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Secretary Clinton's Trip to Turkey, Greece, India, Indonesia & China
The Obama Administration has designed an ambitious national security strategy to advance the economic, political, diplomatic and military goals of the United States.
Easy to find a "grand" vision for this trip, which truly spans the entire Eurasian continental mass: in this global village everywhere and everyone matters. Each of the five countries Hillary Clinton will visit in a matter of days is key in that complex strategy.
A poignant four-day stint in Turkey and Greece highlights to the world that the United States continues to wield awesome diplomatic and military power as mediator between these two archenemies, NATO countries that straddle the psychological divide where "Europe" arguably "ends" (or is it "begins"?). This top level American visit to the traditional Christian/Muslim fracture line that runs through the Balkans bolsters Secretary Clinton's words that she is an enthusiastic supporter of Turkey's entry (when?) to the European Union while assuaging her Greek hosts that they have not lost their allure and remain an important ally in a troubled zone (just as when President Truman singled their country for massive military assistance as one of the first battlegrounds against communism in the late 1940s).
Both NATO allies gained from the visit. Greece got a much-needed dose of support and respect vis-a-vis its anxious 17 eurozone-partners and sovereign debt creditors, all of whom (with no little opportunism, not to say hypocrisy) blame Greek fiscal irresponsibility for the current debt crisis and fear the common currency system will unravel as default contagion spreads to Portugal, Spain and possibly Italy. As for Turkey, timing could not be more favorable. With this visit, Turkey gained needed boosting in its aspirations to become a member of the European Union (notwithstanding religious and cultural prejudices) and words of support in its struggles with separatist Kurdish groups.
As for the United States, meetings with Turkish and Greek authorities strengthened relations with NATO partners, reduced Greek-Turkish tensions (somewhat) over the future of Cyprus and obtained reassurances (concrete results yet to be seen) that neither country will allow ships to sail from local ports to bring aid to Palestinians in Gaza (in defiance of Israeli patrols enforcing a maritime blockade). Additional, interesting components of Secretary Clinton's Istanbul agenda were bilateral meetings she held with leaders of important oil-producing Qatar and Kuwait. These Arab monarchies, vital to Persian Gulf oil exports, lie too close to nuclear-ambitious Iran for comfort. And must have been monitoring popular unrest and democratizing events in their kin countries of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Jordan with significant trepidation.
Clinton left Europe for "Strategic Dialogue" meetings with India in New Delhi. In her words, these meetings "establish a foundation for addressing shared problems, advancing shared interests, and managing differences." An American alliance with India, a leading "emerging economy" and the world's most populous nation next to China, has been an Obama Administration priority. India presents important bilateral trade opportunities; moreover, a close partnership is a matter of geopolitical necessity when one considers recent and very public spats with Pakistan over Afghan war operations and the death of Osama bin Laden, as well as the complicated task of managing Chinese trade policy and political ambitions in Asia and the Pacific rim. India has become an indispensable ally for U.S. foreign policy.
Size does matter in this trip. Clinton will visit the world's most populous Muslim nation: Indonesia (another "key" strategic dialogue partner and "Muslim reset policy" target). And, almost as a foregone conclusion, the Secretary of State will then visit China. Chinese authorities will surely regale the Secretary with customary complaints about cozy India-U.S. arrangements that mean to "contain" China. Then expect them to grill Clinton over Uncle Sam's iou's and the President's plan not to default and make good thereon in the event no agreement is reached in Washington to raise the federal debt limit before "doom's-day", August 2, 2011.
(China holds in excess of $1 trillion in federal treasury bonds and thereby is the largest U.S. creditor: "show me the money").
Too bad I could not be in the room to witness Clinton's private remarks to her Chinese hosts on India relations and treasury bills. Prudence dictates not to make much of the India visit. Diplomacy (and good manners) would likely counsel against talk that the very public (partisan and virulent) debate among Congressional leaders and President Obama over federal government debt and the fiscal 2012 budget, the type of policy war that never occurs in China (at least openly or with any public input), perfectly squares with the Founding Fathers' constitutional design to ensure, through checks and balances between President and Congress (the "political" branches of government), that the American people is sovereign and free, not "lorded" over by autocratic government.
Which brings us full circle, back to the trip's first stop: Greece and Turkey.
There is a temptation to extol the "democratic" legacy of ancient Greek cities (ruins in present day Turkey and Greece) as the inspiration upon which this Eurasia visit was launched. For now, strictly for space reasons, I shall not indulge it.