21 June 1990 - 23 June 1990

Elements of Change in International Relations: A Foreign Policy Agenda for the 90's

Chair: The Hon Donald F McHenry

For this ambitious conference, we started work on Thursday afternoon, extending our normal programme by one day. Mr Vance having had to enter hospital for a, successful, operation, we were indebted to Mr McHenry for stepping into the breach at short notice as chairman. In the absence of volunteers for the fourth working group, we reverted to our usual three groups, dealing respectively with security in and around Europe and relations with North America; economics, trade and the environment; and regional problems outside North America and Europe.

The premise to all the discussions was that the cold war was over, although some cautioned that the Soviet Union, or Russia if the Union broke up, would remain a major military and nuclear power, and possibly a frustrated one, and that the break-up, if that happened, could be a difficult and dangerous business. The conference noted with approval the current trend towards a unified Germany retaining NATO membership, with appropriate reassurances to the Soviet Union and even, as a further reassurance, a special relationship to the re-styled Warsaw Pact. There was some discussion about the desirability and feasibility of adapting existing institutions, rather than creating new ones, some arguing strongly that it was impossible to convert old organisations to new purposes and others equally strongly that the creation of new institutions was no easier, with the evolutionists, I thought, in the majority. All agreed that given the uncertainties, NATO must be maintained as “foul-weather” insurance, perhaps with links with the new Warsaw Pact in an umbrella organisation, based on the CSCE, although others saw no need officiously to keep alive the moribund and disintegrating Warsaw Pact. While all agreed that American forces, albeit much reduced, should remain in Europe as a guarantee and reassurance, together with a continuing American sea or air-borne nuclear umbrella, one or two suggested that it might not be too long before we saw a complete withdrawal, under pressure of US public opinion among other things. That pointed to the need to create some, no doubt reduced and perhaps multi-national, defence force, possibly evolved from the WEU, but linked to the European Community. Membership might be voluntary, as now of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. While some suggested that the era of unchallenged frontiers might be over, it was nevertheless difficult to define the threat; it was accepted in any case that the EC would need to be able to defend itself in one way or another, possibly, some thought, from rising Middle Eastern powers. British and French nuclear forces would assume greater importance, but one participant emphasised that Britain at least needed to divert resources from defence, especially to education.

Politically, while progress towards a larger Community might be slow, it was important to hold out to the budding democracies of Central Europe the prospect one day of membership, the “light at the end of the tunnel”. That said, those now in the queue and who might join it from EFTA, should take priority. Turkey, already in the queue, and the Soviet Union/Russia would present particular difficulty. The non- Europeans took for granted Soviet/Russian credentials, if and when democracy was established, while the Europeans made no such assumption, pointing out that Russia was also an Asian power, a neighbour of Japan and China.

On the premise that the cold war was over and that the evolution of the future security system in Europe was in train, the principal priorities in the minds of all participants were migration and the environment, the latter linked in a difficult relationship with economic growth, trade and aid.

As for migration, the traditional countries of immigration viewed the prospect of increasing population movement with some equanimity, while the Europeans, with much greater population densities and a different tradition, were concerned with the need for regulation and exclusion, both as regards the numbers forecast to come from East and Central Europe (though perhaps they will be smaller than seemed to be assumed) and from the developing world, especially, because of its propinquity, from North Africa. The “have nots”, increasingly aware through broadcasting of the gap between them and the “haves”, would not support the situation indefinitely. Exclusion was not a long-term solution and created tensions. There was thus, besides a humanitarian case, a strong argument founded on self-interest for the developed countries to try to reduce the causes of migration by raising living standards in the developing world.

The difficulty of absorbing immigrants in large numbers from different cultures was noted and although in general it was argued that the threat of “Islamic fundamentalism” was often over-stated, Muslim communities in West Europe had shown themselves to be assimilable only with difficulty. Such minorities exercised or sought to exercise influence on foreign policy. That could create difficulties, for example, between the European Community and the US with regard to the Middle East

