Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 60-79)



  60. At this moment in time?
  (Professor Reich) At this moment in time.

  61. Not likely to be ever again?
  (Professor Reich) Oh, no, I would not make that judgment. What I am saying is that special relationship, the argument is that somehow mystically it has been formed on culture or language or shared values but, in fact, it has been founded at certain periods on very specific things and none of those are evident at the moment.

  62. Well, ". . . strategic partnership with ... NATO . . ." still very relevant. Our membership of the Security Council and often our attempts to stay together. The United Kingdom and United States disagree violently on most Security Council issues. That would be a matter of concern, would it not?
  (Professor Reich) But part of the glue in those instances that you have talked about has always been predicated against the common identifiable enemy or problem. That no longer exists and because it no longer exists there is more of a centrifugal rather than centripetal motion.

  63. The third one is our "... leading role in the European Union enhances the relationship between Britain and the US". You have answered that you do not think the new US administration really has Europe as a major priority in its relationships?
  (Professor Reich) I think it is that but I think it is more embedded than that. If I may offer a response. I have spent a long time in the United States. I have done some work there. I used to work in the US Congress, I have done some work at the State Department, I have talked to people at the CIA. If in those meetings you were to allude to America's special relationship, well in this country, of course, we would assume that it was self-evidently with Britain but if you asked somebody in the CIA or the State Department about America's "special relationship" they would say "with whom?". It could be the Germans.


  64. Not on the intelligence front.
  (Professor Reich) It could be the Israelis. I am asking in a more general sense. The Germans, the Israelis, it could be the British. We do not share a reciprocal understanding of that. We see that as unique, special, and in a hierarchical sense above all others. I am saying that ours certainly is not common, I am not suggesting that either but it may not have the unique characteristics that we afford it.

Sir David Madel

  65. When you say "our interests coincide with the United States" is not one of the most important things how we handle the emerging Russia and all the States that were part of the Soviet Union and are now struggling to find their feet? Do you not think we have a great common interest there?
  (Professor Reich) I think we should, I do not think we do. The spirit of your comment I agree with but the Americans do not have that interest. I spoke recently at Chatham House to the Director of the Eurasia Foundation in Moscow and his mandate is to dispense 15 million dollars a year on behalf of the Foundation. He came, and we were fortunate enough to have him give a talk to a round table series which we run—which we would be delighted to invite all of you to at any point if you are interested—and the survey he gave of the scene suggested there was an alarming lack of interest and an alarming lack of visibility by the Americans. So while the Americans are undoubtedly worried about instability on the European periphery, which is the term I have often heard used in Washington to describe that, it serves largely as background noise. Now if something explodes then the Americans will presumably reassess that. The current administration clearly has not got that as a priority and should it be a priority, yes I believe so. Should it be a priority and is it a priority to Britain, yes, but far more evident. It will get the Americans attention when something major happens.

  66. But not until.
  (Professor Reich) But not until, that is my estimate, I may be wrong but I do not see evidence.

Mr Chidgey

  67. On that point, Chairman, if the relationships that you have discussed are in fact background noise, what is in the foreground in terms of American interests?
  (Professor Reich) Well, certainly hemispheric.

  68. Which one?
  (Professor Reich) Western, as they describe it, meaning Latin America and that is why I mention the Summit of the Americas yesterday. Nuclear missile defence clearly but with a very narrow sense of that which is the defence of North America not the defence of NATO.

  69. From China?
  (Professor Reich) From "rogue states" and rogue states is a nice misnomer of the term, it could describe anybody. Iraq, North Korea, China, they just do not want a stray weapon going off. It could be parts of the former Soviet Union where somebody, not necessarily a Government but somebody gets hold of a capability to act and of course you can put a nuclear weapon in a suitcase, I am not quite sure of the utility of this, I had an allusion today in the newspaper to a Maginot line potentially. The notion is NMD opening up liberalisation which will move from the Americas into I believe a more aggressive stance towards part of Asia. Issues such as genetically modified food could potentially, with Bob Koellick, become part of the issue agenda it protects.

  70. After NMD you are saying that most of the issues are trade led?
  (Professor Reich) Well, yes, and partly it is a function of the views of the administration and partly it is a function of the fact that the American economy is going into recession and when it goes into a recession historically it becomes more nationalistic and nationalistic does not necessarily mean protectionist. It can also mean becoming more aggressive and sharper in opening up other people's markets. You see that, you saw that in the early 1990s before the Clinton Administration and you are seeing it now quite clearly.


