I’ve had quite a number of emails about the “steely exchange” between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Condi Rice. Since the words exchanged were tense, some have wrongly jumped to the conclusion that this was another “undiplomatic” moment to file away with the Bush administration’s foreign policy files.
However, I think Secretary Rice and Lavrov were doing exactly what serious people debating serious matters should be doing — arguing over substance and debating the framing of issues that do matter.
Here is part of a report on the exchange, which I believe is more impressive than controversial:
Over the clink of glassware, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov challenged U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about proposed language in a statement on behalf of the foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrial democracies. “I don’t believe security is fine in Iraq, and I don’t believe in particular that security at foreign missions is OK,” Lavrov said, referring to the killing of five Russian diplomats in Iraq.
“Sergei, there is a need for improvement of security in Iraq, period,” Rice replied in a steely tone. “The problem isn’t diplomatic missions,” she said. “The problem is journalists and civilian contractors and, yes, diplomats as well. The problem is you have a terrorist insurgent population that is wreaking havoc on a hapless Iraqi civilian population that is trying to fight back and on a coalition force that is trying to fight back, and the implication that by somehow declaring that diplomats need to be protected . . . I think is simply not right.”
The two dominated a discussion of a proposed international compact on Iraq aid and political development, an idea supported by the U.S. Rice wanted the G8 statement to endorse the compact, but Lavrov held her off.
“Look, Condi, Condi . . . when we consider assistance programs, IMF and the World Bank, you do not automatically endorse something that a government endorses,” Lavrov told her. “It’s an important part of the exercise to consider specific features of an assistance program.”
In the end, the G8 statement refers to the proposed compact but does not endorse it.
I think we would all be better off if we had fewer photo-ops and more examples of debates of this kind. I respect Rice and Lavrov each more for hitting hard on matters they feel significant.
— Steve Clemons
Ed Note: Thanks to VS for sending the Mosnews link.