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Patricia H. Kushlis
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Even during the darkest days of the Cold War, leaders of the US and the Soviet Union met to discuss areas of agreement and disagreement to keep international conflicts from escalating out of control. Such was Secretary John Kerry’s recent meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi – the intent of which, I think, was badly mischaracterized in Dale Herszenhorn’s report in the New York Times May 16, 2015. The headline of that article was “Kerry’s Visit Marks Diplomatic Victory, and Affirmation, for Putin.” Herszenhorn’s sources? Spokesmen – or quasi-spokesmen – for the Kremlin. Only many paragraphs down does he describe the reason for the visit from the US government perspective. . . Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at WhirledView
Yet before the fall of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh’s forces and the messy US evacuation from South Vietnam, came the US evacuation of its embassy in Cambodia, an event that has, for the most part, sunk into obscurity. In fact, the US government had already left Phnom Penh – evacuating its remaining embassy staff - and the killing fields of Cambodia 18 days before the Saigon departure began. Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2015 at WhirledView
What makes the film Leviathan different from those of the Communist period – and even a powerful movie like “Burnt by the Sun” made in its aftermath – is its visual window dressing, not the underlying depiction of power and its excesses. That was always there. Yes, the characters dressed like they belonged to the 21st century and drove newly minted western vehicles. But the scenes could have been filmed years before – just substitute the Communist Party’s First Secretary for the Orthodox priest - and the result would have been the equivalent. Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2015 at WhirledView
As this story suggests it takes time, timing, research, political and public affairs skills to build a case and accomplish fundamental change. Even then, success is not always a foregone conclusion. In this case, however, getting the lead out of gasoline has made a difference. Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2015 at WhirledView
Through Nemtsov’s murder they have also just created a martyr - a potentially powerful symbol to rally the opposition. And yes, there still is an opposition. The several hundred thousand person march in Nemtsov’s honor that took place on Sunday in front of the Kremlin Walls that ended at the memorial on the bridge where Nemtsov was shot demonstrates as much. Could Putin and his acolytes have finally bitten off more than even they can chew? Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at WhirledView
Dear F.C. The US government negotiated cultural agreements with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries throughout the Cold War because we could not have operated cultural, educational and information programs in those countries without them. The chief US negotiators with the Soviets were USIA/CU officers at post and in Washington. IREX and Fulbright were represented as well. Yale Richmond was a major player in many of those negotiations. I was ACAO Exchanges in Moscow from 1978-80 and on the negotiating team for the renewal of the US-USSR Cultural Agreement. It was never signed because the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan intervened and the USG refused to conclude the negotiations as a result. The level of programming dropped dramatically although IREX and other exchanges continued at lower levels. The agreement was renewed in the mid-1980s then discontinued after the fall of the Soviet Union. A Fulbright agreement which established a joint Commission took over the Fulbright program. Looking at the situation now - I wonder if eliminating some sort of written agreement with the Russians wasn't a mistake. Anyway, take a look at the texts of a few of the agreements negotiated during the Cold War and you'll see that there are clauses re finances which tie neither side to fixed amounts. Also numbers and types of exchanges (the agreements encouraged the establishment of private university to university exchanges for instance as well as government funded ones) and defined who financed what and how exchangees should be treated. You should be able to get copies via FOIA or perhaps State's office of the historian. I found the agreement very useful when dealing with the Ministries of Higher Education and Education. Many countries negotiate Cultural Agreements for different reasons but the US is an outlier and I think often for spurious reasons (the most common is that an agreement ties us to a specific amount of funding - but in reality it doesn't need to.) Hope this helps.
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The Department of State's organizational structure has not kept pace with a rapidly changing world. Issues, inventions and circumstances in the 21st century – globalization, terrorism, information technology and cyber threats, climate change, energy security and more – require an institution that can respond rapidly to unanticipated challenges through innovative, pragmatic policies. These new policies must be firmly rooted in a well-organized, well-run and nimble administrative bureaucracy. Ending the parade of scandals of the last several years and providing the underpinnings for the conduct of an effective 21st century foreign policy can only be achieved with full-scale reform of the Department's management structure. Such reform is imperative – not only to comply with modern organizational practices and controls -- but for the success of America's foreign relations worldwide. Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2015 at WhirledView
What would it take to get people on board in Germany? Talks with coworkers the week since my return suggest that Syriza faces multiple challenges, not the least “Greek fatigue,” skepticism and cynicism, austerity fixation and cultural blinders. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at WhirledView
As I read Peter Pomerantsev's recent book The Surreal Heart of the New Russia: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: the Surreal Heart of the New Russia about his nine years as a producer of documentaries for Russian television after the end of the Cold War, I thought back on my own experiences in the country and wondered how much had actually changed. Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2015 at WhirledView
In October 1926 Philip Arnold Heseltine, composing under the nom de plume of Peter Warlock, wrote a set of six dances called "Capriol" based – likely loosely - on Renaissance dances from Thoinot Arbeau’s Orchesographie, a manual of Renaissance tunes also published the same year. Drawn to the study of Renaissance music himself as well as much drink and sex, Heseltine’s own life was certainly as bawdy and out of control as “Matachins” (The Sword Dance)” but perhaps also at times as soothing and smooth as “Pavane” and “Pieds en l’air.” Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2014 at WhirledView
By Patricia H Kushlis It’s been nearly four months since we asked the State Department to grant open and public access to its statistics - broken down by gender and race - regarding promotions in the Foreign Service in “What's... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2014 at WhirledView