Extrapolating from the past, the conference tended to believe, with some trepidation, that the world would see average growth in GDP of some 40% over the next ten years, provided there were no upsets and that the business-cycle exhibited the flatter fluctuation that most saw as its current characteristic. Within this average, however, there would be variations, and it seemed likely that while the poorer nations would benefit, the gap between them and the rich would nevertheless increase, with the world economy increasingly revolving round Japan, the US and the EC. Any upset, moreover, could prove even more severe than in the past; and extrapolation took no account of the now-recognised need to clean up our industrial and social processes so as to control and reduce pollution of the environment, especially of the atmosphere. Here two considerations were canvassed: first, and perhaps the most difficult, was the need to secure the willing co-operation in environmental protection of the developing world. This called for education in science so that such countries could be brought, through their own scientific effort, to see their own interest in pursuing safe development, even at a cost, and not copying the mistakes of the industrialised world. Fortunately, there were signs that some were beginning to recognise this; and the international community as a whole, although lacking a strong co-ordinating body and reluctant adequately to fund the effort, e.g. through UNEP, was beginning to grasp the nettle - the Montreal Protocol on CFCs was an important start. The recent increase in petrol tax in California was noted, but several argued that the US could and should do more in that direction and that the benefits would be economic (reducing the budget deficit) as well as environmental. The point was also made however that while the remedies might be identified, politicians faced the real difficulty of putting the into effect: how, not what, was the question: constraints imposed by international agreement could help them.

Secondly, the question was raised whether the level of growth, forecast on the basis of past performance, could be achieved, if policies to reduce pollution were pursued, notably of course, revised energy policies to reduce carbon dioxide and other damaging emissions. One argued that the costs of such a programme would at the worst reduce growth by about half a percent per annum, while others saw no dilemma and suggested that economic growth would be sustained by the environmental industry itself. In any case it was argued, there was no case for assuming, from past experience, that we could continue as we were without real risk.

Population increase in the developing world was noted as an important factor in all calculations relating to the world economy, the environment and migration, but was not addressed in detail, although the point was made that rising population and climatic change was an explosive mixture.

There was some discussion of the problem of conditionality, the tying of aid and investment to criteria relating, e.g. to government, accountability, economic management, environmental performance, labour conditions, and so on. Some, who accepted the inevitability of trade protection in one way or another, and even welcomed it, stressed the need for conditionality even in such matters as wages, on fair trading as well as humanitarian grounds. Others, the majority, argued that while conditionality might be justified in such areas as administration - in many developing countries the machinery of government, it was claimed, was breaking down - the management of investment, and environmental protection, there were dangers in going far down that road, since the comparative advantage which alone would enable developing countries to pull themselves up, would be destroyed. It was clearly a matter of degree and of judgement, but the point was made that it was difficult to justify one set of policies vis-à-vis East Europe (e.g. debt forgiveness or democratic accountability) and a different set vis-à-vis other areas such as Latin America or Africa. Non-governmental organisations and large trans-national companies had a role to play here in promoting better administration and higher standards, but the job could not be left entirely to them. Moreover, should the Uruguay Round of GATT fail, the risk of a trade war was real.

The conference did not address in detail the various trouble-spots of the world, - the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iraq-Iran rivalry, the Horn of Africa, Cambodia, Afghanistan, etc. In all such areas of tension, the end of the cold war with the reduction in the opportunities for playing off the US and the Soviet Union, might not be seen by the parties as unqualified benefit. It would however lower the risks and increase the possibility of finding solutions through US/Soviet co-operation. Already the UN General Assembly was moving away from the passage of meaningless resolutions and the mechanism of the five permanent members of the Security Council was working better. There was discussion of the pressures for reform in that area to take account of the claims of Japan and others; but the merits of the case apart, the revision of the UN Charter that would be involved was a major obstacle, since nobody wished to open that Pandora’s box. A case was made for some stronger body to co-ordinate the activities of the UN agencies, and also for a body independent of governments, to engage in disinterested study of problems and their solution (the EC Commission was cited as a model). A plea was also entered by one for strengthening the UN’s peace-keeping, but not peace-making, role. A major handicap on the UN was shortage of funds - payment by the US of the dues it owed would be helpful.

The possibility of the establishment of regional organisations, drawing on the examples of the EC and the Helsinki Final Act, was noted, though without much optimism. Proliferation of armaments, including weapons of mass destruction, increased the dangers inherent in regional conflict, but might serve to deter war in some areas. Here, as elsewhere, the way forward perhaps lay in trying to establish and strengthen the international rule of law.

Finally, there were numerous calls for the display of leadership, some casting the EC as the successor to the US in this role. One at least, however, and there seemed to be much support for his view, argued that while relatively the US might have declined in power, it remained the pre-dominant military state in the world and its economy remained second to none in overall strength. Moreover culturally, the US was seen throughout the world as the model to which many aspired, the city set on a hill.

This Note reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression. 

