Monday, February 28, 2005

Travel, Mix, Understand and Change!

EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases

Danuta Hübner is now member of the European Commission from Poland, but in the 1970's she was just a girl that had the possibility of leaving her country and go to the University of Sussex in England.

Now she's been back getting an honorary degree and speaking to its students. Her remarks on thge changes her Europe has seen and the tasks ahead are well worth reading.

The future of Europe depends on its ability to change - which is driven by the younger generation.

And she urges the students to "become beacons of entrepreneurial zeal but alo of tolerance and understanding."

"Travel, mix with strange people, become cosmopolitan... seek to understand even the strangest of your fellow human beings."

Elephant Racing Ahead!

Economy & Policy

Today has been budget day in New Delhi. Projected to be the world's larghest country in terms of population in a few decades, the economy of India has also benefited enormously from the liberal reforms of the last decade.

But more is needed, and the new Singh government want to increase the growth rate from the7 % of today towards a sustained growth around 10 %, which IMF and others conside perfectly possible given the right policies.

Todays budget brings a number of tax changes and opens up theecoomy further to foreign investment and trade. It looks good, and the Indian stock market accordingly soared after having seen the details.

I'm certain China takes note - and we should as well.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Netherlands Vote June 1st

The Netherlands has now announced that it will hold its referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty on June 1st.

Before that it is generelly expected that the referendum in France will be held.

And it has now been announced that Denmark will have its referendum immediately after the summer on September 27.

Public opinion is the Netherlands on these issues are likely to be in a somewhat volatile stage. There has been a strong reaction against the perception that the larger powers - read Germany - can do what they want with the Growth and Stability Pact, while the somewhat smaller ones are supposed to adhere to it.

And to this should be added the debate on all of the issues connected with the Van Gogh murder last year. Issues of immigration and integration were certainly at the forefront of the debate when I was in The Hague some time ago.

But against this stands the very strong approval of the Constitutional Treaty by all of the major political parties of the country.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Elections? Real? In Egypt? If so... Great!

Aljazeera.Net - Egypt's leader orders election reform

In a declaration of profound importance, President Husni Mubarak of Egypt has announced that there will be open, direct and contested presidential elections in the country in September.

Previously, President Mubarak has been election four times in a process having very little to do with real democracy.

But with a possible fifth term coming up, pressures - also in public - for change towards a real election have been increasing visible.

It's not difficult to see that this has been inspired both by elections in Palestine and Iraq and by the public pressure on Egypt from US President Bush. Twice in the last month or so President Bush has called on Egypt to move towards more of democracy.

It remains to be seen what the details will look like. We are unlikely to see an entirely smooth process towards a fully democratic system.

But the genie is out of the bottle, change is the order of the day, democracy can not be avoided and the region is truly changing. It should not be forgotten that Egypt is not only the most populated but historically probably the most significant of all the Arab countries.

So, we are talking about changes of momenteous importance. And not even the most fervent Bush-bashers can avoid giving at the least some credit for all of this to him.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Is There a Plan B?

pr_599_britain_no.pdf (application/pdf Object)

As we are now seeing the one referendum on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union after the other, it's only natural that the question is asked what will happen if the one or the other country does not ratify the treaty.

The danger seems greatest in the United Kingdom, although it's much too early to make any predictions on a referendum not likely to be held until Spring 2006 at the earliest.

Charles Grant of the Center for European Reforms has however tried to speculate on what might happen if Britain votes No. In essence, he sees a rather messy future in that case, with interest that are close to him - as well as me - likely to suffer and to be marginalized.

The link is to the press release which has just a summary of his arguments. I'm sure it's worth reading in full.

Henry Kissinger on Middle East Peace Process

kis021005.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Some voices in the international debate are always worth listening to. Henry Kissinger is certainly among them. Coming from a more "realist" school of international affairs than what is in vogue at the moment, he still brings vast amount of personal experience and historical perspective to the discussions.

Recently he appeared before the Committee of International Relations of the US House of Representatives with a rather hard-nosed assessment of the situation.

For those of us who have been listening to and reading him for mant years by now, this in his special way seems like a remarkably upbeat assessment of the prospects ahead.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Far Away Country of Which We Know Little...

