Richard Holbrooke, is without a doubt, the man most qualified to be Secretary of State who has not yet held the position, in the United States today. The only man to have been Assistant Secretary of State, for two different regions (Europe and East Asia), Ambassador to both Germany and the United Nations. The man who brought the warring parties to the Bosnian conflict, to the peace table at Dayton in 1995. A Foreign Service officer at the age of twenty-one, straight out of Brown University. Holbrooke, served in Indo-China as Henry Cabot Lodge's Executive Assistant, before being recalled to Washington to serve as Special Assistant to the Under-Secretary of State, he served on the American delegation to the Paris Peace Talks to end the Vietnam War. In short, one may say that of Holbrooke, that he is a 'diplomat to his fingertips'. After resigning from the Foreign Service, he founded and edited the (then) 'radical', alternative to Foreign Affairs magazine, Foreign Policy, for five years, prior to his service in the Carter Administration. In addition, to his extensive experience of diplomacy, Holbrooke is both a first-rate writer and a cogent public speaker, as anyone who has heard him on Public Television's various programmes, as well read his monthly column in the Washington Post (see a partial biography of Holbrooke in: www.cfr.org).
While, one may doubt that in fact, Holbrooke will ever be called to the office that he so richly deserves (assuming that the next President is a Democrat it is difficult to imagine that either Mme. Clinton or Senator Obama, would be able
abide such a domineering character as Secretary of State), that does not negate the fact, that his is probably the leading voice on foreign policy in the Democratic Party, and, one of the leading voices across the American political spectrum. Consequently, when Holbrooke speaks people should definitely listen. And, what Holbrooke has been saying is of interest precisely because it in some ways,expresses an emerging consensus, among the Washington pays legal, concerning current and future policy towards Russia.
In an interview, with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Holbrooke attacked Russian policy towards both Georgia and Kosovo. In the case of the latter, Holbrooke repeated arguments made a few days prior in Brussels, in which he argued that:
"If the Russians delay or dilute or veto it [Kosovo independence] then I am afraid that the long pent-up desire of the Albanians in Kosovo for a rapid move toward independence will explode into violence....The Russians should be aware of the consequences of their actions in New York" (see: www.reuters.com).
In the case of Georgia, Holbrooke argues that Russia is engaged in a policy of 'regime change Russian style', and he contends that the United States should give full support to the Saakashvili government, arguing that:
"My support for Saakashvili is based on what he's achieved. Nobody's perfect and there are certainly problems with Georgia. But when he took over, the country was bankrupt. The electrical system didn't work, the people were stealing the place blind, and government officials weren't even being paid. Now it has growth. It has a balanced budget. It's an amazing achievement. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was American-educated....I do not believe the United States should or will make concessions about Georgia. I certainly would oppose that. Georgian territorial integrity is important, the Russians should stop supporting the breakaway illegal regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Georgia should be allowed to develop on its own" (see:www.rferl.org).
In short, Holbrooke advocates a firm, and consistent line vis`-a-vis Moskva, on two issues, in which it could be argued, the United States, does not have a primary interest (as opposed to say Iraq, North Korea, Near Eastern policy in general and Ballistic Missile Defence). And, yet Holbrooke advocates that the United States not even entertain any Russian proposals for a quid pro quo. One has to wonder if, Holbrooke realizes that the International situation has changed considerably since 20th of January 2001, when he last was in officialdom, or even March 2003? It is now no longer the case, that the United States can by a mere crack of the diplomatic whip, or a frown, get Moskva to behave the way it did in the Yeltsin-Kozyrev days. If Holbrooke thinks, and, unfortunately all too many members of Washington elite think as he does, that the United States can force Russia into line, on secondary issues while at the same time expecting Russia to co-operate on issues that the USA, regards as being of primary importance, than the future of Russo-American relations looks none too bright. Either now or under a McCain, Guiliani (God help us!), or a Democratic Presidency.