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    Michelle Gavin, CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies, leads a conversation on African politics and security issues.     FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the CFR fall of 2021 Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Michelle Gavin with us today to talk about African politics and security issues. Ambassador Gavin is CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies. Previously, she was managing director of the Africa Center, a multidisciplinary institution dedicated to increasing understanding of contemporary Africa. From 2011 to 2014, she served as the U.S. ambassador to Botswana and as the U.S. representative to the Southern African Development Community, and prior to that, she was a special assistant to President Obama and the senior director for Africa at the National Security Council. And before going into the Obama administration, she was an international affairs fellow and adjunct fellow for Africa at CFR. So we are so delighted to have her back in our fold. So, Michelle, thank you very much for being with us. We have just seen that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went on a trip to Africa. Maybe you could begin by talking about the strategic framework that he laid out on that trip, and then we have in just recent days—with a new variant of Omicron—seen the travel ban imposed on several African countries and what that means for the strategic vision that he laid out. GAVIN: Sure. Thank you. Well, thank you so much for inviting me to join you today. And I looked at the roster. There’s so much amazing expertise and knowledge on this Zoom. I really look forward to the exchange and the questions. I know I’ll be learning from all of you. But maybe just to start out to talk a little bit about Secretary Blinken’s trip because I think that, in many ways, his efforts to sort of reframe U.S. engagement on the continent, trying to move away from this sort of binary major power rivalry lens that the Trump administration had been using is useful, but also exposes, really, a lot of the challenges that policymakers focused on Africa are dealing with right now. So he tried to reset the relationship in the context of a partnership, of purely acknowledging African priorities and African agency in determining what kind of development partners Africa is interested in, what kind of security partners. I think that’s a very useful exercise. Then he kind of ticked through, as every official has to do in making these big framing statements as sort of broad areas of engagement and cooperation, and he talked about increasing trade, which, of course, is interesting right now with AGOA sunsetting soon, working together to combat pandemic diseases, particularly COVID, working together on climate change, where, of course, Africa has borne more consequences than many other regions of the world while contributing far less to the problem, working together on the democratic backsliding and authoritarian sort of surge that we’ve seen around the world and, finally, working together on peace and security. So this huge agenda, and I think what’s interesting and what in many ways his trip made clear is that it’s very hard to get to the first four points when the last one, the peace and security element, is in chaos. And, look, obviously, Africa’s a big continent. All of us who ever engage in these conversations about Africa are always—are forever trying to provide the disclaimer, right, that there’s never one African story. There’s never one thing happening in this incredibly diverse continent. But it is the case that the peace and security outlook on the continent is really in bad shape, right. And so the secretary traveled to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal. The headlines from his trip, really, were dominated by the disorder in the Horn of Africa that we’re seeing right now. So you have the civil conflict in Ethiopia, which has been incredibly costly to that country in terms of lives, in terms of their economic outlook, has been characterized by atrocities of war crimes. And, I think right now, most observers are very concerned about the integrity of the Ethiopian state, its capacity to persist. Regardless of today, tomorrow, or next week’s military developments, it’s very hard to see a lasting and sustainable military solution to this conflict and the parties do not appear, really, amenable to a serious political negotiation. But it’s not just Ethiopia, of course. It’s Sudan, where we saw the tenuous military-civilian transitional government kind of fully hijacked by the military side of that equation in a coup that has been, really, rejected by so many Sudanese citizens who are still on the streets even today trying to push back against the notion of military dominance in their transition and beyond, and they are being met with violence and intimidation. And the outlook there is quite worrying. You’ve got border clashes between Ethiopia and Sudan. You have electoral crisis in Somalia. So the Horn, you know, is looking like a very, very tough neighborhood. And, of course, everyone is concerned about the impact on Kenya and East Africa itself, given the insurgency in Mozambique, which has more than once affected neighboring Tanzania, these bombings in Uganda and the sense of instability there. The picture is one of multiple crises, none of which come with easy fixes or purely military solutions. And then you have this kind of metastasizing instability throughout the Sahel, right, and the concern that more and more states will fall victim to extremely worrisome instability and the very costly violence. So there’s a huge security agenda and we’re just—we’re all aware of the basic facts that it’s very hard to make progress on partnerships to support democratic governance in the midst of conflict. It’s very hard to come together on climate change or to fight a pandemic in the midst of these kinds of circumstances. So I think it’s a really challenging picture. And just to pull a couple of these threads, on this issue of democratic backsliding the Biden administration’s desire to build more solidarity among kind of like-minded countries whose democracies may take different forms but who buy into a basic set of democratic values, it’s undeniable that the trend lines in Africa have been worrisome for some time and we do see a lot of these kind of democratic authoritarian states, these states where you get some of the form, some of the theater, of democracy, particularly in the form of elections, but no real capacity for citizens to hold government accountable. It’s not really a kind of a demand-driven democratic process, that the fix is often in on these elections, and there is polling, right, that suggests that this is turning people off of democratic governance in general, right. If what you understand democratic governance to be is a sham election, you know, at regular intervals while you continue to be governed by a set of individuals who are not really beholden to the electorate, right, and are protecting a very small set of interests, then it’s not surprising to see some waning enthusiasm. It’s not that other forms of government are necessarily looking great to African populations, but I think it is notable in some of that Afrobarometer polling in places where you wouldn’t expect it, right, like South Africa, where people sacrificed so much for democracy, and you really do see a real decline in enthusiasm for that form of governance. So there’s a lot of work to be done there. The last thing, just because you brought it up, on the latest news about this new variant, the Omicron variant—I may be saying that wrong. It may be Omicron. Perhaps someone will correct me. And the kind of quick policy choice to institute a travel ban on a number of southern African countries. So I do think that in the context of this pandemic, right, which has been economically devastating to the continent—where the global economic downturn that occurred for Africans, too, but you had governments with very little fiscal space in which to try to offset the pain for their populations. In addition, you have had the issues of vaccine inequity, right, where it’s just taken far too long to get access to vaccines for many African populations—it’s still not adequate in many places—and a sort of sense that the deal initially proposed in the form of COVAX wasn’t really what happened—you know, a feeling of a bait and switch—that looks like—what it looks like is disregard for African lives. And while I am really sympathetic—I used to work in government and it’s crystal clear when you do that your first responsibility is the safety of the American people—these travel bans sort of fit into a narrative, right, about scapegoating, about disregard for African life that, I think, is going to make it awfully hard for this new reframing of respect and partnership, right, to really resonate. And I would just note, as a former U.S. ambassador in Botswana, that the scientists in the lab in Gaborone and the scientists in South Africa who did the sequencing and helped to alert the world to this new variant, right, were doing us all a tremendous favor. It’s not at all clear that this variant started in southern Africa, right. We know that it exists on every continent right now except Antarctica. We know that samples taken in Europe before these discoveries were made in southern Africa—just tested later—showed that the variant was already there. And so it is a bit hard to explain why specifically southern Africans are banned from travel. You know, I think it’s unfortunate. There are other policies that could be pursued around testing, around quarantine requirements. So I’ll leave that there. I’m not a public health expert. But I think it’s—I’m glad you brought it up because I think these things do really resonate and they inform how the United States is understood on the continent. They inform how Africans understand global institutions and kind of global governance to reflect or not reflect their concerns and interests. And if what the Biden administration wants is partners in this notion of democratic solidarity and partners in trying to reconstruct kind of international institutions a sense of global order, a norms-based rules-based approach to multilateral challenges, it’s going to be hard to get the African buy-in that is absolutely necessary to achieve those goals when these kinds of issues continue to give the impression that Africa is an afterthought. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much, Michelle. That was really a great overview for us. So now we want to go to all of you. You can raise your hand—click on the raised hand icon to ask a question—and when I recognize you please unmute yourself and state your affiliation. Otherwise, you can submit a written question in the Q&A box, and if you do write a question please say what institution you’re with so that I can read it and identify you properly and—great. Our first hand raised is from Dr. Sherice Janaye Nelson. And let me just say, the “Zoom user,” can you please rename yourself so we know who you are? So, Dr. Nelson, over to you. Q: Good afternoon, everyone. Dr. Sherice Janaye Nelson from Southern University. I’m a political science professor in the department. And the question, I guess, I have is that we know that the African people have a history of nondemocratic governance, right? And when we look at a place like Tunisia, we know that one of the reasons in the Arab Spring that they were so successful—although often considered an Arab country, they are successful because there had been tenets of democracy that were already broiled in the society. The question I have is that to these places that do not have that institutional understanding or have even—maybe don’t even have the values to align with democracy, are we foolhardy to continue to try to support democratic governance as the full-throated support versus trying to look at more of a hybrid of a sovereign situation that allows for, in many ways, a kingdom, a dictator, and et cetera, with then a democratic arm? Thank you so much. GAVIN: Thanks, Dr. Nelson. It’s an interesting question, and I agree with you insofar as I think that it’s really interesting to think about the kind of governance antecedents in a bunch of African countries, particularly in the pre-colonial era, right, and try to figure out how they find expression afterwards. There’s no question that, you know, colonialism doesn’t set the table well for democracy. There’s no doubt about that. But I would say that, you know, despite the loss of faith in democratic governance that we’ve seen in some of the polling, you know, very consistently for a long time what you’ve seen is that African populations do seem to want democratic governance. They want to be able to hold their leaders accountable. They want everyone to have to abide by the law. They want basic protections for their rights. So, you know, I’m not sure that there’s any society that’s particularly ill-suited to that. But I do think that democracy comes in many forms and it’s always particularly powerful when there is, you know, some historical resonance there. I also—you know, if we take a case like one of the world’s last absolute monarchies in eSwatini right now what you see is a pretty persistent civic movement demanding more accountability and less power for the monarch, more protection for individual rights. And so, you know, I’m not—I think that people are feeling disillusioned and frustrated in many cases and you see this, too, in the enthusiasm with which several of the recent coups in West Africa have been met—you know, people pouring out into the streets to celebrate because they’re frustrated with the status quo. They’re interested in change. But very rarely do you see then persistent support for, say, military dictatorships or military-dominated government. So I’m not sure that the frustration means enthusiasm for some of these other governing models. People want democracy to work a lot better. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Lucy Dunderdale Cate. Q: Hi. Yes. I’m Lucy Dunderdale Cate. I’m with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I wanted to just ask you about kind of the African Union’s role in this, you know, particularly and with the Biden administration, and thinking about, you know, the Horn of Africa security issues that you mentioned. Kind of where do you see that we’re going and what do you see kind of for the future there? Thank you. GAVIN: Sure. Thanks for that question. I think the AU, for all of its flaws—and, you know, find me a multilateral organization that isn’t flawed—is actually incredibly important. You know, for the Biden administration, which has kind of staked out this position that international institutions matter and multilateral institutions matter, they’ve got to work better, we can’t address the threats we all face without these functioning and they may need to be modernized or updated but we need them, then the AU is a really important piece of that puzzle. And I think, you know, right now, for example, in Ethiopia that the—it’s the AU’s negotiator, former Nigerian President Obasanjo, who really is in the lead in trying to find some glimmer of space for a political solution, and this was a little bit late in the day in terms of AU activism on this issue and I think it’s been a particularly difficult crisis for the AU to address in part because of being headquartered in Addis and sort of operating within a media and information environment in Ethiopia that is one that does not create a lot of space for divergence from the federal government’s position. So I think that, in the end, right, the prospect of the collapse of a 110-million-strong country, a place that used to be an exporter of security, a major diplomatic player in the region, right, spurred AU action. But it’s been a little bit—more than a little bit slow. But you have seen some pretty forward-leaning stance at the AU as well. Their response to the military coup in Sudan this fall was pretty robust and clear. Now this sort of new transitional arrangement that appears to be more palatable to much of the international community than to many Sudanese citizens is a—we’re wading into murkier waters there. But I think the AU, you know, it’s the only game in town. It’s essential, and particularly in the Horn where the subregional organization EGAD is so incredibly weak that the AU, as a vehicle for an African expression of rules-based norms-based order, is—you know, actually its success is incredibly important to the success of this major U.S. foreign policy plank. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Rami Jackson. How much of the democratic backsliding is supported by outside powers? For example, there was a chance for a democratic movement in Chad but the French threw their weight behind Déby’s son after he was shot. GAVIN: That’s a great question. I think that it’s, certainly, not the case that external partners or actors are always positive forces, right, for democratic governance on the continent. There’s no doubt about that, and it can be France and Chad. It can be, you know, Russian machinations in Central African Republic. There’s a lot. It can be some of the Gulf states in Sudan, right, who—or Egypt, who seem very comfortable with the idea of military dominance and maybe some civilian window dressing for this transition. So you’re right that external actors are kind of an important piece of the puzzle. You know, I don’t think that there are many situations where there is a single external actor who is capable of entirely influencing the direction of government. But there are, certainly, situations where one external actor is tremendously powerful. Chad is a great example, again. And it is something that, I think, you know, again, an administration that has staked so much of its credibility on the notion that this is something very important to them, you know, is going to have to deal with. And it’s thorny, right. Foreign policy always is where you have competing priorities. You need to get important work done sometimes with actors who do not share your norms and values, and it’s the messiness of trying to articulate and integrate values in a foreign policy portfolio that runs the gamut, right, from counterterrorism concerns to economic interests. But I think that those are tensions that the administration will continue to have to deal with probably a little more publicly than an administration who didn’t spend much time talking about the importance of democratic governance. FASKIANOS: Great. And I just want to mention that Rami is a graduate student at Syracuse University. So I’m going to go next to a raised hand from Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome. I know you wrote your question, too. Q: Good afternoon. Thank you very much. Yes. FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: I wrote my question because I couldn’t figure out how to name myself on the phone. You know, thank you for your presentation. When I look at democracy in Africa—I mean, this is not the first go-round—and the response by people, by citizens, to the backsliding by governments is not—it looks familiar to me because, you know, in the 1960s—from the 1960s, there were similar responses. People were dissatisfied. They welcomed authoritarian governments again and again because the government they voted for rigged elections, were also authoritarian, and they were kleptocratic. So what’s different now and where’s the continuity and what has changed, really, with democracy? The other thing is about this COVID—the management of the COVID situation. I also kind of see the—I think I agree with you. The way Africa is being treated looks very familiar—you know, with disdain, with disrespect, as if the lives of the people there don’t matter as much. And what is it going to take, really, to change the—because, you know, if a pandemic that cannot be stopped by walls and borders is not instigating change what is it going to take to change the way in which world politics is—world politics and its governance is done? GAVIN: Fantastic questions and ones that, I think we could talk about for, you know, a week-long conference. But so I’ll start from the beginning and just take a stab. I think you’re absolutely right. There have been these interesting cycles when it comes to governance on the continent and I think—when I think about sort of what’s different from what we were seeing in, say, toward the end of the ’60s, I think it’s a couple things. One is geopolitical context, right. So my hope is that what we’re not doing is kind of doing a reprise of this bipolar world where we’re subbing in China’s authoritarian development model for a Soviet Communist model and sitting here on the other side and, you know, trying to manipulate other countries into one camp or another. I don’t think we’re quite there yet and I think the Biden administration is trying very hard not to wade into those waters. So I do think the geopolitical context is a bit different. I also think, you know, that where so many African states are is at—in terms of kind of the scope of their existence as independent entities is an important difference, right. So I think that in the immediate kind of post-colonial era, for an awful lot of governments the fundamental basis for their legitimacy was having—is not being a colonial administrator, not being a puppet of some external power and so the, you know, legitimacy came from liberation, from independence. In places that had terrible conflict sometimes legitimacy came from, you know, delivering some degree of security from a long-standing insecure situation. So, you know, you look at—I think that’s where sort of President Museveni derived a lot of legitimacy in the late ’80s and through the ’90s. And I think that, you know, now, as you have these very significant young populations whose lived experience is not one of ever knowing a time pre-independence, you know, they’re looking for service delivery, right. They’re looking for opportunity. They’re looking for job creation, and I think legitimacy is increasingly going to be derived from the ability to deliver on these priorities. And so I do think that that makes kind of the governance landscape a little bit different, too, sort of different ideas about where governing legitimacy comes from. And, you know, I think that can be manifest in really different ways. But if I had to try and, you know, grab onto that interesting idea about what’s different, that’s what comes to mind. In this, you know, incredibly important question about what’s it going to take to recognize African states as equal players and African lives as—every bit as urgently valuable as any other, you know, I do think that as the world continues to grapple with this pandemic and with other issues that can only be resolved globally, like climate change, it will, over time, kind of force a reckoning and a rethink about what are the important states and what are not. You know, it’s interesting to me, it’s absolutely true that by not moving out robustly to ensure that the whole world has access to vaccines the richest countries have created opportunities for new mutations to emerge. I hesitate to say that, in some ways, in this context because it sounds like I’m positive that these emerged from Africa, and I’m not. But we do know, you know, as a basic matter of science, right, that we’re not safe until everyone’s safe. And so I do think that as these kinds of issues that military might and economic power cannot address alone, where it really does take global solidarity and an awful lot of multilateral cooperation, which is messy and cumbersome, right, and necessary, my hope is that that will start to change perceptions in framing. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to go next to a written question from Abbey Reynolds, who’s an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. What steps do you think that international and regional organizations can take to preempt future attempts to derail democratic governance in the region—coups, circumvention of constitutional term letter—limits, rigged elections, et cetera? GAVIN: OK. I’m sorry. What steps should who take? I’m sorry. FASKIANOS: Multilateral—international and regional organizations. GAVIN: OK. You know, I think that in a number of cases subregional organizations have been taking steps, right—ECOWAS, certainly, in rejecting coups and suspending memberships, et cetera. I think, you know, if you look at the sort of articulated and documented principles of a lot of these organizations they’re pretty good. It’s really about the gulf sometimes between stated principles and practice. So, you know, I think the Southern African Development Community is sometimes guilty of this where there are—you know, there’s a clear commitment in static kind of principle documents and protocols around democratic governance but you also have an absolute monarchy that’s a member state of SADC. You’ve had, you know, significant repression in a number of states—Zimbabwe leaps to mind—that SADC doesn’t have, really, anything to say about. So you can have organizations that have kind of principles and procedures. At the end of the day, organizations are made up of member states, right, who have a set of interests, and I think that, you know, how governments understand their interest in standing up for certain norms, it’s—I think it’s specific in many ways to those governments in those states how they derive their own legitimacy, the degree to which they feel they may be living in a glass house, and, you know, frankly, relative power dynamics. So I’m not sure. Certainly, it’s always—you know, I’m a believer in multilateralism. I think from an African point of—you know, if you imagine African states trying to assert themselves on the international stage, multilateralism is really important, right, to get if it’s possible, where interests align, to have as many African states speaking with one voice. It’s a much more powerful message than just a couple individual states. But there are always going to be intrinsic limits. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Gary Prevost with the College of St. Benedict. And if you can unmute yourself. Q: Speaking today, actually, as honorary professor and research associate from Mandela University in South Africa. I’ve had several students in recent years—doctoral and master’s students—study U.S. and allied counterterrorism strategies both in the Middle East and in Africa, and they’ve come away with a general perspective that those strategies going back several administrations have been almost solely focused on military action and that it has led them in their recommendations sections of their theses to argue that other steps must be taken if these efforts in places like Nigeria or Somalia or Mozambique or even in the Middle East, Syria, and Iraq, are to be successful they must have a changed mindset about counter terror. What’s your perspective on that? GAVIN: Well, thanks for that. I wholeheartedly agree, right, and I think, you know, you’ll even get plenty of military officers, right, who will say there’s no way we can address some—these problems, these, you know, kind of radical violent organizations aligned to global terrorist groups with a purely military approach. It’s frustrating. I’m sure it’s frustrating for your students, too, because it feels like everyone keeps coming to this conclusion, and, certainly, there have been efforts to, you know, counter violent extremism, provide opportunity for young people. But we’re not very good at it, right. We haven’t been very good at it yet. There’s still a mismatch in terms of the resources we pour into these kind of relative—these different streams of effort, right. But I think also while it’s very clear in a situation like Mozambique that if you want to weaken the insurgency you need to be providing more opportunity and building more trust in a community that’s been disenfranchised and alienated from the center for a very, very long time. But the how to do that, how to do that effectively and how to do it in a climate of insecurity I actually think is an incredibly difficult challenge, and there are, you know, brilliant people working on this all the time. You know, some of the best work that I’ve seen suggests that some of this can be done but it’s an incredibly long-term undertaking and that, you know, is sometimes, I think, a difficult thing to sustain support for, particularly in a system like the United States where, you know, our appropriations cycles tend to be very short term. So people are looking for, you know, quick impact, things you can put on a bar graph quickly and say that you’ve done. And I think that, you know, a lot of the kind of peace building research suggests that that’s—that, you know, building community trust, which is a huge part of what needs to happen, operates on a very different kind of timeline. So it’s a really thorny, thorny problem and how to get—you know, how to sustain political and budgetary support for those kinds of efforts. I don’t know the answer yet. I’m sure somebody really smart on—maybe on the Zoom does. FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Pearl Robinson at Tufts University. Q: Hello, Ambassador Gavin. First of all, I’d like to congratulate you in your new position as Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa, and that’s actually—as I’ve been sitting here listening to this, my thought was I’d like to know if you have thought about ways in which you can use your position at the Council to help actualize forms of partnerships about policy dialogues related to Africa. You began by articulating the U.S.’s new strategic vision for Africa. That was an American statement. I haven’t really heard an African statement that would be engaging with that policy dialogue. These one-on-one trips of the secretary of state and other people going to individual African countries, based on our agenda, and having one-on-one dialogue discussions, in a way, does not get towards that real notion of African agency in policy and partnership. So I’m actually wondering whether you might envision the Council playing a role and creating some kinds of policy dialogue fora that would have American(s) and Africans participating in ways that would be visible to American publics as well as African publics. So I’m suggesting that you might, you know, be uniquely well suited to have the Council play a role in actually making visible and operationalizing this concept. I just thought about this sitting here listening because what I realized was everybody talking is talking from the American side and I’m wondering if—well, my dear colleague, Olufúnké, actually was an African voice. But I think what needs to happen is there needs to be a way for this taking place maybe with African institutions, academics, civil society actors. So I just throw that out for you to think about and I’d like to hear your first response to that idea. GAVIN: So I think it’s exciting and I’d love, actually, to follow up with you. I’m delighted that you’re here. I heard some wonderful things about your work. I think there’s always the hard part of, right, who speaks for Africa, right, because there are so many diverse African perspectives. But I don’t think you’re suggesting there’s necessarily a unitary voice. You’re talking about sort of different actors, and I would agree with you that it’s always incredibly rich to have conversations. You know, I recently did a panel with Professor Ed Vitz, who is working on some—working on a paper, I think, that will eventually be a book about sort of U.S.-Africa policy and particularly interested in the kind of frame of major power rivalry. But it was such a refreshing conversation to examine that and compare notes on what we thought the flaws of that frame might be to hear his perspective on where he thought there might be advantages to be seized from it. It was wonderful, and I agree with you that the more dialogue and the more opportunity not just to sort of talk amongst ourselves in a U.S. community that cares about Africa and about U.S. policy the better. You know, I will be honest with you, I often, in a situation like the one right now, I try hard to stick to—to at least keep circling back to U.S. policy because that’s where my background is and I, you know, have no desire to posit myself as speaking on behalf of Africans. That’s nuts and, you know, not my role. But I do—I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the U.S. engages with the continent. And so I think it’s a really interesting notion. I’d love to follow up with you. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take the next written question from Krista Johnston, who’s a professor at Howard University. The African Continental Free Trade Area will create the largest consumer market. What are the barriers U.S. businesses investing in Africa and positioning themselves to take advantage of this new trade area and what can the Biden administration do to incentivize this kind of engagement with China? And perhaps I can tack on another question to that because we have a lot of questions—(laughs)—both raised hands—is just to talk a little bit about China’s footprint in Africa as well. GAVIN: Sure. Well, so I absolutely agree that the African Continental Free Trade Area is a really incredibly promising step forward for African economic integration and that is, you know, compelling in any number of ways. I think, for example, about the very hot topic of pharmaceutical production, right. And between the Free Trade Area, the standing up of the African Medicines Agency, right, which should help to harmonize regulatory standards for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment throughout the continent, investments seem a lot more attractive, right, when you’re looking at much bigger markets than any one country, even than a giant like Nigeria, can provide. So I think that there’s tremendous potential here. I will go back to what I said earlier, which is that even with these positive steps, right, it’s going to be really important that the peace and security parts start trending in the right direction because it’s very—you know, I would say this. U.S. investors are already quite bad at assessing risk in Africa and a backdrop of instability is not going to help that situation, right, and it is, in many cases, going to make a given investment opportunity or partnership opportunity too risky for many. So, you know, there’s just no way to jettison those concerns. But wholeheartedly agree it’s an exciting development. If the world hadn’t gotten sort of hijacked by COVID, I think we’d be talking about it a lot more. On China, you know, the Chinese engagement on the continent is a fact of life that’s existed for a very long time and is not going anywhere. It is economic, it is political, it is, increasingly, cultural, and I think, you know, for a state like China that aspires to be a major global power it’s entirely predictable and understandable. Do I think that there are some ways in which Chinese investment and engagement are not always beneficial to African states? I do. I have concerns, certainly, about the way China sometimes uses its influence to secure African support for Chinese positions that appear antithetical to stated values in AU documents and other(s) and I have concerns about the transparency of some of the arrangements. I have concerns as well about some of the tech standards and just sort of play for technical dominance that maybe does not have the cybersecurity interests of Africans as its top priority. All that said, I think it’s really important for the United States to, you know, understand that there’s no—there’s nothing to be gained by constantly vilifying China’s engagement, some of which has been incredibly helpful for African states hungry, particularly, for financing on major infrastructure projects, and, you know, it’s a fact of life we all have to learn to deal with. I do think, you know, there’s some natural tension between the Biden administration’s democracy focus, right, and the very explicit and intentional efforts of China to present a different model, and I don’t think that the U.S. needs to shy away from that or pretend that those differences don’t exist. But I do think it’s incredibly unhelpful to frame up all of U.S. policy as if it’s intended to counter China as opposed to intended to find those areas in the Venn diagram of, you know, those overlaps of African interests and U.S. interests and work together on them. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Anna Ndumbi, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi. Please unmute yourself. Q: Thank you very much. I really appreciate the presentation. I have a quick question in regards to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is center of Africa. About three years ago, there was a new president that stepped in by the name of Félix Tshisekedi, and he decided to pass a law saying that all the secondary education should be free because, obviously, in Africa schools aren’t free. And I, personally, think that maybe it wasn’t really—it was something they should have probably considered before passing the law. The result of that is that you have classrooms where there were maybe twenty students and now there’s, like, there could be over a hundred students in one classroom, right. So we spoke about the pandemic. When COVID hit a lot of schools were shut down. They were shut down for a long period of time, and when you look at a lot of schools in Africa they don’t have the ability of giving out maybe laptops or anything like that to assist students to continue school at home. So in result of that, you see a lot of children who are really below what they should be, below the average when it comes to education, and my question with that is where do we see the future going as far as maybe having international organization(s) or United States intervene because the future is not bright when we look at education with the children or the youth. How can United Nation(s) or maybe other international organization(s) assist, especially with what happened during COVID, going forward? What does the future look like for Africa? And I’m speaking more for the Democratic Republic of Congo. How can nonprofit organization(s) or United States intervene and assist in this matter? GAVIN: Well, thank you for that, and I have followed this a little bit because it was an interesting and kind of splashy promise and initiative on the part of President Tshisekedi and it’s been disappointing, I think, to see that some of the, you know, government’s budget that was intended to be allocated for that appears to have found its way into a handful of individuals’ accounts. But I think that, you know, the fundamental point you’re making, which is that in DRC but also throughout the African continent, right, there are these vast populations of young people. It is the youngest region of the world. And if you look at it historically at how other parts of the world have dealt with youth bulges, right, investing in that human capital so that they can be drivers of innovation and economic growth has been a really powerful kind of transformational tool—for example, in Asia. And so I definitely think that you’re onto something really important right now about prioritizing investing in young people and their capacity, and you’re absolutely right that the disruptions of the pandemic have, in many cases, fallen most heavily on children. You know, how to tackle that, I think, is sort of—you know, I can’t design a program in this moment, I’ll be honest with you. But I think that you’re absolutely right, it’s an incredibly important and too often easily overlooked priority. You know, there have been some interesting education innovations on the continent but they’re too often kind of small, not scalable, and the need is so incredibly vast. But here, again, I will be a broken record. We do have to go back to this issue that peace and security matters, right. It’s very, very hard for kids to get a sustained education that’s going to provide them with opportunity in a context of insecurity, which, for a lot of children in eastern Congo, is still the case. FASKIANOS: OK. We have three minutes left. I am going to—and so many questions, and I apologize that we’re not going to be able to get to all of you. So I’m going to give the final question to Caleb Sannar. Q: Hi. Yes. Thank you for joining us today, Ambassador Gavin. As they said, my name is Caleb Sanner. I’m a student from the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater. My question is with the Abraham Accords the Trump administration signed the agreement with Morocco to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Following that, there was some discrepancies in the southern territory controlled by the U.N., MINURSO, and the Polisario Front, the external Saharawi government, ended up declaring war again on Morocco, resuming the war from nineteen years previously. My question is what is the Biden administration’s policy on that? GAVIN: Great question. Reporters have been asking that question, too, and with great message discipline the administration continues to say is that they’re supporting U.N. efforts. And so whenever they ask, are you are you going to reconsider this decision regarding recognition of Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara, they respond not by answering that question but by saying they’re supporting U.N. efforts. So that’s the most I can report to you in—regarding that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Well, we are at the end of our time. So, Ambassador Gavin, thank you very much for being with us and, again, to all of you for your fantastic questions, and I apologize for not being able to get to all of you. But we will have to continue doing webinars on this important topic and on digging in a little bit deeper. So we will be announcing the winter-spring academic lineup next month through our academic bulletin. This is the final webinar of this semester. Good luck with your finals—(laughs)—and grading and taking the exams and all of that. I know it’s a very busy and stressful time with the pandemic layered on top of all of it. If you haven’t already subscribed for the bulletin, please, you can do so by emailing us at [email protected] You can follow us on Twitter at @CFR_Academic. And of course, please go to,, and for new research and analysis on global issues. You can see on Michelle’s latest post on Africa—blog posts, so you should follow her there as well. So, again, thank you. Thanks to all of you, and happy holidays, and we look forward to reconvening in 2022.
  • Religion

