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A Conversation with David Miliband

Speaker: David Miliband, Member of Parliament for South Shields; Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland
Presider: Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International
September 26, 2008
Council on Foreign Relations

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New York City, NY--

FAREED ZAKARIA: Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for coming.

I first met our guest this afternoon many years ago when he was introduced to me as the future prime minister of Britain. He was then 25 years old, I think. He was the head of the policy unit at Number 10 Downing Street for Tony Blair.

Between then and the time that that prediction will be fulfilled, he has been -- (laughter) -- he has been schools minister, environmental minister, and is currently hanging his hat as Her Majesty's secretary of state for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. David Miliband will probably be prime minister one day, so you can say you saw him at the council before he was David Miliband. (Laughter.)

Let me ask you, David, what are the things as foreign secretary that principally occupy you these days? I mean, you are probably dealing with Iran, but Iran is part of a broader challenge, you were telling me.

FOREIGN SECRETARY DAVID MILIBAND: Yeah, and -- well, thank you very much to everyone for coming. You want to sort of ski off-piece, really?

ZAKARIA: Yeah. Yeah.

MILIBAND: Right.

ZAKARIA: This is -- David wanted to give a speech, so this is his opportunity to -- (laughter) --

MILIBAND: No, no -- (inaudible) -- all these people have come for a discussion about counterproliferation, so you might want to take a vote at some point as to whether or not we want to talk about that.

ZAKARIA: This is -- this is guided democracy. (Laughter.)

MILIBAND: Right.

ZAKARIA: It's -- (inaudible) -- you might say. No votes. We're with the wisdom of the crowd.

MILIBAND: If they all walk out, we'll know. What's on my mind at the moment is following, that I think you can make a pretty good case that this is the last election, the last U.S. presidential election that gives the winner the chance, with the European Union, to use the transatlantic alliance to forge and define a global foreign policy agenda. But if the next president stays in office for eight years, in eight years' time, the idea that a transatlantic alliance can come together and set a global agenda that is an inclusive global agenda of the rising powers -- so we're under no illusion, I'm not talking about recreating a transatlantic empire, but I do think that eight years' time, it's easy to imagine that it will be practically impossible for a transatlantic alliance to set a global agenda for the global rules of the road.

I still think it's possible --

ZAKARIA: Why? Because power will have shifted --

MILIBAND: Yeah. I mean, there are three great shifts in power going on around the world. There's obviously a shift in power from West to East. There's a huge shift in power from the national to the international level. And there's a critical shift in power, in my view, going from governments to people.

That's why I talk about civilian surge around the world, the benefits of -- it goes to technology, the fact that there's an emerging global consciousness powered by those technologies. That people are inspired by what they see and know about around the world allows them to recognize how other people live their lives and to ask questions about why they're living their lives in a particular way.

I think that there's a -- that's an underestimated shift in the balance of power and it's why, you know, whether it's bloggers in Iran or demonstrators in Yangon, these are people who are trying to live out their own sense that they want to define their own future. And I think that's a big part of the shift of power.

Now, in that context, I think that there remains scope for a transatlantic agenda that takes some of the things that we believe in very strongly -- you can call them enlightenment values; you could call them a quest for order and stability on the basis of individual rights and taking a collective risk. I think you can see how, in the right circumstances, Europe and America could come together in the next three or four months.

And I would put three things at the top of our list, top of -- as what could define a global agenda. I think the first thing is we have to be very clear what attitude we take towards nation-building, above all, democracy-building, because if you look at Pakistan and -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, which is probably the number one foreign policy priority for me in the U.K., those two countries face an enormous shared challenge of democracy-building or nation-building.

Secondly, I think that the challenge of global inequality is something that should concern us, not just out of moral interest but also out of self interest. And I think that the debate about inequality around the world is going to be transformed over the next 20 to 30 years by climate change, which I think is a massive issue not of technology or environment, but actually of equity.

And the third issue that I think is -- we need to resolve ourselves around is how we understand shared sovereignty and how collective international institutions can come together to tackle shared risks. The European Union was created to share sovereignty and to tackle shared risks. Many of the things that we're debating at the U.N. this week, from the reach of the ICC into Sudan to the defense of the nonproliferation treaty and sanctions against Iran, those are issues of the balance between national power and international rules, and I think that it's right that we get into that in a very fundamental way.

ZAKARIA: So let's just talk about some of these things in kind of no particular order. And my apologies to whoever -- the three of you who came for a counterterrorism seminar -- (laughter) -- counterproliferation seminar, sorry.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, the two candidates here are both agreed on very few things and one of them is that there should be a surge, Iraq-style, in Afghanistan. Many, many knowledgeable Afghan experts -- and somebody like Rory Stewart, for example, argues that this is a terrible idea, that it will provoke a greater and greater Afghan and particularly Pashtun nationalism, that what you need is actually to reduce the footprint of Western forces and work with the tribes in a way that somehow allows for a kind of more settled and organic order. What's the right answer?

MILIBAND: One of the first rules of British diplomacy is you must never take sides in a American presidential election. (Laughter.) But I'm in the happy position where I can either agree with both of them or disagree with them. (Laughter.)

I mean, I think you'll know what I'm saying if I -- if I choose my words carefully and say more foreign troops are certainly not the answer to Afghanistan's problems. They may be part of an answer, but I think it's very, very clear that we're never going to have the level of troops in Afghanistan that the Soviets had and they were not able to subjugate the people of Afghanistan. They had 200,000 troops at some point in the 1980s in Afghanistan.

