forward, they're getting millions of more kids into school, but that is leading to larger classrooms and declining quality.
So this is why this becomes so important at this time, which is, at the moment, some of the developing countries have actually taken the FTI and this promise seriously. And the issue that's going to emerge over two or three years is whether people like us, who are advisers to heads of state, start saying, "This is a bad idea. Do not take the global community seriously. Do not tell our country that we can meet this goal when in fact the money's not long-term and sustainable, and that therefore it's just going to lead to rising expectations."
Now, why does it look like the stars might be aligned for the kind of big jump in education that we saw, perhaps, in AIDS five years ago? One is that there has been one G-8 player who has stepped up, and that has been the U.K., and specifically Gordon Brown.
So the fact that Gordon -- the U.K. committed $1.5 billion -- now, to give a context, the United States -- a year -- and -- but they also said that they'd commit it for a 10-year period. And this has meaning for them through the DFID budget. This means they're actually willing to say to a country, "You put a plan. We'll try to guarantee your funding for a five- or 10-year period, so you can do the long- term planning to scale up."
So for those of us who worked on this issue, this was the most significant moment, made more significant by the fact that that champion is now going to be the new prime minister of the U.K. and therefore will have an even stronger platform.
And I worked quite closely with the chancellor and his staff, and I can say he is very, very knowledgeable and very personally committed to this issue. So this is one of the reasons the stars are aligned -- both the fact that they've put that benchmark out -- secondly, in the United States in the last month, we've had the first big bipartisan push. There was a piece of legislation in 2004, but it just -- the cosponsors were Nita Lowey and Hillary Clinton. In 2007 that bill was reintroduced as a bipartisan bill, with Republican Senator Gordon Smith introducing it with Clinton in the Senate and Spencer Bachus, from -- a Republican from Alabama, reintroducing with Nita Lowey in the House of Representatives.
So this is -- this bill calls for going from 465 million (dollars) to 3 billion (dollars) by 2012. That would be the U.S. share of 10 billion (dollars) or $9 billion.
So this is the first major effort where there's been a bipartisan effort to take the kind of leap that you could argue PEPFAR took in terms of education. So I think that would be the second very good point of news.
Prior to that, there has been progress. It has been very incremental. A lot of the incremental progress has been due to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who had formed a tremendous partnership with Jim Kolbe and gradually increased funding till it got to 465 million (dollars). She is now the chair, which was another strong reason.
And the fourth reason that we have kind of hope for this year was simply that it was an opportunity for the administration to essentially up their funds.
If you look at the PEPFAR amount of money, we're at 5.4 billion (dollars). So even though they announced 30 billion (dollars), the baseline was at 27 billion (dollars) for over a five-year period -- five times 5.4. So that was essentially a pledge to keep a very ambitious commitment as opposed to increase it. Education was the one place where there is clearly that room to go further.
There was a lot of reason to believe there was going to be a positive announcement. I do feel a little bit like it was like that meeting where education got crowded out by climate change. As one followed the -- as well as one could the internal deliberations, one could see education as the possible big announcement for yesterday kind of fall further and further, unfortunately for us, to the backdrop, where then it became very clear -- and in fact many of you even told me even before that you're already getting the call -- that climate change was going to be the big push.
If you look at what they've proposed -- 525 (million dollars) over five (years) -- this announcing money over five years is very confusing, because if you have a baseline of 465 million (dollars), if you propose a $105 million increase -- which is a pretty tiny increase at this point -- that's 525 (million dollars) over five years, if you just flatline it. So it's very -- so after all of that, people expect -- Congresswoman Lowey would have been aiming for a $300 million increase, et cetera, so this was, you know, a very dramatic disappointment.
If there's a little bit of good news, I would say the following. I would say, one, there are clearly people inside the administration who would like to do something big on this issue. There was a couple of fig leafs in there; they called for an Education for All coordinator, which was from the Lowey and Clinton and Baucus bill, and they mentioned the Fast Track Initiative. And the U.S. has usually been resistant, so this was one of the first times you heard the White House actually (embrace ?) working in a more multilateral process.
