Rising Powers and Global Institutions: World Order in the 21st Century
Deputy Secretary of State
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DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, thank you, Karen. It’s good to be here. I have to confess this is my first visit to the new Council facility; it’s very impressive and I look forward to many more visits. Karen’s brief tour through my checkered past neglected two interesting relevant observations. She mentioned that I was a senior fellow at the IISS in the mid-1980s where I met a certain reporter for The Washington Post who was the bureau chief there at the time, Karen DeYoung. And so, it’s an old both professional and personal friendship and I’m delighted to share the stage with her.
She also mentioned I served for a while as the head of the Policy Planning staff, and I’m delighted to see so many of my former colleagues from Policy Planning in the audience here, as well as so many other people that I’ve had the privilege of working with in and out of government over the years. So I look forward to your questions. I’m going to be very brief because I really think the opportunity for dialogue is better than what I can do for you in terms of prepared remarks.
But I think it’s fitting since we are here at the Council to recall, in framing this discussion, some remarks that my boss, Secretary Clinton, made to the Council just about a year ago in one of her most important comprehensive speeches about the Administration’s overall approach to foreign policy. She said – and I’m just going to quote it a little bit – she said, “Today we must acknowledge two inescapable facts that define our world. First, no nation can meet the world’s challenges alone. The issues are too complex. Too many players are competing for influence, from rising powers to corporations to criminal cartels, from NGOs to al-Qaida, from state-controlled media to individuals using Twitter. Second, most nations worry about the same global threats, from nonproliferation to fighting disease, to counterterrorism, but also face very real obstacles for reasons of history, geography, ideology, and inertia. They face these obstacles and they stand in the way of turning commonality of interest into common action. So these two facts demand a different global architecture, one in which states have clear incentives to cooperate and live up to their responsibilities, as well as strong disincentives to sit on the sidelines or sow discord and division.”
And I think it’s hard to imagine a better way of framing the issues that are in front of us today, because if you believe, as the Secretary and President Obama have clearly indicated, that one of the core challenges of our time is to mobilize global cooperation to deal with these common threats, then what we need to do is to examine what’s in our toolkit in order to make that happen, to understand these barriers to common action, the problems of collective action that are known to so many of you, the difficulties of mobilizing people to act together even when their interests are common, and to create the structures that will allow for an effective response.
And I think if you look at our first 18 months or so in office, there’s been a tremendous amount of attention to this challenge, both in terms of trying to elaborate an architecture of cooperation and building relationships that can underlie those institutional relationships, began really at the beginning of the Administration with the core challenge that we faced with the global economic crisis and the need to move forward and finding ways to get countries to act together. Certainly, as you all well know, there is no more clear example of the need for global cooperation than in dealing with these kinds of events with the nature of the globalized trade and investment economy that we live in. The efforts that we have proceeded to do both on the substantive side of trying to get coordinated economic actions but also on the institutional side to try to develop the mechanisms to deal with it. The strengthening and the elevation of the G-20 as a mechanism to have sustained cooperation among global actors is just one example of that.
The second example is an area which the President from the beginning, indeed from his campaign, identified as one of his greatest priorities as president, which is dealing with the problem of nonproliferation and the need to develop stronger mechanisms to strengthen the nonproliferation regime in the face of the very specific challenges posed by North Korea and Iran but also the broader challenges of making sure that the NPT and the associated arrangements that go with the NPT are strong enough to meet the needs of the 21st century, where the risk of the intersection between nuclear materials and the possibility that they will fall into the hands of dangerous actors is perhaps the greatest threat that we face.
And we’ve seen most recently here in Washington with the Nuclear Security Summit the potential for these new tools and new mechanisms of cooperation, new architecture, new arrangements to begin to bring people together, and complementing that with the more traditional formal mechanisms like the NPT Review Conference which is going on in New York today. The first an informal gathering of the key states, the second a more formal treaty-based arrangement, showing that we need to find both formal and informal tools that can deal with it.
