Natalia Tymoshenko

Interview with Mrs. Natalia Tymoshenko. By Bonnie Klap, Editor in Chief. Mrs. Natalia Tymoshenko, the wife  of the Ambassador of Ukraine, is a brave lady. Although she has broken her leg,  she insists we proceed with  the interview and warmly welcomes me in her residence, sitting on the couch with her leg in a cast. She is ready for her first question. 1). Tell us a bit about your background, such as education, profession and family. “ I come from a family of doctors. My mother and all the relatives from my mother’s side were doctors, as was my father. He was also Member of the Medical Academy, not only in the former USSR, but in  several European countries as well, such as Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary. However, I never saw myself as a doctor and I believe it is always important to do what you want and what you are good at. So I graduated from the National University in Kiev, holding my Masters in Russian language and literature and after a few years I obtained my PhD in Russian language. I have worked as a Professor of Russian language twice  in Austria and for more than 10 years I worked as an Assistant Professor at the Institute of International Relations and International Law, which is where I met Olexander, my husband, who was the Professor of International Relations there. I have  always followed  my husband to his postings: USA, Canada, Singapore and now here in The Netherlands. I have published more than 60 articles, as well as  three books, mostly on Diplomatic Protocol and etiquette and have also participated in radio and TV shows. As for our family, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year and both our children live with us here in The Netherlands. Natalia studies Economy and Finance at the University of Amsterdam and our son Alex goes to school  in The Hague. They are both happy here. Natalia worked as a volunteer in an animal shelter and Alex participated in several charity runs.” 2). You have  now lived in The Netherlands for  several years. Can you share an anecdote with us? Did you experience anything funny, or strange, or unexpected or very original? “ We are very happy to live here. It is a great country with a rich history, culture and friendly people. I find that there is a very small distance between the various  levels of  Dutch society. For instance, we have met Mr. Rutte, Prime Minister of The Netherlands, who was accompanied by only one person. How different that is from  many other countries! My husband greeted Mr. Rutte and they started to discuss some business. It was as simple as that. I think that was quite extraordinary.  Also I can see that the people here enjoy their life, at the sea, in the café, they know how to cherish life. I love and admire their sense of well-being, which they call ‘gezellig.’” 3). What can you tell us  about the cultural aspects of Ukraine, such as archtitecture, music etc.? “ Ukraine was populated many centuries BC. It was known by ancient Greeks and Romans and there are still remnants of their settlements here. In our museums we have a great collection of Scythian art, specifically Scythian gold. As for music, Ukraine is well known for its folk songs, classical and pop music. Our language is very melodic. The famous writer Nikolai Gogol was born in Ukraine and the great composer Petr Tchaikovsky was a descendant of the famous Ukrainian Cossack family Tchaika. Regarding architecture, I can mention the Odessa Opera House and the wooden churches in Western Ukraine and certainly the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, which is on the UNESCO Heritage List, but then again, we could talk for days about Ukrainian culture.”  

The history of Herring

By Bonnie Klap, Editor in Chief. During the last couple of weeks a number of Herringparties  were held across the country. Varying in scale, venue, prestige and number of guests, the average  Herringparty in The Netherlands serves two purposes: Sampling the new herring and socializing in a sophisticated manner, with ladies wearing hats and the guests sipping champagne. Perhaps unknown to non-Dutch nationals, attending a Herring Party does not mean tilting one’s head backward and more or less slurping up the herring. Granted, this is the way it is generally eaten by the Dutch, but at the Herring parties the fish is usually served in a more elegant way, neatly cut up in small pieces and served up with chopped, raw onions. However, as already mentioned, attending a Herringparty is as much about meeting interesting people as it is about eating herring and most would argue the former is paramount. The Dutch  have been eating raw herring for hundreds of years and to understand this  Dutch tradition we have to go back in time, to the Middle Ages to be exact, which is when the Dutch herring fisheries  were Europe’s  largest fishery with the fishermen operating sophisticated vessels and immediately processing the catch on board. This was done by soaking the herring in a  salt solution, called brine. This process, which was developed by the Dutch, enabled them to market and sell the herring all over Europe, earning them a strong reputation as fishermen. Herring is caught in the North Sea  between the end of May and the beginning of July. Although the rather slippery, raw fish may not appeal to most foreigners, much can be said in favor of its health-benefits, as herring contains a substantial amount of the healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Still not convinced to try this Dutch delicacy? Then at least do attend one of the many Herring parties held across the Netherlands, if not to eat herring, then to meet some interesting and distinguished people.

