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Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass: Foreign Policy Challenges Facing Biden Administration “One Hell of an Inbox;” New Approaches to Climate Change and International Trade and Why Understanding Global Issues is More Vital Than Ever

Haass speaks with IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin for the latest CERAWeek Conversations – available at www.ceraweek.com/conversations

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In the latest edition of CERAWeek Conversations, Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the major themes of his new book The World: A Brief Introduction and applies them to the challenges facing the world at it heads into 2021. He urges society to adopt a mindset that connects the impact of individual and domestic actions on international issues.

In a conversation with Daniel Yergin, vice chairman, IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO), Haass frames the uniqueness of today’s global challenges in a historical context, explores the pushback against globalization, examines U.S.-China relations, the growing divide with Russia, and regional risks posed by Iran, and presents new models for international collaboration on climate change and trade.

The complete video is available at: www.ceraweek.com/conversations

Selected excerpts:

Interview Recorded Tuesday, December 8, 2020

(Edited slightly for brevity only)

  • On the major foreign policy challenges for the Biden Administration:

    “It’s one hell of an inbox. It begins with a lot of the domestic pressures stemming from COVID-19. We’re not going to have the bandwidth to deal with a lot of the world if we can’t get on top of this virus at home. We may not think of a pandemic as a national security challenge, but it really is.

    “You have various manifestations of great power challenge, fundamentally different ones, from Russia and China. Then you’ve got the problem countries – places like North Korea, Iran, Venezuela. And then you’ve got global issues like climate. It’s an extraordinary inbox facing the new administration.”

  • On how America’s traditional allies view the United States:

    “Many of them, particularly in Europe, to some extent in Asia, are dismayed. Quite honestly, they get up in the morning and they see things and they shake their heads because this is not the United States they knew or thought they knew. Even the election result, which most of our traditional allies welcomed, they are worried not simply over the president’s pushing back, but rather the sense that 70 million Americans voted for someone so outside the general mainstream of American foreign policy of the last 75 years.

    “They’re worried what this might portend for the future. A lot of our allies don’t know what’s the norm and what’s the aberration. And is the next four years, which kind of looks like a return to the past, is that something that can be taken for granted going forward? Or just the opposite – is the Biden Administration likely to be a one-term phenomenon and then we return to some version of Trumpism with or without the man? It has injected a great degree of uncertainty. I think you’re going to see a degree of hedging behavior on the part of allies in Europe and Asia.”

  • On U.S.-China relations:

    “This history of the Cold War doesn’t help us so much with China. It’s a very different kind of challenge than was the Soviet Union because China is so economically powerful and economically integrated. The challenge for American foreign policy is, how do you push back against China where we need to over what they’re doing in the South China Sea or what they might do with Taiwan? How do we push back where it’s warranted, but how do we do so in a way that, one, does not lead to a conflict and, two, doesn’t preclude the possibility of cooperation on climate or North Korea or something like global health where it’s obviously in our interest that the two of us do cooperate. That’s a real challenge for foreign policy.

    “It’s so much easier when you have a one-dimensional relationship, but to have a relationship with multiple dimensions is a much more difficult foreign policy and statecraft challenge.”

  • On the challenges of Iran and Russia:

    “I would describe Iran as an imperial power. They want to have a role; they want to have a sway that transcends the borders of Iran. They want to be first among equals and they want a degree of deference towards them. Iran is a real challenge because they are not a status quo country and they have a lot of tools at their discretion. They are constrained to some extent by internal political divisions and they’re clearly constrained by American sanctions, but Iran is a real force to be reckoned with in the region.

    “Mr. Putin gets up in the morning and in his worldview, what we represent – our kind of liberalism in the traditional sense of the word – he sees as a threat to Russia and to his rule over Russia. With the new administration in the United States, which is going to put more of an emphasis on political issues and democracy promotion, on human rights, the friction between the U.S. and Russia will heat up. But I also think the new administration will be businesslike. You’ll hopefully have an extension of the New START nuclear agreement. I think there’ll be regular diplomacy, not necessarily the kind of personal diplomacy that we saw with Trump and Putin, but more the kind of stuff that has been the norm for decades.”

  • On new international approaches to dealing with climate change:

    “If you look at Paris, the whole structure is each country sets its own ambitions. And then you add it all up and see what you’ve got. The problem is, you look at the ambitions and you add it up and it’s inadequate. One approach for the future is essentially 'Paris 2.0' where countries would agree to lay out more ambitious timetables and goals for themselves when it comes to reducing emissions. That’s possible, but I just don’t see that will ever get us to where we need to go.

    “The most interesting area for creative thinking is going to be in the realm of trade and whether in the future certain trade agreements…we would enter such a group and then over time such a group would adopt climate criteria: if you want to export into us you have to meet certain climate related standards. If you can’t, you’ll be subject to a tariff. We need a whole different mindset. Rather than thinking about a top-down, universal, concentrated approach to climate, we’re going to have to think about a much more multifaceted approach, more ground-up, some national, some various kind of multilateral. But the approach to climate is going to have to be very different if it’s going to succeed.”