A third example, well known to all of you but also one of the President’s and the Secretary’s top priorities, is dealing with the problem of climate change. Here again, we’ve seen the need to develop new mechanisms of cooperation to deal with a challenge which clearly is one that no nation alone could deal with. We have to have global action to address it. It involves many parties, not just governments but also the private sector and others. But we’ve also seen this attempt to blend together the different tools ranging from, again, the formal UN-based UNFCC but also the mechanism of the Major Economies Forum, which brings together the key emitting countries and key countries involved in the production of greenhouse gases. I think this is a very important innovation that we saw in Copenhagen, which recognized that while we want to get the maximum international cooperation as possible, we cannot allow the formalities of arrangements to become a complete barrier to action. The ability of the leading countries to come forward with the Copenhagen Accord to push forward the agenda – even though there were a few countries that did not share the willingness to come around that set of principles – really shows the need to blend together these different mechanisms. I think we will see as we move forward to Cancun an ability to build on this, drawing on the formal mechanisms and the informal strategies.
We see this not just in these individual issues, but we see it across the board in efforts to strengthen the capacities of the UN generally, our own commitment to try to see whether we can make the UN Human Rights Council be a more effective mechanism that’s more true to its mission by making investment by the United States to join the UNHRC and try to work from the inside to make changes, and also with respect to more traditional formal institutions like NATO and the work we’re doing now with our NATO partners to develop a new Strategic Concept for the 21st century.
So all in all, it really shows a very vigorous effort to build these institutions. The United States is in East Asia. We acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN, which increases our ability to engage in East Asia. We’re discussing with our East Asian partners a potentially greater engagement with some of the newer mechanisms of East Asian cooperation, like the East Asian Summit, but we’re also working to reinvigorate the traditional efforts through APEC.
So all in all, I think it’s been a very fertile period of trying to experiment both with traditional and innovative approaches to international cooperation and institutions. But at the end of the day, although as I said these efforts go beyond just the efforts of countries, countries are important. In order to make these arrangements work, whether they’re formal or informal arrangements, we have to have strong ties to the key countries and the key actors that drive these institutions. For us, that begins with revalidating and strengthening our traditional alliance cooperations in both Europe in this hemisphere and in East Asia, as I mentioned, through our engagement through NATO, in Afghanistan through the Strategic Concept and the like, in East Asia with Japan and South Korea on issues that are going to be very prominently in display in the coming days, and with traditional partners in this hemisphere with Canada and Mexico. It’s important to remember with President Calderon here today that the President’s first meeting with a foreign head of state was actually even before he was president. He followed the tradition of meeting with the president of Mexico and that was followed shortly there afterwards his first foreign visit to Canada.
But as I think has been clear, we’ve also made an effort, building on those historic alliances, to build stronger and newer ties with key emerging countries beginning with the infamous reset with Russia and our new deepened engagement with China. Next week, the Secretary and Secretary Geithner will be in China for the second Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The following week, we will be holding the first meeting of our Strategic Dialogue here in Washington with India and are holding dialogues with the other key partners like Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia and others.
So it’s working on both of these levels – understanding that we need the frameworks of cooperation that involve many countries, but also strong ties with the key systemic actors that allow us to meet these big challenges in the 21st century.
MODERATOR: Thank you. You quoted exactly the quote that I was going to read from Secretary Clinton, and I wanted to ask you about some specifics. And what’s in the news this week, obviously, is Iran. And the question is: How do we deal with conflicting priorities? Our priorities of boosting and assisting the aspirations of countries like Brazil and Turkey who want to play a role, who have gone off and tried to play a role with Iran, and yet that role and the result of that role are in conflict with what we would like to see happen in the United Nations vis-à-vis Iran? Both the Turks and the Brazilians have now come out and complained about the introduction of a new sanctions resolution on Iran, immediately following the deal that they announced with Iran. So how do we balance those things?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, first, I don’t want to necessarily agree with your characterization of the Brazilian and Turkish response. But more generally, I would say that even it’s true with our closest allies, we don’t always agree and see eye to eye. So the fact that we want to work with a variety of partners and we see them as important partners doesn’t mean that we’re going to agree with them on everything.
But I think the bigger story, clearly from our perspective on Iran, is the agreement that we reached among the P-5+1, which really demonstrates the importance of our engagement and our working with key and systemic powers to be able to move forward. This has been a very deliberative process. There have been some who have been concerned that maybe this isn’t going as fast as others might like. But I think what we’ve demonstrated is by investing in these relationships and kind of use the Security Council where possible, a traditional international institution, we are able to have quite a big impact. And I think it’s no accident that we’re beginning to see at least some movement from Iran in the face of the fact that the international community is coming together under U.S. leadership, both through the investment in our relationships and in these institutions, to make clear that the international community is concerned about the Iranian program.
