Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
World leaders are fast converging on Washington for Barack Obama's nuclear security summit. Here's FP's definitive guide to who they are and what they want.
Delegations from 46 countries are in the United States this week for a summit on nuclear security, but the foreign leaders in attendance are unlikely to let their time in Washington go by without raising other concerns. Here’s a look at who’s coming and what’s on their agenda.
Who’s coming: Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci
What they want: Counterterrorism help in North Africa. Obama’s nuclear strategy hinges on keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists — something Algeria, where the terrorist group al Qaeda in the Maghreb is very active — has historically been engaged in.
Who’s coming: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
What they want: Ideally, U.S. support for Argentina’s claim on the Falkland Islands. In reality, the Argentines will likely focus on following Chile’s lead in drawing down their large stockpile of fissile material.
Who’s coming: President Serzh Sargsyan
What they want: U.S. backing in the Turkish-Armenian rapproachement. President Sargysan will hold a rare bilateral meeting with Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama have been attempting to reconcile bitter adversaries Turkey and Armenia, relations between which grew further complicated in March after a U.S. congressional committee decided to label the World War I-era killing of Armenians a genocide over vociferous Turkish objections.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
What they want: To be a major backer of Obama’s nuclear policy. Australia has made eliminating chemical and nuclear weapons a foreign-relations priority. With the U.S. health-care vote postponing Obama’s trip to the region and Rudd’s own health-care debate bruising him domestically, Australia might just want some Obama love.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Yves Leterme
What they want: For Obama to stop snubbing the European Union. The Belgians take their leading role in the EU very seriously and lately, they have not been happy. In February, Obama decided not to attend a U.S.-EU summit in Madrid and this week he failed to invite a single EU representative to the signing of his new START agreement in Prague.
Who’s coming: President Lula da Silva
What they want: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Brazil wants to play a larger role on the international stage and will probably make a point by defending all countries’ right to peaceful nuclear energy — a reference to Iran’s nuclear program. Lula has come out against a round of fresh sanctions against the Islamic Republic, arguing that such steps would only radicalize the regime. Although Brazil denies backing Iran outright, Iranian President Ahmadinejad came to Brazilia last year and Lula plans to visit Tehran in May.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
What they want: A commemorative DVD of the Olympic gold medal-hockey match. Defense arrangements between Canada and the United States are already the closest in the world. Canada’s involvement will be, for the most part, symbolic.
Who’s coming: President Sebastián Piñera
What they want: To get some props. Chile just delivered the last of its highly enriched uranium to the United States last month, in line with Obama’s push to recover the world’s unsecured nuclear material. Piñera, who was just inaugurated in March, will also meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss bilateral trade.
Who’s coming: President Hu Jintao
What they want: Great-power status. China sees this as an opportunity to depict itself as a responsible world power. But the Chinese president reportedly agreed only to attend if the United States does not embarrass him following his visit by declaring China a "currency manipulator." Economic issues as well as Iran’s nuclear program will likely be on the table when Hu sits down with Obama for a bilateral meeting, but both sides have agreed to respect each other’s "core interests."
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Jan Fischer
What they want: U.S. security assurances. The Czechs, who had agreed to host the now-nixed U.S. missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, want to know the United States is still there for them, particularly in light of increasing U.S.-Russian cooperation.
Who’s coming: Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit
What they want: For the world to focus on Israel. The delegation is expected to criticize Israel’s nuclear program. Egyptian diplomats will also continue their push for an Arab-Israeli peace agreement.
Who’s coming: President Tarja Halonen
What they want: To give women their due. President Halonen is the chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and will be hosting a luncheon of American women leaders at the Finnish Embassy.
Who’s coming: President Nicolas Sarkozy
What they want: Having had a private dinner with Obama just two weeks earlier, Sarkozy will likely be generally supportive of nonproliferation policies and trade relations with other countries. A strong supporter of U.N. sanctions on Iran, Sarkozy will be closely involved in lobbying other Security Council states to ramp up the pressure on the Islamic Republic.