  71. May we come back to the relationship. We may also involve ourselves in illusions by talking of our role as the bridge between the US Administration and our European partners, is that an illusion?
  (Professor Reich) I think potentially increasingly so. I was struck by John Prescott's visit and the reception he received. We held a meeting in Chatham House recently where we invited over 30 producers from the BBC to come down and we talked to them about what we thought might be major stories in the course of the forthcoming year that they may want to focus on and one of the things that we talked about was the prospect that a senior Government Minister would go to Washington and come back rebuffed by simply being ignored. I do not want to characterise John Prescott's visit in quite so stark terms. But if the notion that we were going there to talk to them about the Kyoto Protocol, to be a bridge, if that was the mission then the mission did not succeed. It was interesting that on Sunday when I was in the States listening to the tv programmes on Sunday morning there was lots of time given over in tv discussions to American environmental policy in which Christine Todd-Whitman characterised the Europeans as having very starkly and shamefacedly painted the Americans as the "bad guys", as she put it, because the Europeans were never going to live up to the Kyoto Protocol so they got the Americans to be most explicit about it and, therefore, take the blame for it as a result. This was after the Prescott visit and I think that is quite telling myself.

Mr Rowlands

  72. Given your prognosis, presumably under your scenario NATO will wither?
  (Professor Reich) I think it is functionality. One of the things that comes across in the report, to come back to the report for a second, is that the way foreign policy is defined in the report is largely through geographic areas which I do not think best sends a description of the world in terms of what we are really interested in which is functional questions, whether it is interventionism, terrorism, whatever, it is not geographic in orientation. The reason why I mention that is because NATO is built on a certain functionality, a historic functionality, that has now obviously fallen into disuse. I would not suggest that NATO will necessarily wither but I would suggest that it will have functional problems unless it redefines its mission somewhat more clearly. If its mission becomes stability on the periphery, to come back to an earlier example that we talked about, then I can imagine the Rapid Reaction Force, a counter-terrorism capability, becoming central to that, even peacekeeping, even humanitarian intervention if it chooses that kind of a mandate. Obviously it is in transition. It would be inappropriate for me to say it is going to wither because the question really is can it redefine its mission effectively?

  73. I have to say post Cold War you talked, and we heard it quite a bit from Mr Mark Leonard this morning, about this concept of globalisation of diplomacy and functionalism. In fact, post Cold War geographic issues have become more important. Kosovo was not a functional issue, it was very much a geographic policy issue. Indeed, the restoration of small nation states, ethnically based and all the rest of it, is not a global issue, it is very geographic, is it not?
  (Professor Reich) I would argue that perhaps it can be profitably seen as a response in the geographic area to a changing global context. What happens under globalisation is the winners and the losers get redefined. Let me give you the example of the former Yugoslavia as it was constituted. I would argue that much of what we have seen in the Balkans in the last ten years has had precious little to do with nationalism and identity, although it is often characterised that way for the purposes of garnering popular support. It has much more to do with the fact that when the former Yugoslavia was divided there was also a division of resources and a division of wealth. What you have seen is a series of issues in which the losers in that divide have tried to reclaim strategic resources from the people that they think were unfairly granted too much. I think Bosnia is a classic example of that. I think the same argument applies across the globe to Rwanda, for example. There is a very interesting project being undertaken at the moment by the International Peace Academy in New York, to which Chatham House is potentially a shared collaborator in the project, in which the question is what are the economic sources of ethnic conflict, and there is clearly a pattern emerging. Chiapa in Mexico is again an example. It is no coincidence that the poorest region in Mexico, that by all economic indicators has gone furthest backward in the context of pre-NAFTA and post-NAFTA, is the one that has been the source of greatest resistance to integration. I think that it takes a geographic orientation because in a sense it always must inevitably, but there is a pattern here that crosses not only countries and national borders but continents.

  74. There have always been often underlying economic motives in any secessionist movements, that is not new, I could quote quite a few of them. If anyone talks to a Montenegrin or a Kosovar or a Bosnian there are also issues of identity and ethnicity that come up very strongly. They may have other ulterior economic motives but they articulate their differences in their language, in their ethnic origins and so forth. I do not think they are an either/or, they often go together, you are quite right, but I do not think they are just purely economically driven.
  (Professor Reich) I would respond by saying that they may both always be self-evident but there is a question of degree and what happens under globalisation perhaps in the current version, in a way unprecedented in history, is it makes the distinction between the winners and the losers all the more acute. I spend a lot of my time researching on Mexico, for example, and while NAFTA has bought elements of wealth and created a Mexican middle class for periods of time, the capacity for that middle class to be utterly destroyed within a relatively short period of time by currency problems is quite phenomenal in a way that historically we have not seen. So it makes the differences more acute and even the vast majority of the wealthy enjoy only a fragile wealth. I think that is what is different about globalisation. I do not think that we—Britain—recognise that necessarily because we are one of the few countries that do have a tremendous stability. But even within Britain, if I may say, it is very evident to me. Again, anecdotally, I grew up in this country and I left it in 1981 to go and study in the United States. If I may say, pointedly and personally for a moment, I do not remember people busking or begging on the streets. I do not remember that in the way they are now when I walk across Hungerford Bridge. I do not remember the acute differentiation in terms of health care. Whilst I do not cast aspersions or criticise anybody individually, I am saying it is part of a general syndrome. Globalisation does not necessarily differentiate just between one country and another country, there are people who benefit from this in all countries and it creates networks between them. There are very rich people in Mexico. Mexico has 15 of the richest 100 people in the world.