Guatemala & Mayan Civilisation

                        By Roy Lie, Editor. Guatemala – Cradle of the Ancient Mayan Civilisation His Excellency, Jorge Lemcke, arrived in The Hague in September 2012. Like all new ambassadors, he subsequently presented his credentials to H.M. Queen Beatrix. Ambassador Lemcke Arevalo, deems it a pity that protocol does not allow photographs to be taken whilst credentials are presented to the king or queen as it would be an impressive occasion to capture. Ambassador Lemcke Arevalo said that it was a wonderful ceremony and a warm welcome to the Netherlands. Ambassador Lemcke Arevalo speaks highly of his native Guatemala. He will focus on the promotion of Guatemala as the top priority during his tenure. Guatemala in the export market Guatemala is already very active in the Central American-western Caribbean region and the rest of Latin America. The market is now talking to European and other potential worldwide investors. Guatemala was the first country in Central America with a free trade zone and has been a member of the Central AmericaCommonwealth since the Commonwealth’s foundation on 13 December 1960 of which the original five member states were Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The Commonwealth’s exports are primarily to the US, Mexico, Central America and Europe. Current agricultural products exported from Guatemala include palm oil, sugar, coffee, fresh fruit and vegetables. The flower sector is thriving and Guatemala is known for its export of Phalaenopsis Orchids, a family of Orchids of more than 60 species and the most common kind of orchid on the flower market. Tourism currently generates around 13% of the country’s GDP. Popular destinations in the country include: the magnificent Mayan ruins, where one of the five ancient world civilisations was established; the tranquil turquoise waters of the Caribbean and the thrilling adventure of the Pacific Ocean; historical Antigua, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; the grandeur of Lake Atitlan, surrounded by three majestic volcanoes; and other incomparable destinations, including Guatemala’s rain-forest. Guatemala and other key economic sectors Beyond export and tourism, Guatemala’s hydro power plants provide 30% of the nation’s electricity with a potential of 20 times more output. The government is striving to increase this to 70% in the future. Sugar cane residue used for bio-mass also makes a moderate energy contribution. The clothing industry is also flourishing, with the US being a major customer. The textile cluster of Guatemala hosts a well-attended annual trade show, which is well regarded in the region, known as the Apparel Sourcing Show. The world famous Zacapa Rum, a digestive, is a number one export product. It is currently exported via a European distributor. According to the National Statistics Institute of Guatemala the country’s current unemployment rate is at 3.2%. However, this statistic does not take informal employment into account. Due to the country’s sophisticated communications network, several international call centers have branches in Guatemala, providing key employment across the nation. Health and wellness tourism is another important economical segment in the services sector, attracting many visitors to the country. However, the development of existing infrastructure is needed to provide the transportation sector with a further boost. The high level of cooperation and solidarity in the Central American region is notable. There is a healthy level of inter dependence of which the respective sovereign states are very much aware and are acting to improve. The Tegucigalpa Protocol of 13 December 1991 agreed the need to jointly address regional challenges. The governments of Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicargua and Panama, signed the Protocol Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (Central American Integration System, SICA) in 1991. This protocol aims to consolidate peace, liberty, democracy and development in the region, the fundamental objectives of SICA. The Dominican Republic and Belize have more recently gained access to SICA. Around 30% of the Central American population lives in Guatemala. There is currently a border, island and continental waters dispute between Guatemala and Belize.  However, a referendum is set to be held in both countries in the very near future, after which it will be decided whether to take the matter to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The Organisation of American States (OAS) will facilitate the process. Nature and natural resources of Guatemala Guatemala has around 30 dormant volcanoes and 3 active ones. It is a real spectacle to observe the rumbling volcanoes from the capital, Guatemala City. Guatemala has an ideal climate with lush and fertile land and can be visited during any time of the year during the country’s two seasons: from May to October it is the rainy season, and from November to April the dry season. The wealth of natural resources in Guatemala includes crude oil, gold, nickel, silver and copper and important reserves of non-metallic minerals such as limestone, schist and clay. Important investments in this sector are concentrating on extracting oil and precious metals and producing portland cement, lime and other important construction materials. Guatemala’s culinary patrimony Guatemalan dishes include the famous Guatemalan tamales, black bean stews, and high cuisine mainly using turkey, pork, and chicken. Unfortunately there are currently no Guatemalan restaurants in the Netherlands. More about the Ambassador His Excellency Ambassador Jorge Alfredo Lemcke Arévalo, is a chemical engineer by profession. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration, previously having worked in the construction sector before joining the diplomatic service. Jorge Alfredo Lemcke Arévalo loves sports and is a former basketball and volleyball player, having also tried his hand at tennis as well as recently taking up cycling and walking. As for arts, he enjoys playing the organ and keyboard. Ambassador Jorge Alfredo Lemcke Arévalo hopes that his legacy will be to see an eventual court case at the ICJ achieving a solution to the long border dispute between Guatemala and Belize. As well as taking his beloved Guatemala to higher heights in the world. Guatemala, the land of eternal spring and cradle of one of the five ancient civilizations, welcomes investors, the enjoyment of her natural resources, agriculture and tourism, as well as visitors to the country’s amazing Mayan heritage, ruins and temples.