Conference Chairman: The Hon Donald F McHenry
Research Professor, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; a Director, the American Ditchley Foundation



Mr David W Evans
Australian Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Mr Anthony C Kevin
Head of Policy Planning Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; author; President of Canberra Branch and Member of National Executive, Australian Institute of International Affairs
Professor Robert O’Neill
Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford and Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford; a Governor, the Ditchley Foundation

Professor Robert Cassen

Director, Queen Elizabeth House, International Development Centre, University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow, St Antony’s College
Mr Robert Cooper MVO
Head, Policy Planning Staff, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; a member of the Programme Committee, the Ditchley Foundation
Sir Ralf Dahrendorf KBE FBA
Warden, St Antony’s College, Oxford; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation
Professor S F P Halliday
Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science (Department of International Relations); author
Professor Geoffrey Hosking
Professor of Russian History, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London; Reith Lecturer (1988); Member, East-West Advisory Committee, British Broadcasting Corporation
Professor Sir Michael Howard CBE MC
Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History, Yale University; President and co-Founder, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS); a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation
The Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Howe QC MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Surrey East; Lord President of the Council, Leader of the House of Commons and Deputy Prime Minister; a Governor, the Ditchley Foundation
The Rt Hon the Lord Hunt of Tanworth GCB
Chairman, Banque Nationale de Paris pic; Director, IBM (UK) Ltd; Chairman, The Tablet Publishing Co Ltd; a Governor and Chairman of the Council of Management, The Ditchley Foundation
The Rt Hon Robin Leigh-Pemberton
Governor, Bank of England; Lord Lieutenant of Kent; a Governor, Ditchley Foundation
Mr Edward Mortimer
Assistant Foreign Editor, Financial Times; a member, Programme Committee, the Ditchley Foundation
Mr Rupert Pennant-Rea
Editor, The Economist; author
Sir Crispin Tickell GCMG KCVO
British Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Warden, Green College, University of Oxford
Mr Cyril Townsend MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Bexleyheath; Co-founder and first Chairman, South Atlantic Council; Joint Chairman, Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding; Vice Chairman, Conservative Parliamentary Defence Committee; a Fellow, Industry and Parliament Trust; Vice- Chairman, Friends of Cyprus, Political Committee of the United Nations Association, Conservative Middle East Council and the Hansard Society
Sir Christopher Tugendhat
Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority; Deputy Chairman, National Westminster Bank, The BOC Group; Chairman, Royal Institute of International Affairs; Member, Council, Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels; a Governor and Member of the Council of Management, The Ditchley Foundation
Sir Brian Urquhart KCMG MBE
Scholar in Residence, The Ford Foundation New York; Chairman, Program Committee and Member, The Advisory Council, the American Ditchley Foundation
Dr William Wallace
Deputy Director, Royal Institute of International Affairs; author
Sir Patrick Wright GCMG
Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service; a Governor, the Ditchley Foundation

Mr Howard Balloch

Director-General, Policy Development, Department of External Affairs, Ottawa
Mr Allan E Gotlieb
Stikeman Elliot, Barristers and Solicitors, Toronto

M Jean-Marie Guéhenno

Director, Centre d’Analyse et de Prévision, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Paris.
M François Heisbourg
Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London; previously Vice- President, Thomson International, Paris

Herr Günter van Well

General Secretary, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Auswärtige Politik

Marqués de Tamarón

Director, Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, Madrid; author

Dr Seweryn Bialer

Belfer Professor of Social Sciences and International Relations and Director of the Research Institute on International Change, Columbia University, NYC; member, Executive Committee, W Averell Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, Executive Committee, Political Science and Sociology Departments, Board of Directors, School of International Affairs, Columbia University; author
Dr E Gerald Corrigan
Chief Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Vice Chairman, Federal Open Market Committee; member, Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission
Mr Donald W Davis
Chairman, Executive Committee, Board of Directors, The Stanley Works
The Hon Thomas O Enders
Managing Director, International Corporate Finance Department, Salomon Brothers Inc, New York
Mr James A D Geier
Chairman, Cincinnati Milacron Inc. Cincinnati, Ohio; Director, Clark Equipment Co, USX Corporation and Unison Telecommunications Service
The Hon William H Gleysteen Jr
President, The Japan Society, Washington
Rev Theodore M Hesburgh CSC
President emeritus, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana; Chairman, advisory committees, Institute for International Peace Studies and Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame
Mr Richard C Holbrooke
Managing Director, Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc., New York
The Hon William H Luers
President, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Mr Jay Mazur
President, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union; a Director, the American Ditchley Foundation
Professor Michael McElroy
Chairman, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Abbott Lawrence Rotch Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Division of Applied Sciences, Harvard University
Mr Maynard Parker
Editor, Newsweek; author
The Hon Thomas R Pickering
United States Ambassador to the United Nations; Member, Council on Foreign Relations, International Institute for Strategic Studies
Professor Richard H Ullman
David K E Bruce Professor of International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University; Member of the Advisory Council, American Ditchley Foundation