National Security Network

Engagement with Results

Print this page
Report 8 September 2010

Diplomacy Diplomacy Clinton G20 iran nonproliferation Obama russia Security


Today, at the Council on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech on the America's diplomatic engagement and global leadership.  The speech outlines the successes of the administration's engagement strategy - building a "new global architecture" in which cooperation on one issue opens doors to progress in other areas, and rebuilds an international community in which all nations have responsibilities and obligations.  From the success of bilateral engagement - best exemplified by relations with Russia - to utilizing both old and new international institutions, to successfully leading efforts to isolate Iran, diplomatic engagement has been a results-oriented strategy.  This "daily work of diplomacy," while frustrating and hard to see, forms the bedrock of how America can be successful and respected in the world.  

21st century international engagement means concrete results on 21st century challenges.   Secretary Clinton explained the importance of utilizing new and old global architecture to advance American interests.  She stated, "We know that alliances, partnerships and institutions cannot solve problems by themselves.  People and nations solve problems.  But an architecture can make it easier to act effectively by supporting the coalition-forging and compromise-building that is the daily fare of diplomacy.  It can make it easier to identify common interests and convert them to common action.  And it can help integrate emerging powers into an international community with clear obligations and expectations."

Declaring that, "American leadership must be as dynamic as the challenges we face," and that "The challenges we face are more complex than ever, and so are the responses needed to meet them," Secretary Clinton explained that the administration has "repaired old alliances and forged new partnerships.  We have strengthened institutions that provide incentives for cooperation, disincentives for sitting on the sidelines, and defenses against those who would undermine global progress.  And we have championed the values that are at the core of the American character."

America has achieved concrete deliverables from this approach.  The first ever Nuclear Security Summit earlier this year brought together heads of state from nearly 50 countries to take action against the worldwide threat posed by nuclear terrorism, resulting in an outpouring of initiatives ranging from port security to the securing of nuclear material, with partner countries as diverse as Pakistan, Ukraine, China, Argentina, and Russia.  Early on in the administration, in the height of the global financial crisis, the G-20 was elevated as a principal form of global economic governance bringing in new countries and helping ward off a devastating depression, regaining trust and respect for American leadership around the world. [Secretary Clinton, 9/8/10. NSN, 4/14/10]

Bilateral engagement with Russia has paid off.  As Secretary Clinton explained, the administration's engagement policy has been particularly successful in resetting U.S.-Russian relations.  "With Russia, we took office amid talk of cooling relations and a return to Cold War suspicion.  This invigorated spy novelists and arm chair strategists.  But anyone serious about solving global problems such as nuclear proliferation knew that without Russia and the United States working together, little would be achieved.  So we refocused the relationship on mutual respect, interest and responsibility."  In their piece for Foreign Policy, James Collins and Matt Rojansky detailed why the U.S.-Russian relationship is so important.  They wrote, "Russia is indispensible. As long as the United States participates in the global economy and has interests beyond its own borders, it will have no choice but to maintain relations with Russia... However challenging this partnership may be, Washington can't afford not to work with Moscow... Engagement is the only way forward."  As Secretary Clinton concluded, the U.S.-Russian ‘reset' has paid off.  "The results speak for themselves: a historic new arms reduction treaty, which the Senate must pass this fall; cooperation along with China in the UN Security Council on tough new sanctions against Iran and North Korea; a transit agreement to support our effort in Afghanistan; a new Bilateral Presidential Commission and civil society exchange that are forging closer people-to-people ties."  [Secretary Clinton, 9/8/10. James Collins and Matthew Rojansky, Foreign Policy, 8/18/10]

Achieving results on one of diplomacy's toughest challenges: Iran. As Secretary Clinton said today, "how we are approaching the Iranian challenge is an example of American leadership in action."  18 months ago, the initial offer of engagement demonstrated to the world that the U.S. was not the obstacle to a durable resolution of the international community's concerns with Iran.  Since then, U.S. diplomacy has had to weather unprecedented turmoil in Iran following last year's Presidential elections, Iranian nuclear intransigence and human rights abuses.  At home, the policy has faced rhetorical sallies from fringe neoconservatives still pushing - against the views of the military -- for a first strike on Iran. But the results have been real:  a fourth UN Security Council resolution with the support of Iran's occasional allies, Russia and China; additional sanctions from the world's leading economies; and an Iran that is more isolated than ever. The Washington Post's David Ignatius cited administration officials who said that signs of Iran's growing isolation include "...the strike last month by Tehran bazaar merchants who are unhappy about the battered economy, as well as recent signals through various channels that the Iranians want to come back to negotiations."  The Economist's Lexington also cited the administration's success at "driving an unexpected wedge between Iran and Russia, a country the Iranians had long assumed would continue to offer them a degree of diplomatic protection." Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns observed that when weighed against the alternatives, this "patient, careful, and sophisticated policy makes much more sense for our country."

But as Secretary Clinton cautioned today, "Sanctions and pressure are not ends in themselves." "They are the building blocks of leverage for a negotiated solution, to which we and our partners remain committed," said Clinton.  Summing up the choice that Iran faces today, Clinton said: "Meet the responsibilities incumbent upon all nations and enjoy the benefits of integration into the international community, or continue to flout your obligations and accept increasing isolation and costs." [Secretary Clinton, 9/8/10. David Ignatius, 8/3/10. Lexington, 8/4/10. R. Nicholas Burns, 8/19/10]

What We're Reading

Approximately 500 women were raped in eastern Congo in July and August, demonstrating that both rebel militias and government troops used sexual violence as a weapon, two senior United Nations officials said.

Two American soldiers were killed and nine were injured in Iraq when a man wearing an Iraqi army uniform opened fire on them in an Iraqi commando compound in the province of Salahuddin.

Syrian influence in Lebanon on the rise again.

Colombian refugees are contending with a new breed of armed conflict - conflict among ruthless gangs vying for control of the region's lucrative cocaine and arms trade.

Top Chinese officials called for quiet discussions instead of open friction with the United States, after a summer marked by bilateral disagreements.

Afghan election officials said that scores of additional polling stations will be closed during the Sept. 18 parliamentary vote because of the deteriorating security situation in the country.

Two suspected U.S. missile strikes hit militant targets in northwestern Pakistan, bringing to six the number of such attacks in the region in less than a week; at least 10 suspected members of a group attacking NATO forces in Afghanistan were killed.

European Union finance ministers have agreed to establish a new framework for financial supervision, designed to help prevent future financial crises.

Cuban President Fidel Castro called on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "stop slandering the Jews."

One of Egypt's most prominent opposition leaders, the Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, has issued the strongest call so far for a blanket opposition boycott of parliamentary elections this fall.

Commentary of the Day

Ron Paul argues that Tea Partiers cannot stand against big government at home while supporting it abroad.

Matt Duss wonders whether professional Islam bashers are endangering U.S. troops.

Terry McDermott says the letters of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are a reminder of how normal evil can be.