Now, coalition troops at the moment are 40,000, give or take. We have 8,000 troops in Helmand. The key variable is not the number of foreign troops, it's the number of Afghan troops. The Afghan National Army now has 58,000 members. It's pretty clean. It's pretty effective. If I talk to our troops in Afghanistan, they say, if they go out with the Afghan National Army, they feel like they're with serious and relatively safe people, people they'd want to be working with.

So when it comes to the military side, the key variable is building up the Afghan National Army. They've already had a target of getting to 122,000. But obviously there isn't a military solution in Afghanistan. That's why, you know, you can talk about a civilian surge or a political surge -- are talked about in Afghanistan. And the issue of governments, especially local governments but also national governments, in Afghanistan is absolutely central.

And it's going to be -- the military can create the space and in the five population centers of Helmand where we are, more or less, we are supporting the Afghan National Army and creating space for civic institutions to grow. But I think it's important that we recognize that there isn't a military, quote, unquote, "solution," and there certainly isn't a military, quote, unquote, "solution" that comes from the imposition of foreign troops.

ZAKARIA: Which is a good thing given the state of the British expeditionary forces. Is it fair to say --

MILIBAND: Why do you say that?

ZAKARIA: -- is it fair to say that you don't have many more troops to send? In other words, Max Boot -- who I was looking for -- a Council senior fellow, has written very eloquently on the -- on what he sees as the decline and fall of the British armed forces, that you have hollowed out your military to the point where it would be very difficult for you to send expeditionary forces in any greater numbers.

MILIBAND: We have about 100(,000) -- 103(,000) -- 105,000 men and women in uniform.

ZAKARIA: Yeah. Well, Europe has 2 million men in uniform, but very few of those can be mobilized for expedition.

MILIBAND: A rather high percentage of ours do things. (Laughter.) The -- or do dangerous things would be a better of putting it. The -- I mean, Europe also has -- literally, I can't remember the exact figure, hundreds of helicopters, but none are available to -- for use in Afghanistan --

(Cross talk.)

MILIBAND: I think that we are -- look, our armed forces are in a different size or shape and a smaller size than they were 20 or 30 years ago, but I think that the work that they're doing in Afghanistan and some of the work that's being done in Iraq, nevermind the work that's been done in Kosovo -- of unbelievably high levels of intellect, skill, bravery.

ZAKARIA: Nobody's disputing that. But the question is is there political will in Britain to move -- to restore some of its capacity?

MILIBAND: Well, I think -- I mean, we have 8,200 troops in Helmand province. The future of Helmand province is not going to be achieved by having larger numbers of British troops. That's not the answer because we can play an important role in training. We can play an embedded role. The sort of MiTT experience in Iraq, I think, is quite relevant in all this. But we're not trying to create a colony. We had a very large army when we had colonies. We don't have a colony anymore, and we're certainly not trying to create a colony in Afghanistan.

ZAKARIA: Well, actually, most of the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were Indians, I would point out, when Britain ruled, it ruled through the India office. (Laughter.) So -- but another of your great problems, Iran. Everybody -- everybody --

MILIBAND: You've been very kind not pointing out that the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan was drawn from my office. (Laughter.) And still it's disputed.

ZAKARIA: Exactly, and you still have -- the Pakistani president and the Afghan president say the whole problem is the Durand Line.

MILIBAND: But the new Pakistani president and the new -- and the existing -- and the Afghan president. They're actually going to make a go of this in a way that the previous Pakistani president couldn't do with the present --

ZAKARIA: Do you feel that the current president of Pakistan has the army on board and that this will --

MILIBAND: Well, he's a democratically elected president --

ZAKARIA: So that would mean no --

MILIBAND: -- it's very -- (laughter) -- it's very important, it's very important, it's very important that he has the whole of the army. And when you referred to the armed forces, you know as well as I do that it's important to refer to all aspects of the armed services.

ZAKARIA: And what's your sense on that? I mean, have you -- ?

MILIBAND: Well, I think that he's got a massive challenge. I think that the army does not want to be returning to lead the government. I'm confident that the leadership of the Pakistani army would prefer to run the armed services rather than the whole country. And I think it's all hands to the pump, really, to support the new government.

And my own view is that 30 out of 60 years of military rule is an important part of explaining the Pakistani problem. And the fact that the Pakistani army is the most efficient, revered, effective institution in Pakistani society says a lot about the strength of that institution but also about the problems of the country.

ZAKARIA: Iran. You've been very outspoken and taken a kind of fairly tough line on Iran. But yet, nobody has sort of solved the Gordian -- you know, the problem, which is Iran continues to enrich and the West continues to talk, and the sanctions do not seem to have any effect.

So, what do we do?

MILIBAND: Well, I think the policy hasn't yet worked, but I don't think it's failed. And I don't think one can spend 30 minutes looking at the Iranian economy without -- and say that the sanctions are having no effect.

ZAKARIA: (Inaudible) -- having the effect of stopping them from --

MILIBAND: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) The Bazari (ph), who are a critical political group, although they're a relatively small economic group in Iran, are really being squeezed. The financial sanctions and the high levels of the insurance (premium ?) are really squeezing them. I think that's a significant factor in Iran at the moment. When that's combined, we run an embassy -- inflation index. We obviously have diplomatic representation in Iran, and our inflation index is 30 to 35 percent in Iran. This is a country whose finance minister has just been -- resigned and given a speech denouncing the policies of his own government. I think that there is a debate now happening in the Iranian media, as well, about the wisdom of the current course that they're pursuing. So I think it's premature to say that this policy has failed.