Meddling Raises Stakes in Moldova

Beneath the headlines of the global media, things are heaing in Moldova prior to the March 6 parliamentary election.

Sliced between coming EU member Romania and reforming Ukraine, but with the break-away Russian-run and criminals-infested enclave of Transdnestr dividing the country, the country is exposed to numereous different forces.

At least since the Ukraine presidential election, politics is changing in the entire post-Soviet area. We see circles in Moscow taking a far more aggressive approach in terms of trying to interfere to prevent political developments from going in a direction they don't like.

In this article you will encounter the name Alksnis as one of those now active on this circuit. For anyone remembering the details of Russian nationalist attempts to undermine the stability of Latvia it's a name that have the alarm bells ringing.

A Swedish Dilemma

A Swedish Dilemma

Chrisopher Caldwell of the influential US magazine The Weekly Standard came to Sweden in the middle of the winter to see how we are coping with the issues of the welfare state and immigration.

Always an astute observer, his reflections as now published in The Weekly Standard are certainly worth both reading and discussing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Big Future in Small Change

Breakup of Yukos hits output in Russia

It's often the small changes that indicate trends of profound importance for the future.

Russian oil production is no longer increasing, and it seems as if the next few years will bring no change in this respect, with the risk that there will even be a decline thereafter.

The reason is that old production fields are starting to mature and decline, and that there hasn't been enough investment in either transportation infrastructure or in the opening up of new production fields.

This is not likely to change in the near term. With the Kremlin determined to control more and more of the oil sector, few foreign investors are likely to rush in. The Yukos affair has been a watershed for Russia.

The geopolitical implications of this are immense. If there a few years ago was the hope that we could start reducing our dependence on oil from the Middle East by relying more and more on Russia, this no longer seems a viable option.

The problem is that there are hardly any other viable options. The growing appetite of a growing global economy - not the least rising Asia - will have to be meet by increasing production around the Persian Gulf.

Our global dependence on this volatile part of the world is set to increase in the years ahead. It's not an entirely comfortable prospect.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Vote for Peace

Turkish Daily News - Call for settlement

In an important vote, the electorate of the Turkish part of divided Cyprus gave increased support to those politicians in favour of European integration and an overcoming of the division on the island based on the UN-designed and EU-approved peace plan.

This is bound to increase pressures on the nationalist government of Greek Cyprus to overcome its rejectionist and obstructionist approach to this important issue.

It's one of the last important unresolved conflicts of Europe.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bush in Brussels

Remarks by U.S. President George W. Bush at Concert Noble

Here the policy speech that President Bush gave in Brussels at the start of his present European tour. Policy is best understood when viewed - or read - in full.

In my view, this was a good speech.

He placed the Middle East peace processes squarely in the centre also of the US-European relationship, and noted its centrality also to the wider efforts for stability and democracy in the wider Middle East. He was clear in what he asked of the Palestinians, but equally clear on what he asked of the Israelis.

In the spirit of previous speeches, he talked explicitly about the need for political reforms in Saudi Arabia, and wished that Egypt would take a lead in the development of democracy in the region.

And he called for Europeans to help with the state-building work in Iraq - "the regions youngest democracy."

It is also worth noting that he wanted issues of democracy and the rule of the law to be put at the hearth of our dialogue with Russia.

In contrast to policy pronouncements from Washington in the recent past, the issue of fighting terrorism came only towards the end of the speech. This certainly did not downgrade the importance of these issues, but indirectly implied that there are other issues that needs to be tackled and that can also give their contribution to the fight against global terrorism.

In short, a good start to an important visit.

Losers United in Kiel.

There was unexpected drama in the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.

Opposition CDU did far better than had been anticipated, gaining 5, 0 % and becoming the largest party in the state for the first time since the 1980's. And the red-green coalition lost very substantial ground, with the SPD losing 4,4 %.

Still, the end result is likely to be that the red-green coalition survives in office with the support of the primarily Danish minority party SSW with their 3,5 % of the vote. It will be, needless to say, a weak government.

But the Schleswig-Holstein election sends a powerful message concerning trends leading up to the key state elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen May 22. That's Germanys biggest state, and the key state election leading up to the September 2006 federal election.