And then lastly I think this was -- there was a lot of good working done out of the National Security Africa Division. And the last thing I will say and stop is just that there's been a lot of focus on education as a positive weapon against fundamentalist madrassas and terrorism, and that is a good rationale for going forward in education. But you don't want it to distort your entire efforts. And if you look over the last five years, $150 million increase has gone to four countries -- Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Jordan -- 150 million (dollars) increase while the key African democracies of Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda together get $13 million -- together -- 12 cents a child. So I do think that it's good to have that rationale of a national security rationale. It is important. Education opportunities can provide alternatives for poor Muslim youth, but targeting all of our efforts that way is fundamentally reactive. It looks to where we have the problems as opposed to looking to the African democracies which have many large Muslim communities where we still have the opportunity to do something bold as a preventative action.
So thank you. I know this is not going to be the most burning issue, but this is an incredibly important development issue, and its day will come. Thank you.
ALDEN: Okay. Thanks so much. Let's open it up for questions on anything that was discussed here or on some of the economic issues that have largely fallen off the agenda. Let's start with George.
QUESTIONER: George Condon with Copley. I wanted to accept Stephen's invitation to talk about some other topics that will be focused on the trip. You have the meeting with the pope. If Iraq doesn't come up at the G-8, isn't it likely to come up in the meeting with the pope?
Secondly, the other countries -- when he goes to Albania, for example, what's the importance of missile defense as far as relations with Russia?
And then finally, right after the trip, the president has invited Putin to Kennebunkport to sort of make nice. Is that likely to have the desired effect?
MR. : Charlie will have to say something about the pope, if -- (laughter) -- I'll give him a moment to reflect on this.
The president's practice has been to attach visits to small countries neighboring Russia that have been under some pressure. He went to Georgia and Latvia last year. Did he go to -- Ukraine the year before, not that Ukraine is a small country, and he was in Latvia last fall again. This time Poland and the Czech Republic are the obvious stops, given the rhetoric and just bullying of Russian policy associated with the American discussion of introducing interceptors and radar in those two countries.
American officials thought, I would say a couple of weeks ago, that they might have succeeded in turning down the heat on this issue by getting the agreement of Defense officials in Russia, the Defense minister, Sergey Ivanov, the first deputy, the prime minister after Gates's visit to Moscow. There seemed to be agreement on a number of working-level, expert official talk-the-problem-to-death meetings. And it's been a little surprising in the light of that that there hasn't been any cooling of the rhetoric. And the visits will probably re-stoke attention and give Bush an opportunity to take the strong stand on the issue through his actions that he doesn't necessarily want to take in the discussions with Putin.
You had a --
MR. : Kennebunkport. Yeah, Kennebunkport, I think, has the effect of taking all the drama out of bilateral meetings between Bush and Putin at the G-8. It means that although the meeting will be brief and perfunctory, there's a recognition that there has to be a more in-depth attempt to address problems in the relationship just a few weeks later.
That meeting has the look of an attempt to rescue two issues where they haven't been going all that well -- Iran and Kosovo.
ALDEN: Could you repeat quickly the question on the pope?
QUESTIONER: Iraq didn't come up in any of the discussions, talking about the G-8. Isn't it likely to come up with the pope?
KUPCHAN (?): You know, the good news about Iraq is that both sides of the Atlantic have essentially decided to call a political truce. That doesn't mean the pope will. But I think the Bush administration has realized that its coalition allies in Iraq are all heading for the exits, including the British, and that's reality and that there's no longer this "Are you with us or against us?"
And I think the Europeans have essentially moved off of boxing Bush around the ears on Iraq.
They're not happy about it. They're not going to touch it with a 10- foot pole in terms of doing anything to help stabilize the country. But I think the relationship has moved past the acrimony that the war has caused.
Will it come up with the pope? Probably. But it seems to me that, again, even with the pope it's a little bit of a side show at this point.