  • Political History and Theory

  • China

    What is it like to secretly do business with the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party elite? How do ideology, politics, ethics, foreign policy, law, and human relations merge in the actual struggle to get rich in the People’s Republic of China as the party enters its second century? Our speaker, Desmond Shum, discusses his eye-opening and controversial experiences as an “insider” who learned how to rise among China’s power-business elite.
  • Climate Change

    Our panelists review the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, including climate action since the Paris Accords and how governments and businesses can step up to address the complex challenges of climate change and adaptation. 
  • Economics

  • State and Local Governments (U.S.)

  • Nuclear Weapons

    Walter Pincus discusses nuclear security, the testing history of nuclear weapons, and the potential fallout of using nuclear weapons in war. The Paul C. Warnke Lecture on International Security was established in 2002 and is endowed by a number of Council members and the family and friends of Paul C. Warnke. The lecture commemorates his legacy of courageous service to the nation and international peace.
  • Energy and Climate Policy

    Jason Bordoff, cofounding dean, Columbia Climate School, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, and professor of professional practice in international and public affairs at Columbia University, leads a conversation on energy policy and efforts to combat climate change.   FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the CFR Fall 2021 Academic Webinar Series. I am Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record. And the video and transcript will be available on our website, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have with us today Jason Bordoff to talk about energy policy and efforts to combat climate change. Jason Bordoff is cofounding dean of the Columbia Climate School, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, and professor of professional practice in international and public affairs at Columbia University. He previously served as special assistant to President Obama and senior director for energy and climate change on the National Security Council, and he has held senior policy positions on the White House’s National Economic Council and Council on Environmental Quality. He is a columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and is often on TV and radio. So, we’re really happy to have him with us today. So, Jason, thank you very much. We are just coming off the COP26 conference that took place in Glasgow that started on October 31, I believe, and concluded last Friday, November 12. Could you talk about what came out of the conference at a high level, if you think that the agreements that were reached went far enough or didn’t go far enough, and what your policy recommendations are to really advance and fight the countdown that we have to the Earth warming? BORDOFF: Yeah. Thanks. Well, first, thanks to you, Irina, and thanks to CFR for the invitation to be with you all today. Really delighted to have the chance to talk about these important issues. I was there for much of the two-week period in Glasgow representing the Energy Center and the Climate School here at Columbia. I think it’s kind of a glass half-full/glass half-empty outlook coming out of Glasgow. So I think the Glasgow conference was notable in several respects. We’ll look back on it, I think, and some of the things we will remember are—some of the things we’ll remember—(dog barking)—sorry—are the role of the private sector and private finance, I think, was much more prominent in Glasgow this year. I think there were commitments around some important things like methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, was much higher on the priority list in this U.N. climate meeting than in prior ones. You had pledges on deforestation and other things that are important. And then the final agreement did have some important elements to it, particularly around Article 6, how you design carbon markets around the world. But the glass half-empty outlook is still we are nowhere close to being on track for the kind of targets that countries and companies are committing to: net zero by 2050 or 1.5 degrees of warming. I think there were—there should be hope and optimism coming out of COP. The role of the youth—at Columbia, we were honored to organize a private roundtable for President Obama with youth climate activists. It’s hard to spend time with young people in COP or on campus here at Columbia or anywhere else and not be inspired by how passionately they take these issues. So the activism you saw in the streets, the sense of urgency among everyone—activists, civil society, governments, the private sector—felt different, I think, at this COP than other COPs that I have attended or probably the ones I haven’t attended. But there was also for some I saw kind of we’re coming out of this and we’re on track for below two degrees. Or, you know, Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency, tweeted that when you add up all the pledges we’re on track for 1.8 degrees Celsius warming. He’s talking about all of the pledges meaning every country who’s promised to be net zero by 2050, 2060, 2070, and at least from my standpoint there’s a good reason to take those with a grain of salt. They’re not often backed up by concrete plans or ideas about how you would get anywhere close to achieving those goals. So it’s good that we have elevated ambition, which is kind of one of the core outcomes of the COP in Glasgow. But it is also the case that when you elevate ambition and the reality doesn’t change as fast or maybe faster than the ambition is changing, what you have is a growing gap between ambition and reality. And I think that’s where we are today. Oil use is rising each and every year. Gas use is rising. Coal use is going up this year. I don’t know if it’s going to keep going up, but at a minimum it’s going to plateau. It’s not falling off a cliff. So the reality of the energy world today—which is 75 percent of emissions are energy—is not anything close to net zero by 2050. It is the case that progress is possible. So if you go back to before the Paris agreement, we were on track for something like maybe 3.7 degrees Celsius of warming. If you look at a current outlook, it’s maybe 2.7, 2.8 (degrees), so just below three degrees. So progress is possible. That’s good. If you look at the nationally determined contribution pledges—so the commitments countries made that are more near term, more accountability for them; the commitments they made to reduce emissions by 2030, their NDCs—we would be on track for about 2.4 degrees Celsius warming, assuming all those pledges are fulfilled. But history would suggest a reason to be a little skeptical about that. The U.S. has a pledge to get to a 50 to 52 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, and look at how things are working or not working in Washington and make your own judgment about how likely it is that we’ll put in place the set of policies that would be required to get to that ambitious level of decarbonization by 2030. And I think the same healthy dose of skepticism is warranted when you look elsewhere in the world. But even if we achieve all of those, we’re still falling short of below two degrees, nevertheless 1.5 (degrees). And so, again, I think the outcome from COP for me was optimism that progress is possible—we have made a lot of progress in the last ten years—but acute concern that we’re nowhere close to being on track to take targets like 1.5 degrees Celsius or net zero by 2050 seriously. And we just need to be honest as a climate and energy community—and I live in both of those worlds; there’s a lot of overlap between them, obviously—about how hard it is to achieve the goals we are talking about. Renewables have grown incredibly quickly. Optimistic headlines every day about what is happening in solar and wind. Costs have come down more than 90 percent. Battery costs have come down more than 90 percent in the last decade. But solar and wind create electricity, and electricity is 20 percent of global final energy consumption. The outlook for electric vehicles is much more promising today. Lots of companies like Ford and others are committing to be all-electric by a certain date ten or twenty years from now. Cars are 20 percent of global oil demand. About half of the emission reductions—cumulative emission reductions between now and 2050 will need to come from technologies that are not yet available at commercial scale and sectors of the economy that are really hard to decarbonize like steel and cement and ships and airplanes. We’re not—we don’t have all the tools we need to do those yet. And then, in Glasgow, the focus of a lot of what we did at Columbia was on—we did a lot of different things, but one of the key areas of focus was the challenge of thinking about decarbonization in emerging and developing economies. I don’t think we talk about that enough. The issue of historical responsibility of loss and damage was more on the agenda this year, and I think you’ll hear even more about it in the year ahead. The next COP is in Africa. There was growing tension between rich and poor countries at this COP. I think a starting point was what we see in the pandemic alone and how inequitable around the world the impacts of the pandemic are. Many people couldn’t even travel to Glasgow from the Global South because they couldn’t get vaccinated. We need, between now and 2050, estimates are—a ballpark—$100 trillion of additional investment in clean energy if we’re going to get on track for 1.5 (degrees)/net zero by 2050. So the question that should obsess all of us who work in this space: Where will that money come from? Most of it’s going to be private sector, not public. Most of it is going to be in developing and emerging economies. That is where the growth in energy is going to come from. Eight hundred million people have no access to energy at all. Nevertheless, if you model what energy access means, it’s often defined as, you have enough to turn on lights or charge your cellphone. But when you talk about even a fraction of the standard of living we take for granted—driving a car, having a refrigerator, having an air conditioner—the numbers are massive. They’re just huge, and the population of Africa’s going to double to 2.2 billion by the year 2050. So these are really big numbers and we need to recognize how hard this is. But we should also recognize that it is possible. We have a lot of the tools we need. We need innovation in technology and we need stronger policy, whether that’s a carbon price or standards for different sectors. And then, of course, we need private-sector actors to step up as well, and all of us. And we have these great commitments to achieve these goals with a lot of capital being put to work, and now we need to hold people accountable to make sure that they do that. So, again, I look back on the last two weeks or before, two weeks of COP, the gap between ambition and reality got bigger. Not necessarily a bad thing—ambition is a good thing—but now it’s time to turn the ambition into action. We need governments to follow through on their pledges. Good news is we have a wide menu of options for reducing emissions. The bad news is there’s not a lot of time at our current rate of emissions. And emissions are still going up each and every year. They’re not even falling yet. Remember, what matters is the cumulative total, not the annual flow. At our current rate of emissions, the budget—carbon budget for staying below 1.5 (degrees) is used up in, around a decade or so, so there’s not much time to get to work. But I’m really excited about what we’re building with the first climate school in the country here at Columbia. When it comes to pushing—turning ambition into action, that requires research, it requires education, and it requires engaging with partners in civil society and the public sector and the private sector to help turn that research into action. And the people we’re working with here every day on campus are the ones who are going to be the leaders that are going to hopefully do a better job—(laughs)—than we’ve done over the last few decades. So whatever you’re doing at your educational institution—be it teaching or research or learning—we all have a role to play in the implementation of responsible, forward-thinking energy policy. I’m really excited to have the chance to talk with you all today. Look forward to your questions and to the conversation. Thank you again. FASKIANOS: Jason, that’s fantastic. Thank you very much for that informative and sobering view. So let’s turn to all of you now for your questions. So I’m going to go first to—I have one raised hand from Stephen Kass. Q: OK. Thank you. Jason, thank you for the very useful and concise summary. What specific kinds of energy programs do you think developing countries should now be pursuing? Should they be giving up coal entirely? Should they be importing natural gas? Should they be investing in renewables or nuclear? What recipe would you advise developing countries to pursue for their own energy needs? BORDOFF: It’s going to need to be a lot of different things, so there’s no single answer to that, of course. And by the way, I’ll just say it would be super helpful if people don’t mind just introducing yourself when you ask a question. That would be helpful to me, at least. I appreciate it. I think they need to do a lot of different things. I think I would start with low-hanging fruit, and renewable electricity is not the entire answer. The sun and wind are intermittent. Electricity can’t do certain things yet, like power ships and airplanes. But the low cost of solar and wind, I think, does mean it’s a good place to start, and then we need to think about those other sectors as well. I think a key thing there comes back to finance, and that’s why we’re spending so much time on it with our research agenda here. Access to financing and cost of capital are really important. Clean energy tends to be more capital-intensive and then, like solar and wind, more CAPEX, less OPEX over time. But attaining financing in poor countries is really difficult and expensive. Lack of experience with renewable energy, local banks are often reluctant to lend to those kinds of projects. And then foreign investors, where most of that capital is going to come from, view projects often in emerging markets and developing economies particularly as more risky. Local utilities may not be creditworthy. There’s currency inflation risk in many developing countries, people worry about recouping their upfront investment if bills are paid in local currency. There’s political risk, maybe corruption, inconsistently enforced regulations. And it can be harder to build clean energy infrastructure if you don’t have other kinds of infrastructure, like ports, and roads, and bridges and a good electrical grid. So I would start there. And I think there’s a role for those countries to scale up their clean energy sectors, but also for policymakers and multilateral development banks and governments elsewhere—there was a lot of focus in Glasgow on whether the developed countries would make good on their promise made in Copenhagen to send $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries. And they fell short of that. But even that is kind of a rounding error, compared to the one to two trillion (dollars) a year that the International Energy Agency estimates is needed. So there are many other things besides just writing a check that government, like in the U.S. or elsewhere, can do. The Development Finance Corporation, for example, can lend to banks in local and affordable rates, finance projects in local currency, expand the availability of loan guarantees. I’ve written before about how I think even what often gets called industrial policy, let’s think about some sectors—in the same way China did with solar or batteries fifteen years ago. Are there sectors where governments might help to grow domestic industries and, by doing that, scale—bring down the cost of technologies that are expensive now, the premium for low-carbon or zero-carbon cement or steel. It’s just—it’s not reasonable to ask a developing country to build new cities, and new highways, and all the new construction they’re going to do with zero-carbon steel and cement because it’s just way too expensive. So how do you bring those costs down? If we think about investments, we can make through U.S. infrastructure or other spending to do that, that not only may help to grow some domestic industries and jobs here, that can be its own form of global leadership if we’re driving those costs of those technologies down to make it cheaper for others to pick up. So I think that’s one of the places I’d start. But there are a lot of other things we need to do too. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question—and let me just go back. Stephen Kass is an adjunct professor at NYU. So the next question is a written question from Wei Liang, who is an assistant professor of international policy studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. And the question is: I wonder if you could briefly address the Green Climate Fund and individual countries’ pledge on that. BORDOFF: Yeah, I mean, it touches a little bit on what I said a moment ago about the need for developed countries to provide climate finance to developing countries. And so I think that’s—it’s important that we take those obligations seriously, and that we, in advanced economies, step up and make those funds available. And but, again, we’re talking—the amount we’re still talking about is so small compared to the amounts that are needed to deal both with the impacts of climate change, and then also to curb climate change, to mitigate climate change. Because we know that developing countries are in the parts of the world that will often be most adversely impacted by climate impacts—droughts, and heat waves, and storms, and food security issues—from a standpoint of equity are the parts of the world that have done the least to cause this problem, responsible for very few emissions. If you look cumulatively at emissions since the start of the industrial age, about half—nearly half have come from the U.S. and EU combined. Two percent from the entire continent of Africa. So they are using very little energy today, haven’t therefore contributed to the problems, and have the fewest resources, of course, to cope with the impacts, and also to develop in a cleaner way. Sometimes it’s cheaper to develop in a cleaner way. Renewables are often today competitive with coal, even without subsidy. But there are many areas where that’s not the case, and there is a cost. And we need to help make sure that, you know, we’re thinking about what a just transition looks like. And that means many different things for different communities, whether you’re a coal worker or an agricultural worker in California that may, you know, be working outside in worse and worse heat. But it also means thinking about the parts of the world that need assistance to make this transition. So I think we need to be taking that much more seriously. FASKIANOS: Next question is a raised hand from Tara Weil, who is an undergraduate student at Pomona College. Q: Hi. So, given that developed nations are the largest contributors to carbon emissions, as you’ve said, how can larger powers be convinced as to the importance of addressing global inequality with regards to climate change? And thank you so much, also, for giving this talk. BORDOFF: Yeah. Thank you for being here. I don’t have a great answer to your question. I mean, the politics of foreign aid in general are not great, as we often hear in events at CFR. So I do think one—we need to continue to encourage, through political advocacy, civil society, and other ways, governments in advanced economies to think about all the tools they have at their disposal. I think the ones that are going to be—I’m reluctant to try to speak as a political commenter rather than a climate and energy commenter on what’s going to work politically. But part of that is demonstrating what—it’s not just generosity. It is also in one’s self-interest to do these things. And just look at the pandemic, right? What would it look like for the U.S. to show greater leadership, or any country to show even greater leadership and help cope with the pandemic all around the world in parts of the world that are struggling to vaccinate their people? That is not only an act of generosity, but it is clearly one of self-interest too, because it’s a pretty globalized economy and you’re not going to be able to get a pandemic under control at home if it’s not under control abroad. Of course, the same is true of the impacts of climate change. It doesn’t matter where a ton of CO2 comes from. And we can decarbonize our own economy, but the U.S. is only 15 percent of annual emissions globally. So it’s not going to make a huge difference unless everyone else does that as well. There is also the potential, I think, to—and we see this increasingly when you look at the discussion of the Biden infrastructure bill, how they talk about the U.S.-China relationship, which of course are the two most important countries from the standpoint of climate change. It is one of cooperation. That was one of the success stories in Glasgow, was a commitment to cooperate more. We’ll see if we can actually do it, because it’s a pretty difficult and tense U.S.-China relationship right now. So the question is, can you separate climate from all those other problems on human rights, and intellectual property, and everything else and then cooperate on climate? It’s been hard, but there’s a renewed commitment to try to do that. But also, a recognition that action in the clean energy space is not only about cooperation but it’s also about economic competition. And you have seen more and more focus on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle on thinking about the security of supply chains, and critical minerals, and the inputs in lithium and rare earth elements that go into many aspects of clean energy. To my point before about aspects of industrial policy that might help grow your own domestic economy, I think there are ways in which countries can take measures that help—that help their own economies and help workers and help create jobs, and that in the process are helping to drive forward more quickly the clean energy technologies we need, and bring down the cost of those technologies to make them more accessible and available in some of the less-developed countries. So I think trying to frame it less as do we keep funds at home, do we write a check abroad? But there are actually many steps you could do to create economic opportunities and are win-win. Without being pollyannish about it, I think there is some truth to some of those. And I think we can focus on those politically as well. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take an international question from Luciana Alexandra Ghica, who is an associate professor for international cooperation at the University of Bucharest. What type of topics do you think we should address immediately in university programs that provide training in climate, development, global policies, or international public affairs, so that a new generation of leaders really pushes forward the agenda on climate change? BORDOFF: Yeah. Well, I’ll say a quick word about what we’re doing at Columbia, and maybe it’s relevant to that question, because Columbia has made this historic commitment to build a climate school. There are many initiatives, and centers, and institutes. There was not only a handful of schools—law school, business school, medical school, engineering school. And it is the largest commitment a university can make to any particular topic, is something on the scale of a school with degree-granting authority and tenure-granting authority, and all the things that come with a school. And it’s just the scale at a place like Columbia, and many other places, is just enormous. That’s what we’re doing on climate. We have created a climate school. And I’m honored President Bollinger asked me to help lead it. And we’re going to build a faculty. We have our first inaugural class of masters’ students, about ninety students that are going through the program right now, and we have a building in Manhattan for the climate school, and on and on. The idea—but the question is, what is climate, right? Because academia has been historically organized into traditional academic disciplines. So you have people who you hire through a tenured search, and they go to the engineering faculty and build their lab there. And there’s law professors, and their business school professors, and on and on and on, social work. But for climate, you need all of those, right? They all kind of need to come together. And, like, interdisciplinary doesn’t even sort of do justice to what it means to think about approaching this systemic—it’s a systemic challenge. The system has to change. And so whatever solution you’re talking about—if you want to get hydrogen to scale in the world, let’s—you know, for certain sectors of the economy that may be hard to do with renewable energy, or in terms of renewable energy and, say, green hydrogen. You need engineering breakthroughs to bring down the cost of electrolyzers, or you need new business models, or you need financial institution frameworks that figure out how you’re going to put the capital into these things. You need the policy incentives. How are you going to—you need permitting and regulation. How do we permit hydrogen infrastructure? It’s barely been done before. There are concerns in the environmental justice community about some aspects of technologies like that or carbon capture that need to be taken seriously and addressed. There are geopolitical implications, potentially, to starting to build a global trade in ammonia or hydrogen, and what security concerns—energy security concerns might accompany those, the way we thought about oil or gas from Russia into Europe. I have an article coming out in the next issue of Foreign Affairs about the geopolitics of the energy transition. So we need disciplines that come together and look at a problem like that in all of those multifaceted dimensions, so we can figure out how to get from a lab to scale out in the world. And so when we think about the areas of concentration here, climate finance, climate justice, climate in society, climate in international security—I mean, a range of things that I think are really important to help people understand. And that’s going to be a major focus of what we do at the climate school here. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Let’s go next to Sean Grossnickle, who has raised his hand. A graduate student at Fordham University. Q: Speak now? Hi, this is not Sean but Henry Schwalbenberg, also at Fordham, where I teach in our international political economy and development program. I went to a conference about a month ago in Rome. And there was a physicist from CERN. And he was a big advocate of something I’d never heard of, and this is this thorium for nuclear reactors. And he was going through all the pros, but I wanted a more balanced perspective on it. And I’m hoping that you might give me a little pros and cons of this thorium nuclear reactor technique. BORDOFF: Yeah. I will be honest and say that nuclear is not my area of focus. We have a pretty strong team here that works in nuclear, and I think is optimistic about the breakthroughs we’re going to see in several potential areas of nuclear—advanced nuclear technology, that being one of them, or small modular reactors, and others. At a high level, I will say I do think if you’re serious about the math of decarbonization and getting to net zero by 2050, it’s hard to do without zero-carbon nuclear power. It’s firm, baseload power. It runs all the time. Obviously, there are challenges with intermittency of solar and wind, although they can be addressed to some extent with energy story. Most of the analyses that are done show not necessarily in the U.S. but in other parts of the world significant growth in nuclear power. The International Energy Agency just modeled what it looks like to get to net zero by 2050, and this pathway that got a lot of attention for saying things like we would not be investing in new oil and gas supply. The world has to change a lot pretty quickly. And they have about a hundred new nuclear plants being built by 2030, so that’s a pretty big number. So we’re going to need all tools—(laughs)—that we have at our disposal. And unfortunately, I worry we may still fall short. So I think at a high level we need to think really hard about how to improve nuclear technology. The people who know that really well I think are optimistic about our ability to do that. And I will follow up on thorium in particular with my colleagues at Columbia, and happy to follow up with you offline about it. