The Guardian September 13, 2000


Missing from UN Summit: American influence

In an analysis of the present international situation Stratfor, a body 
incorporated in the US that publishes strategic studies of important world 
and regional situations, predicted that the influence of the United States 
would be missing at the extraordinary gathering of world leaders assembling 
for the UN Millennium Summit. This three-day meeting of world leaders 
preceded the regular meeting of the UN General Assembly of all member 
nations of the UN. The following is from Stratfor's analysis:

The most telling details are not in New York, but in the myriad [of] 
meetings that have unfolded in different corners of the world in recent 
days [before the Summit]. Increasingly, world leaders are trying to find 
ways to work around Washington.

These dialogues indicate the importance of contacts at the regional levels, 
in working out problems that Washington once sought to influence. They 
suggest that much of the world is tuning Washington out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Japan; the Israeli Foreign 
Minister visited Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; more than a dozen 
African leaders met in Libya; South American leaders attended a summit in 
Brazil; and the Yugoslav Foreign Minister dropped in on Fidel Castro in 
Havana.

[Earlier, in April, a very important Summit meeting of Third World leaders 
was held in Havana. See earlier report in The Guardian, September 6, 
2000  Ed.]

Each of these meetings is interesting in itself.

Putin showed the Japanese that he did not intend to be flexible on 
returning the Kurile Islands, taken by Moscow in 1945.

The Cairo meeting suggests that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is trying 
to broker a deal over Jerusalem.

The failed Camp David talks left Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat 
strengthened against hard-liners who wanted to reject a formal agreement 
anyway, while weakening Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Barak's claim to power is partly rooted in his close relations with the 
United States. But the Clinton administration chose to put him in the 
position of blowing up his ties with Washington  or his coalition back 
home.

Barak's Foreign Minister went to Cairo to search for an unlikely way out.

The gathering in Libya indicates the continued and growing influence of 
Libya in sub-Saharan Africa. It represents a new high point for Moammar 
Gadhafi, who has been assiduously building his influence in sub-Saharan 
Africa.

The Havana gathering indicates that Belgrade is trying to break out of its 
diplomatic isolation, that the less developed countries have drawn a line 
in the sand, and that the Castro Government is not so isolated after all.

In spite of a generation-old attempt to isolate him, American policy in 
Africa, despite sporadic interventions and periodic visits by President 
Clinton, has not stemmed the Libyan leader's influence.

Similarly, neither Cuban President Fidel Castro nor the regime in Belgrade 
is deterred from exploring common interests.

Significantly, the summit in Brazil has focused on an American concern: 
Colombia.

There is an underlying theme here, expressed at the Latin American summit, 
a fear that US policy in Colombia might lead to an explosion that could 
spread to neighbouring countries.

Like the gathering between leaders of North and South Korea on the far side 
of the globe, these gatherings are as much about taking control away as 
much as working with the United States.

While there is no common text to these meetings, there is a common subtext 
 the global attempt, taken by different actors in different ways, to 
manage around the Americans, instead of letting the Americans manage the 
world.

The United States is the centre of gravity of the international system. But 
that is not to say that Washington is in control of the system.

American power  political, economic and military  has become enormous. 
At the same time, American behaviour has become both insular and 
unpredictable.

The vibrancy of the economy has created a sense that what happens outside 
of US borders is of little consequence. The exercise of power is unanchored 
[and] unconstrained by necessity.

Most global gatherings lack real import. But the Millennium Town Meeting is 
the perfect summary of the state of the world.

Everyone is gathering in New York to talk to each other  mainly because 
there is no point in talking to or through the government in Washington. 
Few are looking to the United States for leadership. Most are picking their 
way around it.

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Acknowledgements to Stratfor Inc and Kominform, Helsinki

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