And although the announcement coming out of the meetings in Tehran is clearly short of what we think is necessary under the circumstances, it’s a demonstration of what happens when you mobilize the international community to bring pressure to bear. We’re going to have to keep going down that track. We are continuing to move forward in our discussions in New York. But I think it really is a demonstration of in this world how important it is to get international cooperation, to try to use the institutions where they can be made to work and the possibility that they offer of really achieving important results on an issue which is at the center of our agenda, which is nonproliferation.
MODERATOR: Is it important that we now go to the Brazilians and the Turks and try to maintain our, more or less, perfect record on sanctions resolutions? In other words, I’m assuming that we don’t want any no votes even if they’re not permanent member votes.
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: We obviously want the strongest expression of international support because the stronger that support, the clearer the message is to Iran. But at the same time, we have some basic underlying principles here both in terms of what we need. We cannot, for example, be satisfied if Iran continues to move forward with 20 percent enrichment. And so while we would welcome and we’ll work very hard to get as broad support as we can among all the members of the Council, permanent and the non-permanent members, it has to be something that meets our national security interest and the global security interest.
MODERATOR: I want – now, I’m going to read something that you said.
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: That’s always dangerous.
MODERATOR: (Laughter.) This is about China. When you spoke last November about the concept of strategic reassurance, you said it rests on a core, if tacit, bargain. Just as we and our allies must make sure that we are prepared to welcome China’s arrival as a prosperous and successful power, China must reassure the rest of the world that its development and growing global role will not come at the expense of security and well-being of others.
What is China doing, in your view, to reassure the rest of the world that its growth is not coming at the expense of others?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Right. One positive sign, clearly, is what we have been able to achieve vis-à-vis Iran, that here you have an example of China recognizing that whatever economic interests or whatever other stakes it has in the region that it has an important role to play in validating the international nonproliferation regime and making clear that it is not going to tolerate the kind of behavior that Iran has represented. Similarly, the fact that the Chinese have subscribed to the Copenhagen Accord, have been willing to make some commitments in that respect to begin to work with us on the transparency provisions of Copenhagen, and the fact that China was here – President Hu was here – for the Nuclear Security Summit, are all examples of positive steps that China can take.
Clearly there are other areas where we would like to see further progress, and that’s part of the reason we have the Strategic and Economic Dialogue is to give an opportunity where we have questions to encourage China to have greater transparency, especially about its military modernization because that’s an area of particular concern not just to us, but to all the countries of East Asia, to have some indication of what its intentions are in disputed areas. We know, for example, that there are a lot of questions about what its intentions are in the South China Sea and the like. These are all areas where what we need is to have greater transparency, greater clarity from China about what its intentions are, that help provide that reassurance. I think we need that with respect to China’s own resource strategy, as it goes out and develops investments around the world, to make sure that this is done in a way that doesn’t prejudice the interests of other countries, that doesn’t undercut important global norms of good governance and the like.
These are all areas where I think it would be important for the Chinese to be able to address for us what their objectives are, how those are consonant with the interests of others, and where countries have concerns that China’s actions may be posing a challenge to others’ interests, what kind of response China can give.
MODERATOR: A lot of what you say sounds a bit like the kind of transformational diplomacy that Condoleezza Rice used to talk about, which in itself seemed a rather abrupt shift from the whole sort of indispensable nation concept of Madeleine Albright. Can you talk about what you see as the difference between this multi-partnership globe, that the Obama Administration talks about and that you’ve just talked about, and transformational diplomacy as it was perhaps not implemented, but at least as it was described by the Bush Administration?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I always find that you don’t get very far in trying to characterize another administration’s approach to policy. I always find it very unsatisfactory when others used to try to do it to us. So I’ll let Secretary Rice try to speak for what she was trying to accomplish.
I think that clearly what we are saying, though, is that there are limits to any go-it-alone strategy, that you simply can’t deal with climate change or terrorism or nonproliferation unless you can enlist important partnerships with others. It doesn’t mean you would sacrifice key interests or key values in pursing it, but we are going to be more effective in dealing with these challenges if we can gain greater partners.
