Ambassador Eizenstat: “Transatlantic Relations: From Carter to Trump”

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EVENT: AMBASSADOR EIZENSTAT: “TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: FROM CARTER TO TRUMP”

DATE: 6.00PM – 7.00PM, 14TH MAY 2019

VENUE: COMMITTEE ROOM 6, HOUSE OF COMMONS, WESTMINSTER

SPEAKER: AMBASSADOR STUART E. EIZENSTAT

CHAIR: DAME LOUISE ELLMAN MP

 

DAME LOUISE ELLMAN MP: “Good afternoon everyone. My name is Louise Ellman. I’m MP for Liverpool Riverside. On behalf of the Henry Jackson Society, I’d like to welcome all of you to Parliament today. We’re very privileged to have here with us a very special guest, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, former US Ambassador to the European Union.

It’s a great privilege to have you with us today. He has a distinguished record having served three USA administrations and he has received at least eight honorary doctorate degrees and civilian awards, as well as being named the leading lawyer in international trade. And on top of that, Stuart has an exemplary name as an expert on Holocaust restitution. And today we are talking about different subjects. Stuart has recently published a book, very special book, called ‘President Carter: The White House Years’.

Transatlantic relations from Carter to Trump and with President Trump’s highly controversial state visit to the UK imminent, I think these are very appropriate topics for us to discuss. Could I hand over to you on this?”

AMBASSADOR EIZENSTAT: “Thank you, it’s a special privilege to be introduced by you, Dame Ellman. We share many values and I appreciate your very long service in the Parliament. Let me just thank a few special people who are here. My dear friends (inaudible), my cousins Susan and (inaudible), and others who I think will be trickling in.

It’s a special honour to address you in this particular hallowed building which is an everlasting symbol which your country has given to the world of democracy and the rule of law. The Henry Jackson Society, which is sponsoring this, and James Rogers and Viktorija and Samuel have been very important in organising this as name for a great late senator with whom I worked during the Carter administration and thereafter, Henry Scoop Jackson. And the values of the Society, that is the effort to combat extremism, advance democracy, support human rights across international borders and political lines, are very much the values that I saw during my public service in the Carter administration with Scoop Jackson, so it’s a special honour to be here.

We know face a profound crisis in Trans-Atlantic relations such as we have not seen since the 1930s when too many of us on both sides of the Atlantic closed our eyes to the menace of totalitarianism. After the catastrophic war, the US took the lead in the formation of the great Trans-Atlantic and European institutions which have helped foster, in the words of a great Labour statesman Denis Healey, the longest period of peace in Europe since the end of the Roman empire. All of these institutions that were built out of the ashes of World War Two are now at risk of losing American leadership and support. NATO, the European Union, the OECD, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Trade Organisation and even the annual summits of seven industrial democracies.

Our founding document, if I mention it here, the American Declaration of Independence from your colonial rule of our country, declared in its opening paragraph that our new country and I quote the words of Thomas Jefferson ‘must show a decent respect for the opinions of mankind’. That commitment to seeking the understanding and (inaudible) of all nations, which has been a guiding philosophy of the United States since the Declaration of Independence, is at risk today.

At Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, three quarters of a century ago your great leader, Winston Churchill, delivered an epic speech shortly after the end of the war. It’s most remembered, of course, for its statement about an Iron Curtain being thrown down by the Soviet Union dividing the continent of Europe so soon after the end of World War Two. But let’s remember but more important for today’s discussion is what’s Sir Winston said in his appeal to America at that speech. He said ‘the United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It’s a solemn moment for the American democracy. For the primacy of power is also joined in an awe-inspiring accountability for the future.’ And with President Truman standing beside him, Churchill called for the Western democracies to stand together and then warned ‘if however, they become divided or falter in their duty then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all’.

Churchill’s warning and challenge is as relevant today as it was then. Harry Truman invited Churchill to his home state to make this epic speech, to strengthen his own hand in convincing the American people and the Congress to create our great post-World War Two multi-lateral institutions, which have evolved into the infrastructure which has made peace and security possible for over 70 years. With bipartisan support among Republicans and Democrats, Western Europe became increasingly integrated and expanded from a half dozen formally warring nations to what was originally the European Coal and Steel Community. And then as I was Ambassador to the European Union and during my service in Brussels in the 1990s, I saw the initial enlargement from 12 to 15 countries and now over time to 28 and including, importantly, the former states behind Stalin’s Iron Curtain. And in the words of a Republican president George H.W. Bush, we saw something that would have been unimaginable during the Cold War and he said in his eloquent words ‘a Europe whole and free igniting for the first time under a democrat umbrella west and east’.

