VOLUME 27, NUMBER 03 United States
What’s in Trump’s Budget for USAID, State Department? Every year since coming into office, President Trump has proposed significant cuts in funding for the State Department and USAID. And every year, Congress has batted down those proposals. This latest budget is likely to be no different. PAGE 4
After Five Years, Yemen Still Fights To Be Remembered This month marks five years since Saudi Arabia and its partners launched a military intervention in Yemen after Houthi rebels took over the capital. Since then, the country has become a staging ground for one of the world’s worst conflicts and humanitarian disasters, with no relief in sight. PAGE 12
’ CROATIA S
PRIORITIES For the first time, Croatia, the European Union’s youngest member, has assumed the rotating presidency of the EU, where it will confront some of the toughest challenges bedeviling the bloc, from the Brexit divorce to controversies over migration and expansion to transatlantic trade wars and global security threats.
Venezuela Complicates Election of OAS Chief Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro is running for re-election this month, but his outspoken stance on Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia has alienated some Caribbean member states and turned what is normally a sleepy contest into a divisive power struggle. PAGE 9
Anger, Apathy in ‘Secret Life of Earth’ “The Secret Life of Earth: Alive! Awake! (and Possibly Really Angry!)” sounds a clarion call about our persistent environmental apathy. PAGE 24
Icelandic Envoy’s Husband Sports Quite a Resume Jon Oskar Solnes has become a jack of all trades for his wife, Icelandic Ambassador Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, supporting her career while adjusting his by taking on jobs ranging from television sportscaster to humanitarian aid manager in warzones to an expert on EU socioeconomic and financial regulation. PAGE 25
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ON THE COVER
Photo taken at the Embassy of Croatia by Lawrence Ruggeri of Ruggeriphoto.com.
THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
22 NEWS 4
BUDGET WINNERS AND LOSERS
GLOBAL VANTAGE POINT
Op-ed: Palestinians should present a counteroffer to Trump’s “deal of the century.”
Trump keeps trying to cut diplomacy and foreign aid. Congress keeps saying no.
9 OAS ELECTION
Coronavirus is here but are U.S. hospitals prepared for a potential spread of the virus?
The usually sleepy OAS has been re-energized with a contentious race for the top spot.
12 YEMEN’S TRAGEDY
Five years after the Saudi-led intervention, Yemen remains mired in suffering and stalemate.
COVER PROFILE: CROATIA
Croatia assumes the EU presidency at a time of significant change and challenge for the bloc.
The French and German ambassadors reﬂect on what the future of Europe might look like.
Earth is “Alive! Awake! (and Possibly Really Angry!)” at the American Visionary Art Museum.
Jon Oskar Solnes became a jack of all trades to accommodate the needs of his diplomatic wife.
“Mind-Building” shows how libraries hold a special place in Finland’s past and future.
A former Filipino politician now uses paint to express his disillusionment and enduring optimism.
POLITICAL PETRI DISH
Trumpian audacity and liberal angst collide in “Shipwreck.”
REAL ESTATE CLASSIFIEDS MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 3
WD | United States
Show Me the Money Congress Giveth What the President Keeps Trying to Taketh Away BY ANNA GAWEL President Trump recently released his fiscal 2021 budget, but many of the drastic cuts he’s proposed aren’t likely to make it through Congress, which controls the federal purse strings.
very year since coming into office, President Trump has proposed significant cuts in funding for the State Department and USAID. And every year, Congress has batted down those proposals. This latest budget is likely to be no different. In his recently released $4.8 trillion budget request for the 2021 fiscal year, Trump proposed deep reductions in funding for almost every aspect of U.S. foreign aid and diplomacy. He asked Congress to fund the State Department and USAID at $40.8 billion — a 22% decrease from the $52.5 billion that was enacted the previous fiscal year. The sharp cuts to the international affairs budget are in line with the president’s efforts to slash domestic spending in other areas, including a nearly 27% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency and a 15% cut to the Housing and Urban Development Department, along with cuts to various safety-net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, student loan assistance and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Other agencies, however, such as NASA and the Departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, would see increases, while defense spending would stay relatively flat at $740 billion. The president’s budget, though, is rarely a serious document. It is a blueprint of political priorities and a starting point of negotiations with Congress. And if history is any indication, many of President Trump’s cuts won’t materialize, especially when it comes to international affairs spending, which he has repeatedly tried — and failed — to curb. In his budget request to Congress for the 2020 fiscal year, for example, Trump proposed a 23% cut in international affairs spending, asking Congress to fund the State Department and USAID at $40 billion. Congress rejected that request and instead funded foreign operations at $55 billion. It’s a familiar pattern. For fiscal 2018, Trump sought a 28% cut in State/USAID funding, from $52.8 billion the previous fiscal year down to $37.6 billion. Instead, Congress wound up allocating $52.4 billion. Likewise, for fiscal 2019, Trump requested $37.8 billion. Instead, State and USAID got $56.1 billion.
EXERCISE IN FUTILITY?
Shortly after Trump announced his latest budget proposal, Democrats, who control the House, promptly dismissed it as dead on arrival. But many Republicans are equally opposed to drastic cuts to diplomacy and foreign aid. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina flat-out told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “we’re not going to 4 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
PHOTO: PIERRE BLACHÉ / PIXABAY
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle understand the seriousness of stable and carefully planned funding for American investments abroad, so they will likely ignore the president’s requests and craft a serious budget.
CONOR SAVOY, executive director of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network
approve” the president’s cuts, calling them “insane” and “short-sighted.” “I don’t know who writes these things over in the White House, but they clearly don’t understand the value of soft power,” said Graham, normally a staunch Trump ally. Given the consistent bipartisan pushback, reporters asked State Department officials during a Feb. 10 briefing why the administration keeps putting out a budget it knows Congress will reject. State Department Director of Foreign Assistance Jim Richardson acknowledged that “Congress will always have a different view” and said the department is ready to work with lawmakers on the “long process” ahead. The State Department also notes that the president’s proposed reductions for international affairs spending are in line with his desire to restrain overall nondefense discretionary spending. Yet, despite the high likelihood that Trump’s proposed cuts won’t see the light of day, some experts say they already do damage by revealing how little value the president places on diplomacy, further eroding the already-battered morale at Foggy Bottom. In addition, while the cuts aren’t likely to be approved, they
“will nonetheless lead to significant disruptions and inefficiencies in the planning, obligation and implementation of foreign aid programs,” according to the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a D.C.-based advocacy coalition. The group argues that even the threat of cuts can be dangerous because “evidence shows that development assistance is most effective when funded at relatively stable levels and for multiple years,” it said in a Feb. 11 statement. “Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle understand the seriousness of stable and carefully planned funding for American investments abroad, so they will likely ignore the president’s requests and craft a serious budget,” Conor Savoy, MFAN’s executive director, said. “In the meantime, American development implementers are spending scarce time and energy planning out a budget scenario that will not happen.” But the fact that it probably won’t happen because Congress continues to thwart Trump’s efforts to downsize diplomacy has rankled the president. In August 2019, he ordered that all unspent foreign aid funds for fiscal 2019 — about $4 billion — be withheld, even though
Congress had ordered their disbursement. Trump relented after significant pushback from congressional Republicans and members of his staff. Trump’s determination to significantly cut foreign affairs funding reflects his wish that other countries and international organizations be more self-sufficient and less financially reliant on the United States, and that other developed countries shoulder more of the aid burden. Fiscal conservatives also argue that many State Department initiatives are wasteful and redundant, often funding pet projects with unproven track records. For instance, in its latest budget proposal, the administration cites various small-scale projects that it says serve no strategic purpose and are a waste of taxpayer money, including: $4,800 to send American artists to a poetry festival in Finland; $7,500 for a foreign student to attend Space Camp; and $10,000 to support the “Muppet Retrospectacle” in New Zealand. But diplomacy advocates counter that when looking at the bigger picture, the international affairs budget comprises only 1% of total federal spending — and that Americans get a lot of bang for their buck. “America’s diplomats are our first line
of defense, advancing our nation’s goals without resorting to military conflict. They staff more than 280 embassies and consulates around the world to protect American citizens, promote our businesses, confront our adversaries, and rally allies to our side,” wrote Foreign Policy for America, a nonpartisan advocacy organization, in a budget background brief. “USAID works around the world to alleviate poverty and health crises, promote education programs, advance gender equality, and support democratic governance. U.S. development assistance is also a cornerstone of American national security.” On that note, U.S. military officials have consistently supported a robust budget for State and USAID, citing a common refrain: Diplomatic prevention is far cheaper than military conflict. In 2013, former Defense Secretary James Mattis famously warned that, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.” Pentagon officials say that’s especially the case today. “At a time when there are more displaced people than any time since World War II, when new diseases threaten lives and economies, when post-conflict countries struggle to put the pieces back together, as active conflicts from Syria to Libya burn, and as we try to secure the hard-fought gains against the Islamic State and Al Shabab for the long term, diplomacy and global development matter,” former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen wrote in a recent letter to congressional leaders. “This is a moment when more investment in diplomacy and development is needed, not less.” Odds are that hawkish Republicans like Graham won’t need much convincing, if the past is anything to go by. “For several years, there have been attempts to drastically cut America’s footprint around the world — and Congress has said ‘no way,’”
PHOTO: SUSTAIN UGANDA
A nurse speaks to tuberculosis patients in Uganda as part of a USAID-PEPFAR program. Under President Trump’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget, funding for global health programs would take a big hit, dropping from $9 billion in fiscal 2020 to $6 billion.
Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, said in a statement. “From the Freedom Caucus to the Progressive Caucus, Congress supports development and diplomacy not only because it’s in America’s interests, but because a wide diversity of Americans supports these programs.” Lisa Peña, director of policy, budget and appropriations for the nonprofit InterAction, echoed that sentiment following passage of the fiscal 2020 budget. “We are pleased that, in a bipartisan manner, Congress increased development funds across all sectors,” she said in a
statement, “including programming for basic education, climate, gender, good governance, food security, and an increased contribution to the Global Fund. Congress included funding for humanitarian assistance in several critical contexts, including South Sudan, Syria, West Bank/Gaza, and the fight against Ebola.”
But in the fiscal 2021 budget, if the president has his way, some areas would see a lot more money than others. So who, in theory, would
get what? According to the State Department, a primary focus of the 2021 budget is to “win the great power competition” with China, Russia and Iran. To that end, the budget includes $1.5 billion in foreign assistance and $596 million in diplomatic engagement to support a U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy that would, among other things, “enable countries to assess the full costs of Chinese loans; facilitate U.S. private sector investment; [and] promote a U.S. model of democratic, transparent, responsive and business-friendly governance.” Just under $800 million would be dedicated to countering Russian “malign influence and disinformation” in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia, while nearly $340 million would go toward economic and military assistance for partners in the Middle East to counter Iran. Another priority for the administration is supporting religious and ethnic minorities — particularly in the Middle East — who’d be earmarked to receive $150 million, a boost of $80 from fiscal 2019. Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget would also allocate $205 million “to advance the transition in Venezuela” — a huge jump from the $17.5 million the country received for economic development in fiscal 2019. Meanwhile Colombia would get $412.9 million to enhance security and development, while Mexico would receive $63.8 million to deter migration and combat transnational crime, among other things. Israel would receive $3.3 billion in foreign military financing, while Egypt would get $1.3 billion in economic and security assistance — on par with previous years. Jordan, however, would receive $75 million more than the $500 million in security assistance it received in fiscal 2020. Meanwhile, aid to Ukraine — the country SEE B UDG ET • PAGE 6
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Budget CONTINUED • PAGE 5
that triggered Trump’s impeachment — would remain roughly in line with 2020 levels. Other areas would only see modest cuts, including the Peace Corps, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Export-Import Bank (which is largely self-funding anyway), and embassy security, construction and maintenance. The budget also aims to reform and modernize the State Department and USAID by strengthening cybersecurity, reviewing public diplomacy programs and supporting a new Bureau for Resilience and Food Security. The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, championed by Ivanka Trump, would receive $200 million toward its goal of empowering women. Another signature initiative of the White House, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), would see an enormous surge in funding. The DFC replaces the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and grew out of the BUILD Act to catalyze private sector investment to promote economic development in low-income countries while advancing U.S. foreign policy and security goals. This includes countering China’s use of state-funded loans to increase its influence in the developing world. The DFC would receive $700 million under Trump’s budget proposal, a huge leap from the $180 million enacted in 2020, although the jump makes sense considering that it is a new agency growing its staff. While economists applaud the DFC’s authority to leverage private
PHOTO: MOHAMED ABDULLAH ADAN, PACT
In November 2017, USAID helped bring together women from conflicting clans in El Waq, a small town in Somalia, to collaborate and plan a future for their district. President Trump’s recently released $4.8 trillion budget seeks to fund the State Department and USAID at $40.8 billion — a 22% decrease from the $52.5 billion that was enacted the previous fiscal year.
investment through new financing tools such as equity investments and local currency loans, given the large amount of funding it would receive, there are concerns the DFC might come at the expense of other development initiatives.
to a breakdown by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). Most dramatically, the administration would only request $361 million for Europe and Eurasia — half of what was allocated in fiscal 2019 — with resources largely directed at countering Russian influence and aggression by supporting good governance, anti-corruption and cybersecurity programs in countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Africa — where the bulk of funding goes toward health programs, electricity, food security and counterterrorism — would also take a
On that note, for every winner, there’s usually a loser. Overall, funding for most regions would decrease, although certain countries within each region would fare better than others, according
big hit. The 2021 budget requests $5 billion for the region, a nearly 40% drop from fiscal 2019, although certain programs, such as the Prosper Africa initiative to open new markets for American businesses, would see a boost. More broadly, Trump wants to merge several bilateral economic and development assistance accounts, even though Congress has rejected the proposal for the last three years. Likewise, humanitarian assistance would see a major reshuffling as the administration seeks to consolidate several accounts (including refugee, food and disaster assistance) into one so-called International Humanitarian Assistance (IHA) fund. Aid advocates say the idea of streamlining accounts certainly has merit, allowing USAID to respond to humanitarian disasters more effectively and efficiently. At the same time, they fear the consolidation is a pretext to axe funding. Those fears are well-founded — and are likely why lawmakers have resisted the idea. Trump’s latest budget, the consolidation of economic support funds and development assistance accounts would result in an overall decrease of 20%. Similarly, his budget requests $6 billion in humanitarian assistance under IHA, a drop from the $9.5 billion that was enacted in total for the various humanitarian accounts last year. State Department officials point out that even at $6 billion, the U.S. is still the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in the world. “We’re really looking for the rest of the world to step up,” Richardson said at the Feb. 10 briefing, noting that some 35% to 40% of overall humanitarian assistance “was coming from the American people. That’s just too high, and we think 25% is a much more reasonable number, and $6 billion will help us get there.” While the budget reflects Trump’s desire to SEE B UDG ET • PAGE 8
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However, one area that has had a major impact on America’s global footprint is the State Department’s education programming, which Trump has consistently tried to eviscerate. His current request is no different, proposing $310 million to fund the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), which administers the Fulbright Program and other popular people-to-people exchanges. The White House budget itself notes that “in 2018, international students contributed $45 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 458,000 American jobs.” Yet that same budget would slash ECA funding by over $420 million from the previous fiscal year.
Budget CONTINUED • PAGE 6
increase burden-sharing, it also signals his political priorities, particularly his “America First” agenda that seeks to curb immigration to the U.S. To that end, migration and refugee assistance would be gutted under the proposed budget — plunging from $3.4 billion last year to just $300 million for 2021. Similarly, funding for Central America — whose governments drew Trump’s ire after an influx of migrants fleeing violence and poverty swamped the U.S. border in 2019 — would be reduced by nearly 20% from the previous fiscal year (although the administration says those cuts are contingent on the region’s efforts to stem illegal migration). Not surprisingly, given the president’s stance on climate change, many environmental programs would see major reductions, including initiatives to increase biodiversity and curb poaching and wildlife trafficking. Meanwhile, the drop in funding for Afghanistan — roughly $36 million — reflects Trump’s determination to hammer out a peace deal with the Taliban and extricate U.S. troops from America’s longest war. Other countries would also take a hit. In a recent analysis, the USGLC said that “funding for the world’s most fragile countries is a mixed bag. Funding to address the crisis in Venezuela would increase by 811% compared to the FY19 actual level, but the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen would see deep cuts while
‘WOEFULLY OUT OF TOUCH’
PHOTO: ELLIE VAN HOUTTE / USAID
The International Organization for Migration warehouse in Haiti is one location where USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance strategically pre-positions emergency relief supplies to ensure they are available to help communities after a natural disaster. President Trump has tried to merge several USAID accounts (including disaster assistance) into one so-called International Humanitarian Assistance fund, although Congress has resisted the idea.
funding for Syria is zeroed out for the second year in a row.” According to the State Department, the lack of funding for Syria, where fighting continues to rage after nine years of war, is part of the administration’s efforts to get other nations to shoulder more of the financial burden for global conflicts. The budget “contains a new approach toward countries that have taken unfair advan-
8 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
tage of U.S. generosity,” according to the White House. “The budget increases fiscal restraint by eliminating ineffective programs and continuing to support wide-reaching agency reforms. This includes recalibrating American contributions to international organizations; asking other nations to pay their fair share, while maintaining American leadership.” To that end, a favorite target of the president’s, the United Nations, would see U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping operations drop by nearly $450 million, and America’s annual contribution to the world body itself decrease by about $500 million. Likewise, global health programs would face harsh cuts, a particularly controversial decision in light of the coronavirus outbreak. In total, global health programs would plummet from $9 billion in fiscal 2020 to $6 billion. That includes cuts to programs dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, polio eradication, maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition. State Department officials defended those cuts, saying they reflect significant progress in controlling HIV/AIDS and will encourage other donors to step up their assistance. They also noted that the U.S. remains the largest donor overall to global health. And despite massive cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as contributions to the World Health Organization (whose U.S. funding would drop by half), officials insist those cuts won’t jeopardize America’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, citing the State Department’s ability to tap an emergency reserve fund of $25 million and the work of other agencies to combat the virus. Closer to home, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) would see most of its State Department funding disappear — dropping from $45 million in 2020 to $15.7 million — as the administration pushes for the institute to seek private donations and rely on other U.S. agencies to fund its programming. Other institutions would be eliminated altogether, including the Asia Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation and the Hawaiibased East-West Center. Many Republicans, notably Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have long viewed these organizations as a waste of taxpayer money that should seek out other sources of money. The amount of money these groups receive, however, is relatively trivial compared to the overall international affairs budget, and their impact negligible.
So will cultural and educational exchanges be gutted under the new budget? Probably not. In fiscal 2020, Trump proposed a similar figure for ECA — $309 million. Instead, the bureau wound up getting $730 million. Likewise, the numbers for 2020 illustrate how most of the president’s proposed cuts never passed muster on Capitol Hill. For example, the White House requested a 27% cut in contributions to international peacekeeping activities — from $1.5 billion in fiscal 2019 to $1.1 billion in fiscal 2020. Congress rejected that and kept the funding at $1.5 billion. Global health, another area consistently on the chopping block, also saw its funding remain intact after Congress rejected Trump’s request of $6.3 billion and instead allocated $9 billion for global health programs like PEPFAR in fiscal 2020. In some cases, lawmakers even went far above the money allocated in previous years. The White House proposed cutting funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) by 63% — from $180 million to $67 million. Instead, Congress funded the NED at $300 million for fiscal 2020. That same year, Trump proposed $445 million in funding for the seven countries of Central America, a 16% cut from 2019. Congress provided $520 million. And those massive cuts to environmental initiatives for biodiversity, poaching and wildlife trafficking? They also saw increased funding in 2020 above 2019 levels, and are likely to be safe again in the current round of negotiations. So why play this game every year? One reason why Trump and other Republicans target foreign policy for budget cuts is that it’s politically safe to do so. “Most political science research has found that foreign policy doesn’t significantly affect people’s votes,” wrote Nathaniel Rakich in a Jan. 8 article for FiveThirtyEight.com. But the cuts do play well with Trump’s base, which supports a more limited role for the U.S. overseas and fiscal restraint, even though Trump’s foreign aid cuts rarely materialize and represent a miniscule fraction of the federal budget. While diplomacy makes up a small portion of overall government spending, advocates say it plays an outsize role in keeping America safe at home and promoting its interests abroad. “Once again, this budget proposal is woefully out of touch when it comes to protecting America’s interests by calling for cuts of nearly a quarter of our footprint around the world,” said Liz Schrayer of USGLC — which is pushing Congress to fund international affairs spending at $60 billion for fiscal 2021. “Given the growing threats from the coronavirus to the rise of China and other great powers, to ongoing instability from Venezuela to Yemen and beyond, now is not the time to take our diplomats and development tools off the playing field.” WD Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat. John Brinkley contributed to this report.
The Americas | WD
OAS Rift Almagro Enjoys Backing of U.S. for Top OAS Post, but Faces Caribbean Opposition BY LARRY LUXNER
n March 20, the 34 members of the Organization of American States will decide whether to re-elect Secretary-General Luis Almagro to another five-year term. A secret OAS election normally doesn’t make headlines, but Almagro isn’t any ordinary secretary-general. The 56-year-old former Uruguayan foreign minister rose to prominence in 2015 shortly after replacing Chile’s José Miguel Insulza at the helm of the OAS. Under Almagro’s leadership, the institution — long criticized as a toothless bureaucracy — suddenly became relevant again. It took an active stand against human rights abuses in Nicaragua. It played a key role in the November 2019 resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales after having found “clear manipulation” in the vote that re-elected him. And most significantly, the OAS — and Almagro in particular — have loudly and consistently demanded an end to Nicolás Maduro’s autocratic regime in Venezuela. Running against Almagro are two other contenders for the top job: María Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador’s former foreign minister and president of the U.N. General Assembly, and Hugo de Zela, Peru’s current ambassador in Washington. Both favor dialogue to resolve the Venezuela crisis and both say the crisis has consumed too much of the OAS’s attention at the expense of other important issues. This has set up an interesting contest between Almagro, who is strongly backed by the Trump administration, and his two opponents, who enjoy the support of some Caribbean nations that have criticized Almagro for choosing confrontation over consensus-building. The Inter-American Dialogue, a Washingtonbased think tank, has been hosting a series of conversations with all three candidates. “The Venezuelan tragedy is, with good reason, the overriding issue in Latin America today. The scale of the country’s refugee and migration crisis is likely to surpass Syria’s this year,” Dialogue President Michael Shifter told The Diplomat. “Almagro has made his mark by being very outspoken and confrontational toward the Maduro dictatorship. It’s hard to think of any previous secretary-general who took such a forceful stand on an issue.” International aid agencies estimate that at least 4.7 million Venezuelans have fled to neighboring Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and other countries over the past five years; the U.N. warns that number could reach 6.5 million this year. Since 2013, Venezuela’s once prosperous oil-based economy has shrunk by an estimated 65%. Hunger, disease, power outages and crime have now become rampant under Maduro, a former bus driver who inherited the presidency from Hugo Chávez in 2013 and whose 2018 re-election was widely denounced as fraudulent. No surprise, then, that all eyes are on Almagro, who enjoys the backing of the United States. After all, Washington funds 59% of the OAS budget. (Almagro is also supported by Brazil, Colombia, the incoming government of Uruguay and several other countries.) In promoting him, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Almagro “is fearless in guarding against authoritarian regimes,” calling him a “secretary-
PHOTO: JUAN MANUEL HERRERA / OAS
Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s self-declared president, left, greets OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro at the Organization of American State headquarters in D.C. on Feb. 6. Almagro, who is running for re-election this month, has been vocal in his support of Guaidó, although his tough stance on Venezuela has alienated some OAS members.