You're right that the IAEA are clear that they're continuing to seek to enrich and to develop their technical capacity. I think that we have a job to do to turn the tables of the debate, because the presentation from -- and this speaks to the whole counterproliferation agenda, actually. The presentation from Iran is that we are trying to deny them their rights under the NPT, whereas actually the offer that is now on the table, including from the Untied States, is of economic, political but also scientific collaboration, including on civilian nuclear power; in other words, Iran fulfilling its right under the NPT.

What we're not willing to see is it disobey its responsibilities under the NPT, which are to avoid proliferation. I mean, Iran is a signatory of the NPT and it's clearly seeking to be proliferator. And that's, I think, the reason why the IAEA has blown up -- or blown the whistle on what they're doing, and it's why there have been three successive U.N. Security Council resolutions. Have they yet changed the equation? No. Has the policy failed? I don't think it has yet.

ZAKARIA: Yesterday morning Ahmadinejad had a little breakfast for some -- about 10 people. I was there. I asked him about the international consortium idea. He said, we have always been in principle in favor. The problem is the Brits and the Americans.

MILIBAND: Well, the idea of an enrichment bond is something that we've been pushing. The supply for the Bushehr reactor --

ZAKARIA: No, but an international consortium in Iran.

MILIBAND: Well, I think that the key is whether or not they are willing to disavow that dual-use program that they've got at the moment. That's why the E-3 plus three have been very, very clear that the suspension of the existing program in phase three of the negotiation is the prerequisite for serious discussion about the way in which the civilian nuclear program can develop for or in Iran.

ZAKARIA: But let me understand. You are saying that it is conceivable that there could be enrichment -- that the fuel cycle could be established in Iran but there would be an international consortium of scientists monitoring it? Because I thought --

MILIBAND: I'm saying something different. I'm saying that we have specified that Iran must come into compliance with its NPT obligations. In other words, it must overcome the distrust and malfeasance that's been -- and the mendacity that's been at the heart of their program.

We have not specified that there are only a certain number of trajectories for the civilian nuclear program for the future. What we specified is what is not acceptable. I mean, it's not acceptable to have secret programs. It's not acceptable to deny data and information for the international community. It's not acceptable to deny access to key papers before the IAEA. And I think that if Iran is willing to play by the international rules, it will find that actually there is a serious hand of engagement that is there from the six. And it's actually written down. You can read it on the website. The papers that we've sent to Iran are published.

ZAKARIA: And an international consortium in Iran would --

MILIBAND: I haven't specified that.

ZAKARIA: No, I think it's not ruled out.

MILIBAND: Nowhere in our documents, as I understand it --

ZAKARIA: You do not rule that out.

MILIBAND: No, we haven't ruled it out. What we've ruled out is the defiance of the IAEA and of international rule, and international law, actually, in this case. And the trouble is that the history of the Iranian program means that no one is going to approach their propositions with anything other than extremely skeptical eye, for very good reason. I (hope/heard ?) someone asked President Ahmadinejad whether he stood by his description of Israel as a cesspool of humanity that deserved to go down the slope of delivery from the face of the Earth, which is what he said at the U.N. on Monday. So that is the context in which people are extremely skeptical about Iranian professions of innocence.

ZAKARIA: We're in New York. You can be rest assured that he was asked that question. (Laughter.)

Let me ask you about other challenges you face. The Russian attack on Georgia. Do you think that President Saakashvili made a tactical mistake, as Carl Bildt put it, in attacking Russian forces?

MILIBAND: Well, it's clear that there were rights and wrongs both on the Ossetian side and on the Georgian side, in the run-up to the invasion. And we said that from the beginning. We've also said that if there's any evidence of the human rights and war crimes that -- the human rights abuse and the war crimes that Russia's alleged, they should be investigated without fear or favor by third parties and appropriate steps taken.

And I'm sure there were wrongs. The question is, does that justify the Russian invasion? Does it justify the recognition of two territories that are actually part of Georgia, to which our answer is (no ?).

ZAKARIA: Do you think they are indisputably part of Georgia, or are they sort of frozen conflicts whose status has to be determined?

MILIBAND: Well, that they are part of Georgia, over which there is conflict. They clearly are part of Georgia. I mean, no one disputes that they -- the territorial integrity of Georgia includes those territories. But they've been disputed. The civil wars of the early '90s cost huge numbers of lives. There was effectively -- (inaudible) -- ethnic cleansing have gone on. The conflicts were frozen, but the territory of Georgia includes those enclaves.

ZAKARIA: Going forward, Secretary of Defense Gates gave a speech last week, I think it was, in which he said, in effect -- I think I'm quoting roughly accurately -- NATO should be very careful about the commitments it makes going forward; it should instead focus on honoring the commitments it has already made -- which I took to mean we should be very careful about making Georgia a member of NATO; instead, we should be sure that we can actually protect Poland and the Baltic Republics from a Russian attack.

Should Georgia be a member of NATO in any foreseeable timeframe?

MILIBAND: Well, I think that the leaders of NATO answered that question in April. And they were -- they were faced with this debate about the Membership Action Plan, which does not guarantee membership, and they decided that Georgia and Ukraine will be members if they wanted, if they wanted. And in the Ukraine, there's far from a universal aspiration to join NATO. It's a pretty universal aspiration to join the European Union, but it's not a universal aspiration to join NATO.

I think that no one is talking about them joining NATO in the next -- in the immediate period. What I think we're talking about now through the NATO-Georgia Council and the NATO-Ukraine Council is building up the capacity of those countries. And I think the most important thing that -- in thinking about this, the fundamental divide about these countries is whether or not they are independent sovereign countries that can control their own destiny or whether they are, quote-unquote, "ex-Soviet space."