While the federal government under Chancellor Schröder has been gaining ground in the opinion recently, Schleswig-Holstein shows that it's still very much an open question who will govern Germany after next years election.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Compact Between Europe and the United States

us_europe_compact_feb16_05.pdf (application/pdf Object)

To give some stimulus to the debate, a group of individuals of the Centre for European Reform in London and the Brookings Institution in Washington has drafted a compact between the European Union and the United States seeking solutions to most of the issues that have aroused controversy across the Atlantic in recent years.

It's an interesting, constructive and forward-looking document they have produced. It's well worth both reading and discussing.

It has my support although it does not have my signature. The reason is that it does contain some statements that I could not agree with.

But that's another way of saying that the debate must continue - it is of the greatest importance for the future.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

More European Union - Less Europe

When President Bush comes to Brussels, it will be a visit different from previous visits by US Presidents in town.

In the days gone, it was all about the old alliance, centered on NATO and focused on the issues of a divided Europe.

After some rather rocky years, we are now seeing a new structure and pattern slowly emerging.

Now, it is about building a new partnership, centered on the European Union and focused on issues outside of Europe.

It's different in several respects. A partnership is different from an alliance. There is an implicit recognition that the dominating agendas on the different sides of the Atlantic are different, but that both the United States and the European Union need the support and help of each other for their respective agendas and on the wider global scene.

While the relationship with NATO has by no means been downgraded - it's critical also in far-away areas like Afghanistan - it's obvious that the relationship with the European Union has been upgraded.

And while in the past the agenda for the talks was focused on the different issues and challenges of the European continent, now it will be centered on issues outside of, although adjacent to Europe. The conflict-ridden Middle East, and the de-democratizing Russia, is the near abroad of Europe but also the core concerns of the United States.

A new partnership with more of the European Union and less of Europe - that's what we will now be seeing.

Chinese Internet Shutdown

China Says It Shut Down 12,575 Internet Cafes in Three-Month Crackdown - from

It's not the first time. But now there has obviously been a new offensive by the authorities in China against use of the Internet not controlled by them.

Nearly 13 000 Internet caf'es were closed since they did not have the necessary permission. And part of this permission is the installation of software that blocks and controls access to sensitive sites.

Pornography, they say. Certainly. But it seems as if democracy is considered even more dangereous.

Intifada III in Israel

Haaretz - Israel News - Intifada III

Things are really heating up in Israel. Extremist elements are mobilizing everything to stop the Prime Minister Sharons plan to evacuate all settlements in Gaza.

And there is fear in the air. It's soon 10 years since extremistis murdered Prime Minister Rabin because of his commitment to peace with the Palestinians.

Both Abu Mazen in Palestine and Ariel Sharon in Israel are now struggling with their extremists. Let's hope that they both win. The alternative would be catastrophic.

Retreat of Democracy in Russia

AslundTestimony050217.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The week before President Bush is to see Russian President Putin in Bratislava, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Senate had open hearings on what's really happening in Russia and the consequences this will have.

Among those called by the Committee was Anders Åslund. He spoke without exaggeration of the changes we have seen as a part of the ongoing de-democratization of Russia. A mild authoritarian regime is now ruling Russia, according to Anders.

This is worrying both for Russia and the rest of Europe. There is no reason why an open and democratic government can work in Russia. And there is no doubt that more liberal and reform oriented economic policies would facilitate a better long-term economic and social development of the country.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lisbon Revisited

The battle is on for the future direction of the policies for economic reforms in Europe. In late March, the heads of state and government of the 25 member countries will meet in Brussels to review the relative failure of the last few years and to look ahead.

On the centre-left there is a slow guerilla warfare against the more ambitious approach taken by Commission President Barroso and his team. The Swedish Minister of Finance - the man who wants to further increase the world's highest taxes - has joined the battallions of leftist grumblers.

But the reality is that there is a need for more rather than less of reforms in the years ahead.

The pro-reform Lisbon Council is an NGO advocating exactly this in the European debates. It's worth reading its reaction to the Barroso proposals and the debate surrounding it.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Los Primeros Con Europa

policybrief_constitution_july04.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The First in Europe - That's the slogan for the campaign for a Yes in the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union in Spain February 20.

It's the first in a long series of referendums throughout Europe during 2005 and 2006 - and Spain wants to be seen as giving Europe leadership on the issue.

