April 22, 2009
Posted: 09:02 AM ET
By Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
The vast diplomatic agenda that the Obama administration has adopted will test its ability to harmonize national priorities such as relations with Iran and North Korea with global and multilateral concerns.
President Obama has come into office at a moment of unique opportunity. The economic crisis absorbs the energies of all the major powers; whatever their differences, all need a respite from international confrontation. Overriding challenges such as energy, the environment and proliferation concern them to a considerable degree and in an increasingly parallel way. The possibility of comprehensive solutions is unprecedented.
Obama has launched negotiations on an extraordinary range of subjects. Each has a political as well as a strategic component. Each deals with issues peculiar to itself. Each runs the risk that inherent obstacles could obscure ultimate objectives or that negotiating tactics could warp substance. But the challenges are also closely related. For example, arms control negotiations with Russia will affect Russia's role in the nonproliferation effort with Iran. The strategic dialogue with China will help shape the Korean negotiations. The negotiations will also be affected by perceptions of regional balances - of the key participants, for Russia, this applies especially to the former Soviet space in Central Asia; for China and the United States, to the political structure of Northeast Asia and the Pacific Rim.
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