American Society of International Law
Washington , DC
CHARLOTTE KU: (In progress) -- and very happy today, together with the Council on Foreign Relations, to host this program.
We are honored by your collective presence. So many distinguished visitors and guests; particularly in this, the centennial year of the society. We were founded by Secretary of State Elihu Root in 1906. So this is our centennial year. And Mr. Root had something to do with the founding of the Council on Foreign Relations as well. So we share that parentage.
For those of you who are not familiar with the work of the society, we are a membership organization of some 4,000, from 90 countries around the world, including a very healthy delegation from Germany. We publish one of the premium titles in international law, The American Journal of International Law, that I know many of you are familiar with, and increasingly make our expertise and information available through Web-based information resources that you'll find described in the handouts that are around the building if you're interested.
And of course, for any of you who are interested in becoming more involved in the work of the society, we welcome your membership and your participation.
But this afternoon, we're here to hear a very distinguished panel, comprising of Mr. Joschka Fischer, who is currently a member of German parliament and former vice chancellor and minister of foreign affairs of Germany.
Joining Mr. Fischer at the head table this afternoon is Mr. Lee Feinstein, senior fellow and deputy director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. And meet today as part of the ASIL Council on Foreign Relations roundtable on "Old Rules, New Threats" that was organized to examine how well the current system of international regimes and institutions is set up to address new and emerging security threats.
But our focus this afternoon is sovereignty. Security as a primary responsibility for sovereigns, including state sovereigns, is basic. Anyone who went to a basic political science course or international relations course or an international law course has reflected on the fundamental quality of what sovereignty is.
But despite that fundamental character, there are clearly some questions about what that really means in operation. How do we understand the responsibilities of sovereigns in the present global environment where we see state sovereigns brutalizing their own populations or where state sovereigns feel compelled to act outside of a broadly accepted multilateral framework?
Mr. Fischer has been particularly eloquent on the first part of the problem I've posed -- for those of you who may recall his very moving remarks at the 1999 U.N. General Assembly. At our recent annual meeting at the end of March, International Court of Justice President Rosalyn Higgins urged us as a scholarly society to think long and hard about the questions that we face today at a period that Lawrence Friedman (sp), I think, very aptly described as "bad-tempered times."
So I'm very pleased to pick up President Higgins' injunction to us to reflect broadly and widely on a very critical period, I think, in the development of the international system. And we're very honored to have as profound and thoughtful a person to come help us in this discussion as Mr. Fischer.
Prior to turning over the mike to Lee Feinstein, who actually will tee-off the discussion with just a little bit of backdrop -- then we'll ask Mr. Fischer to take the discussion in as broad a direction as he would care to. And then we'll invite questions, of course, from all of you here. But what I'd like to do is also just present a few gifts to our visitors today.
First to Mr. Fischer -- and I know it's always tough to be presented with tomes when you're traveling. We'd be happy to mail this to you, should you not wish to carry it, but I know you're an avid reader of history. And the society in fact published a history of its own first century. So I'd like to give you a copy of that, and Lee as well. And if that's not adequate reading for you, Mr. Fischer -- on your lengthy travels -- we have some other things.
We have the 100th volume of the American Journal of International Law that tries to capture some of the American approaches that prompted the founding of our society, and what we think we've contributed to this in the subsequent 100 years. So we think you'll find something of interest there.
And the final items is the society's effort to bring international law a little closer to the broad public. So if you wonder about how American's may perceive international law, ASIL at least is trying to do something about that. And so this begins even with why we have Greenwich Mean Time, and one can see whales on a whale-viewing trip and so forth. And it's also on the Web. So just for fun, something for you to make take away and maybe pass on to your kids, if nothing else.
As I said, what we'll do here is start with Lee to just sort of provide some backdrop to illuminate how we will frame this discussion, since clearly a discussion of sovereignty can be quite open-ended and theoretical. And we do want to root it in some of the current activities, and then ask Mr. Fischer to take over from there.
(Audio break) -- and I think Lee can just start off and then if Mr. Fischer can just follow and then we'll move into questions after that. Thank you very much.
LEE FEINSTEIN: Thank you, also, for our collaboration, which began with you and Anne-Marie Slaughter back in 2003 on the "Old Rules, New Threats" project, which I think has been very productive, leading to publications and discussions and debates. And it turned out to be more interesting, I think, than we expected when we started.
And I also want to say what an honor -- and if I can use the word joy -- to be on the panel with Mr. Fischer. So thank you very much.
What I thought I would do is try to set the intellectual table a little bit and focus primarily on how these issues of sovereignty look from this angle -- that is, this side of the Atlantic Ocean -- not because they may look differently elsewhere, but because I thought that was an opportunity for Mr. Fischer, then, to comment on his own views and a more international perspective.
For the purposes of discussion, I'll start with Kosovo. And obviously, the Kosovo intervention posed the question of, how could it possibly be illegal to intervene to prevent mass atrocities or genocide? And that was a question that the American Society of International Law took up quite seriously. And I would say, probably most members of ASIL believed that the Kosovo intervention was illegal -- not a position I took at the time. So it probably was a position that most international lawyers, for lack of a better term -- and maybe diplomats -- thought as well. And if you privately asked American State Department lawyers what they thought of the intervention, they might have said, hey, you know, it is illegal.