Diplomacy and its practice, Public Diplomacy and National Branding

 By Dr. Luis Ritto. Former EU Ambassador to the Holy See and the Order of Malta and former EU Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organisations. Emeritus Professor at the International School of Protocol & Diplomacy in Brussels and expert on diplomacy, diplomatic protocol and world affairs. « Successful diplomacy is an alignment of objectives and means”, Dennis Ross (American politician and diplomat). In my previous articles about this same subject of diplomacy (, I explained how it has evolved and how it has became more open and transparent with time. And I also said that there is no diplomacy without power, although diplomacy tends to be generally associated with soft power . Today, I am going to write about two subjects that, I hope, will serve as examples of soft power and how diplomacy has become more open in the last one hundred years or so: public diplomacy and nation branding (or country branding, as some scholars also call it). At the beginning, diplomacy was the instrument used by governments to implement their foreign policies and strategies. It was carried out in all discretion by government officials, mainly from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and by diplomats. The people, the general public or the citizens of nations, knew little or nothing about what diplomats discussed and negotiated on behalf of their countries. And this is still today the traditional understanding of diplomacy in many parts of the world. But, as from the end of the First World War (1914-1918), diplomacy started to be less secretive and more open. US President Woodrow Wilson, who travelled to Paris to sign the First World War armistice agreement in Versailles (in June 1919), said more or less the following to his European allies: “diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view”. And this is what really started to happen as from that date especially with the spread of democracy in the world. The United Nations considers the 20th century “the century of democracy” because democracy spread in that century to all parts of the world. In fact, the 20th century transformed the political, social and economic structures of the world in ways no one could have imagined before. According to UN figures, electoral democracies now represent 120 of the 196 existing world countries and constitute more than 58 percent of the globe’s population. And with democracy, relations between countries also changed. In democracy, which means government by the people, citizens are engaged in their country’s political process, people are sovereign and form the highest form of political authority with the result that governments are based on the consent of the governed. Besides, democracy brought transparency and accountancy with it. And in more open and transparent systems, governments are required to have their foreign policies discussed and approved by parliaments and then carried out in practice not only by professional diplomats, but also by other people and organisations— like for example, non-governmental organisations (or NGOs), trade organisations, cultural bodies, scientific committees, media organisations, sports groups and so forth. This is how public diplomacy was born in fact, a rather new tool used mainly by democratic nations to help put in place their foreign policies by using communication tools intended primarily to inform and influence foreign citizens and their opinion leaders. Diplomacy is essentially about communication and image. Public diplomacy fits well into this definition. Public diplomacy changed the traditional understanding of diplomacy based on the relationship between states and state organisations carried out by government officials and diplomats, to a diplomacy that attempts also to reach foreign publics and their public opinions. This is generally carried out by embassies in foreign countries— in other words, by official diplomats— and also by other organisations, such as non-state actors, cultural organisations, academic institutions, etc. in a joint attempt to use several tools at the same time to pass necessary information to other nations. In practice, public diplomacy includes programmes for international audiences, such as broadcasting and information activities, cultural productions, scientific programmes, educational exchange programmes for scholars and students, visitor programmes, books and literature, conferences and seminars and language training.L.Ritto In recent decades, public diplomacy has become increasingly central to the practice of diplomacy. The need for public diplomacy in modern times is obvious. In the era of globalisation, where communication is easy and reaches foreign publics in record times (the so-called democratisation of information), states must pay attention to public opinion in other states. Experience with the use of this new tool of soft power has shown that public diplomacy must not be based on propaganda, but on the honest and objective dissemination of information and values. In other words: it must have credibility! In fact, diplomatic communication to be effective must not misrepresent the truth and must be made in such a way that governments and citizens of other countries feel that the interaction is respectful and positive. Besides, public diplomacy to be successful needs to be viewed in a long-term perspective that requires working through the exchange of people and ideas in order to build trust, understanding and lasting relationships. In reality, public diplomacy is also about building relationships: understanding the needs of other countries, cultures and peoples; correcting misperceptions; looking for areas of common cause; and communicating points of view. Trust is essential for effective public diplomacy and trust usually can only be built on the basis of long and trusted relationships. Besides, this is the most effective way of communicating positive messages and fostering good relations with other countries. Examples or cases of best practices in public diplomacy have often been given as being the following: Alliance Française; the Fulbright programme of the US; the Goethe Institute of Germany; the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET); and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung Foundation of Germany. The United Kingdom has some of the most effective and envied public diplomacy institutions in the world: the BBC World Service; the British Council; its excellent network of universities; and the programme called “Invest UK”, which has consistently been able to draw over the years higher levels of inward investment in the UK than any other EU country. British institutions are engaged in public diplomacy in almost every country of the world. In recent times, the increased interest in public diplomacy has led to developments in other fields, such as marketing and nation branding, which are now also part of diplomacy. In many Western countries— and this is particularly the case of EU nations— public diplomacy is considered an essential foreign relations tool and not as an add-on to the rest of diplomacy, as it was the case in the beginning. It is therefore a central activity which is played out across many dimensions (political, cultural, economic and scientific) and with many partners. In what concerns “nation branding” it is, simply put, the use of branding techniques by countries in an effort (a) to improve and enhance their overall image and (b) to position themselves in terms of their investment potential, credit worthiness, export opportunities, tourism potential and relations with other states. It is also a sort of image management. Nation branding has been especially important for small countries with limited diplomatic resources (Andorra, Monaco, Singapore, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Slovenia….), although large countries like India, the US and Canada have also been using it with success. Scholars, like for instance Professor Evan Potter of the University of Ottawa in Canada, consider nation brands as one of the best forms of soft power. For him, when governments support national brands at any level (directly or indirectly), they become in essence public diplomacy (1). In fact, many countries use nation branding as one of their main tools of public diplomacy and even consider it an integral part of their public diplomacy efforts, through which foreign nations and people can be reached more easily. Some experts also consider nation branding as the economic dimension of public diplomacy or as the public dimension of economic diplomacy (2). One of the great achievements of nation branding has been to revitalise the promotion of countries and to make public diplomacy more strategic. Many countries have been able to prove their relevance by using nation branding together with public diplomacy. Other benefits of adopting a branding-oriented approach to public diplomacy have been:
  • To better visualise public diplomacy;
  • To bring creativity in reaching out to foreign publics;
  • To increase the competitiveness of nations in a globalised world;
  • To improve communication skills of nations aimed at foreign audiences;
  • As nation branding targets a wider audience than public diplomacy, it widens the number of people it can reach;
  • And as nation branding is more results-oriented than public diplomacy alone, it generally translates into more dynamism and more tangible results (2).
A commonly cited success story of public diplomacy coupled with nation branding is the one of Norway. Norway is a small European country of under 5 million people. It is not a member of the European Union, Norwegian is not an international language and the country is not a main tourist destination. It is located in the northern part of Europe far from hub countries like Belgium and the Netherlands. Yet, Norway has a voice and an important presence on the international stage out of proportion to its size and modest position. It has achieved this presence through the aggressive pursuit of niche public diplomacy together with a good prioritisation of its target audiences. It concentrated on a single message— Norway as a force for peace in the world— and on improving the effect of two negative images: lack of influence in Europe (through non-EU status) and its attachment to whaling. It has worked so well that Norway has today international visibility around the issue of peace and conflict prevention which is very beneficial to the country. The reputation of Norway in conflict resolution ensures that it is regarded as relevant in multilateral forums and other important international players, thus affording it influence on this issue. And this strategy was developed with a limited budget and based on the geographical concentration of its public diplomacy activities on just six relationships: the USA, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. But it is not only Norway that has been successful in jointly using public diplomacy and branding techniques to market their countries. A brand identity is based on the strength of delivering a quality product over time: the USA for freedom and investments; Switzerland for tourism and banking; Italy for food and fashion…. Everybody remembers certainly the brand campaign of India called “Incredible India”, which has led to a different image of that country which saw with it its tourism increase substantially. Other popular branding slogans are: Malaysia: Truly Asia; Dubai: The Jewel in the Desert; Uniquely Singapore; Amazing Thailand; and Sri Lanka: The Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Soft power experts like this spread of branding strategies, they believe that they are contributing to a better world, to a world that is better known by a great number of countries and citizens. Let us hope they are right and that these soft strategies will contribute effectively in the long term to a better world! (1). Potter, Evan, “Branding Canada: Projecting Canada’s Soft Power through Public Diplomacy” (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal/Kingston, 2009). (2). Szondi, Gyorgy, “Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding: Conceptual Similarities and Differences” (Netherlands Institute of International Relations, October 2008). Sources: Nye, Joseph, “Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power” (New York: Basic Books, 1990). Nye, Joseph, “Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics” (New York: Public Affairs, 2004). Olins, Wally, “Branding the Nation-The Historical Context”, Journal of Brand Management (2002). Risen, Clay, “Branding Nations”, New York Times (Dec. 11, 2005). Dinnie, K. “Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues and Practice” (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2008).              