And if you still see the map of that part of the Caucasus as ex-Soviet space, then you have a different view than if you see them as populated by independent countries with their own sovereign populations or making their own decisions. And I think it's very important for the future of Russia, actually, that it comes to terms with the fact that while they may have interests, and they obviously do, that they'll always be neighbors of Georgia, but I don't think they have -- I think they've got to realize that actually, the world's moved on and that the relationship that Georgia will have with the West is not to the exclusion of its relationship with Russia. And actually now, it's in the interests of Russia to have a (sovereign ?) Georgia, not a (supile ?) one.

ZAKARIA: But were Georgia to become a member of NATO, Article 5 would commit -- Britain is now in favor officially of Georgia being part of NATO. Article 5 would mean that Britain is saying that if Russia and Georgia went to war, Britain would go to war with Russia over Georgia.

MILIBAND: Well, they couldn't join NATO unless we were willing to make that commitment.

ZAKARIA: So you are willing to make that commitment?

MILIBAND: Well, that depends, doesn't it? It depends on the development of Georgia. It depends on the choices the Georgians make and it depends on the final decision that's made by NATO. What I would say to you is that is still an open question, how that development takes place and what the Georgians want to do and what the Ukrainians want to do. But it would be irresponsible to allow them to become members unless you're willing to make that commitment.

And I think what's really important is to look at the experience in the Baltics. See, those three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, they're now members of the EU and they're members of NATO. And they are embedded in Western liberal institutions more or less. And that's fundamentally why they're safe. They are confident in themselves, they're confident in their own people, and the idea of them trying to be subjugated from outside is something that, you know, I don't think is really in the cards.

Now, the Ukraine question is different from the Georgia question; I think that's worth teasing out. You -- I don't really accept that -- you said, is there a -- they're either -- you either consolidate existing members or think about future members. I think that that's a bit of a false choice, really, because the future members, you are going to build up their capacity and then you'll be able to make a decision about them. Or they'll be able to make a decision and you're going to have to decide whether to ratify.

ZAKARIA: I'm going to turn it over to all the rest of you, but I wanted to ask you one thing. You know, you think you're in -- you're outside Britain, so you're going to be spared the unending questions that you're asked in Britain. But I'm going to ask you a variant of the questions that you're asked in Britain all the time.

Why do you think that the Labor Party is in so much trouble these days? I mean, do you -- is it just the exhaustion of having been in power this long? Or is it that -- if you look at Europe, Sarkozy is doing well in France, Merkel is nominally chancellor of Germany. The left in Britain seems to be doing badly, you know, Boris Johnson is mayor of London. It doesn't seem as though this is a good time in Europe to be a left wing politician. Why?

MILIBAND: Well, I think that the left is on the rebound at the moment, because we were -- if you think back to 2002, France had a socialist prime minister, Germany had Schroder, the Social Democratic chancellor -- Spain, Sweden, U.K.

Now, incumbency is an act of -- you have to defy political gravity, and that's the definition of incumbency. And the longer you're in, the harder it is to do it. And winning the fourth time is harder than winning three times and winning twice is harder than winning once. And we're trying to defy political gravity, because in the end, the assumption is the -- the pendulum swings. And we're trying to defy political gravity at a time of big economic change. And actually, Sarkozy's more popular than he was, but I don't think -- you know, if you look at the -- if -- I think he'll want to be doing much better. It's not an easy time to be an incumbent anywhere.

And under your system, the incumbents are spared having to run for a third time. So the incumbent party can run as the party of change. (Laughter.) And the -- and that's what we are -- what I always used to say for the -- in the 2005 election, I said that we were offering more change than the Tories, even though we were the incumbents.

And the key to success, especially if you're a progressive party, I think, is to always be -- the way I put it is you've got to be an insurgent, not an incumbent. And once you become an incumbent and become part of the establishment, then you're going to ask for a kicking, really.

And I think that mid-terms are always a tricky time, but I think that what's interesting about the U.K. at the moment is that there hasn't been a shift in the ideological balance of power that would mirror the -- or be a precursor of the shift in the polls at the moment. And in '97 and '79, you saw big shifts in the ideological center of gravity. That hasn't happened. You've got the Conservative Party in the U.K. trying to repeat what they've done in Sweden, actually, which is to run as progressive ends with conservative means -- so compassionate conservatives, as I suppose you'd say in this country. And that's something that will have to tested, hopefully to destruction in the next couple of years. (Laughter.)

ZAKARIA: All right. Questions. Again, identify yourself.

By the way, this whole thing is on the record, so don't expect any bombshells.

MILIBAND: Are you saying I'm not being very interesting? (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Hello. I'm Ken Roth from Human Rights Watch.

You mentioned in passing that you've been dealing with the effort by a number of African states to convince the U.N. Security Council to suspend the International Criminal Court's efforts to prosecute Bashir, the president of Sudan. And I wanted to follow up on the British position on that, because as I understand it, Britain has articulated appropriately high standards before it would even contemplate a so-called Article 16 deferral.

I mean, essentially, complete cooperation with the deployment of peacekeepers, serious peace negotiations, an end to the attacks on the camps and surrender of the two ICC suspects.

I think everybody agrees that there is no way in the world that in the next three to four months before these charges are confirmed that Sudan would ever meet those standards. And so my question is really sort of why the charade. I mean, I'm not sure that this is convincing any African states that it's a real dialogue about this issue. And what I fear, frankly, is that you're going to very quickly end up having to negotiate under threats of violence by a mass murderer or promises from a serial liar. And wouldn't it be better just to say this guy should be -- you know, should have his day in court in The Hague?