So it created a problem, a legal loophole -- if you want to look at it in that perspective -- but maybe more profoundly, an issue of legitimacy for a recurring problem where the world has done very poorly in the past, and continues to do poorly in the future.
The Clinton administration, in which I served, briefly thought about doing something about this loophole, actually at the urging of Tony Blair who said, why don't the United States and Britain, or perhaps the G5, get together and come up with some rules that might govern the issue of humanitarian intervention? Actually, President Clinton even had a speech drafted to address these questions, and the decision was made not to deliver that speech.
Kofi Annan took this issue very seriously himself, and the Canadian government, if not others, took a charge from Annan seriously and convened a conference -- a committee, a commission -- to look at the question of sovereignty. And as many of you will know, this group coined a phrase, "the responsibility to protect," which has migrated from policy journal to political activity of a certain sort. So it has very little political effect in the wider world yet.
And let me just very briefly summarize how I understand the responsibility to protect. It has two components. The first component, if I can put it this simply, is don't do genocide; that as a government, your first responsibility is not to commit mass atrocities; or as a subsidiary, it's your first responsibility not to let the people within your borders be vulnerable to these kinds of -- (off mike.)
And then there's a second responsibility. And the second responsibility is if by acts of commission or omission, you can't fulfill that responsibility, then a secondary responsibility is triggered and that's the responsibility on the rest of the world. And just to put it very broadly: to do something. It doesn't mean invade. It doesn't mean sanctions. It means to do something, and what one is to do depends on the circumstance.
This also triggers a third point, which goes beyond where the Evans-Sahnoun panel, the panel that coined the phrase "responsibility to protect" -- this triggered the broader idea of conditional sovereignty or contingent sovereignty, which was something that I discussed in an article that I think was distributed to all of you.
And basically, what it is says is, you know, you have to earn the right to be fully sovereign, that sovereignty entails not just rights but also responsibilities. Well, there was silence on this point in the United States, for the most part, up until Bush II. Part of the reason was that very faithfully, the Evans-Sahnoun panel didn't release their report -- or the publication date for their report was September 12, 2001. And 9/11 did really put in the background these kinds of questions.
But by the beginning of the second Bush administration, these issues moved more center stage in terms of the American political debate, at least in terms of foreign policy. And this happened, obviously, in President Bush's inaugural address where he tried to put the war on terror in a more positive light -- rather than against something, the United States was for something. And included in that was promotion of democracy, but also dealing with these atrocities.
And this built on that portion of a national security strategy that was widely overlooked at the time, which was that, you know, to put it crudely, for the United States, failed states mattered. And then there was, interestingly, a congressional panel co-chaired by Newt Gingrich and George Mitchell, a very unlikely pairing, but it turned out to be a very productive pairing. And they made this idea of a responsibility to protect the pillar of what their report on U.N. reform really was.
And then finally, last September in New York at this U.N. reform summit, 191 countries endorsed -- to the amazement of many people -- the concept of the responsibility to protect. And actually, Secretary Rice was behind the scenes very active in promoting that, despite the objection of some of her own government.
Now, this is, I would say, the good news. The bad news is all of the things you're wondering why I haven't mentioned so far. And I will just tick them off very briefly and that is, there's been very little diplomatic follow-up to make this idea of a responsibility to protect real -- for example, in this very lackluster drive to promote reform in the U.N. Arguably, if you created a mission statement like, "Job one if you're secretary-general is to prevent mass atrocities or act against them" -- you might organize your reform agenda around that issue. And that, unfortunately, had not happened.
Also, there's very little sense that this has become part of a transatlantic project. And without transatlantic cooperation, this kind of thing -- as well as most important things in the world, I have to say -- are at least harder to do, if not impossible.
And then, of course, there's the question of Iraq. And Iraq, quite simply, has soured the American public on foreign policy activism of many kinds -- most kinds -- not just military interventions, not interventions for the purposes of security, not just action that is seen as part of the fight against terrorism, but humanitarian interventions equally. So I think it's fair to say there's a real question out there as to whether the responsibility to protect is itself a casualty of the Iraq war.
And I would say that this is true not just for this White House and this Congress but also for those in the Democratic Party, who are looking to take power, as to what from their perspective is in their interest to pursue. Why would it be in a Democrat's interest to talk about a more activist foreign policy, given the circumstances presently in Iraq? And of course, if Iraq isn't the elephant in the room, then Darfur is. And the best way to describe what happened at the U.N. is a "after you, Alphonse" act, and the United States has been clearly the most activist in this respect, but that is to condemn with faint praise.
So for you, Mr. Minister, you know, what of this idea of contingent or conditional sovereignty in concept? And then, in terms of acting on it, how do we address this problem in light of the difficulties in Iraq and the conflating of what has happened in Iraq with the need to act internationally to prevent, stop spotlight atrocities?
JOSCHKA FISCHER: Well, thank you very much. I feel very honored to be invited to this very prestigious society. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not experienced in a professional way about international law, but I have to deal with it and will deal with in the future in foreign policy and security policy.
And of course, I mean, the very concept of sovereignty, historically, was created in Europe as the answer on religious war. So at the end -- (inaudible) -- the power, which was in the very old Europe decentralized and on several actors and the state was only one actor, to concentrate all the power in an absolute way on the state, to overcome the atrocities, brutalities of the religious civil wars. This was the idea -- theoretical idea of Hobbes and it was the reality of the Westphalian peace.