Just a quick follow-up on missile defense. The good news about missile defense is that it's a very long-term project and we're just at the beginning of this debate, in part because the U.S. is at a stage where it's ready to move forward technologically. There are still political debates that have yet to happen in the Czech Republic and Poland about if, when, and what are the terms. You may have read an op ed by former defense minister of Poland, Radek Sikorski, a few months ago saying: Don't take us for granted; you need to do more for us, give us a better deal. And I think the Poles are feeling that they got a little bit used by the United States, that they backed Bush on the war, they took a military sector in Iraq, they were expecting something in return. They were expecting the visa regime to be opened up so that Poles could come here without a visa. They wanted contracts in Iraq. And, you know, what did they get? Well, they got lunch in the White House. And so I think the Poles are now saying, you know, well, come on, let's cough up something more concrete. We want some aircraft, we want some military assistance. And I think this is an issue that will confront Bush when he arrives in Poland, in part because -- a little bit in the same respect as the Russian government, this Polish government is feeling self-confident, is extraordinarily populist in its orientation, and feels that it can drive a hard bargain with Bush when it comes to the missile defense issue.
QUESTIONER: Thanks. Two questions. First, you talked about Bush's practice of sort of arranging stops around another difficult meeting. He's done it with Russia, obviously; he's also done it with China, where he went to Japan first and Mongolia afterward, obviously to make a -- to give some sort of message.
If either you or Charlie could maybe talk about what that gains him, how that works, and particularly clearly here it's aimed at the missile defense issue, but more broadly, how does that help the president to arrange his trips that way?
And then secondly, if one of you could take a stab at sort of looking as a package at what Bush has talked about this week, these three announcements before the trip, and how that positions him as he goes into the meetings.
ALDEN: Which three announcements in particular are you referring to?
QUESTIONER: Well, the climate change, the PEPFAR AIDS money, and the Darfur sanctions.
ALDEN: Steve, do you want to go off the first question?
SESTANOVICH: Yeah, it's not new to try to create the right political context for a meeting with other visits. You know, when Nixon went to Moscow in 1972, he stopped in Warsaw and Tehran, I believe -- both enjoying different governments since then. So that kind of geopolitical theater is not new, and it has some benefit in trying to demonstrate to people who might be critical of policies that there's a broader set of initiatives being pursued, often to critics back home.
In the small countries visited, the effect can be absolutely electric. Bush's visit to Georgia was an example of that. I think his visit to Latvia last year had something of the same quality. There are countries that tire of having Air Force One touch down -- (laughs) -- but very small countries that rarely get the treatment can respond in very positive ways. And presidents who aren't used to that kind of adulation at home anymore -- (laughter) -- sometimes find it invigorating. We'll say no more.
KUPCHAN: Yeah, I would just add that the --
SESTANOVICH: Oh, I would just say one other thing. I'm sorry, Charlie, just so I don't forget.
You should not ignore the ways in which actions -- other actions taken this week are meant to be preparation for the meeting, quite apart from Bush's own statements. This agreement on nuclear cooperation, you know, monitoring entry points into Russia with new equipment, meant to demonstrate that on the nuclear issues there's still a lot of cooperation going on; again, to demonstrate that this is a multifaceted relationship that has both its successful and unsuccessful elements.
KUPCHAN: I would just reiterate what Steve said about the pattern of making a stop in a new democracy every time he goes to Europe. I mean, that's clearly part of the Bush Freedom Agenda. And so even when he goes to NATO or he visits a major industrialized country, he goes out of his way to got to Baltics or to some part of the former Soviet Union to sort of send a message that we're behind this agenda. And as Steve said, I think it really does make a difference. Keep in mind that even though he is singularly unpopular in most of Western Europe, he and the United States remain quite popular in Central and Southeastern Europe. And so a visit to a country like Albania can really be a shot in the arm. If you go to Tbilisi today, you notice that the main drag from downtown to the airport is called George W. Bush Avenue. (Laughter.) And so -- so, you know, and these countries embrace their relationship with the United States as a way of saying: We're on the path to the West. And so these visits are of considerable symbolic importance.