It’s now beyond imagination that the two pillars of peace and prosperity, NATO and the EU, which have been such enduring institutional achievements of our post-war world, could be threatened. But they are. Until the presidency of Donald Trump, Republican and Democrat presidents, Conservative and Liberal, and US Congress whether controlled by the Republican or Democratic Party, never saw NATO or the European Union as burdens or threats but rather as support for our own security and prosperity as vehicles to spread our common Western values, values you started in this House of democracy and the rule of law and to spread those values across the world. Jimmy Carter, whose presidency I described in my book ‘President Carter: The White House Years’, which has gotten excellent reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, was a great believer in the Trans-Atlantic alliance. He travelled frequently to Europe, met extensively with European leaders, strengthened the hand of NATO through what we call the long-term defence program and the historic agreement to modernise NATO’s theatre nuclear arms and deploy them in Germany to combat Soviet (inaudible).

I was with the President on Christmas 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and NATO fully supported our efforts to respond aggressively. As a result as I describe in the book of the special bond that Jimmy Carter had with your former Prime Minister Jim ‘Sonny Jim’ Callaghan. He made the G7 1978 Bonn summit a model of Trans-Atlantic as Japan, the UK and Germany expanded their economies, as France agreed to complete the Tokyo trade round and as we agreed to reduce our dependence on OPEC or by deregulating prices of our own produced oil. And he continued that close relationship with Prime Minister Thatcher.

Now I want to make it clear in my talk, I don’t come to address you with rose coloured glasses. American administrations, republican and democrat, have had their differences with Europe. During the Carter administration, for example, NATO’s European countries did not match the defence commitments he had gotten them to undertake. We did. And when a radical Islamic regime took over Iran and captured our hostages, and I have (inaudible) many pictures in the book about this, I coordinated the sanctions against Iran when they took over 60 of our diplomats from our own embassy in Tehran. But, the failure, and I attest to our own, to enlist our European allies in joining us in those economic sanctions against Iran, helped draw out this hostage crisis for 444 humiliating days, and contributed heavily to Carter’s loss. I have also many scars on my back from negotiating both difficult trade and sanction agreements during the Clinton administration with European Union.

So again I don’t come at this with rose coloured glasses. But having said that, until this administration, every President, regardless of party, believed that a united, prosperous Europe, was in America’s economic and national security interest, as well as that of Europe’s own citizens. We believe that a prosperous Europe would purchase more of our goods, would make investments in the US and create jobs, and that’s exactly what has happened. Together, the European Union and the US have the world’s largest trade and investment relationship, the most integrated in the world. Our two economies represent almost one half of total global GDP. Trade with the EU countries last year, 2018, was a staggering 1.3 trillion dollars and EU member states are the number one destination for US exports supporting over 2 and a half million American jobs. American companies invest in Europe 3 times more than they invest in all the countries of Asia together, including China. And European firms invest 8 times more in the Untied States than they do in India and China combined. European investments in our country create four and a half million American jobs. So this relationship is terribly important to our prosperity.

May I also say, from my perspective of serving almost three years as Ambassador to the EU and then onto Secretary of State and Deputy Treasury Secretary, that the EU enhances also the influence of small European member states. Nothing underscores this more than the support of Ireland and the other 26 member states of the EU in the face of Brexit. Now although admittedly imperfect as Hungary certainly underscores, as the former communist countries behind the Iron Curtain were incorporated into the European Union, it strengthened their very weak democratic institutions. Certainly the world has changed in the 21st century. But the need for transatlantic solidarity is as important as it was when Winston Churchill called for it after WW2. I have seen myself and my own government service in many administrations, that although there are disappointments from time to time, because we share common values of democracy and the rule of law and free markets, when we need something important done we turn to Europe. Too few remember that the only time in NATO’s history, now 70 years, in which the famous article 5 of coming to each other’s mutual defence was invoked, the only time was after our 9/11 catastrophe where the world centre and our mainland was attacked, and NATO came to support George W. Bush’s efforts in Afghanistan, and those NATO troops are still there today.