And it’s also a recognition, that while we have core partners where our interests and our values converge to the greatest degree and therefore are almost at the center of where we start in putting together groups to meet problems, that different countries will have different importance on different issues. There are different countries that are more salient on energy and environment issues, say, than are on global banking issues. And so if you look at the landscape, we have to have the flexibility and the topography that allows us to say that there are different groupings, different arrangements that allow us to address different problems. But that’s why we need to think about who are the partners who are both willing and able to contribute to solutions to these big problems and how do we get them most effectively to work together.
MODERATOR: But do you worry about how long it takes to get this working? There are all kinds of exigencies, political ones here at home, different ones around the world, different countries expecting different things. The Europeans complain that the Administration doesn’t care about them as much as it used to because it cares about something else. All of these things are complicated. They’re slow. They have, as you pointed out, many, many moving parts. Do the demands of the world and the kind of events of any given week push you off course? And can you get the kind of results that you need to demonstrate that this is a real change in framework, a real change in the way this country works and the way the world works in time?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I think the key to the strategy is that if you invest in these sustained arrangements where you build the institutions, both formal and informal, and you build the relationships, you’re not starting from scratch every time. This is not a pick-up game where each time you’re having to begin anew. You being to develop common working patterns, methods of cooperating together that allow you to move faster.
For example, I think our experience in working with the P-5 on the North Korean sanctions last year on Resolution 1874 put us in a much better position to move more quickly to deal with the Iranian problem. As complicated as it was, we had the experience. We had worked through a lot of questions: What are the different kinds of elements that might go into an effective sanctions regime associated with nonproliferation? What are the interests of different countries? Where might they be prepared to go? Where are they not prepared to go?
As the academics would say, these multiple-game relationships are very important because we understand each other. We are able to be able to build a relationship across a variety of issues. And where one issue is very important to us, another country might be willing to do more because it’s important to us because they know that in a repeated engagement that we may be willing to deal with issues that are important to them. So I think that there’s no doubt, these are always going to be difficult. It’s always easier to act by yourself; even within our country, it’s not always easy to act quickly. But the value is high if you can make it work. But you also have to – for all the reasons you said – develop the strategies that make it less painful, less laborious, more responsive, more agile to meet these kinds of challenges.
And I think the ultimate test of whether we’re doing this is whether the international system can develop the agility to meet these fast-moving challenges.
MODERATOR: Now I’ll take questions from the floor. I’ll call on you. Please, do we have – wait till the microphone gets to you and stand and identify yourself and state your question.
QUESTION: Hi. Will Davis with the UN Information Center here in Washington. Jim, other than perhaps as a potentially attractive source of renewable energy in New York, the discussions on Security Council reform don’t seem to be going anywhere fast. Where’s the U.S. on Security Council reform?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, you know the answer to this, but I’m happy to share it with the group. I think that the President has made clear that we want an effective and we want a broadly respected Security Council. And so we are open to the ideas that would improve the legitimacy of the public recognition that the world has changed. But at the same time, we have to do it in a way that preservers the efficacy of the Council. We’ve seen very clearly in our 18 months in office that this is not just a talk shop; it’s a place that can make a difference. And so while we understand the desire to try to make this more reflective of the world as we see it today and these new actors that we’ve been talking about, it has to be done a way that really reflects and sustains the effectiveness of the Council as the preeminent place to deal with the global peace and security issues. And that’s a complex challenge.
And putting together the pieces of the puzzle and the partial derivatives here to get that combination right is something that is challenging, and I think that’s why we haven’t been able to crack that nut. But it is something we continue to discuss with key partners, and we continue to sustain an open mind within those broad set of principles.
MODERATOR: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Thanks. Hi, David Gartner with Brookings. A quick question about a different global challenge – global development and global poverty. I know last year at the General Assembly the President announced that he was going to come this year to the Millennium summit with a plan, a strategy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. I know those are things that are near and dear to the Secretary’s heart around global education and things like that. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the U.S. is going to lead in that area in this period.
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, you’re right. I mean, these are, both for the President and the Secretary, enormous priorities. And you’ve heard the Secretary talk a lot about “the three Ds”, the importance that we attach to diplomacy and development as part of the core of our overall kit bag of what she’s called “smart power”. And we made a great deal of investment in trying to strengthen our capacity to do this. And as I think you all know, both within State and AID, in our effort to conduct our own version of a systemic review – what we call a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the QDDR – and more broadly within the Administration, we’re looking about how we bring all of the elements of the Administration’s engagement in the development agenda together. And as everybody here, I think, knows that involves a huge range of actors within the U.S. Government, not just State and AID, but Treasury, Agriculture, HHS, and others.