And then, on your second question, I would say that the operative phrase in the speech yesterday that sums up this week is when the president said, "We are a compassionate nation." And that most of the Bush presidency has been about the global war on terror and hard power, and the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, and American military strength. And especially because he's going to the G-8, I think he's cycling back to this nicer, kinder America: We care about development. We want to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa. We want to invest in education. We got to stop genocide in Darfur. And that, I think, is partly about reclaiming his legacy here in the United States, but this is also an agenda that is much more popular in Europe than the talk about fighting al Qaeda and chasing the Taliban through the mountains of Konar province.
SESTANOVICH (?): One sentence to add here. The statement about Darfur sanctions isn't just to align himself with European sentiment, but actually to put some pressure on Europeans who are not doing the same.
MS. : To challenge them.
SESTANOVICH (?): Yeah, challenge them.
SPERLING (?): I think it was a rare and kind of good week for a White House that normally has had so many -- who normally had too many problems either on the Gonzales or Iraq front, to actually string together a series of news events with actual content and a theme and to break through is the type of opportunity they've rarely had. And I think they were actually able to -- you know, as much as some of us might have been disappointed with particular parts, you know, as you all know, picking a new World Bank president, the Darfur sanctions, and the PEPFAR were hard news items that they could string together on a particular week and not have -- and it's probably one of the first weeks where they've defined the news content of them, as opposed to having external or unfortunate events define it against their will.
QUESTIONER: Charlie, you talked earlier about the relationship between Bush and Europe sort of moving past Iraq. And I wonder if you could just expand a little bit on the reasons for that. And do you feel that that strengthens the president's hand on some of these other initiatives, for instance, global warming? Or are the two unrelated?
KUPCHAN: I think it's complicated because in Europe there is a very uncomfortable gap between elite opinion and public opinion. And, you know, if you go to Berlin today and you go to the foreign ministry and you talk to the people who are formulating foreign policy, they desperately want out of this kind of acrimony and sense that the U.S.-German alliance is now on the ash heap of history. That makes German elites very uncomfortable. And that's one of the reasons, I think, that you have seen a tangible repair of the relationship.
That view is not reflected in public opinion. Right across the political spectrum, from Social Democrat to Christian Democrat, there is still deep discomfort with Bush and U.S. foreign policy, and therefore, Merkel and Sarkozy and everyone else have to be very careful. And it's no accident that whenever Merkel meets Bush, she might be chummy, chummy, but she doesn't miss an opportunity to say: You need to do something about Guantanamo, you need to move on global warming, you should stop torturing detainees. She needs to say those things to maintain her credibility at home.
But, you know, I think that despite the domestic political pressure, there is a palpable desire among European elites to insulate and isolate Iraq, to try to move it off from the center of the agenda because it poisons the relationship. Every time that, you know, you turn on your TV in Europe and you see the bombings or you see reminders of Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or the secret renditions -- and that issue is not over yet, by the way. They're still doing inquests into where did these prisoners go, which countries took the CIA flights, were they tortured in the end? But there is a desire to move past that.
I don't think that there is much of a connection, that is to say that because at the level of high politics the relationship is better, that the Europeans are, therefore, going to cut some slack on climate change. I do think that this will keep them from the kind of open rift that might otherwise occur.
I think that it was very interesting to watch what happened with Wolfowitz, because the Europeans were deadset against allowing him to stay at the World Bank, but they also saw that if not handled well, this could set back U.S.-European relations months, if not years, back to the "bad old days."
So, you know, I would say that, you know, the relationship is better, the atmospherics are good. But just beneath the surface there are still huge differences of opinion on fundamental policy issues.
QUESTIONER: I'm interested where you see the Europeans, and especially Merkel, lining up in this conflict between Russia and the U.S., I mean even down to, say, nuances in the final statement. How is that going to play out? Are they going to be sort of sidelines -- or I mean she has something to gain, perhaps, from being an active -- I mean, I wouldn't want to say mediator. But where do you see that, how do you see that playing out?