Parting Ambassadors receive Certificate of Merit

The parting Ambassadors of Georgia, Honduras and Panama were the first recipients of the Certificate of Merit. The Certificate of Merit is an  initiative of the Diplomat Magazine awarded to parting Ambassadors in recognition of their outstanding contribution in enhancing the bilateral ties between their countries and The Kingdom of the Netherlands and in gratitude for their support of the Diplomatic Community and Diplomat Magazine. 20140620_9458.OK Ambassador José Manuel Téran Sittón of Panama,  Ambassador Mauricio Ricardo Aguilar Robles of Honduras  and Ambassador Shota Gvineria of Georgia  received their certificates at a private ceremony at the Carlton Ambassador Hotel last Friday 20 June, 2014.  The second group of parting Head of diplomatic Missions will receive the Certificate of Merit in July at Carlton Ambassador. The certificates were designed with a background image of the coat of arms from the traditional Stokbroekx family. Mr. Marc Stokbroekx, currently CEO for Diplomatic Card, attended the ceremony and offered a historical description of the coat of arms. Diplomat Magazine will be officially presenting this special recognition to ambassadors before leaving the Netherlands. 20140620_9438,OK Description coat of arms Stokbroekx family. The coat of arms of the Stockbroekx family finds its origin in the combination of the symbols of duke of von Heinsberg and duchesse van Loon, two aristocratic families in 1400. On the left we see a pattern of red and gold stripes which symbolizes the duchesse of the van Loon family. On the right we see a white lion on a red background symbolizing the duke of the von Heinsberg family. Across the two parts there is a blue beam which is known as the symbol of the “recognised bastard stripe”. This indicates that the descendant Johan van Stokbroekx born in 1442 of the von Heinsberg-van Loon county was born out of a danish marriage. This second kind of marriage next to the official one was permitted by the church in order to give the opportunity to aristocratic members to marry out of love. Although it gave no rights to the descendants  of such a marriage. Besides Johan van Stokbroekx also Lennart van Stokbroekx was born from this danish marriage. So their parents could give their two sons the privilege to wear the coat of arms of both their families in one coat of arm. As the descendants had no rights althus also no right to wear the name of their father, the parents  had to give them an new name which became “Stokbroekx”. 20140620_9519 This name was linked to the area which was given to their son Johan van Stokbroekx. So the name consists of two parts of which “stock” stands for property and “broek” for swamp, referring to the area which was given by the father, the duke of von Heinsberg, where Johan van Stokbroekx lived. With the stok (stick) in the old ages people indicated their property. So Johan van  Stokbroekx owned this area where there were a lot of swamps. This area is also known under the name of Kessenich in Limbourg close to the three country point of Belgium, Holland and Germany. Since his parents were both aristocrats and Johan van Stokbroekx was a recognised bastard, all his descendants have aristocratic roots and are referred to as root aristocracy.
Coat of Arms Stockbroekx family
  Hendrik Stockbroekx who moved in the beginning of the 20th century from Kessenich to Antwerp, is one of the direct descendants of Johan van Stokbroekx. As oldest grandson of the Antwerp branch of the Stockbroekx family,  Marc Jozef Hendrik Stockbroekx is wearing the signet ring with the coat of arms of the family in it which he herited from his father Emmanuël Stockbroekx who was the eldest son of Hendrik Stockbroekx of the Antwerp branch. The signet ring has been in the family for generations and is passed on from father to son. One day he will pass the ring on to his oldest son who will keep the tradition alive. Here below, the coat of arms of the Stokbroekx family, which is serving as background image in the Certificate of Merit dedicated since now on to every parting ambassador.   A long history in the tax-free business The Stockbroekx family has already a long history in the tax-free business. It all started with Marc Stockbroekx’s grandfather Hendrik Stockbroekx who decided to move from Kessenich to Antwerp in the 1920s and to marry Martha Daeseleire the only daughter of an old  and well known Antwerp family. The couple was very entrepreneurial and they started up various businesses. One was the delivery of tax-free goods to vessels in the port of Antwerp. At that time the family already had good international relations among others with Spanish and Greek families who were also active in the maritime business. With the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in 1961 a whole new market emerged. The family decided to focus on this niche market by supplying tax-free goods to diplomats. Today Marc Stockbroekx , who is the third generation that is active in the tax-free business, continues in this niche market. At its helm, the company was modernized and he brought the company into the 21st century by launching an electronic Diplomat Card automating and digitalizing the procedures for diplomats by means of a postpaid Fuel card and VAT free card which were invented by Marc Stockbroekx. It was then decided to reinforce the relations with the Greek family Arvanitis. Manolis Arvanitis, the oldest son of the family, who has also been active in the tax-free business for many years, was invited to become the General Manager of the company Diplomatic Card. Marc and Manolis form the axe of the development of the company now.20140620_9444.OK 20140620_9412-Edit20140620_9484.OK
Certificate of Merit – Ceremony of Merit- Farewell ceremony