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take a written question from Stephen Bird, who’s an associate professor of political science at Clarkson University. He thanks you, and he wanted you to talk a little bit more about political will. The overall dollar amounts are clear. Much cheaper to address climate change than to ignore it. That said, countries are, clearly, lagging. Is it a case of countries just don’t want to take action now because of issues of fairness or because of lack of domestic political support, i.e., citizens aren’t convinced that they should pay costs now with payoffs that come later, and what might we do to improve that issue in terms of persuading or arguing for more political will? BORDOFF: Yeah. It’s a question for, you know, a political scientist as much as an energy or climate expert, and I wish I had a better answer to it. I think it is—climate is one of the trickiest problems for so many reasons but one of those is there is no acute event now that you sort of respond to, hopefully, and pull everyone together. It’s a set of things that, you know, of course, there would have been storms and droughts before but we know they’re intensified and made worse. It’s hard to rally public support. We often respond to a crisis kind of proverbial, you know, frog in the boiling water kind of thing. So that makes it hard. There are huge issues—we talked about a just transition a few minutes ago—there are huge issues with intergenerational equity when we talk about climate. There are, clearly, climate impacts and damages today but some of the worst will be in the future, including for people who may not be born yet, and we don’t do a great job in our political environment about thinking about those and valuing them today and how you do that, and from an economic standpoint, of course, there are questions about discount rates you apply and everything else. I think, politically, one of the things that has mobilized stronger climate—support for climate action, so it is encouraging that if you look at polling on climate change, the level of urgency that the public in many countries, including the U.S., broadly, ascribe to acting on climate has gone up a lot. It’s higher today than it was, you know, a decade or so ago. That’s a result of people seeing the impacts and also advocacy campaigns and political campaigns. It is often tied to—it’s like a win-win. Like, President Biden says when he thinks of climate he thinks of jobs, and so we’re going to deal with climate and we’re going to grow the economy faster and we’re going to create jobs, and there is truth to that. It is also the case that there are costs. The cost of inaction are higher, but there are costs associated with the transition itself. So if you survey the American public, I think, climate, according to the latest YouGov/Economist poll I saw, you know, it was number two on the list of things they cared the most about. That’s much higher than in the past. And then if you ask the American public are they willing to pay $0.25 a gallon more at the pump to act on climate, 75 percent say no. And you look at the challenges the Biden administration is having right now sort of thinking about a really strong set of measures to put in place to move the ball forward on climate, but acute concern today about where oil prices are and inflation and natural gas prices as we head into the winter. If the weather is cold then it’s going to be really expensive for people to heat their homes in parts—some parts of the country like New England, maybe. So that’s a reality, and I think we need to—it was interesting, in the roundtable we did with President Obama with climate activists, that was a message he had for them. You know, be impatient, be angry, keep the pressure on, but also be pragmatic. And by that he means, like, you know, try to see the world through the eyes of others and people who are worried about the cost of filling up at the pump, the cost of paying their heating bills. They’re not—some of them may not be where you are yet. They may not have the same sense of urgency with acting on climate that many of us on this Zoom do and need to take those concerns seriously. So I think that’s a real challenge, and it can be addressed with good policy, to some extent, right, if you think about the revenue raised from a carbon tax and how it could be redistributed in a way that reduce the regressive impacts. I’ve written about how, at a high level—I’ll say one last point—if we get on track for an energy transition, which we’re not on yet, right. (Laughs.) Oil and gas use are going up each and every year. But imagine we started to get on track where those were falling year after year. It’s still going to take decades, and that process of transition is going to be really messy. It’s going to be really volatile. We’re going to have fits and starts in policy from Obama to Trump to Biden. We’re going to make estimate—we’re going to make bets on technologies and maybe get those technologies wrong or misunderstand the cost curves, the potential to shut down investment in certain forms of energy before the rest are ready to pick up the slack. If it’s messy and volatile and bumpy, that’s not only harmful economically and geopolitically, it will undermine public support for stronger climate action. So you see, like, in Washington they’re selling off the Strategic Petroleum Reserve because we’re moving to a world beyond oil and also we have all this domestic oil now with shale. We need more, not fewer, tools to mitigate volatility for the next several decades if we’re serious about making this transition, and I think the same is true for thinking about sort of buffers you could build into geopolitics, foreign policy, and national security, because there will be—in a post-oil and gas world, you know, you may say, well, we’re not going to worry as much about the Middle East or about, you know, Russia’s leverage in Europe. But there will be new risks created and we can talk about what some of those might be, and we need new tools of foreign policy to mitigate those potential foreign policy risks. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question. Raised hand from Chloe Demrovsky, adjunct instructor at NYU. Q: Hey, can you hear me? BORDOFF: Yes. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: Hi. Chloe Demrovsky, adjunct at NYU and president and CEO of Disaster Recovery Institute International. Thanks for being with us, Jason. So my question is about the feasibility and your thoughts on artificially altered clouds or solar geoengineering. What are the ethical and geopolitical implications of, perhaps, using this to buy a little time for our energy transition? Thanks. BORDOFF: Yeah. A super interesting question, and I will say, again, I’m sort of—think of myself as an energy expert. So that is where I spend more time than thinking about tools like solar geoengineering. I guess, it seems there’s, obviously, huge risks associated with something like that and we need to understand them. We need to do research. We need to figure out what those risks may be. There are global governance concerns. It’s actually pretty cheap to do solar geoengineering. So what happens when some country or some billionaire decides they want to start spraying stuff into the atmosphere to cool the planet? And for those who don’t know that, you know, solar—I mean, you think of after a volcano the planet cools a little bit because of all the particulates up in the atmosphere. When you model in an energy system model how much phasing out coal will reduce warming, you, obviously, have much less carbon dioxide emissions but that’s offset slightly—not completely, of course—it’s offset a little bit by the fact that you have less local air pollution, which is a good thing from air pollution. But air pollution has a slightly cooling effect, because you have these little particles floating around that reflect sunlight. So the idea is can we create that artificially and cool the planet, and you can imagine lots of reasons why that could go wrong when you’re trying to figure out what—how much to put in there, what unintended consequences could be. You still have other impacts of carbon dioxide like ocean acidification. Maybe you go too far in one direction, that’s like you’re setting the thermostat. That’s why one of the companies doing carbon removal is called Global Thermostat. You’re kind of figuring out what temperature it should be. But I will say so it’s an area that needs research and I think, given how far we are away from achieving goals like 1.5 and net-zero 2050, I guess what I would say is in the same way that when I worked in the Obama administration it was—I wouldn’t say controversial, but there were some people who didn’t want to talk about adaptation because it was kind of a more—there was a moral hazard problem there. It was, you know, less pressure to mitigate and reduce emissions if we thought adaptation was a solution. People worry about that from the standpoint of solar geoengineering. But the likelihood—I hope I’m wrong, but the likelihood that we roll the clock forward, you know, later this decade and we realize we’ve made progress but we’re still pretty far short, and the impacts of climate change in the same way the IPCC 1.5 report said, you know what, 1.5 is going to be pretty bad, too, and that’s even worse than we thought, the more we learn about climate the more reason there is to be concerned, not less concerned. It seems very plausible to me that we will kind of come to a growing consensus that we have to think about whether this technology can, as you said, buy us time. This is not something you do permanently. You need to get to net zero to stop global warming. But if you want to reduce the impacts of warming on the rate of Arctic sea ice melt and all the rest, can you buy time, extend the runway, by doing this for some number of decades. And I think—I don’t have a strong view on the right answer to that. But I think it’s something we, certainly, need to be thinking about researching and understanding what the consequences would be because we’re going to have to figure out how to take more abrupt actions to close that gap between ambition and reality unless the reality starts to change much more quickly than is the case right now. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I saw a raised hand from Maya but she lowered it. So if you want to raise your hand again, please do so. And in the meantime, I’m going to take a written question from Jennifer Sklarew, who’s an assistant professor of energy and sustainability at George Mason University. Was CCS/CCUS, which carbon capture and storage/carbon capture utilization and storage, to write out those acronyms, promoted as a climate change solution in Glasgow and was there a pushback against this technology option as both a climate change solution and a support mechanism for continued fossil fuel use? BORDOFF: There was some pushback but, I think, actually, more in the other direction. So I think there has been a growing recognition from many in the climate world that carbon capture technology, carbon removal technology, need to be part of the solution. I think there’s almost no climate model at this point that shows how you would get to 1.5 degrees or net zero—1.5 degrees without huge amounts of negative emissions—carbon removal. Some of that can be nature based, but a lot of it will be—some of it will be technology based as well and focusing on what we care about, which is the emissions, is the most important thing. So and this is not, I don’t think, the primary thing you’re going to do. You want to do the things that are easiest and cheapest and present the fewest risks. So putting a lot of renewables into the grid, getting electrification into the vehicle fleet—there’s a lot of things that you would do before that. But if you think about some of the sectors in the economy we talked about before that are hard to decarbonize like steel and cement, it may well be the case that carbon capture is part of the technology there. There was a big announcement yesterday from the NET Power Allam Cycle gas plant in Texas that they had finally come online with delivering net-zero power to the grid. It was sort of a milestone in that technology. So we need to advance this technology and figure out how we’re going to—how we’re going to get where we need to be. We need to hold that kind of technology accountable to make sure that it’s actually meeting the standards we’re talking about so that it actually is very low, if not zero, carbon. But if you look at, you know, most of the scenarios I’m aware of, whether it’s—Princeton did the study “Net-Zero America,” how we get to net zero by 2050 in the U.S. The International Energy Agency, as I said, did it for net zero globally. There is a meaningful role for carbon capture, to some extent, in the power sector in these heavy industry sectors like steel and cement, and then making, say, hydrogen some of that will be blue hydrogen. Most of it, eventually, will be green, but there may be some role for blue hydrogen, which is—which is gas with carbon capture. So I think, if anything, there’s been a growing understanding that we need all tools on deck right away and, again, I fear even with all the tools we may still fall short. FASKIANOS: Great. There’s a written question from Laila Bichara, who’s at SUNY Farmingdale, international business. There was a New York Times article, “Business Schools Respond to a Flood of Interest in ESG,” talking about the issue of the scarcity of skills in recent graduates to help with social impact, sustainable investments, climate finance, and social entrepreneurship. And she wanted to know if there are resources that you could point the group to in terms of foundation courses or certification that would provide all students with a basic foundation. BORDOFF: Yeah. That’s a really good question and it’s a growing area of focus and I think universities should be doing more in. The Tamer Center of Columbia Business School does a lot of work in ESG. We hosted a really interesting roundtable at the Center on Global Energy Policy yesterday on ESG and actually been doing a lot of work thinking about that in the context of state-owned enterprises and national oil companies, which we don’t talk about enough. But they’re a really, really big part of the problem we’re talking about. We tend to focus more on these very well-known private sector companies or financial institutions in places like New York. So there—Bloomberg Philanthropies has done a huge amount in this space. I think there’s some really good educational programs with some universities and business schools that have done a lot in the ESG space. But I think it’s a need, to be frank. I mean, the fact that you’re asking the question and I’m pointing to a few examples, but not a huge number, and it is something that universities need to educate themselves about but then is an opportunity for us to educate others. Maybe a revenue one, too, with executive education or something. But there’s a lot of companies and financial institutions that want to understand this better. I worry that while there’s a huge growing focus on climate, which is a good thing, in the financial community, the phrase ESG kind of means so many different things right now. It’s this alphabet soup of regulations and standards and disclosure requirements, and some may make a difference and some may not and it’s hard to figure out which ones matter, and for people who want to do the responsible thing what does that really mean. That’s an area where research is needed. I mean, that’s a role for what we do every day to think about if the SEC is going to regulate what makes a difference and what doesn’t, if you’re going to create green bonds. If you’re going to call everything green in the finance community, what’s real and what’s not? What moves the needle? What doesn’t? What are the returns for greener portfolios? How is that affecting the cost of capital for clean energy versus dirty energy? You know, on and on. I think those are important research questions for us to take on and then it’s our job to help educate others as well. FASKIANOS: Great. So the next question I’m going to take from—oh, OK. Good. Maya Copeland (sp) has written her question. She’s a political science major at Delaware State University. Do you believe developed nations like the U.S. have done a lot in reference to climate change or mostly talk? If you believe nations like the U.S. have dropped the ball in this aspect, what do you think it would take to get those powerhouses serious about environmental change? BORDOFF: I think advanced economies have done—many have done a lot. I mean, the European Union has taken climate seriously and has reduced emissions and has pretty strong measures in place with a carbon market, for example, with a pretty high carbon price right now. The politics of this issue are not quite as favorable in the U.S., but the U.S. has seen emissions decline more than most over the last decade and a half, in part because of policy measures that have, you know, advanced renewable energy and brought the cost of that down as well as cheaper natural gas displacing coal for a while. But at a broader level, you know, have we done enough? The answer is no one’s done enough—(laughs)—which is why emissions are still going up every single year. So that—so the answer is no, we haven’t done enough. Almost no country has done enough at home to be on a trajectory for net zero 2050. You saw the announcements from countries like India saying, we’ll get to net zero by 2070, and, you know, people said, oh, well, that’s terrible. They’re not saying 2050. And implicit in that is sort of saying, well, if you want to get global to net zero by 2050 we’re not all going to move at the same speed, right. Some countries have advanced with the benefit of hydrocarbons since the Industrial Age and some haven’t. So, presumably, the pathways are going to look different, right. And, you know, that’s not always how countries in the advanced—in the developing—in the developed world talk about it. The commitment from the Biden administration is net zero by 2050. So I would say there’s been—there are some models to point to of countries that have taken this issue seriously but we’re not doing enough and partly because the political will is not there and partly—I come back to what I said before—this problem is harder than people realize. So you say which countries are doing enough, like, point to some models, right, and somebody might point to Norway, which, you know, the share of new vehicles sold that are electric in Norway went from zero to, I think, it’s 70 percent now. I mean, that’s amazing. Seventy percent of new car sales are electric. And if you go back to the start of that trajectory, about a decade or decade and a half, oil demand is unchanged in Norway. So we can talk about why that is and it’s because a lot—as I said earlier, a lot of oil is used for things other than cars, and it’s increased for trucks and planes and petrochemicals. It takes time for the vehicle fleet to turn over. So when you start selling a bunch of electric cars, you know, average car is on the road for fifteen years so it takes a while before that—the vehicle stock turns over. So I saw that kind of mapped out on a chart recently, just two lines—one is electric vehicle sales going straight up and then the other is oil demand in a flat line. It’s a reminder of how unforgiving the math of decarbonization is. The math of climate is really unforgiving, like, you know, the kind of harmful impacts we’re going to see with even 1.5 degrees warming. But the math of energy and decarbonization is really unforgiving, too. It’s—and we just need to be honest with ourselves about what it takes to get where we need to go. Because I think it’s good to have optimism and ambition, but I worry there should be optimism but not happy talk. We should recognize that there’s a lot of work to do and let’s get to work doing it. FASKIANOS: Great. So there are several questions in the chat about China. I’m going to start off with Andrew Campbell, who’s a student at George Mason University. Is LNG—liquefied natural gas—a bridge toward renewable energy still being considered? If not, how are India and China’s expected growth and increase in coal use going to be addressed? And then there are a couple of other comments or questions about China. You know, what’s your take on China as the biggest emitter and return somewhat to coal? Can we actually even make stated and adequate new goals? And, you know, given the relationship between U.S. and China, which is contentious, you know, what is the cooperation going to be between U.S. and China on climate? So there’s a lot packed in there, but I know you can address it all. (Laughs.) BORDOFF: Yeah. I think the China question is really hard, as I said earlier, this kind of, like, competition and cooperation and we’re going to try to do both, and I think there was a hope early on—Secretary Kerry said it—that climate could be segmented from the broader challenges in the U.S.-China relationship, and I think that has proven harder to do than people had hoped, in part, because, you know, you need both parties to want to do that. I think China has signaled it’s not necessarily willing to segment cooperation on climate from lots of other issues. And then these things bleed together where, you know, there’s measures being taken in Washington to restrict imports of solar panels from China, that there were concerns that were made with—in ways that have human rights abuses associated with them with forced labor or maybe have unfair trade practices in terms of subsidies. China is—you know, the leadership in China takes climate seriously. This is a country that recognizes, I think, climate change is real and that needs to be addressed. They have a set of national interests that matter a lot, obviously, to them in terms of economic growth, and the pathway to get there is challenging. So it’s a country that’s growing clean energy incredibly quickly, as we’re seeing right now, in part because there’s a(n) energy crunch throughout Europe and Asia. They are ramping up the use of coal quite a bit again, but also taking some pretty strong measures to advance clean energy and, over time, hopefully, move in a lower carbon direction for reasons both about concerns over climate but also local air pollution, which is much, much worse in many parts of China than it is here and that’s a huge source of concern for the public there. So when it comes to things like coal they need to figure out how to address those air pollution problems. And then for reasons of economic competition, like I mentioned a minute ago. I mean, China dominates the global market for refining and processing of critical minerals for solar panels, and there are economic and national competitiveness and strategic reasons to do that. So all of those things motivate them to move in the direction of clean energy, but they need to be moving faster to phase down hydrocarbon energy for sure. And then you ask a really hard question about—not hard, but one of the most contentious questions is about the role of natural gas in the transition, and we can have a whole separate session about that. I think there is a view of many in the climate community and many in developing countries—in developed countries that there’s not space left in the carbon budget for natural gas, and you saw the Biden administration recently declare through the Treasury Department that, except in very rare cases of the poorest of the poor like Sierra Leone or something, they would not finance natural gas projects through the multilateral development banks. The vice president of Nigeria, I think, responded—speaking of CFR—in Foreign Affairs by writing that this was not fair and you need to think about a viable pathway for a country like Nigeria to develop and it just—it doesn’t work to get there that fast. There has to be a bridge. The role of gas looks very different in different parts of the world. It looks different in the U.S. than it does in an emerging or a developing economy. It looks different in the power sector, where there are a lot more alternatives like renewables than it does in heavy industry or how we heat our homes. It looks different for, say, in the Global South, where you’re talking about people who are still using coal and charcoal and dung for cooking to think about solutions like liquefied petroleum gas. So all of those things are true, but we need to think about gas also with the carbon budget in mind. I mean, the math is just the math. (Laughs.) If you’re going to build any gas infrastructure and not have it blow through the carbon budget, it’s going to have to be retired before the end of its normal economic life and you need to think about how that might look in different parts of the world. So you need to be fair to people, to allow them to grow, but also recognize that the math of carbon, you know, is what it is. FASKIANOS: Great. I just want to credit those last—the China questions came from Lada Kochtcheeva at North Carolina State University and Joan Kaufman, who’s director of Schwarzman Scholars based in China. We are really at the end of our time—we started a couple minutes late—and I just wanted to go back to—there are students on the call who are following with a professor on the webinar who wanted you just to comment on blue hydrogen, whether or not it is contributing or helping to reduce greenhouse gases. BORDOFF: I think the answer is it can. You just need to make sure that it actually does. So the question of—and by blue hydrogen we mean, you know, using gas with carbon capture to create hydrogen. It needs to have very low methane leakage rates. It needs to have very high capture rates, and we know that is technically possible. It doesn’t mean it will be done that way. So if people are going to pursue blue hydrogen as part of the solution in the—particularly in the near term, you need to make sure that it’s meeting those standards. I think in the long run my guess and, I think, most guesses would be that green hydrogen is going to make more sense. It’s going to be cheaper. The cost is going to come down. And so if we have a significant part of the energy sector that is hydrogen and ammonia in, say, 2050, more of that’s going to be green than blue. But there can be a role for blue if you make sure it’s done the right way. You just have to actually make sure it’s done the right way. FASKIANOS: Great. And, Jason, we are out of time, but I wanted to give you one last, you know, one-minute or thirty seconds, whatever you want, just to say some parting words on your work at the center or, you know, to leave the group with what they can do, again. So— BORDOFF: Well, I would just say thanks for the chance to be with you all and for the work that you’re doing every day. You know, I think Glasgow was a moment when the world came together to elevate ambition and roll up our sleeves and say this is—this is the decisive decade. Like, we’ll know ten years from now—(laughs)—if we got anywhere close to making it or not. And so it’s time for everyone to kind of roll up their sleeves and say, what can we do? We’re doing that, I think, at Columbia with the creation of this new climate school. We do that every day at the Center on Global Energy Policy. And so just in all of your institutions, you know, what does that mean for you? What does it mean for the institution? What does that mean for your own research and time and how you allocate it? How do we step up and say, what can we do in the biggest and boldest way we can? Because we need—we’re creating a climate school because I think the view is—you know, a hundred years ago there were no schools of public health and now it’s how would you deal with a pandemic without a school of public health? So I think our view is decades from now we’ll look back and wonder how we ever thought it was possible to handle a problem as complex and urgent as climate change without universities devoting their greatest kind of resource to them. And the measure of success for universities has to be research and new knowledge creation. It has to be education. It has to be serving our own communities. For us, it’s, you know, the community here in New York, Harlem. But also are we focusing the extraordinary resources and capacity and expertise of these great institutions to solve humanity’s greatest problems? That has to be a motivating force, too, for much of—maybe not all of but a lot of what universities do. So I’d just ask all of us to go back and think about how we can do that in our own work every day. and we have to do it through partnerships. I think universities don’t work together as well as they need to. But this is only going to work if we work together. FASKIANOS: Great way to end. Thank you very much, Jason Bordoff. We really appreciate it. We’ll have to look for your article in Foreign Affairs magazine, which is published by CFR. So, we are excited that you continue to contribute to the magazine. You can follow Jason Bordoff on Twitter at @JasonBordoff. Very easy to remember. Our final academic webinar of the semester will be on Wednesday, December 1, at 1:00 p.m. (ET). Michelle Gavin, who is CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies, will talk about African politics and security issues. So in the meantime, follow us at @CFR_Academic. Come to,, and for research and analysis on global issues, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with you. Take care. BORDOFF: Thank you. (END)
  • World Order