The first of the referendums is a good reason for getting updated on the substance of the Constitutional Treaty.

Here you find the policy brief from the Center for European Reform on the issue. It's an excellent summary.

Hebron Horrors

Israel Policy Forum

For those interested in the daily reality of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank I recommend reading this describtion from the city of Hebron.

It's written by a representative of the Israeli Policy Forum of the United States. He and I shared much of this experience when we were in Hebron during the Palestine presidential elections in January.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Open New Chapter Across Atlantic

Open New Chapter in Our Alliance, Rice in Paris Urges Europe- U.S. Department Of State

Concluding her trip around Europe and the Middle East, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chose to deliver her key policy speech in Paris.

The will to mend fences couldn't be more explicit.

"History will judge us not by our old disagreements, but byu our new achievements."

"If we make the pursuit of global freedom the organizing principle of the 21st century, we will achieve historic global advances for justice and prosperity, for liberty and peace."

"All that we seek to achieve in the world requires that America and Europe remain close partners."

"America has everything to gain from having a stronger Europe as a partner in building a safer and better world."

The speech as a whole, and the Q & A session that followed, is well worth reading.

Denmark Moves On!

The election to the Folketing of Denmark resulted in a resounding re-conformation of the centre-right coalition under Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

For the opposition Social Democrats, it was the second very serious setback. After the 2001 election catastrophe, it changed its leader. Now, it will change leader again. But the core problem is the deep divisions on policy issues inside the party.

The Venstre party of the Prime Minister had a small setback, although confirming its position as the largest party of the country. The junior coalition partner Conservatives, however, registred their first increase in the Folketing for 2 years, and were accordingly jubilant.

After the 2001 election victory, the government faced a most challenging EU presidency, which it handled very well.

These times there are also significant challenges on the horizon. A major structural reform of local administration has to be taken through the Folketing. A referendum has to be held on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union, although a very broad agreement between the parties on a Yes recommendation has been secured.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the issue of strengthening Denmark in face of the new competition coming from the East of Europe and Asia one of his key points in the campaign. At some point in time, this will require not just an increase in R & D spending, but also more structural reforms in the welfare state system. An expert panel will report on the issue later this year.

That's when he might run into problems with his present parliamentary base. The two-party coalition is supported in the Folketing by the anti-immigration but pro-welfare state and heavily populist Danish People's Party. Serious reforms is unlikely to be possible on that basis, but might require an open hand to the more leftist liberal Radikale Venstre that emerged as one of the true winners of the election.

But that's some year into the future. For the next year or two, there is likely to be smooth sailing for the most reform-oriented government in Northern Europe at the moment.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen - Round Two

Haaretz - Israel News - Article

It is two years since Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen met in Aqaba soon after the war in Iraq. There was hope that a momentum for peace could be created.

It failed. The Americans were distracted, Sharon was disinterested and Arafat was distruptive.

This time it just might be different, as I have written previously. And this analysis by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz gives some of the reasons why.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Israel, the Wall and the West Bank

WallProj_eng250204.pdf (application/pdf Object)

A comment on my commentary on how Ariel Sharon of Israel and Abu Mazen of Palestine faces a very similar task of confronting religious fundamentalism in their respective societies takes issue with me on a couple of points.

One of them concerns whether there really have been or are any expansionist Israeli plans for the West Bank. Apart from the fact that my comment was on those wanting to expand into Judea and Samaria to create an Israel within biblical boundaries - and they certainly exist - I think it is worth noting what Israel is doing in terms of the huge separation wall it is now building.

This map shows what it is all about. Only along 10 % is the wall separating Israel from Palestine - for 90 % it will be separating Palestinian from Palestinian. Hundreds of thousands of people will be locked into enclaves or separated from what they consider their omeland.

Some might not like the word expansion for it. Others might find it difficult to find a word more appropriate.

Kirkuk Conflict Coming

Aljazeera.Net - Kurds accused of rigging Kirkuk vote

Sometimes elections solve problems, but sometimes they don't. In the Kirkuk region of northern Iraq, there is every reason to expect that we will see a rapid build-up of tensions as the results of the recent vote are announced.

In areas like these, it's not the voting that is the important issue, but the decision on the voters list, since this decides the ethnic balance of the election outcome.

