Sunday, April 30, 2006

Brussels Forum

Due to the fact that we here in Stockholm are busy celebrating the 60th year birthday of our king Gustav Adolf I had to leave the Brussels Forum before its ending today Sunday.

But there is no doubt that the meeting was a success. A new forum for dialogue and discussion across the Atlantic has been established.

Senator John McCain set the tone with his keynote speech on Friday evening. It was a robust presentation of what could be described as the Washington consensus on key issues, notably on Iran.

He repeated his mantra that the only thing that's worse than a military strike against Iran is Iran managing to develop a nuclear arsenal.

But whether this is also the Brussels consensus wasn't clear when I had to leave the discussions mid-day Saturday.

On Russia, John McCain was as critical as the Washington consensus nowadays is, b ut went somewhat too far in attacking the Russian position on Iran.

It so happens that Washington and Moscow are in complete agreement as to the aim of policy on the issue, but differ on the means, notably on whether sanctions could really work. That's a perfectly legitimate debate.

In a follow-up discussion, much of the attention went to the situation in Darfur, although I have to confess that the amount of empty posturing was rather large. Particularly on the US side there is a tendency to say that it is genocide - and that someone else should do something.

It sounded great when John McCain and Richard Holbrooke said that NATO had the assets there and ready.

Well, the fact is that NATO has only a single-digit figure of people in Darfur, and even the robust options now under discussion does not take that up to more than in the low two-digit range. Darfur is on the size of Iraq - and there it is painfully obvious that 130 000 soldiers are having a hard time.

Javier Solana was right in pointing out that there has to be a political solution, and that the EU is playing an active role in the Abuja talks.

But Richard Holbrooke was equally right in pointing at the imperative need of financing the humanitarian efforts there. At the moment, the World Food Programme efforts there are short of money.

So the discussion continued on the one issue after the other, with all the others taking part in the Brussels Forum also active.

A session Saturday morning dealt with the economic challenges we have to deal with. As soon as I find a link to some of the good speeches there I'll write a few words about that.