- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009


The global economic crisis and lingering political disputes throughout the world are so severe that even the normally optimistic foreign minister of Greece is worrying about doomsday.

However, she still holds on to a little hope.

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“I think we can all agree that 2009 is a critical year,” Dora Bakoyannis told the Brookings Institution in Washington this week. “It could be the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of an incredibly challenging time.”

The collapse of international banks and the panic of governments around the world have more than economic consequences, she said.

“The global financial and economic crisis cast a shadow over all of our efforts,” Mrs. Bakoyannis said. “The massive economic downturn we are witnessing is dramatically changing the political landscape, thus presenting a security concern all in itself.”

Her solution is building or strengthening three “bridges” of cooperation - one between Europe and the United States, a second with Russia and a third within Europe, itself.

“In our multipolar world, security depends on more than just power,” she said. “It depends on building relationships and forging ties. It depends on building bridges over troubled waters.”

The most important bridge is the one “across the Atlantic, the bedrock of our postwar system,” she said.

“Europe and the U.S. have a long history of interdependence as global partners with global responsibilities,” she noted, adding that Europe can dangle the carrot, while Americans shake the stick.

“European soft power is a desired corollary to U.S. military might,” Mrs. Bakoyannis said. “Still, Europe must develop … its own military capability, which is crucial, particularly in regions where only Europe is an acceptable mediator by all.”

The conflict between Russia and Georgia underscores the need for better diplomacy between Moscow and the West, she added, noting that “reactivation of the NATO-Russia Council” would help improve relations.

The third bridge would bring European nations into closer cooperation, especially with nations in the Balkans that are not members of the European Union.

“For us, there is no doubt that the only way forward is full membership in the EU and NATO for the whole of Southeast Europe,” she said.

Mrs. Bakoyannis, who met Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also expressed her respect for the Obama administration, which has “generated such popularity and enthusiasm around the world.”


Russia’s new ambassador to the United States traveled to the Midwest to celebrate the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln and compared the Great Emancipator to Czar Alexander II.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation led to the constitutional abolition of slavery, while Alexander freed Russia’s serfs, who lived like slaves. Both leaders were also assassinated.

“Your president and our Russia czar in the same time frames were making revolutions in the way your and my country were developing,” Ambassador Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak said on his visit to Kansas City, Mo., earlier this month.

“Both were fighting and introducing respect for human beings and respect for freedom that hadn’t been known in either the United States or Russia.”

As he toured an exhibit on Lincoln and Alexander at Kansas City’s Union Station, he added, “The Great Emancipator and the great czar, there is a lot of symbolism here.”

Lincoln issued his proclamation in the form of two executive orders on Sept. 22, 1862, and Jan. 1, 1863. He was assassinated two years later. Alexander freed the serfs in 1861, and was killed by left-wing radicals in a bomb attack in 1881.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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