And you’ll forgive me for not jumping the gun on this, but I think in the coming days, you’re going to hear both from the President and the Secretary as we complete these reviews, a systematic look at what our objectives are – but even more important from our perspective at the State Department and AID – how do we develop the capacity over time both within the government and outside the government to be able to respond to the development challenges as well as issues like crisis response, crisis stabilization, crisis prevention.
I think, as the Pentagon has learned through its own QDR, that the specific challenges that we face in the future are inherently unknowable. But you have to think hard about how you develop the capacity now to be able to deploy and produce results in the future. Integrating those across the board both with the other tools of statecraft and with all the elements of both our government and then working with the private sector, NGOs, international organizations, and our other partners is a complex puzzle. And it’s something that, as I say, in the coming weeks I think you’re going to hear a lot more about.
QUESTION: Barbara Slavin. Good to see you again. I want to draw you out a little bit more on Iran and on the British – on the Brazilian-Turkish agreement. Does the Administration see this as a basis for negotiations? You said it reflects the increasing pressure Iran is under. But there is an opportunity, if this agreement is going to go forward, for negotiations in Vienna with the Vienna Group. Will the United States participate actively in that and try to make something of this, given that sanctions alone are unlikely to work? Thanks.
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, again, I won’t necessarily agree with the assumptions in the question. But I think our position has been very clear, which is the proposal that was developed last October was not an answer to the fundamental question and our concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has been subject to a number of UN Security Council resolutions because of its unwillingness to comply with its obligations under the NPT and to the IAEA, that it has been not forthcoming about its activities and was conducting clandestine activities, that it has retreated from its own obligations to declare facilities, that it has declined to implement the kind of safeguards that the IAEA expects. So even if the terms of the original proposal were fully met, we would still continue to have concerns about the Iranian program.
But we were also very clear at the time that the proposal was made last October that this was not something that was the beginning of a negotiation. This was supposed to be a confidence-building measure for Iran to demonstrate that it wanted to show some ways of addressing the concerns of the international community about whether this program was designed, as they claim, for entirely peaceful uses against all these reasons why there’s legitimate doubts about that. The fact that rather than simply saying, yes – which was fully available to Iran to agree to ship out the LEU in return for the fuel for the research reactor – just continues to create further doubt.
So we don’t see this as a platform for negotiation. We see this as an opportunity for Iran to build confidence. And we would hope that Iran was prepared to just – rather than qualify, caveat, begin – say, well, we’re prepared to talk about it. They are the ones who need to build confidence in the international community about their intentions. And the way they should start is with an unqualified acceptance of what was originally proposed, and originally agreed by the Iranians back in October.
QUESTION: So the answer is no?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I gave my answer. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you, Karen. Mac (inaudible) for the University of Maryland. Jim, one of the areas where the Administration has been less active in multilateral activity has been international trade. The Doha round has not been moving, and while that’s not entirely our fault, we certainly haven’t done anything large to resuscitate it. The President has danced around three unratified – three trade agreements, including one with Korea, where we are losing grounds to the Europeans. And I wonder if you – is there any prospect in the weeks or months ahead that we might have some greater movement in the international trade area?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, Mac, as you’ll appreciate, I’m not here principally as the spokesman for the Administration on trade, so I don’t want to get into a lot of detail about this. Trade Representative Kirk had a few things to say about this just yesterday or the day before, and so I pretty much want to defer to him. But I’d just make a couple of general observations. I think the President has made clear that he thinks that expanding trade is critically important to our economic future, that our economic growth depends on our ability to continue to trade and to export, and that we need an open and fair trading system that will facilitate that. In the State of the Union message this past January, he made clear the importance he attaches to that agenda. And we are going to continue to try to pursue that in ways that meet our national interests and address the challenges that we face.
But these have to be sustainable agreements. We have a number of ideas with respect to the Doha round that we have put forward which we think could lead to a successful conclusion. It is a priority. I can assure you that at every meeting that I’ve been to, which there have been many on this, we place a particularly high priority on those kinds of global multilateral trade agreements. And we’re ready to move forward. And I think it’s also incumbent on a number of our partners to show a similar commitment to move forward.