Who’s coming: President Mikheil Saakashvili
What they want: To drive a wedge between the U.S. and Russia. Saakashvilli, who requested a bilateral meeting with Obama and was denied, will also seek to pressure France against selling its Mistral-class ships to Russia.
Who’s coming: Chancellor Angela Merkel
What they want: Germany has backed tougher sanctions on Iran for years, and will work with the United States to convince the Russian and Chinese leadership to get on board. Merkel is also looking to prove her influence on the world stage prior to important regional elections in Germany on May 9.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
What they want: Help with Pakistan. India is expected to push for greater oversight of loose nuclear material, especially given New Delhi’s constant fear that terrorists could potentially steal some from archrival Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
Who’s coming: Vice President Boediono
What they want: Finally, a visit. After two delays, President Obama is slated to travel to Indonesia this June. During his visit, he will sign a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which will enhance defense, political, and economic ties between the two countries. Indonesia is currently fighting an Islamic insurgency and seeks continued U.S. funding and military training.
Who’s coming: Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor
What they want: Not to be the center of attention. In light of a recent East Jerusalem settlements row with the Obama administration, Israel is looking look to keep a low profile in Washington. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would not attend the summit for fear of a joint Egyptian-Turkish verbal assault on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons arsenal.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
What they want: To go nuclear. Italy is planning to revitalize its nuclear energy program, and on Friday concluded a deal with France to rebuild it. Berlusconi has said he wants 25 percent of Italian power to come from nuclear sources. Italians will be hoping Berlusconi doesn’t tell any more off-color jokes about Obama.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
What they want: To stay in power. Perhaps the most controversial issue regarding the longtime U.S. troop presence in Japan is the Futenma Air Force Base on the island of Okinawa, which the Japanese government agreed to move in 2006 to reduce friction with Okinawa residents. With a poor public approval rating, Hatoyama is under pressure to complete a deal — with some claiming failure could cost him his job.
Who’s coming: King Abdullah II
What do they want: Peace process progress. The Hashemite Kingdom maintains a constantly precarious position in the Middle East, being one of only two Arab states (Egypt is the other) that have formal relations with Israel. King Abdullah, who recently claimed that his country’s relations with Israel are at their lowest point since peace was agreed 16 years ago, will push Obama for greater efforts to restart stagnated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and likely will argue that pressure on Israel is key to success.
Who’s coming: President Nursultan Nazarbayev
What they want: To be a disarmament leader. Kazakhstan is home to 20 percent of the world’s uranium supply, making it a key partner in any effort to secure nuclear materials. The ex-Soviet republic dismantled the weapons program it gained by default following the USSR’s breakup in 1991, and last year offered to host a centralized international nuclear fuel bank. Kazakhstan has been taking out ads around Washington touting its leadership role on nuclear disarmament.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak
What they want: Face time with Obama. Prime Minister Najib’s winning of a bilateral meeting with President Obama showcases Malaysia’s growing importance to the United States. Najib will be a man on a mission during his first official visit to Washington, making numerous stops to promote deeper U.S.-Malaysian ties. Malaysia is also a member of the Association of Southeastern Nations (ASEAN), which is seeking expanded trade ties with the U.S.