  75. If you draw this alternative conclusion about the nature of the problem, what is your alternative diplomacy?
  (Professor Reich) I am sorry?

  76. What is going to be your alternative diplomacy to handle this? What is the role of a British Foreign Office, or a foreign office not only of Britain, to offer a diplomatic service? What do they do in this situation?
  (Professor Reich) Clearly it maintains some of its traditional functions, I would not suggest that it does not. For example, if we think about the export of democracy perhaps it takes on a more grass roots kind of approach to the export of democracy in a way that the Americans often do through their foreign aid programmes rather than the export of democracy through the inculcation of values more broadly through the British Council. It obviously clearly takes on a lot more of an integrated and collaborative role with British business in the export of British products and in its most radical form would lead to the integration of the DTI and the FCO. I am not suggesting that Britain give up the ghost on multilateral institutions, nor give up its global role in that sense, but what you have at the moment is a multilateral institutional role running parallel with a bilateral institutional role and the promotion of many values. I am not sure that you need both. I myself, just as a statement of personal preference, would probably forsake some of the bilateral in favour of the multilateral role which Britain can play.

Mr Maples

  77. I want to take you back to the United States' interests. One of the things we have all been seeing over not just this administration, although it may well be enhanced with this one, is that managing the relationship with China is a much more important aspect of American foreign policy than managing the relationship with Russia. China is an emerging power, Russia is a diminishing or non-existent one. Is this in practical terms leading to an emphasis in US military planning and deployment of Foreign State Department assets much more towards the China/South East Asia problem, and coupled with that what if any role would the United States look to Britain/Europe to play in that?
  (Professor Reich) I would respond first of all by saying from the evidence to date and what I anticipate is that this will be a far more reactive administration in foreign policy than some of its predecessors. The Clinton administration foreign policy was about the export of democracy, the Reagan administration was about the export of American values more broadly but it was also about setting the agenda—every day there was going to be a story and we were going to tell you, the popular press, what the story was. So far this administration has been much more reactive and I anticipate it will continue to be reactive. I say that in the context of saying China became an issue because of the aircraft, I am not sure China would have been an issue, certainly not anywhere like immediately, if the incident had not occurred. So I think this is a reactive response. Is it likely to lead to a strengthening of America's role as a Pacific power? Probably. The Americans have always been much more of a stronger power in the Pacific in the second half of the 20th century than they have actually in Europe, because in Europe they have been tied into a series of multilateral institutions such as NATO, such as playing a pivotal role in the initial foundations of the European Union. So it has always been an established power in Europe but one with collaborative partners. Apart from Japan, it has not had that institutional structure in Asia, so it has always played far more of a unilateral role. I suspect therefore that the American response after some debate will try and be to build multilateral institutional links in Asia, to try to augment a regional capability, because the concern of China's regional neighbours is about the Spratley Islands for example. Much of this is a debate not about the politics around this incident but really the politics about China's capacity to expand its claim over the Spratley Islands, with its enormous oil resources which China wants to garner. So in that sense we will see more of a focus on Asia. About their attitude towards the Europeans the Americans are tremendously ambivalent and always have been, which is that they move back and forth, especially about the Germans. On the one hand they do not want the Germans to have cheque-book diplomacy, they want the Germans to show leadership capability but when the Germans do they say, "Yes, but you should follow our leadership", so in that sense they cannot win. I think that is symptomatic of Europe more generally.

  78. In incidents like the aeroplane, if this got more serious and China thrust into Taiwan and the Americans feel the need to demonstrate their willingness to use military power there, will they look to Britain or the European Union, or Britain and Germany or whatever, to play any role in that at all? Or do you think they will see this as a Pacific conflict they will handle on their own with whatever regional allies they have got?
  (Professor Reich) The Europeans have been relatively active over the last six months or so in trying to build bilateral ties with Asia, and I would imagine in that context—and this is just imagining them playing it out—if the Americans wanted the Europeans to play a role it would be encouraging the Europeans to speak to the Asians bilaterally about that rather than integrating them into some Pacific force. I think that would be stretching it too far.

Sir David Madel

  79. Are you saying on the China policy with this administration we will be informed rather than consulted as to the policy development of the United States towards China?
  (Professor Reich) I think there might be the veneer of consultation but at the end of the day it is the kind of consultation, "We have heard you, we have listened to you, if we do not agree with you, we will respectfully go our own way."

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