So I think there’s a deep understanding of the importance of this agenda. It needs to reflect the realities of our time and it needs to be one that really protects the economic interests of the United States. As the President has pointed out many times, as Trade Representative Kirk has pointed out, we are a very open trading society. And if we’re going to move forward, we need to make sure that we move forward in ways that others do it as well.
QUESTION: Thank you. Fred Tipson with the UN Development Program in Washington. Jim, would you address our policy toward Pakistan and what the near-term priorities are for the U.S. Government in our relations with Pakistan?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Thanks, Fred. I think it’s pretty clear from the level of engagement that we have with the Government of Pakistan that we view this as a crucial relationship, that we have a significant stake in building a Pakistan that is stable, democratic, economically growing and providing for the needs of its people, and dealing with the problems of terrorism and the potential risks of proliferation in that region. So there’s a huge amount at stake, and it’s a complex relationship because it’s a complex society and a complex government.
We have tried to build a very comprehensive relationship with the Government of Pakistan. I think if you followed the range of issues that were subject to discussion here in the recent Strategic Dialogue and the range of partners that we’re dealing with in Pakistan, it’s really a reflection of the fact that while there’s a tremendous focus and emphasis right now on terrorism – because it is an existential threat to us and it is a huge priority for us – it’s also a huge priority for Pakistan, by the way, since they are also threatened in many ways by the same forces that threaten us – we also recognize that if we’re going to deal with these challenges, it will take time and will take a sustained relationship and that we’re better off if we can build trust and confidence in the sustainability of that relationship. That means to make sure that we’re not just focusing on one issue, however important it is at the time, but also understanding that there are a range of concerns and issues. That’s why, for example, we’ve tried to move forward on our agenda with the reconstruction opportunity zones in Pakistan to create some economic opportunity. That’s why, working with the Congress, we’ve tried to broaden our assistance program to make clear that this is to benefit broad sectors of the Pakistani society and not just focused to counterterrorism efforts.
There’s a lot of suspicion in Pakistan about the United States. We’ve had a less than fully sustained relationship over the past 30 years, and so we have to rebuild that trust, understanding that we’re not going to necessarily see eye to eye on everything but that the more we can convince each other that in the long term our interests are largely convergent and that we are prepared to engage for the long term, the greater the likelihood that we will be responsive to each other’s concerns and interests.
MODERATOR: Can I just follow up on that and ask, going back to the question of conflicting priorities, when it is a priority to build a strong civil and military relationship with India, and that at least in the view of the Pakistanis, directly undercuts the kind of relationship that you’re talking about in the end to the suspicion with Pakistan, how do you deal with that? The Pakistanis don’t like the civil nuclear deal with India, they don’t like the prospect of increased U.S. armed sales to India, they want the United States to intervene on the diplomatic level to persuade the Indians to come back to the Composite Dialogue. How do you balance those sort of things?
DEPUTY SECERETARY STEINBERG: I think the key here is to understand that from the U.S. perspective, we have to deal with the two relationships in parallel and, whatever the issues are between them, that we can’t let our judgment about what is the best relationship for the United States bilaterally with India and bilaterally with Pakistan be determined by the views of the other about what that is. This fundamental idea of de-hyphenating the relationship, I think, is at the core of a successful strategy. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be differences. There are going to be differences, and there are going to be things that each would want from each other. But our response has to be that we are not going to refuse to deal with one because the other doesn’t want it. But it’s symmetrical, which is we’re also not going to refuse to deal with the other because the first is against it. And I think over time, as both countries understand that we’re building the relationship, we build trust, we build depth and breadth to those relationships, it becomes easier to tolerate those places where they still see it in the zero sum way with each other. And hopefully over time – and we certainly don’t want to overstate it but I think the recent agreement by the two prime ministers to go forward with their dialogue is obviously something welcome –we hope that if we build a good, positive relationship with both, that will provide a context that may make it easier for the two of them to have a better relationship with each other.
QUESTION: I’m Mitzi Worth. I’m with the Naval Postgraduate School. Could you give us the same explanation about the State Department’s view of Afghanistan and how it – how you deal with Defense on this?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I hope I’ll give the Administration’s view, because I don’t think that the State Department’s view is any different. (Laughter.)