SESTANOVICH (?): She has been very cautious and careful on Russia, and Putin in particular. And I think part of the reason is that the Social Democrats who might otherwise be pressuring her to distance herself from Russia are actually quite pro-Russian. And Schroeder, as you know, signed this pipeline deal and now works for the pipeline company.
And I think it's safe to say that in light of Europe's dependence upon Russian oil and gas -- and it's huge -- there is a real concern about taking Putin to the mat. And it's quite interesting that the countries that are most anti-Russian -- the Baltics, the Central Europeans -- are almost the most energy-dependent on Russia. And so they have to be a little bit careful about how far they're willing to go.
So I think that the Americans and the Europeans in fact have a similar approach to Putin, which is we don't like what's happening, but the strategic and economic relationship is too important, so we're going to hold our noses and work with this guy.
MR. : Can I add one sentence to this? Merkel has just had the experience of being unable to salvage her own summit with Putin. You know, this was such a fiasco there wasn't even a joint communique at the end of it. Think of this -- an EU summit that doesn't have a communique. (Laughter.)
MR. : That's usually all they have! (Laughter.)
MR. : And so she's got very little inclination to think she can mediate a relationship that is also experiencing stress. She doesn't come to that with a successful EU-Russia relationship in the background. To the contrary.
ALDEN: Andrew and then --
QUESTIONER: Should we expect anything of substance between Bush and Sarkozy, or is it just about relationship-building, chemistry?
KUPCHAN (?): I think it's primarily a get-to-know-you meeting. I think that Sarkozy's -- the impact of Sarkozy's pro- American orientation has been overstated. Yes, he admires the United States. Yes, he will be more of a pragmatist when it comes to working with the U.S. than Chirac. But he still operates within a French government that is quite fondly attached to Gaulism, and in which on Afghanistan, on Iraq, on a whole host of other issues, there isn't a meeting of the minds between the two parties.
But there's no question that at the level of personalities and atmospherics, this is a major improvement. Because we all know that Bush was someone who didn't let bygones be bygones, and he never really was willing to work with countries that opposed him on the war -- Chirac and Schroeder in particular.
So the fact that Chirac has moved off from the scene and that Schroeder is gone, and that the two leaders are both more pro-American I think is a big deal, and it sets the foundation for building momentum behind the U.S. and Europe.
And a big question mark on the horizon I think is will -- and this is more important than Sarkozy and Bush -- but will Sarkozy be able to breathe new life into the EU? Is he going to be able to help Merkel close the deal on a revised constitution? Because in my own mind, this is important to a recovery in U.S.-European relations, because the U.S. is in "we need help" mode, and the best way for the U.S. to get that help is an EU that aggregates its capabilities and its will on foreign policy. That will not happen without French leadership and Franco-German cooperation.
MR. : Two specifics where it could make a difference. Iran. Sarkozy has said he's, you know, interested in moving forward on sanctions in a way that goes beyond what French policy was under Chirac. And on Kosovo, you know, the new French foreign minister has a record on Kosovo. He was the administrator --
MR. : U.N. administrator.
MR. : Administrator, right.
MR. : He was the head of UNMIK, right?
MR. : Yeah. And, you know, very strong on that issue. So the Russians have to expect a stronger U.S.-EU -- certainly U.S.- French position on Kosovo.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, Merkel has put -- Charlie, I guess this is for you -- has put trade on the agenda. And with the Doha Round facing this end of July deadline, I wonder if you think this could be a forum where the leaders might try to breathe some life into those talks?
KUPCHAN: There may well be an effort. I'm skeptical that we're heading into the end game on Doha, because if anything, I think that free trade is becoming harder and harder to come by in this country, especially since the mid-terms. And, you know, with a lot of swing states in play in 2008, I don't think that lawmakers are going to be tripping over themselves to endorse free trade.