But even in the best days of these classical European sovereignty concept, all at the end -- (word inaudible) -- were equal, but some were more equal. So from the very beginning, it was a theoretical or formal equality, which was more or less accepted, but by and then not accepted. And it depends, sovereignty, also not on theoretical concept but on the power, not only to control the territory but also to defend the control of such a territory or to extend it. And sovereignty, therefore, was also a question of the stability of the European state system; and therefore, it was created on the concept of the balance of power, not the balance of law but the balance of power. So power was and is an essential element of international law, and we shouldn't forget that.
And it was an emerging system. It was not a (stated system ?). One of the major blows for the traditional concept of sovereignty was the French Revolution. It was at that moment the whole system changed completely. Before, all these princes and kings dealt with each other. Ordinary people were -- this was not a serious issue. And before the French Revolution, something very revolutionary happened on the other side of the Atlantic where very few -- I mean, at that time, I don't know how many people lived in the 13 colony states, but a very small amount of people compared with present times.
I mean, they made the American Revolution. They created a constitution, the rule of the people, the rule of law. And with the French Revolution, this was, I think, a direct blow, a very severe blow to the traditional form of sovereignty. We shouldn't forget that, that sovereignty is nothing static; and therefore, I mean, these developed and especially the contributions of the growing power of the United States was to bring the law into the international relations. And I think this is one of the big achievements of the American foreign policy tradition, that responsibility according to the law was implemented.
And one of the brightest moments, from my view, was the Nuremburg trial, after the Shoah, after these terrible war crimes which took place in the countries which the Nazis had occupied or in Germany, the mass murder, genocide against the European and German Jewry, the racist war in then Poland and the Soviet Union.
And the answer was that those who committed these crimes cannot hide behind sovereignty. They are responsible. And a new form of -- a very new form, a revolutionary form -- a new international tribunal was formed. They were indicted in a transparent -- a very transparent procedure. And at the end, they were convicted.
I'm against capital punishment, but at that moment, I have to say even not only the major war criminals but when I saw the gallows in Auschwitz where Hess was hanged, I had serious problems with my general rejection of capital punishment, because these crimes were so terrible that they had to be punished. And I think this was a major breakthrough.
And decades later, what we saw in Kosovo was that we were in a contradiction. Politically, for myself, in the contradiction I was grown up in post-war Germany, so I was grown up with two basic principles as the legacy of the terrible crimes of my country: no more war, because war in Germany means also not self-defense but aggression and an attack on our neighbors; and secondly, no more Holocaust, no more Auschwitz. And my generation lived quite well for a long time with these two principles.
But suddenly, with the end of the Cold War, when the Wall came down and in Yugoslavia, all the contradictions of the old Europe exploded. And we had a situation that on the one hand, there was the traditional concept of sovereignty, and the war -- especially not against Yugoslavia -- Hitler armies invaded there, committed terrible crimes. It was unbelievable almost for me to think in terms that German soldiers would be part of a humanitarian intervention where Hitler -- Hitler's army and the SS committed such terrible crimes. And on the other side, the reality of the new forms of concentration camps, of terrible atrocities, mass rape, destruction of churches, to destroy a whole culture, and of course, moving forward with another genocide of the Muslim population in Bosnia. So there was a contradiction -- (inaudible) -- illegality.
I mean, I don't believe that it was illegal to intervene. Why? I'm not a lawyer, but I had to deal with the subject. The United Nations tried everything, and step-by-step, they moved forward with resolutions -- very powerful resolutions -- (off mike). But the specific structure of the Security Council, when it came to the final conclusion of the road to the resolutions, now to say, okay, you mistreated the blue helmets, you committed terrible crimes, you will go on with that -- so we have now under Chapter 7 decide about a military intervention. The Russians left.
So it was, the whole procedure -- and I think here procedure matters very much. This was not the lonely decision or this was not a decision of one nation. It was a transparent procedure in the Security Council and in other regional or international institutions and was blocked by a national political position not to intervene, not to allow to intervene, according to international law.
So the procedure is element number one. And by the way, in practice, the procedure produces legitimacy, and in international law, legitimacy -- as in, by the way, also in national law -- legitimacy is very important. I would say it's crucial.
The second element was, if the Security Council is blocked, can we sit there and watch mass rape, ethnic cleansing? Innocent people were killed in a very brutal way and put into mass graves. And we see in Germany we have accepted more than 200,000 refugees from Bosnia at that time. It was, I think, very important that we opened our doors. We had a (lot of strong ?) Bosnian minorities, by the way, from all the ethnic groups were living. I experienced that in that time; my daughter was in elementary school in Frankfurt, and the war was in the classroom. The children came back. They were Croats, they were Serbs, they were Muslims. They came back from summer holidays and the war was a reality in the classroom. We shouldn't forget that.
So from my view, if the Security Council was blocked, the other question was, is their original consensus? And the original consensus was there. EU, NATO, not pressured by the major power U.S., but, I mean, pressured by the reality, pressured by the facts, the reaction of the people, decided, yes, we have to go to war, even (with ?) blocked -- Security Council.
This was part of the procedure. And we ended the war with a Security Council resolution with the agreement of all relevant powers. So this is the third element. Therefore, I wouldn't say that this was illegal.