    Please join Richard Haass and Fareed Zakaria for a conversation of U.S. grand strategy and world order in the 21st century. This meeting is the ninth and final session in CFR’s centennial speaker series, The 21st Century World: Big Challenges & Big Ideas, which features some of today’s leading thinkers and tackles issues ​that will define this century. 
  • Health

  • Education

    Antonio Flores, president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), leads a conversation on the role of Hispanic-Serving Institutions in higher education. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted and honored to have Dr. Antonio Flores with us today to discuss the role of Hispanic Serving Institutions. Dr. Flores is president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Established in 1986, HACU represents more than five hundred colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Europe. During his tenure as president of HACU, the association has nearly tripled its membership and budget, expanded its programs, and improved legislation for Hispanic Serving Institutions, and increased federal and private funding for HSIs. He previously served as director of programs and services for the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority, and the Michigan Higher Education Student Loan Authority. And, needless to say, he’s taught at public and private institutions, conducted research and policy studies on higher education issues. And so it really is wonderful to have him with us today to talk about HACU, how HACU is committed to the role of Hispanic Serving Institutions, and to serving underrepresented populations. Obviously, we are very much looking to develop talent for the next generation of foreign policy leaders, and really look forward to this conversation. So, Antonio, thank you for being with us. It would be great if you could talk about the Hispanic Serving Institutions, their role in higher education, and your strategic vision for HACU broadly. FLORES: Thank you, Irina, for those very flattering remarks and introduction. And of course, we’re delighted to be part of the series here today and talk a little bit about what HSIs are doing and how they can do more of the great work they’ve been doing for the nation, and HACU’s role as well in promoting them. And suffice to say that Hispanic Serving Institutions have become the backbone of not only Hispanic higher education, but also the American labor force. Because there are more—there are more than 560 now HSIs across the nation, enroll the vast majority, more than 5.2 million of them, of underserved students who historically have not been adequately served in higher education, including Latinos. And it just happens that this population, the Hispanic population, is contributing more than half of all the new workers joining the American labor force today. And that proportion is likely to continue to increase in the years ahead. In addition, of course, they serve scores of African Americans, of Asian Americans, Native Americans, and all Americans. So they are really a microcosm of American diversity. And for that very reason, going forward as these populations continue to increase demographically, their representation in the labor force will only continue to develop. The latest Census Bureau report for 2010 to 2020 indicates that more than 51 percent of all the population growth in the nation is attributed to Hispanics. So there we have it. It’s just the reality of the facts. And therefore, HSIs are now the backbone of America’s labor force, because ultimately the demands of the global economy are such that we need to step up to the plate and really educate at a much higher level, and train at a much higher level those underserved populations, particular Hispanics, so that we can remain competitive in that global economy. And that includes the preparation of top-notch leaders for foreign service careers. And so if we were to summarize how we view HSIs with respect to America’s challenges today, and opportunities in the future, I would say that there are three dimensions that define HSIs vis a vis the United States of America and its future in the world. Number one is diversity. And I already alluded to some of that. But diversity is not just with respect to the fact that they have the most diverse student population on their campuses. But it’s also the diversity across types of institutions because we have community colleges, we have regional universities, and we have research-intensive, or R1 institutions. So we have within campuses tremendous diversity, and we have across campuses nationwide institutionally diversity as well. And so that’s the name of the game. And that’s the name of the game for America, is diversity. And it’s the name of the game for the world. It’s a very diverse world out there. And so the more attuned those top-notch leaders that were looking to educate in our institutions are with respect to their diversity, the more not only knowledgeable and experienced and sensitive to that diverse reality of the world and of America, the much better leaders they are going to be. And so diversity, again, is that one unavoidable element of our world and of our country. The second, I think, very important element or dimension of HSIs is the dynamism. They are very dynamic institutions that are really doing a magnificent job with fewer resources than the rest of the field. They don’t have the big pockets or big endowments. They don’t have the applications they need from the federal government they should get. And yet, they excel at educating those who come to their campuses. Just to give you an idea, Opportunity Insights is a name of an organization that does socioeconomic analysis of graduates from students from colleges across the country. And particularly they focus on how institutions educate and position in careers those who come from the lowest quintile of entering freshmen to college. And they believe that those who graduate, they graduate and see what proportion of those who came in the lowest quintile move to the top quintile in terms of earnings. And in the last report I saw, nine of the ten top institutions in that regard were Hispanic Serving Institutions. Nine of the top ten. It’s not the Ivy League institutions, for sure. It is those institutions that I mentioned that are part of our group of HSIs. And in fact, the number one is Cal State LA in that report that I saw. And so, again, because they are very dynamic, creative, innovative, and resourceful with respect to using what little they have to optimize the educational outcomes of those who come to their campuses. And not just educational outcomes, but career outcomes. Once they are in the workforce, their earnings are higher than those of others from the same lowest quintile when they enter college. So dynamism is the second major component. And I would say deliverance. Deliverance for underserved populations is another important quality that HSIs represent, because they are ultimately serving—for the most part, the majority of their students are first-generation college students, many of them from immigrant families who are unfamiliar with the educational system and with the intricacies of going through a college education, because they themselves never had that opportunity to pass down. So they are at a very distinct socioeconomic disadvantage coming from those types of families who are also low income, because to be an HSI not only does an institution have to have more than 25 percent of its enrollment being Hispanic, but also they have to show that the majority of their students are Pell Grant eligible—in other words, needy, low-income students. And the other criterion is that they have to spend on average per student less than the average of their peer institutions. So they are efficient, very cost-effective, and they serve the neediest of our society. So there you have it. Diversity, dynamism, and deliverance for the most needed in our society. That’s what HSIs are all about. And so they really are in need of much greater support from the federal government, the state governments, and from the corporate community and the philanthropic community. And our association advocates for that to be the case, with some success but not enough. We have been able to increase the appropriations for them from Congress over the years, but they are way behind other cohorts of minority-serving institutions that get much more money per student than HSIs do, despite the fact that they—for instance, they not only educate 67 percent of all the 3.8 million Hispanics in college today; they also educate three times as many African Americans as all the HBCUs combined. Let me repeat that: More than three times as many African Americans go to HSIs as they go to HBCUs, OK? And more than 42 percent of all the Asian Americans in college today attend HSIs. They also educate more than twice as many Native Americans as all the tribal colleges and universities put together. And then we have other groups of different national origins who come to our campuses. So they are extremely diverse. And so that’s, in a nutshell, what HSIs are all about. And they’ve been growing, about thirty new HSIs per year, because demographically it’s how the country’s moving. There are more Hispanic young people emerging from high school and going to college than from any other group. And conversely, the non-Hispanic White student enrollment has been declining continually year after year for the last ten years. Look at the numbers. And that’s not going to stop. In major states, like California and Texas, for example, the two largest in the nation, more than 50 percent—about 52-55 percent of the K-12 enrollment is Hispanic. If you add the other minority populations, overwhelmingly these states futures are diverse and Hispanic. And so is the country. Other states are moving in the same direction, whether it’s Florida, or Illinois, or New York, New Jersey. The main states in the nation are moving in those—in that direction. So that’s why it’s so essential for Congress, the states, corporate America, and philanthropic America to invest in these institutions much more than they have been doing, because they represent the very future of this nation. To the extent that the new generations of graduates coming out of them are equipped with the right tools to succeed as scientists, as technicians, as professionals in whatever field they choose, our country will thrive. And the opposite will happen if we don’t. It’s that simple. And so that’s what I wanted to just briefly say as an introductory commentary on HSIs. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you very much for that. We’re going to go to the group now for their questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) So I’m going to first go to Manuel Montoya, who has raised his hand. Q: Thank you very much, Irina. And, Dr. Flores, it’s a real pleasure to have you on the call. I appreciate all the work that you do for HACU and for Hispanic Serving Institutions. I am with the University of New Mexico. I’m an associate professor in international management at UNM, but I also do a lot of work with my cohorts on supporting HSI—our HSI designation. We are a Hispanic Serving Institution and an R1 institution as well. All of the things you said are really important. And I had a comment and then a question. I think this question of—this idea of diversity being the name of the game is not to be underestimated. I think that the students that go through HSI-designated institutions, I think that they have the potential to reshape and recalibrate what we mean when we say we are ambassadorial in the world. And the United States needs to upgrade and change its relational dynamics, political and economic, to include diverse voices that come from the learned and lived experiences of people who traditionally come from first-generation families, first-generation students. And HSIs are equipped to do that. So my question becomes, you mentioned wanting to track some people into the foreign service exam. But what other types of experiences or opportunities do you think are best practices for students that are coming out of HSIs to participate in the larger international relations frameworks and careers that are setting the global agenda? FLORES: That’s a good question, Professor Montoya. And let me share with you briefly something that I mentioned before we started the webinar to friends at CFR. And that is that HACU has a very robust national internship program that places upwards of five hundred undergraduates, and some of our graduate students, with federal agencies, including the State Department. We signed an MOU with the late Secretary Powell, who at that time was very much committed to increasing the number of Latinos in the Foreign Service, and other underrepresented populations. And that remains in place, although not with the numbers that we would like to see. And yet, there are other agencies that also have a foreign or abroad projection, like Department of Agriculture, for example. And others that have offices across the world. And so we are very much into helping them find the right talent they need, and getting them also as interns experience those agencies, and putting them on the right track to become full-fledged employees once they graduate. So that’s one of the things that we’ve been doing. We need to do much more of that. I accept that the number is, as impressive as they may sound, are very minute when it comes to the populations that we’re talking about. And our own association has made it a priority to expand its international reach. And we have, depending on the year, anywhere from forty to fifty universities across Latin America, the Caribbean, and Spain that are affiliated with us to do precisely what you suggest, which is student mobility and experience abroad. And so—and in both directions, also that they would come to be in the U.S. And so we have the beginnings, I think, of a major push to make sure that many, many more young people who—they have a kind of an almost organic connection to international affairs, in this case Latinos, because most of them come from families who immigrated or have roots in other countries, and are really very much culturally adept to international roles. So your point is well-taken. And you’ll see a lot more activity from our end as an association in that regard. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Shoshana Chatfield. Q: Yes, hello. I wanted to say thank you for such a wonderful presentation and for really exposing me to some of the issues that I wasn’t aware of previously. I am the president of the United States Naval War College. And since I’ve been here over the past two years, I have been actively trying to expand our recruiting effort to make our vacancies on our faculty available to members of the community. And yet, I’m not seeing any appreciable difference in the applicant pool. And I wondered if you could advise me how I might approach this differently to raise awareness about hiring to these war colleges who have not traditionally had a high representation of faculty who come from the same backgrounds that you described. FLORES: Thank you. Thank you for your very timely question, President Chatfield. Let me say that one of the first things that I would suggest is that you join our association as a college. Why would that be helpful to your effort? Because then you will connect with presidents and CEOs of five hundred-plus community colleges, regional university, and so forth, and school districts that are also affiliated with that, that are defined as Hispanic-serving school districts. So that even in high school you will have a presence through our association’s outreach to them, and that you also would network with peers of diverse institutions across the country who may have robust pipelines of Ph.D. graduates and others who could fit your own aspirations, in terms of getting some of those faculty on your campus, some of those administrators, and some of those as students. Because, at the end of the day, probably—you probably want to have a much more diverse student body. And that can come from precisely that opportunity to not only interact but formally establish relationships with some of those colleges to transfer, for instance, from community colleges or from high schools that we interact with on a regular basis. So that would be one suggestion. We also have in our association a very, very nimble system called ProTalento. It’s online. That is P-R-O-T-A-L-E-N-T-O, ProTalento. And that that—you can go to our website, find it. And we have on that website a very robust database of individuals who are looking for opportunities at different colleges. That are already teaching, or doing research, or both, and are looking for other opportunities. And also, we have institutions that are looking for them. And the system basically matches them. So you can go there and find a goldmine, so to speak, of talent. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. Great question. And we have a written question, a couple written questions in the chat. This one comes from Andrea Purdy, who is an associate professor of Spanish at Colorado State University. We are anticipating reaching HSI status. And in talking to my students, a comment they have made to me is that they don’t always feel welcomed all over the university. There are niches, but overall the sense of belonging is not felt. They also commented that while they are beginning to see themselves in classrooms, they don’t see themselves in the faculty. What suggestions do you have for universities to make sure that the inclusivity is felt at all levels? FLORES: Well, it’s similar to the previous question in some—in some regards, because ultimately the first thing you want to do as a college or university, it has to be job number one, is to create a climate—a campus climate of support and welcoming feelings for the students, that they feel not only appreciated but they feel really supported and welcome to the institution. And so the point made is how can we recruit or how can we diversify faculty and staff? Well, again, you go—you know, when you want to catch fish, you go fishing where the fish are. And the fish are in some of the HSIs, those that are already more developed institutions. And many of them are regional universities or R1s or R2s. And those could be a source of talent for institutions like Colorado State, that is lacking some of their representation. And of course, I want to insist that please visit ProTalento. And you may be surprised how much success you could have in getting people from that database to consider your institution. But of course, faculty and staff who look like the students are essential to create that culture, that campus climate of appreciation and welcoming, I would say. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Let’s go next to Rosa Cervantes, who has a raised hand. And please unmute yourself and tell us your affiliation. Q: Good afternoon. Thank you for taking my questions. My name is Rosa Isela Cervantes. I’m the director of El Centro de la Raza at the University of New Mexico, and also special assistant to the president on Latino Affairs. And I really interested in what you said, Mr. Flores, about the diversity of students at HSIs, and that we serve three times the amount of—if I heard correctly—of African American students at HSIs than BCUs, is that correct? Is that— FLORES: That is correct, yes. Q: OK. And I wanted to see if you could expand a little bit about that, and also maybe think through or talk to how we can do some coalition building with folks. Because I really feel like HSIs are completely underfunded, right? You’ve stated it, we’ve heard it. But yet, they’re so robust and they do so many different things for so many different students. I wonder how we might continue—and we’re a member of HACU—but I wonder how we maybe think through some conversations to really get out the word about that idea, that HSIs are that robust, that HSIs do served large populations of students. And sometimes some of the most neediest students that require more money, right, for their funding. And so I just think that’s very interesting. I think—I don’t think a whole lot of people know about it or understand that. I had a faculty member at a different institution actually question me, because I had read that somewhere. And I think we need to talk more about it. So I’m just wondering your thoughts about coalition building and what else we can do, and how other ways that HACU needs our support to make that happen. FLORES: Thank you for your excellent question, Ms. Cervantes. And let me share with you that last week I was in Washington, D.C. most of the week and met with a number of Congress individually, including your great senator, Mr. Lujan. And guess what? There was a lot of good conversation about that point. And I have also talked with a number of African American members of Congress who didn’t know that, and who actually had themselves—(background noise)—and who actually have themselves a significant number of HSIs in their districts. And they didn’t know that they had all these HSIs in their districts. And so I think the word is getting out there. And, more importantly, the appreciation for the fact that these institutions really are very diverse, and not only do they educate the vast majority of Latinos and Latinas, but they also educate a larger number, as we said, of African Americans and others than the HBCUs, for example. And they didn’t know that. And then—so I think that mindset might begin to change, because at the end of the day the funding and support should be focused on the students. And ultimately, if you help the neediest of students you have the more diverse population, but you have the fewest dollars per student coming from Congress. There has to be something wrong there with that equation. So there is an inequity that we are, as an association, trying to remedy. And we need all the help we can get from all—our own Latino organizations and HSIs, but also from others including the HBCUs. It’s not about reducing funding for them or anything like that. They can and should be getting even more. But not—but HSIs shouldn’t be treated as second-class institutions. They are not. They are the backbone, again, of America’s labor force, in terms of training that labor force to be competitive in the global economy. So they have to be treated appropriately and equitably. Basically, it’s about equity in terms of funding. And right now, things are not at all equitable, but we’re changing that gradually. And thank you for your question. Q: Gracias. FASKIANOS: So we have a written—several written questions. So Sandra Castro, who is assistant dean of the undergraduate programs at Adelphi University says: What recommendations do you have for institutions that are striving to become HSIs in preparing for this designation? What internal changes and institutional infrastructure is necessary to truly serve the Latino student body? FLORES: I will suggest three things. One is, begin to work more closely with institutions that are already HSIs and that are doing a good job being HSIs, that are recognized for having, as they say, best practices with respect to being an HSI. And learn from them. Learn how it is that they do what they do well. And begin to then—and the second point is, educate your own leadership at your institution about how they can be much more effective and receptive to the inevitable demographic change in their student population to become an HSI, and how they can make the most of it in terms of student success, and also learning the ropes of how to get grants and funding to improve services for this population. And the third thing that I would recommend very strongly is that, you know, take a very hard look at all of your outreach and marketing materials, and revise them accordingly so that you reflect that commitment to diversity, in particular to Latino inclusion, in terms of bilingual materials and outreach to families and communities. Because many times the decision about whether to go to college or where to go to college by a student is really influenced very heavily by the family, the parents particularly, because of the tremendous pressure that many of them have in starting to work to contribute to the family income, because they come from low-income families. So working with those families and making them aware of the importance of getting a degree, a college degree, and postponing some of that lower-income—some of the minimum-wage salary that they could get as a high school graduate, and working with those families is very important. Working in their language and culture is even more important for some of them. FASKIANOS: Great. I think this is a good segue to the next question from Eric Hoffman, who got an upvote. He’s the dean of the Honors College at Miami Dade College. And his question is: How can we get the Hispanic and Latinx students out of their community and expand their aspirations to colleges and universities in states and areas far from home? FLORES: Well, you know, it’s an excellent question, in the sense that historically—because these are first-generation college students for the most part, whose families have not had the opportunity to educate themselves in college. And their temptation is to stay home. Especially sometimes it’s worse for female students to move away from home. And my suggestion is that you, again, will work with those families as closely as you can to make them aware of the fact that moving away doesn’t mean—moving away physically doesn’t mean moving away from the family otherwise, that they will ultimately remain connected to the family. And now with technology it’s even easier. You know, we have Facetime. We have all kinds of other ways of interacting that were not available just some years ago. And they ultimately need to consider the best options in terms of financial aid and the quality of education they’re going to get, and a few of the studies that they want to pursue. Sometimes all of those things are not available locally, so you have to go where all of those are. And I think that once there is a process of education for the family in that regard, they tend to be much more flexible. We experience some of that with our own national internship program, because we place them primarily in the Washington area, but also in other places. And I personally get to intervene sometimes with some families in their language, in Spanish, to reassure them that the young woman that was going to be placed somewhere else in Washington, D.C. or elsewhere was going to be OK, and she was going to come back home after the ten-week experience, or fifteen-week internship. And, guess what? After they experienced that, their siblings—they were trailblazers for their siblings and for neighbors, and all that. Now we don’t have that problem, at least with our internship program. We have thousands of applicants and, unfortunately, we can only place about five hundred a year, annually. And so it does pay off to invest in working with families closely. And again, it’s a generational effect, because then younger siblings or relatives will not have that kind of issue going forward. FASKIANOS: You had mentioned that you were in D.C. last week meeting with members of Congress. And we obviously have a new secretary of education, Dr. Cardona. Have you seen a shift from the Biden administration in their approach and what they’re doing from a federal level to support the HSIs? FLORES: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there is just no question about that. The shift has been dramatic. And this administration and Congress are—have shifted gears and are actually investing more than anything else in people, investing in the economy to create more jobs, investing in education to prepare the labor force much better, investing in health to protect people from not just the pandemic but from other diseases that we experience. And just in general, the infrastructure, they just passed that bill in the House, is to improve the lives of people across cities, across states, by improving their infrastructure. It is not just about roads and bridges. It is also about water systems that are decaying and are affecting the health of people. It is about the lack of access to broadband connectivity. It is all of those things that will improve the lives of people. And so there, no question. And HSIs have improved—again, not to the extent that they should be supported. But we are in a much better situation now than we were just a couple of years ago. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take Nathan Carter’s written question, and then Mike Lenaghan, I know you wrote a comment/question in the chat, but I’d love for you just to raise it and speak it, because I’m afraid I might not get it exactly correct. So Nathan Carter from Northern Virginia Community College in the Washington D.C. metro area. I am the—NOVA’s chief diversity equity and inclusion officer. We are an emerging HSI. When we look at our enrollment data here in fall 2021, we see a clear decline in quote/unquote “new” Hispanic students, both male and female. We wish to discuss this growing issue and recognize what may be the current obstacles or community issues happening right now in the Hispanic community that will help us explain what we see and how we can reach out to the Hispanic community to help address what could be a growing problem across various states. So I think if you could comment on that, and how to, you know, have that discussion. FLORES: Well, thank you for that question. It’s something that, of course, has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Because a lot of our colleges and universities, HSIs and others, did not have the endowments or the money to immediately make—shift gears in the direction of the technology required to move from in-person to online teaching and learning, and to train faculty and staff to manage all of those new systems. And that’s on the institutional side, that there was that kind of reality of not getting all of the necessary resources to make that shift immediately and successfully. On the receiving end you have families and communities that do not always have the connectivity to broadband and the devices at home and the space at home to learn online. And so it was a one-two punch—institutional and students were hit very hard. And therefore, many of them withdrew. And apart from the fact that when it comes to the rate of infection, hospitalization and death, Latinos were worse hit than any other population, so much so that during the pandemic Latinos shrank their life expectancy by three years, compared to two years for Black and 0.68 years, so less than a year, for non-Hispanic Whites. So you do have all of those things. And ultimately, that means that the students served by these institutions come from those very families that were hardest hit in their health as well. So they couldn’t go to school. They were trying to survive. And many did not. And so there was a drop in the enrollment, and particularly at community colleges, is where the—they were the hardest hit with respect to that, just like that community that is emerging as an HSI. So we are pushing very hard for that to be remedied, not just for the pandemic, but for the long term. Because I think the hybrid models of teaching and learning should—will remain in place for the long haul. And we need to make sure that those families, those communities that have been historically underserved and underfunded get that necessary technology at home to do that type of educational experience. We also need to make sure that the institutions that are suffering the most get the most help to beef up their infrastructure. And not just in terms of technology, but also in terms of expanding classrooms and also creating labs that are very expensive to create for technology of science or engineering types of degrees, which are the most in demand. And in some states, it’s even—it’s worse than in others because a lot of students are homeless. A lot of students are homeless. And in a state like California, where we have the largest concentration of Latinos, for example, that problem has been rampant and recognized by the state as a huge priority. So what they need to do is also build affordable housing even on campuses, so that those students have a place to live in a decent, humane way. And so there are many things that come to create this perfect storm against populations like low-income Latinos, and African Americans, and others. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to ask Mike Lenaghan to ask his question live. Q: Thank you very much, Irina. And it’s a pleasure to see you, Dr. Flores. I am Mike Lenaghan from Miami Dade College, and truly cherish the empowerment we’ve enjoyed through the vehicle of HACU. It’s been my experience, basically with a great deal of labor-intensive and purposeful leadership development, to have my scholars—just me, as one faculty member—successfully transfer to over 139 colleges and universities in the United States, all of whom required financial support and almost all of whom were able to avoid loans. This is over a twenty-year period. My question is: How might I, as a faculty member, also someone who’s labor-intensive, be empowered, possibly mediated by HACU, to share basically how to set up my Hispanic students and their families and their relatives for the kind of success my scholars have enjoyed at Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Georgetown, UVA, Duke, UCal Berkeley, and so on? Which, when the right combination of chemistry and self-identification occurs, each of my Hispanic/Latinx scholars basically knows what they uniquely bring and add, as well as what they uniquely can address and engage in each school. I realize I am just a microcosm in a larger macrocosm, but I’m wondering does HACU have a role to play that might mediate some education and sharing, not just a book or a strategy, but something that could be shared, including some of what I like to call my all-stars, who have enjoyed operating in the context of HACU as a launching pad. Thank you, sir. FLORES: Thank you for your very, very important work, Professor Lenaghan. And thank you for your very caring teaching and supporting our students, your scholars. And ultimately, you have a lot to offer to the academic community as a faculty who cares about these students not only doing well but excelling and going to places that perhaps their families never thought of them being able to go. And I think it begins with learning from people like you what is it you’ve been doing so well to help those that you have helped to excel. And HACU can be a platform for you to share that. We ultimately have annual conferences and other meetings where your expertise and your success can be shared with others to adapt it to their own needs and replicate what you’ve been doing so well in other places, so that many more can go onto those very selective institutions, and others. And of course, I don’t know if we’ve been connecting—I insist on this point, on connecting with families, because many of the Latino families—and maybe in the Miami area it’s a little different because a lot of the Cuban and South American families perhaps come from a more middle-class background than in places like Texas or California. And maybe they had already some collegiate experience in their home countries, and they immigrated there, or whatever. But that helps a lot, OK? When they come with that background. But when they don’t, when they are immigrants who come without even a high school diploma from their home countries, and they don’t know the language, their highest expectation is at least to get their high school diploma and start working somewhere. And so taking them to the next level, it takes a lot of work. And it takes a lot of work in terms of making sure that they understand that if their child has the talent, and has the persistence and discipline, et cetera, et cetera, to go places, that they can be very helpful to him or her in ensuring that there is a space at home where they can study, that they do concentrate on their studies, and that they really aim for those places that you mentioned and don’t settle for second-best of going to some institution, but make that their goal: I’m going to go to X or Y Ivy League or very selective institution because I have with it takes, but it’s going to take a lot of nurturing and support. And the parents can be very helpful, even if they don’t have an education, by really making sure that their child has the space and the time at home to concentrate and study. That will go a long way. But really, let them flourish. And so HACU can be a platform in three different ways. One is, allowing individuals like yourself, who are excelling in their teaching, to share their best practices with others. Secondly, we also, of course, have to recognize that we have some programs already in HACU that are very effective, especially those that are focused on moving a critical mass into STEM degrees. And we’re going to emphasize that even more going forward. And thirdly, that we, as an association, have the ability to influence federal agencies and others—and corporations to invest in the kinds of practices that you may be successful at. And I’ll give you a couple examples. We just got a planning grant from NSF, HACU did. And we are almost done with the planning for one year, because we want to submit a multiyear, multimillion grant to NSF with an emphasis on moving as high as possible, to the PhD. in fact, Latinos all the way from community college up to the research one institutions. And we are working on that proposal to be submitted early next year. But we could, I’m sure, learn from what you’re doing. And so we could influence agencies to also invest more. We have a new program under NSF for HSIs that you can apply for a grant to expand what you’re doing with more students, more parents. And the same thing is true with respect to other agencies. I was just in Washington last week and met with the undersecretary of the Department of Commerce to discuss the technology program, where our institutions will each have a role to play. And so we have the role of advocating and influencing agencies and Congress to invest in institutions like yours, Miami Dade, and professors like you, so that you can do more of exactly what you are doing. So please feel free to send us an email at HACU. You can send it to my attention. And I’ll make sure that it finds its way to the right staff in charge of the kinds of programs that you are dealing with. We do have great staff that follows up on situations like yours. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. We will circulate after this an email with some of the resources you’ve mentioned and the email that we should be sharing, Dr. Flores. So we have another question, and it follows onto Mike’s question, from Arturo Osorio, who’s an associate professor at Rutgers University. Any advice or programs that you know to help connect the parents of the Hispanic Latino Students to the higher education experience? Many of our students are first-generation Americans and also first-generation college students. This creates a large cultural and experiential gap for parents to bridge on their understanding of what kids are going through and support them. As a result, many of the students have very stressful moments as they navigate away from the family to their college life. FLORES: Yeah. Excellent question. And my suggestion is that please send us an email. We have an office in HACU that is designated to promote pre-K-12 and higher education collaboration. The executive director of that office is Jeanette Morales. Jeanette Morales has a team, and they work with clusters or consortia of colleges, universities and K-12 schools, particularly secondary schools, to move out successfully many more of those underserved students to college and be better prepared to succeed in college. It is more substantive than just a college visitation thing or admissions officers talking with them at an event. They actually have early college interventions for high school students. So they actually earn even college credit when they are creating high school for the most advanced students. But they also have opportunity for professors from some of those universities and community college to teach as visiting teachers in those high schools, where they may not get the resources to hire faculty for advanced courses and for the courses that are required to be successful in especially STEM degrees, like advanced math, advanced science, and so forth. So that office and our association has been in place for the last seventeen years. It was that far back when we first saw that more than half of the battle to succeed in college has to be won in K-12. And it has to be won with families on your side, because first-generation college students do depend largely on families to make decision after high school. So please feel free to contact Jeanette Morales or myself in my email at our San Antonio headquarters. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. We are at the end of our time. I just wanted to ask if you could just do really briefly what you’re doing internationally to encourage—you know, and we don’t have a lot of time. But I don’t want to leave without—you had told me in our pre-call just a little bit. So if I you could just give us a wrap-up on that, that would be fantastic. FLORES: Yeah. We think of international education not as an appendage, not as a luxury, not as an add-on proposition, but as an integral part of a college education, in this case. And we hope that the vast majority of our young people will have a chance to experience a study abroad. And of course, it’s like a big dream, because right now if you look at the numbers, only about 5 to 7 percent, max, of all the 350,000 American students going to study abroad are Latino. And the same number, roughly the same percentage, is African Americans and others. And conversely, only about maybe 3 percent of all the students coming from other countries come from Latin America—1.3 percent only from Mexico, which is right next door to us, OK? So that has to change. And it has to change because people who have an international experience ultimately expand their horizons and their vision of the world and are more effective not only professionals but citizens of the world. And we feel that it is very important for our young people to do that, not as a—as a kind of a luxury, or anything like that, but as an integral part of their development as professionals. And so we plan on being even more keen on affecting legislation that will provide more resources for our institutions and international programming, and ourselves as an association being much more engaged in getting more international institutions to affiliate with us to promote that mobility, that experience, independent of whether the government decides to invest or not. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you very much. Antonio Flores, this has been really a great discussion. And thanks to everybody for their terrific questions and comments. We really appreciate it. HACU is lucky to have you. We’re fortunate to have you leading this great association. As I mentioned, we will send out a link to this webinar, also some of the resources you mentioned, email addresses and the like. And I’m sure everybody knows it, but it’s worth repeating, the HACU website, You can follow them on Twitter at @HACUnews. So go there. You can also follow us at @CFR_Academic. And please go to,, and for CFR’s resources on international affairs and the like. So I hope you’re all staying well. Dr. Flores, thank you again. And we look forward to your continuing involvement in this webinar series. The next invitation will be for December, and we will be sending that out under separate cover. FLORES: Thank you very much, Irina. Thank you, everyone. (END)
  • Religion

  • Intelligence

  • China

  • Middle East and North Africa

    Our panelists examine religious freedom in the Middle East, how international organizations and the United States have responded to the persecution of religious minorities in the past, and what can be done in the present.
  • Taiwan

    The Stephen M. Kellen Term Member Program is supported by a generous gift from the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.
  • Diplomacy and International Institutions

    Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield discusses her career and vision for the future of American diplomacy, U.S. priorities at the United Nations and the recent Security Council trip to Mali and Niger, and the Ambassador’s onward travel to Gabon.
  • Climate Change