The approach that the President has outlined for Afghanistan is very clear, which is we see Afghanistan, along with Pakistan, as presenting one of the most serious challenges that we face because we remember that the attacks of 9/11 began there and that if left unattended, there is a very substantial risk that we will continue to face that threat. And although the center of gravity after the intervention in Afghanistan has moved a little bit to the east, there remains a lot of engagement between those radical forces, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a serious risk that would reemerge.
So the President’s been very explicit about what our national objectives are, which is to prevent the reemergence of that threat from al-Qaida and its allies in Afghanistan and, within that context, to then take the goal and develop a strategy, working with the Government of Afghanistan, to try to prevent that danger from reemerging. It’s a comprehensive strategy. It has a security component, it has a political component, it has an economic component. It’s a recognition that we’re not going to fully transform everything about Afghanistan or Afghan society overnight but that, working in partnership with the Afghan Government, we can begin to develop a security environment that prevents a Taliban takeover of the government or the extremists from gaining safe havens, and creates an opportunity for Afghanistan to chart its own future going forward.
We have a strategy that includes the work that General McChrystal and the military are doing, it includes the works of building up the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police, it includes strengthening the capacity of governance in Afghanistan both at the national and at the local levels, and it includes trying to work with all the countries that have an interest there both within the region and beyond to be supportive of an Afghan-led process to create a more stable future for Afghanistan.
MODERATOR: Ma’am. Back there.
QUESTION: Gail Maddox, the U.S. Naval Academy. Could you address our relationship with Russia? Have we, with START and some other issues, reset the relationship yet? Or where are we on your final objective with Russia?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I think that’s clearly an example where the effort to reengage, to build a relationship, has paid substantial dividends. I think it’s been clear for a long time that while we don’t agree with Russia on everything, there are a lot of areas where we do have important areas of common interest. And for a variety of reasons, we had gotten to a place where our differences were making it impossible to move forward on the areas where we agree. And that, in the context of this broader discussion we’re having about the need to mobilize the capacity for common action, was very much adverse to our interests.
On so many important issues, whether it’s on Afghanistan or dealing with terrorism or proliferation or dealing with the environment, Russia is an important and critical player. And so if we’re able to find better ways to work together, where we should naturally be able to work together because there is a convergence, that’s clearly going to be in everybody’s interest. Which is not to sweep under the rug the differences. We have differences on Georgia. We have differences on some of the ways in which the Russian Government is dealing with its own internal society.
But we have, I think, been successful in building a degree of civility and conversation between the two countries that we can have our honest disagreements where we have them, to sustain our principled positions where they exist, but not for that to be a barrier to working together. And whether it’s transit through Russia to Afghanistan, whether it’s START, whether it’s working on both North Korea and Iran, the tangible benefits are there. And I think that it has manifested itself in a true sense of trying to solve problems together even where we have differences. It’s not characterize by invective or suspicion. It’s an attempt to find common ground. And I think the relationships at all levels, from the two presidents to the foreign minister and the Secretary to the working levels, really reflect a difference in approach, which doesn’t guarantee results in every case but it certainly substantially increases the chances that we are going to find this common ground.
QUESTION: Andrew Pierre, Georgetown University. At the previous session, Jim, on nonproliferation, one of the three speakers – and he happened to be the American one – said something to the effect that the international community seems to be moving towards a discussion of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. And of course, one of our concerns, I think is with the uranium program, is that it might stimulate potential other nuclear programs in the Middle East and the Gulf area. What is the view of the Administration regarding possibly moving towards a nuclear weapons-free zone discussion of a formal nature?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, Andrew, it’s an important issue. It’s an issue that’s being addressed to some degree in the context of the NPT RevCon. The United States supported the 1995 Middle East resolution coming out of the 1995 RevCon, but we also recognize that this is a complex situation in which dealing with the challenge of nuclear weapons has to be seen in the context of the conflicts in the region and the question of broader security. And so what we support and what we are working with others to do is to try to create a context in which we recognize that in the broader set of objectives the President’s made very clear, if you’re going to live in a world without nuclear weapons, that applies to everyone.
