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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Diplomacy duplicity

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There are two different accounts on the first one- on- one meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Top of the list in the sidebar meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany was the alleged Russian meddling in the last US elections that purportedly helped Trump beat Democratic rival Hilary Clinton.

But as in the case of two diametrically opposed ideologies, what transpired in the Trump-Putin dialogue was given different versions. Contrasting accounts given by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov can only make this issue fester. Tillerson said Mr. Trump brought up the issue with Putin.

Trump, nagged by Americans to raise the issue, did so. But he did it on his own and not in the name of the American people who are alarmed Russia can influence such an important democratic process. Russia is also being accused of interference to influence the outcome of elections in Germany, France and other key European nations.

But as it is with such closed door meetings, the account given in separate media briefings by the two sides turned out to be “he said, he said” Lavrov told media Trump raise the issue but Putin denied the allegation. It was not pursued further by Trump and Putin took it to mean that the matter was closed and his counterpart wanted to move on.

In a highly complicated world, Russia’s role in geopolitics is vital in resolving the Syrian civil war, the Crimean crisis in Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear threat and, further down the line, an escalating tension between Beijing and Washington on the South China Sea territorial dispute.

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This is the world of diplomacy. Heads of state don’t normally push even the most contentious concern that affects mankind. Confrontation as much as possible is avoided except in the case of the Cuban missile crisis in the fifties when President John K. Kennedy threatened a missile attack on the Russian launch pads in Cuba which directly threatened the United States. Kennedy invoked the Monroe Doctrine that explicitly bans other foreign powers to gain a foothold and influence in South America.

In another development in the international arena, the US was warned by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres that if the US continues to disengage in its global commitments, it will be replaced as a world leader. Guterres said this is not good for America and the world. These are strong words coming from the top official of the world body. One never heard such candor during the watch of the staid former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea.

Guterres has the gravitas to lead the UN. He’s a former Prime Minister of Portugal and UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Will Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte find themselves together as international outcasts? Duterte has also criticized the UN for being nothing but a talk shop. He wants to cut Philippine contribution to the world body. The Philippines is one of the founding fathers of the League of Nations, dating back to its origin in San Francisco before it moved to New York City. The UN charter was drawn in San Francisco on Oct. 24, 1945. The quintessential diplomat Carlos P. Romulo who went on to become the UN’s General Assembly president, led the Philippine delegation in the first UN organizational meeting in San Francisco.

Guterres was particularly miffed that Trump pulled out from the Paris agreement on climate change and the reduction of fuel emission. Aside from threatening to slash US financial contribution to the UN, Trump has also threatened to cut US funding to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and let Western Europe sustain Nato. International observers, however, think Nato is not just for Europe’s defense. It is a buffer against Russian aggression and a first line of defense before a first nuclear strike against American soil.

The annual session of the UN General Assembly starts in September. Normally, heads of state or their foreign ministers deliver speeches before the GA. For sure, President Duterte will not miss such an important occasion for his first appearance in the world stage. Being the fine wordsmith he is, we expect Philippine Ambassador to the UN, Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, to craft for the President a sober meaningful speech so he does not rant and rave about the UN, the US and other human rights groups meddling in his internal affairs of fighting the drug menace

There are more profound and meaningful words to deliver such a message to the international community without rankling them and making more enemies for us.

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