I would blame myself that I needed too much time to reach, personally, the decision to say yes to such an intervention. I think altogether -- pacifists and unpacifists -- have to blame ourselves that we acted too late. And I think some of those thousand people could have been saved if we would have acted earlier.
And this is also, I think, a very important element in the procedure. So if I would -- if I draw the conclusion here from my view, I would reject the position -- not by political purposes -- I would say, okay, this was illegal, I would say it and bear the consequences. But no, I think I have to blame myself that I needed too much time and not that we went too far.
But nevertheless, I mean, the question over sovereignty was raised after Kosovo by a very courageous speech of Kofi Annan where he said sovereignty cannot mean that a government has the right for mass murder or whatever, to brutalize their own people.
After Kosovo I made the experience -- I went to Africa and all the leaders I met there, they were very hesitant, because, I mean, they were very suspicious that this is a new concept -- humanitarian intervention -- of the old colonial powers to rule. But based on very painful experiences in Africa, two years, three years later, there was a completely different mood. And based on the experiences in Western Africa but also in some other African countries, there was a change in the mind set that regional responsibility matters.
And it's not only an issue -- a humanitarian issue, a moral issue, it's also a question of regional security. And by the way, this was also a very important element in the Balkans, as it was in West Africa or East Africa, wherever. And also, the reaction of the Southeast Asian community on the war in East Timor was based on these elements. So I think we have here a serious development.
So from my view, to make a long speech short, I think that we have to deal with these new challenges by developing sovereignty, and also limiting sovereignty. It's unacceptable that we accept the right (men ?) to brutalize their own people. And there is a right to protect. And there is -- we must create a new balance between the protection of individual rights and, on the other hand, of sovereignty, because sovereignty is very important for peace and stability.
And so I would propose that we should really focus on the regional level, because once again, it's also about legitimacy. And regional powers -- direct neighbors, indirect neighbors -- backed and supported by the international community, by the U.N. system, by other important powers, could, from my view, intervene with lesser costs and with a broader acceptance. And therefore, I'm quite happy about the developments, especially in the African Union. There's another -- there's a change of mind-set. Of course, the capabilities are very weak and the challenges are very big, but I think that this is a positive element.
But at the end, I mean, the question will be whether we can reach an agreement. I'm not so pessimistic about reaching an agreement between Europe and the United States or the West in a broader sense, including Japan or a lot of others. I'm not so pessimistic. If the U.S. will define herself as part of the system and not to be outside of it, in a very unique and specific role -- do not misunderstand me. I understand very well that the United States historically, but also actually, with the whole burden -- I mean, to avoid carrots and -- around the globe. And for seven years I experienced that neither in West Africa, nor on the Indian subcontinent during these dangerous crises after the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi, nor wherever you really, I mean, will go around the globe, the U.S. and the might, the power of the United States, is indispensable. I've said that many times. Do not misunderstand me. During the election campaigns -- between two election campaigns -- and saying that as a Green in the election campaign to a Green audience, it's still slightly scandalous. But I'm convinced about it because I experienced it.
And, of course, you are in a very specific role. And from my view, everybody will understand it and at the end agree to that. But the key question will be whether the United States will define herself as part of the system with a very unique role or to be outside of the system, profit from the system as long as it works, and if it's negative in the outcome, well, then we have to look for other options.
I think it's very important, these questions. They should be answered positively because without American leadership in all these issues, I don't believe that we can really promote a positive development.
So there we are. And hopefully, based on negative experiences, there will be a majority in the United States which will understand that at the end you -- the United States -- you are the global world power, and there is no other. And you have the full burden of this global world. And from my view, it's much more easier if this global burden is backed by consent, by legitimacy, by internationally accepted rules and institutions, which are efficient.
The U.S. would be, I think, the biggest -- you would have the biggest positive outcome if there would be a successful U.N. reform because this would lower the burden on the shoulders of the only global power. You would benefit from an increased legitimacy to run the world. You would benefit from more efficient international law. And you would benefit from more efficient international institutions more than any other country because you are in this specific role. There we are.
I think you shouldn't overestimate the frictions between Europe and the United States because if we come to these value-based issues, I don't see there are differences, but there are differences also in Europe. I wouldn't overestimate these differences.
We discussed before about the International Criminal Court. At the end, I think the world needs an International Criminal Court. Secondly, it was an excellent idea to create this institution. And thirdly, when we had the negotiations about the Security Council resolutions about Darfur, at the end, the American side accepted that it would be very unwise not to do the International Criminal Court and give those who are responsible for terrible crimes at the end a free ride. So it was a very pragmatic compromise, which has also opened the door for a better future.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
KU: Thank you very much.
This program, if you haven't figured it out, is of course being recorded, including audio recording, which means we'll need you to use the microphones. And if you would also identify yourself just so that the transcript, which is also going to be created from this program, can reflect who was speaking.
So with that, I'm going to stand up because I can get out of this light here. And let's see, why don't we head this way first. I think we'll just give the first question over here. Please.
QUESTIONER: Dafna Linzer from The Washington Post.
Sir, can you talk a little bit about your experiences in the negotiations with Iran until you left government? What the -- I'm not asking for, you know, behind the scenes. Did you see the situation moving in the direction that it's in now? And where do you see it going next?
FISCHER: Well, this is a very different issue. (Laughter.) I wouldn't deny a very important one, and it makes -- gave me serious headaches since one-and-a-half years. And -- well, very easy, I think the situation is terribly dangerous. And dangerous situations need, I think, a very well-considered policy.
