- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Diplomatic risks

The disputes and dangers facing the United States and Russia threaten to unravel 200 years of diplomatic relations unless Washington and Moscow reduce bilateral tensions through a new, aggressive brand of diplomacy, former U.S. and Russian ambassadors said yesterday.

“We are diplomats — not politicians — who represent a half-century of experience of ‘doing U.S.-Russian relations.’ … Our careers have seen our countries face critical, at times existential, challenges,” they said in a joint statement at a Washington forum on the two centuries of diplomatic ties.

“We have known the success of close cooperation when we defeated common foes and developed a safer world, but also the consequences of estrangement and rivalry.”

Today, the bilateral relations are under “unprecedented stresses” from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and organized crime, said the five Russian and four U.S. ambassadors, whose tours in Washington or Moscow spanned two decades, from 1981 to 2001. They served during the final years of the Cold War to the collapse of the Soviet Union and to the threshold of a century gripped by Islamist terrorism.

“Faced with so many important tasks, we cannot afford to let miscommunication or mistrust derail our relations,” they said. “When we have pursued active dialogue and creative diplomacy based on agreed principles, we have brought about positive change. How do we regain that relationship?”

The ambassadors called for the development of a “well-defined, new strategic framework for productive diplomacy to resolve old problems and meet new challenges.”

“Our future work should be worthy of a third diplomatic century,” they said.

The statement was signed by Russian ambassadors to the United States Alexander A. Bessmertnykh (1990 to 1991), Yuri V. Dubinin (1986 to 1990), Victor G. Komplektov (1991 to 1992), Vladimir P. Lukin (1992 to 1993) and Yuli M. Vorontsov (1994 to 1999) and U.S. ambassadors to Russia James F. Collins (1997 to 2001), Arthur A. Hartman (1981 to 1987), Jack F. Matlock Jr. (1987 to 1991) and Thomas R. Pickering (1993 to 1996).

South Africa Week

South African political and business leaders are in Washington this week to promote their country as a good place for investment and to counter critics who complain of high unemployment, rampant crime and a failed education system.

“It’s the ultimate meeting of minds, and the result will be an outstanding exchange between two countries that play critical roles in the world with striking historic similarities,” said Kennedy Khabo, founder of South Africa Week.

South African Ambassador Welile Nhlapo is hosting a delegation from the South African capital, Tshwane, formally known as Pretoria. It includes: M.P. Chueu and Z.L. Masondo, members of the mayor’s council; Tembeka Mhlekwa, head of the economic development office; Khotso Mokhele, former president of the National Research Foundation; Lebo Morake, co-producer and composer of “The Lion King”; and Sipho Maseko, chief operations office for BP Africa.

The schedule of forums, festivals and markets with South African goods begins today at 7 p.m., when D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty hosts a kickoff reception. The South African marketplace at the Washington Convention Center is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday. Friday features wine tasting and a fashion show at 7 p.m. at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, and Saturday concludes with a 4:30 p.m. Potomac River cruise.

Ticket information is on the Web site www.southafricaweek.com.

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

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