Albania and its European perspective: June 2014 decision on Candidate Status

By Dr. Zemaida Kastrati Mozali, Expert, International Relations & European Union For the second time already, the European Commission recommended granting EU Candidate Status for Albania. The idea was not only to recognize the progress in particular on the areas of justice, the fight against corruption and organized crime and the reforms made by the previous government, but also to encourage the new government to show more results in fulfilling the European criteria for candidate status and pursuing with ongoing reforms. The first time was last December and there was some hope to have a positive decision of European Council to finally open another “door” for Albania towards the European Union. There was also some hope, considering a common idea that “when Commission proposes, Council disposes”, meaning that only in extreme cases Council might go against the recommendation of Commission. But, five European countries voted against it, which does not mean a simple veto, but kind of “some” countries veto, or kind of “common” decision. After this “No” decision of the Council, there were different opinions and interpretations. Some comments related to “Euroscepticism”, “Eurosceptics”, crisis of Europe, in&out-problems of Europe and the “lack of appetite’ for new countries. Some others referred to the “fear from migration”, or “discriminatory Europe”, meaning different behaviors and standards v.i.s. different countries who aspire for EU membership. Finally, the moment arrived when the European Council agreed upon the candidate status of Albania. At the end of June, all EU ministers voted to grant this very long-awaited status. Since its establishment, the European Union has passed through challenges and in many cases has overcome them, becoming therefore even stronger. The increasing number of states, the different problems, economic crisis and recently surprising results of the elections, have changed very much the context(es), and as result the stand v.i.s. the aspiring countries, including Albania. The criteria, the standards, the requirements coming from EU for the “newcomers” seem to be seen by a different loupe, compared for example to the ones used for Bulgaria or Rumania.[1]The Copenhagen criteria are the same, but in every case/evaluation/recognition there might be space for subjectivism regarding conditions that the EU establishes for the candidate countries to fulfill before entering the EU. In certain cases, EU continues to be dominated by national interests, mostly those of old member states which are the biggest contributors within the Community, but not only. The case of Check and CEZ was a clear indicator to illustrate. [2] Albania has made a long way and progress since 1992, the time when it has signed the first agreement with EU. And it was the first country in the Balkan to start formal relations with European Union. For sure, Albanian democratic transition has not been easy and one might even doubt if this transition has already finished. Substantial reforms have been needed, have been undertaken and the European Union has recognized them. Last year, Albania received a list of 12 key priorities to be worked on. The peaceful transition of the government, after the general elections was considered as maturity for the Albanian political class.Dr. kastrati Mozali 2 The Economic situation in Albania, described by GDP per capita, ranks it among the poorest countries in Europe, at almost a third of the EU 28, referring to the latest Eurostat data. And this is only one indicator. “Corruption, nepotism and organized crime are a burden on the democratization process.” These are some problems, according to Mr. Hellmut Hoffman, the German Ambassador in Albania. Referring to the same source of information, “The implementation of the rule of law is the key. Also, the recommendation of European Commission was that “Albania still needs to meet key priorities, with particular focus on administration and judiciary reform, fight against corruption and organized crime”. [3] There have been some cases of investigation and even denouncing against corruption. But, these remain separate and not properly serving as models for education of our population with anti corruption standards, including here politicians. So, fight against corruption seems far from needed standards to comply with EU requirements. Yes, it is the Balkan syndrome; it is something that exists and which cannot be changed overnight. But the measures should be taken accordingly and strongly. “If you can reform, you should go for revolution”, a colleague of mine, used to say. The political situation in Albania is characterized by a total lack of dialogue. The promises and commitments to a sustainable and constructive political dialogue, which is vital for the sustainability of the reform process, seem to be rhetoric. No agreement has been achieved so far among main political parties, even in cases when it is absolutely needed. The steps Albania has to undertake have to be decisive and cover not only the key priorities and recommendations of the European Council, but it has to undertake a real “battle” on the long road towards European Union. It has to cover the approximation of legislation and implementation of laws, it has to strengthen the culture of punishment, it has to consider and apply the non discrimination policy and it has to find concrete solution to the rights of property. Albania has to make the proper reform of the administration, by enhancing the professionalism, by hiring persons not because of political affiliation, but based on the real meritocracy. And the “to-do List” Albania has to go through seems to be very long, to produce verifiable results and convince European Union countries that we Albanians are and will be European, not simply in geographical terms, not simply because of European origin, not only because the history has been unjust with us and we are struggling to correct it, not only considering the geostrategic situation(s)[4] and because it is in the interest of Europe itself to become stronger and more consolidated, by widening and deepening at the same time, but because we deserve to be members of European Union. We have to get the real understanding of the candidate status, of the real economic benefits which are strongly related to the political credit and improvement of the image. To be more precise, now is the time we have to work even harder to attract the attention of  FDI (Foreign Direct Investments), to continue promote our natural resources, to facilitate the procedures of investing here, to settle the problems with the properties, in order to produce as many jobs as possible. This could and would be a real economic benefit for Albania. Two things have not changed in these years of transition in Albania: 1. Despite the lack of political dialogue (lack of maturity), there has always been consensus when it comes to European integration; for every government in place, the main priority has been European perspective and so far, this has been accompanied by the popular support; 2. The support of population or the so-called Euro-optimism has been very strong for long time. But, this has not remained the same, showing a decrease of it into 77.1% compared to 85% in 2013. [5] For Albania it is very important to show up as an added value for European Union, as a country that is moving forward in the European perspective; at the same time, Europe has to continue to show up its positivity as the Albania’s natural “home/house” as well as Albania’s final destination.

[1] Immigration from these two countries seems to be more problematic compared to the one from Albania.
[2] Prague was ready to block Albania’s EU alignment over ČEZ dispute Read more:
[3] Deutsche Welle,
[4] The Ucraine is a strong case European Union has to consider in order to “open the door” to the countries that aspire the integration into EU.
[5] AIIS, Albanian Institute for International Studies,

Jasper Krabbé X Tropenmuseum = Soulmade

What happens when artist Jasper Krabbé immerses himself in the Tropenmuseum’s depositories and is given a free hand to make an exhibition? What does the Tropenmuseum’s collection look like through Krabbé’s eyes? And how does this unique encounter inspire him and museum visitors? From 13 September 2014 to 25 January 2015 Krabbé will transform the Tropenmuseum into his ideal house with influences from all corners of the globe. With around 1000 objects in the Soulmade. Jasper Krabbé X Tropenmuseum exhibition, Krabbé creates nine ensembles with his own new work as the focal point. The result is a diversity of objects. At first sight they seem to have nothing to do with each other but with Krabbé’s help you can see similarities. The objects and Krabbé thus become soulmates. Visual artist Jasper Krabbé (1970) roamed around the Tropenmuseum’s depositories several times. Past the magic staffs from Sumatra, carnival costumes from Bolivia, hairdressers’ signboards from West Africa and cassava graters from Suriname. An exhibition has emanated from this special experience that presents the encounter between a Dutch contemporary artist and the work of mainly unknown makers of the objects from the museum collection. Moved by the wide diversity and vitality of the collection items, Krabbé made a selection based on intuition, recognition, colour, shape and material. Personal story By placing the items from the collection side by side with his own work Krabbé creates ensembles which give a new, personal perspective to both his own work and the museum collection. He shares this view with the public in a very personal way: he invites the visitor into his ideal house. A house with nine rooms each with its own ensemble. You walk through the Hallway full of textiles and erotic prints from China, through the Smoking Room with smokers’ requisites and Indonesian portraits, and through the dark Bedroom with cupboards and Batak priest’ books from Sumatra. In each room amazing new connections are made between artists, materials and shapes, and emotions and inspiration. The Soulmade. Jasper Krabbé X Tropenmuseum exhibition gives an extremely personal view of Krabbé’s inspiration originating from the Tropenmuseum’s ethnographical collection and displays their affinity. Combined with his own work Jasper Krabbé was given the challenge of letting the Tropenmuseum’s collection inspire him to produce something new in combination with his own work. Krabbé studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and the Cooper Union in New York. Since then he has exhibited all over the world, from Brazil to Italy and from Sweden to the United States. Memories in particular feature in his work and are a huge source of inspiration.