MILIBAND: Well, I'm slightly concerned that presumably on the basis of one article in the Observer, you think that there is a charade, that we are -- (inaudible) -- article in the Observer. (Inaudible) -- before the prosecutor issued his appeal to the court or his -- I mean, not appeal, his --

ZAKARIA: His recommendation or his -

MILIBAND: Yeah, his application, his application to the court. And I was very clear, this is an independent prosecutor, not a political decision. If you ignore the court, the court won't go away, it'll keep coming after you. And it's incumbent on -- and I was able to say this because we're a signatory to the ICC -- it's incumbent on all states to engage and follow through. And that remains our position. And we're not setting conditions for the entry into force of Article 16. Article 16 exists -- that's a fact -- as part of the ICC statute.

So other people can debate it, but it's absolutely clear that the court needs to have its day in court. And that is written into the ICC status. The bar is set high. I think -- I can't remember the exact language, but essentially Article 16 is triggered in exceptional circumstances, more or less. That seems to me to be right, and it's simply a matter of fact that that is the situation, and we will continue to advocate for the court as an independent entity and continue to fulfill our responsibilities as a P-5 member, in saying, well, yes, there is this Article 16 but it sets the bar very high and it's for exceptional circumstances. And that's the plainest way of speaking on it.

ZAKARIA: Yeah?

QUESTIONER: Evelyn Leopold, a journalist at the U.N. If I can follow up Ken Roth's question, you are considering invoking Article 16. I mean, this is pretty common knowledge, and I'm wondering in what way and how.

MILIBAND: I don't think that --

QUESTIONER: And, secondly, can I ask something on Iran quickly?

ZAKARIA: No, not now. One question per person, and you just asked it.

MILIBAND: I don't think -- you allege that we're considering it. That's not true, actually. Other people are advocating the invocation of Article 16, and we've said nothing's happened to justify the --

ZAKARIA: Do you want to explain Article 16?

MILIBAND: Article 16 is to postpone by a year an indictment and to give a year's stay of the indictment. Other people are proposing that publicly. We said we haven't see anything yet that justifies the invocation of Article 16. The facts of Article 16's existence and the role it plays in exceptional circumstances is there.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you a kind of slightly stepping-back question. If you're trying to get Bashir to do something, is it helpful or unhelpful to have an indictment? In other words, is it going to be easier to scare him into doing something, or does it put his back up against the wall and actually makes it -- complicates your life? If the point here is to get some kind of a political resolution where maybe, you know, he does resign, but more importantly, that there's some kind of resolution of Darfur --

MILIBAND: I think that that is a question which is reasonable for commentators to make, to pronounce on. But if you're a foreign minister and you say the decisions of the court are independent decisions that should be taken on the basis of the facts and the law, and that political decisions should be taken on the basis of -- the situation is not helpful for me to speculate as to the right way to put, quote-unquote, "pressure" on a member state. I believe all member states should cooperate with the ICC in full.

ZAKARIA: Including your closest ally?

MILIBAND: All member states should -- all states should cooperate. But I don't think it would be -- I think that would -- if I said to you how I thought the court should be, quote-unquote, "used" to put pressure on a president of a country, I think that would be to abuse the independence of the court. I think I have to be careful in that.

ZAKARIA: There, at the back.

QUESTIONER: Stewart Patrick. I am a senior fellow here directing a new program on International Institutions and Global Governance. And I wanted to pick up on the third of your points for a Transatlantic Global Agenda. It seems to me that in addition to coming up with new rules for sovereignty in an age of global threats, one of the things we have to worry about is trying to make existing bedrock institutions of international governance more representative, more effective and more accountable.

And in that regard, I understand that the prime minister's office and probably your office as well has done some significant thinking on this, and I'd wonder if you would address in particular three different sets of institutions -- the Security Council, the G-8 and the international financial institutions, and give us some sense of -- I realize it's a tall order. You can choose one if you'd like, but -- (laughter).

ZAKARIA: Very quickly.

MILIBAND: We support U.N. reform, (the four new ?) members plus plus representations from Africa. I think that there's no argument, India, Japan, et cetera, getting them on, is that a way to -- will you get -- will you make the Security Council less or more effective. I believe that there is a -- we are coming towards a crunch, where the lack of legitimacy in the institution is going to fatally wound it. And I think that that is really dangerous. And so that's why I think it's right, although we are one of the P-5 now, I think it's right that we should be advocates of reform.

I also think that the G-8 needs to expand. I think, you know, it's interesting. We were the country that expanded the G-8 to take over the climate agenda in 2005 and created the G-13. I have no sort of theological view that it should be 13, not 14 or -- but I think that it's not going to --

QUESTIONER: Do you think China should be in or out?

MILIBAND: Oh, in. Definitely in. Definitely in. It's got to be in.

ZAKARIA: Ma'am, at the back there.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Peggy Hicks, Human Rights Watch. I wanted to ask about the U.K.'s reluctance to acknowledge the extent of human rights abuses committed by its ally, Ethiopia, in Somalia and the Ogaden. And wouldn't U.K. interests be better served in combatting terrorism and development in those places by confronting those abuses and pushing for accountability?

MILIBAND: That's really tough. I mean, I don't know is the answer to that, really. I think that -- I think it's less about whether or not the U.K. is living up to its own high standards, which I think we do. I think it's more how on earth are we going to make progress. As we're meeting now, my colleague, the secretary for International Development, is meeting the Ethiopian prime minister. I don't know the answer to your question, is the truth.