I studied the case very carefully, and -- you know my position about Iraq, that I was opposing Iraq, I mean by good reasons. And even at that time, my feel was that when we're talking about weapons of mass destruction and (they're mentioned ?), what we knew at that time about the Iranian nuclear program and the missile program is alarming.
The present situation is that the Iranians feel strong. I think they miscalculate. But on the other side, to talk about military options where we will end up in a nightmare if you go to the very end of the consequences, I don't believe -- is also not very wise.
I would strongly propose to combine a serious effort to the Iranians, go over this hurdle in what is called the great bargain or grand bargain, combined with a serious threat of -- to isolate the country economically and technologically. This would be my recommendations. But at the moment, we have the chancellor here in town and in this city, and she has to do the negotiations with President Bush and his senior advisers. So I don't want to intervene (in there ?).
KU: Let's come here to Mr. Gerson.
QUESTIONER: Allan Gerson.
Mr. Minister, when you spoke about the situation in Kosovo, you raised the legal and moral question as to whether the nations of the world could simply, I think as you put it, simply sit back and do nothing in the face of mass rape, et cetera.
I wonder if you could reflect on whether there are or are not any similarities with regard to the situation in Iraq at the outset of the war when the Security Council itself was blocked, when U.N. inspectors weren't allowed to go in and complete their job. So if the U.N. Security Council is blocked, does a country have a right to undertake action, and in what circumstances?
FISCHER: Well, I mean, it was not a legal issue for me. It was the U.N. inspectors were in the country, and the information which were given from the intelligence services to the inspectors were proven. And now we know why because we made the experience. But any time when they went to presume the WMD side, they came back and had an explanation why there are -- they haven't found WMDs. In the meanwhile, we know why: there were none.
Do not misunderstand me. This was not, from my point of view, a legal issue because of the decision of the Security Council here, as it were. And I questioned -- I questioned from the very beginning the wisdom of the policy. I have never contact with -- I had only 10 minutes' contact with the regime in Baghdad or 12 minutes in the embassy with the foreign minister of Iraq. And I told him in blunt words at that time that they will be destroyed if they don't hand over everything what they have a few weeks before the war started.
So I'm -- I mean, Saddam Hussein was a terrible dictator, but you always have to consider the consequences even of humanitarian interventions. Powell said -- Colin Powell said very rightly, when you break it you own it, and that's exactly what we did also and do in the Balkans. So for me the humanitarian element was crucial. But on the other side, without stability (pact ?), without a European perspective for the west Balkan region and the states there, I mean, there would be no positive development.
And my criticism was from the very beginning that when you go to Baghdad -- and I studied very carefully Bush -- the position of the father of the president -- what Scowcroft, Powell and all the others at that time, including Cheney -- what the reasons were not to go to Baghdad. And I mean, the implications were quite clear that, at the moment when you go in, you own it. So what will you do with it? And I never believed in this dream that there will be flowers and roses and whatever. I mean, I talked with the Israeli security personnel. They said, well, we had this illusion before we invaded Lebanon, and four months later we were -- rice and flowers came, and after that the bombs were thrown on our troops. So they didn't believe it from the very beginning.
But the crucial element is that at the moment when you make a humanitarian intervention, you always have to clarify your position about the new order, and whether you are powerful enough or your backing is sustainable enough, that you can achieve it. Compare the Balkans with Somalia, then you will see the differences. For both interventions were a good humanitarian or excellent -- excellent is the wrong word -- pressing humanitarian reasons. But on the Balkans, we had also a regional interest -- peace and stability in Europe. We had the pressing refugee problems. And therefore the need on behalf of the Europeans to develop ideas how to create a new order and to sustain a very long process of creating this new order. So there is the difference, and my concern is that in Iraq there was a miscalculation on this part.
KU: Okay. Back there, this gentleman here, right, and then we'll come back to the press side. Please.
QUESTIONER: Umit Enginsoy, Turkish NTV television.
What do you think about an ongoing Kurdish unrest in Turkey's southeast, and associated military measures against the PKK?
And given this situation plus Turkey's lack of action on opening its ports and airports to Greek Cypriots, do you think Turkey's EU accession bid is heading for a train crash this fall?
FISCHER: I don't hope so because I think it's for both sides very important that Turkey will modernize, Turkey will open up to more modern approach to solve pressing problems. I mean, we have to see that the Turkish Republic under the present government came along a long road with the reforms -- the traditional reforms. I don't want to focus too much on the banning of capital punishment in this country because you have a different view here, but for Europe it was a very important also step forward in the right direction.
The minority issue I think should be continuously worked on on the Turkish side.
And with Cyprus, I experienced it that Turkey was very constructive, and the Greek Cypriot government led the campaign against the Annan plan and to vote in the referendum with "no."
So it's complicated, but I'm quite optimistic that both sides -- all the sides -- will understand how important a common future is and move forward in a very constructive way. You see, I still know the diplomatic language. (Laughter.)
KU: Yes, please?
QUESTIONER: Thanks. Barbara Slavin from USA Today. Pleasure to see you again.