Bertha von Suttner and The Hague

Speech by Mr. Steven van Hoogstraten LLM about Bertha von Suttner and The Hague, on 21 June 2014, Harmannsdorf (Austria)
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen On the occasion of the centenary of her death, I am truly honoured to be allowed to speak today about the baroness of peace Bertha von Suttner. More particularly about the time she spent in The Hague on the occasion of the peace conferences. You are perhaps aware of the fact that Bertha von Suttner kept a diary about her experiences during the First Peace Conference in The Hague in 1899. This diary – intended for publication from the start – gives a detailed account of all her activities, the places she visited, the people she talked to, of her worries and afflictions. [i] No diary of her was issued about the conference of 1907, but the relevant contributions of Bertha to the public debate in 1907 can be found in the so-called “Courrier de la Conférence”. Issued on an almost daily basis, this paper, edited by British journalist William Stead, exclusively dealt with the events in and surrounding the peace conference. In this speech I do not wish to primarily talk about Bertha von Suttner’s fame as an apostle of peace but about the political environment of her work and on how she experienced it. I therefore cannot escape the image that Bertha von Suttner had to work in a difficult climate, that in many countries there were major military sympathies versus a limited number of fighters for international peace. Nor can I bypass the observation that the peace efforts never resulted in curbing armament, at least not at the time. However, an international arbitration tribunal was established, and it still is as relevant as ever. The peace conferences of The Hague were definitely trail-blazing in that respect Ladies and Gentlemen On 21 June 1899, while the Peace Conference has been underway for 5 weeks, Bertha von Suttner writes that she is quite disappointed about the press in Germany. The press ridicules the peace initiatives, which bothers her. The Berliner Post published an article about the British proposal to establish a Court of Arbitration. She is annoyed by this article because it doubts the sincerity of the United Kingdom’s will for peace. This German newspaper says that England “behind a mask of peacefulness and humanity wishes to establish a Court in The Hague, … enabling England to interfere in all issues in a way which could be detrimental to its main rivals on the continent and which could set them up against each other.” In her diary Bertha von Suttner continues “So this is the level of political cowardice, generally thought to be political wisdom. It does not matter that the intention of which the nation is accused is logically unfounded, and practically impossible to carry out (because England is only one of the 20 powers): it is a matter of course to come up with angry insinuations if someone else seems to be willing to do good…”Steven van Hoogstraten Also elsewhere the worries and disappointment of Bertha von Suttner about the gap between the conference in The Hague and the involvement of the press are evident. She expressed her regret for instance to a friend, an editor, that the Berliner Tageblatt published nothing about the Peace Conference. “The meeting was closed to the press, which embittered many journalists”, was the reply. But in the German press the conference was mainly mocked: “all that wicked nonsense will not fail to incur the rightful wrath of all clear-headed men who feel German”, according to a German newspaper. And the grumbling was not just limited to Germany, in Paris and London, too, critical, disparaging and spiteful articles were published, as Bertha observed. The Austrian press mainly published political cartoons of ‘Friedens-Bertha’ much to her amusement. This was contrasting sharply with American newspapers which reported very favourably and constructively about the peace efforts in The Hague. “Public interest is nowhere else so keen as in this country” said the American delegate Frederick Holls to her. According to him (Holls) excluding the journalists had been a big mistake”, but unfortunately not everyone shared that opinion. So in the public opinion of the major European powers the Peace Conference of 1899 was not very well thought of. Governments were still too busy to view war as an instrument of national politics, and the newspapers of that time thought likewise. The Peace Conference failed to make an impact on the curbing of armament, and the press applauded the failed attempts to reach agreement in that respect. The relatively cheerful start of the First World War – “diese frische und fröhliche Krieg“ as we learned in school – was one of the most blatant expressions of that general militaristic attitude at that moment. For a proper understanding, and as a personal aside: in 1914 the Peace Palace had opened its doors, and the international arbitration mechanism had been up and running for over ten years. Apart from Serbia nobody in the year 1914 had asked to submit the cause of the war to The Hague.[ii] The diary of Bertha about her time in The Hague in 1899 is also very interesting because in the margin of the conference the various hot spots of the world at the time come to life. The occupation of Finland by Russia resulted in criticism on Russia and the Czar, and the same applied to the British military intervention in the Boer Republics Transvaal and Orange Free State in South Africa. These issues were mainly raised during the public debates, organized for instance by William Stead, the British pacifist and journalist, in the well-known Diligentia theatre in The Hague, which were covered by Bertha in detail. During the Peace Conference the British House of Commons decided to free a substantial amount of money for the fight in South Africa, from which he (Stead) openly distanced himself. At the same time the conference in The Hague was deliberating about a standstill of armament expenditure, which was totally at odds with this British decision. The proposal of President Kruger (South Africa) to submit the issue with the United Kingdom – about the rights of the Outlanders, British subjects working in the gold industry in the free Boer Republics – (to submit that issue) to a court of arbitration, was immediately rejected by the British, according to Bertha von Suttner in her diary. She denounced the British attitude by remarking “Sir Alfred Milner, who seems to be totally oblivious of the principles pronounced in The Hague, replies that such a proposal cannot be considered for one moment.“ [iii] It must have been rather strange too to discuss the solution of international disputes in The Hague, and to see at the same time that classic power play was stronger than all the good intentions. After all, the next day the possible freezing of armament expenditure by the conference was referred back to the individual countries, which meant in effect a rejection of the proposal. Bertha writes “Rejected! Referred back to the governments of the big powers for further consideration. But a resolution proposed by Leon Bourgeois and adopted by the Conference has yet saved the principle“. That was a great disappointment for all pacifists, only mitigated by the fact that a positive decision about the international arbitration tribunal had been reached. In her diary, Bertha tells about an interesting and repeated conversation with Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. In the opinion of Henry Dunant mediation was a far better solution of disputes between countries than arbitration. A very topical debate indeed. Has any prominent person already suggested to submit the issues of the Crimea or those of the islands in the South China Sea to the Court of Arbitration or the International Court of Justice? For issues like this, mediation seems to be a useful instrument, especially if there are no legal pitfalls. If both parties only wish to accept that a deadlock can be broken out of without a party being considered the loser. Bertha von Suttner was aware of the fact that her diary of 1899 did not really create a stir, much to her regret. “The contemporary world is either indifferent or unfriendly in its attitude toward the Hague Conference, she writes in her Memoirs (p. 327). During her time in The Hague Bertha von Suttner did not deliver many public speeches, she spent much more time in the lobby surrounding important delegates, of the press or opinion makers. On 27 June 1899 she was to deliver a major speech in London, but she turned ill all of a sudden and could not go. Her speech was subsequently read out by somebody else. Bertha’s approach in 1899 was that of the salons, something she had learned from a Dutch hostess, where many important participants of the conference frequently gathered.  