[OAS Secretary-General Luis] Almagro has made his mark by being very outspoken and confrontational toward the Maduro dictatorship. It’s hard to think of any previous secretary-general who took such a forceful stand on an issue. MICHAEL SHIFTER
president of the Inter-American Dialogue
general par excellence” and “a model for all other secretaries-general, inclusive of the U.N. secretarygeneral.” But some in the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) — a significant voting bloc in the OAS — say Almagro is not a model the organization should be emulating and that the body is better off promoting dialogue to resolve the Venezuela standoff. To that end, Caricom members have largely abstained from supporting resolutions critical of Maduro. Many Caribbean governments maintain strong relations with Venezuela as part of the leftist ALBA regional bloc. They also enjoy subsidized oil at preferential prices through the Petrocaribe scheme
begun by Chávez. Two such countries, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have thrown their support behind Espinosa, who served under Ecuador’s former populist president, Rafael Correa. She also appears to have the support of Mexico, whose foreign ministry — through its director of regional organizations, Efraín Guadarrama — tweeted Feb. 13 that the OAS leadership “needs an urgent renovation” and a “woman secretary general.” (Interestingly, Espinosa has not received the endorsement of her own government; instead, Quito is backing Almagro’s candidacy.) SEE OAS • PAGE 10 MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 9
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enous rights and other issues. Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador in Washington, also agrees with Espinosa’s CONTINUED • PAGE 9 argument that the OAS needs to be a neutral arbiter. Writing in the Jamaica Observer, he said that “Almagro has sought to use the OAS as Veteran Miami Herald columan international platform for advonist Andres Oppenheimer said he cating his personal positions and the recently asked Espinosa if Maduro narrow purposes of some governis indeed a dictator, leading her to Video production, equipment rentals and live event ments. Further, he has been divisive quickly change the subject. we do at AV Actions. We have been serving and failed to build consensus and “But she madestaging clear that,isif all electVirginia, theperDistrict of Columbia, and Maryland for years. promote dialogue as well as undered, she would not make any standing among states.” sonal public statements about the Sound Services Video Services Another problem with Almagro’s Venezuelan ruler,” Oppenheimer strident anti-Maduro approach — wrote in a Feb. 14 column. “Taking and by extension Washington’s — is a tacit swipe at Almagro, she added that it’s failed to oust Maduro. Last that the OAS chief should ‘heal the April, the OAS voted to accept repwounds that have been unnecessarresentatives of Venezuela’s political ily opened among brotherly counLighting Services Event Staging Services Video Services opposition led by Juan Guaidó — tries in thisSound hemisphere. ’ the self-declared president — and “Of course, that’s exactly what Lighting Services Event expel the Staging delegation that represents Maduro wants,” Oppenheimer sugMaduro. Guaidó has also been recgested. “Requiring a consensus by ognized as Venezuela’s legitimate the 34 member countries to autholeader by some 60 countries, includrize the OAS chief to criticize VenPHOTO: JUAN MANUEL HERRERA / OAS ing the U.S. ezuela — or any other dictatorship Members of the Organization of American States gather for a Jan. 17 speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has Yet despite the international — would amount to silencing him thrown his support behind OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro in his re-election bid. But some Caribbean member states recognition — and a slew of U.S. or her. It would only take the votes have criticized Almagro for being too confrontational toward Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, arguing that the WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT AVA? OAS should KNOW MORE ABOUT AVA? economic sanctions on Caracas — of one or two VenezuelanWANT allies to TO promote dialogue instead. Maduro retains the support of the keep the OAS chief from making Contact Us!and remains firmly enmilitary would be at the top of her agenda unfortunately, [the issue of Venezuissues. any critical statement.” “IPHONE think we(703) have to751-1010 acknowledge if she wins the election. “We are ela] has polarized and divided the trenched in power. That’s why some But in a Jan. 27 interview with governments have been urging diaone country, and issues pertain- not denying it’s a serious matter the hemisphere.” The Gleaner, a leading Jamaican thatEMAIL email@example.com Like Espinosa, de Zela has com- logue to end the political impasse, newspaper, Espinosa said the con- ing to that single country, have filled OAS has to address, especially when tinued focus on Venezuela has ba- the agenda and more than 90% of a country in the hemisphere is in plained that the OAS is too focused although negotiations between sically starved the Caribbean of at- the energy of the organization,” trouble. But it should not take the on Venezuela, to the detriment of Maduro and the opposition medihalfpage - pouch by Norway failed to yield any indig- ated tention and sidelined other pressing said Espinosa, promising that Haiti oxygen out of the entire agenda, and environmental degradation,
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results. Even Almagro has admitted that the OAS is unable to do much about the Venezuelan crisis other than pass resolutions and attempt to shame the Maduro regime into doing the right thing “To remove the dictatorship of the 21st century, there is no magic formula,” he declared at the 49th OAS General Assembly in Colombia last June. “We hope that political pressure continues to accumulate.” Pompeo clearly agrees — and, some say, is himself pressuring Caricom members to get them to agree as well. During Pompeo’s January visit to Jamaica, where he held a roundtable with Caribbean leaders, some governments complained that the U.S. secretary of state excluded them because of their opposition to Almagro’s reelection. Barbados, the current chair of Caricom, decided to skip the meeting with Pompeo after its prime minister, Mia Mottley, said certain countries hadn’t been invited. During a press conference, Pompeo did not identify which countries had been invited, although he said, “There’s no intent from the United States to divide Caricom — not yesterday, not today.” While Barbados opted to skip the meeting in a show of support for Caricom members that felt snubbed by the U.S., John Beale, who represented Barbados as ambassador to both the United States and the OAS from 2009 to 2016, argues that his colleagues throughout the English-speaking Caribbean are being short-sighted on the matter. Writing in a Jan. 14 op-ed for Barbados Today, he said that many Caricom leaders have
PHOTO: JUAN MANUEL HERRERA / OAS
“[OAS Secretary-General Luis] Almagro is worthy of our respect and our admiration,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Jan. 17 visit to the Organization of American States. “He is a true champion for freedom throughout our entire hemisphere.”
been critical of Almagro’s management style “because he often does not consult Caricom leaders or pay attention to their wishes when he makes major decisions. Mr. Almagro has, in effect, alienated himself from the expectations of many Caricom leaders, all of whom voted for him in 2015.” But Beale points out that Almagro continues to have the support of major countries such as the U.S., Canada, Colombia and Brazil, and that “history will show that his decisions
were generally good ones — despite not being popular in some circles.” Meanwhile, if Almagro is re-elected, Beale argues that Caricom will improve its odds of finally getting its own secretary-general someday. That’s because Nestor Mendez of Belize, assistant secretary-general under Almagro for the past five years, is running unopposed in his bid for re-election. Beale suggested that the best way for the regional bloc to get the representation it has long wanted at the OAS
is to help Almagro win in 2020 so that Mendez keeps the number-two spot and then have Mendez run for the top spot in 2025. But what happens next is anybody’s guess. Pompeo has not hesitated to subtly remind OAS members that America’s generosity might be contingent on Almagro’s re-election. “Just a handful of years ago, the U.S. Congress openly entertained slashing funding for the OAS,” he said during a speech at OAS headquarters on Jan. 17. “Now Congress is more eager than ever to support what we’re doing together, because [Almagro’s] leadership values capture the bipartisan values of freedom and of democracy. And the good financial management here too gives confidence that OAS progress will be effective, costeffective and transparent.” Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue speculated that “in part due to Pompeo’s pressure campaign, Almagro now appears likely to get the 18 votes he needs for re-election, though the result is by no means assured.” He added: “Unfortunately, to date neither Almagro’s hardline approach nor other efforts to resolve Venezuela’s political crisis have succeeded in improving conditions on the ground or moving the country closer to a democratic transition.” Even so, Oppenheimer warned that if Almagro should lose to either Espinosa or de Zela, based on their public comments, “the OAS would return to what it once was: an irrelevant institution where governments sent their retiring diplomats to have a good time in Washington and discuss meaningless issues.” WD Tel Aviv-based journalist Larry Luxner is news editor of The Washington Diplomat.
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Fighting Not to Be Forgotten Five Years After Saudi-Led Intervention, Yemen Remains Mired in Suffering and Stalemate BY JONATHAN GORVETT
his month marks five years since Houthi rebels took over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a and then pushed south, triggering a military intervention by neighboring Saudi Arabia and its Arab coalition partners. Since then, the country has become a staging ground for one of the world’s worst — and most overlooked — conflicts and humanitarian disasters. While accurate figures are hard to gather, the respected Armed Conflict Location & Event Data project (ACLED) estimates that the death toll has surpassed 100,000 since 2015, including over 20,000 deaths in 2019 alone and some 12,000 civilians killed in directly targeted attacks since 2015. The war has also seen one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in modern times, along with widespread malnutrition and a host of associated diseases and otherwise preventable deaths. According to the U.N., over 24 million people — 80 percent of the population — are in need of humanitarian aid and protection, making Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Meanwhile, the country continues to be a battleground for U.S. operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and, more recently, the Islamic State. Yet, despite the horror — and widespread war fatigue among Yemen’s various combatants — a comprehensive settlement still appears elusive. On the contrary, aid workers and analysts fear that the conflict is now settling into a protracted stalemate, with local deals serving as a poor substitute for a lasting peace. “Today, Yemen is a no-war, no-peace state, which I suspect could be sustainable for another four years, without a genuine will for peace,” said Yemen analyst Sama’a Al Hamdani, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute. That’s largely because the war is essentially a proxy for the wider battle between Iran and the Saudi-UAE alliance — and between Iran and the United States. “Solving this is the key to de-escalation throughout the region,” Al Hamdani said. So, while there was a tiny glimmer of hope in February when a U.N.-administered medical flight was allowed to carry seven seriously ill patients out of Sana’a airport — the result of months of negotiations with Saudi Arabia to lift its blockade of Yemeni air space — until such efforts become part of a bigger settlement, millions of Yemenis will continue to suffer.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
In a land riven by competing tribes,
12 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
PHOTO: ALESSIO ROMENZI / UNICEF
As rain approaches, a girl removes clothes hanging from the line outside her family’s tent in a camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Kharem, Yemen, on July 22, 2019. According to the U.N., more than 24 million people — some 80% of Yemen’s population — are in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.
Saudi Arabia wants to get out of the conflict because of the reputational damage the war and the humanitarian crisis is doing to it. But it needs some kind of win in order to do so.
SAMA’A AL HAMDANI, non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute
militias and outside powers, Yemenis are all too familiar with war and suffering. It was only in 1990, after decades of civil war, that the independent northern and southern states united to form the modern republic of Yemen, with strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh taking over the impoverished country. A wily political operative who ruled for over 30 years, Saleh was forced to resign during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and was replaced by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who came to power as part of a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Meanwhile, the northern-based Houthis, who follow the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam and make up about a third of population, have long chafed under Sunni-majority rule — both at the hands of Saleh and later his replacement. After a series of clashes and protests over fuel prices and political representation, the Houthis advanced on the
capital and ousted President Hadi’s internationally recognized government in 2015. Hadi fled to exile in Saudi Arabia, which promptly launched a bombing campaign to restore him to power. For decades, Saudi Arabia has inserted itself into Yemen’s various political and military disputes to exert influence over its southern neighbor, which controls the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a strategic chokepoint for the global transit of oil. The Houthi takeover in 2015 sparked fears in the Sunni kingdom that its Shiite archrival Iran would gain a foothold next door. While the Houthis were nominally aligned with Iran in the early stages of the conflict, many experts say Saudi Arabia exaggerated claims of Tehran’s ties with the rebel group. But eventually those ties hardened as the fighting dragged on and the conflict devolved into a regional proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The decision to mobilize a coalition of Arab states to intervene in Yemen
was spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s young de facto ruler, who has moved aggressively to contain Iran and consolidate power at home. While initially hailed as a reformer, Salman has since come under fire for a series of controversial, and clumsy, missteps — among them, orchestrating a largely unsuccessful blockade of Qatar; purging wealthy Saudi princes and businessmen under the guise of tackling corruption; and allegedly ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for The Washington Post. Most recently, Salman has become embroiled in accusations that he was involved in hacking the phone of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Post. But Saudi Arabia’s brutal military campaign in Yemen has drawn perhaps the fiercest international condemnation — even from Riyadh’s traditional Republican backers in Congress. The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of indiscriminately bombing civilians
strikes on Saudi oil facilities (which the Houthis claimed responsibly for but which were widely attributed to Iran). Meanwhile, the Saudis seemed keen for a solution as well. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, “We may have some skirmishes from time to time, but the trend is toward a political settlement.” And Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen and broker of the Stockholm deal, described the end of 2019 as one of the conflict’s quietest periods. The relative calm, however, was shattered on Jan. 18 with a Houthi missile strike in Marib governorate, PHOTO: FELTON DAVIS – OWN WORK, CC BY-SA 2.0 east of Sana’a, that reportedly killed over 100 pro-government troops. People in Scotland hold a rally in December 2017 to protest the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, where, according to some estimates, over 100,000 have died since Saudi Arabia launched its bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in 2015. Saudi Arabia responded with a barNO MILITARY SOLUTION rage of airstrikes on rebel targets. A win on the battlefield, however, Transitional Council (STC), a seces- nal 30,000-strong force in Yemen U.N.-sponsored Stockholm Agree- In a statement, Griffiths said the is unlikely. While the initial stages sionist movement harking back to dwindle to just 657, as the new gov- ment, which was signed at the close renewed fighting “is putting everyof the conflict saw rapid military the time up until 1990 when South ernment withdraws from what is an of 2018 after fierce battles over the thing we gained at a great risk.” Red Sea port of Hodeidah, a critical increasingly unpopular war. advances — and retreats — more Yemen was an independent state. More bloodshed has followed The anti-Houthi bloc is thus far gateway for food and other supplies. since then, with over 30 civilians On the ground in support of the recently, it has seen relatively stable anti-Houthi bloc is the Arab coali- from united, as evidenced by a rup- The agreement resulted in a ceasefire killed in Saudi airstrikes in mid-Febfrontlines. The Houthis — formally known tion that Riyadh mobilized, origi- ture that took place between the there, along with pledges by all sides ruary after Houthi rebels claimed to as Ansar Allah — continue to oc- nally consisting of troop contingents United Arab Emirates and Saudi to exchange prisoners, establish hu- have shot down one of Riyadh’s jets. cupy much of the northern Yemeni from nine countries, but now ef- Arabia last year when the Southern manitarian aid corridors and pull “Under international humanitarterritory from where they originally fectively composed of Saudi troops, Transitional Council seized control their forces back from the port and ian law parties which resort to force sprang, including Sana’a. Backed by along with dwindling Emirati and of the southern port city of Aden, surrounding city to create a demili- are obligated to protect civilians,” NOTE: Although every effort is madecontingents. to assure your ad is freeHadi’s of mistakes spelling andThat content it iszone. ultimately up to the customer makethe theU.N. final proof. politicalin stronghold. tarized Iran and principally composed of Sudanese Lise to Grande, ’s humanitarThe agreement raised hopes for ian coordinator for Yemen, said in The latter two have been draw- led to clashes between the UAEZaydi Shiites, the Houthis also have The first two faxed changes will be made at no cost to the advertiser, subsequent changes will be billed at a rate of $75 per faxed alteration. Signed ads are considered approved. a number of northern tribal allies on ing down in recent months, with backed STC and forces loyal to the an end to the war, even though parts a statement. “Five years into this president, whose of ittohave the UAE largely replacing its Saudi-backed their side. Please check this ad carefully. Mark any changes youryet ad.to be implemented. conflict and belligerents are still failFacing them is the anti-Houthi forces with STC troops that it has government opposes the southern Nonetheless, there had been a sig- ing to uphold this responsibility. It's lull in fighting since last shocking.” and equipped. The Suda- separatists. A peace deal, the Ri- nificantneeds bloc,is principally composed If the ad correct sign and faxofto:the (301)trained 949-0065 changes National Resistance Forces, loyal to nese — originally committed by the yadh agreement, brought the power September, when the Houthis anThe Washington Diplomat (301) now-overthrown 933-3552 Approved nounced they would suspend attacks struggle to an end last October. regime of Omar __________________________________________________ Hadi’s government, which is now SEE YEM EN • PAGE 14 The other key peace deal is the on Saudi Arabia following drone based in Riyadh, and the Southern al-Bashir — have seen their origiChanges ______________________________________________________________________________________________________ and imposing an air and sea blockade that has kept lifesaving food and medicine from a country on the precipice of famine and a cholera epidemic. Even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest ally, the UAE, seems to have grown weary of the Yemen quagmire and began withdrawing its forces from the country last summer. In the face of mounting pressure, Saudi Arabia in recent months reportedly engaged in back-channel talks with the Houthis via Omani interlocutors. “Saudi Arabia wants to get out of the conflict because of the reputational damage the war and the humanitarian crisis is doing to it,” said Al Hamdani. “But it needs some kind of win in order to do so.”
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Yemen CONTINUED • PAGE 13
The Houthi missile strikes may have been an attempt to gain leverage ahead of any peace talks. But some have suggested they could have been a response to the U.S. killing of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, on Jan. 3 — and a failed U.S. drone strike against Quds commander Abdul Reza Shahla’i in Yemen the same day. Indeed, the recent escalation in hostilities between the U.S. and Iran, occurring while both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been using back channels to try to de-escalate those tensions, is likely having a literal impact on the ground in Yemen.
PROSPECTS FOR PEACE?
Disentangling the war from the wider confrontation between Iran and the U.S. may be key to a future settlement in Yemen, while Yemen itself may also be key to disentangling the wider confrontation. Following a summer of oil tanker skirmishes and an attack on Saudi oil-processing facilities after Trump tightened sanctions on Iran, The New York Times reported that the UAE government reached out to Iran in a bid to defuse the situation. The Saudi oil attack revealed Riyadh’s military weaknesses and may have prompted the kingdom to also quietly reach out to the Iranians. Amid the escalating tensions, it’s possible that the Houthis want to avoid becoming embroiled in a larger conflict between the U.S. and Iran in the wake of Soleimani’s killing. Meanwhile, an end to the war in Yemen would
PHOTO: BY SAUDI88HAWK - OWN WORK, CC BY-SA 4.0
A Saudi soldier from the First Airborne Brigade talks to an Emirati soldier in Yemen in June 2016. Since joining the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen five years ago, the United Arab Emirates has begun extricating its troops from the war-torn country.
also be in America’s interests because it could curb Iranian influence in the country and cool hostilities in the region. If, in fact, all sides are driven by a desire to avoid further instability, the conditions could be ripe for the U.S. to prod the Saudis and Houthis to come to the negotiating table. “There is a fragile opportunity for peace right now,” said Al Hamdani. “If the Arab coalition and the U.S. are serious about wanting regional de-escalation, then Yemen would be the place to do this.” At the same time, humanitarian efforts should be disentangled from the fortunes of the political negotiations, aid agencies say. “The humanitarian situation shouldn’t be
14 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
used as a bargaining chip and should be kept separate from any higher-level talks,” said Padraic McCluskey, humanitarian affairs advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “All the warring parties can take further steps to improve the space for humanitarian organizations to gain access,” he added. Indeed, MSF and other groups have recently reported increasing difficulty in the ability of aid workers to move around the country, or even enter it in the first place. Access for civilians to medical facilities is also deteriorating, as internal lines harden, sometimes cutting off villages and towns from their nearest clinics and hospitals. “Traveling further costs money, which
people often don’t have,” said McCluskey. “So people stay put until something goes very badly wrong. This is one factor behind a recent increase in newborn deaths we’ve seen, even as the incidence of cholera has been going down.” The U.N. medical airlift in February was a small step in the right direction, but it will take a lot more than a mercy flight for a handful of sick Yemenis to cure the country. To that end, the United Nations will launch a new humanitarian appeal for Yemen this month. The hope is that the appeal generates a response not only among international donors, but also among the warring parties on the ground — in the form of greater access both in and out of the country, and a return to the conference table, rather than the frontlines. That was the message Mark Lowcock, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, made last October when he gave an update on Yemen to the U.N. Security Council. Lowcock praised a surge in donations from Saudi Arabia and the UAE that he said “will allow humanitarian agencies to continue keeping millions of people alive. This is cause for optimism. But there is much more to do if our aim is not just to reduce people’s suffering, but to end it altogether.” “The only way to achieve that,” he said, “is to stop the war.” WD Jonathan Gorvett (jpgorvett.com) is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat and a freelance journalist specializing in Near and Middle Eastern affairs.
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Cover Profile | WD
Taking the Reins Croatia Assumes EU Presidency as Bloc Navigates Brexit, Migration, Tensions with Trump BY DERYL DAVIS
any people know the distinctively horseshoe-shaped nation of Croatia for several things: As the dramatic medieval backdrop for “Game of Thrones”; as the originator of the modern necktie (the cravat, derived from a kerchief worn by 17th-century Croat cavalrymen); as a European sports powerhouse, battling France for the World Cup title in 2018; and as the birthplace of luminaries such as inventor and futurist Nikola Tesla. Even explorer Marco Polo, widely assumed to have been born in Venice, may have in fact been born on one of Croatia’s 1,000-plus islands. Now, the small country of 4 million hopes to bring some of the same grit and entrepreneurial spirit to its tenure as head of the European Union presidency until June 30, 2020. This marks the first time that Croatia, the EU’s youngest member, has assumed the rotating six-month presidency, and it does so at a moment of significant change and challenge for the bloc, from the Brexit divorce to migration pressures on Europe’s southern borders to transatlantic trade wars and global security threats. Yet the EU presidency no longer wields the clout it once did, and the priorities each nation spells out for its presidency often read like a mindnumbing list of bromides and buzzwords. Croatia’s list is no different, pledging a “Europe that develops, a Europe that connects, a Europe that protects and an influential Europe.” But behind the dry diplo-speak, Croatia plans to take on some of the most urgent challenges bedeviling the bloc. That includes tackling climate change; creating an integrated energy market; developing a sustainable migration policy; responding to terrorism, cyber threats, fake news and populism; elevating the EU’s status on the world stage as a top trading partner; and serving as a forceful advocate for its Balkan neighbors to one day join the EU — just as Croatia itself did during the last wave of expansion in 2013. But first, Croatia’s ambassador in Washington, Pjer Šimunović, says one of his country’s most important jobs will be “simple, yet not always easy to do” — to help EU nations and their ministers really get to know one another. “We’re really good at convening, at bringing people together,” Šimunović said of his Balkan nation, which has stood at a crossroads of Europe for centuries and is now a popular destination for tourists from around the globe. Šimunović said that “it takes time and effort” to make real connections and that a large part of Croatia’s role will be “to preserve the human chemistry”
PHOTO: LAWRENCE RUGGERI
Europe can play a role on the global scene with its values, its ability to act, but Europe and America acting together, that’s when things get done. PJER ŠIMUNOVIĆ
ambassador of Croatia to the United States
between European ministers and civil servants as they become more familiar with each other. As the most recent EU parliamentary elections were held last May, many MEPs are still relatively fresh on the job and many are working together for the first time. Šimunović said that another important role of the EU presidency is building consensus among the EU’s 27 — until recently 28 — member states. On that note, the EU faces the unprecedented challenge of navigating what Šimunović calls “the Brexit divorce,” with the United Kingdom becoming the first-ever nation to withdraw from the European economic and political union. While the U.K. formally left the EU on Jan. 31, the next eleven months will be critical in negotiating the terms of their future relationship. Much, including trade, security, cross-border movement and the status of foreign nationals, will have to be worked out. British
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set an ambitious — some say unrealistic — deadline to conclude a massive trade deal with the EU by December 2020 or else the U.K. will walk away without a deal in place, essentially setting up another Brexit-style do-or-die cliff. Šimunović believes that Croatia can help keep a steady hand on what are sure to be contentious negotiations. “Part of our job is ensuring that the divorce is passing alimony in a friendly fashion,” Šimunović said with a touch of humor. “We have to preserve those things that are of mutual benefit, and there are a full spectrum. The U.K. was a fundamental part of the European Union, and we have to disentangle that very judiciously and very gradually. It’s in everybody’s interest to preserve our friendship and our alliances, such as in NATO. We’re tied defense-wise and also economically. So, if the U.K. left with bitterness, it would be a tragedy. We will employ all the instruments we
have to reach the best possible solution [to Britain’s exit].” Šimunović notes that the issue of the Northern Irish border is one of the thorniest and has yet to be resolved (also see “Messy Divorce: With Irish Backstop Gone, How Will Northern Ireland Move Forward After Brexit Breakup?” in the February 2020 issue). However, the ambassador is confident that both the EU and the U.K. will not let that undermine the peace established in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Šimunović himself was a correspondent in Belfast during some of the last years of The Troubles in the early 1990s. That’s when the ambassador worked as a foreign affairs correspondent for the Večernji list, a daily Croatian newspaper, and later as a journalist for BBC World Service Radio before transitionSEE CR OAT IA • PAGE 16 MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 15
PHOTO: BY KREMLIN.RU, CC BY 4.0
In a stunning underdog performance, the Croatian national soccer team came in second at the 2018 World Cup.