  • On global responses to COVID-19:

    “If you look at how countries have fared, it doesn’t break down along the nature of the system. There’s been successful democracies, and there have been democracies that have failed. You have successful authoritarian systems, then you have [Iran and Russia]. It’s all about the leadership, not about the nature of the system.

    “The World Health Organization clearly failed early on. It’s another example of how the institutional machinery of the world is inadequate to the task. China did not meet its obligations early on under the international health regulations. It shows how there’s still a real tension in the world between sovereign rights and sovereign obligations and we haven’t sorted that out. We’re going to have an interesting test coming up with the question of vaccine production, dissemination and funding. An interesting question will be, Can the world come up with an approach to dealing with vaccines and therapeutics and sharing tests where there really is a genuine sharing? At the moment I’d simply say we’re not there.”

  • On potential new pushback to international trade:

    “I think there may be a new push against trade because of supply chain issues. Coming out of COVID and other experiences, more and more governments may say: 'We can’t afford to be so vulnerable to this or that supply chain potential disruption, therefore what we’re going to have to do is have more domestic mandated production.' The problem, is, if every country on its own decides to go down the path of domestic mandated production it’s called import substitution; it’s called protectionism. If we do go down that path at all I would argue it’s essential it be coordinated within the World Trade Organization. It can’t just be done unilaterally.”

  • On the unique global challenges of today in a historical context:

    “This is an era in which power has been distributed widely – power in all of its manifestations – and it’s in more hands. Not all those hands are the hands of nation states. [They] could be corporations, could be foundations, elements of civil society. Second, this is an era of history that is increasingly defined by global challenges. We’re living with one now – infectious disease that became a pandemic – but also climate change, proliferation, terrorism, cyber space and the digital domain, a global monetary order.

    “All of these are manifestations of globalization; all of these present all sorts of challenges. What makes this era of history so interesting, challenging, difficult and different, is that in addition to the normal stuff of history, we have widely distributed capacity in a wide set of hands at a time we are also facing these global challenges and in every one of these cases there is a large gap between the scale of the challenge and the degree of international resolve and consensus to meet it.”

  • On the motivation behind his writing “The World: A Brief Introduction:”

    “The reason I thought it was necessary to do was, simply, I thought so few people in my country, but also around the world, have a real appreciation for why the world matters, how it affects their lives and, in turn, what they or their company or their government does and how that affects the world at the same time. If you don’t understand why the world matters, you’re much more prone to not paying attention to it, to support policies like isolationism, essentially to discount the importance of international things even though we live in a moment where they’re arguably more important than ever.

    “Even if you studied these things years ago, what you studied is in many ways irrelevant. The world is dynamic. If you watch the news at night in the U.S. and many counties, you don’t get an awful lot of coverage of the world. On the internet there’s tons of information – the problem is there’s tons of stuff that is inaccurate. Jefferson said a democracy requires an informed citizenry. You need the people – the citizens of a society – to hold their elected and appointed representatives to account, to ask the tough questions. How can you ask the tough questions if you’re not informed? I wrote this for people of any and every age because we are all so affected by what’s going on beyond our borders.”

  • On the fatigue among Americans of U.S. engagement in the world:

    “For the last 75 years of history the principal agent of promoting order in the world has been the U.S., beginning with WWII, the creative aftermath to WWII, the Cold War and the rest. What worries me now is a lot of Americans are tired of this role. They don’t see the connections, they don’t understand how the world affects them, about how American foreign policy has affected the world. The cost-benefit ratio of our involvement in the world has been remarkable. But you wouldn’t know that if you don’t study history.

    “Also, recent experiences of the U.S. in the world, things like Iraq and Afghanistan where clearly the costs outweighed the benefits, we did make mistakes. Then you’ve got all these domestic demands, immediately now dealing with COVID. But even apart from COVID, we have the opioid problem, violence issues, infrastructure, public schools, race. There’s a natural inclination to discount the world, to turn inward. For a lot of people what matters not only begins at home but also stays close to home. As a result, there’s a real discounting of the significance of the world on their fate.”

  • On the splintering of support for globalization:

    “Globalization has brought many good things. If you look at the last 70-75 years you can see the increase in wealth around the world, the absence of great power conflict, access to information through the internet, the ability to travel, many more countries are independent, many more people have degrees of freedom. This has been a remarkable era of history.

    “It really has been something of a golden age, yet there’s enormous pushback against globalization and in part some of it is understandable. There are aspects of globalization, including infectious diseases, which are anything but benign. There are many manifestations of globalization that are problematic. The problem is there’s lots of good things including trade, business, the free flow of ideas. The challenge is how do you push back against the bad part of globalization without throwing the baby out with the proverbial bath water?”

Watch the complete video at: www.ceraweek.com/conversations

About CERAWeek Conversations:

CERAWeek Conversations features original interviews and discussion with energy industry leaders, government officials and policymakers, leaders from the technology, financial and industrial communities—and energy technology innovators.

The series is produced by the team responsible for the world’s preeminent energy conference, CERAWeek by IHS Markit.

New installments will be added weekly at www.ceraweek.com/conversations.

Recent segments also include:

A complete video library is available at www.ceraweek.com/conversations.

About IHS Markit (www.ihsmarkit.com)

IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.

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