I want to drag you back to Iran a little bit to talk about this a bit more. You were part of these negotiations that went on on the European side. Wasn't there always an expectation that the United States was going to join in these talks at some point if they progressed well -- an understanding that the Europeans alone could not provide either carrots or sticks that were sufficient for a deal? And now, given the way the situation has progressed -- escalated -- do you think there's still a possibility that the Americans could join negotiations, describe this grand bargain, if you will, and perhaps avert a terrible crisis?
FISCHER: It's like a press conference here. (Laughter.)
Now, I mean, for an American audience, sometimes there seem to be the perception that diplomacy means that you try to be soft, and those who are in favor of military action are the tough guy. This is not my experience.
From the very beginning for us, it was quite clear there is a serious threat. The implications of a nuclearized Iran is very serious not only for the region, for all the regional power; not only -- and Israel sees that as an existential threat -- and this is also very important for us -- but also for Europe and peace and stability. Turkey will not sit on the sideline and watch what's going on. And this will have consequences everywhere in the region. And I don't want to go into the details, but a nuclearized Middle East is a nightmare not only for the region, but for Europe and international peace and stability.
So from the very beginning, for us it was quite clear we were talking about suspension of the closing the fuel cycle. That's it. That's it. And we didn't reach an agreement about that. But for us it was also quite clear that we will not hand over any substantial benefits for the Iranian side without reaching that point. And from a very early moment, we negotiated also -- we coordinated -- negotiated is the wrong word -- we coordinated very closely with the American side.
Now, whether there is a possibility -- I mean, my experience with the Iranians is that they watch very carefully what's going on. And the final decisions will be made in their National Security Council led by the religious leader and not by the president. And I think unity of the international community is crucial because there is a serious concern to be isolated. And the discussion in Tehran continues about the price and the risk. And it's not about a military threat; it's about whether the country will be isolated and feel itself isolated, especially also with China, with Russia, with India, with the G77. They were really shocked when the majority, especially India, China and Russia abstained -- India voted for the Western resolution in the Board of Governors.
So from my view, there is a window of opportunity to create a situation for a serious strategic decision in Tehran. And if not, this will create legitimacy for a policy to isolate the country. And from my view, this will bring or unite the international community. Such an offer, led by the United States and the Europeans, I definitely think shared and backed also by the other members of the Security Council -- permanent members -- if this were promoted, if this were put on the table and they would reject it --
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
FISCHER: I would say the offer is very simple. The offer must have two basic elements.
Element number one, suspend closing the fuel cycle. I mean, negotiations to have negotiations -- they continue in Natanz -- it makes not a lot of sense. This means suspended under the control of the agency.
And secondly, let's reach an agreement about regional security. This is very important because there are also the element of the Middle Eastern conflict of other neighbors feel threatened and so on, the question of terror. By the way, they are -- in the past, there were sometimes promising elements of cooperation between the United States and Iran. We shouldn't forget that.
So these are the core elements.
And the carrot should be security guarantee at the end and full relations if there is an agreement. If they would reach an agreement, I think this should be the trade-off. And the stick must be we are not frightened about an increase of the oil price. You miscalculate it. Because it's part of the Iranian calculation the West will never accept an oil price which is much more higher than the oil price nowadays. But even if you think in military terms, which I don't, it won't have the effect of such an explosion of the oil price, so we shouldn't fret about that. But this needs leadership. This needs cooperation. This needs international as national leaderships. It's not easy to sell it to a national audience, neither in the United States nor in Europe. But you know, the grim alternatives, I think -- this should be the offer or the consequence if this offer is rejected.
But we are running short of time. We shouldn't forget that. And without decisive leadership on behalf of the United States, I don't believe that this will work.
FEINSTEIN: Mr. Fischer, if I could just take advantage of sitting next to you.
There's a perception here that the view you stated -- that the European view you stated that recognizes that there is an Iranian bomb, to put it crudely -- the perception here is that that's not a widely agreed perception of Europe. So can you address whether -- the degree to which your understanding is that the position you stated and the seriousness of this is generally supported in Europe?
FISCHER: Well, from my view, this perception is wrong. I mean, of course Iraq is playing a negative role, and there is mistrust if you talk to the Russians or whoever. Even in Europe, I mean, will we end up in a similar but then much more messier situation? So I think this is understandable on the one hand, but nobody is questioning the seriousness of the situation and how grim the options are, nobody. I don't know no serious voice in Europe which would deny that. And I mean, to close the eyes like sometimes children do, hoping that it will disappear, it won't work.
QUESTIONER: I would like your views on this. I would agree with you that the regional solutions or intervention might be better.
In our area -- I come from Africa -- new ambassador of Uganda to United States here -- our regional solutions have perhaps succeeded only in small countries like Burundi, maybe Lesotho. But when it comes to larger areas like DROC, Darfur, Somalia, it becomes very complicated. It seems as if regional solutions work better where regions are self-reliant in resources. But when other people -- when you start begging for resources and what have you, those resources seem to come with some strings attached, and then it becomes very difficult really for the region to solve their cases. What are your views on this?
FISCHER: Well, first of all, I agree. I mean, the DROC or Sudan -- I mean, they have similar -- are a similar challenge, and there is a serious threat when these huge countries disintegrate. But at the end, with the best intentions, such an intervention could lead to much more violence and brutality. So this is a very, very serious question, sir.