Croatia CONTINUED • PAGE 15
ing into diplomacy in 1998. Since then, he has served as deputy head of mission at the Croatian Embassy in France; national coordinator for NATO at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; director and then state secretary of defense policy at the Ministry of Defense; ambassador to Israel; and director of the Office of the National Security Council in Zagreb before arriving in Washington in the fall of 2017. Along with Brexit, Šimunović says another top priority for Croatia’s EU presidency will be the establishment of a multiannual financial framework, i.e. the all-important joint budget. The proposed EU budget of just over €1.2 billion will cover the period from 2021 to 2027 and is an increase from the previous budget, in part because of the loss of the U.K. but also to fund initiatives to address newer challenges such as climate change, migration, youth unemployment, digitization and defense. Croatia will have to work to find consensus on a budget that takes into account the effects of Brexit as well as the probable inclusion into the EU of candidate countries Albania and North Macedonia. “It can be very tricky, very touch and go,” Šimunović said of the budget negotiations. “With the recent elections [for the European Parliament], it hasn’t been resolved who is contributing how much and for what. It’s now up to the present European Commission and the presidency to smooth out the rough edges and guide discussions to find the most fruitful common denominator.” For Croatia, one of its most personally important priorities will be working to help two of its Balkan neighbors one day join the bloc. The ambassador said this will entail ensuring that any expansion of the EU is sustainable while at the same time reducing economic and social gaps between and within countries. This can be a special chal-
lenge when welcoming poorer states into the bloc, such as the two current Balkan candidates, Albania and North Macedonia, which were set to begin accession talks with the EU late last year. But the two countries were caught off guard when French President Emmanuel Macron blocked them from starting talks on the grounds that the EU expansion process needed to be reformed and that both countries needed to make more progress in areas such as migration. It was a big blow to Western Balkan nations, which had been told since 2003 that if they undertook reforms, they could one day join the EU. In particular, it was seen as a betrayal to North Macedonia, whose government took a significant risk in resolving a 30-year name dispute with Greece to qualify for eventual EU membership. Jean-Claude Juncker, thenpresident of the European Commission, called Macron’s opposition “a historic error.” Other EU officials warned that abandoning the Balkans would leave them vulnerable to Russian and Chinese influence, and that accession talks give the EU leverage to demand tough reforms. But one of Macron’s arguments was that once accession talks formally begin, the EU in fact loses its leverage to effect change. Indeed, many still criticize the decision to let Bulgaria and Romania into the bloc in 2007 given that both still struggle with corruption and the rule of law. The EU has tried to assuage Macron’s concerns and last month announced a proposal that would give existing EU member states more power to suspend or reverse the process of admitting new members if they were backsliding on their commitments, or even force countries to restart entry talks in some policy areas. The plan has sparked hope that Macron will drop his opposition and that accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia can move forward this spring. That’s precisely what Šimunović is pushing for. “We are promoting the value of enlarging the European Union for stabilizing unstable regions,” the ambassador said of the Western Balkans and
16 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
BY BENGT NYMAN FROM VAXHOLM, SWEDEN - DUBROVNIK D81_4034, CC BY 2.0
The city of Dubrovnik, where “Game of Thrones” was filmed, is one of Croatia’s most popular destinations. Tourism accounts for up to 20% of the country’s GDP.
PHOTO: JOSIP REGOVIC / PIXSELL / EU2020HR
Above, Croatia hosts a meeting on competitiveness in Zagreb on Feb. 4 as part of its European Union presidency. This marks the first time that the Baltic nation has held the rotating presidency since joining the EU in 2013.
PHOTO: EUROPEAN UNION 2013 - EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Albania and North Macedonia in particular. “But they have to fulfill the terms of the accession process.” Šimunović, who was Croatia’s chief negotiator in its application to NATO, describes the EU accession process as “like a boot camp,” with multiple inspections and negotiations over “grace periods” when deadline extensions become necessary. In May, Croatia will host an EU-Western Balkans summit to address
these issues with prospective members. At that meeting, Šimunović said the message will be “[t]he door is open for you, but you have to undertake reforms, meet agreedupon standards, tackle issues of corruption, meet a level of economic development, human rights and an independent judiciary. There are a lot of issues which we have to work with once we open negotiations,” Šimunović said. “It gets serious.”
Another serious issue facing not only the EU at large, but also Croatia specifically, is migration. In 2015, nearly 1 million undocumented migrants, largely from North Africa and the Middle East, made their way to Europe through Turkey, Greece, Italy and Hungary. The crisis ebbed when the EU struck a deal with Turkey to curb migration and European countries began sealing their borders. But with renewed vio-
lence in Syria and Libya, and Turkey threatening to open the floodgates if the EU does not deliver on the funds it reportedly promised, Europe’s refugee crisis could easily reignite — potentially on Croatia’s doorstep. Indeed, today migrants are increasingly turning to the less tightly controlled Bosnian-Croatian border to make their way to the rest of Europe. “Two years ago, just 750 migrants were recorded passing through Bosnia. In 2019, that figure rose to about 29,000 — most of them fleeing conflict or poverty in Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco and Pakistan,” wrote Patrick Kingsley in a Jan. 24 article for The New York Times. But the article says that migrants who make it past the hills and mountains that line the Bosnian border “are usually met with a brutal response by the Croatian authorities.” Recent reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch have accused Croatian authorities of arresting, summarily deporting and, in some cases, beating migrants who arrive in their territory without documentation — charges the Croatian government strongly rejects. “Accusations that Croatia is treating migrants in a particularly aggressive fashion, that’s certainly not the case,” Šimunović insisted. “If there have been instances of abuse, they have been thoroughly investigated and acted upon.” Šimunović pointed out that Croatia accepted its legal quota of foreign asylum seekers in 2015 and continues to do so today. “We provide them the means to restart their lives and centers for accepting those seeking asylum. But what we are facing these days on our border with Bosnia is mounting pressure, almost 10,000 people,” Šimunović said of the new influx of un-
documented migrants. “We are a country of 4 million. Look at the numbers of people on the move. We don’t want to be a frontline state having to face all of that all alone, and at the same time, we don’t want to build new walls in Europe, particularly with Bosnia, which is a very friendly country.” He added that “the European Commission should be able to create [better] conditions where [the migrants] are coming from so that they will return. Unfortunately, that’s not happening.” The ambassador suggested that a pan-European policy on migration is still sorely needed, especially for countries like Croatia that are carrying the brunt of the current influx. While migration has been a divisive topic among EU member states, trade has driven a wedge between the whole of Europe and the U.S. under President Trump, whose disagreements with Brussels on not only trade, but also defense spending, Iran and climate change have strained the traditionally strong transatlantic alliance (also see “European Union’s New Envoy Says Bloc Will Weather Transatlantic Storm” in the June 2019 issue). Since coming to office, Trump has slapped tariffs on a range of EU products such as wine, aircraft parts, steel and aluminum, prompting the bloc to respond with its own retaliatory tariffs. Most of the president’s attention, however, has been focused on his trade battle with China, and so far, he has refrained from hitting Europe’s all-important auto sector with tariffs ever since a trade détente was reached in mid-2018. But the EU still looms large in Trump’s crosshairs as he presses for more access to Europe’s coveted agricultural market — one of the most sensitive issues for the bloc. In recent weeks, the EU and U.S. have been reportedly discussing a “mini” trade deal to cool tensions, although details are scarce and agriculture remains an enormous obstacle. “It’s no secret that the issue of trade has
Flag of Croatia
Croatia at a Glance Independence Day Oct. 8 (1991) Location Southeastern Europe, bordering the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea, between Greece to the south and Montenegro and Kosovo to the north Capital Zagreb Population 4.2 million (July 2020 estimate)
GDP per-capita (PPP) $24,700 (2017 estimate)
Ethnic groups Croat 90.4%, Serb 4.4%,
GDP growth 2.8 percent (2017 estimate)
other 4.4% (including Bosniak, Hungarian, Slovene, Czech and Romani), unspecified 0.8% (2011 estimate)
Religious groups Roman Catholic 86.3%,
Orthodox 4.4%, Muslim 1.5%, other 1.5%, unspecified 2.5%, not religious or atheist 3.8% (2011 estimate)
GDP (purchasing power parity) $102 billion (2017 estimate)
emerged as a point of friction,” Šimunović said. “The EU as a whole has had to take adequate measures to protect itself ” against U.S. tariffs. “So the whole cycle should be stopped, and we should be able to find a set of agreements to ensure a level playing field between the two biggest markets in the world. Despite what’s in the news, we are still by far the main partners when it comes to trade exports.” Šimunović believes that a January meeting between EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and President Trump represents “a fresh start” in bilateral economic relations. “It was primarily about … reversing the existence of tariffs and establishing a fair, free market space across the Atlantic, respecting the interests of both sides,” he said.
Unemployment 12.4 percent (2017 estimate) Population below poverty line 19.5 percent (2015 estimate)
Industries Chemicals and plastics, machine
tools, fabricated metal, electronics, pig iron and rolled steel products, aluminum, paper, wood products, construction materials, textiles, shipbuilding, petroleum and petroleum refining, food and beverages, tourism SOURCE: CIA WORLD FACTBOOK
As Croatia’s ambassador to the U.S., it is no surprise that Šimunović has good things to say about the overall relationship between the EU and the United States. “The U.S. is an indispensable country in terms of global leadership,” he told us. “Europe can play a role on the global scene with its values, its ability to act, but Europe and America acting together, that’s when things get done. The uniqueness of the ideas that the United States stands for, its strength, its global reach, its promotion of human rights, religious rights, free market economy, protection of the environment, that’s indispensable.” But on the environmental front, the EU and U.S. have diverged sharply under Trump, who in 2017 announced he would withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord. De-
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spite America’s absence, however, the EU has pressed ahead as a leader in the global fight against climate change, a key plank of Croatia’s presidency. It’s an issue that hits close to home. Croatia’s booming tourist industry attracted almost 650,000 U.S. visitors last year, drawn by the country’s historic cities and stunning perch above the Adriatic Sea. (Reader’s note: the famed King’s Landing from “Game of Thrones” was filmed in medieval Dubrovnik, overlooking the Adriatic.) At last year’s U.N. General Assembly, then-Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović emphasized the importance of protecting the environment and putting a stop to human-caused pollution in the Adriatic Sea, which is so crucial to Croatia’s image and economic livelihood. “It’s important to us all,” Šimunović said. “The Adriatic is very fragile, but it is an essence of who we are. It provides our identity and the source of our biggest industry.” Any significant rise in sea level, Šimunović warned, could “fatally jeopardize” cities like Dubrovnik. “Croatia can provide an example for others,” the ambassador suggested. “If [protecting the environment] is important for us, it should be for everybody. We just have a singular interest in advocating for it.” Indeed, Croatia is drawing more visitors than ever before. It contests much larger countries in world sporting events (like that 2018 World Cup final). It is helping its fellow nations in the European Union take the next steps into a new, if somewhat uncertain, future. And it is still showing the world how to dress for success, à la cravat, which makes some people — especially men — happier than others. About that (i.e. the necktie), Croatia’s ambassador is fairly stoic. “It’s our brand, really,” he said. “So we have to wear it. Unfortunately.” WD Deryl Davis is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.
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WD | Europe
United Front French, German Ambassadors Reflect on What Europe’s Future Will Look Like BY DERYL DAVIS
n Jan. 22, as members of the European Commission in Brussels laid out plans for a two-year “Conference on the Future of Europe,” in Washington, D.C., ambassadors from the EU’s largest and arguably most influential countries, Germany and France, met to discuss what that future might look like. Hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, German Ambassador Emily Haber and French Ambassador Philippe Étienne offered their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities before European nations in 2020 and beyond. “Europe has always been at a crossroads,” Haber said, but its “mission statement” is different today than what it might have been just a few years ago. “The balance of the world has changed, and not in favor of the West,” she conceded. “We need all our collective strength to defend that balance and our values.” Haber suggested that the various crises of recent years, including the large numbers of migrants flooding into Europe, Britain’s departure from the EU and the rise of extremist political ideologies, have led to “much introspection” among member states. However, she insisted that Europe was not on any kind of downhill slope toward “skepticism and fragmentation.” Rather, she asserted that “[a]ll the polls will show you that the European cause [i.e. the EU] has become more popular, and that the public engage with it more than they used to.” Acknowledging that “there is much homework to do,” Haber said that going forward, Europe needed to become “more resilient” about issues such as economic rights, digital technology, climate change, the rise of China and the rights of young people. Étienne agreed that while Europe faces a litany challenges, when stepping back to look at the bigger picture, it’s clear that there also much to celebrate. “We have succeeded in having a European currency. We have started an economic and
PHOTOS: CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
German Ambassador Emily Haber, center, and French Ambassador Philippe Étienne discuss the future of Europe at a Jan. 22 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The balance of the world has changed, and not in favor of the West…. We need all our collective strength to defend that balance and our values. EMILY HABER
ambassador of Germany to the United States
monetary union. We have succeeded in the reunification of Germany inside the EU, and then to extend the EU to countries which suffered from Soviet domination,” he said. “These are incredible successes…. But we still have this test. We are in this new world with a number of global challenges which we have to give answers to.” Étienne noted that many of these challenges come from outside Europe, such as the movement of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. Others are global in nature, including the difficulties of transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy and establishing protocols for safety and security in today’s digital
18 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
revolution. Of special importance to both Haber and Étienne was the bilateral relationship across the Rhine. Both cited the recent Treaty of Aachen between France and Germany as a sign of their countries’ deepening partnership. First proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron — who has bucked the populist uprising in France and across Europe by advocating for a stronger EU — the treaty aims to bring France and Germany closer together on matters such as culture, education, climate, security and defense. For Étienne — who before coming to Washington served as Macron’s diplomatic advisor
— the relationship between the two countries was “personal,” having been deeply inspired by German and French citizens who, in the aftermath of the Second World War, were determined to make reconciliation between the two nations a reality. “This cooperation remains an inspiration,” and also “a necessary condition for European integration,” Étienne said. However, the ambassador cautioned that close cooperation between France and Germany “is not sufficient” in and of itself because “all states in the EU have a part in this process.” For her part, Haber suggested that people too often look at France and Germany through
a lens of differences, which was “the wrong framing.” “It is hugely important for the rest of the EU that two large countries with different traditions, histories and vantage points try to bridge differences and argue them out, which we do,” Haber said. As an example, she said that over the past decade, “visions have been the German thing and incremental approaches probably the French thing.” That was good, she argued, because both approaches were needed to build a Europe of the future. Both ambassadors also emphasized the continuing importance of the transatlantic relationship, which has taken a beating under President
Trump. Étienne suggested that France and Germany were “in different ways very close allies of the U.S. through our different histories.” He said both nations were deeply grateful to the United States for its support in the postwar period, as well as through the process of creating the European Union. “The building up of the EU was important for the United States, too,” Étienne added. “The success of the EU in the challenges [ahead] will also be the success of the transatlantic relationship and of the United States,” he said, “because we share a fundamental legacy.” Haber emphasized that the United States was, indeed, the EU’s closest ally, “but the world is changing and the balance is changing.” “The status quo and our interests are not being challenged in Europe. They are being challenged elsewhere,” she said in what appeared to be an oblique reference to the U.S. tariffs that Trump has slapped on European goods and his demands that European nations contribute more to NATO. “This means we will have to adapt…. It means a greater coherence in European defense,” she said. “It is in the American interest if Europe is strengthening its home base.” Haber warned though that should the U.S. impose additional tariffs on European goods, “we will react.” She said the U.S. “should remember that
PHOTO: MELANIE WENGER / EUROPEAN UNION 2020 – SOURCE: EP
From left, European Council President Charles Michel, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discuss the two-year plan known as the Conference of the Future of Europe.
the EU is not a bloc pitted against American interests. Every European nation feels aligned to your values and your interests. We see you as a strategic ally.” The ongoing migrant crisis, Brexit and the rise of authoritarianism were at the top of both ambassadors’ concerns for the future of Europe.
Haber herself was deployed as state secretary overseeing security and migration at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe. In this capacity, she worked closely with the U.S. on topics ranging from the fight against international terrorism to global cybersecurity. She said that the migrant crisis,
which exploded in 2015, had “led to much loss of confidence, but at the same time has led us to strengthen our governance systems.” However, she cited a “disconnect” between how many Europeans felt about the crisis, particularly at its height several years ago, and what their governments could reasonably do
about it. “This was hugely important. Governments said, ‘Yes, we’ll have to solve this problem because we have open borders, but we can’t just do it on our own. We have to negotiate [with other countries].’ But people said, ‘We hold you accountable.’ What I realized at the time was if you don’t make people understand that comprises [are necessary], that European governance structures, European law, is there to protect the citizens, you’ll have this legitimacy gap.” Étienne added that while the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, had “given a clear vision” on matters such as migration, “the downside is that it’s very complicated, even for our citizens to understand, that we have this legal political framework … where compromises are built in a way which allows us to take into account national interests.” He acknowledged that citizens don’t always see how this collective EU governance process respects national interests. “They are always asking questions about how it works, is it legitimate,” the ambassador said. “It is very important to show that we act together and that we are efficient in acting to take decisions, but also that together we look toward the future,” he added, noting that he refers to this pan-EU governance process SEE EU • PAGE 20
RESTORING AMERICAN STATESMANSHIP: The Urgent Need To Confront America’s Leadership Crisis
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EU CONTINUED • PAGE 19
as “constructive compromise.” Haber and Étienne were fairly sanguine when it came to Brexit, which became official on Jan. 31. Haber said that with its departure, Britain “will take one dimension — its global experience, global outlook, its way of handling the economy,” but that Britain would remain the EU’s closest partner outside the U.S. Nevertheless, she acknowledged that Britain’s departure would alter existing balances within the EU, the result of which is “difficult to predict today.” Étienne, too, acknowledged the seismic change in the status quo. “To lose such an important state as the United Kingdom is a loss for everybody,” he said, but it was a decision the people of Britain had the right to make. He said that it was now up to the EU and the U.K. to negotiate an agreement on their future relationship, including trade, security, migration, academic exchanges an an array of other thorny details. He noted that Macron has long proposed maintaining strong ties between the EU and the U.K., but that depends on the negotiating positions of both sides. “We have to negotiate in a way that ensures a net benefit for all of us, both the U.K. and the EU,” he said. The envoys agreed that the rise of authoritarianism, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, was another mutual concern. Haber pointed out that the European Commission has made democracy and the rule of law “one of its priorities,” and that, starting in May, the commission will con-
PHOTO: MELANIE WENGER / EUROPEAN UNION 2020 – SOURCE: EP
The Conference of the Future of Europe is a two-year endeavor designed to give citizens more of a say in shaping future European Union policies and goals on issues such as climate change and digital innovation.
vene a two-year Conference on the Future of Europe to address these specific issues. “This is a process which will distill a shared sense of narrative, of what we are, of our identity,” she said. “I think the conference will play a huge role in defining what we want to be and where we’re going to head.” Étienne agreed but warned that in working toward refining a European identity, the EU “must absolutely avoid” creating any divisions between East and West or between older and newer member states. That was an important aspect of the EU charter itself. “I would like to conclude,” he said, “by repeating the success of European integration,
of the Franco-German treaty of Aachen one year ago, by reminding of the need of a strong European Union, but also of a strong transatlantic relationship. For the security of the United States, you need a successful EU.” WD Deryl Davis is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.
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Upping the Ante Op-Ed: Palestinians Should Present Counteroffer to Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ BY BISHARA A. BAHBAH
hey say diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in a way that they look forward to the trip. That’s exactly how the Palestinians should respond to President Trump’s Middle East peace plan, bucking the mainstream consensus that the “deal of the century” is dead on arrival.
There are so many elements of Trump’s proposed peace plan that are not only objectionable to the Palestinians but outrageous. They range from:
• Allowing Israel to annex 30% of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and all its settlements. This would create a permanent eastern border for Israel along the Jordan River and a gerrymandered, disjointed state for the Palestinians connected by bridges and tunnels and surrounded by Israeli territory. • Guaranteeing Trump’s previous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital while offering Palestinians a capital on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. • Ignoring the basic rights of Palestinians to live in a viable state — territorially, economically and in control of its own security, borders, airspace and ports. • Permitting Palestinians to establish a demilitarized state and after a four-year waiting period, during which time a number of conditions have to be met. These include the disarming of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza — a task that Israel with all its military might has failed to accomplish. • Refusing the so-called “right of return” of any Palestinian refugees to Israel, and resettling refugees only in a future Palestinian state or third countries. • Ignoring the right of all Palestinian refugees to be repatriated and, for those who choose and are able to stay in the countries where they are currently residing, to be appropriately compensated. • Ignoring international law, including the Geneva Conventions, as well as the Oslo Accords and past U.N. resolutions. Instead of being continuously outraged and incensed, however, Palestinians are better served by presenting a counterproposal of what would be an acceptable offer to them.
POSSIBLE PALESTINIAN COUNTERPROPOSAL
The Palestinian counterproposal could include the following components:
CREDIT: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD
President Trump joins Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he unveils details of the administration’s Middle East Peace Plan at the White House on Jan. 28.
From a Machiavellian perspective, the success of Trump’s peace proposal hinges on the Palestinians’ refusal to accept that proposal but, more importantly, their refusal to submit a counterproposal. BISHARA A. BAHBAH
• Negotiations between Israel and Palestine are to be based on the 1967 borders with mutually acceptable modifications.
years, although it offers no specifics on how to induce international donors to fund the plan.)
