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The International Affairs Discussion

The International Affairs Discussion, March 1st, 2017, The Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington D.C


  • Charles Sills, Moderator, Senior Advisor of The Eurasia Center

  • Michael Anton, Senior Member of The National Security Council

  • Thomas Pickering, Ambassador, Vice Chairman Hills & Company

  • John Berry, Ambassador, President of The American Australian Association

  • Justin Dargin, Member of The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Oxford University

The Panel began with the welcoming speech of Mr. Gökhan Coşkun, CEO of INTED. He then gave the floor to the moderator of the panel Mr. Charles Sills, who is a senior advisor on the board of The Eurasia Center and Director of Energy and Environment and International Security issues. Mr. Sills opened the floor to discussion by giving an overview of the topics that were going to be covered throughout the panel;

  1. The rising amount of opportunities for both small and large US businesses in the Astana, Kazakhstan region during the upcoming mini world fair that is going to be held in June and July. He added that this is an incredible opportunity and representation of US businesses in this region which was never possible before.

  2. Regional threats posed by North Korea and Iran. He commented that these threats are being multiplied by the nuclear factor as well.

  3. The epidemic of failing or failed states such as; Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and many more.

  4. The migrant crisis that is impacting Europe and EU politics.

  5. The Jihadist ‘disease’ (he calls) that expanded globally while being defeated within the Middle Eastern region where it is based centrally.

  6. The non-political and non-military threats to the worldwide society and well-being. He gave the examples of weather, climate shift, antibiotic resistant bugs and etc.

After his opening speech with the overview he welcomed Mr. Michael Anton, who is a senior member of President Mr. Donald Trump’s National Security Council, to give his speech about the given topics.

Mr. Anton, began his words by stating that he is observing a persistent attack on President Trump and that this attack claims that his foreign policy is reckless and dangerous in context of 2016. The attack being made towards Mr. Trump also suggests that he is threatening the Liberal International Order. But Mr. Anton’s take on this attack starts by asking this question; Is Mr. Trump really threatening the National Liberal Order or is he stating that it should be updated so that it fits the time we are living in? Mr. Anton then extended the idea of why he thinks that this might be the case, which was that the 45 to 52 period was built by people who knew they were living in an unprecedented time and that people who are defending the current Liberal International Order were doing so on the basis that nothing has changed since that period. However, he also stated that Mr. Trump thinks that the American foreign policy has to adjust to our time and that the criticism of this idea seems to be locked in the past. He ended his words by explaining that the change with the American foreign policy is going to be painful but worthwhile.

After Mr. Anton has finished his words, Mr. Sills gave the floor to Mr. Thomas Pickering to give his thoughts about the panel topics. Ambassador Pickering began his words by agreeing with Mr. Anton’s last word about change in a way by stating that the US is indeed going through a phase of change. He said that ‘The challenge of change is what kept us moving.’ about the past period of the US. He stated that moving from one international system to another is important however this move is also getting locked up in the battle of ideas of what works versus what doesn’t work for the country. Following this idea he gave three cases that he thought were important to think about foreign policies and how to use diplomacy to avoid war. He laid out the following three ideas about the strength of America regarding these issues;

  1. The US has the strongest and most effective military ever created.

  2. The US has the worlds largest and most productive economy

  3. The US has a set of values that bring many people in to the country such as freedom and the rule of law.

Ambassador Pickering then changed the topic of his speech to Russia regarding the foreign policy issue. He stated that Russia’s economy is in shambles and that its credibility around the world is bad at the moment. This however creates an opportunity for the US to deal with the Ukraine problem. Ambassador Pickering suggested that the US needs to support a solution, which will preserve Ukraine as a united country and a strong player in its part of Europe. He also commented that Putin has failed, with the exception of little territory, to enlarge the government of Ukraine or to take over the eastern, Russian-speaking part of it. Within the approach to Putin on this, most importantly, the US needs to build up its friends on its side in the Ukraine economy. Ambassador Pickering laid out a plan that contributed to by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, The European Bank and also the US and he stated that this plan should be placed on Ukraine ‘as an incentive to clean up their act’. The problems Ukraine has to solve are, according to Ambassador Pickering;