I mean, I know what you're saying and I can see what you're arguing for. I don't think -- and I don't think it's actually about the sort of -- it's not really -- it's a rather more profound question than whether or not the U.K. is living up to its own high standards. It's about how are you going to get progress there. I don't know the answer to that. Sorry.

ZAKARIA: Oh, Andy Moravcsik.

QUESTIONER: Andy Moravcsik from Princeton University and Brookings Institution. We're now into year seven of what used to be called the European Constitution, and we still don't have one. I'm wondering if you think there's still something essential at stake in that constitution, from a British point of view, and if there is, and the constitution cum treaty doesn't go through, whether there's some other way to get it?

MILIBAND: You write about -- (inaudible).

QUESTIONER: Yeah.

MILIBAND: I think I've read some of your -- your stuff, which is good, really good, about Europe. I mean, we're not going to have a constitution, because that's been abandoned. And the attempt to scrap all previous EU treaties and create new ones has been abandoned. What we've got -- an amending treaty, the greatest achievement of which is to ban further institutional reform for at least 10 years. And that is a very important thing.

Because one reason the EU is unpopular is it's spent the last seven years examining its own plumbing. And that is a very, very bad thing to do. It completely hollows out the institution's capacity to be a powerful and effective voice, because it's examining itself. And I think that the most important -- I mean, the treaty has to be passed in all 27 countries in order to come into force.

It does make some useful institutional reforms, help the EU cope with being rather than 15. But I don't think it's -- no one would claim it's a revolutionary change. There's some more qualified majority voting in areas like energy, which is quite useful, overseas aid. It cleans up some of the commission structures so that there's real integrity to the foreign policy structures, and that's a good thing.

But I don't think it's -- the most significant thing is it ends this period of institutional introspection, and I'm a great believer that you've got to -- you lead with function and then get the form, rather than get the form and then get the function. And I think that the EU's challenge is really an exciting one, because for 40 years, the EU has been driven forward by a view that the threats to its security and prosperity come from within its borders. Originally they came from the idea of war between states. But then it became through unemployment and poor labor standards and poor environmental standards. And that project carries on. You've got (internal ?) market, single currency, et cetera.

However, in the modern world, the big threats to Europe's security and prosperity come from beyond its borders. So that's why I talk about a second wing of the European airplane. The first wing is internal market, internal social standards, et cetera. The second wing is that Europe should be a powerful voice in the world.

ZAKARIA: Does Europe need a powerful foreign minister, if that's the case?

MILIBAND: Well, I think it would be -- at the moment, it's got two, almost three. In this -- it's got Xavier Solana, High Representative, it's got a Benita Ferrero Waldner, External Relations, it's got Barroso, the head of the Commission. I think that the proposal in the Lisbon Treaty, which is to merge at least two of those jobs, I think is a good thing. We don't call it foreign minister.

But we -- there are 27 foreign ministers, and it's the job of the high representative, I mean, the job is ghastly. The -- is to carry out the will of the 27.

And the real challenge is can you have a coherent foreign policy of 27 or will you always fall to the lowest common denominator. If you think about what's happened in Kosovo in the last year, that has not been lowest common denominator politics. It's actually a story of highest common factor. Not every country has recognized the new Kosovo, 21 countries are recognized. But 27 countries agreed to put 2,000 ESPP monitors in there -- or ESPP peacekeepers in there. And you've got 16,000 NATO troops as well, and they're not being fired on. And anyone who knows anything about the Western Balkans in the '90s will know that's a pretty remarkable development.

ZAKARIA: Sir.

QUESTIONER: Henry Breed from the U.N. General Assembly.

Two of the principle themes in this week's general debate have been the financial crisis on one hand and the Millennium Development Goals on the other. Your government this morning talked very effectively, very convincingly about the need to maintain commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in the face of the financial crisis. How do you see that happening, and how do you see convincing your constituency of its virtue?

MILIBAND: Hmm, that's really interesting. I mean, when the prime minister spoke at the U.N. General Assembly today, and he talked -- he took head-on the argument does the financial crisis mean that the world is going to relax on the Millennium Development Goals. And he argued it mustn't. And in the end, that comes down to politics.

Now, what's happened in U.K. in the last 11 years is that -- and that's been a period of economic growth, it's not yet a test for the proposition. Year on year, average incomes have grown. Over a few days, instead of going down, it's gone up. And we've now got a timetable to reach our (1.7 percent ?). And I think that the -- and all the other parties are now committed to the same timetable. So the politics has changed in a pretty fundamental way.

And I don't think it'll get rolled back, interestingly enough because I think the political center of gravity has shifted on this issue. Whether or not that is doable internationally -- I mean, there is pressure on some European countries on overseas aid commitment. I just think it's very, very important that they're going because it's a matter of politics.

One thing that will make a difference -- I think -- I wrote the '97 Manifesto and it -- the -- (inaudible) -- Manifesto -- and it was too easy to say you can make poverty history by increasing aid. I think people now are much more conscious that trade, conflict prevention, good governance as well as aid are vital to it. And I would say that people will, if we look like we're taking the pressure off on good governance and trade and conflict prevention, then we'll be in trouble on the aid commitment.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Joanna Wechsler, Security Council Report.

You started out talking about the power shifts, and it seems that there have been some power shifts also within the Security Council of the U.N. And in particular, within the P-5, we had two double vetoes -- the first two double vetoes since the end of the Cold War -- one on Burma, one on Zimbabwe. These just happened to be cases related to democracy and human rights. So A, do you think this is a trend? And B, what needs to be done -- what can be done for the Council to regain a degree of consensus and to simply be able to be effective?