• Palestinians could be open to Israel’s annexation of Israeli settlements adjacent to Israel’s borders of 1967 in return for acceptable Israeli territories of equal size and geographic importance.
• Security — internal and external — is of paramount importance to both Israel and Palestine. There would be comprehensive security cooperation between Israel and Palestine within their respective borders and in cooperation with the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.
• Settlements deep inside the West Bank would have to be evacuated — not dismantled — so that they may be used for returning Palestinian refugees. • Appropriate compensation and reparations are to be paid to the Palestinians primarily by Israel, the United States and Britain. • An international “Palestine Trust Fund” is to be established for funds collected from all donors, those listed above and others, to help build a modern Palestinian state, compensate and repatriate all Palestinian refugees. (Trump has proposed a $50 billion plan to develop a future Palestinian state and provide 1 million new jobs over 10
• International monitors would be allowed to be stationed in the State of Palestine in various locations and along its borders to ensure compliance with agreed-upon security arrangements. Such international monitors will be authorized by the United Nations as long as their presence is warranted and mutually agreed upon. • The State of Palestine will agree to be a demilitarized state. Its security forces will be used to maintain internal order, control and secure its border, airspace and coastline.
• Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails for any politically related reason would be released upon the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. Israel and Palestine, in turn, would have the right to ban whomever they want from entering their state in the future. • Palestine will have complete control of all of its natural resources, such as water, land, oil and gas. Palestine would be party to a regional cooperation council that includes Israel, Jordan and Egypt to coordinate the exploration of natural resources on land and offshore. • Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine. The Palestinian village of Abu Dis will be linked to the Old City of Jerusalem, providing Palestinians with access to the Old City and East Jerusalem, where Palestinians would have a religious, administrative and political presence. SEE PAL ES T INE • PAGE 39 MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 21
WD | Medical
Coronavirus: Is U.S. Prepared? Hospitals Brace for Potential Spread of Virus in U.S. Amid Tough Flu Season BY DENNIS THOMPSON
ospitals are bracing for the potential spread of coronavirus in the United States, trying to plan for a potential onslaught of sick patients combined with potential supply shortages. The strict quarantine and screening measures enacted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given hospitals breathing space to review their pandemic plans and stockpile needed equipment, said Dr. Mark Jarrett, the chief quality officer for Northwell Health, a New York hospital chain. “We’re buying some time now that it hasn’t really spread so much in the United States,” Jarrett said. “That’s giving us a chance to gear up factories and address supply chain issues.” But the United States is in the throes of a tough flu season that’s already straining the capacity of many hospitals, said Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety for the American Hospital Association. “It is a tough flu season. It’s a very bad flu season. And many of our hospitals are pretty darned full,” Foster said. “If there were to be an outbreak here in the next couple of weeks, the overlap means that many hospitals would be full to the brim, if not overflowing.” To make matters worse, the coronavirus epidemic has hampered supply chains leading out of China and is highlighting the problems with American hospitals’ dependence on “just-in-time” supply orders, experts said.
PROTECTING HEALTH CARE WORKERS FIRST
Take, for example, the N95 respirator mask, which is primarily manufactured in China. This mask provides much better protection for health care workers than the thinner masks worn in surgeries, said Shelly Schwedhelm, Nebraska Medicine’s executive director of emergency management and biopreparedness. Nebraska Medical Center treated three Ebola patients in its biocontainment unit in 2014 and recently opened a nearby quarantine clinic for coronavirus-infected people re-entering the United States from China. “The folks that are going to have the closest contact with patients should use the N95,” Schwedhelm said, noting that procedure masks or surgical 22 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
PHOTO: GERD ALTMANN / PIXABAY
It’s a very bad flu season. And many of our hospitals are pretty darned full. If there were to be an outbreak here in the next couple of weeks, the overlap means that many hospitals would be full to the brim, if not overflowing. NANCY FOSTER
vice president of quality and patient safety for the American Hospital Association
masks “just don’t have the filtration capability you would need for some of these viruses.” This is not a theoretical threat. More than 1,700 medical workers in China have become infected with coronavirus while on the job, Chinese officials announced in mid-February. “This is concerning and consistent with what the CDC knows from our experience with SARS and MERS, where we saw that transmission can be amplified in health care settings if infection control practices are not carefully followed,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a media briefing last month. However, according to Schwedhelm, because the N95 is usually only worn when treating patients with rare
infectious diseases like tuberculosis or measles, U.S. hospitals typically don’t stock a lot of them in supply closets. “If you haven’t done stockpiling of that item, you’re never going to have enough” to go around in case of a coronavirus outbreak, Schwedhelm said. Unfortunately, Jarrett said, stockpiling runs counter to the efficient way medical centers are run nowadays. Hospitals everywhere have become very dependent on global supplies of drugs and equipment, as well as supply orders that always come in the nick of time, he added.
CHINA CRUCIAL TO SUPPLY CHAIN
“Hospitals don’t have huge warehouses full of stockpiles like they used
For More Information For more information about coronavirus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.
to in the old days, because things can be shipped so quickly and communication is so quick,” Jarrett said. This means a catastrophe in one part of the world can quickly put a pinch on medical supplies elsewhere. For example, when Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico in 2017, one of the consequences for hospitals was a shortage of saline IV bags, Jarrett SEE COR ONAVIR US • PAGE 37
Culture arts & entertainment art
From television sportscaster
to humanitarian aid manager for landmine victims, Jon Os-
kar Solnes’s resume is a long one. But perhaps his most
important role has been as
a supportive husband to his
wife, Icelandic Ambassador Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, and “Mr. Mom” to his four children PAGE 25
Libraries may seem like
a dusty relic from a time
before the advent of Wikipedia and Google, but in
Finland, libraries are still considered revolution-
ary, serving as communal
In “The Secret Life of Earth: Alive! Awake! (and Possibly Really Angry!),” a diverse group of artists celebrate nature and sound a clarion call about our persistent apathy and obstinance in the face of environmental calamity as icebergs melt and islands sink under rising seas. PAGE 24
Iceland’s Versatile ‘Mr. Mom’
The Washington Diplomat | March 2020
hubs of learning and
egalitarianism. PAGE 26
Drowning in Politics It’s hard to say anything new or
interesting about Donald Trump, but playwright Anne Washburn
manages to do it in “Shipwreck,” as a group of self-loathing liberals plumb the depths of racism, white rural angst and Trump’s
Mussolini-like appeal. PAGE 29
PHOTO: PHOTO: DAN MEYERS / COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 23
WD | Culture | Art
Planet in Peril Earth Is ‘Alive! Awake! (and Possibly Really Angry!)’ in Climate Change-Focused Exhibit •
BY BRENDAN L. SMITH
The Secret Life of Earth: Alive! Awake! (and Possibly Really Angry!) THROUGH SEPT. 6, 2020
AMERICAN VISIONARY ART MUSEUM 800 KEY HIGHWAY, BALTIMORE, MD.
limate change is usually viewed as a scientific issue or a political debate, at least in the United States where President Trump and his minions deny climate change is real despite the overwhelming evidence. Climate change is just one of the myriad threats to our planet that artists are addressing — or confronting — in their work, and it couldn’t be more timely as Australia burns, icebergs melt and islands sink under rising seas. With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day taking place this April, the American Visionary Art Museum’s latest exhibition brings together a diverse group of artists whose work celebrates nature and sounds a clarion call about our persistent apathy and obstinance in the face of worldwide environmental calamity. “The Secret Life of Earth: Alive! Awake! (and Possibly PHOTO: DAN MEYERS / COURTESY OF THE ARTIST Really Angry!),” which marks the Baltimore museum’s 25th anniversary year, features nearly 90 pieces In “The Secret Life of Earth,” artists celebrate nature while of art by self-taught painters, photographers, fabric warning about the effects of climate change, as seen in pieces artists and sculptors. Alongside the art, the exhibisuch as Bobby Adams’s “What’s Cooking,” pictured on the culture tion aims to give viewers an entertaining but educacover, as well as Chris Roberts-Antieau’s “Birds of Prey,” above, tional “crash course” on the intricacies of earth’s ecoand Johanna Burke’s “Another Green World,” at left. systems and the rapidly changing state of its climate with a plethora of facts, trivia and science, including tion titled “RELEASE” by artist and Rāja yoga prachopeful stories of innovative solutions to balance titioner Santiago Navila. Taut strips of fabric stretch out the warnings of pending environmental doom. in panels across the gallery with a video projected The exhibition has good intentions but an uneven through one of the panels in the center of the room. scattershot execution with half of the small amount The video begins with a news segment about the of gallery space wasted on a site-specific installation great garbage patch of floating plastic in the Pacific that spouts platitudes about positivity. However, the Ocean but then veers into stock footage of dolphins, exhibition opens with a flourish with a formal white wildebeest and random disjointed nature scenes. A silk gown ornately embroidered with two birds, but voiceover murmurs, “How can I free my mind? How these aren’t peaceful doves or brightly hued lovecan I create a positive world? Let go. The past is the birds. One hawk is ready to sink its talons into a past…” and so on. Even though it’s a site-specific infleeing hare while another has killed a smaller bird stallation tailored to this exhibition, it feels like an on a branch with a talon sunk into its bloody broken off-the-rack New Age-ish reduction of mindfulness neck. “Birds of Prey” by Chris Roberts-Antieau stirs to some trite phrases that aren’t really connected to conflicting emotions, revealing both the beauty and nature or anything else. cruelty in the kill-or-be-killed natural world. Back in the first gallery of the exhibition, teen Around the corner, a sextet of vividly green but activist Greta Thunberg talks about the dangers of remarkably lifelike apes and monkeys hang from climate change in a video of an interview on “The trees or sit on their haunches in a vibrant green Daily Show.” Thunberg has a refreshingly direct and PHOTO: DAN MEYERS / COURTESY OF BERGDORF GOODMAN AND THE ARTIST jungle fashioned from dried plants, rhinestones and confrontational approach of calling out world leaders other colorful found objects. Johanna Burke’s “Another Green World” celebrates the maj- (especially Trump and his ilk) for their refusal to tackle climate change. Her demands esty of our closest cousins and their familial bonds to each other. The installation was for action raise a generational divide where youth are rightfully angry about the refusal commissioned by the Bergdorf Goodman luxury department store in New York City, of their elders to take any meaningful actions about climate change, which will burden where Burke works as a fabricator, for a 2016 holiday window display. She said the work future generations long after the baby boomers are dead and gone. was inspired by “1960s psychedelic art, the paintings of Louis Wain, Indian block prints Toward that end, there’s also a disconnect between the exhibition’s environmental foand all manner of decorative patterns.” cus and some of the American Visionary Art Museum’s own practices. I counted three Another installation titled “What’s Cooking” by Baltimore artist Bobby Adams most paper towel dispensers (and no hand dryer) in one men’s bathroom. A museum shouldn’t directly confronts climate change in a humorous and powerful telling. A glowing red bemoan the destruction of the Earth’s habitat in an exhibition and then contribute to it globe is stuffed inside a 1970s vintage yellow oven beneath the words “EARTH IN DAN- in its own bathrooms. GER WHEN RED BLINKING.” A toy penguin, giraffe and monkey are being cooked in While there is strong work on display, the exhibition’s title aptly reveals its lack of focus pots on the range next to a melting Salvador Dalí-esque clock. This exhibition is filled or clear intent. The Earth has always been alive(!) and awake(!), and what secret life is bewith wall text about the numbing statistics of climate change, but Adams’s work brings ing revealed? The Earth is literally on fire and there’s nothing secret about it. WD those abstract numbers to life. Sometimes humor can provide a pathway around apathy toward some desire for action. Brendan L. Smith (www.brendanlsmith.com) is a contributing writer for The WashingUnfortunately, the largest gallery in the exhibition is wasted on a site-specific installa- ton Diplomat and a mixed-media artist and curator (www.brendanlsmithart.com).
24 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
Diplomatic Spouses | Culture | WD
Jon of All Trades Husband of Icelandic Ambassador Becomes Career Chameleon for His Wife •
BY GAIL SCOTT
on Oskar Solnes can certainly be described as a jack of all trades. He has been a television sportscaster; foreign news editor; press and information officer; a bank research editor; a chief of staff for a peacekeeping monitoring mission in Sri Lanka; a humanitarian aid manager for landmine victims in northern Iraq and Bosnia and Herzegovina; permanent delegate for a confederation of Icelandic employers analyzing EU socioeconomic and financial regulation; senior advisor for media analysis at two of NATO’s highest organizations; a consultant; and a two-time author. But perhaps his most important role has been as a supportive husband to his wife Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, Iceland’s recently appointed ambassador to the U.S. “I’ve tried to be flexible, to help myself and find my own way,” Solnes, 57, told us. “When my wife was first sent abroad to Bonn, I thought I’ll try it, so I gave up my broadcasting job, which I loved,” he said of adjusting his career to accommodate his wife’s and the needs of their growing family. That included taking on another job: stayat-home dad — or, as he calls it, “Mr. Mom.” “Our first daughter was only one and a half then [in Bonn] and I thought I could help. Our second daughter came shortly thereafter. There was a period in Bonn when I took the baby down to the embassy two or three times a day so my wife could breastfeed her,” Solnes recalled. The couple also eventually had two boys. In between his parenting duties, Solnes earned a master’s in management and finance from Boston University (in association with the Free University of Brussels) and a master’s-level diploma in financial strategy from the University of Oxford. Today, the girls, Salvö and Katla, are in their 20s while the boys, Hjalti and Sturla, are teenagers. “We had two girls first and then, 10 years later, two boys. I found that bringing up girls was totally different than bringing up boys. One thing that is especially nice about the boys is that we have more sports in common. I am a skier and so are they, but I wonder this winter if they’re going to out-ski me at Snowshoe,” he said, referring to the popular ski mountain resort town in West Virginia. Solnes had been a well-known TV sportscaster in Iceland covering international events as the Seoul Summer Olympics in 1988 and the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy for Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (known as RÚV). Then he became the network’s foreign news editor, traveling abroad to cover major conflict areas as the former Yugoslavia and Somalia. Next, he became a research editor for a major Icelandic bank, writing English language information bulletins for international subscribers and investors. “But I didn’t like the bank that much…. It wasn’t exciting. All anyone talked about, thought about, was money,” he said. “This was before the economic crash.” The subject of money was then on everyone’s minds in 2008, when Iceland experienced a crippling financial crisis in which three of the country’s major privately owned banks defaulted, leading to a severe economic depression that lasted for several years. Since then, however, the country has managed an impressive recovery, with steady economic growth fueled in part by a major increase in tourism. In fact, part of Iceland’s economic prosperity owes to its progressive social policies on gender equality, which has led to greater participation of women in the workforce — including the political sphere, with women comprising half of parliament. The Icelandic ambassador’s own diverse diplomatic career is emblematic of how advanced this nation of just over 350,000 people is when it comes to women’s rights. Among her various postings, Ellertsdóttir has served as ambassador to the European Union and to the United Nations; foreign affairs advisor to the
Jon Oskar Solnes, a well-known television sportscaster in Iceland, adjusted his career when his wife began being posted abroad, working at various points of his life for a peacekeeping monitoring mission in Sri Lanka and as a humanitarian aid manager for landmine victims in northern Iraq and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It’s a shock to the system to come from a dangerous yet exciting environment where you hope you’re making a difference in comparison to being Mr. Mom, where you’re hoping to make an even bigger difference. JON OSKAR SOLNES
sportscaster, editor, humanitarian aid worker, chief of staff, spokesperson, author and consultant
prime minister; chief negotiator for the Iceland-China Free Trade Agreement; and deputy director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political Department dealing with security issues, NATO and bilateral relations with the U.S., Canada and Russia. While Solnes’s various career moves have also given him a range of experiences, he’s frank about the sacrifices he’s had to make to follow his wife. “I took a great risk in resigning from the television job I loved. I went from being known all over Iceland to hardly ever being known and only recognized as the husband of my wife,” he said. A couple of times in their 25-year marriage, however, he did leave the family home because he was recruited to work in conflict areas and warzones, although not for extended tours. “I think I wanted to challenge myself again,” Solnes said. So he accepted an invitation to become communications director and chief spokesperson for the European Union’s Police Mission in Sarajevo, where he was directly in charge of 16 staffers from some of the 30 contributing countries helping to oversee the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and restructure the police forces. “The war was over, leaving scarred and burnt buildings all over the city, but Sarajevo would maybe not be called a real hardship post,” he said. “We had a small, private and wonderful Christmas there with my wife and two daughters.” SEE S POUS ES • PAGE 27 MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 25
WD | Culture | Education
Pioneering Bookworms ‘Mind-Building’ Shows How Libraries Hold a Special Place in Finland’s Past and Future •
Mind-Building MARCH 3, APRIL 7, MAY 5, JUNE 2 FROM 4 - 7 P.M. EMBASSY OF FINLAND
3301 MASSACHUSETTS AVE., NW
ibraries may seem like a dusty relic from a time before the advent of Wikipedia and Google, but in Finland, libraries are still considered revolutionary, serving as communal hubs of learning and egalitarianism. Finland’s 864 public libraries are “open for everyone, free for everyone, belonging to everyone and used for everyone’s benefit,” according to Anni Vartola, curator of “Mind-Building,” an exhibition on Finnish libraries and library architecture now on display at the Embassy of Finland. The Finns’ deep love of libraries and literacy is reflected in the fact that the Nordic nation’s 5.5 million people borrow nearly 68 million books a year. Libraries represent the importance Finns place on democracy, education and architectural innovation. According to the exhibition, local librarians and architects of library buildings — referred to as “mind-builders” — help create a welcoming space for social inclusion, civic engagement, freedom of expression and intellectual creativity. The exhibition was originally produced in 2018 for Venice’s Biennale Architettura, whose theme was “freespace.” Vartola said the term freespace “rests on an understanding that the architecture of public libraries synthesizes the representation of a social institution, the functional needs of library spaces and a publicly funded architectural gesture of considerable local significance.” Architecture, in fact, has played a key role in the development of Finland’s libraries. Originally, Finnish libraries were designed to be architecturally inviting, uplifting spaces so that working-class people would “come in, read newspapers, study books, learn about the world and, thereby, enlighten themselves and thus become active, well-informed citizens,” Vartola, who is also an architecture expert, told Laura Houseley in a May 2018 CNN article. “This basic principle still holds true.” Today’s libraries are both visually striking and versatile — “a place for learning, doing and sharing,” according to the exhibition. So unless you’re in a silent section, there won’t be much shushing going around because libraries in Finland double as hubs of social activity, which is especially important in a country known for cold, dark weather. Indeed, these creative spaces not only house books, they also offer cafes, meeting facilities, classes, children’s playgrounds, video game rooms, music studios and workshops where patrons can use everything from 3D printers to sewing machines (one library even has karaoke). This emphasis on community engagement is seen throughout “Mind-Building,” which takes visitors on a journey through time, beginning with the opening of the Rikhardinkatu Library in Helsinki in 1881 and ending with the 2018 grand opening of the Oodi Helsinki Central Library. Along the way, we see both the distinct characteristics of each library on display and the commonalities they share. For example, the Metso library, built in 1986 in the city of Tampere, stands as a testament to Finnish architecture, particularly its emphasis on minimalism, openness and sustainability. The library’s brightly lit, sleek curved lines resemble the shell of a snail, while the color of the interior textiles is based on wild flowers and bird plumage, evoking the Finns’ love of nature and their pioneering use of clean, contemporary design. While each of the libraries has its own appeal, Oodi is in a league of its own as an example of what the future of libraries could look like. Finland’s newest state-of-the-art library, built in the heart of Helsinki, is displayed with the words “Your Next Living Room,” an apt description for this multipurpose refuge where you can enjoy lunch, hang out with friends, see a movie, host events, embroider curtains or escape in the world of virtual reality. According to ALA Architects, which built Oodi, the library reaches “beyond the character of an ordinary library” and embodies “a new concept of an indoor public space full
26 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
ANNA GAWEL AND DIANA OXNER
Visitors to the Embassy of Finland can learn about the evolution of the country’s libraries over the last 100 years, including its state-of-theart Oodi library in Helsinki, seen below, which offers cafes, meeting facilities, workshops, children’s playgrounds, video game rooms, music studios and an artistic spiral staircase called “Omistuskirjoitus (Dedication).” PHOTOS: EMBASSY OF FINLAND
PHOTO: KUVATOIMISTO KUVIO OY
of opportunities. As such, it is a bold and concrete token of the fundamental values of the Finnish culture and society.” Those values include diversity and equality, as seen in the library’s spiral staircase titled “Omistuskirjoitus (Dedication),” which is punctuated with words such as “strangers,” “beggars,” “the lonely,” “urbanites,” “populists,” “skeptics,” “genderqueers,” “grandfathers,” “minorities,” “wizards,” “bureaucrats,” “bellyachers” and dozens of other colorful descriptions — even “the illiterate” — so that anyone and everyone knows they have a place in the library. The 2018 opening of the Oodi Library was part of the celebration marking the centennial of Finland’s independence. After Finland declared its independence in 1917 following the abdication of Russia’s last czar, the fledging state descended into a brief civil war that killed nearly 40,000 followed by a long stretch of economic destitution and division. But the government invested heavily into areas such as education — including libraries — and Finland rapidly developed into one of the world’s most prosperous states, consistently ranking at the top of indicators for quality of life and, not surprisingly, education. Today, Finland boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Its emphasis on the value of education is a driving force behind providing university access at minimal costs and also free public libraries. For Finns, the power of education and literacy makes their yearly 58 euro contribution to public libraries a worthwhile investment. Finns also feel personally connected to their libraries because architects ask locals what they want or need out of their libraries, incorporating these ideas into their plans (hence, the karaoke). This appreciation is seen at the Finnish Embassy in a section that displays postcards from libraries in towns with populations as small as 1,000 and as big as several hundred thousand. Vartola told us that “this collection of postcards tells about the affection between the library building and the local community that uses it and sees it as an integral part of their environmental identity. WD Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat. Diana Oxner is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.
