Secretary Clinton is in Astana, Kazakhstan, today, attending the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where she has been doing a "reassurance tour" (read: awkward conversations!) after WikiLeaks' recent disclosure of candid State Department cables. In a news conference today with Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, she said that no country has decided not to work with the United States any longer or have discussions with it. Implying that her damage-control work is going well, Clinton said in her remarks:
I have had the opportunity to meet with many leaders here at the summit in Astana.… I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing. I have not had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both, going forward.…
And I anticipate that there will be a lot of questions that people have every right and reason to ask, and we stand ready to discuss them at any time with our counterparts around the world.
Of course, there's a big difference between not continuing to work with the United States at all and simply being more restrained and less forthcoming.
Meanwhile, Saudabayev seemed cool as a cucumber in his remarks and displayed an "it's no big deal" attitude toward the WikiLeaks revelations, even though some cables were not so flattering about Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (seen at left greeting Clinton). Saudabayev said:
I believe that what has happened is part of a normal cost, or a normal price, that one has occasionally to pay while we lead our work. That is why we will be able to live through this incident, as we have through others. And, as head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in my country, now declare that this will have no effect for our strategic partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan.
Something tells me this nonchalant tone is all a facade. Everybody now has documentation of how diplomats really speak.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
In marking World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Secretary Clinton emphasized that the United States is taking important steps to fight HIV/AIDS. The United States "is committed to remaining a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- today, tomorrow, and every day until the disease is eradicated," she said in a statement, the full text of which follows below.
On World AIDS Day, we take time to remember those who have been lost to this devastating disease, and recommit ourselves to saving as many lives as we can, now and in the future. This December 1, World AIDS Day is also an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved. We have saved millions of lives from AIDS over the past decade. By investing in what we know works, we can save millions more in the future.
The Obama administration has made the fight against AIDS central to the Global Health Initiative, our commitment to strengthening global health systems and implementing sustainable solutions to improve the health of entire communities. One major focus of the Global Health Initiative is strengthening our partnerships around the world so they reflect and reinforce the global effort needed to defeat AIDS. This year, the United States also made its first multi-year pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to further support this cooperative approach. Our metric for success is simple: lives saved.
Through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we are making smart investments that will ultimately help bring us closer to a world free of HIV/AIDS. We work with dedicated organizations and individuals every day to make this goal a reality. The struggle is far from over, but the United States is committed to remaining a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- today, tomorrow, and every day until the disease is eradicated. That is our obligation and our promise to the millions of souls around the planet living with HIV/AIDS.
In the photo above, AIDS activists in Zhengzhou, China, pose with a giant red ribbon to mark World AIDS Day. In the photo below, a red AIDS ribbon hangs in Clinton's neck of the woods at the White House in Washington.
Photos, top to bottom: AFP/AFP/Getty Images, MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, in praising WikiLeaks, said, "Clinton should resign; it's the least she can do with all of this spying and delinquency in the State Department."
He made the remarks on state television yesterday following the disclosure of State Department cables by WikiLeaks, including a Dec. 31, 2009, cable signed "CLINTON" that inquires into the mental health of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The disclosure comes at a particularly sensitive time because just last month Kirchner lost her husband, Néstor Kirchner, the former Argentine president. Excerpts with a big ouch! factor include:
It might all be part of normal analysis of a leader's personality, but it just sounds so bad when worded so bluntly and taken out of context.
Of course, Chávez continued with nasty remarks accusing Clinton of racism, saying, "Someone should study Mrs. Clinton's mental health.… She feels superior to Obama.… Because she is white, she feels superior to the black president."
As for whether Clinton will resign, that possibility seems so far-fetched at this point, but even a writer over at FP's sister publication Slate suggests that Clinton could be out by the end of the year, stating, "The time for her departure may come next week or next month, but sooner or later, the weakened and humiliated secretary of state will have to pay."
Maybe we should hold our horses, though, and let the dust settle. Who knows what'll happen during Clinton's week of damage control in Central Asia.
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It's a rough week for Secretary Clinton, with WikiLeaks' diclosure of classified State Department documents, but she does have one thing going for her: She and husband Bill share the No. 13 spot on Foreign Policy magazine's annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers! This year, the two made it on the list "for proving that you don't need to be president to act presidential."
Here's what FP said about the pair:
Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in September, Hillary Rodham Clinton sounded a confident note: "After years of war and uncertainty, people are wondering what the future holds, at home and abroad. So let me say it clearly: The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century."
