Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Peacemaker

Javier Solana

Can diplomacy work when confronting states like Iran and North Korea? Has the euro crisis caused the European Union to neglect relations with Turkey, Russia, and other neighbors? Will a decade of war in Afghanistan discourage NATO from out-of-area commitments in the future? Can the US remain the world’s pre-eminent power if the dollar ceases to be the world’s pre-eminent currency?

The most important foreign-policy successes are not those that end a war or resolve a crisis, but those that prevent wars and crises. They result not from grand gestures or brinkmanship, but from patient, quiet, painstaking effort to foresee and prioritize problems, build and maintain coalitions, and uphold core values.

By these standards, Javier Solana, perhaps the most ubiquitous European diplomat of the post-Cold War era, is a born peacemaker. In every setting, from the Balkans to the Middle East and beyond, the source of his effectiveness as a diplomat has been easy to discern: a strong constitution, a subtle understanding of the players and interests involved, and the stamina and strategic patience needed to keep a deal together.

As Spain’s foreign minister in the early 1990’s, Javier Solana spearheaded the EU’s efforts to deepen ties in the Mediterranean region. As NATO Secretary-General in the second half of that decade, he oversaw France’s return, after 30 years, to the Alliance’s military structure, while confronting the slow-motion nightmare in the former Yugoslavia. And, as the EU’s High Representative for the Foreign and Security Policy, he concluded treaties with countries from Latin America to the Arab world, and led negotiations to resolve conflicts near and far.

Javier Solana has stood near the pinnacle of power – and participated in the frequently tragic tradeoffs it requires. In his monthly series The Peacemaker, available exclusively from Project Syndicate, he provides readers an unvarnished – and therefore indispensable – behind-the-scenes view of the world of statecraft.

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