By Patricia H Kushlis CALAIS-ISTANBUL: All Aboard! I have long been an Agatha Christie fan, especially of her murder mysteries set in the Middle East. The Murder on the Orient Express, of course, is the classic - but rumors to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at WhirledView
It must be very difficult to be a Russian public diplomacy officer working for the Kremlin's master chef these days. No I don’t mean a propagandist or a disinformation specialist – those officials are clearly having a field day thinking up and then propagating all sorts of wild fabrications. But public diplomacy is about government officials connecting with the people of another country in order to gain influence or at least understanding. To do so effectively means gaining trust – and trust comes from truth telling, not lying. Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2014 at WhirledView
I spent November 4 working as an election official at a precinct in a nearby Pueblo. the turnout was high, far higher than for the state and the nation as a whole, over 50% versus a statewide 37% and an even more dismal national average of 34%. What’s more, the precinct was heavily Democratic, and Democrats didn’t do themselves proud on turnout this year. So what made the difference? Why was the pueblo vote so high, and just how did these Native Americans vote? Did these registered Democrats desert the party? More important: what lessons can be learned that might be useful for the future? Anything here that could be implemented elsewhere? Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2014 at WhirledView
The Wall may have fallen in a matter of hours and shocked US Embassy officials and others in East Berlin and elsewhere - but the events and factors leading up to it had already been set in motion months, if not years before. Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2014 at WhirledView
Whether the “Hunt for Black October” as the most recent Russian submarine fiasco has been dubbed by FP turns out to resemble the comedic “Whiskey on the Rocks” episode or the Kursk’s tragic outcome remains to be seen. The best thing the Russians could do - if this is more than ahem, a chimera - is fess up, ask for assistance, take the crew and baby submarine home and leave a neutral neighbor’s territorial rocks and waters alone. Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2014 at WhirledView
They are an ethnic minority here. They don’t speak the local language. Once members of a proud empire, the demise of that great state has left them on the wrong side of the border. They want to redress this error, and their former nation has taken keen interest. This neighbor is led by a demagogue who won’t stop at anything to see them reconnected with his great nation. No one would be surprised if this were a description of the Russian separatist movements in Ukraine, backed by Vladimir Putin. In fact it’s a reference to the Sudetenland in 1938. The ethnic minority spoke German, wanted to separate from Czechoslovakia, and their champion was Adolph Hitler. Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2014 at WhirledView
The good news is that the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy has seemingly risen from the ashes – or more accurately been wrested from the clutches of a member of the US Congress who refused to vote for the pittance required to keep this small Commission afloat. The better news is that the resurrected Commission has begun to fulfill its mandate. . . .In short, "Data Driven Public Diplomacy" is a good report but future ones could be better. In the meantime, I hope that the renewed US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy is allowed to function as it should despite entrenched bureaucratic entities lined up against it and a polarized Congress. An independent authoritative voice on US public diplomacy is very much needed in these turbulent times. Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2014 at WhirledView
Jim Thompson himself, though, was a mystery and that contributes to questions surrounding his disappearance. Joshua Kurlantzick’s The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War (Johnathan Wiley and Sons, 2011) tries hard to solve that mystery but in the end the trail runs cold. The only thing we’re pretty sure of is that Thompson had a number of enemies as well as friends, was likely not eaten by wild tigers or other four legged predators then inhabiting the Cameron Highlands, did not commit suicide and would not have taken a fatal misstep and slipped into some ravine. Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2014 at WhirledView
The major reason I decided to embark upon Freedman’s journey – and see it through to the end – was because the term strategy (or lack thereof) has become one of those words that are tossed around all too easily by people complaining that so and so or such and such organization has no strategy. But they then fail to define what they mean or they give it such a rigid, outdated meaning that they, in essence, render the term useless. Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at WhirledView
The so-called “Finnish model” that has been proposed is a solution that belongs to the past and does not solve the crisis in Ukrainian-Russian relations. Ukraine can build good relations with Russia. All that is needed is for Russia to accept proposals put recently forward by the Ukrainian leadership. This too would be in Russia’s interest. Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2014 at WhirledView
This past summer, the State Department claimed that it publicly released its aggregate promotion data for 2013 in The State Department Magazine, its trade magazine. There is just one problem: the statistics on diversity and gender were, as usual, missing. I noted this in two different posts this summer: one on discrimination against Hispanics in the Foreign Service and an earlier one on continuing gender inequality. . . . Doesn’t a law exist that mandates all federal agencies to collect and publicly release such data annually? If so, how can State consistently fail to comply - not once, not twice - but for years? Or am I wrong? Could it have some kind of special secret dispensation from the requirement? And if so why? In short, what is State hiding behind the Great Diversity Firewall? And why doesn't the administration and Congress demand accountability for a change? Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2014 at WhirledView
By James Schumaker, Guest Contributor James Schumaker, a retired Foreign Service Officer, has served in various capacities in the United States Government over the past several decades, with professional experience in the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2014 at WhirledView
In reality Novorossiya is a fuzzy concept, but at root it is based on the premise that irredentism is just fine as long as it’s my country that’s being the irredentist. Which means: the term Novorossiya has far reaching and dangerous consequences for international peace and stability. Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2014 at WhirledView
I don't agree with everything Ambassador McFaul says in his recent New York Times op-ed, but I do believe he is on the right track. . . .I also see that a lot of the featured commenters on his Op-ed are swallowing whole the Russian line that somehow Eastern Ukraine is naturally Russian because a majority there speaks Russian, and that Ukraine is not really one country but two. The fact is that while a minority of Eastern Ukrainians would like to move closer to Russia, a majority are for a united Ukraine, and favor closer connections with the West. Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2014 at WhirledView