Diplomatic crowd-pleasers - Monocolumn | Monocle


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8 August 2012

First there was Crosby, Stills and Nash. Then there was Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Perhaps, it’s time for a new supergroup. A diplomatic supergroup. Please welcome to the stage Bildt, Davutoglu and Patriota.

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Turkey and Brazil may not have much musical talent but as a diplomatic dream team they have the potential to be far more influential than any collection of aging rock stars.

We’re living in a fractured world. The one remaining superpower is in economic straits, its military is overstretched and the role of peacemaker and policeman is not one it has ever felt comfortable with. The European Union is preoccupied with rescuing its currency and saving the union, while China, regardless of what happens following its bizarre leadership battle, will continue to follow a purely mercantilist foreign policy.

As a result the formal multilateral organisations that have helped to run the world since the end of the Second World War are all struggling for legitimacy. Instead, smaller diplomatic players and – to borrow a phrase – coalitions of the willing have an opportunity to take advantage of the lack of coherent leadership.

Individually Sweden, Turkey and Brazil can all talk to different parts of the world that traditional superpowers struggle to engage with. Importantly, all three have interesting, engaging, charismatic foreign ministers. Carl Bildt is widely respected in Europe and beyond and as a former prime minister he also brings leadership experience. Ahmet Davutoglu, who has racked up more air miles than any other foreign minister, is a one-man diplomatic dervish, constantly on the road, packing more side-room bilaterals into summits than most foreign ministers have luxurious five-course hot banquets. He sometimes talks a better game than he plays but he’s certainly become an influential player during the Arab uprisings. Finally, there’s Antonio Patriota, a career diplomat who – under President Dilma Rousseff – has been able to bring Brazilian foreign policy back to Itamaraty after the diplomatic grandstanding of President Lula.

Were these three men to combine their talents and their contacts they could form an impressive diplomatic trio. The three all appear to like each other too, suggesting it wouldn’t be a stretch for the trio to work together on a more formal basis.

Brazil and Turkey have admittedly tried this before and it was not a happy experience. President Lula and Prime Minister Erdogan tried to strike a deal with Iran on uranium enrichment but the US quickly distanced itself from the agreement, leaving the Brazilians and Turks embarrassed.

That experience shouldn’t necessarily leave them scarred though. The fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was willing to meet Lula and Erdogan shows how effective a diplomatic super group could be. The addition of Bildt, so tightly plugged-in to the EU, would only increase its effectiveness.

Such an arrangement would have to be handled carefully and would probably need the tacit support of the US but on certain occasions a performance by Bildt, Davutoglu and Patriota could be just what the crowd is after.


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