Spouses CONTINUED • PAGE 25
Jumping to another hotspot, in 2004 Solnes was recruited to be the public information officer and spokesperson for the Nordic- and Norwegian-led peace-monitoring mission in Sri Lanka known as SLMM, which oversaw the ceasefire between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels. He later became chief of staff and deputy chief of the mission of the mission in this war-torn but still resplendent island in the Indian Ocean that was still recovering from 25 years of civil war. “My family knew where I was working. I was never apart from my family for an extended time,” Solnes told us. “These assignments usually lasted only six months to a year.” He then worked with Össur, one of the world’s leading producers of prosthetics. As humanitarian aid manager and spokesperson, Solnes helped to arrange 300 prosthetics for seriously wounded soldiers and civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later, he orchestrated the fitting of hundreds of amputees, mostly landmine victims in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Back in Brussels — where his wife was deputy secretary-general of the European Free Trade Association and, later, director of international trade negotiations in the Directorate for Trade and Economic Affairs — he once again became a spokesperson and also permanent delegate for the
Confederation of Icelandic Employers at BUSINESSEUROPE, Europe’s main organization for business and industry. When Ellertsdóttir became head of the Icelandic Mission to the European Union in 2014, Solnes became a senior advisor on media analysis to SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers Europe) and SACEUR (NATO’S Supreme Allied Commander Europe). From 2018 to 2019, Ellertsdóttir served as Iceland’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York and this past September, she and the family moved to Washington, D.C., for her current posting. They now live in Iceland’s Kalorama residence, where they are almost backyard neighbors with the Obamas and within eyeshot of Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and their young children. Solnes has now created his own
firm as a strategic consultant in finance, media and foreign policy. He analyzes socio-economic issues, particularly in relation to EU regulations and the Icelandic economy, boiling them down to concise and understandable papers. He also helps managers write policy op-eds and connects clients to governments and other institutions. As if that weren’t enough, he has written two books, the most recent being “A Powderkeg in Paradise: Lost Opportunity for Peace in Sri Lanka.” His life began in Copenhagen, even though his parents were both Icelanders. At 8 years old, Solnes was chosen for the highly revered Copenhagen Boys Choir. “They choose 50 boys from the greater Copenhagen area. It was a singing school, but you had regular classes, too. I was proud to be in the choir, but it was a burden,” he recalled. “I had to get up at 6 [a.m.],
At left, Jon Oskar Solnes and his wife, Icelandic Ambassador Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, stand in front of a church called Víðimýrarkirkja that was built in 1834 and is one of the few remaining turf churches in Iceland. Above, their children — Salvör, 16, and Hjalti, 4, on the left, and Katia, 14, and Sturia, 6 — are seen skiing in Tirol, Austria.
wake up alone and I left before the others woke up. I inhaled tea, toast and some cheese. Then I had to hurry to the bus, #N10 or N#16, change and get on the train for a couple of stops. I had to be there at 8 a.m.” Despite the demanding schedule, he stayed in the choir for five years. At 13, his parents moved back to Iceland because his father, a civil engineer, was offered a full professorship at the University of Iceland. “I was ripped away from all my friends; it was very difficult,” Solnes admits. Ellertsdóttir and Solnes knew of each other in an Icelandic junior college but it was not until they were graduate students in West Berlin at Freie Universität that they really began to notice each other. “It was at an Icelandic party. I
looked across the room and there she was,” he said. “We were married in 1995, the longest day of the year, which is the perfect day to celebrate in Iceland.” Looking back, Solnes said he realizes how difficult it sometimes was to move from one part of his life to another, but appreciates how each job or new career field led to another fascinating opportunity. “In a strange and neither planned nor anticipated way, the major steps in my professional life have been taken in a sequence [that was] often surprising, but also with regard to my family: First, TV sports as a young man thriving in that entertainment sector. Later, foreign news in TV followed by news reporting from the Middle East and former Yugoslavia. Banking when everybody thought nothing could go wrong. Later, representing the European Union in Bosnia and the Nordics in Sri Lanka. Back to good old Bosnia on a huge prosthetics project followed by yet another tour in Sri Lanka, now as chief of staff. Who would have connected these points in advance? Not me surely,” he said. “You have to differentiate between the two worlds: a warzone and being safe at home with your family. It’s complicated,” he added. “You have to be patient, get used to it. It’s a shock to the system to come from a dangerous yet exciting environment where you hope you’re making a difference in comparison to being Mr. Mom, where you’re hoping to make an even bigger difference.” WD Gail Scott is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.
JOIN US FOR THE
GOURMET GALA May 13, 2020 | 6:00 P.M. | National Building | Museum Washington, D.C. More than 50 U.S. senators and representatives will participate as celebrity chefs in this competitive cook-oﬀ to support the fight for the health of all moms and babies. To RSVP, or to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kate Leib at 571.257.2309 or firstname.lastname@example.org MARCHOFDIMES.ORG/GOURMETGALA HONORARY CO-CHAIRS
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Chef list as of January 17, 2020 *Legacy chefs who have participated 10 years or more
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MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 27
WD | Culture | Art
Political Dichotomy Former Filipino Politician Uses Paint to Express Disillusionment and Optimism •
BY ANNA GAWEL AND KATE OCZYPOK
Heroes & Losers: The Edificationof Luis Lorenzana THROUGH MARCH 15
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM 4400 MASSACHUSETTS AVE., NW
former politician now uses a paintbrush to express his cynicism with government but also his enduring hope for a gentler, fairer world. He’s also a self-taught artist from the Philippines — where turbulence and divisiveness in politics is the norm — whose distinct brand of pop culture-surrealist work offers a searing commentary that speaks to the universal political and social upheaval of our day. That’s the unique background and message of Filipino artist Luis Lorenzana, whose bold, arresting works are now on display at the American University Museum in the aptly titled “Heroes & Losers: The Edification of Luis Lorenzana.” According to the museum, the aim of the exhibition is twofold and almost contradictory: to reflect on themes of selfless heroism and the all-too-familiar failures of the democratic system — a strange dichotomy of optimism and despair that Lorenzana’s equally strange works capture in thought-provoking ways. Coordinating curator Lisa Guerrero Nakpil was first intrigued by Lorenzana’s work — specifically his series on Filipino heroes — because she always wished that the Philippines “had its own pantheon of heroes in the same way the United States reveres the men of the American Revolution,” she told us. Lorenzana himself played a small role in the complex tapestry of Filipino politics, although his path was a circuitous one that led him back to his original passion. Born in 1979, Lorenzana was raised in inner-city Manila but began painting rural scenes of rice fields when he was just 6 years old. “His deep love for his community strongly molded his consciousness, which led him to pursue Public Administration and Governance at University of the Philippines,” wrote Hannah Jo Uy in a March 2017 profile of the artist for the Manila Bulletin. “He completed his studies, through a full scholarship, and while doing so he met his first love and continued to nurture strong ideas for change within the country.” Lorenzana took a position with a prominent senator in the Philippine Senate, where he remained for four years in the early 2000s before disillusionment and disappointment with the the inner workings of government set in. “Lorenzana’s background is unique, in that he started as a political scientist,” Nakpil told us. “He is a trained analyst and social observer.” And while he has no formal art training, Lorenzana has spent a lifetime studying a diverse spectrum of artists ranging from the classic masters such as Rembrandt to Latin American folk artists. Lorenzana’s art is not only shaped by his political disappointments, but also his personal setbacks, which include his home burning down as a child and his fiancé leaving him when he decided to ditch a lucrative career in politics in favor of a much riskier one in the fickle world of art. He soon learned just how risky it was. Depleted of money and rejected by a string of galleries, Lorenzana eventually stored his collection away. But, when his earlier pieces happened to be shown to a prominent collector, his art career took off, with exhibitions not only in Southeast Asia, but throughout Europe and the United States. Lorenzana’s work has earned widespread acclaim not only for its incisive political com-
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mentary, but also for its vibrant, eye-catching style that defies easy categorization. His studies of masters such Leonardo da Vinci, for example, inspired a series on the “Mona Lisa,” but his version of the enigmatic smiling lady resembles some sort of demented yet whimsical blend of Salvador Dalí-esque surrealism and modern-day Snapchat selfies. But this playful approach belies the more serious political undertones of Lorenzana’s art, which is PHOTOS: AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM especially evident in the American University show, where the focus Self-taught Filipino is on the national heroes of his artist Luis Lorenzana homeland. offers a cynicism-laden There are four portraits painted take on politics in circa 2006 on display. Andrés Bonpieces such as ifacio, a former clerk messenger “Akeldama,” above, “Senator Oink,” top who taught himself French, Engright, and “Mr. Promise.” lish and Spanish by reading up on American presidents, went on to become a Filipino revolutionary leader in the late 1800s and is often referred to as “The Father of the Philippine Revolution” for his role in seeking independence from Spanish colonial rule. We also see Lorenzana’s rendition of Antonio Luna (1866-99), who studied pharmacy, literature and chemistry and would later become a feared general in the Philippine-American War. Meanwhile, Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903) survived polio (much like American President Franklin D. Roosevelt) to leave his mark on history as prime minister of the First Philippine Republic. Finally, there’s José Rizal (1861-96), considered one of the country’s greatest national heroes. An ophthalmologist by training, Rizal’s writings helped spark the Philippine Revolution in 1896, resulting in his execution by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion. One of the main pieces in the exhibit is called “Akeldama.” Inspired by B-movie posters, it depicts Rizal as a space-like, angry angel sent to destroy the country’s presidential palace and its politicians, who resemble one-eyed eyed aliens and sharp-toothed monsters. All of the portraits depict national heroes persecuted by corrupt governments, usually at the behest of colonial powers, for their efforts to liberate the Philippines. At the same time, Lorenzana doesn’t shy away from his country’s own recent legacy of corruption, as seen in nightmarish, in-your-face pieces such as the simply named “Senator Oink,” which portrays a pig’s head in a man’s suit with blood-splattered graffiti spelling out the title of the piece. Again, Lorenzana’s work is an amalgamation of political pride and disgust. It’s also distinctly Filipino but has universal resonance. “The Philippines is in a unique position of having been created in the crucible of two empires, the Spanish and the American, while being in the center of Southeast Asia,” Nakpil said. “So, its art and artists uniquely resonate with all those spheres.” At the same time, all of the Filipino heroes were ordinary men doing extraordinary things, she said. “This will have universal appeal.” WD Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is managing editor of The Washington Diplomat. Kate Oczypok (@OczyKate) is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.
Theater | Culture | WD
Drowning in Democracy In an Isolated Farmhouse, Liberal Angst over Trump’s America Explodes in ‘Shipwreck’ •
BY JASON OVERDORF
Shipwreck: A History Play About 2017 THROUGH MARCH 8
WOOLLY MAMMOTH THEATRE COMPANY 641 D ST., NW
t’s hard to say anything new or interesting about the 2016 election or President Donald Trump, but playwright Anne Washburn manages to do it in “Shipwreck,” which made its U.S. premiere at Wooly Mammoth Theatre last month. But the subject matter makes the three-hour play feel a bit like homework and taste a little like medicine. Washburn wrestles consciously with the problem. Subtitled “A History Play About 2017,” the script explicitly questions whether theater has any power to effect change and whether anything we are saying about the present moment will seem relevant in 20 years — or perhaps in four years. Even when all the citizens of Athens were required to attend his plays, the Greek tragedian Euripides failed to raise opposition to the Peloponnesian War, a disastrous conflict between democratic Athens and oligarchic Sparta, one character explains. Washburn also winks at the relatively plot-less structure with a setup identical to “The Mousetrap,” the immortal, or at least undead, Agatha Christie country house mystery that’s the epitome of plot-driven theater. Act I opens in the living room of an upstate New York farmhouse recently acquired by a liberal couple from the city as their Manhattan friends arrive for a weekend party. The husband returns without the groceries. A snowstorm rolls in, isolating them in the house. But there is no murder, however much the audience may wish for one, only a postmortem of the Trump victory and the president’s recent, unbelievable defanging of FBI chief James Comey. It’s a bitter brew, written for a silo audience of liberals. But there are occasional spoonfuls of sugar to help the medicine go down. Washburn is both witty and wise. She lampoons the all-too recognizable liberal cant: One character demands to know where a point another is making “comes from,” for example, revealing that all their (and all our) discussions on this topic are essentially parroted from the oped pages of The New York Times and Washington Post. And Washburn also adds some genuine fresh perspective, citing Jim Jones — an American civil rights preacher who was lionized by a who’s who of Democratic leaders in California before he served up the Kool-Aid and became a cult leader who directed the mass-suicide of his followers — as the forgotten liberal analogue to Trump’s conservative brand of Kool-Aid. The boredom, the irritation, is purposeful. “I am a self-loathing liberal,” you realize as you regretfully think of the beer you did not purchase at the concession stand an hour earlier. The onstage discussion deepens. Self-loathing liberals are the only liberals there are, you realize. There is something perversely satisfying in this epiphany, a kind of self-flagellation. But it’s not the only payoff the play offers. Interspersed with the sometimes trite, sometimes insightful deconstruction of Trump’s inexplicable appeal are monologues from a young, raw and genuine character, Mark, whose connection to the partygoers does not become clear until the climax. While all the members of the ensemble cast are engaging and convincing, it’s the emotionally honest and charismatic Mikéah Ernest Jennings, who portrays Mark, who gives
PHOTO: TERESA CASTRACANE
In “Shipwreck,” a group of liberals become trapped in an upstate New York farmhouse, where they debate Trump, racism and white rural angst, all while a Kenyan orphan who was adopted by white Americans — played by Mikéah Ernest Jennings, at bottom — offers the tale of his own racial awakening.
the play its soul. Addressing the audience directly in a series of monologues, he movingly elucidates the messy, immediate, contradictory life that underpins all our intellectual discussions of racism, white rural angst, Trump’s Mussolini-like appeal and so on. As a Kenyan orphan who was adopted by white Americans and raised on a farm, he offers an implicit parallel to the president who Trump succeeded, of course. But his funny and sad and hopeful and disillusioned tale of his upbringing and racial awakening — which in a way provides a stealth plot — also punctures and illuminates the myths evoked by the supposedly postracial, painfully “woke” party guests. The play’s other great charm is its depiction of Trump. Following the party guests’ deconstruction of the Comey affair, the president’s claims that he worked valiantly to keep America from invading Iraq in 2002, and the way he led Republicans to a high place and promised them all the kingdoms of the world, Trump himself appears in a series of fantasy sequences that dramatize these moments. Director Saheem Ali wisely eschews direct impersonation — instinctively realizing that all the laughs in Trump’s gravelly voice, effete gestures and hyperbolic diction have been played out by Alec Baldwin and late night talk show hosts. And Washburn recognizes that the president’s every utterance is absurd enough to defy parody. Instead, a series of vignettes give us Trump as he might imagine himself, the would-be Trump who’d exist if everything he claimed about himself were actually true. The conceit allows the play to wring a new kind of joke out of the heavily mined material, but it does more than that. More than any attempt to one-up the absurdity of Trump’s statements, it drives home exactly how ridiculous and, well, laughable they are. WD Jason Overdorf is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat. MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 29
WD | Culture | Film
Cinema Listings *Unless specific times are listed, please check the theater for times. Theater locations are subject to change.
Directed by Mo Scarpelli (Ethiopia/Italy/U.S., 2019, 85 min.)
Ten-year-old Asalif and his mother have already been displaced from their homestead to the outskirts of sprawling capital Addis Ababa, and it seems looming cranes are closing in on them again. With little to do, Asalif scavenges wires and bulbs from sprawling construction sites to literally keep the lights on in their makeshift house. Pushed around by new kids in the neighborhood, the sensitive child retreats into his imagination — the only place where he can rage like a lion against the forces he can’t control (NAFF and EFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE MON., MARCH 16, 7:15 P.M.
ARABIC Abou Leila
Directed by Amin Sidi-Boumédiène (Algeria/France/Qatar, 2019, 135 min.) In 1994, amid the turmoil of the Algerian civil war, childhood friends and police officers S. and Lotfi embark on an odyssey through the desert in the north of the country as they search for an elusive terrorist named Abou Leila (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE SUN., MARCH 8, 7:15 P.M.
Directed by Marwa Zein (Sudan/Denmark, 2019, 75 min.)
Sara is a remarkable and entrepreneurial young Sudanese woman whose dream is to have a soccer team that will one day compete in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Joined by her teammates, their love of sports, strong bond and street smarts challenge the standards and stereotypical perceptions of their country (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE SAT., MARCH 7, 1 P.M., TUE., MARCH 10, 5:30 P.M.
The Unknown Saint
Directed by Alaa Eddine Aljem (Morocco/France/Qatar, 2019, 100 min.)
When a recently released bandit returns to the place he buried the stolen loot, he is surprised to find a new shrine — that of the “Unknown Saint” — perched atop his once-ingenious hiding place. In the years since his arrest, a bustling village has grown next to the much-visited holy site, which is now a valuable tourist attraction relentlessly guarded by an array of quirky locals and a beloved guard dog (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE THU., MARCH 12, 7:30 P.M., SAT., MARCH 14, 9:15 P.M.
ENGLISH 2 Weeks in Lagos
Directed by Kathryn Fasegha (Nigeria, 2019, color, 115 min.)
Ejikeme, an investment banker, comes home from the United States to invest in Nigerian
businesses and falls in love with his partner’s sister Lola. But Ejikeme and Lola first must contend with the political ambitions of Ejikeme’s mother, who has arranged a marriage between him and the daughter of a powerful politician who is considering Ejikeme’s father as his running mate for the Nigerian presidency (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE SAT., MARCH 7, 7:15 P.M., TUE., MARCH 10, 9:15 P.M.
Directed by Mati Diop (France/Senegal/Belgium, 2019, 104 min.)
Set in Dakar, Senegal, this supernatural romantic drama ostensibly centers on a secret, star-crossed romance between the newly betrothed Ada and construction worker Souleiman. When Souleiman and his coworkers head out to sea in hopes of finding a better life in Spain, Ada and the other women left behind mourn the men’s absence. After a mysterious arson attempt on Ada’s wedding day, however, a young investigator becomes convinced that Souleiman has returned and is somehow responsible (English, Wolof, French and Arabic). AFI SILVER THEATRE MARCH 21 TO 25
Breaking Their Silence: Women on the Frontline of the Poaching War Directed by Kerry David (U.S., 2019, 110 min.)
The complex world of wildlife trafficking is viewed through a feminine lens in this thorough exploration of the emotional toll that poaching and wildlife crime are having on the courageous women fighting on the front lines (EFF). NATIONAL ZOO SAT., MARCH 14, 1 P.M.
The Burnt Orange Heresy
Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi (U.K./Italy, 2020, 99 min.)
Hired to steal a rare painting from one of most enigmatic painters of all time, an ambitious art dealer becomes consumed by his own greed and insecurity as the operation spins out of control. ANGELIKA MOSAIC OPENS FRI., MARCH 13
Directed by Férid Boughedir (Tunisia/France, 1983, 95 min.)
This new 2K restoration of Tunisian director Férid Boughedir’s landmark survey of African cinema features rare footage and in-depth interviews with pioneering African filmmakers and demonstrates how, despite a lack of funds and support, these filmmakers overcame many obstacles to bring inspiring African stories to the screen (NAFF; English and French). AFI SILVER THEATRE THU., MARCH 19, 7 P.M.
Directed by Boris Lojkine (France, 2019, 92 min.)
In a rare look at the Central African Republic on film, Boris Lojkine explores the last months in the life of French photojournalist Camille Lepage, who was killed in 2014 at age 26 while covering the country’s ongoing civil war (NAFF; English, French and Sango).
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The Washington Diplomat
*EFF = Environmental Film Festival **NAFF = New African Film Festival AFI SILVER THEATRE SAT., MARCH 14, 5 P.M., MON., MARCH 16, 5:15 P.M.
Directed by Feras Fayyad (Syria/Denmark/Germany/Qatar/ U.S., 2019, 107 min.)
Under the war-torn streets of Ghouta, Syria, is a hospital known as “The Cave,” where pediatrician and managing physician Dr. Amani Ballour and her female colleagues attend to countless wounded civilians and victims of battle (English and Arabic). AFI SILVER THEATRE MON., MARCH 2, 7:20 P.M., WED., MARCH 4, 7:20 P.M.
Directed by Christopher Smith (U.S./Malaysia/Cambodia, 2020, 87 min.)
This environmental thriller follows investigative journalist Matt Blomberg and ocean activist Paul Ferber in their dangerous efforts to create a marine conservation area and combat the relentless tide of illegal fishing. Along the way a new generation of Cambodian environmentalists are inspired to create a better life for their people (EFF). NAVAL HERITAGE CENTER SUN., MARCH 15, 7 P.M.
Dying for Gold
Directed by Catherine Meyburgh (South Africa/Lesotho/Mozambique/Swaziland, 2018, 98 min.)
In 2004, in the biggest class-action lawsuit the country had ever seen, South Africa’s largest gold mining companies were accused of knowingly exposing miners to deadly dust and disease. Through a rich archive of footage from the colonial and Apartheid eras and intimate interviews with miners and their families, this film tells the untold story of the making of South Africa (NAFF; English, Xhosa and Southern Sotho). AFI SILVER THEATRE SUN., MARCH 15, 9:30 P.M.
Directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Austria, 2019, 115 min.) Several billion tons of earth are moved annually by humans — with shovels, excavators, or dynamite. Nikolaus Geyrhalter observes people in mines, in quarries, and at large construction sites, engaged in a constant struggle to take possession of the planet (EFF). NAVAL HERITAGE CENTER TUE., MARCH 17, 7 P.M. EMBASSY OF AUSTRIA WED., MARCH 18, 7 P.M.
Directed by Autumn de Wilde (U.K., 2020)
Handsome, clever and rich, Emma Woodhouse is a restless queen bee without rivals in her sleepy little town. In this glittering satire of social class and the pain of growing up, Emma must adventure through misguided matches and romantic missteps to find the love that has been there all along. ANGELIKA MOSAIC
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Etched in Bone
Directed by Béatrice Bijon (Australia, 2018, 73 min.)
Jacob Nayinggul, an Aboriginal elder from Australia, knows that bones of his ancestors were stolen by scientists in 1948. For 60 years, they were held by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. When the Smithsonian finally agrees to repatriate the bones, Nayinggul creates a new form of ceremony (EFF). NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY SAT., MARCH 14, 4 P.M.
Everything Must Fall
Directed by Rehad Desai (South Africa, 2018, 85 min.)
When South Africa’s universities raised their fees in 2015, a wave of students took to the streets in opposition. Quickly gaining momentum and scope, the battle cry #FeesMustFall burst onto the political landscape and became a national conversation, bringing attention to the exclusion of poorer black South Africans from higher education (NAFF; English and Zulu). AFI SILVER THEATRE MARCH 7 TO 12
Directed by Naziha Arebi (Multiple countries, 2018, 97 min.)
British-Libyan filmmaker Naziha Arebi’s debut documentary offers an intimate look at post-revolution Libya through the eyes of an aspiring all-female soccer team, whose struggle to gain mainstream acceptance mirrors the broader challenges facing women in contemporary Libyan society (NAFF; English and Arabic). AFI SILVER THEATRE TUE., MARCH 17, 7:10 P.M.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom (U.K., 2020, 104 min.) In this satire on the gross inequality of wealth in the fashion industry, a self-made British billionaire finds his retail empire is in crisis after a damaging public inquiry tarnishes his image. To save his reputation, he decides to bounce back with a highly publicized and extravagant party celebrating his 60th birthday on the Greek island of Mykonos. ANGELIKA MOSAIC
LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA OPENS FRI., MARCH 6
The Hidden Kingdoms of China Directed by Emma Fraser (U.K., 2020, 88 min.)
China is the world’s most populated country with more than 1.4 billion people inhabiting its vast, extreme wild lands alongside creatures seen nowhere else in the world. Some of its secrets are still undiscovered…until now (EFF). THE AVALON THEATRE SAT., MARCH 21, 10 A.M.
Directed by William Nicholson (U.K., 2020, 101 min.) Grace (Annette Bening) is shocked to learn her husband (Bill Nighy) is leaving her for another after 29 years of marriage, which causes an ensuing emotional fallout on their only grown son. Unraveled and feeling displaced in her small seaside town, Grace ultimately regains her footing and discovers a new, powerful voice. ANGELIKA MOSAIC
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This lyrical, kaleidoscopic picture of the city of Kolkata, India, is seen through the prism of four outsiders and the neglected street dogs they love (EFF). LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA SAT., MARCH 14, 9:30 P.M.
Directed by Niki Caro (U.S., 2020)
A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father in this live-action feature film based on Disney’s “Mulan.”
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Directed by David Hambridge (U.S., 2019, 79 min.)
Two young Kenyan rangers knowingly take on the hopeless mission of caring for the world’s last male northern white rhino as they commit to provide care, comfort and compassion for a creature living on borrowed time (EFF). NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC FRI., MARCH 20, 7 P.M.