Now there are many disagreements about the nuclear agreement with Iran. I happen to support it as the best of the alternatives, but that’s not the point I want to make. The point is there would have been no agreement at all, Iran would never have come to the negotiating table if the EU had not joined with the US in imposing sanctions against Iran, tough sanctions, tougher for you because of your closer relationship trade-wise with Iran than for us. Even sanctioning their central bank, that’s what brought them to the table. And, when we look at Russia, when we look at their invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, their assassinations in this city, and their disruption of our elections and European elections, the EU every six months has joined with the US in continuing sanctions against Russia.

Nationalist, neo-isolation movement is sweeping the West. It includes the UK and the US, Brazil and Italy, it extends from Scandinavia and Germany, to Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. And it’s quite possible that these forces will do very well in next week’s parliamentary elections, further spreading Euro-scepticism inside the EU itself. This is certainly a threat to the EU and the US, but also to the fabric of the very institutions I’ve discussed, which were created out of the ashes of World War Two. And at the very time when we need as much as ever transatlantic solidarity to face new challenges from China and Russia, and radical terrorist forces in the Middle East and around the World. President Trump and his top advisers proclaim that he wants to be a trans formative and, in his own words, disruptive President, changing the established global order, and that he has been. His America-first policy is transforming the transatlantic relationship into one of division and suspicion. It’s critically important to understand what has happened inside the US in order to understand and appreciate the radical break from decades of transatlantic cooperation. Now partisan politics is as old as the American republic. And one of our first presidential elections in 1800, supporters of John Adams said that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the declaration of independence was a mean spirited, low-level fellow, whose election would bring murder, incest and mayhem to the United States. But, in more modern times, the great legislative victories that I have seen serving many presidents, going back to President Johnson, my first President in the White House, every president; Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, all got major victories by reaching across party lines and having bi-partisan cooperation. And, every one of those Presidents recognised the importance, liberal or conservative, of close transatlantic relations to our prosperity and our security.

Long before Donald Trump thought about running for President, a hyper-partisanship, partisanship yes, a hyper-partisanship set in during the Obama administration where I also served, with the election of hard-right conservatives. The senate republican leaders said in the first months of Obama administration, his main goal was to make sure that Obama was only a one-term President. Normal rules of democratic decorum were thrown out of the window. Political opponents became enemies. Compromise, bi-partisanship and moderation have become dirty words for both republicans and democrats. Donald Trump did not create this mood, but he captured it brilliantly, and added a populist, nationalist, unilateral emphasis to it; that was the key to his election and it’s been the key to his governance. We have a polarisation in the US, the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime, that makes governance very difficult, that makes meeting the challenges of the 21st century very difficult. We have a dysfunction in the American democracy on the most basic issues. This polarisation is encouraged by opposition, by the President, to immigrants, to foreign engagement, to globalisation, and to the elites. And he’s attacked many of his own institutions; the FBI, his own attorney general and Federal Reserve chairman, and the press as enemies of the people. What we are seeing, and let me use a British example, is the political equivalent of Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics, which was for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. And so as Donald Trump has pulled the republican party sharply to the right, it has lead the democratic party, certainly many elements of it, to go sharply to the left. Hollowing out the centre in our system, perhaps even more than yours with a parliamentary democracy, we already have a divided system of government and our constitution, executive and separate legislative base, it cannot function without a viable centre, and that centre is at risk of disappearing.