MILIBAND: Can I ask you a question? Were those really the first double vetoes since the end of the Cold War?

QUESTIONER: Yeah, double.

MILIBAND: That's really significant. That's very, very significant -- Burma and Zimbabwe. Look, the issue at the heart of it is ironic given what's happened in South Ossetia, because the issue that drew the Russians and then the Chinese to veto was, quote, "We don't interfere in the internal affairs of other countries." So it -- this is a profound issue, not a -- not a peripheral one.

And I think it is significant that -- someone said that the Zimbabwe vote was a sort of canary in the mine for Russia's new attitude. In fact, you could argue it was the opposite, because they argued against intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. I think that there is real -- we've got to be honest, there's division about it, a fundamental division.

And I went to China in February, and I gave a speech there about what I called responsible sovereignty, which tried to take head-on -- Bob Zoellick made a speech about responsible stakeholder. There was no such word as stakeholder in Mandarin. So I thought it was important to try to take on -- to accept national sovereignty as being a really important foundation of global order.

But then ask yourself, is it qualified at all? I mean, I think it's qualified in two senses. One, it's qualified -- if you abuse your own people, then your sovereignty is qualified and you do make yourself susceptible to foreign intervention of a range of kinds, not only military. But secondly, if you abuse the rights of others beyond your own borders, that also carries consequences. And so I think that it's -- sovereignty is qualified. But I think we have to engage on that debate.

Now, what's interesting, I think, about the debate in China in an area -- let's think of a less contentious area, so climate change. The debate has changed there, partly because they recognize responsibilities for the wider community. And I think that the Chinese debate has moved on climate change, myself -- there are probably Chinese scholars here who've got a better view than I, but I think it has changed.

Now, that's, in a way, the easy one, because it's -- or easy is the wrong way of putting it. It's an easier one. On the hard security end, there's still very, very strong difficulties.

And I think that the way this will be played out, which is a way of answering your question, is how responsibility to protect is developed or is not developed because is I think is why quite a few people have got a buyer's remorse about the R2P. And I think that's pretty serious. But that's the way you'll see these developed.

QUESTIONER: Were the Chinese helpful on Burma or not? Condi Rice says that they were actually somewhat helpful.

MILIBAND: I think she's -- (inaudible). They were more helpful than some other countries. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: There are two countries that border Burma, China and India.

QUESTIONER: My name is Roland Paul.

I hope you don't think this is an awkward or tactless question, but it's common knowledge that Gordon Brown is struggling to be -- to retain his position as prime minister of England, and your name is mentioned as a likely alternative. But according to The New York Times, a couple of days ago, Brown said or did something that was a brilliant stroke to turn the tables on you and, you know, The Times, in its fine reporting, failed to say what that was. So maybe you could -- (laughter) -- if you could tell us what the --

MILIBAND: I can put your mind --

(Cross talk.)

MILIBAND: -- he didn't need to turn the tables. He made an outstanding speech at the party conference, which is a good thing. I don't support the leadership election in the Labor Party, and we carry on on that basis. He made a great speech. He's got -- he's a man of real values and integrity and drive. And I think you've seen that on show, actually, in -- (inaudible) -- of the U.N. fora this week. The Millennium Development Goals summit yesterday was in large part his creation. And so I would say to you, don't believe everything you read in the newspapers.

QUESTIONER: Except The Guardian. (Laughter.)

MILIBAND: What?

QUESTIONER: Except The Guardian.

MILIBAND: Why The Guardian?

QUESTIONER: Your article in The Guardian in which you laid out a vision for the Labor Party.

MILIBAND: But that -- I mean, Gordon himself said -- this was an article that any member of the cabinet could've written and he could've written. So it's slightly odd to say that that's sort of against what he's saying. And I think it's important that if you're in politics, you've got to run your own department. You've also got to stand up for the correct of -- responsibility of the government as a whole, and that's what I'm doing.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Lane Green from the Economist Magazine. I think it MacMillan (ph) who said that Britain should be wise old Greece to America's Rome. Right now, it's looking like we're Rome at about 475 A.D. (Laughter.) And a quick plug. On Economist.com, we're running a thing called the Global Electoral College, where everybody in the world outside the United States can vote for president. We have an embarrassingly blue map, almost entirely except for El Salvador, which is currently barely leaning John McCain. (Laughter.)

But one of these guys is going to be president of the United States. And without fear or favor, what's the first piece of advice you would, as wise old Greece, give to -- (laughter) -- give to Rome? What's the first symbolic or practical thing that a new president can do to restore America's reputation?

MILIBAND: Well, that's interesting. That's interesting. I mean, I hate the sort of snobbery that's associated with British pretensions to lecturing in a (minimite ?) way, so I'd prefer not to do it in that -- you can probably learn more from our mistakes than from our electorates. But what would be the first --

QUESTIONER: -- don't invade Iraq, but that's done. (Laughter.)

MILIBAND: I think -- I tell you what -- actually, what I would think -- the last time I was here, I -- we had a dinner at the -- our ambassador to the U.N., and we spent quite a lot of the dinner debating this man's book, which none of us had read, but we'd all read the -- (laughter) --

QUESTIONER: So was it like Oxford High Table all over again?

MILIBAND: Actually, if I'd really had my wits about me, which none of us had brought, then yeah. (Laughter.) But we had read the helpful summary on the Sons of Foreign Affairs. The title -- we all knew the title.

