Saturday, April 12, 2003
The St Petersburg Trio - 12th April 2003, 16.48

Chirac, Putin and Schroeder are meeting in Saint Petersburg and cementing their own informal diplomatic alliance, providing fresh evidence that Europe is now divided and that the common foreign and security policy is now ignored. They should not be confused with their classic equivalents.

“We have a joint view of the future of the world. We want a multipolar world,” President Chirac said. “Our conception naturally excludes unilateral approaches and that is why we want the UN to be the legal framework for peace and democracy.”

Chirac's statement is actually confused. On the one hand, he calls for more than one centre of power, which would require the United States disarming or other countries making a strong bid to acquire superpower status either singly or together. This is consistent with the French ambition of constructing a 'counterweight' to the United States. Yet, he also called for the United Nations to be the "legal framework for peace and democracy" - a return to the role that this body played before the war and, surely inconsistent, with Machtpolitik ambition.

This diplomatic programme is no longer realistic. The United States will not concede any authority to the United Nations in postwar Iraq and will not allow its actions to be constrained by the Security Council or its members through resolutions. Their stance is, in the true sense of the word, reactionary, a wish to turn the clock back.

Putin's comments are equally bizarre.

Almost gloatingly referring to the failure of the Allies to find weapons of mass destruction, President Putin said: “Either they did not have them or they were in such a state they couldn’t use them. So why did we fight this war?”

Er, Russia didn't, unless he means for Saddam Hussein.

The three leaders are maintaining the approach and the objectives that they articulated before the war started. In doing so, they probably hope to acquire common ground with other groupings such as the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab League. Such a diplomatic alliance, if it occurs, will attempt to deploy its power in international fora from the UN and the EU to the Commonwealth and the international economic bodies. The first test of their leverage will be the obsolete UN programmes such as oil for food and the sanctions, which require UNSC resolutions for their continuation, modification or removal. Perhaps we should expect sparks.


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