On Meeting with Foreign Leaders
Posted by Aaron Massey on 08 Aug 2013.
President Obama, during the first presidental debate in 2008:
But we are also going to have to, I believe, engage in tough direct diplomacy with Iran and this is a major difference I have with Senator McCain, this notion by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked. It has not worked in Iran, it has not worked in North Korea.
And again a bit later in that debate:
Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran – guess what – without precondition. This is one of your own advisers.
Now, understand what this means “without preconditions.” It doesn’t mean that you invite them over for tea one day. What it means is that we don’t do what we’ve been doing, which is to say, “Until you agree to do exactly what we say, we won’t have direct contacts with you.”
White House press release yesterday:
Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September. We value the achievements made with Russia in the President’s first term, including the New START Treaty, and cooperation on Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea. However, given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last twelve months, we have informed the Russian Government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda. Russia’s disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship. Our cooperation on these issues remains a priority for the United States, so on Friday, August 9, Secretaries Hagel and Kerry will meet with their Russian counterparts in a 2+2 format in Washington to discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relationship.
So here’s my question:
When does not talking to people as a punishment turn into believing postponed meetings would be more constructive after additional results from a shared agenda?
It would be one thing if the President just canceled the trip. Presidents can’t meet with everyone all the time. But to have cited Snowden as a factor in canceling the trip seems to be exactly the same logic that President Obama pointed to as a “major difference” between him and Senator McCain or President Bush: You didn’t do what we wanted, so now we’re not talking.