President Trump is sharply departed from the post-WW2 consensus to disrupt the transatlantic relationship with an underlying dislike of any multilateral institution our country can’t dominate. His foreign policy equivalent of ‘Make America great Again’ is ‘America First’, hardly a call for closer relations with our allies. A term, by the way, first used by Charles Lindbergh, to warn Americans about engaging in what became World War Two. The President has properly reiterated the plea of all his predecessors, including President Carter, and President Clinton, and President Obama. Higher military spending via European partners, but he’s done so in such terms that throw into sharp question his commitment to the entire defence relationship, and the fundamental obligation of mutual defence. By doing so he’s unwittingly handed Russia’s Vladimir Putin a gift by weakening the very alliance Putin dislikes the most. At a recent NATO summit meeting, where the Presidents of Ukraine and Georgia were making their case for joining NATO, the President interrupted and delivered a tongue-lashing to members of the alliance calling them dead-beats and free-riders on American policy, threatening to go in his own words, his own way, if they didn’t pay more. Senior administrative aids have recently confirmed that he has privately told them that he would like to withdraw from NATO; he sees it as a drain on our treasury and doesn’t see the point in the whole enterprise.

This year’s annual Munich security conference, held just a few months ago, may be seen as an unhappy watershed where European leaders finally gave up on the President showing any interest or leadership in NATO. And yet, beneath the surface, there is progress. NATO, and its European members, are aware of the security threats they face from Russia, and from terrorism, and from cyber-attacks, and are slowly increasing their defence spending now at about 1 and a half percent of GDP compared to our 3 percent. They recently adopted a very important new readiness initiative, dubbed the ‘4 30s’ to make sure that there were 30 air squads and 30 combat vessels, ready to mobilise within 30 days or less. And yet they still need US leadership. The state of US-NATO affairs has fallen so low that this year, which was the 70th anniversary of NATO, what would have been a great celebratory event, was downgraded to the level of foreign ministries, let the President’s presence disrupt the meeting. He has a particular antipathy to the European Union, and I can testify again to how confounding it is to deal with the EU bureaucracy and its decision-making process, but I must say ours and the US is not exactly a model of the speed of light.

Trying to weaken, however, the EU only further complicates our ability to persuade Europe to join us in common democratic enterprises important to our interests. The President said the European Union was created to take advantage of the US. It’s one of America’s greatest ‘foes’, worse than China, which is just manifestly incorrect. He views its supranational structure as a threat to his populist national views of the world. And he said, and I quote, ‘we lost 151 billion dollars on trade, and on top of that we spent at least 70 percent for NATO, and frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us. He’s supported Brexit and everything that would weaken the EU, from Marie Le Pen, the yellow vests in France, and the alternative for Germany. Now you have to make your own decisions on Brexit, it’s not for me to say. Factually, if and when Britain leaves, the EU will lose its second largest economy and its financial centre and we will lose, in my opinion, what was and is to this day, our closest ally on economic and foreign policy. I can’t tell you how many times when I was ambassador, and my successors, turned to Britain to help take our positions within the EU.

The President believes a weaker EU will allow the US to impose one-sided deals on individual countries. Rather than enlist the EU, which was prepared to join us in a common transatlantic enterprise to take on China’s manifestly unfair trade and investment practices. The President unilaterally imposed tariffs on European steel and aluminium exports; dividing instead of uniting the US and Europe, and to add insult to injury, did so under a provision of our trade laws that are under a national security rubric with our closest allies. He’s also broken from a very long tradition that Presidents respect international agreements reached by their predecessors. Let me give you a personal example. President Carter with Soviet President Brezhnev negotiated what we called the (inaudible) to Strategic Arms Limitation Nuclear Agreement. It was never ratified by the Senate for political reasons. But Ronald Reagan when he came in as a Conservative Republican for the full term of that agreement honoured its term, because he respected what his predecessor had done. Now we see something very different. The unilateral withdrawal, virtually unprecedented, from agreements reached by the President’s predecessors, many of which are important to Europe and without even a cursory discussion about the implications for our European allies. The Paris climate change accords, the nuclear agreement with Iran, the transatlantic partnership with eleven other Asian and Pacific countries to contain China, and most recently, the intermediate nuclear force agreement with Russia which will now permit Russia to plant nuclear arm missiles in Europe’s backyard. He’s criticised Western leaders in unprecedented ways, calling Canada’s Justin Trudeau ‘very dishonest and weak’, criticising Theresa May for ignoring his advice on how to handle Brexit, and with special gusto asserted that Angela Merkel was running Europe and that crime was way up in Germany because of her immigration policies. At the same as autocrats Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping seem to get praise. Despite the invasion of Crimea, he wants Russia to be re-admitted to the G7 summit and said ‘frankly Putin may be the easiest of them all to deal with, who would have thought?’