And also keep in mind that Sarkozy, although a liberal when it comes to domestic economic reform in France, is a protectionist, and he calls for efforts to protect the EU against global competition. So I don't expect there to be a breakthrough on that front.
I also find a little bit strange Merkel's call for this new transatlantic free trade zone. In my mind, it was in some ways an effort to repair the transatlantic relationship, knowing that not much can be done in the political and strategic realms, so let's try to rebuild things from the economic fundamentals, from the ground up. And I think that, you know, one thing we've learned from the last six years is that even though there might be a lot of trade and finance, if the politics and the foreign policy are wrong, then interdependence isn't going to keep us together. So I'm not real keen that this is a proposal that's going to do much.
ALDEN: Did you want to comment on that, Gene?
SPERLING: You know, I think, at a G-8, there's always, you know, there's always some hope different sides have that they'll be able to create a little bit of momentum and create a little news that's not necessarily expected. You know, I can imagine there being an outside chance of that happening on Darfur.
I can imagine there being an outside chance of that happening even on kind of the Gleneagles commitment. You know, Merkel did $750 million. And it was great to kind of see Bono trying to say, and most of that we're quite sure or hopeful is for Africa, when it's clear they didn't specify. But you can see the kind of effort and kind of spin-up the U.S. did.
So but I think that I guess I'm a little less likely on Doha. I mean, at Davos you saw that happen a little bit, but kind of all the trade ministers were there, you know? And they were all kind of meeting behind closed doors a bit.
Here I think you risk a little bit. If you say you've got some kind of momentum, if you say that at this point, you want there to be something there. It's a little bit like, you know, what you worry about with currency intervention. You don't want to shoot your wad and then have everybody think it means nothing.
So in some sense, I think, to have everybody come together and say, we think there's some new momentum, and then everybody discovered, nothing's actually happened, you know, actually would kind of weaken the situation. And I just think that right now, you know, it needs some specific -- people are looking for some specific movement on fast track authority at the U.S., or movement on agriculture subsidies. And I just don't have the feel that there are the kind of meetings going on that could allow anything other than kind of a warm embrace in the communique, as opposed to kind of a real news item.
I think President Bush would be very -- that's all what you said. I don't think it's going to affect President Bush. I think he'll push as hard as possible. I just don't feel it, from what you know about even where the trade ministers are physically in talking to each other, that there's something in the works.
QUESTIONER: (Name and affiliation inaudible.)
On climate change, I'm still having a difficulty to understand Bush on inflation's opposition to specific long-term targets. If president Bush is serious to give some political gift to Merkel or Blair, long-term target like, you know, 50 percent reduction by 2050 might have been one of the best. Eventually, United States is already committed to the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration. And President Bush will be 104 years old in the year 2050. So who cares? (Laughter.)
Anyway, Mr. -- Chairman Connaughton of CEQ made it clear yesterday that they don't want to prejudge the outcome of next 18 months. That means they are not ready to accept any specific target now. So why is this?
And from the point of Europeans, Mr. Sperling mentioned both Prime Minister Blair and Merkel made a statement that sounds very positive. Are they really satisfied, or it's a kind of face-saving, to play up that, you know, the summit is successful?
SESTANOVICH (?): I think they're trying to create a positive momentum, and my guess is that they were pushing for something that could allow a new stage of discussion to forward; 2012's kind of moving up anyway. So I don't know if's face-saving, but maybe -- I -- my guess is, it's a hope that -- you know, for Merkel, who would like legacy out of here; for Blair, who'd like to be able to say that he -- his partnership had some positive impact on the issue Europeans care most about. I think they would have liked more, but I think this was -- they probably thought this got to line where they could at least try to be a bit positive.
I mean, in terms of the targets, you know, there's just -- the Bush administration -- they have not moved from where lots of people were when we were dealing with Kyoto, which was just the sense the targets were, in their minds, you know, a significant government intervention on the market, a kind of implicit commitment to have to do perhaps cap and trade or targets.