The future of the Kirkuk region is one of the most difficult and potentially dangereous issues in the entire region. You can safely expect the conflict to escalate rapidly when the election results are announced. I can only hope that US plans to now take home the extra troops deployed to Iraq for the election are not implemented in this area.

New Chance in Palestine?

There is an air of hope over the Middle East after a year of increasing desperation.

Key is what will happen between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and President Abu Mazen of the Palestine Authority. History has moved both of them to position where their respective political agendas are remarkably similar. Therein lies the historic opportunity.

Both now have to confront the forces of religious fundamentalism inside their respective socities. Both now that it is success or failure in this that will lead them to success or failure overall.

Sharon has promised to evacuate app 7 000 settlers in primarily the Gaza strip. He knows that their positions are untenable over time. But when pursuing this policy he is confronted by, and forced to confront, all those believing in the creation of an Israel within biblical boundaries through a policy of aggressive settlements on occupied Palestine lands.

This is a U-turn of large dimension. Ariel Sharon has been seen as the promoter and protector of this movement for decades. Now he is seen as betraying them, and it's no joke when the Israeli security services fear for his life. In turning Israel around, he's confronting important sectors in Israel society.

But he has no choice. The policy of expansion will only lead Israel to greater and greater problems. It didn't work in Lebanon.

Abu Mazens task is essentially the same. He must confront and marginalize the forces of the armed intifada and muslim fundamentalism in order to be able to continue building a reasonable democratic Palestine state that can live in peace with Israel.

So far, both of them are moving forward with determination on their respective agendas. The agendas are separate, but they are mutually supportive. Success for the one makes it easier to achieve success for the other.

It's much too early to see how far this can carry. Can the so called road map towards a settlement be revived?

We'll know more after the summer. Then there will have been parliamentary elections in Palestine, and we will probably have seen the beginning of the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza. Then, it might be appropriate to look at the possibilities ahead.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Higher and Higher Taxes...

It might sound bizarre, but the Swedish government is planning to raise the total tax burden on the economy even further.

Not only are we already the world leaders in taxes - we are have also increased our lead over neighbours and competitors.

Since 1995, Sweden has increased the tax burden from 50,2 to 51,4 of GNP. During the same time, Denmark has been fairly stable from 50,1 to 49,8, while succesful Finland has decreased the tax burden from 46,7 to 45,1%.

It's not a question of needing more money in order to provide high-quality public services - it's a question of a complete inability to contol run-away costs in different benefit and subsidy schemes linked to old-fashioned social democratic policies.

Both entrepreunership and high-quality public services risks being crowded out by these policies - if they are allowed to continue after the September 2006 elections. / World / Europe - Sweden considering increases in tax

Bush to Europe

Foreign policy circles on both sides of the Atlantic are busy buzzing about the state of the relationship across the pond. Can it be restored to what it once was?

It can't. The old relationship was one essentially shaped by a common threat in the form of the Soviet Union. The true father of the Atlantic Alliance was Joseph Stalin.

As the common threat disappeared, there was a failure to develop a common vision. And while Europe after 1989 become preoccupied with the building of peace by the sharing of sovereignity across the old continent, the United States after 9/11 become preoccupied with protecting its security also by a robust projection of its power on a global basis.

In Europe, it's the building of peace that's the agenda. In the United States, it's the conduct of war that's the agenda. We need to recognize that the relationship now has to be built on domestic political agendas that are more diverging than in the days of the old common threat.

If that's done, there is no reason why the relationship should not be a solid one. It's only together that Europe and America can have a truly transforming effect on the rest of the world.

When Bush comes to Brussels on February 22, it looks like being remarkable in two different ways.

It will be a day for the US President with more of the European Union than of NATO. In my opinion, that will be the first time this happens. Georg Bus will go to the Berlaymont Building tio see the President of the European Commission, and he will have dinner with the new Troika of the Union.

It will also be a day when the agenda is dominated by non-European rather than European issues, and this as well will be somthing of a novelty. It will be the Middle East peace prospects, developments in Iraq, the handling of Iran and the emerging issues of China that will be on the agenda. The only slightly more European issue will be how to react to the ongoing de-democratization of Russia, and possibly a brief mention of the Balkans.