He walked out of a recent summit at which Merkel was speaking. All of this is having a profound impact on European thinking about the future of our very precious transatlantic alliance and risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy in which Europe pulls further away from us as we pull further away from Europe. The President of the European Commission, Junker, proposed a European army. France’s Emmanuel Macron suggested a Pan-European army to deploy troops on their own in crises, and Angela Merkel endorsed that. Disappearing, in her words, the days in which we can unconditionally rely on others, and others is the United States, are gone. What a sad statement. I don’t think these proposals for a Pan-European army will go anywhere, but they are emblematic of the vacuum that has been left by a lack of European leadership.

This leaves Europe in the worst of all circumstances. The US, from Europe’s standpoint, can no longer be relied on as a guarantor of security and a partner in economic prosperity, and yet there is no real prospect that European countries can mount their own military counter-weight to Putin’s Russia. Even with our differences, where do we turn within the United States, if not to Europe? With whom we share so many democratic and free market values. When we need allies to deal with China, when we need allies to deal with Russia, when we need allies to deal with cyber-attacks. Where else do we turn? Now this draws the question; is President Trump’s election a one-time adoration, or does it represent a deeper and more permanent strain in America that will out-last the President?

Permit me to say that it would be short-sighted to write off his chances for re-election in 2020 as it was for those of us, myself included, who thought he had no chance of winning in 2016. If history is any guide, and I’m a fairly good reader of presidential elections; I’ve lost more than I’ve won. He has at least a 50 percent chance of winning again and serving until 2024 when his policies at home and abroad will become even more deeply entrenched. I say that because every modern president who has had both a strong economy and a united party has been re-elected in modern times, and those who have lost their bid, including President Carter, had either a weak economy, a divided party, or both. American presidential elections are not won on foreign policy, they are not won on the state of transatlantic relations; they are won on the state of the economy, and today President Trump presides over what I would call a ‘Goldilocks economy’, the best in two decades. Low unemployment, low inflation, strong growth, and finally after many decades, the beginning of a rise in workers’ wages. He’ll have no significant opposition in the republican nomination where his support among republicans is over 80 percent.

At the same time his re-election is not certain. His disapproval rates from the first day he was inaugurated to this very day in 2019 remain over 50 percent. His provocative and erratic style and his polarising message leave an opening for a moderate democrat to capture the independent votes who can make the difference. The question is can a moderate democrat get the democratic nomination? The anger and angst of Trump’s loyal base of support, perhaps 40% of the electorate is real and will not go away. Just think of this one figure, this is almost staggering. Half of American households have savings less than $400 in their bank account. Half of American families have less than $400 in savings in their bank account and these voters, and by the way I think they are similar to those in large stretches of the UK outside of London and several urban areas, feel that the establishment in the United States has turned their back on them, that we’ve ignored their struggles to keep their head above water. And you know what? They’re right. Trump understood this when we did not. Whether the Trump presidency lasts another two years, or extends for six, these very deep concerns will remain. And yet, even if they do, I don’t believe post-Trump that that will translate into a permanent American estrangement from Europe, from NATO, from the European Union, from the institutions we created in a post-war era. And I say that because there is a deep well-spring of support among republicans in congress, republican leaders in congress, conservative think-tanks, and the general public, republican and democrat, which believe that these institutions are important to our own security and prosperity.

At the same time, and I’ll close with this, our European allies would make a huge mistake to simply sit on their hands and wait out Trump’s term, however long it lasts, and hope everything will then return to normal. It’s too easy to blame all transatlantic tensions on him, although he certainly has contributed more than one share. Europe itself must get serious about reform and do more to genuinely move toward unity of purpose.

I’ll close with the following suggestions. Our European allies led by Germany with its strong economy and budget surplus should work diligently to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defence as, by the way, the UK does. Only 5 NATO countries do so. And Germany, if anything in their latest budget, has taken a step backward in terms of their defence spending. If NATO countries could attain this 2 percent goal in the near term, doesn’t mean tomorrow, but show us clear path, it would remove an irritant in the transatlantic relationship while contributing to your own defence.