What's interest is every -- is there has been so much movement. I mean, the coalition between the major environmental groups and General Electric -- I mean, there have been a lot of strange bedfellow meetings in the United States recently, but that -- I mean, if -- in 1997, when I was running our process, I would have died and gone to heaven -- (chuckling) -- if the environmental groups and General Electric and Duke Energy had agreed on something. I just can't even tell you how extraordinary that was. So you've had this movement.
But -- and the other thing -- person we haven't mentioned is Hank Paulson. There's no doubt that the secretary of Treasury in this administration has not had the authority to undo major fiscal arrangements in terms of Social Security or tax cuts. But when you look at the kind of incremental decisions, he does have influence. He's a very committed environmentalist, is very -- believes very strongly.
So I think that you're seeing this much movement, but I think you're still seeing the kind of basic -- just almost ideological view that setting this type of intervention is kind of unwise government intervention that constrains the market and is essentially an implicit tax, energy tax on the economy and that is -- that's growth- inhibiting.
ALDEN (?): Just tactically, I think, just to add, that -- I mean, the U.S. did not like almost -- virtually any of the specifics in the German proposal. And to have showed up without some kind of alternative was to risk the kind of train wreck that Steve says you want to avoid at all costs. They had to do something. Tactically, they had to put something out there before the meeting. And I see this as much more tactical than a long-term strategic --
QUESTIONER: Yeah. I was wondering if you could speculate on why President Putin declined to make this a swan song, statesmanlike exit.
And is it related, perhaps, to the domestic political situation he's facing with the presidential election in 2008?
SESTANOVICH (?): That's certainly an element of it, but it's not just related to this meeting. You know, my reaction to the Munich speech, which goes back to February, was here again was an opportunity to be applauded by European elites as the kind of leader they like to do business with. And instead, he came out snarling and disagreeable.
That particular event was closely connected to the revival of -- seeming revival of the candidacy of Sergey Ivanov, the then Defense minister and now first deputy prime minister. Tough international rhetoric creates a political context in Russia that is favorable to Ivanov. It may be that Putin is doing him a favor. Or it may be that in the last year of his presidency he just gets to cut loose and say what he really thinks. (Laughter.) Or maybe it's both of those.
QUESTIONER: Dmitri Siderov, Kommersant, Russian business and political daily. Two questions, if I may, first for Mr. Sestanovich, but if everybody else wants to step in, please do.
Besides Putin's numerous statements in regard to his stepping down from the Kremlin, what makes you think that he will leave his post, especially taking into consideration the obvious problems that may arise for citizen Putin?
And the second question is, if the agenda -- if those issues -- I mean Iran and Kosovo -- in Kennebunkport won't be saved by President Bush, does it mean that the Democrats will copy-cat Republicans and start accusing President Bush that he lost Russia?
SESTANOVICH: Why think that President Putin will step down?
SESTANOVICH: Because he said so many times. And as President Bush always says, he's a man of his word. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: So he trusted him, right?
SESTANOVICH: Russia as a domestic political issue? Sorry, just isn't there. But it's a very --
MR. : Yet. Yet. Yet. (Laughter.)
SESTANOVICH: No, but it's a very important issue among -- you know, within the foreign policy establishment. People have views about it. And to the extent that there are themes here for Democrats, you know, they'll make use of them -- the importance of speaking up about human rights, the importance of having a coherent and effective energy policy, the importance of getting beyond Cold War nuclear strategies.
And you know, there are some issues here. But they are going to be more at the level of position papers for the candidates, things that their foreign policy advisers chew over, rather than things they'll bring up in public debates to get the crowd on its feet.
QUESTIONER: A two-parter on Kosovo, first one for Steve, second one for Charlie.
On Russia's position, we get to the point now where Lavrov is saying, essentially, we're diametrically opposed on what's on the table. And yet, you know, Russia is part of the Contact Group and do Security Council discussions. I mean, I think they've known for at least two years if not more that conditional independence was going to be the way this was going. And certainly there were winks and nods in that direction.