  • Education

    Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, associate professor in George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and global fellow in the Wilson Center’s Latin America Program, leads a conversation on the future of U.S.-Mexico relations.   CASA: Welcome to today’s session of the CFR Fall 2021 Academic Webinar Series. I am Maria Casa, director of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Thank you all for joining us. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, if you would like to share it with your colleagues or classmates. As always CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera with us to discuss the future of U.S.-Mexico relations. Dr. Correa-Cabrera is associate professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and global fellow in the Latin America Program at the Wilson Center. She also serves as nonresident scholar at the Center for the United States and Mexico in Rice University’s Baker Institute, is a fellow at Small Wars Journal-El Centro, and is co-editor of the International Studies Perspectives Journal. Previously Dr. Correa-Cabrera was principal investigator of a research grant to study organized crime and trafficking in persons in Central America and Mexico, supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. She is past president of the Association for Borderland Studies and the author of several books. Welcome, Guadalupe. CORREA-CABRERA: Thank you, Maria. CASA: Thank you very much for speaking with us today. CORREA-CABRERA: Thank you, Maria. Thank you very much to everyone, especially the Council on Foreign Relations, for the opportunity to talk to you about the relationships of my two countries, the United States and Mexico. So today, I’m going to start by explaining what is the current state of Mexico-U.S. relations, but in the context of a very important event that took place some days ago, in the context of the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities. The bicentennial—so-called Bicentennial Understanding. There was a concern at the beginning of the current administration in the United States that the relationships between the United States and Mexico were going to be difficult. Notwithstanding the last, the current year has been extremely productive in many areas. And with this new understanding, the Bicentennial Understanding, that it states in the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities, the United States and Mexico’s relation has been reframed in a very important way. There is an understanding that the Mérida initiative that had been the center of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, focused on security, needed to be reframed. And then, you know, that was—that was considered that the priorities remained the same, the priorities of the two countries, with some changes that I’m going to be talking about. But the three—I mean, the high-level understanding, this high-level meeting told us what’s supposed to be—I mean, where we’re going to see in the future. So I just wanted to point out some of the points that were discussed. This framework was informed by each country’s security priorities, that I’m going to be talking about. And the focus is addressing violence, but through a response that’s driven by justice and use of intelligence against organized crime, and based on tactical cooperation in law enforcement, based on the previous mistakes that had been identified. But currently, the focus would be on public health and development as a part of the strategy of cooperation between the two countries. I’m taking some words from the—from the communique of this understanding. And, you know, with the consideration of—for a more secure and prosperous region, the Mexico-U.S. Bicentennial Framework serves to reaffirm the friendship and cooperation that exists between the two nations. You know, as you see, the language is very friendly. It’s based on an understanding that the relationship is important, cooperation is important. Apparently the two countries are in the same boat in this regard. The United States recognizes that support of militarization is not the way probably to go. And a greater focus on public health and development to address the root causes of violence in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Mexico, is probably the way to go, with an understanding to promote a more secure and prosperous region. There are four themes—I mean, this is the idea. This was—I mean, that was the conversation that’s on the table. We don’t necessarily know ourselves today how this is going to be implemented, what are the particular policies that—or, the collaboration, or the amounts of money to make this happen. But this is kind of like the idea of the future of this collaboration. However, I am going to be talking about the opportunities, and particularly the challenges, considering the priorities of the two nations that, in a way, and when we have the meetings of this type, and when we listen to the language and read the media and talk to the politicians that were present, we have a sense. But then when everybody goes home, we kind of, like, think about this better and we see opportunities, but more challenges than we initially thought. So there are four main things in the United States-Mexico relations that need to be highlighted, plus one that has been also always important but today is more important due to the pandemic. Which is the theme of public health, where an important collaboration between Mexico and the United States has been observed but at the same time poses certain challenges with regard to the border management. Title 42 is still in place and the borders are going to be opened gradually, considering, you know, the vaccination status of people. But that has had a major impact on border communities, and certain impacts on trade and development, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border. The other four main themes of U.S. Mexico relations that I want to talk about are immigration, security, trade, and energy. I mean, I don’t want to place them in order of priority. I think that energy is going to define the future of Mexico-U.S. relations, but I’m going to mention the four in the context of the present—I mean, the present situation. So with regards to trade, the successful passage and, you know, implementation of renegotiation of NAFTA, today in the shape of USMCA, has been extremely successful. Poses some challenges, of course. And this is going to be connected with the last subject we’ll be talking about, the proposal of the Mexican government to reform the electricity sector. This is something that is going to be very, very important, and what are the priorities of the United States in the framework of build back better? But with regards to trade, apparently their relationships could not be, you know, better than today. There are some challenges, of course, that have to be with labor rights and unions in Mexico that would cause some loss of competitiveness in the manufacturing sector. And in the framework build back better, of course, this is going to benefit the United States and it’s going probably to affect the manufacturing sector of Mexico. Let’s see how it works. But with regards to trade, things are mainly, you know, stable, with exception of the future. And this is going to be very, very important. The potential passage, we don’t really know, it’s very difficult that the electricity reform in Mexico will pass. But anyway, the president—the current president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has a very important amount of—I mean, segment of the population, and a very important support from his base that might help him to achieve his goal. I see it very differently, but we’ll talk about that. So the next area that I would like to talk about is immigration. Here we have enormous challenges, enormous challenges that have been visualized with, you know, the current situations at the border that started since the beginning of this administration. During the past years, I mean, they had started to be increasing in magnitude, or at least in visibility. As I mentioned, Title 42 is maintained, and the migration protection protocol—Migrant Protection Protocols, so Stay in Mexico program, where a number of asylum seekers would have to wait for their cases to be decided in Mexico, there’s a new definition in this framework. The Supreme Court of the United States very recently made a decision with regards to the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Protocols. In the beginning the Department of Homeland Security, you know, made the declaration that they would—they would continue with that, but very recently they intention is not to continue with the Migrant Protection Protocols. In the end, and this is why this is very important in the very current conversation, in the end the continuation of this—of this program that has been highly criticized. Then it’s also—it has put the human rights of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers at risk. That might—this will not work if Mexico—if the government of Mexico does not accept it. We have to see what is going to be the result. But we have a definition in this regard. The role of Mexico is key in the management of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the management of what some call migrant crisis, and then a crisis at the border. We observed that crisis very recently with a number of Haitian citizens that all left their country, went to South America, and from South America—from countries such as Ecuador, Brazil, Chile—traveled north through different countries, finding different challenges and dangers, and arrived to one point of the U.S.-Mexico border, with the help of a number of actors, such as migrant smugglers and corrupt authorities, but with the aim of making—I mean, escaping a terrible life and making a better life in the United States. We have a caravan that’s now in direction to Mexico City. They were going go—they will put their demands on the table, but their intent is to continue going to the United States. There is a very big definition with regards to the migrant crisis, or what some call the migrant crisis, and the immigration issues that the government of the United States has recognized very accurately, and the Mexican government too, that there need to be collaboration to address the root causes of the situation that has to do with the development of the countries of Central America, of South America. And, you know, to achieve stability in South America, probably not through militarization. Secretary Blinken in a very surprising statement has led us to believe that today the United States is also reframing its aid to Latin America, to Central America and the Caribbean. And the focus is not going to be in aid in military equipment or in the militarization of the region. This is very important. And this brings me to talk about the third important—the third theme in the U.S.-Mexico relations. Mexico’s security—the relationship of Mexico and the United States in the past few years has been focused on this connection between security and immigration. That’s in the end centered on a specific attention of border enforcement, of border security cooperation. The situation in Mexico has deteriorated in the past few years, and the situation has not improved in an important way. Mexico’s homicides remained at high levels, despite the pandemic. During the pandemic the decrease was very small, but today and we expect that this year the homicide rate continues growing in a trend that does not seem to be going down. The approach of the Mexican government since the transition period was—I mean, I can be summarized in the phrase talks not bullets. Which means, like, a completely—I mean, a complete shift of the declaration of Mexico’s war on drugs to some other, like, approaches that will focus as well to solve the root causes of violence insecurity in Mexico, mainly development frameworks. However, the prior militarization of criminal groups in different parts of the country, and the events—the shootings and the diversification of criminal activities by armed groups in the country—has also caused a very complicated situation. The count of homicides in Mexico shows that killings remain essentially unchanged, more than 36,000 homicides in the year 2020. As I mentioned before, this year we expect an important increase. I don’t know what will be the magnitude, but we have observed since the beginning of the year very unfortunate events. For example, at the U.S.-Mexico border, in the city of Reynosa, the massacre of migrants, and also assassinations and disappearances in a very key highway of Mexico from Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. We still remember the Culiacanazo in the year 2019, which was a very complicated year. And today the situation in states like Michoacán, Guerrero, and Sinaloa, the massacres that be found, and people who disappear—or, that remain disappeared, is a very big concern, both to Mexico and the United States. There is not really an understanding of how this collaboration with regards to security will be framed. However, there was a very big advancement in the Bicentennial Understanding initial talks that the Mérida Initiative, at least on paper, supposed to be ending. But there’s going to be a focus on dismantling transnational criminal organizations, probably in a different way and not with a focus on the military sector or on armed forces. At least, this is what we have on the paper. Mexico has been very straightforward with regards—and very critical with regards to the role of the DEA. And that has caused several tensions in this relationship. We also have the issue of security and the—I mean, the priorities of the United States with regards to build back better proposal or reform. And then we have, as I said, the reform of the electric sector in the Mexico state, who want to recover the control of the management of electricity, of the electricity market, and the capacity of the state to manage the lithium. So Mexico has—and the Mexican government has three main projects: the construction of the refinery in—the Dos Bocas in Tabasco, the Santa Lucia airport, and the Maya Train. There is a tension between Mexico and the United States with regards to priorities. Mexico has a priority to continue with the support of oil and gas. This is—this is reflected in the construction of the refinery. And here, we’re probably going to see the main point of tension. Because of build back better and the commitment with build back better, and also focus on U.S. internal markets where Mexico has been benefitting from the growth of its manufacturing sector. We don’t really know how this is going to be playing out, but at least, you know, on paper things are going to be good. But definitely the priorities with regards to energy are very different, and the focus of the U.S.-Mexico government on the lessening of climate change. And this focus is going to be very different—very difficult. The United States is committed to meet its climate goals, create millions of jobs inside the United States. And that has really changed their relationship. So we can talk more about these. Thank you for listening to this. And as I said, we’ll probably be talking a lot about energy and the inequalities that public health and vaccination rates, that will also cause tensions. And immigration is another point that we need to talk about in greater depth. Thank you. CASA: Thank you, Guadalupe, for that introduction. There certainly is a lot to talk about. Now let’s open this up to questions from our participants. (Gives queuing instructions.) Let’s see. We will start with a written question from Paul Haber, who’s a professor at University of Montana. He asks: Can you please provide some detail regarding the changes in labor required in Mexico by the USMCA? And what has happened to date? And do you expect a real deepening of the reforms between now and the end of the AMLO administration? CORREA-CABRERA: This is a very important question. With regard to the USMCA, mainly the main point that might cause tensions have to do—has to do with labor unions, particularly in the maquiladora sector, in manufacturing sector. The United States has been very clear with regards to that requirement, but that would, at the same time, lower the competitiveness of Mexico’s manufacturing sector. As I said, there have been, I mean, in the past couple of years an attempt to create independent labor unions in the maquiladora sector, but there are still extreme tensions. And there have not been a real advance in this—in this sense. But at the same time, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with his theme of primero los pobres, the poor first, and a support of Mexican labor, an increase—a very important increase since the beginning of his administration of wages, he is supposedly committed to help Mexican workers and to—and he has been focused as well on supporting not only the labor unions or the labor sector, but with his social programs that have been, I mean, advertised a great extent. Such as Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro, the Youth Constructing Future, which is a very important, for him, but also very criticized program. And the support of mothers without—I mean, single mothers. And, I mean Youth Constructing Future for those who don’t have jobs. So on the one hand Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also in order to continue building his base of support or maintaining his base of support, focused—has focused on these programs, these social programs, that are not necessarily just focused on labor, as the way that the United States wants this to be seen in order to also rebuild the economy by changing the focus to internal development. I don’t see in that regard if what—if your interest comes from the United States, what has happened with the union is—with the labor unions and their capacity to really, I mean, grow in the Mexican manufacturing sector—I don’t see—I don’t see a lot of advancement in that area. And definitely in this regard, there are very different priorities in Mexico versus the United States. But Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been able to convince a number of his supporters, a number of Mexican workers, because he has increased in a very important way Mexican wages. And he is probably going to be able to achieve more increases when the elections—the presidential elections approach. But definitely we don’t see very definite changes with regards to this area as the USMCA has been posed. CASA: Next we have a raised hand from Sherice Nelson, assistant professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge. Sherice. Q: Good afternoon. Thank you so much for your talk. And I appreciate you leaving time for us to ask questions. As a professor, how do—the biggest challenge often is to get students to back away from some of the stereotypical information they get about U.S.-Mexico and the relationship, and the centering of that—of that relationship on immigration, when there’s far—as you mentioned—there are far other issues that define our relationship. Where are places that we can lead students to, to get better information that is not as stereotypical about the relationship, that will pique their interest? Thanks so much. CORREA-CABRERA: That’s a very important question. Thank you for asking. And absolutely, there is a way to present the issue on immigration, to place it in a political perspective—either from the right side or the left. The problem with immigration and the quality development and the access for jobs—I mean, it has been studied in depth by Mexican academics, United States academics. Issues have more to do with development and with the jobs that are offered in the United States, the pull and push factors of undocumented immigration, for example. And we have very different areas to be thinking about migration or immigration. And the focus recently has been at the border, has been with regards to asylum seekers, has been politicized in the United States, while many other areas have been, to some extent, ignored. There are—for educators, there are a number of analyses. One particular area that’s important to know, it’s United States—I mean, immigrants—how immigrants in the United States, coming from different countries, have been able to develop, have been able to make this country great. That’s one area that we have to focus on. And there is a lot of information in that regard. Another, I mean, issue that it’s important to know are the pull and push factors of undocumented immigration. And one important factor that usually we’re not focused on are the jobs that exist in the United States, and the perspective from—I mean, the undocumented immigration from the perspective of employers. And that is connected to this analysis of the role of immigrants in the United States. Where are they coming from? What are they doing? How they came here, and not just of those who want to come. Another issue that has been widely covered is the one that has to do with migration. Migration flows that start in countries such as Chile, that dangerous journey where that media has been focused on, without analyzing this as a whole, without analyzing this understand that there are jobs in the United States, there is a comprehensive immigration reform that’s on the table, and that that comprehensive immigration reform will definitely help to solve the problems of a system that needs the, I mean, immigrants to continue working, but it’s creating all sorts of problem. The disfunctions of U.S. immigration system have been identified. There is a proposal that’s bipartisan to solve these issues with temporary visas, pathway towards citizenship for those that are already here, that already have jobs, that already contribute to this economy. But unfortunately, immigration is definitely, as you correctly mention, a subject that has been utilized, that has been polarized, because it touches very important sentiments of the electorate. And we don’t understand it. Definitely the immigration system in the United States needs to change. And there are—there is a very important amount of articles, of studies that analyze not just those who want to come or the so-called migrant crisis at the border, but how the market in the United States works, the labor markets, what undocumented migrants do in the United States, how to solve these issues with these bipartisan efforts that have been put together in documents, such as the Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and also those that want to work. And many of these problems would probably be solved through the mechanisms that think tanks, and analysts, and academics have done. Important work by think tanks like the Migration—MPI, the Migration Policy Institute, or the—I mean, other initiatives in Mexico. There have been a lot of—there’s a lot of information about the possible policies to solve these issues. It’s important to consider that information is there, that the work is done, but the problem is the coverage. And definitely our students need