I mean, for the DROC, as long as the neighbors and all powers which have a vested interest do not agree and implement a set of principles, starting with nonintervention, I don't believe that it really, I mean, will have a positive -- will receive a positive development. All the neighbors -- almost all the neighbors -- but also third powers have interests there, and following sometimes in a very destructive way their interests, and that's very bad for the development. And it's -- especially in the DROC, I mean, it's a big tragedy. But even if you look to Sudan, you will see a similar pattern, and this should be avoided.
Therefore, I think that cooperation of the African Union with major powers outside of Africa -- of a closer cooperation, of the backing, of support -- would be very -- or could lead to progress. But as long as the neighbors -- as long as the neighbors are not agreeing to settle principles, starting with nonintervention, it will be very difficult in both countries.
KU: Let's go back there.
QUESTIONER: Yes. I'm Edward Spannaus from Executive Intelligence Review.
I'd like to ask you about Germany-Russia relations. There are people in this country, and certainly in this administration, that seem to take a rather dim view of German sovereignty, particularly with respect to Germans' right to conduct its own relations with other countries.
Vice President Cheney this morning in Vilnius was very -- made a sharp attack on Russia, including on Russia's energy policy, in saying that Russia was using energy as a tool of manipulation, of blackmail, trying to monopolize supply, monopolize transportation.
Now, at the Tomsk summit last week, Chancellor Merkel made important breakthroughs in terms of energy arrangements, railroad deals, economic development projects with Russia, despite heavy U.S. pressure not to go ahead with those arrangements. And I assume there will continue to be U.S. pressure from this administration. I don't think that was the case in the Clinton administration; it is the case in this administration to try and discourage any cooperation between Germany and Russia, or really between anybody, any country and Russia. So I wondered if you could comment on that.
FISCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, I'm out of the office, sir. I mean, you have to ask in the press conference the chancellor or the president about these questions.
In general, I mean, we shouldn't -- we shouldn't underestimate our own position. There was one key moment in the European-Russian relationship and the European -- the Western-Russia relationship -- I include the United States -- and this was one-and-a-half years ago during the Ukraine crisis with these frauded elections. And behind that was the question whether we allow Russia to go back to the imperial idea of zone of influence, yes or no. And this was a very, very strategic moment because if Europe would have accepted that, I think our relations to Russia would be completely different nowadays and our security situation in the longer-term perspective.
So what did we do? First of all, thanks to enlargement, Poland and Lithuania belong to the European Union. I think it's very important to understand what this means also in security terms. And many times we are blamed that we are so bad in our defense budgets, but to an American audience let me stress that -- or underline that enlargement is very expensive, and even in Europe we can't spend the same euro twice.
And knowing the importance -- the European border is now border Finland, the Baltics, Poland and so on. And the Polish president, the Ukraine -- the Lithuanian -- (audio break, tape flip) -- and have free and fair elections with a known outcome. And that's exactly, I think, what the defining moment, and I strongly recommend to move forward on this track of policy because Russia is too big and too important to be isolated.
The major crisis seem to be Iran and the consequences in the energy sector but also international support of -- (inaudible). I don't believe it's a good idea to have accumulation of crises -- Iran, Middle East, Russia, Iran -- and then we think this is well, a promising strategy. I don't know whether this is the idea of anybody. I can't believe it.
So I'll -- (off mike). But I think with Russia we always have a strategy with two goals: on the one hand, to bring them over, keep them in. (We have any influence in a positive ?) modernization process in Russia. On the other hand, put the finger on the issues which must be criticized.
So this is, I think, a double strategy we should follow more or less for the operation of -- (off mike). You have to ask Merkel, Cheney, Bush -- (off mike).
KU: I think what we'll do is take two more questions and then ask our speakers for any concluding thoughts. So let me take something from the very back of the room there.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, my name is Agnel Geteb (ph), a freelance journalist. Germany has less disagreement with the United States over Iraq now, but this has not translated into Germany playing a wider role in Iraq. Can you identify some of the problems that are still standing in the way? And is the -- (inaudible) -- to blame for these problems?
FISCHER: I mean, you must really ask the foreign minister, the incumbent foreign minister, because this is an operational question. Fortunately, I cannot answer it. I'm not sad about that. It's a serious question -- (off mike) -- very serious. I mean, put aside all our differences -- from the very beginning, I mean, we contributed (to positive ?) reconstruction of Iraq. And we were very happy also about the outcome of the elections. But most of the reality nowadays -- for example, the German business community has good and old relations into Iraq and is strongly welcomed, but under the present security conditions, it's almost impossible to stay there. We at the very beginning had also strong engagement on the humanitarian side, but due to security reasons, courageous people had to be withdrawn because it was too dangerous. This is the situation, but otherwise we (will ?) move forward. We are very strongly engaged and are engaged in police training and military training outside of Iraq. And it all boils down about security and it boils down about what is (seen as occupational liberation ?) and what internal developments will be.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Mr. Fischer, my name is -- (name and affiliation inaudible) -- Venezuela. I would like to know -- there is a kind of rising wave, what many describe as anti-Americanism feelings. I would like to know, I was wondering if you have some comments on that. What about Europe, and more specifically, what about Germany? Thank you.