Ironically, two of the people most crucial to the new global century are the Clintons themselves: the ex-president and the ex-would-be-president, the power couple now defined by their position just outside the highest reaches of power. Except that, these days, both Clintons are more influential, and more beloved, than ever. Bill's Clinton Global Initiative is starting to feel like a sexier, more effective competitor not just to Davos but to the United Nations itself, bringing world leaders together to commit their resources to fighting poverty with market-based, technocratic solutions. As of this summer, his foundation had contributed $23 million and countless man-hours to the effort to rebuild Haiti. Polls have shown he's a better advocate for Democratic candidates than the actual president, and he spent most of the fall stumping for woebegone Dems from Orlando to Seattle.
Meanwhile, Hillary showed up in one recent poll as the most popular political figure in the United States, an accolade she has earned through a no-drama approach to an array of thankless tasks: brushing off Vladimir Putin's temper tantrum to reach agreement on nuclear disarmament and Iran sanctions, promoting women's rights over the objections of entrenched traditionalists, and launching an innovative effort to bring clean cookstoves to the world's poorest. But what she has mainly stood for is American competence, with her Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review a major, if unglamorous step toward making U.S. statesmanship a more agile beast. If this is what Clinton nostalgia looks like, bring it on.
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Secretary Clinton forcefully condemned the "illegal disclosure of classified information" by WikiLeaks and declared, "This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community -- the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."
Clinton made the remarks today at a news conference in which she also said the disclosure "puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems." As examples of jeopardizing individuals' safety, she mentioned anti-corruption activists who provide details about official misconduct and social workers who share documentation about sexual crimes. In those cases, revealing people's identities could result in their imprisonment, torture, or even death.
For those cheering on the people who disclosed the classified documents, Clinton said she wanted to "set the record straight":
There have been examples in history in which official conduct has been made public in the name of exposing wrongdoings or misdeeds. This is not one of those cases. In contrast, what is being put on display in this cache of documents is the fact that American diplomats are doing the work we expect them to do. They are helping identify and prevent conflicts before they start. They are working hard every day to solve serious practical problems.
Clinton has a strong point. It's one thing to disclose specific documents that reveal genuine misconduct; it's quite another to unleash thousands of files that disclose confidential communications that are part of the day-to-day reality of doing diplomacy.
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Amid all the WikiLeaks uproar is the news that a July 2009 directive under Secretary Clinton's name ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on officials at the United Nations and gather information such as credit card numbers, frequent flier numbers, and "biometric information on U.N. Security Council permanent representatives." Biometric information would include fingerprints and iris recognition. Also on the list of whom to gather biometric information from include, "key UN officials, to include undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [secretary general] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders," reports the Daily Telegraph.
The directive also requested passwords and encryption keys for communications systems used by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level U.N. officials.
The Daily Telegraph reports, "The directive appears to push the boundary between diplomacy and espionage and could breach the 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states that the 'premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable'."
The Daily Mail even states that the request for such information "is set to lead to international calls for Mrs Clinton to resign."
Clinton heads to Central Asia later today, where she might be in the hot seat, having to answer some tough questions about the directive. U.S. diplomats are frequently accused of secretly being spies, and the WikiLeaks news will likely only fuel those fears and possibly make it more difficult for U.S. diplomats to build trust. It'll be interesting to what Clinton has to say during this trip.
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I'm busy during the next couple of weeks working on the next print issue of Foreign Policy, so posting will be light. Thanks for your patience.
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At this point, the New START arms-control treaty with Russia has been endorsed by:
By now it should be a no-brainer that the U.S. Senate should ratify this important treaty, but some senators still need convincing.
Thus, today in a Washington Post op-ed, Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are calling on the U.S. Senate to ratify New START. The duo write that the treaty will allow U.S. inspectors to resume inspecting Russian nuclear forces, including 18 short-notice inspections per year, after a break in inspections since the previous START Treaty -- negotiated by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush -- expired in December 2009. New START will also put into effect a verification regime under which the United States and Russia will reduce their arsenals to 1,550 strategic warheads each.
Clinton and Gates write that the treaty will promote key U.S. national security objectives, including: "Reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons while retaining a safe and effective deterrent; providing direct insight into Russia's nuclear arsenal; and creating a more stable, predictable and cooperative relationship between the world's two leading nuclear powers."
The two secretaries stress that the New START treaty will neither limit the United States in deploying missile defenses nor constrain its modernization of nuclear forces. It also won't restrict U.S. deployment of conventional weapons, "including strike systems that could potentially hit a target anywhere on the globe in less than an hour."
This isn't a Democrat vs. Republican issue. Clinton and Gates point out that every U.S. president since the start of the Cold War has favored verifiable arms-control agreements and that the Senate has wholeheartedly approved these deals. In 1992 in a 93-6 vote, it approved the START Treaty, negotiated under Reagan and the first Bush. In 2003 in a 95-0 vote, it approved the Moscow Treaty, negotiated by George W. Bush.
The Senate needs to push New START through so U.S. inspectors can get back to inspecting those Russian missile silos and the United States can continue advancing its national security.
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Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.