to go to understand the suggested—the suggested solutions, creating legal pathways to migration, to temporary work in the United States, is probably the way to go. But unfortunately, we got into these politicized moments, and these electoral moments, and the discourse gets politicized. But there is a lot there, a lot of analysis, a lot of proposals that you can find. Amazing work, both in the United States, in Mexico, and in many other countries of the Americas, because right now the issue of undocumented immigration, irregular immigration does not only have to do with Mexico and the United States. Immigrants have to pass through Mexico in order to get to where they want to go in order to go where the works are located. But we know and we have seen that a number of people, for example, that what was called the Haitian crisis at the border, like, the journey was done from countries as far as Chile, and so many countries have to deal with that. For example, the situation in Venezuela—many migrants that have been—I mean, finding jobs and a home in Colombia temporarily are also going—also moving up and are going to the border. So there’s a lot there, and our students, you know, can find a lot of information. It’s just to get out of the media discourses that are presented and that do not allow us to see the reality. But there is a lot out there that we can access, particularly for our students. CASA: Our next question is a written question and comes from Pedro Izquierdo, a graduate student at George Mason University. He asks, what improvements and flaws do you see in the bicentennial framework regarding arms trafficking, unlike the Mérida Initiative? CORREA-CABRERA: Well, it’s—the Bicentennial Understanding is not—at this point it’s just a number of good wishes and the recognition of certain problems. Arms trafficking has been recognized in this Bicentennial Understanding. As of today, we don’t really know what the United States is going to be able to do with regards to arms trafficking, and there is a very important and complicated situation here because in the United States it’s not by decree, it’s not by—I mean, the arms possession and the way that United States citizens understand their rights with regards to bearing arms. It’s a constitutional right; therefore—and there’s a lot of—you know, there’s a very, very big business that will not end so easily. Therefore, the two countries might, you know, might agree on—I mean verifying or collaborating to end or to lessen the issue of arms smuggling. However, this is going to be very difficult unless something important happens in the United States with regards to the legislation to place some limits on the bearing of arms. This is very important. As of today, Pedro, there is not a concrete plan of how the two countries are going to collaborate in this regard. As we know, the minister of foreign affairs—I mean the Mexican government through the minister of foreign affairs, I mean, has a lawsuit against United States arms manufacturers with regards to the arms that come to Mexico and end up in the hands of drug traffickers. There is nothing else that it’s current today where we will know what the two countries are going to be doing. And this is the same with many of the good wishes, many of the areas of the collaboration, the end of the Mérida Initiative and the beginning of this understanding. We really don’t know what specific programs are going to be implemented and how these programs are going to be implemented, how much money is going to be directed to these programs at this time. We just have an understanding of how the priorities can get together to improve and to reframe, to some extent, the collaboration in terms of security and development. CASA: Next we are going to a raised hand; we have Terron Adlam, an undergraduate student at Delaware State University. Please go ahead, Terron. Q: Can you hear me now? CASA: Yes. Q: Hi. Yes. So I’m thinking about more the energy sector of this talk. So in Mexico I know there’s a lot of geothermal activity, so isn’t there a more effective way of, like—because global warming is increasing more and more as time goes on, like, the flooding, the overheating of the ozone, stuff like—couldn’t geothermal usage be more effective in Mexico and solar too, versus the oil refineries? CORREA-CABRERA: This is a very important question. The understanding of climate change in the United States is very different from Mexico. In the developed world, the concern about the environment has been focused—I mean, this has now been the center of the discussion and the center of the development programs and projects. In the developing nations, there are more immediate needs to be covered. With regards specifically to Mexico, there is not—climate change is not in the center of the discourse and the priorities of the Mexican government. Mexico has oil and gas and the current Mexican president—I mean, notwithstanding the analysis of other actors. What the Mexican government has had as a priority since the beginning of the administration has more to do with the development from the state, more centralization of the state, a greater role of the state in the sector of oil and gas. The climate change priority comes from the United States. Today, you know, the diplomatic efforts are going to be done to make Mexico to turn into the renewable sector, but at this point, it is not the priority of the Mexican government, neither the priority of a majority of the Mexican people, because in the developing world, climate change is important but it’s more important sometimes in certain parts of Mexico, such as Guerrero, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas, and it’s particularly the poorest regions of Mexico—Oaxaca or Chiapas—where there are several problems and, you know, immediate needs of people are not covered. And I’m talking about food. I’m talking about security very particularly. These pictures of children with arms in Guerrero and Michoacán tell us what the emergency situation is for a number of people, and the Mexican president has been able to create a discourse around these needs, around the needs for poor people, around the needs of those who can listen to that better, and he has a priority today—I mean, he sent a proposal to achieve an electric reform; well, the state is going to have more involvement and also a focus on electricity with the technologies that the Mexican state has been managed, which is not connected to solar or wind or the mindset that the United States has had in the past few years. So the priorities are very different and the studies are not directed there. The Department of Energy of the United States, through one of the laboratories of renewable energies, conducted a—I mean conducted a study and released the results of this report talking about the—according to the report—the negative effects in terms of emissions of carbon by Mexico and the increase in the cost of producing electricity. The Mexican government—the president alleged that that study was not based in reality. And you can see, then, what Mexico wants. And, you know, currently, Mexico has actively participated in the COP26 and it’s been involved in the conversation, but definitely we don’t know how much money or how this—(inaudible)—is going to be made. This is a very important question because I wasn’t able to go in depth with this. This is probably going to be the main point of tensions between the two countries in the future—definitely for Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Andrés Manuel López Obrador was a very big critic of the recent energy reform of 2013, 2014, the energy reform that allowed private capital to get into the oil sector. He was a pretty big critic. There have been a number of events that link corrupt Mexican governments with the concessions in the oil sector, oil and gas sector, so this is probably going to be—continue to be discussed. And if the president has the capacity of passing the reform—that I see it very difficult because of the numbers that he needs—the situation is going to become more tense, because his vision is nationalistic and it’s not—and nationalism—Mexican nationalism of today is not looking at climate change as its main priority. And you can see the supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador are really not discussing climate change. Mexican elites are discussing climate change and, of course, the opposition against Andrés Manuel López Obrador against the government of the Fourth Transformation, but they have an important majority—they don’t have a majority, sorry, the opposition. The important majority is within the government of the Fourth Transformation, and their support for electric reform is important. I don’t know how this is going to play out in the end, but in the United States and in Mexico, climate change is perceived in a very different way. That has to be understood very clearly because we don’t see the media, we don’t see how in the schools and how in Mexico overall the issue is well-ingrained into the society, because, of course, the society, the Mexican society, particularly the most vulnerable ones in the country, the very important number of poor people in the country has other priorities that have to do with food insecurity—have to do with food insecurity. CASA: Thank you. Our next question is a written question; it’s from Yuri Mantilla, professor of law at Liberty University, and he writes, can you please analyze the influence of political ideologies in Mexico and the U.S. that are shaping both international relations between the two countries and perceptions of the Mexican and American people regarding the current political contexts under the Biden administration in the U.S. and the López Obrador leadership in Mexico? CORREA-CABRERA: That’s an amazing question, but that is a very difficult question to answer very quickly. OK, let me try to do it. It’s a very big challenge. This is a very challenging question. As I mentioned with regards to climate change, the ideologies in Mexico and the United States, what is right and what is left in the two countries is quite—it’s, to some extent, different in the United States, the left and right. And today, because we have a president that ran on a left-wing platform and he was recognized as a left-wing president and also a very big critic of so-called neoliberal reforms and the neoliberal system that were represented by the previous administrations and that by the administrations that achieved democratization in Mexico. I’m talking about the National Action Party and all the parties that supported those reforms, the democratization in the country. And because of that, today, the ideology has transformed, to some extent; it’s not about—I mean, support for the Washington consensus as it was in the previous decades versus—which was represented in the government—versus another project that direct—the relationship more with the people. Now that mindset, that discourse, sometimes propagandistic in certain ways, is in the government. So the government presents itself as a left-wing government. Nationalism and a conception of first the poor—the poor first, very big criticism, in discourse only, about neoliberalism, without, you know, a real perspective what neoliberalism is because of the support that the current Mexican government has provided to USMCA, which is one of the foundation parts of what is perceived as neoliberalism, which is mainly liberalism in—not in the perspective of the United States overall—free markets, the importance of free markets in the economy. It’s a very challenging question because in the United States and Mexico there are important concepts that mean different things for people. Liberalism or neoliberalism for Mexicans mean support of markets and a support of the right, while in the United States, when we talk about liberalism, we think about progressive thinking; we think about equality but in a different way. In Mexico the center is equality in the economic regard, and the president today, the government, you know, is governing with the flag of equality, is governing with the flag of the left. And the so-called left is with the Mexican—or allegedly voted for the current Mexican president, but now some of them are debating themselves in different areas. So it’s not as easy to place the right and the left as it is more in the United States; even in the United States there are many issues with regards to position yourself in right and left. We have the progressive part of the electorate in the United States versus a more moderate left, and, as you all know, the Republican Party or the conservative segment of the U.S. population that’s more connected with Republican candidates, it’s kind of like a very different conception in Mexico. The right wing in Mexico in many ways support, for example, the Democratic Party in the United States. What is conceived as the opposition to Andrés Manuel López Obrador even are very critical of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s relationship with feminism or the feminist movement. Andrés Manuel López Obrador is not supporting the feminist movement because Andrés Manuel López Obrador alleges the feminist movement has been supported by other countries and the opposition. So for the alleged left that is represented by the government, feminism is not a part of their agenda, while in the United States the LGBTQIA movement, the feminist movement, support for climate change, those important values are part of the progressive movement of the left. I mean, in Mexico, and I explain this is why this is very, very important and a very challenging question to answer—I mean, just very quickly—is that, for example, climate change is not in the agenda and climate change is in the—it has been taken by the opposition to the Mexican government. Many representatives of the opposition are criticizing the current Mexican government but not focusing on not going and continuing with the desire of constructing the Dos Bocas refinery and going with oil and gas and focusing on electricity as in the previous times of the PRI. So a number of the Mexican elite that is in opposition—I mean that’s considered the opposition are supporting climate change. Why—not supporting climate change but are supporting, like, you know, the development of renewable energies and have as an objective climate change but mainly to criticize what the Mexican government is doing. So in that regard, we see a very big polarization between the ones that supported previous administrations versus this current government that connects with the left, while in the United States we see what is the ideological spectrum. A number of those who represent, as I said, the opposition are connected with the current administration objectives. For example, President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa presents very frequently his photographs with members of the Democratic Party, the current president, Joe Biden, and he’s very critical of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, so there’s a confusion that we can have based on our own ideologies that’s not very easy to understand in very quick explanation. But I hope that I was, to some extent, clear in this regard. CASA: Next we’re going to a raised hand. Ellen Chesler, who’s senior fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. Ellen? Q: I actually had put my question in the chat, I thought, but I’ll ask it. Thank you so much for this interesting overview. I wanted to—I’m a historian by training and was going to ask you to historically frame some of your introductory remarks in a little bit more depth. First, of great interest to me, your comments about the importance of public health, specifically reproductive health policy. Have United States policies and support of Mexico in the last, you know, twenty-five years or so, in your view, been positive for the country, and what are the challenges that remain? And in a way linked to that, from your introductory comments, a question about labor: You mentioned, of course, that NAFTA, in your view, was successful, certainly from Mexico’s standpoint, but has remaining challenges, largely relating to labor organization and the raising of wages in Mexico to equalize the situation between the two countries. Can you comment on what prospects there are for that happening today in Mexico? CORREA-CABRERA: Very interesting questions. With regards to reproductive health, this also has to do with the ideology. The left in Mexico, which is now represented, in a way, by the current Mexican government, the current Mexican government has adamantly—since Andrés Manuel López Obrador was head of the government of Mexico City there have been, you know, an advancement with regards to reproductive rights, reproductive health, and that is not under question of the current administration, which is very interesting because in the United States the—I mean, there’s a different type of tension. And in other countries of the hemisphere too, we can see—you know, because we’re Catholic countries we can see that area as very complex and a lot of opposition with regards to that. In Mexico, there needs to be an opposition because of the mentality, because of the culture, but there has been an advancement in the courts, and recently there was a decision in one state of Mexico that decriminalized—and it’s very interesting how the Mexican government has been able to build a different discourse that has allowed the current government to advance in that direction. Decriminalization of abortion is a way that this has advanced. So I believe that possibly—I dare to say that possibly in the Americas, Mexico is one of the most progressive governments with regards to this subject, reproductive health and reproductive rights. It is very interesting—there must be a number of studies coming from this decision of the courts of one state of Mexico that’s going to be defining the future of reproductive rights in the country. With regards to the second question about NAFTA, labor rights, there is an understanding in the United States that NAFTA has been good, particularly for Mexico. In the technocracy sector, particularly those that, you know, contributed to renegotiate NAFTA—I mean, the Mexican elites recognize the gains of Mexico in the framework of NAFTA, particularly if we focus on the manufacturing sector. The jobs that we’re creating in maquiladoras, the jobs that were created due to NAFTA, were not enough to achieve or to allow Mexico to grow at rates that were acceptable. During the time of NAFTA, Mexico has grown at the same—almost at the same level of demographic rates of population rates. So overall, a number of jobs were lost in the beginning, the first years of NAFTA. Many of these people needed to move to the United States. So the effects of NAFTA in Mexico have been very extremely, extremely unequal. But what you will read probably in the reports that have been produced by Mexican academics, Mexican analysts and think tanks and in the think tanks of the United States is that NAFTA has been overall very good for Mexico. It has not been bad for Mexico. It has allowed the country to have access to a number of products but, at the same time, has affected some other sectors that could be considered of national security. And I’m thinking about the production of grain in the agricultural sector in particular. But with regards to labor rights—and this is why the question is very important, and I’m not sure that I answered it correctly. The United States has different priorities and has had different priorities that were manifested in the growth of dissatisfaction among an important segment of the U.S. population that has not been able to—I mean, become part of the development in the United States. That gave place to the Make America Great Again movement where the intention or the importance that a number of people in the United States, both in the left or in the right—the idea of a Green New Deal that it’s right now in the form of the Build Back Better framework has this idea in mind, to generate jobs inside the United States, because globalization or very aggressive globalization after the end of the Cold War really put a number of people in the United States in a complicated situation because the jobs were performed outside the borders of the United States. So today, this is why it is important to understand what USMCA is about with regards to labor. There is an important pressure from the United States, in particular, to Mexico to increase or—the conditions of the workers in the manufacturing sector overall because there is an important focus on wages. But if wages are—increase more than what the president already increased, you know, into this framework and labor unions make more complicated the entrance of foreign capital and the foreign capital goes back to the United States, will Mexico lose its competitiveness? And the losses will be for Mexico. So there is a tension there and definitely this tension has not been solved. The wages in Mexico have been low but that has to do with the labor supply and with the conditions of labor markets overall. And if there is a force to create the labor unions, this is probably not going to be in the—I mean it’s not going to benefit Mexican workers because the businesses are probably not going to generate those jobs and will probably relocate. That’s a conversation that has been going on and we have not solved. And we have not seen an improvement overall in the conditions or the wages of workers, more than the one that Andrés Manuel López Obrador by decree—has been given to the workers by increasing in double, particularly at the border wages in the manufacturing sector. But in the framework of USMCA, we haven’t yet seen the results and we have not yet seen also the pressure if Mexico has not because the unions have not been created and there are many tensions in that sector. There was an attempt to start with the first labor union in the maquiladora sector by—I mean today a person who is right now in Congress, Susana Prieto Terrazas—she ended up in jail in the state of Tamaulipas, so this is a very complicated subject that we haven’t been able to solve. CASA: I’m afraid we have to close now. We’re not able to get to all the questions, but we will give you the contacts for the professor and you can reach out to her directly, if you would like to continue the conversation. Guadalupe, thank you very much for being with us today, and to all of you for your great questions and comments. You can follow Guadalupe on Twitter @GCorreaCabrera. Our next Academic Webinar will take place on Wednesday, November 17, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center of Global Energy Policy and professor of professional practice in international and public affairs at Columbia University, will lead a conversation on energy policy and efforts to combat climate change. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow @CFR_Academic on Twitter and visit,, and for new research and analysis on global issues. Thank you again for joining us today. We look forward to tuning in on November 17. (END)
  • Refugees and Displaced Persons