FISCHER: Well, when I look back to my own life, I was grown up in the southwest of Germany, and I was 24 years old when -- in a small town where I grew up. American tanks stopped directly (in our house ?) and I asked my older sisters what does it mean, how do you have (chocolate ?) -- (off mike). These were my first English and American words. At that time, growing up in postwar Germany, the U.S. Army, the music on the (FM ?), anything like that was one word, freedom. And the shocking experience for my generation was, of course, we always saw the United States, the American soldiers, the GI, knowing our own dads and our own teachers -- and this was World War II generation; don't forget that -- they haven't changed really (in the United States ?). This means liberty. This means another culture, freedom, personal freedom. It's very attractive. And then came Vietnam. And suddenly this was like Algiers, like the old -- Americans seemed to conform to -- (off mike) -- to colonial -- (off mike) -- drawn into colonial wars. I think many Americans in my generation -- (off mike).
But on the other side, the perception was always double -- (off mike). On the one hand, rejection of American foreign policy –Vietnam, for example, or (Chile ?), or whatever. On the other hand, a very strong attraction to the American society -- lifestyle, music. I used to say Bob Dylan for me was more important than Karl Marx for my -- (off mike). But it was this sense of freedom, all these -- I don't have to explain to an American audience what it means. I mean, this form of music you won't find in Europe.
And therefore, I mean anti-Americanism on the one hand is a reality, because you are so powerful. On the other hand, I wouldn't overestimate it, at least in Europe, because if you -- if I look to the younger generation, if I look to my generation, to the younger generation, everybody understands that if America (will be strong, go ?) back to the Western Hemisphere. And being an isolationist country is -- (off mike).
So it's a little bit contradictory, but I think if you come to Europe nowadays, if you look at Berlin (as ?) a young American or Paris or London or wherever, it's not comparable. (Off mike.) And maybe allow me to be frank here. My impression is -- maybe this is my personal perception, but my impression is that nowadays there is a strong feeling not about the United States, not that the United States should not -- (off mike) -- always to be criticized. There is no democratic leadership even if you are a leading country without criticism. (Off mike.) But my feeling is in Europe, especially in the younger generation, is that many people cannot follow a certain policy and they say, hey, wake up, Dad, what are you doing? I mean, consider twice before you act next time.
So this is more not a rejection of America but a certain frustration about certain politics. I wouldn't -- maybe the situation in Latin America -- I don't know -- is different, but I don't believe that Latin America will have a future of going back to the old-fashioned nationalist -- (off mike).
I met Castro several times. We never agreed. At the end he -- (off mike) -- which might be attractive for a certain period, but not -- (off mike). I don't believe that this is a good example.
KU: I must say, I'm very much struck by your optimism and your in some ways I think implicit injunction to us to keep plowing ahead, even if sometimes we do it rather badly. So I'm very grateful for that.
But just to close our program, if I can ask Lee Feinstein and Mr. Fischer if you have any sort of general thoughts you would just wish to leave us this afternoon before we adjourn.
FEINSTEIN: Well, the only brief thought is what Mr. Fischer just said, which was something that we discussed in advance of this meeting as well, which is that minister's perception that -- maybe I'll put it more directly -- that in spite of the record of the last five years and the events of the last five years, there's still a tremendous interest and yearning in Europe and elsewhere for positive American leadership role in the world.
FISCHER: Well, I agree fully. And once again, I mean, I won't underline that without the United States I don't believe that we can move forward. Look to the world -- what will be the challenges in the next decades? China, the rising star. I mean, think about these super-sized economies in terms of the consequences for the global -- (off mike). Even if China will be developed in a very peaceful -- even if they would follow the policy 100 percent of what the United States wants, even then the sheer size of -- (off mike) -- will create tremendous (challenge for all of us ?). They need (for average 10 percent for the time being growth ?) -- (off mike) -- to manage their domestic problems -- (off mike).
What does this mean for the global -- (off mike)? The old days, 20 percent of mankind formed what we called the world economy. Eighty percent were more or less -- (off mike). In the middle of the century, we will have 50-50, maybe 60-40. Without new international -- (off mike) -- I don't believe that you can avoid an extreme dis-balance of the markets. And in 1929 our fathers and grandfathers and mothers, grandmothers experienced -- (off mike). Therefore, they developed the international financial institutions in the early '40s. What about, how can we manage an international system? I don't believe in the balance of power in the 21st century. Why? It didn't work in Europe. We have invented this balance of powers. It didn't work. And it won't work for 7 or 8 billion people. With one (big communication building ?) around the globe with the same dreams, the same desires. I don't believe that. So we need a new form of cooperation. We are (like ?) condemned to cooperation.
I don't see that you can fight Red China about energy resources. Okay, you will have a war with China. It will be devastating. But even -- you will win. Where will be the benefit? You will have destroyed your most important trade partner. You will have destroyed the globalized economy. So you would be on the losing side immediately. Therefore, we need a new international trade system. We need new reform U.N. system, or if not the U.N., what then? I don't believe that you can run a globalized economy, you can run a world of tomorrow with all these threats and challenges by a coalition of the willing. I don't believe that. Maybe I'm too conservative to believe in coalitions of the willing. It sounds more like the old movement experience we had in the old days. But I believe more and more in institutions. And for that you need a certain development. And security definitely -- I mean, regional security, global security, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism. This needs also I think sufficient institutions and rules. We call rules international law.
And it all boils down to American leadership, whether you like it or not. I mean, I like it. (Laughter.) Don't misunderstand me. I don't want to criticize you for that. So there we are.
Thank you very much.
KU: Thank you.
Thank you all very much and good afternoon. Thank you. (Applause.)
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