The Last Tree
Directed by Shola Amoo (Nigeria, 2019, 98 min.) A British boy of Nigerian heritage enjoys a happy childhood in Lincolnshire, where he is raised by a doting foster mother and surrounded by a tight-knit group of friends — until his real mom reclaims him and deposits him into a much different life in her small, inner-London flat (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE FRI., MARCH 13, 5:25 P.M., WED., MARCH 18, 5:15 P.M.
Directed by Nasib Farah, Søren Steen Jespersen (Denmark/Sweden, 2018, 81 min.) Mohammed grew up in England, but was deported at age 19 to Somalia, where he was radicalized and recruited by al-Shabab. After witnessing the damage the terror organization was wreaking on innocent civilians, Mohammed defects and marries Fathi. When Fathi returns to her native London and discovers she’s pregnant, the couple must navigate global politics and personal relationships to build a better future for their son (NAFF; English and Somali). AFI SILVER THEATRE WED., MARCH 18, 7:20 P.M.
Directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn (U.K., 2020, 92 min.)
Joan and Tom have been married for many years. There is an ease to their relationship that only comes from spending a life time together and a depth of love that expresses itself through tenderness and humor in equal part. When Joan is unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer, the course of her treatment shines a light on their relationship as they are faced with the challenges that lie ahead and the prospect of what might happen if something were to happen to Joan. ANGELIKA MOSAIC
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Directed by Jessie Alk (U.S., 2019, 77 min.)
A Reindeer’s Journey
Directed by Guillaume Maidatchevsky (France/Finland, 2018, 86 min.)
Vulnerable newborn reindeer Ailo must overcome the challenges that stand in the way of his first year of life in the stunning landscapes of Lapland (EFF; English and Finnish). EMBASSY OF FINLAND SAT., MARCH 21, 3 P.M.
The Roads Not Taken
Directed by Sally Potter (U.K./U.S./Sweden, 2020, 85 min.)
This film follows a day in the life of Leo (Javier Bardem) and his daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning), as he floats through alternate lives he could have lived, leading Molly to wrestle with her own path as she considers her future. ANGELIKA MOSAIC OPENS FRI., MARCH 20
Sea of Shadows
Directed by Richard Ladkani (Austria, 2019, 104 min.)
When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers join forces to poach the rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez, their deadly methods threaten to destroy virtually all marine life in the region. “Sea of Shadows” follows a team of scientists, conservationists, investigative journalists, and courageous undercover agents as well as the Mexican navy as they put their lives on the line to save the marine life and bring the vicious international crime syndicate to justice (EFF). CARNEGIE INSTITUTION FOR SCIENCE FRI., MARCH 13, 7 P.M., SUN., MARCH 22, 4 P.M.
Sorry We Missed You
Directed by Ken Loach (U.K./France/Belgium, 2020, 101 min.)
Hoping that self-employment through the gig economy can solve their financial woes, a hardup U.K. delivery driver and his wife struggling to raise a family end up trapped in the vicious circle of this modern-day form of labor exploitation. LANDMARK’S THEATRES OPENS FRI., MARCH 27
The Story of Plastic
Directed by Deia Schlosberg (U.S., 2019, 93 min.)
Unlike any other plastic documentary you’ve seen, “The Story Of Plastic” presents a cohesive timeline of how we got to our current global plastic pollution crisis and how the oil and gas industry
Film | Culture | WD has successfully manipulated the narrative around it (EFF). NAVAL HERITAGE CENTER FRI., MARCH 13, 7 P.M.
husband and father François finds himself falling unquestioningly into an affair with an attractive postal worker.
WOODROW WILSON CENTER FRI., MARCH 20, 12 P.M.
AFI SILVER THEATRE MARCH 27 TO 31
Talking About Trees
Cléo from 5 to 7
Directed by Suhaib Gasmelbari (Sudan/France/Chad/Germany/ Qatar, 2019, 93 min.)
Four retired Sudanese filmmakers attemp to revive movie0going in a country where the oppressive regime has all but wiped out national film history and culture (NAFF; English, Arabic and Russian). AFI SILVER THEATRE TUE., MARCH 10, 7:15 P.M.
Under Thin Ice
Directed by Denis Blaquiere (Canada, 2019, 88 min.) This film chronicles an extraordinary expedition undertaken by Canadian extreme divers and cinematographers Jill Heinerth and Mario Cyr as they dive with belugas and narwhals in the open Arctic Ocean (EFF). EMBASSY OF CANADA WED., MARCH 18, 3 P.M.
Vote for Kibera
Directed by Martin Páv (Czech Republic, 2018, 90 min.)
This powerful documentary, set in one of Africa’s largest slums against the backdrop of Kenya’s 2017 presidential elections, follows Don Wilson, a photographer who lives in the Kibera district of Nairobi and aims to show the world aspects of his home that transcend images of trash mountains and crime (NAFF; English and Swahili). AFI SILVER THEATRE MON., MARCH 9, 9:30 P.M.
Directed by Benh Zeitlin (U.S., 2020, 112 min.)
In this wildly reimagined classic story of Peter Pan, Wendy — lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued — must fight to save her family, her freedom and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up. ANGELIKA MOSAIC
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Directed by Aboubacar Bablé Draba (Mali, 2019, 76 min.)
Set in the 17th century in a small cave-dwelling village in northeastern Mali, this film follows Yamio, a woman who, unable to conceive after 10 years of marriage and shamed by the fertility of her husband’s second wife, throws herself off a cliff. When she miraculously lands without suffering any harm, she she discovers that she is pregnant with a miracle child and has the chance to change the fortunes of everyone around her (NAFF; French and Dogon). AFI SILVER THEATRE SAT., MARCH 7, 2:45 P.M.
Directed by Agnès Varda (France, 1965, 80 min.)
Though married to the goodnatured, beautiful Thérèse, young
Directed by Agnès Varda (France/Italy, 1962, 90 min.)
Pop chanteuse Cléo, awaiting the results of a medical examination and convinced she is going to die, spends two hours wandering the streets of Paris, her mood swinging from melancholic to merry as she is strangely enlivened by her existential quandary. AFI SILVER THEATRE MARCH 20 TO 26
Directed by Apolline Traoré (Burkina Faso, 2019, 95 min.)
Francis resettles in the Ivory Coast after the brutal massacre of his family in Haiti. Years later, Francis, his wife Aissey and 12-year-old daughter Haila await the birth of a son, who to Francis’s excitement and Haila’s irritation is immediately regarded as the worthy heir to the Desrances name (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE FRI., MARCH 13, 7:30 P.M., TUE., MARCH 17, 9:20 P.M.
Directed by Lula Ali Ismaïl (Djibouti, 2019, 85 min.)
Djibouti’s first feature film is an exuberant portrait of the day-to-day lives of three 18-yearold women as they stand at a crossroads in their lives (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE SAT., MARCH 14, 11:30 A.M.
Directed by Michela Occhipinti (Mauritania/Italy, 2019, 94 min.)
In keeping with the traditions of her Mauritanian home, the announcement of Verida’s impending arranged marriage brings with it the beginning of gavage — the ritual of over-eating in order to attain a fuller figure more desirable to her future husband. But as the ritual’s becomes increasingly all-consuming, Verida’s resistance to the intense expectations of her culture grows (NAFF; French and Hassanya). AFI SILVER THEATRE SUN., MARCH 8, 3:15 P.M., WED., MARCH 11, 5:15 P.M.
Our Lady of the Nile
Directed by Ramata Sy (Rwanda/France/Belgium, 2019, 93 min.)
This bewitching, visually lush adaptation recounts the coming of age of a group of schoolgirls at a Belgian-run Catholic boarding school in Rwanda. Set in 1973, the film takes inspiration from true events that would come to foreshadow the 1994 Rwandan genocide (NAFF; French and Kinyarwanda). AFI SILVER THEATRE SUN., MARCH 15, 1 P.M., TUE., MARCH 17, 5:15 P.M.
La Pointe Courte
Directed by Agnès Varda (France, 1055, 86 min.)
The great Agnès Varda’s film career began with this graceful, penetrating study of a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of a small Mediterranean fishing village. AFI SILVER THEATRE MARCH 21 TO 25
Portrait of a Lady on Fire Directed by Céline Sciamma (France, 2020, 121 min.)
In 18th-century France, a young painter, Marianne, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse without her knowing. Therefore, Marianne must observe her model by day to paint her portrait at night. Day by day, the two women become closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the impending wedding (in French and Italian). ANGELIKA MOSAIC
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The Truth (La Vérité)
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda (France/Japan, 2020, 106 min.) Fabienne is a star of French cinema. When she publishes her memoirs, her daughter Lumir returns from New York to Paris, where the reunion between mother and daughter quickly turns confrontational, as truths are told, accounts settled, loves and resentments confessed (French and English). ANGELIKA MOSAIC OPENS FRI., MARCH 27
Directed by Bruno Sauvard (France, 2018, 95 min.) There are more than 3,000 wine growers in France but less than 3% of them are working in bio, biodynamic or natural methods of wine production. For ethical reasons, this relatively small community of wine growers has chosen environmentally friendly farming practices aimed at finding the natural expression of terroir (EFF). EMBASSY OF FRANCE MON., MARCH 16, 7 P.M.
GEORGIAN And Then We Danced
Directed by Levan Akin (Sweden/Georgia/France, 2020, 113 min.) A passionate tale of love and liberation set amidst the conservative confines of modern Georgian society, this film follows Merab, a devoted dancer who has been training for years with his partner Mary for a spot in the National Georgian Ensemble. The arrival of another male dancer, Irakli — gifted with perfect form and equipped with a rebellious streak — throws Merab off balance, sparking both an intense rivalry and romantic desire. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA
Directed by Michael Herbig (Germany, 2020, 125 min.)
This thriller is based on the true events of one of the most daring escapes of the Cold War. In the summer of 1979, the Strelzyk and Wetzel families try to flee East Germany in a self-made hot-air balloon. But after the balloon crash-lands just before the West German border, the Stasi finds traces of the attempted escape and immediately launch an investigation. In a nerve-wracking race against the clock, the two families attempt to build a new escape balloon as the Stasi gets closer and closer (German and English). LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA
ICELANDIC The Seer & The Unseen
Directed by Sara Dosa (U.S./Iceland, 2019, 84 min.)
When the elves — invisible spirits of nature that over half of Icelanders believe in — enlist a grandmother to speak on behalf of nature under threat, she begins a journey to protect a lava field set to be razed by road construction — just one of the many needless projects in the wake of Iceland’s 2008 financial meltdown (EFF). LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA MON., MARCH 16, 7 P.M.
JAPANESE Inland Sea (Minatomachi)
Directed by Kazuhiro Soda (Japan, 2018, 122 min.)
Forsaken by the era of modernization of post-war Japan, Ushimado — a small village in Seto Inland Sea, Japan — is rapidly aging and declining. This observational, black-and-white documentary poetically depicts the twilight days of a village and its people by the dreamlike Inland Sea (EFF). JAPAN INFORMATION AND CULTURE CENTER FRI., MARCH 13, 6:30 P.M.
KOREAN Memories of Murder
Directed by Bong Joon Ho (South Korea, 2003, 132 min.)
Set against the political turbulence of the 1980s, this film traces the friction that develops between a pair of detectives — one a small-town investigator in over his head, the other a young hotshot from Seoul — as they try to catch a serial killer who is murdering women on rainy nights. AFI SILVER THEATRE SAT., MARCH 28, 7:30 P.M., THU., APRIL 2, 7:45 P.M.
Directed by Joon-ho Bong (South Korea, 2019, 132 min.)
Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. But when a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims’ newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out. ANGELIKA MOSAIC
LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA
LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA
MANDARIN Ash Is Purest White
Directed by Jia Zhangke (China/France/Japan, 2019, 136 min.)
When provincial gangster Bin is targeted by a rival gang, his tough-as-nails girlfriend Qiao defends him, firing a warning shot from his handgun. For that action, Qiao is sent to jail for five years. Once out, she goes in search of Bin, who has not once visited the woman to whom he owes his freedom. AFI SILVER THEATRE SUN., MARCH 22, 8 P.M., THU., MARCH 26, 7:15 P.M.
Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains
Directed by Gu Xiaogang (China, 2019, 152 min.)
Struck by the immense changes that development brought both to the natural environment and to the people of his hometown of Fuyang, the director shot this film over the course of two years to capture the changing seasons in the same area that Huang Gongwang, a master artist in the Yuan dynasty, depicted in his painting “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” (EFF). FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., MARCH 15, 2 P.M.
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan, 1998, 95 min.)
In the final days of 1999, a mysterious virus sweeps rain-soaked Taipei and turns people into human cockroaches. After a plumber leaves a hole in his apartment floor and never returns to fix it, a young man can see into the apartment of his neighbor. The musical numbers — the weirdest this side of David Lynch — eventually unite these two characters in a surreal fantasy of bliss. FREER GALLERY OF ART FRI., MARCH 27, 7 P.M.
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan, 1994, 118 min.)
Unbeknownst to one another, a harried real estate broker, her street vendor lover and an eccentric loner all use a vacant luxury apartment for their own secret purposes—until chance brings them together in an unexpected way. FREER GALLERY OF ART FRI., MARCH 13, 7 P.M.
What Time Is It There?
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan/France, 2001, 116 min.)
An assertive young woman, who is about to leave for Paris, convinces a watch seller to sell her the watch on his own wrist. Immediately smitten, he acts out his obsession with her by attempting to change every clock he sees to Paris time. Meanwhile, his grieving mother is troubled by the idea that her dead husband might be reincarnated in another time zone in this metaphysical comedy (Mandarin, French and English). FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., MARCH 29, 2 P.M.
POLISH Corpus Christi (Boze Cialo)
Directed by Jan Komasa (Poland, 2019, 115 min.)
Twenty-year-old is a juvenile delinquent released from prison to go to a job in a small town. When Daniel arrives one quick lie allows him to be mistaken for the town’s new priest, a vocation he was drawn. Embracing the deception, Daniel starts out faking it, but soon his passion and charisma have a moral impact on the community. At the same time, his unpriestly behavior raise suspicions among some of the townsfolk — even more so as he edges toward a dark secret that the community hasn’t revealed in the confessional booth. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA OPENS FRI., MARCH 6
The Wind: A Documentary Thriller
Directed by Michal Bielawski
(Poland/Slovakia, 2019, 75 min.)
The halny wind comes in cycles, every spring and autumn. One never knows if or when it will turn into a destructive gale. Halny particularly affects the inhabitants of Zakopane, changing picturesque mountain trails into a set for an untamed performance of a human struggle against destructive forces of nature (EFF). HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN SUN., MARCH 15, 2 P.M., SUN., MARCH 22, 2 P.M.
SPANISH The Cordillera of Dreams Directed by Patricio Guzmán (Chile/France, 2019, 85 min.)
Patricio Guzmán’s “The Cordillera of Dreams” completes his trilogy investigating the relationship between historical memory, political trauma and geography in his native country of Chile (EFF). NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC WED., MARCH 18, 7 P.M.
Isla de Plastico (Plastic Island)
Directed by José Maria Cabral (Dominican Republic, 2019, 85 min.) This documentary exposes the reality of garbage, plastic and pollution in the Dominican Republic and Haiti (EFF).
LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA WED., MARCH 18, 7 P.M.
Directed by Emiliano Ruprah (Mexico, 2020, 81 min.)
Follow some of the world’s most charismatic animals as they travel to and from Mexico across the span of a year (EFF). AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MON., MARCH 16, 7 P.M.
Directed Tamara Kotevska (North Macedonia, 2019, 90 min.) Nestled in an isolated mountain region deep within the Balkans, Hatidze Muratova is the last in a long line of wild beekeepers, eking out a living farming honey in small batches to be sold in the closest city. But Hatidze’s peaceful existence is thrown into upheaval by the arrival of an itinerant family, with their roaring engines, seven rambunctious children and herd of cattle (EFF; Turkish, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian and Bosnian). AFI SILVER THEATRE WED., MARCH 18, 7:15 P.M.
XHOSA Letters of Hope
Directed by Vusi Africa (South Africa, 2019, 75 min.)
After his father is brutally killed in 1976 Apartheid-era South Africa, 16-year-old Jeremiah discovers that he had been delivering secret letters from freedom fighters in exile and prison on his rounds as a postman. When he learns that his father’s last wish was for him to take over this work, Jeremiah — who dreams of joining the police force — faces an impossible choice (NAFF). AFI SILVER THEATRE SAT., MARCH 14, 7 P.M.
MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 31
WD | Culture | Events
Events Listings *Please check the venue for times. Venue locations are subject to change.
ART MARCH 1 TO JULY 5
Degas at the Opéra
An exuberant display of fecund imagination and keen observation, Edgar Degas’s renowned images of the Paris Opéra are among the most sophisticated and visually compelling works he ever created. Celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Opéra’s founding, “Degas at the Opéra” will present approximately 100 of the artist’s best-known and beloved works in a range of media, including paintings, pastels, drawings, prints and sculpture. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
MARCH 4 TO 29
Marrakech Portraits by Steve Alderton
Steve Alderton’s trip to Marrakech, taken about a year before his unexpected death last summer, inspired this series of portraits. While leaving a few pieces possibly unfinished or in the process of being altered, he left an opening for a dialogue as to when an artist feels their work to be complete. These paintings — some including vivid pastels, others layered in Warhol-like quadrants of color, and others quite still, half in shadow — share a haunted profundity. TOUCHSTONE GALLERY
MARCH 6 TO 26
True and False
This new group exhibition showcases vibrant and diverse multimedia installation works by three contemporary Korean artists who explore the blurring of truth in modern society. Tae Eun Kim, Su Hyun Nam and Ahree Song each place their work in the context of today’s fast-paced, complex world, where clear distinctions between fiction and reality are increasingly lacking. As absolute notions such as true and false or possible and impossible become ever more obscure, advanced technology continues to overcome humanity’s perceived limitations and our very ability to comprehend it. KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER
THROUGH MARCH 8
Visual Memory: Home + Place
This mid-career survey of multimedia artists Scherezade García and Iliana Emilia García explores how each artist reflects upon constructed notions of human geography and history in a creative multidisciplinary approach. Generating a provocative and incisive rethinking about the possibilities of visual memory, they engage with timeless universal concerns about global migration, settlement and the spaces we occupy. ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS
THORUGH MARCH 15
Landscape in an Eroded Field: Carol Barsha, Heather Theresa Clark, Artemis Herber Depicting nature and the environ-
ment is one of the most ancient and elemental expressions of art. From cave painting to Dutch still lifes to social practice incorporating life forms, artists have always been attentive and responsive to the world around them. This exhibition spans landscape painting that takes no social or political stance to multimedia painting and sculpture but puts climate change at the center of its meaning.
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM
MARCH 28 TO AUG. 2
Meeting Tessai: Modern Japanese Art from the Cowles Collection
Tomioka Tessai is a prime example of a modern Japanese painter. Contemporaries praised his works as being exceptionally modern, and they recognized parallels between Tessai’s work and European postimpressionism. Paintings by Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924) were so esteemed that he was one of the first Japanese artists to have his works shown in the United States. “Meeting Tessai” is the first one held at a major museum in the United States in more than 50 years to explore the significance of pan-East Asian influences — a pertinent topic in today’s interconnected world — through the work of Tessai and modern Japanese painting. ARTHUR M. SACKLER GALLERY
THROUGH APRIL 19
Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits
Multimedia artist Delita Martin (b. 1972) makes large-scale prints onto which she draws, sews, collages and paints. Martin’s meticulous, multilayered works create a powerful presence for her subjects: black women and men depicted on a monumental scale. Through her imagery, Martin forges a new iconography that is rooted in African tradition, personal recollections and physical materials. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS
THROUGH APRIL 26
Dialog: Landscape and Abstraction – Freya Grand and AMA’s Permanent Collection
This exhibition pairs important 20th-century abstract works by artists in the OAS Art Museum of the Americas’s permanent collection with works by contemporary landscape painter Freya Grand. The pairings of Grand and artists living and working in the Americas (1960-73) convey a common dialogue through their shared forms, textures, symbols, color and composition. Here, Grand’s immersive landscapes derived from her experiences in remote regions of Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands intermingle with those of such stalwarts of the OAS AMA’s art collection as Maria Luisa Pacheco (Bolivia), Angel Hurtado (Venezuela) and Anibal Villacis (Ecuador). ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS
THROUGH APRIL 30
A New Light: Canadian Women Artists
“A New Light” offers visitors a
32 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
sneak preview of pieces by 27 renowned Canadian women artists that will then be showcased in various prominent locations within the embassy in D.C. The Embassy of Canada is proud to display over 180 art pieces by Canadian artists throughout its chancery. As part of a 2020 revision of its art plan, the embassy is incorporating these new works that illuminate Canada’s diversity and showcase not only the diverse backgrounds of the artists, but also the various media with which they work.
