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Walker's World: Lame Ducks And After

In the United States, which will elect a new President in 2008, the field appears to be wide open.

Washington (UPI) Oct 10, 2005
We are entering an unusual era of mass change looming among heads of government the world over, concentrated in the leading industrialized countries that make up the G-8. This means that for the next three years or so the world will be hostage to the politics of lame ducks.

Japan and France, Britain and the United States, Russia and the United Nations, will certainly be facing new leaders by 2008. The vagaries of politics and elections suggest that Italy and Canada and the Philippines may well be following Germany and Poland in getting new faces at the top. And the actuarial tables make it likely that India, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia could also soon be facing the complex politics of succession.

This also means that among political and diplomatic insiders the world over, considerable attention is being paid to the coming generation of government leaders. They will be the people who have to deal with the looming challenges of the American fiscal imbalances and high oil prices.

They will also be facing the twin strategic challenges of the rise of China and Iran's nuclear ambitions, and it may be important that China and Iran are two of the important countries where the leadership appears to be fixed for the foreseeable future.

So who are the new faces to watch over the coming years? In the United States, which will elect a new President in 2008, the field appears to be wide open. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain appear likely rivals for the Republican nomination, but more conservative figures like Senators Sam Brownback (Kansas) and George Allen (Virginia) may also be in the fight. Among the Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton (New York) and Evan Bayh (Indiana) are probable runners, but more outwardly liberal figures like part chairman Howard Dean and Wisconsin Senator Russell Feingold are already gingerly testing the waters.

But the American candidates for the presidency are already fairly well known and some are household names. In Britain, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown is also a familiar face on the international scene. He looks to be a safe bet for the succession when Tony Blair stands down, as promised, before the next election in 2009, although the slowing of the British economy may tarnish his reputation as an outstanding fiscal manager.

In France, the succession to President Jacques Chirac seems to be a toss-up between two fellow conservative centrists, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister (and party chief) Nicolas Sarkozy. But note that these two men, at last in their campaigning styles and in their writings, embody markedly different policy courses. Sarkozy is strongly Atlanticist and prepared to reform France along Anglo-Saxon lines of more free market competition, whereas de Villepin seems to be far more in Chirac's neo-Gaullist tradition. The difference between the two men could be critical for the European Union and for the United States.

But the candidates for succession in most other countries are far less well known, so as a public service, here is a current guide to the likely candidates for important leadership roles in world governance in the near future.

In Japan, the leading contenders to replace Junichiro Koizumi when he steps down as prime minister next year appear to be the young, telegenic and U.S.-educated Shinzo Abe, acting head of the Liberal Democratic Party machine, and former Cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda, 70, an Old Guard figure whose father had the job nearly 30 years ago. (These dynastic credentials help in Japan; Shinzo Abe's father would have been prime minister but for premature death from cancer and his maternal grandfather Nobusuke Kishi actually held the job.) The succession in Japan is of great importance, and not only because of Japan's importance as the world's second most powerful economy. Koizumi has presided over a fundamental shift in Japanese foreign policy, away from its traditional pacifism to deploying Japanese military forces to support the U.S. in the Afghan wars and in the Iraqi occupation.

Koizumi has markedly strengthened the strategic alliance with the U.S. both in joint development of the Ballistic Missile Defense systems and in shifting the focus of the Japanese forces away from the Cold War deployment near the Russian Pacific ports to the China Sea. Japan this year issued an unprecedented warning to China, in a statement that the future of Taiwan was a joint concern of Japan and the U.S. This newly assertive and much more openly pro-American and anti-Chinese foreign policy - may or may not survive when Koizumi goes. Shinzo Abe, acting head of the LDP machine, would continue this course. His main rival, former Cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda, would reverse it and seek much close relations with China. The only other serious candidate, Economic Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, is an even more outspoken nationalist than Shinzo Abe, but seems a little too over-emotional for Japanese taste.

In Italy, where incumbent Silvio Berlusconi and his predecessor (and former EU Commission President) Romano Prodi square off in elections next year, the real question is about the next generation, and the man to watch is Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, head of the Alleanza Nazionale party in Berlusconi's coalition, and a man who has managed almost completely to outgrow his origins in the old MSI party of the heirs of Mussolini.

In Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has not said publicly that he will not seek to change the constitution to run for third term, not to become a strong prime minister while the presidency is demoted, the jostling for the succession has already begun. While Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is no doubt the front-runner, Dmitri Rogozin, the leader of the Rodina (Motherland) party and the man who wants to revive the name of Stalingrad, is gaining support. A clutch of current and ex-governors are also in the running along with presidential envoy Dmitri Kozak.

These are the kinds of men who would broadly preserve the Putin legacy. They are staunch nationalists who want Russia to be taken seriously in the world, believe in stability and in restoring the authority of the state. They have learned the essential lesson of the Putin years, that independent sources of power in the media and in the corporate sector are not to be tolerated. The TV stations will remain under state control, and the former Yukos oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is likely to remain in jail.

They tend to retain some suspicion of the United States, and want to restore Russian influence over Central Asia and Ukraine. So long as oil and gas continue to pay the bills, they will subordinate economic reform to what they see as Russia's strategic self-interest. They would be predictable, if not entirely comfortable partners for U.S. policy-makers, and would like to see the European Union continue as a wealthy investor and customer for their energy exports, rather than become a serious strategic player. And their overwhelming concern will be the rise of militant Islam and of China, and what that might portend for Russia's energy-rich Siberian provinces.

Putin and the traditional heavyweights in the military-industrial and security sectors will probably back Ivanov. But the growing role of the Duma and of party politics suggests the dashing and charismatic Rogazin will be a very strong contender. And not that in a recent revealing interview with 'Argumenty I Fakty', Rogazin said:

"Unfortunately, our society is afflicted with Americanism and considers the United States to be a panacea. But Europe is more important for Russia these days: half of Russia's exports go to Europe, and only 6 percent go to the United States. Therefore, our nation ought to follow the Europeans -- in economic affairs, living standards, and social welfare issues. At the same time, we should maintain normal relations with the United States in security matters, since Europe is not a self-sufficient ally in this area at present. Europe does not have a strong army, nor any realistic mechanisms of eliminating or helping to eliminate the threat facing us from the south."

The next secretary-general of the United Nations, who will have to deal with the detritus of the Oil-for-Food scandal and the inconsequential outcome of Kofi Annan's over-ambitious reform plan. Since it is seen as Asia's "turn" to provide that continent's first U.N. leader since U Thant, the front-runner so far is Thailand's Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, whose campaign has already begun. It should have been Asia's turn last time, but tensions between Japan, China, India and the Associations of South-East Asian Nations meant there was no agreed candidate. Unlikely, but that could happen again, in which case Singapore's former U.N. ambassador Kishore Mahbubani and former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas are worth watching.

There may be a late run by Poland's impressive President Alexander Kwasniewski, but Russia would probably cast a veto on this former communist. But if Asia flubs its chance and the world wants a safe compromise candidate, then Canada's former foreign and finance minister John Manley gives the kind of soft and furry and multi-lateral speeches that would make him an acceptably tame candidate. And if we are to repeat the Kofi Annan experience with a U.N. insider, the U.N. could do worse than Algeria's Lakhdar Brahimi, who impressed as head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, or the ever-reliable under Secretary-General for Communications Shashi Tharoor of India.

Those with a taste for gambling might get attractive odds from the London bookmakers for an accumulator bet with a combination of the current favorites: Hillary Clinton, Sergei Ivanov, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, Surakiart Sathirathai and Shinzo Abe. But whoever gets the various jobs, by the time they get to the global top table, they will find China's Hu Jintao sitting in the key seat as the chap with all the experience of the highest office. By them -- who knows -- there may actually be a global top table, if the overdue addition of China and India have enlarged the current G-8 to a G-10. Remember of course that there is always one extra seat at that top table, the unnumbered one reserved for the EU president, so the presence until 2010 of Portugal's Jose Manuel Barroso means that Hu Jintao will not be entirely alone when he starts reminiscing to the new recruits about the good old days of Bush and Blair and Putin.

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Policy Watch: Moscow's Multipolar Mirage
Washington (UPI) Oct 10, 2005
One of Russia's leading geopolitical thinkers, Aleksandr Dugin, outlined his vision of a "multipolar" world in a speech in Washington, D.C. on October 5. Dugin advocates the creation of a multipolar world as a means of resisting what he sees as American "unipolarism" as well as American-sponsored globalization.







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