    Ten years after the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Syria is still the world’s largest refugee crisis. In Simple As Water, the documentary from Academy Award-winning director Megan Mylan, portraits of Syrian families filmed over five years in five countries reveal the impact of war, separation, and displacement and reify the universal importance of family.  Panelists discuss this soon-to-be released HBO documentary, the Syria crisis, and the obstacles refugee families face.
  • Technology and Innovation

  • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

    Fei-Fei Li discusses artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies that are certain to have enormous implications for this country and the world.    This meeting is the eighth session in CFR’s centennial speaker series, The 21st Century World: Big Challenges & Big Ideas, which features some of today’s leading thinkers and tackles issues ​that will define this century. 
  • Middle East and North Africa

    Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at CFR, leads a conversation on geopolitics in the Middle East.   FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the CFR Fall 2021 Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you want to share it with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. Today’s topic is geopolitics in the Middle East. Our speaker was supposed to be Sanam Vakil, but she had a family emergency. So we’re delighted to have our very own Steven Cook here to discuss this important topic. Dr. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies, and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of several books, including False Dawn; The Struggle for Egypt, which won the 2012 Gold Medal from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Ruling But Not Governing. And he’s working on yet another book entitled The End of Ambition: America’s Past, Present, and Future in the Middle East. So keep an eye out for that in the next year or so. He’s a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and contributor and commentator on a bunch of other outlets. Prior to coming to CFR, Dr. Cook was a research fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Soref research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. So, Dr. Cook, thank you for being with us. I thought you could just—I’m going to give you a soft question here, to talk about the geopolitical relations among state and nonstate actors in the Middle East. And you can take that in whatever direction you would like. COOK: Well, thanks so much, Irina. It’s a great pleasure to be with you. Good afternoon to everybody who’s out there who’s on an afternoon time zone, good morning to those who may still be in the evening, and good evening to those who may be somewhere where it’s the evening. It’s very nice to be with you. As Irina mentioned, and as I’m sure it’s plenty evident, I am not Sanam Vakil, but I’m happy to step in for her and offer my thoughts on the geopolitics of the Middle East. It’s a small topic. That question that Irina asked was something that I certainly could handle effectively in fifteen to twenty minutes. But before I get into the details of what’s going on in the region, I thought I would offer some just general comments about the United States in the Middle East. Because, as it turns out, I had the opportunity last night to join a very small group of analysts with a very senior U.S. government official to talk precisely about the United States in the Middle East. And it was a very, very interesting conversation, because despite the fact that there has been numerous news reporting and analytic pieces about how the United States is deemphasizing the Middle East, this official made it very, very clear that that was practically impossible at this time. And this was, I think, a reasonable position to take. There has been a lot recently, in the last recent years, about withdrawing from the region, from retrenchment from the region, reducing from the region, realignment from the region. All those things actually mean different things. But analysts have essentially used them to mean that the United States should deprioritize the Middle East. And it seems to me that the problem in the Middle East has not necessarily been the fact that we are there and that we have goals there. It’s that the goals in the region and the resources Washington uses to achieve those goals need to be realigned to address things that are actually important to the United States. In one sense that sound eminently reasonable. We have goals, we have resources to meet those goals, and we should devote them to—and if we can’t, we should reassess what our goals are or go out and find new resources. That sounds eminently reasonable. But that’s not the way Washington has worked over the course of the last few decades when it comes to the Middle East. In many ways, the United States has been overly ambitious. And it has led to a number of significant failures in the region. In an era when everything and anything is a vital interest, then nothing really is. And this seems to be the source of our trouble. For example, when we get into trying to fix the politics of other countries, we’re headed down the wrong road. And I don’t think that there’s been enough real debate in Washington or, quite frankly, in the country about what’s important in the Middle East, and why we’re there, and what we’re trying to achieve in the Middle East. In part, this new book that I’m writing called the End of Ambition, which, as Irina pointed out, will be out hopefully in either late 2022 or early 2023, tries to answer some of these questions. There is a way for the United States to be constructive in the Middle East, but what we’ve done over the course of the last twenty years has made that task much, much harder. And it leads us, in part, to this kind of geostrategic picture or puzzle that I’m about to lay out for you. So let me get into some of the details. And I’m obviously not going to take you from Morocco all the way to Iran, although I could if I had much, much more time because there’s a lot going on in a lot of places. But not all of those places are of critical importance to the United States. So I’ll start and I’ll pick and choose from that very, very large piece of geography. First point: There have been some efforts to deescalate in a region that was in the middle of or on the verge of multiple conflicts. There has been a dialogue between the Saudis and the Iranians, under the auspices of the Iraqis, of all people. According to the Saudis this hasn’t yielded very much, but they are continuing the conversation. One of the ways to assess the success or failure of a meeting is the fact that there’s going to be another meeting. And there are going to be other meetings between senior Iranian and Saudi officials. I think that that’s good. Egyptians and Turks are talking. Some of you who don’t follow these issues as closely may not remember that Turkey and Egypt came close to trading blows over Libya last summer. And they pulled back as a result of concerted diplomacy on the part of the European Union, as well as the Egyptian ability to actually surge a lot of force to its western border. Those two countries are also talking, in part under the auspices of the Iraqis. Emiratis and Iranians are talking. That channel opened up in 2019 after the Iranians attacked a very significant—two very significant oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia, sort of scaring the Emiratis, especially since the Trump administration did not respond in ways that the Emiratis or the Saudis had been expecting. The Qataris and the Egyptians have repaired their relations. The Arab world, for better or for worse, is moving to reintegrate Syria into is ranks. Not long after King Abdullah of Jordan was in the United States, he and Bashar al-Assad shared a phone call to talk about the opening of the border between Jordan and Syria and to talk about, among other things, tourism to the two countries. The hope is that this de-escalation, or hope for de-escalation coming from this dialogue, will have a salutary effect on conflicts in Yemen, in Syria, in Libya, and Iraq. Thus far, it hasn’t in Yemen, in particular. It hasn’t in Syria. But in Libya and Iraq, there have been some improvements to the situation. All of this remains quite fragile. These talks can be—can break off at any time under any circumstances. Broader-scale violence can return to Libya at any time. And the Iraqi government still doesn’t control its own territory. Its sovereignty is compromised, not just by Iran but also by Turkey. But the fact that a region that was wound so tight and that seemed poised to even deepen existing conflicts and new ones to break out, for all of these different parties to be talking—some at the behest of the United States, some entirely of their own volition—is, I think, a relatively positive sign. You can’t find anyone who’s more—let’s put it this way, who’s darker about developments in the Middle East than me. And I see some positive signs coming from this dialogue. Iran, the second big issue on the agenda. Just a few hours ago, the Iranians indicated that they’re ready to return to the negotiating table in Vienna. This is sort of a typical Iranian negotiating tactic, to push issues to the brink and then to pull back and demonstrate some pragmatism so that people will thank for them for their pragmatism. This agreement to go back to the negotiating table keeps them on decent terms with the Europeans. It builds on goodwill that they have developed as a result of their talks with Saudi Arabia. And it puts Israel somewhat on the defensive, or at least in an awkward position with the Biden administration, which has very much wanted to return to the negotiating table in Vienna. What comes out of these negotiations is extremely hard to predict. This is a new government in Iran. It is certainly a harder line than its predecessor. Some analysts believe that precisely because it is a hardline government it can do the negotiation. But we’ll just have to see. All the while this has been going on, the Iranians have been proceeding with their nuclear development, and Israel is continuing its shadow campaign against the Iranians in Syria, sometimes in Iraq, in Iran itself. Although, there’s no definitive proof, yesterday Iranian gas stations, of all things, were taken offline. There’s some suspicion that this was the Israelis showing the Iranians just how far and deep they are into Iranian computer systems. It remains unclear how the Iranians will retaliate. Previously they have directed their efforts to Israeli-linked shipping in and around the Gulf of Oman. Its conventional responses up until this point have been largely ineffective. The Israelis have been carrying on a fairly sophisticated air campaign against the Iranians in Syria, and the Iranians have not been able to mount any kind of effective response. Of course, this is all against the backdrop of the fact that the Iranians do have the ability to hold much of the Israeli population hostage via Hezbollah and its thousands of rockets and missiles. So you can see how this is quite worrying, and an ongoing concern for everybody in the region, as the Israelis and Iranians take part in this confrontation. Let me just continue along the line of the Israelis for a moment and talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that has not been high on the agenda of the Biden administration, it hasn’t been high on the agenda of many countries in the region. But since the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020, there have been some significant developments. The normalization as a result of the Abraham Accords continues apace. Recently in the Emirates there was a meeting of ministers from Israel, the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain, and Sudan. This is the first kind of face-to-face meeting of government officials from all of these countries. Now, certainly the Israelis and the Emiratis have been meeting quite regularly, and the Israelis and the Bahrainis have been meeting quite regularly. But these were broader meetings of Cabinet officials from all of the Abraham Accords countries coming together in the United Arab Emirates for talks. Rather extraordinary. Something that thirteen months—in August 2020 was unimaginable, and today is something that doesn’t really make—it doesn’t really make the headlines. The Saudis are actually supportive of the normalization process, but they’re not yet willing to take that step. And they’re not willing to take that step because of the Palestinian issue. And it remains a sticking point. On that issue, there was a lot of discussion after the formation of a new Israeli government last June under the leadership, first, of Naftali Bennett, who will then hand the prime ministership over to his partner, Yair Lapid, who are from different parties. That this was an Israeli government that could do some good when it comes to the Palestinian arena, that it was pragmatic, that it would do things that would improve the lives of Palestinians, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, and seek greater cooperation with both the United States and the Palestinian authority toward that end. And that may in fact turn out to be the case. This government has taken a number of steps in that direction, including family reunification, so that if a Palestinian on the West Bank who is married to a Palestinian citizen of Israel, the Palestinian in the West Bank can live with the family in Israel. And a number of other things. But it should also be clear to everybody that despite a kind of change in tone from the Israeli prime ministry, there’s not that much of a change in terms of policy. In fact, in many ways Prime Minister Bennett is to the right of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. And Yair Lapid, who comes from a centrist party, is really only centrist in terms of Israeli politics. He is—in any other circumstances would be a kind of right of center politician. And I’ll just point out that in recent days the Israeli government has declared six Palestinian NGOs—long-time NGOs—terrorist organizations, approved three thousand new housing units in the West Bank, and worked very, very hard to prevent the United States from opening a consulate in East Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians. That consulate had been there for many, many, many years. And it was closed under the Trump administration when the U.S. Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Biden administration would like to reopen that consulate. And the Israeli government is adamantly opposed. In the end, undoubtably Arab governments are coming to terms with Israel, even beyond the Abraham Accords countries. Egypt’s flag carrier, Egyptair, announced flights to Tel Aviv. This is the first time since 1979. You could—you could fly between Cairo and Tel Aviv, something that I’ve done many, many times. If you were in Egypt, you’d have to go and find an office that would sell you a ticket to something called Air Sinai, that did not have regular flights. Only had flights vaguely whenever, sometimes. It was an Egyptair plane, stripped of its livery, staffed by Egyptair pilots and staff, stripped of anything that said Egyptair. Now, suddenly Egyptair is flying direct flights to Tel Aviv. And El-Al, Israel’s national airline, and possibly one other, will be flying directly to Cairo. And there is—and that there is talk of economic cooperation. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Sharm al-Sheikh not long ago. That was the first meeting of Israeli leaders—first public meeting of Israeli leaders and Egyptian leaders in ten years. So there does seem to be an openness on the part of Arab governments to Israel. As far as populations in these countries, they don’t yet seem to be ready for normalization, although there has been some traffic between Israel and the UAE, with Emiratis coming to see Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and so on and so forth. But there are very, very few Emiratis. And there are a lot of Egyptians. So as positive as that all is, this is—this has not been a kind of broad acceptance among the population in the Arab world for Israel’s legitimate existence. And the kind of issue du jour, great-power competition. This is on everybody’s lips in Washington, D.C.—great-power competition, great-power competition. And certainly, the Middle East is likely to be an arena of great-power competition. It has always been an arena of great-power competition. For the first time in more than two decades, the United States has competitors in the region. And let me start with Russia, because there’s been so much discussion of China, but Russia is the one that has been actively engaged militarily in the region in a number of places. Vladimir Putin has parlayed his rescue of Hafez al-Assad into influence in the region, in an arc that stretches from NATO ally Turkey, all the way down through the Levant and through Damascus, then even stretching to Jerusalem where Israeli governments and the Russian government have cooperated and coordinated in Syria, into Cairo, and then into at least the eastern portion of Libya, where the Russians have supported a Qaddafist general named Khalifa Haftar, who used to be an employee of the CIA, in his bid for power in Libya. And he has done so by providing weaponry to Haftar, as well as mercenaries to fight and support him. That episode may very well be over, although there’s every reason to believe that Haftar is trying to rearm himself and carry on the conflict should the process—should the political process in Libya break down. Russia has sold more weapons to Egypt in the last few years than at any other time since the early 1970s. They have a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia. It’s not clear what that actually means, but that defense agreement was signed not that long after the United States’ rather chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which clearly unnerved governments in the Middle East. So Russia is active, it’s influential, its militarily engaged, and it is seeking to advance its interests throughout the region. I’ll point out that its presence in North Africa is not necessarily so much about North Africa, but it’s also about Europe. Its bid in Libya is important because its ally controls the eastern portion of Libya, where most of Libya’s light, sweet crude oil is located. And that is the largest—the most significant reserves of oil in all of Africa. So it’s important as an energy play for the Russians to control parts of North Africa, and right on Russia’s—right on Europe’s front doorstep. China. China’s the largest investor and single largest trading partner with most of the region. And it’s not just energy related. We know how dependent China is on oil from the Gulf, but it’s made big investments in Algeria, in Egypt, the UAE, and in Iran. The agreement with Iran, a twenty-five-year agreement, coming at a time when the Iranians were under significant pressure from the United States, was regarded by many in Washington as an effort on the part of the Chinese to undercut the United States, and undercut U.S. policy in the region. I think it was, in part, that. I think it was also in part the fact that China is dependent in part on Iranian oil and did not want the regime there to collapse, posing a potential energy crisis for China and the rest of the world. It seems clear to me, at least, that the Chinese do not want to supplant the United States in the region. I don’t think they look at the region in that way. And if they did, they probably learned the lesson of the United States of the last twenty-five years, which has gotten itself wrapped around the axle on a variety of issues that were unnecessary and sapped the power of the United States. So they don’t want to get more deeply involved in the region. They don’t want to take sides in conflicts. They don’t want to take sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. They don’t take sides in the conflict between the United States and Iran, or the competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran. They want to benefit from the region, whether through investment or through extraction, and the security umbrella that the United States provides in the region. I’m not necessarily so sure that that security umbrella needs to be so expensive and so extensive for the United States to achieve its goals. But nevertheless, and for the time being at least, we will be providing that security umbrella in the region, from which the Chinese will benefit. I think, just to close on this issue of great-power competition. And because of time, I’m leaving out another big player, or emerging player in the region, which is India. I’m happy to talk about that in Q&A. But my last point is that, going back to the United States, countries in the region and leaders in the region are predisposed towards the United States. The problem is, is that they are very well-aware of the political polarization in this country. They’re very well-aware of the political dysfunction in this country. They’re very well-aware of the incompetence that came with the invasion of Iraq, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, or any number of disasters that have unfolded here in the United States. And it doesn’t look, from where they sit in Abu Dhabi, in Cairo, in Riyadh, and in other places, that the United States has staying power, the will to lead, and the interest in remaining in the Middle East. And thus, they have turned to alternatives. Those alternatives are not the same as the United States, but they do provide something. I mean, particularly when it comes to the Chinese it is investment, it’s economic advantages, without the kind of trouble that comes with the United States. Trouble from the perspective of leaders, so that they don’t have to worry about human rights when they deal with the Chinese, because the Chinese aren’t interested in human rights. But nevertheless, they remain disclosed toward the United States and want to work with the United States. They just don’t know whether we’re going to be there over the long term, given what is going on in the United States. I’ll stop there. And I look forward to your questions and comments. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Steven, that was fantastic. Thank you very much. We’re going to now to all of you for your questions. So the first raised hand comes from Jonas Truneh. And I don’t think I pronounced that correctly, so you can correct me. Q: Yeah, no, that’s right. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Dr. Cook, for your talk. I’m from UCL, University College London, in London. COOK: So it is—(off mic). Q: Indeed, it is. Yeah. That’s right. COOK: Great. Q: So you touched on it there somewhat particularly with great-power competition, but so my question is related to the current energy logic in the Middle East. The Obama administration perhaps thought that the shale revolution allowed a de-prioritization, if I’m allowed to use that word, of the Middle East. And that was partly related to the pivot to Asia. So essentially does the U.S. still regard itself as the primary guarantor of energy security in the Persian Gulf? And if so, would the greatest beneficiary, as I think you indicated, would that not be China? And is that a case of perverse incentives? Is there much the U.S. can do about it? COOK: Well, it depends on who you ask, right? And it’s a great question. I think that the—one of the things that—one of the ways in which the Obama administration sought to deprioritize and leave the region was through the shale revolution. I mean, the one piece of advice that he did take from one of his opponents in 2002—2008, which was to drill, baby, drill. And the United States did. I would not say that this is something that is specific to the Obama administration. If you go back to speeches of presidents way back—but I won’t even go that far back. I’ll go to George W. Bush in 2005 State of the Union addressed, talked all about energy independence from the Middle East. This may not actually be in much less the foreseeable future, but in really—in a longer-term perspective, it may be harder to do. But it is politically appealing. The reason why I say it depends on who you ask, I think that there are officials in the United States who say: Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. But when the Iranians attacked those two oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia, that temporarily took off 50 percent of supply off the markets—good thing the Saudis have a lot stored away—the United States didn’t really respond. The president of the United States said: I’m waiting for a call from Riyadh. That forty years of stated American policy was, like, it did not exist. The Carter doctrine and the Reagan corollary to the Carter doctrine suddenly didn’t exist. And the entirety of the American foreign policy community shrugged their shoulders and said: We’re not going to war on behalf of MBS. I don’t think we would have been going to war on behalf of MBS. We would have been ensuring the free flow of energy supplies out of the region, which is something that we have been committed to doing since President Carter articulated the Carter doctrine, and then President Reagan added his corollary to it. I think that there are a number of quite perverse incentives associated with this. And I think that you’re right. The question is whether the competition from China outweighs our—I’m talking about “our”—the United States’ compelling interest in a healthy global economy. And to the extent that our partners in Asia, whether it’s India, South Korea, Japan, and our important trading partner in China, are dependent upon energy resources from the Gulf, and we don’t trust anybody to ensure the free flow of energy resources from the Gulf, it’s going to be on us to do it. So we are kind of hammered between that desire to have a healthy global economy as being—and being very wary of the Chinese. And the Chinese, I think, are abundantly aware of it, and have sought to take advantage of it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question, which got an up-vote, from Charles Ammon, who is at Pennsylvania State University. And I think this goes to what you were building on with the great-power competition: What interests does India have in the Middle East? And how is it increasing its involvement in the region? COOK: So India is—imports 60 percent of its oil from the region. Fully 20 percent of it from Saudi Arabia, another 20 percent of it from Iran, and then the other 20 percent from other sources. So that’s one thing. That’s one reason why India is interested in the Middle East. Second, there are millions and millions of Indians who work in the Middle East. The Gulf region is a region that basically could not run without South Asian expatriate labor, most of which comes from India—on everything. Third, India has made considerable headway with countries like the United Arab Emirates, as well as Saudi Arabia, in counterextremism cooperation. This has come at the expense of Pakistan, but as relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and relations between Pakistan and the UAE soured in recent years, the Indians have been able to take advantage of that. And Indian leaders have hammered away at the common interest that India and leaders in the region have in terms of countering violent extremism. And then finally, India and Israel have quite an extraordinary relationship, both in the tech field as well as in the defense area. Israel is a supplier to India. And the two of them are part of a kind of global network of high-tech powerhouse that have either, you know, a wealth of startups or very significant investment from the major tech players in the world. Israel—Microsoft just announced a huge expansion in Israel. And Israeli engineers and Indian engineers collaborate on a variety of projects for these big tech companies. So there’s a kind of multifaceted Indian interest in the region, and the region’s interest in India. What India lacks that the Chinese have is a lot more capacity. They don’t have the kind of wherewithal to bring investment and trade in the region in the other direction. But nevertheless, it’s a much more important player than it was in the past. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Curran Flynn, who has a raised hand. Q: How do you envision the future of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia politics for the next thirty years? Ethiopia controls the Nile dam projects. And could this dispute lead to a war? And what is the progress with the U.S. in mediating the talks between the three countries? COOK: Thank you. FASKIANOS: And that is coming from the King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia. COOK: Fabulous. So that’s more than the evening. It’s actually nighttime there. I think that the question of the great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is really an important one, and it’s something that has not gotten as much attention as it should. And for those of you who are not familiar, in short the Ethiopians have been building a massive dam on the Blue Nile, which is a tributary to the Nile. And that if—when competed, threatens the water supply to Egypt, a country of 110 million people that doesn’t get a lot of rainfall. Ethiopia, of course, wants to dam the Nile in order to produce hydroelectric power for its own development, something that Egypt did when it dammed the Nile River to build the Aswan High Dam, and crated Lake Nasser behind it. The Egyptians are very, very concerned. This is an existential issue for them. And there have been on and off negotiations, but the negotiations aren’t really about the issues. They’re talks about talks about talks. And they haven’t gotten—they haven’t gotten very far. Now, the Egyptians have been supported by the Sudanese government, after the Sudanese government had been somewhat aligned with the Ethiopian government. The Trump administration put itself squarely behind the Egyptian government, but Ethiopia’s also an important partner of the United States in the Horn of Africa. The Egyptians have gone about signing defense cooperation agreements with a variety of countries around Ethiopia’s borders. And of course, Ethiopia is engaged in essentially what’s a civil war. This is a very, very difficult and complicated situation. Thus far, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution the problem. Now, here’s the rub, if you talk to engineers, if you talk to people who study water, if you talk to people who know about dams and the flow of water, the resolution to the problem is actually not that hard to get to. The problem is that the politics and nationalism have been engaged on both sides of the issue, making it much, much more difficult to negotiate an equitable solution to the problem. The Egyptians have said in the past that they don’t really have an intention of using force, despite the fact of this being an existential issue. But there’s been somewhat of a shift in their language on the issue. Which recently they’ve said if red lines were crossed, they may be forced to intervene. Intervene how? What are those red lines? They haven’t been willing to define them, which should make everybody nervous. The good news is that Biden administration has appointed an envoy to deal with issues in the Horn of Africa, who has been working very hard to try to resolve the conflict. I think the problem here however is that Ethiopia, now distracted by a conflict in the Tigray region, nationalism is running high there, has been—I don’t want to use the word impervious—but not as interested in finding a negotiated solution to the problem than it might have otherwise been in the past. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Bob Pauly, who’s a professor of international development at the University of Southern Mississippi. It got three up-votes. What would you identify as the most significant likely short and longer-term effects of Turkey’s present domestic economic and political challenges on President Erdogan’s strategy and policy approaches to the Middle East, and why? COOK: Oh, well, that is a very, very long answer to a very, very interesting question. Let’s see what happens in 2023. President Erdogan is facing reelection. His goal all along has been to reelected on the one hundredth anniversary of the republic, and to demonstrate how much he has transformed Turkey in the image of the Justice and Development Party, and moved it away from the institutions of the republic. Erdogan may not make it to 2023. I don’t want to pedal in conspiracy theories or anything like that, but he doesn’t look well. There are large numbers of videos that have surfaced of him having difficulties, including one famous one from this past summer when he was offering a Ramadan greeting on Turkish television to supporters of the Justice and Development Party, and he seemed to fade out and slur his words. This is coupled with reports trickling out of Ankara about the lengths to which the inner circle has gone to shield real health concerns about Erdogan from the public. It’s hard to really diagnose someone from more than six thousand miles away, but I think it’s a scenario that policymakers in Washington need to think seriously about. What happens if Erdogan is incapacitated or dies before 2023? That’s one piece. The second piece is, well, what if he makes it and he’s reelected? And I think in any reasonable observer sitting around at the end of 2021 looking forward to 2023 would say two things: One, you really can’t predict Turkish politics this far out, but if Turkish elections were held today and they were free and fair, the Justice and Development Party would get below 30 percent. Still more than everybody else. And Erdogan would have a real fight on his hands to get reelected, which he probably would be. His approaches to his domestic challenges and his approaches to the region are really based on what his current political calculations are at any given moment. So his needlessly aggressive posture in the Eastern Mediterranean was a function of the fact that he needed to shore up his nationalist base. Now that he finds himself quite isolated in the world, the Turks have made overtures to Israel, to the UAE, to Saudi Arabia. They’re virtually chasing the Egyptians around the Eastern Mediterranean to repair their relationship. Because without repairing these relationships the kind of investment that is necessary to try to help revive the Turkish economy—which has been on the skids for a number of years—is going to be—is going to be more difficult. There’s also another piece of this, which is the Middle East is a rather lucrative arms market. And during the AKP era, the Turks have had a significant amount of success further developing their defense industrial base, to the point that now their drones are coveted. Now one of the reasons for a Saudi-Turkish rapprochement is that the United States will not sell Saudi Arabia the drones it wants, for fear that they will use them in Yemen. And the Saudis are looking for drones elsewhere. That’s either China or Turkey. And Turkey’s seem to work really, really well, based on experience in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh. So what—Turkish foreign policy towards the region has become really dependent upon what Erdogan’s particularly political needs are. There’s no strategic approach to the region. There is a vision of Turkey as a leader of the region, of a great power in its own right, as a leader of the Muslim world, as a Mediterranean power as well. But that’s nothing new. Turkish Islamists have been talking about these things for quite some time. I think it’s important that there’s been some de-escalation. I don’t think that all of these countries now love each other, but they see the wisdom of pulling back from—pulling back from the brink. I don’t see Turkey’s position changing dramatically in terms of its kind of reintegration into the broader region before 2023, at the least. FASKIANOS: Great. Let’s go next to, raised hand, to Caleb Sanner. And you need to unmute yourself. Q: Hello, my name is Caleb. I’m from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. So, Dr. Cook, you had mentioned in passing how China has been involved economically in North Africa. And my question would be, how is the U.S. taking that? And what are we doing, in a sense, to kind of counter that? I know it’s not a military advancement in terms of that, but I’ve seen what it has been doing to their economies—North Africa’s economies. And, yeah, what’s the U.S. stance on that? COOK: Well, I think the United States is somewhat detached from this question of North Africa. North Africa’s long been a—with the exception of Egypt, of course. And Egypt, you know, is not really North Africa. Egypt is something in and of itself. That China is investing heavily in Egypt. And the Egyptian position is: Please don’t ask us to choose between you and the Chinese, because we’re not going to make that choice. We think investment from all of these places is good for—is good for Egypt. And the other places where China is investing, and that’s mostly in Algeria, the United States really doesn’t have close ties to Algeria. There was a tightening of the relationship after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, recognizing that the Algerians—extremist groups in Algerian that had been waging war against the state there over the course of the 1990s were part and parcel of this new phenomenon of global jihad. And so there has been a security relationship there. There has been some kind of big infrastructure kind of investment in that country, with big companies that build big things, like GE and others, involved in Algeria. But the United States isn’t helping to develop ports or industrial parks or critical infrastructure like bridges and airports in the same way that the Chinese have been doing throughout the region. And in Algeria, as well as in Egypt, the Chinese are building a fairly significant industrial center in the Suez Canal zone, of all places. And the United States simply doesn’t have an answer to it, other than to tell our traditional partners in the region, don’t do it. But unless we show up with something to offer them, I’m afraid that Chinese investment is going to be too attractive for countries that are in need of this kind of investment. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to a written question from Kenneth Mayers, who is at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. In your opinion, what would a strategic vision based on a far-sighted understanding of both resources and U.S. goals—with regard to peace and security, prosperity and development, and institutions and norms and values such as human rights—look like in the Middle East and North Africa? COOK: Well, it’s a great question. And I’m tempted to say you’re going to have to read the last third of my new book in order to get the—in order to get the answer. I think but let me start with something mentioned about norms and values. I think that one of the things that has plagued American foreign policy over the course of not just the last twenty years, but in the post-World War II era all the way up through the present day, you see it very, very clearly with President Biden, is that trying to incorporate American values and norms into our approach to the region has been extraordinarily difficult. And what we have a history of doing is the thing that is strategically tenable, but morally suspect. So what I would say is, I mean, just look at what’s happened recently. The president of the United States studiously avoided placing a telephone call to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The Egyptians, as many know, have a terrible record on human rights, particularly since President Sisi came to power. Arrests of tens of thousands of people in the country, the torture of many, many people, the killings of people. And the president during his campaign said that he was going to give no blank checks to dictators, including to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. And then what happened in May? What happened in May was that fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas and others in the Gaza Strip, a brutal eleven-day conflict. And Egypt stepped up and provided a way out of the conflict through its good offices. And that prompted the United States to—the president of the United States—to have two phone calls in those eleven days with the Egyptian leader. And now the United States is talking about Egypt as a constructive partner that’s helping to stabilize the region. Sure, the administration suspended $130 million of Egypt’s annual—$130 million Egypt’s annual allotment of $1.3 billion. But that is not a lot. Egypt got most of—most of its military aid. As I said, strategically tenable, morally suspect. I’m not quite sure how we get out of that. But what I do know, and I’ll give you a little bit of a preview of the last third of the book—but I really do want you to buy it when it’s done—is that the traditional interests of the United States in the Middle East are changing. And I go through a kind of quasi, long, somewhat tortured—but very, very interesting—discussion of the origins of our interests, and how they are changing, and how we can tell they are changing. And that is to say that the free flow of energy resources may not be as important to the United States in the next twenty-five years as it was over the course of the previous fifty or sixty years. That helping to ensure Israeli security, which has been axiomatic for the United States, eh, I’d say since the 1960s, really, may not be as important as Israel develops its diplomatic relations with its neighbors, that has a GDP per capita that’s on par with the U.K., and France, and other partners in Europe, a country that clearly can take care of itself, that is a driver of technology and innovation around the globe. And that may no longer require America’s military dominance in the region. So what is that we want to be doing? How can we be constructive? And I think the answers are in things that we hadn’t really thought of too systematically in the past. What are the things that we’re willing to invest in an defend going forward? Things like climate change, things like migration, things like pandemic disease. These are things that we’ve talked about, but that we’ve never been willing to invest in the kind of the resources. Now there are parts of the Middle East that during the summer months are in-habitable. That’s going to produce waves of people looking for places to live that are inhabitable. What do we do about that? Does that destabilize the Indian subcontinent? Does it destabilize Europe? Does it destabilize North Africa? These are all questions that we haven’t yet answered. But to the extent that we want to invest in, defend and sacrifice for things like climate, and we want to address the issue—related issue of migration, and we want to deal with the issue of disease and other of these kind of functional global issues in the Middle East is better not just for us and Middle Easterners, but also in terms of our strategic—our great-power competition in the region. These are not things that the Chinese and the Russians are terribly interested in, despite the fact that the Chinese may tell you they are. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Ahmuan Williams, with a raised hand, at the University of Oklahoma. COOK: Oklahoma. Q: Hi. And thank you for being here. You kind of talked about the stabilization of northern Africa and the Middle East. And just a few days ago the Sudanese government—and they still haven’t helped capture the parliamentarian there—have recycled back into a military—somewhat of military rule. And it’s been since 2005 since the end of their last civil war, which claimed millions of innocent civilians through starvation and strife and, you know, the lack of being able to get humanitarian aid. There was also a huge refugee crisis there, a lot of people who evacuated Sudan. How’s that going to impact the Middle East and the American take to Middle East and northern Africa policy, especially now that the Security Council is now considering this and is trying to determine what we should do? COOK: It’s a great question. And I think that, first, let’s be clear. There was a coup d’état in Sudan. The military overthrew a transitional government on the eve of having to hand over the government to civilians. And they didn’t like it. There’s been tension that’s been brewing in Sudan for some time. Actually, an American envoy, our envoy to East Africa and Africa more generally, a guy named Jeff Feltman, was in Khartoum, trying to kind of calm the tension, to get the two sides together, and working to avert a coup. And the day after he left, the military moved. That’s not—that doesn’t reflect the fact that the United States gave a blessing for the military to overthrow this government. I think what it does, though, and it’s something that I think we all need to keep in mind, it demonstrates the limits of American power in a variety of places around the world. That we don’t have all the power in the world to prevent things from happening when people, like the leaders of the Sudanese military, believe that they have existential issues that are at stake. Now, what’s worry about destabilization in Sudan is, as you point out, there was a civil war there, there was the creation of a new country there, potential for—if things got really out of hand—refugee flows into Egypt, from Egypt across the Sanai Peninsula into Israel. One of the things people are unaware of is the large number of Sudanese or Eritreans and other Africans who have sought refuge in Israel, which has created significant economic and social strains in that country. So it’s a big deal. Thus far, it seems we don’t—that the U.S. government doesn’t know exactly what’s happening there. There are protesters in the streets demanding democracy. It’s very unclear what the military is going to do. And it’s very unclear what our regional allies and how they view what’s happening. What Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, what Saudi Arabia, what Israel—which Sudan is an Abraham Accords country now—what they are doing. How they view the coup as positive or negative will likely impact how effective the United States can be in trying to manage this situation. But I suspect that we’re just going to have to accommodate ourselves to whatever outcome the Sudanese people and the Sudanese military come to, because I don’t think we have a lot of—we don’t have a lot of tools there to make everybody behave. FASKIANOS: OK. So I’m going to take the next question from Elena Murphy, who is a junior at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. And she’s a diplomatic intern at the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Representation in the United States. COOK: That’s cool. FASKIANOS: That’s very cool. So as a follow up, how much do you believe neo-Ottomanism and attempting regional hegemony has affected Erdogan’s domestic and foreign policy, especially in consideration of Turkey’s shift towards the MENA in their foreign policy, after a period of withdrawals and no problems with neighbors policy? COOK: Great. Can I see that? Because that’s a long question. FASKIANOS: Yeah, it’s a long question. It’s got an up-vote. Third one down. COOK: Third one down. Elena, as a follow up, how much do you believe neo-Ottomanism—I’m sorry, I’m going to have to read it again. How much do you believe neo-Ottomanism and attempting regional has affected Erdogan’s both domestic and foreign policy, especially in consideration of Turkey’s shift towards the MENA in their foreign policy, after a period of withdrawals and no problems with neighbors? OK. Great. So let us set aside the term “neo-Ottomanism” for now. Because neo-Ottomanism actually—it does mean something, but people have often used the term neo-Ottomanism to describe policies of the Turkish government under President Erdogan that they don’t like. And so let’s just talk about the way in which the Turkish government under President Erdogan views the region and views what Turkey’s rightful place should be. And I think the Ottomanism piece is important, because the kind of intellectual framework which the Justice and Development Party, which is Erdogan’s party, views the world, sees Turkey as—first of all, it sees the Turkish Republic as a not-so-legitimate heir to the Ottoman Empire. That from their perspective, the natural order of things would have been the continuation of the empire in some form or another. And as a result, they believe that Turkey’s natural place is a place of leadership in the region for a long time. Even before the Justice and Development Party was founded in 2001, Turkey’s earlier generation of Islamists used to savage the Turkish leadership for its desire to be part of the West, by saying that this was kind of unnatural, that they were just merely aping the West, and the West was never actually going to accept Turkey. Which is probably true. But I think that the Justice and Development Party, after a period of wanting to become closer to the West, has turned its attention towards the Middle East, North Africa, and the Muslim world more generally. And in that, it sees itself, the Turks see themselves as the natural leaders in the region. They believe they have a cultural affinity to the region as a result of the legacies of the Ottoman Empire, and they very much can play this role of leader. They see themselves as one of the kind of few real countries in the region, along with Egypt and Iran and Saudi Arabia. And the rest are sort of ephemeral. Needless to say, big countries in the Arab world—like Egypt, like Saudi Arabia—don’t welcome the idea of Turkey as a leader of the region. They recognize Turkey as a very big and important country, but not a leader of the region. And this is part of that friction that Turkey has experienced with its neighbors, after an earlier iteration of Turkish foreign policy, in which—one of the earliest iterations of Turkish foreign policy under the Justice and Development Party which was called no problems with neighbors. In which Turkey, regardless of the character of the regimes, wanted to have good relations with its neighbors. It could trade with those neighbors. And make everybody—in the process, Turkey could be a driver of economic development in the region, and everybody can be basically wealthy and happy. And it didn’t really work out that way, for a variety of reasons that we don’t have enough time for. Let’s leave it at the fact that Turkey under Erdogan—and a view that is shared by many—that Turkey should be a leader of the region. And I suspect that if Erdogan were to die, if he were unable to stand for election, if the opposition were to win, that there would still be elements of this desire to be a regional leader in a new Turkish foreign policy. FASKIANOS: Steven, thank you very much. This was really terrific. We appreciate your stepping in at the eleventh hour, taking time away from your book. For all of you— COOK: I’m still not Sanam. FASKIANOS: (Laughs.) I know, but you were an awesome replacement. So you can follow Steven Cook on Twitter at @stevenacook. As I said at the beginning too, he is a columnist for Foreign Policy magazine. So you can read his work there, as well as, of course, on, all of the commentary, analysis, op-eds, congressional testimony are there for free. So I hope you will follow him and look after his next book. Our next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday November 3, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time on the future of U.S.-Mexico relations. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow us, @CFR_Academic, visit,, and for new research and analysis on global issues. And stay well, stay safe, and thank you, again. COOK: Bye, everyone. FASKIANOS: Bye. (END)