- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WORLD IN REVIEW

Carl Bildt is a diplomatic paradox, part gloomy doomsayer, part irrepressible optimist. Perhaps it’s in his Swedish blood.

Sweden’s foreign minister Tuesday reviewed the condition of the world, and it was a pretty frightening review.

The global economic crash is a “once-in-a-generation” crisis, while global warming is a “once-in-a-millennium challenge,” he said. Mr. Bildt touched on troubles in Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he was just getting wound up. There was China, Russia, Ukraine, all demanding attention.

However, Mr. Bildt, sometimes called the “pillar of European diplomacy,” never met a crisis he couldn’t deal with, at least across a negotiating table.

Mr. Bildt, who held talks Monday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been foreign minister since 2006. In the 1990s, he was prime minister, a U.N. envoy to the Balkans, the European Union’s representative to the former Yugoslavia, an international envoy in Bosnia and a member of the International Balkan Commission.

“We are at a critical time,” he told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “The order of magnitude [of world crises] are more challenging that we are used to.”

The global economic slump has already reversed strong annual growth rates in many developing countries and in some parts of Europe, and the financial mess has the potential to bring down governments, he said.

“When we hit bottom, we can’t be sure we will bounce back up,” he said. “This is an urgent economic crisis unlike anything we have dealt with in living memory.”

On climate issues, the debate is over for Mr. Bildt.

“We know we need to take action,” he said, explaining that government measures to combat greenhouse gases will be “demanding” and “intrusive.”

“The global crisis is now. The necessity to take action on climate change is now.”

Mr. Bildt endorsed multilateral diplomacy to tackle most issues and cited the EU as a “model of integration” for many countries struggling with ethnic conflicts. Sweden takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the bloc in July.

“The EU is emerging as a global actor,” he said.

Mr. Bildt noted the diplomatic pressure on the EU to expand beyond its 27 member nations to include Turkey and nations in the western Balkans.

“One hundred million people are knocking on our door,” he said, advocating expansion to insure against instability or a resurgence of nationalism.

Showing his humorous side, Mr. Bildt said that with all the world’s conflicts, jobs for diplomats are guaranteed.

“Those of us involved in international affairs are not going to be hit by unemployment,” he said.

Mr. Bildt promised his audience to keep his remarks brief so he could answer questions. Forty minutes into his address, he apologized for speaking for so long.

“I said I was going to be short, and I wasn’t,” he said. “But let me blame that on the world.”

FOLEY STILL THINKING

Thomas C. Foley, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, says he will soon decide whether to seek the Republican nomination to challenge the embattled Connecticut senator, Christopher J. Dodd.

A close friend of Mr. Foley’s told the Hartford Courant that the former ambassador will make a decision “in the weeks ahead.” Mr. Foley would have to face two other Republicans interested in the nomination. President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Foley in 2006.

Mr. Dodd, a Democrat first elected in 1980, is trailing in polls because of his links to the financial crisis.

•Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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