EMBASSY OF CANADA
THROUGH MAY 1
Liquid City and 41 Estações
The Art Museum of the Americas presents the series “Liquid City” by Canadian photographer Frank Rodick and “41 Estações” by Brazilian photographer Luciano Siqueria. Based in Montreal, Rodick produced the 40 images of “Liquid City” in the 1990s in Montreal, Toronto, Tokyo, New York, Hamburg and Berlin. In these works, the city becomes a condition as opposed to a specific place — a theater of transience where he destabilizes the image by breaking down the boundaries between foreground, background and subject. In “41 Estações,” Siqueria, a Brazilian sound designer and musician, uses his daily experiences in the Rio de Janeiro subway system to highlight the routines, promises and uncertainties of human displacement amid an urban landscape. Viewings are by appointment and can be made by calling (202)370-0151 ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS F STREET GALLERY
THROUGH MAY 1
Women: A Century of Change
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the U.S. constitutional amendment confirming women’s right to vote, this powerful new exhibition and book from National Geographic showcases iconic women around the world. The exhibition’s stunning photographs, drawn from National Geographic’s unparalleled image collection, span nine decades and feature a myriad of countries. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MUSEUM
THROUGH MAY 3
True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe, 1780-1870
An integral part of art education in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, painting en plein air was a core practice for avantgarde artists in Europe. Intrepid artists — highly skilled at quickly capturing effects of light and atmosphere — made sometimes arduous journeys to paint their landscapes in person at breathtaking sites, ranging from the Baltic coast and Swiss Alps to the streets of Paris and ruins of Rome. Drawing on new scholarship, this exhibition of some 100 oil sketches made outdoors across Europe during that time includes several recently discovered works and explores issues such as attribution, chronology and technique. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
The Washington Diplomat THROUGH MAY 17
Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists
Women have been a predominant creative force behind Native American art, yet their individual contributions, for centuries, have largely remained unrecognized and anonymous. In the first major thematic exhibition to explore the artistic contributions of Native women, “Hearts of Our People” celebrates the achievements of these Native women and establishes their rightful place in the art world. RENWICK GALLERY
THROUGH MAY 24
Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition
This exhibition presents works by African American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries together with examples by the early 20thcentury European artists with whom they engaged. European modernist art has been an important, yet complicated influence on black artists for more than a century. The powerful push and pull of this relationship constitutes a distinct tradition for many African American artists who have mined the narratives of art history, whether to find inspiration, mount a critique or claim their own space. THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION
THROUGH MAY 24
Robert Franklin Gates: Paint What You See
“Robert Franklin Gates: Paint What You See” showcases an adventurous artist who greatly influenced the course of Washington art from his arrival from Detroit in 1930, at the age of 24, until his death in 1982 as an AU Professor Emeritus. He was a muralist, painter, printmaker, draftsman, and professor at the Phillips Gallery School and then American University for over 40 years. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM
THROUGH MAY 24
Volkmar Kurt Wentzel (b. Dresden, 1915-2006) arrived in Washington, D.C., in the early 1930s. When the Great Depression led to prohibitive housing costs in D.C., he moved to West Virginia to join a community with Robert Gates and several other artists who had become close friends. In 1937, back in Washington, purchased a new camera and began photographing the series “Washington by Night.” First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, out for a stroll one evening, encountered Volkmar and purchased several of his pictures. Volkmar completed his Washington photographs and brought them to National Geographic. The event led to his 48-year photographic career as a National Geographic photographer. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM
THROUGH MAY 25
Chiura Obata: American Modern
Chiura Obata (1885-1975) ranks among the most significant Japanese American cultural artists and figures of the 20th century. Best known for his majestic views
of the American West, Obata brought a distinctive trans-Pacific style to the arts community of California as an artist and teacher. This major traveling retrospective presents the most comprehensive survey to date of his acclaimed and varied body of work, from bold landscape paintings of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park to intimate drawings of his experiences of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM
THROUGH MAY 25
Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico
For the past 50 years, Graciela Iturbide has produced majestic, powerful and sometimes visceral photographs. She is considered one of the greatest contemporary photographers in Latin America. This monumental survey of photographs of Mexico spans Iturbide’s career with images from 1969 through 2007. It encompasses compelling portrayals of indigenous and urban women, explorations of symbolism in nature and rituals, and haunting photographs of personal items left after the death of Frida Kahlo. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS
THROUGH JUNE 7
Natural Beauties: Exquisite Works of Minerals and Gems
For centuries, nature’s most enduring materials, like malachite, jade, amethyst and lapis lazuli, have been carved, polished and mounted into beautiful works of art. Hillwood founder Marjorie Merriweather Post was known for the incredible gems and jewelry that signaled her unparalleled taste, but the hardstone objects that make up a less well-known area of her connoisseurship are equally impressive and exquisite. This special exhibition is the first at Hillwood to focus on finely crafted objects that incorporate these exceptional stones and minerals. HILLWOOD MUSEUM, ESTATE & GARDENS
THROUGH JUNE 14
Raphael and His Circle
Raphael (1483-1520) was one of the greatest artistic figures working in the Western classical tradition. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of his death, the gallery presents 25 prints and drawings in an intimate installation that illustrates how the combination of artistic traditions, wide range and immediate influence of Raphael’s art shaped the standard of aesthetic excellence for later artists. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
THROUGH JULY 5
I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa
Taking its name from a 1970’s feminist anthem, “I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa” draws upon a selection of artworks by women artists from the National Museum of African Art’s permanent collection to reveal a more contemporary feminism that recognizes the contributions of women to the most pressing issues of their times. With ex-
perimental and sophisticated use of diverse media, the 27 featured artists offer insightful and visually stunning approaches to matters of community, faith, the environment, politics, colonial encounters, racism, identity and more.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART
THROUGH JULY 5
Delight in Discovery: The Global Collections of Lloyd Cotsen
Over his lifetime, Lloyd Cotsen was known as many things: a philanthropist, the CEO of skin and hair care company Neutrogena and an accumulator of art. Though he was best known for his professional work, his personal legacy is the Cotsen Foundation for the Art of Teaching and his worldrenowned collections of textiles, basketry and folk art. This exhibit highlights the global spectrum of his interests, primarily through textile fragments and garments collected over a 60-year period. THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY TEXTILE MUSEUM
THROUGH SEPT. 7
Pat Steir: Color Wheel
The Hirshhorn will host the largest painting installation to date by the acclaimed abstract painter Pat Steir. The exhibition is an expansive new suite of paintings by the artist, spanning the entire perimeter of the Museum’s second-floor inner-circle galleries, extending nearly 400 linear feet. HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN
THROUGH SEPT. 13
Lee Ufan: Open Dimension
“Lee Ufan: Open Dimension” is an ambitious site-specific commission by the celebrated Korean artist Lee Ufan. The expansive installation, featuring 10 new sculptures from the artist’s signature and continuing “Relatum” series, marks Lee Ufan’s largest single outdoor sculpture project in the US, the first exhibition of his work in the nation’s capital, and the first time in the Hirshhorn’s 45-year history that its 4.3-acre outdoor plaza has been devoted, almost in its entirety, to the work of a single artist. HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN
THROUGH OCT. 12
Marcel Duchamp: The Barbara and Aaron Levine Collection
Featuring the recent gift of over 50 major historical works, including more than 35 seminal works by Marcel Duchamp, this exhibition comprises an unparalleled selection of art, thoughtfully acquired over the course of two decades and offering a rarely seen view of the entire arc of Duchamp’s career. This is the first stage of a two-part exhibition on the life and legacy of Duchamp. The second stage, opening spring 2020, will examine Duchamp’s lasting impact through the lens of the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection, including significant works by a diverse roster of modern and contemporary artists. HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN
Events | Culture | WD
THROUGH OCT. 12
Portraits of the World: Denmark
“Portraits of the World: Denmark” will feature the painting “Kunstdommere (Art Judges)” by Michael Ancher (1849-1927), on loan from the Museum of National History in Hillerød, Denmark. The monumental group portrait pays tribute to a tightly knit artists’ community in northern Denmark, which served as the incubator for the Modern Breakthrough in Danish painting. A complementary display of American portraits will highlight the proliferation of artists’ communities in New York City during the first half of the 20th century, which likewise accelerated the development of modern art in the United States. NATIONAL PORTRAIT MUSEUM
DANCE TUE., MARCH 3, 7:30 P.M.
Fruits Borne Out of Rust
Conceived and directed by internationally renowned Japanese visual artist Tabaimo in collaboration with award-winning choreographer Maki Morishita, this whimsical, mischievous multimedia work is performed by a solo female dancer and two on-stage musicians to an original score by Yusuke Awazu and Keisuke Tanaka. Tickets are $35 to $45. KENNEDY CENTER TERRACE THEATER
MARCH 5 TO 7
Martha Graham Dance Company: The Eve Project
Martha Graham is inarguably the mother of American modern dance. In celebration of the centennial of the 19th amendment in 2020, which gave women the right to vote, the company has created a collection of new commissions and signature Graham classics that each make bold statements about female power. Tickets are $25 to $69. KENNEDY CENTER EISENHOWER THEATER
SAT., MARCH 14, 2 P.M.
The Mush Hole: Truth, Acknowledgement and Resilience
“The Mush Hole” is a heartbreaking dance theater piece that moves through Canada’s residential school history with hope and empathy. The performance by Kahawi Dance Theatre reflects the realities of the Mohawk Institute Residential School experience and offers a compelling way to open dialogue and to heal. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN
DISCUSSIONS THU., MARCH 5, 6 P.M.
Bohemian Stories with Author Renáta Fučíková
Renáta Fučíková discusses her book “Bohemian Stories,” an illustrated history of Czechs in the United States that showcases the deep bonds between the two countries. Short texts and vivid illustrations create a portrait of composer Antonín Dvořák’s life in America, reveal the stories of politicians Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Madeleine Albright, and celebrate the accomplishments of astronaut Eugene Cernan and sports legend Martina Navrátilová, among others. Readers also
learn about Czech immigrants who settled the barren prairies of the Midwest and helped build the streets and neighborhoods of Chicago and New York, and experience the success of artists and athletes who found a new home in the United States. Admission is free; to RSVP, visit bohemianstories.eventbrite.com.
EMBASSY OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC
THU., MARCH 5, 7 P.M.
Celebrating Women’s Achievement in Music and Arts
Enjoy a cross-over evening featuring a multimedia installation — dedicated to the first female member of the New York Philharmonic, the Viennese harpist Stephanie “Steffy” Goldner — as well as a panel discussion on the role of women as musicians and artists over time, comparing genres and continents, complemented by inspiring music from the Boulanger Initiative. Admission is free; to RSVP, visit acfdc.org.
this event, NIH Spanish scientists studying neurodegenerative disorders discuss how these diseases impact our nervous system and give insights into future treatments. Admission is free; to RSVP, visit www.spainculture.us/city/ washington-dc/.
FORMER RESIDENCE OF THE AMBASSADORS OF SPAIN
SAT., MARCH 21, 10 A.M. - 5 P.M.
Through Her Eyes: Celebrating Indigenous Women of the Andes
A special Women’s History Month program, “Through Her Eyes” celebrates the stories, experiences and perspectives of Andean indigenous women. Cultural and content experts will lead a series of performances, demonstrations and activities offering visitors a window into the rich traditions and contemporary life of women in these indigenous communities. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN
EMBASSY OF AUSTRIA
FRI., MARCH 6, 3 P.M.
MARCH 3 TO APRIL 19
Artist Talk with Composer Gabriela Ortiz
The Mexican Cultural Institute, in collaboration with INSeries, welcomes Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz for a conversation on her newest operatic storybook, “Ana y su sombra,” playing at GALA Hispanic Theatre on March 7 and 8 as part of the InSeries Women Composer Festival. To RSVP, visit www.instituteofmexicodc.org. MEXICAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE
SAT., MARCH 14, 3 P.M.
Wine Regions of France and Italy: Bordeaux
Join Food and Wine magazine’s 2019 Sommelier of the Year Erik Segelbaum in an enjoyable interactive workshop series into the worlds of French and Italian wine, designed to boost the wine IQ of both novices and seasoned aficionados. Tickets are $100. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER
TUE., MARCH 17, 6:45 P.M.
Ireland’s Fight for Freedom
In the course of their bitter war with the British Empire from 1919 to 1921, Irish nationalists turned to novel tactics both military and political. Unable to confront Britain’s overwhelming military power directly, the Irish Republican Army mounted a campaign of assassination, hit-and-run raids, and — a new concept — urban guerrilla warfare to fight their opponents to a standstill. George Mason University history professor Kevin Matthews discusses how this war set the standard for other independence struggles in the 20th century. Tickets are $45; for information, visit smithsonianassociates.org. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER
THU., MARCH 19, 6:30 P.M.
Neuro-Night: Spanish Scientists Advance Health Research
Brain Awareness Week is an annual global campaign celebrating its 25th anniversary in mid-March. The campaign was founded by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain with a simple but profound mission: to share the wonders of the brain with the public and teach the impact brain science has in our daily lives. In
DC Tango Festival – Pan-American Symphony Orchestra
The Pan-American Symphony Orchestra (PASO) — the first orchestra in the nation to focus solely on Latin American music — presents the DC Tango Festival, largely held at the Embassy of Argentina. Events include the Buenos Aires-based Juan D’Arienzo Orchestra (March 3); a series of four tango lessons beginning March 4; a tango dance party (March 6); Mariana Quinteros singing popular tangos by Argentina’s most well-known tango composers (March 12, 13); Tango Night at the Movies featuring the 1950 musical drama “Arrabalera”; and “Tango of the Americas,” a show of original tango music from Colombia, Argentina and the U.S. at the Kennedy Center. For information, visit www.panamsymphony.org/ concert-season/dc-tango-festival. EMBASSY OF ARGENTINA
MARCH 6 TO 7
Women Composers Festival
The IN Series presents a festival celebrating the brilliance of living female composers who have been under-represented in the classical music scene of the nation’s capital, as well as in the canon of works produced by IN Series. The festival features four performances of two fully staged operas, both local premieres, as part of an effort to radically reshape the image of who makes opera. For more information, visit www.inseries. org/women-composers-festival. GALA HISPANIC THEATRE
MARCH 8 TO 21
The Kennedy Center’s two-week celebration of contemporary culture, returns for a third season. With special emphasis on female creators, on works new to the District of Columbia, and on interdisciplinary creations, the 2020 spring immersion showcases some of the most provocative, original and pioneering voices in the arts today. The festival kicks off with a special screening of Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary “13th,” with Jason Moran’s powerful score performed live for the first time in collaboration with One Woman, One Vote
2020 Festival. Other highlights include Mija at U Street Music Hall (March 13), Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra (March 14) and “Blue,” a Washington National Opera production about a family that struggles after a teenager is shot by policy (March 15-28). For information, visit www.kennedy-center. org/whats-on/festivals-series/ direct-current/.
MARCH 23 TO 29
SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras
Building on the groundbreaking repertoire and concepts presented during SHIFT in 2017 and 2018, this year’s participating orchestras — Jacksonville Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra — offer a fresh take on orchestral concerts by featuring multi-genre thematic collaborations and commissioned works, along with dialogue, other vocal elements and video projections. For information, visit www.washingtonperformingarts. org/media/shiftrfp/. VARIOUS LOCATIONS
GALAS SAT., MARCH 14, 6 P.M.
Washington Performing Arts Gala & Auction
“A Celebration of Women: Fearless, Creative, Resilient” is the theme of this year’s Washington Performing Arts Gala & Auction, which will honor entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, and feature performances by the Children of the Gospel Choir and mezzo soprano J’Nai Bridges. One of the most established and honored performing arts institutions in America, Washington Performing Arts has for more than half a century, engaged with artists, audiences, students and civic life in the nation’s capital. Tickets start at $200 for young patrons. For information, visit one.bidpal. net/washingtonperformingarts/ welcome. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS
MUSIC WED., MARCH 4, 7:30 P.M.
Presented by PostClassical Ensemble in conjunction with the Armenian Embassy, visual artist Kevork Mourad creates a multimedia meditation that ponders how crossing cultural boundaries can inspire tolerance and understanding. This world-premiere-concert event features legendary duduk master Jivan Gasparyan and Jivan Gasparyan Jr.; cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan; and composer Vache Sharafyan. Please visit postclassical.com for ticket information. WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL (GREAT NAVE)
WED., MARCH 4, 7:30 P.M.
Barrantes & Pinto-Ribeiro Piano Duo
The Barrantes & Pinto-Ribeiro Piano Duo was formed in Moscow in 1998, when Portuguese pianist Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro and Peruvian pianist Rosa Maria Barrantes were studying at the famous Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Since then, the duo — who live in Lisbon with their two children — has performed in concerts across Europe and America and recorded a CD featuring works by Claude
Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Eric Satie, Francis Poulenc and Maurice Ravel. Tickets are $160, including buffet, wine and valet parking. For information, visit embassyseries.org.
a contemporary take on classical Hindustani music. Together, Bacon and Raj create an innovative amalgam that draws on their diverse heritages with the goal of bridging cultural divides. Tickets are $24.
SUN., MARCH 8, 12:30 P.M.
SAT., MARCH 21, 3 P.M.
Don’t miss the Washington-area concert debut of Sounds of the Homeland, a new ensemble based in California that performs contemporary, classical and traditional Iranian music and will provide the musical highlight to the museum’s annual Nowruz celebration.
Maryta de Humahuaca (Kolla) is an Indigenous performing artist from the small city of Humahuaca in the province of Jujuy, Argentina. Her music is a fusion of contemporary and traditional Andean music. This program is presented in collaboration with the Embassy of Argentina.
Persian Music: Sounds of the Homeland Ensemble
FREER GALLERY OF ART
FRI., MARCH 13, 7 P.M.
Niño de Elche in Concert: Colombiana
“Colombiana,” the new album by Niño de Elche, explores the relation between colonialism, spices, the economy and the transoceanic exchanges within Flamenco and Latin American rhythms. Tickets are $15; for information, visit www.spainculture.us/city/ washington-dc/. FORMER RESIDENCE OF THE AMBASSADORS OF SPAIN
FRI., MARCH 13, 8 P.M.
The Washington Chorus: St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the two-time Grammy-winning Washington Chorus, joined by folk band The Irish Inn Mates and students of the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance. Lauded as “sheer joy,” (Broadway World) enjoy sing-alongs and choral arrangements of Irish classics in this unique and festive concert. Tickets are $18 to $79. MUSIC CENTER AT STRATHMORE
MARCH 16 AND 17
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
For over 50 years, South Africa’s five-time Grammy Award-winning group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has warmed the hearts of audiences worldwide with their uplifting vocal harmonies, signature dance moves, and charming onstage banter. Tickets start at $42. WOLF TRAP
THU., MARCH 19, 7:30 P.M.
32 Bright Clouds: Beethoven Conversations Around the World
To mark Beethoven’s 250th birthday year, composers from conflict zones around the world were commissioned by Israeli American pianist Yael Weiss to create new works connected to the German composer’s 32 piano sonatas. For this concert, Weiss performs new compositions by Syrian native Malek Jandali, Turkish composer Aslihan Keçebasoglu, Afghan composer Milad Yousufi, Aida Shirazi, who was born in Tehran, Sidney Marquez Boquiren of the Philippines and Bongani Ndodana-Breen from South Africa. FREER GALLERY OF ART
THU., MARCH 19, 7:30 P.M.
Christylez Bacon, Hip-Hop & Nistha Raj, Violin
Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon is known for his beat-boxing, rhyming and storytelling skills. This collaboration with violinist Nistha Raj offers
MUSIC CENTER AT STRATHMORE
Maryta de Humahuaca in Concert
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN
SUN., MARCH 22, 3:15 - 6:15 P.M.
Pierrot Lunaire – A Multimedia Chamber Concert Experience
Arnold Schoenberg’s 1912 expressionist masterpiece “Pierrot Lunair (Moonstruck Pierrot)” is a melodrama about Pierrot, the sad clown character from the Italian commedia dell’arte, set to 21 poems by Albert Giraud. This interdisciplinary event features a musical performance accompanied by dramatic poetry readings, displays of visual art and a preconcert lecture. Admission is free; to RSVP visit acfdc.org. CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
MON., MARCH 23, 7:30 P.M.
Annelene Lenaerts, Harp
Belgian harpist Anneleen Lenaerts is one of the leading soloists of her instrument who, in December 2010, was appointed principal harpist of the Vienna Philharmonic. From an early age, Lenaerts began winning an impressive amount of prizes at international harp competitions: 23 prizes between 1997 and 2009. Most recently in 2019, she released a new CD recording with works by Nino Rota with the Brussels Philharmonic, and she won an Opus Klassik after being nominated in four different categories. Tickets are $225, including buffet reception, wine and parking on the embassy compound. For information, visit embassyseries.org. BELGIAN RESIDENCE
THU., MARCH 26, 7:30 P.M.
Brahms & Dvořák
The Brahms and Dvořák chamber music members of the President’s Own Marine Band and Chamber Group perform a repertoire of two chamber works by the master composers. Tickets are $125, including buffet, wine and beer. For information, visit embassyseries.org. EMBASSY OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC
THU., MARCH 26, 7:30 P.M.
Matt Haimovitz, Cello & Laura Colgate, Violin
Matt Haimovitz is a groundbreaking artist who made his debut in 1984, at the age of 13, as soloist with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic and is notably the first classical artist to play at New York’s infamous CBGB club. Colgate, a resident of Takoma Park, Md., has led a prestigious career as a chamber and orchestral musician, soloist, and educator. She is passionate about innovating in the world of classical music and
SEE EVENT S • PAGE 38
MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 33
WD | Culture | Spotlight
Choral Arts Society 39th Annual Holiday Concert and Gala German Ambassador Emily Haber and her husband Hansjörg Haber served as the honorary patrons of the Choral Arts Society’s 39th Annual Holiday Concert and Gala held at the Kennedy Center, where internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Kristina Nicole Lewis joined the choir for a rousing concert, followed by silent auction, dinner and dancing on the roof terrace. Founded in 1965, the Choral Arts Society of Washington is a Grammy-winning leader in the choral field and an icon on the D.C. cultural scene.
Cristiana Anderson, Mark Anderson, Andrew Stifel of Leidos and Amanda Stifel of Polished Corners LLC. Debra Kraft, executive director of the Choral Arts Society.
PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
Gala chairs Marty and Sue Goodhart; German Ambassador Emily Haber and her husband Hansjörg Haber; and gala chairs Allison and Doug DuShuttle.
PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
Mezzo-soprano Kristina Nicole Lewis performs on stage with the Choral Arts Society of Washington.
PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
Julie Meyer, photographer Tony Powell, Catherine Trifiletti of Washington Life, Christina McDowell and Choral Arts Society Executive Director Tad Czyzewski. Leo Ericsson, Choral Arts Society conductor Scott Tucker, Karen Schuiling and William Schuiling, owner of Brown Automotive Group. Natalie O’Dwyer and Courtney Brown.
PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
Kevin Fearnow of CIBC Private Wealth Management and Nazgol Fearnow.
PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
Choral Arts Society Executive Director Tad Czyzewski, Jenny Bilfield of Washington Performing Arts and Chase Rynd, executive director of the National Building Museum.
Ambassador of Oman Hunaina Sultan Al Mughairy and Ambassador of Germany Emily Haber. PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
Choral Arts Society Board Chair Lexy B. Kessler welcomes guests. PHOTO: SHANNON FINNEY
William Vogelpohl of Cigna Healthcare, Mary Vogelpohl and Ken Woodcock.
Mari Louise Avery, John Collins and Tammie Collins.
Jutta Lewis, Julie Tucker and Margaret Stromecki of MITRE.
Transatlantic Leadership Network Dinner
Journalists Concepcion Debusmann and Bernd Debusmann, formerly of Reuters.
Anna Gawel, managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, and mezzo-soprano Kristina Nicole Lewis.
34 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
Ambassador of Kosovo Vlora Çitaku and guest.
Sasha Toperich, senior executive vice president of the Transatlantic Leadership Network; Lena Argiri, D.C. correspondent for the Greece Broadcasting Network; Ambassador of the European Union Stravos Lambrinidis; and Michael Haltzel, chairman of the board of the Transatlantic Leadership Network, attend a dinner at the Army Navy Club to celebrate the newly established think tank, which will focus on issues affecting the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
Spotlight | Culture | WD
Qatar Sports Day On Feb. 7, D.C. athletes and dignitaries teamed up to encourage kids to make healthier lifestyle choices during Qatar Sports Day at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Qatari Ambassador Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani welcomed more than 350 Washington-area students for the event, dubbed “Futbol Meets Football.” The Washington Redskins, Ambassador of Qatar Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani and D.C. United, Washington Spirit Students participate in soccer and football workshops, including Mohammed Saadon Al Kuwari, the FIFA World Cup and the National Children’s Brian Mitchell, Ibtihaj Muhammed, Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins 2022 representative, high-five during a game of pickup obstacle courses, a quarterback toss workshop and field goal-kicking Museum joined forces with the lessons. and Doug Williams. soccer at the Qatar Sports Day celebration. embassy for the second annual Qatari celebration. Students also learned about Qatari culture through a special exhibit with virtual reality headsets simulating the inside of Lusail Stadium, one of the venues being built to host the PHOTOS: NICK KLEIN 2022 World Cup in Washington Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins and alum D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ambassador of Qatar Washington Spirits players attend the Qatar Sports DC Public School students visit the Qatari cultural Qatar. Kedric Golston. Day celebration. exhibit. Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani.