Due to its tremendous influence her salon in the Kurhaus Hotel in Scheveningen gained widespread fame. On 7 July 1899 – the conference is still ongoing – Bertha leaves The Hague by train. In her diary she writes “that this place, where the first international court of mediation was established, may become the place of pilgrimage for posterity. By now a firm conviction to ponder on the homeward journey”. During the 1907 conference she did make regular public appearances, among others delivering a speech on 20 June about the non-existing but always invoked “droit de la conquête/ the right of conquest.” [iv] In her view conquest was the foundation and leitmotiv of war. All great rulers have always expanded their territories. That is the alleged glory of war. She strongly argued that it would be far better to forget this conquest principle. On 28 June 1907 Bertha elaborated on the role of Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, and the actual initiator of the Second Peace Conference. Only out of politeness he let the Russian Czar deal with the invitations. The name of President Roosevelt did not go down well with all pacifists, because he was actively expanding the American fleet. Bertha said that all countries at that time were increasing their weapon arsenals “in the interest of Peace.” No, Roosevelt had provided the PCA with its first case, and it had been Roosevelt who personally managed to end the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 by getting both countries to the mediation table. Partly on that basis Roosevelt had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. And in his expectations of the Second Peace Conference he had sided many times and in public with international justice. [v] Especially during the Second Peace Conference Bertha regularly held her famous salons where she or another distinguished guest would address the audience. They were also referred to as the Cercle International. Bertha von Suttner left the conference in 1907 before it was officially concluded, namely on 25 August. She wanted to prepare herself in Vienna and Munich for a conference on power and the organisation of Public Opinion. In her view Public Opinion was the real driving force for the actions of the delegates, and therefore an invisible impediment to change. “The delegates are like the hands on a clock – the mechanism which operates them is invisible” according to Bertha in the Courrier.[vi] Later on in 1913 she was invited once again to the Netherlands to contribute to a public debate about women and world peace. The debate on the eve of the opening of the Peace Palace was organized by the Dutch Women’s Suffrage Movement, presided over by Aletta Jacobs, renowned in the Netherlands. She was the first woman with a university degree in the Netherlands. [vii] “What us women wish to achieve through our efforts..” our apostle of peace said, “is freedom, and even more, justice. We, the women of the peace movement have ample reason to envy our sisters of the suffrage movement, because they are much closer to their goal than we pacifists are. In many states of America and also in a few European countries women already have gained the right to vote. We are jealous of that fact, and we are also jealous of the multitude of their members and the power of their organisation. That we, fighters for peace and for women’s suffrage belong together, is best evidenced by the fact that we have not only the same friends but also the same enemies. In our respective movements we can expect to benefit much from those nationalities which are not in a state of traditional militarism. And those happen to be the young nations on the other side of the ocean….” After this speech Bertha was loudly cheered and applauded and she left the hall, according to the newspaper, with a huge bunch of flowers. Earlier on, however, this merging of feminism and pacifism did not seem so logical. When Aletta Jacobs first met Bertha von Suttner in 1898 there was no click at all. “Immer das Wahlrecht” Bertha sighed over Aletta Jacobs’ effort. And Aletta noted in her own book [viii] about the meeting in 1898 “Bertha stated without reserve that I had taken the wrong road. All my efforts should be for peace, women suffrage propaganda could as well be dealt with by others … I argued, however, that Bertha von Suttner’s ideals could only become reality if women had gained full political rights.” In 1907 Bertha had commented as follows. During a discourse for the Cercle International she had already been of the opinion that both movements (feminism and pacifism) were mutually reinforcing. [ix] “The elements of Power and Oppression have to make place for Justice and Freedom“ – according to Bertha – and to that purpose a new type of human being has to be formed. Every male or female characteristic should be part of this new type of human being. But the motto remains “Working for Peace.” You may find it interesting to know that during the celebration of the centennial of the Peace Palace Bertha von Suttner was honoured with a bust situated in the Hall of the Palace. A second statue, of a much younger Bertha, was offered by us to the Municipality of The Hague. [x] The bust in the Peace Palace [xi] was unveiled on 28 August 2013 by Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. She received the prize for her non-violent struggle for the rights of women.[xii] This bust truly confirms Bertha’s role as the First Lady of the Peace Palace. At the opening of the Palace in 1913 she was the only women to be invited. Now that we talk about First Ladies, it is nice to conclude with a little anecdote of Hillary Clinton at the time when she was Secretary of State of the United States. She visited the Netherlands on the occasion of the top conference on Afghanistan, which was held in The Hague on 31 March 2009 and which soon became known as the “big tent conference” where she organised her salons. Hillary Clinton insisted on staying at the Kurhaus Hotel in Scheveningen, because – she said – she was a great admirer of Bertha von Suttner, who had occupied an apartment in the Kurhaus Hotel during the Peace Conferences. This proves that Bertha’s call still reaches the highest echelons: an honour fully befitting her. When Bertha von Suttner travelled to The Hague in 1899, the first sentence she wrote in her diary was “to the place where Peace will be born.” I don’t think nowadays this phrase would be used anymore, now that the UN is such a decisive factor in the handling of all sorts of conflicts in the world. But partly as a result of the construction of the Peace Palace The Hague has become an international city of justice and peace, not only accommodating the important courts of justice, but also harbouring an active climate of dialogue and contemplation about Peace and Justice. That is a result everybody can be proud of, and all of Bertha’s followers in particular. Thank you for your attention.