In both these two respects, the vist might be a sign of the new partnership across the Atlantic. The European Union is a more important partner, and it is common action in the areas outside of Europe thar defines the changed relationship.

It's worth watching the continuation.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

European Surprise Ahead

A speech I gave in Prague - at the Microsoft Governments Leaders Forum - has already aroused some comments. While a lot of discussion is focused on the shortcomings of the European economies, I tried to describe some of the profound changes underway, and to describe the relentless competitive pressures now driving change from above as well as below in the different economies.

One of my observations was that we have a remarkably competitive manufacturing industry in Europe, partly as a result of these ongoing changes. The fact that it was an Italian-British helicopter - the US101 - that won the contract to supply the next generation of Marine One helicopters to the Presidents of the United States, in sharp competition with legendary Sikorsky Helicopters, is certainly a sign that there is some talent around. And while nothing is for ever, it must be noted that Airbus has now been receiving more orders for modern airliners than Boeing during a couple of years, and with the A380 is starting to be seen as not only the market but also the technology leader in a field for a couple of decades more or less completely dominated by the US industry.

In more general terms, we see how the European manufacturing industry is selling well across the world. In spite of a euro driven up by a dollar that's falling down, it's registering booming business not the least to the booming economies of East Asia.

But it goes without saying that much more is needed. My point in the Prague speech was that competition is driving change, that we now have a stronger increase in competition in the European economies than anywhere else in the global economy, and that we are starting to see how this changes the economic landscape.

Bildt Comments

Well, my intention wasn't really to set up a blog, but rather to post a comment on one, but the technology took me to where blogs are set up, so I could just as well do it.

Otherwise I normally post articles and speeches at my website It's only updated when I have something to add, but acts as an archive for what I have been writing or saying.

That's also the place where one can subscribe to my email newsletters. They have been around since 1994, used to be once a week, but are now down to once every three weeks or so. They have the slight oddity of being in Swedish, but have a fairly wide readership. At present, approimately 20 000 subscribers are receiving the letter.

A Yugoslavia in Mesopotamia?

An old friend - former US Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith - belongs to those arguing that it's probably better to break up Iraq in a Kurdistan, a Babylonia and a Sumeria or something along those lines. He believes that the US administration is naive in believing that the Kurdish leaders really believe the diplomatic niceties on the integrity of Iraq, and that sooner or later the day of reckoning will come.

On the later point, I wouldn't disagree. There are some remarkable similarities between the issues of Kurdistan and Kosovo.

But then Peter goes on saying that we should have learnt from the mistake of Yugoslavia, where the US until the very last keept insisting on the integrity of Yugoslavia in spite of the obvious conflict between primarily Croat and Serb ambitions.

The question is what the real lesson of Yugoslavia for the situation in Iraq is.

I would argue that one lesson is that new borders in regions of multi-ethnic mosaic are always borders drawn in blood. We don't know how many tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands lost their lives in the decade-long and still ongoing break-up of the western Balkans, but we know that millions were forced to flee, and that areas that in the past were inhabitated by peoples of different religions and nationalities are now as mono-ethnic as can be, with ethnic cleansing have reduced large areas to little more than wasteland.

Peter might argue, that we should have negotiated a peaceful solution to the conflicts in Yugoslavia, but this neglects the small fact that we tried and failed. When the process was set in motion, the powers of arms was seen as the best to create facts on the ground, and when that had beeon done it could only very, very rarely be reversed.

In many ways, Iraq is more complex and dangerous than Yugoslavia was. None of the neighbours of Yugoslavia had the slightest interest in intervening its its bloody breakup, but virtually all of the neigbours of Iraq are likely to have an interest in intervening in a bloody breakup there.

In Iraq, it's unfortunately easy to see a bloody battle over Kirkuk and its oil that might well draw in others, and that might spill over into ethnic conflict also in a Baghdad were the number of Kurds might well be in hundreds of thousands.

What's then the alternative? Well, a long-term engagement by the international community in the area, safeguarding a federal structure that gives the Kurds substantial autonomy, but which gives more financial and other powers to the central authority than we had to do in the Dayton settlement for Bosnia. In all probability, this will require a long-term presence of international peacekeeping forces in the old Mosul province.

It's like Kosovo. Once you intervene, you own the problems, and walking away is far more difficult than walking in.