I think the most -- don't underestimate American power would be my piece of advice. This is still -- I mean, Brent Scowcroft wrote this article saying -- and it's partly -- remember, I started by talking about how this may be one of the last chances for the trans-Atlantic alliance to set a global agenda. And part of my thinking on that is inspired by what Brent Scowcroft said, which was -- I think in The National Interest, he wrote an article saying America is the only superpower, and it will remain superordinary in all sorts of ways for the next 20 years, but name one country that can get the world to do what it wants on its own in the modern world. And I think that's an important point.

However, don't underestimate American power and don't become too sort of hangdog or embarrassed about yourselves, because this is still a country with huge ability to be a force for good around the world and is a force for good around in the world in all sorts of ways. And I think that if the next president comes in in the sense of somehow feeling that things can't be done, that's going to be a problem. Any of the big problems that need to be done can only be done if you're on the bus. And so whether it's inequality and climate change or conflict prevention or counterproliferation, which we have to mention because these people have come here to talk about it. (Laughter.)

(Cross talk.)

QUESTIONER: -- gives you a chance to talk about -- on Iran, the --

MILIBAND: The counterproliferation -- remember, but two challenges to the counterproliferation agenda, just to let me do my 30 seconds on this. There are three commitments in the NPT. One is not to proliferate; the other is not to -- it's to disarm; and the other is to promote safe use of civilian nuclear power.

And the whole disarmament argument is a very important part of this because the allegation of hypocrisy is that we rearm like crazy ourselves and we stop everyone else. Actually, we're serious about our disarmament responsibility. We've had a 75 percent reduction in our nuclear arsenal over the last 10 years. And I think that the debate has been started about -- by the shots at our group, a world full of nuclear weapons, et cetera, is an important part of the conditioning to help -- we make the NPT bargain.

And I think the bargain has to be remade because it's been a brilliant bargain. I mean, it is amazing that in a world where 40 or 50 countries have the power -- economic, scientific, et cetera -- to be nuclear weapons states, you know, less than 10 are. That is a remarkable thing. Kennedy predicted, I think, by mid-80s -- or mid-70s, he said -- mid '80s -- he predicted in 1962 that there would be 30 nuclear weapons states. There could be, but there aren't. And that is significantly because of the NPT regime.

But I think the bargain has to be remade because the forces that are trying to split it asunder are strong. The P-5, I think, has lost a bit of focus on this -- which I think is dangerous -- since the Cold War. The spread of civilian nuclear power has given lots more explanation of how to do this stuff. There's various people trying to spread knowledge about how you weaponize. So we've got to -- we can't -- I think for sometime, since the Cold War, we've lived in a world where we thought, oh, well the NPT is fine, it's okay. We've got to really defend it aggressively if we want it to last, and that means you have to defend it aggressively on the nonproliferation front. We also defend it aggressively on the disarmament front.

That's the end of my piece.

ZAKARIA: Benjamin Barber?

QUESTIONER: Thanks. Benjamin Barber at Demos, New York. Hi, David.

MILIBAND: Hi.

QUESTIONER: This question about the global blue vote suggests to me one of the reasons so many Americans vote red, and it's a problem because that sense that the world votes one way pushes America the other way.

And my question, therefore, comes back to your starting point where you said that we -- this is the last, perhaps, American vote where there will be a chance to elect leadership that's capable of a shared EU-UK-USA global leadership role. And my question is, do you think that depends exclusively on geopolitical factors so that the outcome of the vote here and the outcome next year in England have nothing to do with that and there's a chance, no matter who wins, either side, that goes forward? Or does it depend on, not just geopolitical but ideological alignments -- say, a Labor victory or a Democratic victory or David Cameron and McCain. In other words, is there an ideological impediment to that shared leadership in place? Or do you think, really, the issues are generic and geopolitical and it's not so important who wins the election on either side?

MILIBAND: Well, I think it's -- the important thing to -- I tried to say, Europe-America, not just UK-U.S., and I think that's important. And I think you've got quite an important constellation across the left-right divide in Europe -- you know, Mrs. Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown -- Gordon Brown, spanning the political spectrum. You've got real commitments to trans-Atlantic joint work. And I think that's significant. And so in that sense, I don't think this is a simple left-right thing.

Having said that, I do believe that if you want order and stability in the modern world, you can only forge it on the basis of progressive values. Unless you're willing to take on forces of inequality, unless you're willing to stand up for promoting democracy, unless you're willing to share sovereignty, I don't see how you tackle the modern problems. And so you can take that as you will, but I don't think it's a simple left-right thing. I think that there's an important -- I think that's -- interestingly enough, within Europe, you can get people to sign up for those propositions from both a center-right and a center-left perspective, which I think is interesting. And so of course the individuals are elected who can make a difference. And it's not just all sort of ineluctable forces.

But I think that -- what I think is significant and what a really important message for an American audience, I think, is that there is a real recognition on the side of Europe that we've got to get our act together and become better partners, but we want to. And I think it's quite a significant thing that certainly would accrue in the same way. I yield again.

ZAKARIA: All right. Our Council traditions are not as old as British traditions, but one of them is that we always end on time.

You can see why David Miliband is regarded as having such an extraordinary political future. He has this hollowed millstone around his neck, which is the current job he occupies that would normally be considered the most important -- (inaudible) -- the crowning job of any politician's career, and people are just waiting for him to ascend to Number 10 Downing Street.

But I think it is worth saying he has been an extraordinary foreign secretary so far, extraordinarily energetic and intelligent, and we look forward to many more years in this job and whatever else the future may hold. (Applause.)

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