[i] Den Haag en de Vredes-Conferentie by Bertha von Suttner, translated by J.C. van Riemsdijk. Amsterdam, Cohen Zonen 1900.
[ii] Serbia specifically mentioned this option in their answer to the Austrian ultimatum.
[iii] Page 169 of the diary of Bertha von Suttner.
[iv] See the Courrier de la Conférence of 21 June 1907.
[v] Courrier de la Conférence of 29 June 1907.
[vi] Courrier de la Conférence of 25 August 1907.
[vii] Report published in the Algemeen Handelsblad of 27 August 2013.
[viii] Memories of Dr Aletta H. Jacobs, van Holkema & Warendorf, Amsterdam 1924.
[ix] Courrier de la Conférence of 8 August 1907.
[x] This bust on an iron pedestal with the words “die Waffen Nieder” in many languages was made by artist Ingrid Rollema from The Hague.
[xi] This more traditional statue was made by Judith Pfaeltzer, a sculptress from Amsterdam.
[xii] Leymah Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize together with two other women being Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen.  

An ideal coffee factory

By Barend ter Haar, fellow of Clingendael, Netherlands Institute of International Relations. Several Dutch traditions were honoured at once in Qatar when on June 21 the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam was placed on the World Heritage List. First of all it illustrates the Dutch contribution to modern architecture, together with the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht that is on the World Heritage List since 2000 and Sanatorium Zonnestraal in Hilversum that is a candidate for this list. Although these three buildings are almost ninety years old, the untrained eye might think they were only built yesterday, proving how much ahead of their time these buildings were. Secondly the Van Nelle Factory was built with the workers in mind, which was quite a new idea at the time. By providing pleasant working conditions, the Van Nelle Factory became not only “a poem in steel and glass” but also “an ideal factory”. Finally the building is a monument for the centuries old Dutch tradition of global trade and import and processing of tropical products. During most of the eighteenth century the Dutch East India Company monopolized the coffee trade. At that time coffee was still a very expensive luxury, but eventually prices lowered and coffee became a popular drink in most of Europe. In 1782 Johannes van Nelle and his wife Hendrica started a shop in coffee, tea and tobacco. Their successors founded coffee plantations in the Dutch East Indies and built factories to roast coffee. The modernist factory built in Rotterdam proved to be the last one of these. It now houses small businesses and special events, but the authenticity of the complex was preserved. Drinking coffee might nowadays be an international pastime, the way it is practiced in the Netherlands is unique and might sometimes be confusing to foreigners. A short introduction to where and when drinking coffee in the Netherlands might help. First of all: where to get good cup of coffee? One might expect a café or coffee shop to be the place to go. However, although they will probably serve coffee, the specialty of a café is beer and a coffee shop is where one goes for soft drugs. In fact there is no generic name for places that serve good coffee. Secondly: when to drink coffee? A Dutchman drinks coffee any time of the day, from breakfast until after dinner, but “coffee time” is somewhere between ten and eleven in the morning. This coffee break is considered by Dutchmen to be a fundamental right and disregarding it is a grave mistake. A typical Dutch tradition is to serve one (only one) cookie with coffee. Then, around noon, when many other Europeans go for a hot lunch, the Dutch have their cold coffee meal (“koffietafel”), consisting mainly of bread, cheese, ham, milk and coffee. The most famous koffietafels are those of Brabant and Limburg. Bon appétit!

Tactical cunning, strategic disaster?

By Maarten Katsman, Editor Atlantisch Perspectief (journal of the Netherlands Atlantic Association) After Russia annexed Crimea, several parts of Ukraine remain disputed by separatist groups, who are probably actively supported by Russia. Some observers argue Russia has a valid reason to act in Ukraine specifically, or the wider Eastern European region in general. They say NATO ‘surrounded’ Russia militarily with its enlargement after the Cold War ended.[i] Following this argument, future Ukrainian and Georgian membership of the alliance would severely enhance this Russian sense of insecurity. Moscow made it clear it would not tolerate deeper bonds between the West and countries in Russia’s (former?) sphere of influence. Hence the war against Georgia in 2008 and the recent seizure of Crimea and other violent actions in Eastern Ukraine. Russia may ‘feel’ surrounded or even threatened by NATO (NATO enlargement is the ‘main external military danger’ in Russia’s official defence doctrine), it does not mean Moscow has permission to infringe upon the rights of sovereign states. Regarding President Putin, who never fails to display his macho image, be it bare-chested on horseback or hunting dangerous animals, it certainly seems strange he acts aggressively based on some ‘feelings’ of insecurity. Let’s be clear: NATO is a political-military alliance of like-minded sovereign states, that share values and interests and base their decisions on consensus. The allies are willing to consult each other about security issues, and to help or defend each other if necessary. New member states can join, when they meet certain criteria, by their own choice and of course when the existing members agree. Historically, Russia has legitimate concerns about its security interests along its borders (although it is certainly not ‘surrounded’ by NATO: Russia shares only a tiny portion of its borders with NATO members). In the end, however, NATO enlargement was and is based on agreements between a sovereign state and an alliance of sovereign states. Third parties have to accept and respect such decisions. It is a pity the events in Ukraine forced NATO, the EU, and Russia back to ‘old’ methods of power politics. Maybe the West naively thought this type of conduct in international relations was over. Putin might be better at this kind of game than Western leaders and he probably achieves some tactical wins. In the long run, however, his reactionary actions will hurt Russia. As Tomas Ries (Swedish National Defence College) stated at a recent seminar of the Netherlands Atlantic Association and the Clingendael Institute: “Putin has tactical cunning, but he is a strategic disaster”. Both the West and Russia would benefit from a constructive partnership that addresses the real, common problems both sides have to face, rather than being distracted by outdated and old-fashioned rivalry.