Esther Coopersmith’s 90th Birthday Party Members of Congress, ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, friends and family gathered recently to celebrate the 90th birthday of Esther Coopersmith, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, UNESCO goodwill ambassador and one of Washington’s most well-known hostesses, who has been bringing politicians and presidents of all stripes together for decades. “Welcome to Esther Coopersmith’s first annual 90th birthday,” joked her son Jeffery, who was joined by Coopersmith’s two other children, Jonathan and Connie, along with her grandchildren at her Kalorama residence for the event. Jeffery said that his mother discovered that “the key to a long and happy life is to connect with people around the world.” As a testament to her many connections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a surprise visit to the dinner, where she praised Coopersmith’s “encyclopedic knowledge of leaders of the world” and her ability to bring people together, noting that she hosted the entire House freshman class once under President Obama. “We all feel part of your family,” Pelosi said. “For Esther Coopersmith, bipartisanship is not an aberration, but a brand,” her son Jeffery said. On that note, Pelosi was joined at the head table by Pat Roberts, the longtime Republican senator from Kansas, who quipped that he’s been waiting for someone like Coopersmith who could put him next to the Democratic speaker of the House for his next Christmas card. “I’ve been here for some years…. I came in with President Coolidge,” Roberts said, eliciting more laughter from the audience. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who has been able to bring together more people,” he concluded, calling Coopersmith the “most gracious person, the nicest person, most wonderful person — she’s just an absolute joy.” At right, Ambassador of Oman Hunaina Sultan Al Mughairy and former Rep. Connie Morella (D-Md.).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) makes a surprise visit.
Janet Pitt, left, and friends and family join Esther Coopersmith as she blows out the candles on her 90th birthday cake.
Joanna Hare and her husband Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
At left, Diana Villiers Negroponte and Ambassador of Jordan Dina Kawar. Former U.S. Protocol Chief Capricia Marshall and Ambassador of Albania Floreta Faber.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce and recently appointed Ambassador of Austria Martin Weiss.
Ambassador of Belgium Dirk Wouters, his wife Katrin Van Bragt and Joanna Hare.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) makes a toast.
Esther Coopersmith is joined by her grandchildren.
Inga Jona Thordardottir, former mayor of Reykjavik; John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence; Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.,); Grace Bender; and Ambassador of Germany Emily Haber.
MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 35
WD | Culture | Spotlight
Diplomatic Spotlight New Ambassadors at Meridian On Jan. 15, the Meridian International Center hosted 12 recently credentialed ambassadors from Angola, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Union, Honduras, Iceland, Latvia, Panama, Somalia, Switzerland, Timor-Leste and Ukraine.
Ambassador of Ukraine Volodymyr Yelchenko shakes hands with Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss.
PHOTOS: JESSICA LATOS
Politico CEO Patrick Steel, his wife Lee Satterfield of the Meridian International Center, Debbie Meadows and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
Ambassador of European Union Stavros Lambrinidis, U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Adrienne Arsht, Meridian CEO and President Stuart Holliday and former Rep. Bart Gordon (R-Tenn.).
At left, a group of recently credentialed ambassadors pose with Meridian International Center President and CEO Stuart Holliday, center.
Ambassador of Panama Juan Ricardo De Dianous greets Ambassador of Timor-Leste Isilio Coelho, Ambassador of Somalia Ali Sharif Ahmed and Ambassador of Honduras Maria Dolores Agüero Lara.
U.S. Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper and Ambassador of Somalia Ali Sharif Ahmed.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Marie Kasperek of the Institute of International Economic Law at Georgetown, Ambassador of Switzerland Jacques Pitteloud and NBC News’s Abigail Williams.
Bunmi Fajusigbe of Chevron and Michael Serwadda of 3M.
Ambassador of Ukraine Volodymyr Yelchenko and Daman Irby, director of operations at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Ray Mahmood, Shaista Mahmood, Janet Blanchard and Jim Blanchard of DLA Piper.
Former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-Calif.) greets Ambassador of Somalia Ali Sharif Ahmed.
Silbi Stainton, Holidae Hayes and Loran Aiken.
Future of Work 2.0 The Institute of Education (IFE) hosted an evening salon on the “Future of Work 2.0” at the Embassy of Singapore, where Singaporean Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri was joined by Estonian Ambassador Jonatan Vseviov and OMB Deputy Director Margaret Weichert to discuss the promise and perils of 21st-century work and learning. Weichert said that “workforce transformation is the societal transformation of our time,” pointing out that as the largest employer in North America, the federal government should build a climate that puts “people in the middle of everything we do.” The ambassadors of Singapore and Estonia talked about how their countries use technology to benefit their citizens, who receive a digital identification at birth that allows them to digitally engage in education, elections, e-commerce and banking. Both envoys also stressed the importance of digital literacy to help people succeed in a 21st-century workforce. Mirpuri noted that “when you graduate with a technology degree, it’s already out of date. People need to embrace a lifelong learning culture.” “The trick,” Vseviov said, “is to create a more egalitarian education system R. David Edelman, director of the so that no one is Project on Technology, the Economy, disadvantaged and & National Security at MIT, gives remarks. left behind.”
36 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
Jared Koch and Fatima Al-Dosari of the Qatar American Institute.
Cyrus Sethna of the United State Digital Service at the White House; Kristen Honey, innovator in residence at the Department of Health and Human Services; White House Presidential Innovation Fellow Rana Saad; and Maria Dayton, impact fellow with Singularity University.
Coach Kathy Kemper, founder and CEO of the Institute for Education; Ambassador of Singapore Ashok Mirpuri; moderator Nina Bianchi of the White House IT Modernization Centers of Excellence; Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Margaret Weichert; and Ambassador of Estonia Jonatan Vseviov.
Frank Reyes of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
PHOTOS: INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATION
Javier Vasquez of Microsoft asks a question.
Joanne Ke Edelman, chief operating officer at the Refugee Investment Network, and Gouri Mirpuri.
Anil Cheriyan, director and deputy commissioner of technology transformation services for the U.S. government, and coach Kathy Kemper.
Nina Bianchi of the White House IT Modernization Centers of Excellence, author Davar Ardalan and Jessica Davis of Microsoft.
Appointments | World | WD
Diplomatic Appointments India Taranjit Singh Sandhu presented his credentials to President Trump on Feb. 6, 2020, to beAmbassador come ambasTaranjit Singh Sandhu sador of India to the United States. He has served in Washington, D.C., on two prior occasions: as deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy from 2013 to 2017 and as first secretary (political) from 1997 to 2000. He also served at the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in New York from 2005 to 2009. Most recently, Ambassador Sandhu was high commissioner of India to Sri Lanka (2017-20). He had also served at the High Commission of India in Colombo earlier as head of the political wing from 2000 to 2004. In addition, he was consul general of India in Frankfurt from 2011 to 2013. Ambassador Sandhu has worked in the Ministry of External Affairs in various capacities, including as joint secretary (United Nations) from 2009 to 2011; later as joint secretary (administration) heading the Human Resource Division; and officer on special
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duty (press relations) from 1995 to 1997, serving as the liaison with foreign media in India. Upon joining the Indian Foreign Service in 1988, Ambassador Sandhu started his diplomatic career in the former Soviet Union, where he worked as third secretary (political) and second secretary (commercial) in the Indian Mission from 1990 to 1992. Following the breakup of Soviet Union, he was sent to open a new embassy in Ukraine, where he served as head of the political and administration wings in the Indian Embassy in Kiev from 1992 to 1994. Born Jan. 23, 1963, Ambassador Sandhu studied at The Lawrence School in Sanawar and graduated with history honors from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. He also pursued a master’s degree in international relations at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Ambassador Sandhu is married to Reenat Sandhu, who is India’s ambassador to Italy. They
have two children. His interests include books, movies and outdoor sports.
Togo Yokoudema Kadokalih departed the post of second counselor in charge of political and legal affairs issues, having held the position since September 2015. Awoki Koinzi assumed the position of second counselor in charge of political issues and defense in September 2019, having previously served as second counselor at the Togolese Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva in charge of human rights and disarmament issues. Koinzi graduated from the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA) of Lomé and started his career as a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Togolese Overseas in 2008.
United Kingdom Dame Karen Pierce has been appointed to serve as Britain’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, becoming the first woman to hold the position. Currently serving as Britain’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York since March 2018, she will succeed Ambassador Kim Darroch, who resigned last year following leaked diplomatic cables in which he described President Trump as “wacky” and “a very stupid guy.” A career diplomat, Ambassador Pierce previously served director general for political affairs and chief operating officer for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London from 2016 to 2018. She also served in New York for a prior posting as Britain’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N. from 2006 to 2009, after which she returned to London to become director of the FCO’s South Asia and Afghanistan Department and the U.K.’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2012, she started her second multilateral role, this time in Geneva, where she was permanent representative to the U.K. Mission to the United Nations, World Trade Organization and other international organiza-
Coronavirus CONTINUED • PAGE 22
noted. It turned out pharmaceutical factories in the U.S. territory were a major supplier of the bags, and they went dark when the storm knocked out power. The CDC already has heard enough concerns regarding the N95 that the agency issued recommendations for extended use and limited reuse of the respirators, in case there aren’t enough to go around. China also is a major supplier of raw ingredients needed to manufacture penicillin, ibuprofen, aspirin and other routine medications, fueling concerns about future shortages. “We are starting to hear of some reports of hospitals who are unable to get their regular supplies, or there’s a delay in getting their regular supplies, but it’s just sort of the beginning of this,” said Roslyne Schulman, the American Hospital Association’s director of policy development. Foster said that many hospitals “are making sure that every N95 mask is being used appropriately, because that’s one of the things we anticipate could be in shortage in the nearer term.”
PHOTO: PARENTINGUPSTREAM / PIXABAY
With many U.S. hospitals filled because of a harsh flu season, medical experts worry that the country is not prepared for a possible outbreak of coronavirus.
LEARNING FROM PRIOR OUTBREAKS The U.S. health care system does have the advantage of experience in dealing with pre-
vious outbreaks, including H1N1 flu, SARS, MERS and even Ebola, experts said. “We’ve all had a lot of practice putting plans into place for major viral illnesses and pandemics. That being said, you can never be
tions until 2015. She was Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2015 to 2016. Ambassador Pierce joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1981. Her first posting was in Tokyo (198-87), Ambassador after which Karen Pierce she returned to London to work in the FCO Security Policy Department. She also worked in Washington as the private secretary to the British ambassador from 1992 to 1995. In addition, from 1996 and 2006, Ambassador Pierce held several positions in London, including team leader for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova; deputy head of the Eastern Adriatic (Balkans) Department; head of the FCO Newsroom; head of the EU Department (Bilateral) and concurrently head of the Afghanistan Political Military Unit after 9/11 before returning to the Balkans as Balkans Coordinator from 2002 to 2006. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Girton College in Cambridge and a master’s degree in international strategy and diplomacy from the London School of Economics.
prepared enough, and it always depends on the volume of patients you’re going to see,” Jarrett said. “If it was as overwhelming as it appears to be in China, that would certainly stress the whole health care system in the U.S. tremendously because there are only a certain number of beds.” To save on personal protective supplies, hospitals have plans to place coronavirus-infected patients in specific quarantined areas and have them be treated by specific teams of dedicated personnel, Schulman said. That way, heavy-duty respirators and other protective equipment will only need to be handed out to the limited number of hospital workers coming into direct contact with the sick. If necessary, Foster said, hospitals also could limit the number of people allowed into routine surgeries, to conserve surgical gowns, masks and gloves. Elective surgeries might have to be suspended if things grow dire. “I would say we are better prepared than we were, but a pandemic is really an allhands-on-deck scenario,” Schwedhelm said. “We’re going to need every health care worker to be able to protect themselves and we need to be able to provide them the resources to do that, otherwise I’m not sure they’re going to come to work.” WD Dennis Thompson is a HealthDay reporter. Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 37
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of their personal resilience.
Events CONTINUED • PAGE 33
THROUGH MARCH 8
The 39 Steps
THROUGH MARCH 15
The Amen Corner
Margaret, a zealous church pastor of a storefront church in Harlem, must confront the past she left behind when her estranged husband Luke returns. Trying to find his own identity outside of the confines of the church, their son David bonds with his ailing father over their shared love of jazz music. Margaret’s misguided but fervent beliefs cause further disunity both within their fragile family union and in her congregation as her past comes to light. Tickets are $35 to $120.
KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE
THROUGH MARCH 22
Timon of Athens
Timon lives in a golden world of One evening in 1930s London, Richard opulence and generosity, throwing Hannay attends a vaudeville performance wild parties attended by politicians, at the London Palladium when a fight artists and the celebrities of Athens. co-founded the Boulanger Initiative, an breaks out in the theater and shots are When she loses her wealth and her advocacy organization for women comfired. In the ensuing panic, a frightened friends abandon her, Timon takes to the posers based in D.C. Tickets are $30. young woman named Annabella perforest, exchanging her luxurious gowns suades Hannay to take her back to MUSIC CENTER AT STRATHMORE for sackcloth and plotting revenge against his flat. There, she claims to be a spy who the city she loves. Please call for ticket E6FZM0026 has uncovered a plot to steal British miliTHE SHAKESPEARE THEATRE information. tary secrets implemented mysterious 0026_BW_ads Billbyto:a E6FZM0026 Executive CD: espionage organization known as “The 39 SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY THROUGH MARCH 15 S. Pytel Newspaper Creative Director: REQ 58802 Steps.” The next morning, Hannay wakes MARCH 1 TO 21 12-20-06 Art Director: M. Denais The Wanderers up to find Annabella stabbed to death. MARCH 24 TO APRIL 19 Washington National Opera: EstherWriter: and Schmuli are Satmar Hasidic Color/Space: BW Now a suspect in her murder, CE: 5/0Hannay M. Bobryk Camille Claudel Samson and Delilah Jews embarking on an arranged marriage, must careen across Europe to evade Live: Production Artist: MRS Account: K. Black Turn-of-the-century French sculptor Seduction and deceit tangle in Saintdespite barely knowing each other. Abe the police and expose the killer’s true Trim: 1.812" (w) x 5.187" (h) Task: Fix and Print and Julia Production: K. Warmack Camille Claudel was a groundbreaking Saëns’s sensual grand opera. When are high-profile celebrities identity in this fast-paced and riotously Delilah seduces Samson into revealing Coordinator: J. Radzinski x7890 artist and a revolutionary free-thinker – embarking on a dangerously flirtatious Bleed: Spell checked funny adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s but her entire life was determined correspondence, despite being married the source of his physical power, his Page 31935 PA Notes: of 7spy thriller film presented by by the men around her, from her to other people. On the surface, the lives faith will be put to a final, catastrophic Constellation Theatre Company. Tickets passionate and tumultuous love affair of these two couples couldn’t be more test. Tickets are $45 to $299. are $25 to $45. with Auguste Rodin to her unsupportive different. The play explores the hidden KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE AT 1835 14TH ST., NW CE APPROVALS As isSOURCEW/C Asconnections is W/Cbetween these seemingly As is brother to W/C the gender-based censorship of her work. The MAX Theatre transforms disparate people, KMG drawing audiences ( ) Knowledge Mgt. Executive CD Sr. Fulfillment Artist MARCH 4 TO APRIL 12 into famed sculptor Rodin’s studio to into an intriguing puzzle and a deeply MARCH 13 TO MAY 20 bring their creative and lovers’ duel to sympathetic look at modern love. Tickets Pass Over Creative Director Fulfillment Artist USPS Operations Guys and Dolls life in a stunning and gorgeous new are $39 to $69. Kitch and Moses seem stuck on their In this beloved 1950s musical comedy, musical of an irrepressible visionary Design Director Print Production Legal J street corner, but it don’t matter. They EDLAVITCH DCJCCCE THEATER dice-slinging gamblers, pious missionaries who broke the mold. Please call for joke, dream, and throw down about and glamorous showgirls come together Associate CD - Art Art Buyer Account Supervisor ticket information. the promised land they’re heading to THROUGH MARCH 22 for a light-hearted romp through New just as soon asAssociate they get up the block. SIGNATURE THEATRE ( ) Art /Copy Account Executive CD off - Copy Product Info York. It’s a high-stakes game of love as Washington National Opera: Allegorical and immediate, humorous and brash but charming Nathan Detroit bets Don Giovanni Mgt. Supervisor chilling, Nwandu’s Art Director Program HQ missionMARCH 27 TO APRIL 5 Sky Masterson $1,000 to woo collision of the Exodus saga and A notorious lover meets his ultimate ary Sarah Brown. Please call for ticket Synetic Teen: Romeo & Juliet “Waiting for Godot” fiery punishment in Mozart’s celebrated Writerprobes the forces Postal Supervisor Legal information. In this passionate and lyrical piece, set that have marooned these young tragicomedy. He’s spent his life betraying among the gears of a giant clock, the Coordinator Edit and limitations / FORD’S THEATREQA Review black men, andCopy the power women. Now time’s up. Tickets are $45
38 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | MARCH 2020
Full Read Second Read
Changes Only Proof Stage
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greatest of Shakespearean lovers race against time itself to outrun their fate. Please call for ticket information. SYNETIC THEATER
THROUGH MARCH 29
Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes
Marian, the matriarch of a far-flung Jewish family, had happily settled into retirement life with her new husband Richard. However, when a pregnant niece, the troubled boy next door and a distressed daughter with a secret show up at her door, Marian’s empty nest ends up a little fuller than she imagined. Please call for ticket information. SIGNATURE THEATRE
THROUGH APRIL 12
Celia and Fidel
Can one woman change the mind of a man and the fate of a nation? Fidel Castro’s most trusted confidant and political partner, Celia Sánchez, is never far from his side as he grapples with how to move his country forward. It’s 1980 and a failing economy has led 10,000 Cuban citizens to seek asylum at the Peruvian Embassy in Cuba. Castro must decide what kind of a leader he wants to be: merciful or mighty. Imbued with magical realism, “Celia and Fidel” is the dynamic story of radical change in Cuba featuring the country’s most notorious political figure and Cuba’s most influential female revolutionary. Tickets are $40 to $95. ARENA STAGE
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Palestine CONTINUED • PAGE 21
• The Muslim holy places will continue their custodianship under Jordan, while the Christian holy places will be overseen by a new custodial council made up of representatives of the Vatican, Palestine, Russia, Greece and the Armenian, Coptic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. Jews will have unhindered access to the Jewish holy places in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. No one will be denied access to the holy places per the existing status quo arrangements. • No expropriation of Palestinian lands or expansion or building of new settlements will be allowed from this date forward. The only building allowed in settlements will be the completion of existing semi-built structures. No building will be allowed in settlements deemed “illegal” or without license by current Israeli law. (Under Trump’s peace plan, Israel would agree to a four-year “land freeze,” during which time it would limit settlement construction while Palestinian leaders consider the proposal.) • A cooling-off period will be provided to both sides to study the Trump peace plan and the Palestinian counteroffer until Nov. 15, 2020. Shortly thereafter, final status negotiations will begin and both sides will have until Dec. 31, 2023, to complete those negotiations and agree on all the terms of the final peace agreement. • All outstanding issues that reach a point of impasse will be decided by a panel of five mediators — two selected by Israel, two selected by Palestine and one selected by both sides. The panel will be established by Nov. 15, 2020, and its mandate will end by Dec. 31, 2023. These are the highlights of what a Palestinian counteroffer could in theory look like. Many points — in particular, only making modest adjustments to pre-1967 borders to ensure a contiguous Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital — have been reiterated in past peace proposals supported by the international community and the U.S.
CONSEQUENCES OF PALESTINIAN REFUSAL TO PRESENT A COUNTEROFFER Trump has said his plan is a “historic opportunity” for the Palestinians to achieve an independent state and that after 70 years of little progress, “this could be the last opportunity they will ever have.” Meanwhile, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the main architect of the plan, urged the Palestinian leadership to “stop posturing” and come to the table, telling CNN that, “It’s a big
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WASHINGTON F I N E P RO P E RT I E S , L L C If Israel proceeds with these new annexations, it can create facts on the ground that might, over time, become irreversible. Is the current Palestinian leadership willing to take that chance? Moreover, as long as Trump is president, Israel is protected from any adverse U.N. Security Council resolutions, even those that have had U.S. support under previous administrations. Already, Abbas’s attempt to push a Palestinian resolution at the United Nations condemning Trump’s peace plan has been watered down and postponed — a victory for the administration’s efforts to scuttle the resolution. (Abbas has said he is willing to negotiate with Israel directly but not with the U.S. as the sole mediator and not based on Trump’s peace plan.) The Palestinians can emphatically reject Trump’s initiative but, the smart thing to do, is to offer an alternative so that it is viewed by allies as a constructive move toward a resolution of the conflict. Presumably, such a counterofCREDIT: UN PHOTO / ESKINDER DEBEBE fer will force Israel not to implement its threats to annex Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds up a map the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in the West Bank showing Israeli settlements carving up Palestinian territory in the because the United States has invited the Palestinians to present West Bank during a Feb. 11 U.N. Security Council meeting follow the a counteroffer (and signaled that it’s open to making changes to release of President Trump’s peace plan. the plan if Palestinians come to the table). From a Machiavellian perspective, the success of Trump’s opportunity for the Palestinians, and they have a perfect track peace proposal hinges on the Palestinians’ refusal to accept record of blowing every opportunity they’ve had in their past.” As widely predicted, Palestinian Authority President Mah- that proposal but, more importantly, their refusal to submit a moud Abbas immediately rejected Trump’s peace plan, dismiss- counterproposal. Imagine what would happen to Israel’s politiing it as the “slap of the century.” Some observers speculate the cal landscape if the Palestinians submit a counterproposal that plan was designed to be so tilted in favor of Israel that the Pal- would force Israel to sit down and negotiate over the new terms. estinians had little choice but to reject it, allowing the Trump Israeli infighting could easily scuttle any prospects for Prime administration to blame them for walking away. Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form an annexationist rightThat is exactly why the Palestinians should present a counter- wing government. offer or proposal of their own. The consequences of not doing so Israel would come under immense pressure not only from the could be profound. Europeans, Russia and the U.N., but also from the United States Currently Israel is in full physical control of all of historic to avoid taking any action before considering the Palestinian Palestine. Abbas cannot go from Ramallah to Bethlehem with- counteroffer. This could potentially lead to serious negotiations out “coordinating” his travels with the Israelis. Essentially, Israel that would break the decades-long impasse, which is ostensibly exercises unfettered control from the river (Jordan) to the sea the Trump administration’s goal. (Mediterranean). In his deep desire to go down in history as a peacemaker, and Israel has the upper hand militarily to do whatever it wants in possibly win a Nobel Peace Prize, Trump might be forced to lean the West Bank and, to an extent, in the Gaza Strip. If it chooses heavily on the Israelis to compromise to make a peace agreeto expand a settlement, it can. If it chooses to confiscate a Pal- ment work. That would clearly be in the Palestinians’ favor. estinian piece of land, it can. If it chooses to impose a curfew in If the Israelis refused, the world, including quite possibly the any area, it can. If it chooses to cut off one area in the West Bank United States, would point the finger at them for their intransifrom another, it can. What can the Palestinian Authority do in gence. And the United States will be put in a position not to supresponse? Nothing. It is powerless. port Israel’s annexation of any settlements, let alone the Jordan If the Palestinians do not present a counteroffer, it will be Valley. WD construed as “the thousand no’s” that characterized Abbas’s initial response to Trump’s peace plan. That is all the pretext Is- Bishara A. Bahbah was editor-in-chief of Al-Fajr, a Jerusalemrael needs to annex whatever settlements they want in the West based Palestinian newspaper, and served as a member of the Bank. They can proceed with their plan to annex the Jordan Val- Palestinian delegation to multilateral peace talks. In addition, ley as well. he was a professor at Bethlehem and Al-Quds Universities, and Israel already annexed East Jerusalem. What were the Pales- he taught at Harvard University, where he was the associate director of its Middle East Initiative. tinians able to do to stop them? Nothing. MARCH 2020 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 39
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