In addition, European countries should make common cause as much as possible with the President in addressing China’s unfair trade and investment practices. He has urged, and I think properly so, that European countries refrain from installing China-made 5G technologies, by Huawei and others, as the backbone of the 21st century telecommunications network because of legitimate concerns about security issues with that new network with Chinese equipment. And yet, many European countries are ignoring this request and going a separate way.

In addition, Europe should support the efforts by both President Obama and now President Trump to oppose China’s efforts to claim sovereignty over large parts of the South China Sea where they have made coral reefs into militarised Islands.

In addition, European contributions through NATO to support our military effort in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but help cement the transatlantic relationship. The projected nord stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea should be put on hold because it would make Germany and the continent more dependent on Russian energy, as President Trump has properly noted. And you should continue your sanctions against Russia. The EU should obtain a robust, which it has not, negotiating mandate, for the EU/US free trade initiative, which European President Junker and President Trump agreed to last July. If we can eliminate all industrial tariffs and open up our markets to each other’s’ products including agriculture. If we can develop harmonised regulations, the already strong transatlantic economic relationship will become further embedded and it will become (inaudible) to strengthen our relationship end of the 21st century.

I close on a hopeful note. On both sides of the Atlantic we share too many common values, we share too many common interests, we have too many common threats to allow our historic, transatlantic partnership to whither. We are in this together in the 21st century. That’s what scoop Jackson believed in the 20th century, and he was right then and I assert it now. The current problems we have, and they are real and very substantial, should be a call to arms for those of us who believe in the importance of the transatlantic relationship to strengthen the bonds that have clearly frayed, upon which depends our security and prosperity for a better, safer, more just world for ourselves, for our children and grandchildren on both sides of what we call the pond. Thank you very much.

With your brief permission may I just mention a few people who came in just as I was starting. My dear friend Willy (inaudible) from the UK, and much of the board of fair globe, their chief executive and president who are also here, I very much appreciate them coming along with my other friends and relatives, thank you.

DAME LOUISE ELLMAN MP Well I’d like to thank you very much for that very thoughtful and challenging address. We do have a short time for questions, would you be able to take those? Would you be able to indicate and I’m going to take two or three together, depending on how many hands go up. Who wants to ask a question? We’ll take the three together, could you say who you are please?

COLIN My name’s Colin (inaudible). Thank you very much indeed for that talk, it was very interesting. Do you not think that President Trump’s attitude towards Iran is going to be effective, and should be the kind of attitude it would take where Iran supports so many of the organisations which have caused a lot of trouble, not only in the Middle East, but in this country and Europe?

(inaudible) About 2 or so years ago under the Henry Jackson Society a gentleman from the Hudson institute was out speaking and it was just after Mr Trump was elected, about late November or so, and the gentleman used a really interesting term I thought, he basically said this is the first time America’s ever had a coalition government and everyone’s eyebrows raised, it’s not a coalition, but what he explained was that it was really Trump, an individual, and republicans. And so my question is now after 2 years, do you think it’s still a coalition government? Will there be any republicans within the congress or the senate who stand up to him if they are seeking re-election, so I’d be interested to understand your thoughts about the dynamic of that relationship?

JOHN DOBSON Thank you very much, my name is John Dobson, I write for the Indian Sunday Guardian. As most people would agree, Trump is a lousy businessman, and he gets his way mainly by bullying. Do you think he will bully the Chinese and win the sanctions warfare that is going on?

AMBASSADOR EIZENSTAT: Ok, these are three great questions. Let me take a rant first. And when I talked about not having rose coloured in dealing with Europe, you can multiply that 100-fold in dealing with Iran. I mean I was there during all 444 humiliating days of the hostage crisis. I have 2 chapters of my book devoted to the Iranian revolution, could we have prevented it and so forth. I start with this proposition. Iran is, without question, the major supporter of terrorism in the world. Without question. Hamas, Hezbollah, the (inaudible) force in Syria, have been trying to build permanent military installations in Syria to ultimately attack Israel. That is absolutely certain.