  1. They need to end the language discrimination with the native Russian-speakers and the native Ukrainian-speakers.

  2. They need to get rid of corruption.

  3. They need to introduce in their government openness to pre-enterprising and foreign investments.

Ambassador Pickering then suggests a different approach to the Ukraine issue, which is making it into a bridge country. He states that he personally wouldn’t suggest forcing Ukraine into joining one or the other of the security blocks but rather positioning it as a bridge country where they would have good relationships with both directions so that Russia could move on to other problems such as; ballistic missile defense cooperations and further reduction of nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Pickering then moved on to another problem of the US, which is with China on the South China Sea. He stated that the US should continue to demonstrate, with strong stand, that freedom of navigation is not going to be interrupted at the South China Sea. %70 of China’s economy depend on the activities happening on the South China Sea and Ambassador Pickering suggests that the US should make this clear to China with facts. He suggested that the US and China should have a simple, joint statement regarding the South China Sea that would follow the lines of; neither of the countries will take any action to interrupt the free flow of commerce internationally through the South China sea in all of the regular routes. Ambassador Pickering then stated that he supported the Iranian nuclear deal however the one problem that he thinks the deal has is its 15 year essential limit that currently helps the US keep them out is very short. He thinks that this limit should be changed to no limit and that the principles of the Iranian nuclear deal should be taken and applied to an Abroad International Agreement beginning with the 8 countries that do civil enrichment. He also commented that the 5 nuclear powers of the world, which are China, Britain, United Kingdom, France and the United States, should take the lead on this issue to apply this deal to stop the multiplication of new nuclear powers. Ambassador Pickering then yields the floor back to the moderator Mr. Sills.

Mr. Sills gave the word to Ambassador John Berry, who started his speech by indicating that he would look at the issues from the perspective of the Southern Hemisphere from two different angles; economic and security. He first chose to talk about the economic situation on the Asia-Pacific region, which he preferred to address as the Indo-Pacific region. The Indo-Pacific region had %31 of gross domestic product of the world in 2015 and it is expected to rise to a %40 by 2035 he added. Ambassador Berry stated that India and China are the borders of this Indo-Pacific region and they make up two thirds of the worlds top economies. Following these two very economically strong countries, Indonesia, the largest Islamic country is the 9th in gross domestic production and by 2050 it is expected become 4th. Ambassador Berry stressed that this is a very important situation because that would make the Indo-Pacific region contain 3 out 4 of the largest economies by 2050. He also added that Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia have very similar manifestations regarding their economies to Indonesia. The question he chose to as at this point of his speech was; who is going to be writing the rules of trade in the world? He talked about how the Australian Trade Minister said that they were trying to close a deal with the US and that very deal could be closed in just 10 month with China. Following this he added that if the US were to create a vacuum in this economic situation, there are many willing countries to step in for it. Ambassador Berry then continued as he told to the security aspect of the Southern Hemisphere. The militarization of the South China Sea indicates that the time of the diplomatic is gone since the islands of it are already militarized. How the US is going to react and deal with this issue is going to be a challenge. He stated that every nation there is around and involved with this region is concerned about the growing Chinese military and its aggressive tendency. He also commented that the US should take advantage of Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia’s interest in working with the US in shaping the South China Sea problem.

He stated that Japan and Australia are the ‘rock solid’ components of the US treaty partners and that Thailand, Korea and the Philippines were the other three. He laid out that %62 of world population lives in the Indo-Pacific region despite the misconceptions of many US citizens who thinks that thinks this is the Middle East. The Indo-Pacific region also had the largest Muslim population of the world as well. Ambassador Berry stated that Australia, being one tenth of the size of the US sends the same number of soldiers to fight in Syria as the US. They have been a solid support in Iraq and Syria to the US and they have been with the US, since day1, in Afghanistan. Australia is the only ally the US has that fought by it since the 1980’s and this makes them the main support in place to help with Islam. The concerns of Australia can be summed up with the following question, according to Ambassador Berry, what are they bringing back with them? The challenge with the face of terrorism is going to be a challenge itself. Besides these there are security problems concerning; Meta data, threat escalation, how can we work together, which is done on the intelligence level currently and border security, all of the countries involved in this region have oceanfront borders. One other concern is with space activities and the partnership for space with Australia. Ambassador Berry claims that all of the communications regarding the Mars Human project will work with Australia. Ambassador Berry finished his words by stating that the Indo-Pacific countries are not just concerned with the issues existent in their part of the world but also the US side as well.

The panel moderator then gave the word to Mr. Justin Dargin. Mr. Dargin started his words by stating that he will focus on the Middle East, and that he will talk about the changes that are occurring concerning the energy market. The Middle East has the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world, %57 of global oil reserves and %41 of global natural gas reserves. The Gulf Region contains quarter of the global natural gas reserves by itself and has %8-10 of natural gas production of the world. Mr. Dargin suggestes that this alone helps and will help with job creation, regional security, economic modernization and industrialization within the Gulf. This he says gives us a look on how the US should engage with the Gulf. One of the factors is the usage and utilization of the gas reserves. The Gulf countries are aware that their reserves are facing a declining value as the world is decarbonizing however they rely on natural gas for their economic sustainability. They are looking for ways to leverage these resources they have in order to continue economic development. They are however having difficulties with having an ‘economic takeoff’ because the gas demand of the Gulf has doubled decade upon decade. Mr. Dargin then went on to talk about the reshaping of the global energy market and how the Gulf can overcome its critical situation regarding this. His suggestions were reconfiguring their domestic aspects and more importantly making new investments internationally. Mr. Dargin then posed the question of how to deal with the region, and stated that the regional policymakers are looking at how to deal with their reshaping economy. He stated that there is an upcoming petrochemical rivalry between the Gulf and the US.

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