So do you see one event as leading to this real impasse? Or is it cumulative real chill that they've decided to use this as something to hold over the U.S. and Europe?
And for Charlie, how explosive is this for the Europeans if this doesn't get sorted out this month or going into this summer? How explosive is Kosovo, you know, this festering problem there?
SESTANOVICH: I think they -- the Russian calculation was that they could call the U.S. and European bluff, that there wouldn't be a categorical endorsement of the Ahtisaari plan, that there would be a readiness to make adjustments, that they could get some modifications that made it look as though they had put their stamp on it in a way that protected the Serbs -- getting a new mediator, drawing out the process by which independence is bestowed. And what they discovered is, there just isn't much flexibility, because there's a kind of consensus that this has now been eight years. The danger of instability and violence created by further delay is too great. So they're just at odds.
And what -- the Russian calculation seems to have been that you could break down Western unity and get -- essentially agree to kick the can down the road. And I think they've been surprised to discover that that wasn't the case. Maybe the Western governments are themselves a little surprised to discover how strong that consensus is. But I think there is some readiness to look at minor modifications. But that's with the expectation that minor modifications could make a difference to Russian policy, and there's been no indication that that's actually true.
KUPCHAN: On the consequences of, let's say, a veto and/or a stalemate, I don't think that it's explosive in a diplomatic sense for the EU, in that there are some countries that oppose the Ahtisaari plan, and they tend to be those that have internal ethnic problems.
I mean, you know, the Spaniards, for example, don't want the Basques or the Catalans to stand up and say, hey, look what happened, it's our turn.
And so I don't think you'll see a cracking of the basic EU position in favor. But I do think that there are two scenarios that are much more problematic. One of them is violence. And I would say that the chances of violence in Kosovo, if this issue is not resolved sometime soon -- and by that I mean in the next few months -- are high. Not necessarily -- in fact, I would say probably not deliberate; that is to say that the government in Pristina understands that it needs to be on its best behavior, that there is not a unitary state in Kosovo.
If you go to western Kosovo, there are still essentially areas of the province that are controlled by clans, and there could easily be paramilitaries, militias that provoke violence, and there are also Serb paramilitaries operating as well. And so if this delay leads to violence and then the EU and NATO are confronted with the prospect of getting involved, then I think it's much more problematic.
And then the other issue is if there is a veto, the most likely outcome is a unilateral declaration of independence. And if that happens, I would expect that Washington will recognize Kosovo and that at least a majority of EU countries will as well, but I don't know that you would get the EU as a collective body to do so, and that starts looking awkward. That starts creating some problems.
Just one final thought, picking up on something that Takashi (ph) said, and I'll just reiterate what Gene said -- why didn't Bush commit to numbers? It's politics, stupid. Right? That's just not where that wing of the Republican Party is. And it's important to keep in mind -- you know, what was Bush saying about this issue six years ago? It was, you know, we want nothing to do with this, global warming doesn't exist and we will not do anything to harm American industry. So at least he's moved away from that, and he says we have a problem here, we're going to try to do something about it. But even though you have Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and Bloomberg, a Republican, taking their own initiatives on this, that particular wing of the Republican Party ain't there yet.
One of the papers yesterday -- I can't remember which one -- had that nice little quote from Fred Thompson, which was, "I hear that the temperature in Mars is also rising; does that mean that there are Martians riding around in SUVs and we just haven't seen them yet?" (Laughter.) That's kind of where that particular wing of the Republican Party is.
MR. : The author -- the co-author, though, of the cap-and- trade legislation in the Senate is John McCain, so it is --
KUPCHAN: It's moving.
MR. : -- and you see the secretary of Treasury and you see some legislation, so it is kind of like the final holdout of this wing, but it will be the hardest one to overcome -- part.
ALDEN: Do you have a sense of what --
KUPCHAN: I think it will happen, and it will happen in 2009. If you just look at the political landscape, we're getting there. It's just not going to happen under this president.
ALDEN: Time for one last question? No? Okay. Let's wrap it up.
Thanks very much, all of you, for coming.
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