Interview: former French diplomat Hubert Védrine on China and a West 'in disarray'
Former Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine, author of 'History Strikes Back,' offers a realist view on a central challenge for Europe and the United States: the rise of China.
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A: I don’t think that Russia wants to enter Europe at all. Russia wants its power to be recognized anew and to use what is left of its nuisance power. They don’t want to be humiliated. They hated the period after the end of the Soviet Union, the Yeltsin years. They are pursuing a restoration of Russia’s dignity. They don’t want to enter a complex system in which decisions are voted by a majority. They want to reconstitute power. Whether they’ll succeed is another matter: they didn’t manage to create a modern economy, their demography is in freefall, they depend heavily on gas and oil.
The German project, put forward by the CDU [Christian Democratic Union] as much as the SPD [Social Democratic Party], even though it’s articulated more clearly by the SPD, is to forge a special partnership with Russia. It is not incompatible with a Europe-Russia partnership, provided that Germany accepts to share its approach with the others, and that we overcome disagreements between members that traditionally seek a partnership with Russia (UK, Germany, France, Italy), and Poland and the Baltic states, who feel threatened by Russia and are worried by Obama’s policy. I think that Obama is right in this matter. I find the German policy towards Russia normal, not worrying and compatible with a common EU policy, which remains to be forged.
A. Obama rationally took the least bad decision within the constraints imposed on him which include the Bush legacy. He can't simply withdraw. Setting a start date for withdrawal is not bad, provided he does not rule out a long-term residual presence of strategic vigilance. He is right to drop the expression 'nation building,' a pretentious and fanciful notion. Other options: 1. More involvement of European and other states now on the ground [the London conference] that will force them to clarify their views and explain them to their citizens. 2. No direct involvement in Yemen. 3. Broad participation by other powers with no interest in a return of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. 4. Dispense with an assumption that we can choose ideal local leaders ourselves 5. Bring India into a policy of détente and trust with Pakistan.
Q: As a former foreign minister, what are the difference between the world you faced for five years starting in 1997 and today?