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FIRESIDE CHAT ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY with Gen.(Ret.) David Petraeus

The Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD) organized a discussion on U.S. foreign policy featuring CIRSD President Vuk Jeremic and General (ret.) David Petraeus. The discussion covered U.S. policies in the Middle East, Eurasia, and East Asia, with attention to U.S.-Chinese relations and international institutions.

Jeremic noted that 2016 marks the centenary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement that established the borders of today’s Middle East. This order appears to be collapsing, and is thus raising many political and security issues in the region and beyond. General Petraeus explained the genesis of the so-called Islamic State, saying that the organization can be defeated militarily—as was the case with al-Qaeda. In order to neutralize the Islamic State, however, Iraq needs to instill a new system that would include Sunnis in a national institutional framework and ensure their participation in Iraqi political life.

In terms of the situation in Syria, both speakers qualified it as a “geopolitical Chernobyl.” Petraeus talked about how complex the situation in Syria is and how far-reaching it might be for the stability of the entire Middle East, noting, however, that there will not be simple political or military solutions. He also said that there is a mismatch of U.S. and Russian interests in Syria, which is making the situation even more complicated.

Jeremic mentioned the nuclear agreement that the U.S. reached with Iran as opening up the possibility for establishing détente in the Middle East. General Petraeus said that the agreement has its good sides, whilst remaining reserved with regards to issues that might occur after the time-frame envisioned in the agreement.

Jeremic and Petraeus also discussed the exacerbated state of West-Russia relations. At the time when some declared “the end of history,” Europe had begun enjoying a seemingly endless and irreversible prosperity. However, modern times have demonstrated a greater degree of complexity, showing that the future forebodes serious threats to the Old Continent. Petraeus argued that Russia wants to reinvigorate the former Soviet Union, adding that he does not believe in the long-term success of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

The last portion of the discussion revolved around U.S. relations with China, which Jeremic qualified as “the key bilateral relationship on the international scene.” The dynamics of the relationship will depend primarily on China and its transition from a cheap-labor economy to more sustainable one. Both Jeremic and Petraeus spoke favorably of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

“After the American century, we will see North American decades,” Petraeus said. Jeremic also stated that “we live in a time of rising geopolitical tensions, in which regional crises feed of each other. The only rational response of the international community should be to strengthen international institutions and for the U.S. to continue playing a key role in them.”

The New York horizons Discussion was also envisioned as a way to promote the fifth issue of CIRSD’s quarterly magazine Horizons, which centers on challenges for U.S. foreign policy.

David Petraeus is one of the most well-known U.S. military commanders, having commanded U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and served as chief commanding officer of the U.S Central Command. He presently serves as chairman of the KKR Global Institute.

The discussion attracted a significant amount of attention in New York, thus gathering a number of prominent businessmen, diplomats, academics, and media representatives.


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