But at the same time, realistically and practically, if we want to make progress, that it’s important to address some of the underlying challenges and insecurities in the region, and that we can’t disaggregate those completely. And what we have not been supportive of is the idea that somehow this can be done without reference to the underlying causes of concern there. And we hope that the parties in the context of the current RevCon and others will have a practical approach to this recognizes that we would all like to reduce the risk of both proliferation and certainly the use of nuclear weapons, but it has to be seen in the context of the particular and specific challenges in the Middle East.
MODERATOR: Let’s take – we have time for – I’m going to ask for two questions. Say the questions and then Jim can give two quick answers.
Sir, and then – yes.
QUESTION: I’m Sung Koh (ph) of South Korean News Agency, Yonhap. Almost nine hours later, South Korean Government will announce the investigation about the sunken vessel off the Korean Peninsula. And I would like to know whether you have been notified of the result from the South Korean Government beforehand. And if you were, what was that?
And if North Korea is behind all this, what kind of measures can you come up with to punish North Korea’s belligerent act? Thank you.
MODERATOR: And then – last question, right there. Yes.
QUESTION: Rickie Taggart Hill for Financial Regulation and Reform International. Without degeneration to a “who’s on first” question, I think it’s fair to say that the State Department was substantially eviscerated in the last Administration. And the significant need to have an effective State Department and a bureaucracy of effective diplomats, obviously – it seems quite obvious to you and to the Secretary. How far along are you in rebuilding the agency?
DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: On the first, as you correctly pointed out, we anticipate that the South Korean Government will have something to say in a few hours and I’m not going to get ahead of that announcement. But I will say that the United States and South Korea have worked very, very closely together in this investigation. Our experts have been involved from the beginning. I think you will see that our lead expert will be part of that discussion once the announcement is made. So in terms of cooperation and consultation, we have worked together very closely. The U.S. Navy has tremendous expertise in this area and we’ve offered it. But we’re not the only ones, by the way. The UK, Australia, Sweden and others have also cooperated with this investigation. And I think that’s been an important part of it.
And I think it’s a tribute to the South Korean Government that this has been a very professional, very methodical effort to understand what happened, to not try to jump to conclusions or to make up conclusions but to follow the facts where they lead. And I’m sure we’ll all have more to say after that announcement is made. And for that reason, I don’t want to try to anticipate the hypothetical about what we will do based on the conclusion except to say that, again, I think the two governments are working together very closely.
We have a tremendously strong working relationship, as you know. President Lee Myung-bak and President Obama had a conversation – I guess it was yesterday; I lose track of time. Sometimes they have been in close touch. They met during the Nuclear Security Summit. And across the board, the engagement and the collaboration between our two countries could not be better. And we’re very appreciative of the approach that the South Korean Government has taken.
To your question, again without characterizing previous administrations, we have made it a priority to strengthen the capacity of both State and AID. And by the way, if “eviscerated” is going to be used as a word, AID has been the one that has paid the greatest price, not just in the last few years but really over a period of 30 or more years. And this has been one of the top priorities not just of Secretary Clinton and now Administrator Shah but of the President. We wouldn’t have the kind of robust budget request that we have if they didn’t have the support of the President and OMB. By the way, Secretary Gates has played a critical role in providing support for this and identifying the need from the Pentagon’s perspective of a more capable State Department and AID.
And we were very encouraged by some significant progress we made in last year’s appropriation. We recognize this is a tough budget environment and these issues are now being discussed up on the Hill, but we hope people appreciate the fact that the investment – you won’t be surprised to hear this from a State Department official – in what we do has enormous leverage and impact, that we invest heavily and appropriately in our military capacity but if we don’t match it, if we have a disjointed three-legged stool, it disserves all of the elements of our power. And there’s no question that over decades we have under-invested in the development and diplomacy side. We’re beginning to see that righted.
By the way, I always look for something good to say about the previous administration – on assistance, we did see an improvement in the efforts in the previous administration, which we are now trying to build on. But we need capacity. And that’s one of the lessons about what happened to AID, is that with a lack of capacity at the national level. We can’t leverage all the other tools that are out there – the NGOs, the international organizations, and others. So we need to have that capacity. The purpose of the QDDR is to give us a hardheaded look at what are the priorities, how do these fit together, what do we need for the long term to be able to serve the broad national interests.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I’m going to ask everyone to please stay in your seats until Secretary Steinberg has a chance to leave. But thank you so much for being here and giving us a lot to think about. (Applause.)
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