Number two. it was also certain that until they were caught at it, they were trying to build a nuclear weapons capacity. Now ironically, during the Carter administration, we gave the (inaudible), civilian nuclear capability. The question then is; is the Trump approach the right approach? And I would argue no for the following reasons. If we had stayed in what is called the JCPOA, which is the nuclear agreement. As imperfect as it was, it had the following advantages. For ten years, Iran could not develop nuclear fuel to weapons grade. Two thirds of their 9,000 centrifuges, which were churning out rich uranium, were shut down. Their heavy water plutonium plant was totally disabled. The international atomic energy agency, which has been very good, has imposed 24/7 inspection, cameras, spot visits and so-forth, at all the nuclear sites. Now if there were a military alternative, I haven’t seen it. What should have been done was to stay in the JCPOA and get our European allies who helped negotiate to strengthen it, number 1, and second, the nuclear agreement does not preclude the US imposing sanctions on Iran for its other activities, for its support for terrorism, for its development of missiles, for its human rights violations. And we should go after those directly, whilst staying in the JCPOA. Now that didn’t happen. There’s no question that the Iranian economy is in serious shape because, even though Europe is desperately trying to hold on to it, Iran has already announced just last week that it’s going to breach one part of the agreement, which is to re-build its nuclear fuel up to weapons grade. And this puts Europe in a terrible position. If a European company, like Total for example, which already pulled out of developing oil in Iran, has to choose between doing business with Iran and doing business with the US, there’s no choice. So the Iranian economy is in serious shape, no question. The question is what follows after, (inaudible) are here today from Egypt. They were there during the Mubarak, so what happened after Mubarak, the Muslim brotherhood came in, so what will happen if there’s further weakening? I believe it will not unleash democratic forces, it will strengthen the most radical forces, the revolutionary guard, who will simply point to the United States and say it’s their fault. It will lead to a further crackdown. If I thought that overnight it would lead to democracy and pluralism, and pro-West, I would be all in support. It won’t in my opinion.

And second, on your point about Trump and the republicans. Here I give the President absolute A+ rating as a transformative politician. This is a person who never spent one day in elected office before he was elected President. Not a day, not an hour, not a minute. And yet, he has remarkable political capabilities. What he has done is totally transform the republican party, which had been an internationalist, free trade, engaged party, into a protectionist, nationalist party. He has the support, as I mentioned, in the most recent polls of over 80 percent of republicans. And so, those in the senate and house who might take him on, realise that if they do he will turn his base against them and get primary opposition to take them on. And so they are cowed into submission. This republican party is his party. He has made it his party. And there were some who were thinking, like the republican governor of Ohio and Kansas, of running against him. They won’t. He’ll have no substantial opposition, and he’ll go into the convention with a united party. Now that party represents only about 42/43 percent of the country. The question is can he get over that by getting some of the disaffected independents and that 20 percent of republicans who feel that he’s gone too far. And that depends on the quality of the democratic opposition. And that’s another story into itself.

Now third, on China and Trump. There are very few things on which there is a bipartisan consensus in the United States, that is the republicans and democrats. We just had mother’s day. We agreed mother’s day should be on. Beyond that there are very few things, except China, that unite republicans and democrats. There is a consensus, which I share, that China’s trade and investment practices are absolutely unacceptable and unfair. That is to say they heavily subsidise state-owned companies. I was just in the UAE, came back from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A senior minister said to me, ‘you have 5,000 US troops in our country which we appreciate, but you tell me what you would do when your country is saying to us “don’t take a Huawei, 5G network” when they come in at 50 percent of the cost, when there’s no company at all, they’ll say they train 10,000 (inaudible), they’ll give service for free for ten years’. So, the state-owned enterprise deep subsidy system is highly unfair. Second, at least as of this date, any company; European, Japanese, Korean, US, that wants to invest in China has to invest in technology and enter into a joint venture. That’s unfair. They steal our intellectual property in a brazen way and do many of the other things I mentioned like the South China Sea. Now, what will happen?

The President was right to take these practices on, but had he, instead of imposing tariffs on European products, enlisted Europe and enlisted Japan at a common effort, we would have gotten further. Now look, at the end of the day, there will be a deal. It will be imperfect. China will promise to purchase a lot more US goods, but China is not going to fundamentally change a business model which has lifted half a billion people out of poverty in 25 years, they’re not going to do it. So at some point there will be an agreement, it will be imperfect, he’ll declare it the best trade deal ever, and go about his business. So there is obviously a lot of volatility now, he watches the stock market like you watch your heart rate, and so there’s no way he’s going to allow this to go on too much longer.

Yes?

(inaudible) Sorry I just wondered why the subject of will to the world situation. You mentioned the colonisation in political opinions both in America and in a number of European countries. Do you see in the 21st century, where we are now, do you see any consensus, do you see us coming back to a certain consensus that can help govern countries, and that can help also not undermining democracy?

AMBASSADOR EIZENSTAT: I mean let’s look at what happened yesterday in the Oval office, yesterday, where Hungarian President Orban was feted by the President as being a leader, a great democratic leader, I mean he’s violated every norm of democratic conduct. I think a lot depends, if I may put it this way, on the President and what happens in the next election. I believe, and I’ve been wrong on Presidential elections as much as I’ve been right. But I really believe that a message to the American public saying that it’s time that we ended this reign of terror against opponents, that we recognise that we’re all in this together, that we need to have bi-partisan support to properly tackle our crumbling infrastructure; our healthcare system, our immigration problems, our transatlantic relations, that it’s time to treat our allies with respect. I think that is a message that would resonate, and if it does, and if that’s a winning message, I think that it’s one that could help transform the polarisation that we are seeing abroad as well. But only under one another condition. That is, and I say this having supported her fiercely, Hilary Clinton. The impression was that she was part of this elite, and I’m not on the corner by the way selling apples either, that ignored the very real problems of the middle class and lower class working people. And so we have also got to have a message that says; we do care for you, we do worry about your fate. She didn’t visit the state of Wisconsin once in the whole general election. She visited Michigan for just a few hours. We have to make common cause with those who feel alienated from the system as well, but do it in a constructive way, not alienating other parts of society and pinning one side against the other. That it’s the immigrants and those of colour and so forth who are responsible. I think that’s a winning message. It’s a tough message, but I think it would be a winning message, and if it succeeds, again, I think it would have a transatlantic impact.

JAMES ROGERS Ok, well we can possibly take one more question, but then we will have to close down, so one more, yes, please Sir.

(inaudible) If, as anticipated, President Trump gets an unwelcome reception when he visits this country, if people come out onto the streets and demonstrate against him, how do you think that will play in America?

AMBASSADOR EIZENSTAT: Well, that’s a very good question. First of all, I want to make it clear. I think every American President should be treated with respect when they come here, or any other country, just as we would treat Prime Minister May with respect even if we may disagree. So I would hope he would be treated with respect as well. To the extent that he’s not, he will simply turn that around and make the very argument that’s ‘see I told you so’. So I think it plays no constructive role and, if anything, gives him more weapons to use. But again, I would hope that if people want to put signs up, that is democratic right, but it ought to be done respectfully. We do have a great relationship, and I may say, and I didn’t add this in my speech and I should have. And that is, if Britain goes out of the EU, and I suspect that will happen, and if and when you can negotiate, which you cannot legally do now, a free trade agreement, the President will welcome, as would democrats as well, a US/UK free trade agreement. Now mind you that is not going to be as easy as you think, I’ve been doing trade negotiations for decades. But, that is a free trade agreement that would be supported by the President, probably by the British public, and might take some of the sting out, but doesn’t substitute for access, for full access to the common market, for having a single passport for all of your financial institutions, and I know because our firm represents a lot of them, there are close to 50 banks that have left the UK, in whole or in part, taking parts of their business to Frankfurt, to Paris, back to New York. That’s a decision, again, you’ll have to make here. And a free trade agreement won’t in any way fully substitute for that, but I think at least that will happen. But the long and short of it is that I hope he will be treated with respect, regardless of the differences that I’ve mentioned.

JAMES ROGERS: OK, well thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR EIZENSTAT: Thank you. And if I can be a salesman for a minute. You can get my book ‘President Carter: The White House Years’ on amazon. I’ll be glad to sign it for you if you send it to me. I think you’ll find a lot of the issues we talked about; Iran, four chapters on camp David and the Middle East peace process, and many other issues that will help you understand not just the Carter Presidency, but what it’s like to work in a hot house atmosphere of the White House where pressures come on you every minute of every day and where there are often times no good options. So thank you, it’s an honour and a privilege to be here and thank you for coming.

 

HJS



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