Who’s coming: President Felipe Calderón
What they want: Help with the drug war. Mexico faces a major problem on its northern border, as a war on drug cartels has yet to make much progress into its fourth year. Three people tied to the U.S. consulate in the besieged town of Ciudad Juarez were killed last month in drug-related violence, putting Calderón’s battle with the narcotraficantes back on the front pages and raising new questions in Washington about the Mexican president’s strategy.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi
What they want: To keep the aid coming. The North African country has been the recipient of substantial U.S. military assistance, with $9 million given to Rabat since President Obama took office in January 2009. Fears of terrorists using Western Sahara, a disputed territory controlled by Morocco, has also increased the country’s profile: the U.S. Senate last month voiced support for Morocco’s proposal to address the situation by allowing more local autonomy to Western Saharans.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende
What they want: A graceful departure. The Dutch have been a close ally in U.S. foreign-policy missions, contributing troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan. But Balkenende announced in February that the 1,600 Dutch troops in Afghanistan would leave the country by the end of the year, and the Netherlands previously withdrew its 1,3500 troops from Iraq in March 2005.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister John Key
What do they want: To bring the troops home and keep the whales safe. New Zealand has contributed more than 200 troops to the Afghan conflict, including 71 elite Special Airborne Services soldiers. Prime Minister Key announced last September they would be withdrawn by the end of 2014. New Zealand has also been a key mediator in global whaling issues, much to U.S. appreciation.
Who’s coming: Acting President Goodluck Jonathan
What they want: Legitimacy. Jonathan’s meeting with Obama highlights the strategic importance of Africa’s most populous country at a time of crisis. After last December’s failed bombing of a U.S. airliner by a Nigerian national, the two leaders are expected to discuss closer ties in fighting terrorism, as well as Nigeria’s substantial oil reserves. Jonathan is also looking to portray himself as the legitimate leader of Nigeria, have assumed control of the government in February due to President Umaru Yar’Adua’s illness.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg
What they want: Arctic sovereignty. Norway has asserted itself as a new power with aggressive moves to claim parts of the Arctic, where climate change is expected to uncover substantial reserves of natural resources. Norway and the United States took the lead at a March conference of Arctic powers, which also included Canada, Denmark, and Russia.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani
What they want: Nuclear cooperation. Pakistan expects considerable U.S. assistance in its fight against Taliban fighters in the country’s restive Northwest Frontier Province. Chief among Pakistani wishes is a U.S.-Pakistani nuclear agreement, similar to the one the U.S. has offered bitter rival India — though the Obama administration seems cold to the idea.
Who’s coming: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
What they want: Counterterrorism help. U.S.-Philippine talks will focus on combating extremism in the southern islands of the archipelago nation. Expect the U.S. side to seek assurances that the upcoming 2010 Philippine general elections won’t turn out like last year’s, during which 46 people were killed in post-election violence.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Donald Tusk
What they want: Protection from Russia. Tusk will likely thank Obama for the U.S. decision to station Patriot missiles in Morag, Poland, following a period of tension earlier this year over the U.S. cancellation of its missile-defense plans. Tusk is looking for reassurances that Poland’s interests will not be lost in the "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations. Given the 2,000 troops Poland has stationed in Afghanistan, the upcoming offensive in Kandahar may get some attention as well.
Who’s coming: President Lee Myung-bak
What they want: To keep the pressure on Kim Jong Il. South Korea will praise the United States for its decision to continue providing Seoul with extended nuclear deterrence against North Korea, as well as for its decision to continue targeting North Korea with nuclear weapons. South Korea and the United States will also discuss how to coax North Korea back to the six-party talks over its nuclear program.
Who’s coming: President Dmitry Medvedev
What they want: To push back on missile defense. Russia is seeking to link the recently signed disarmament treaty to the planned U.S. missile-defense shield in Romania and Bulgaria. But the discussions this week are more likely to focus on Iran, how to persuade China to agree to U.N. sanctions, and how severe the sanctions resolutions can be while still securing Moscow’s critical Security Council vote.
Who’s coming: Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud
What they want: To keep nukes out of Iran. Saudi Arabia will push the United States to jumpstart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Prince Muqrin, the powerful Saudi intelligence chief, is also sure to discuss regional archrival Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program. With its vast oil resources, Saudi Arabia may be essential to convincing an energy-hungry China to agree to sanctions on Iran.
Who’s coming: Not Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Thai prime minister has cancelled his trip to Washington in light of the growing unrest in Bangkok. His replacement is not yet known.
What they want: To show they’re still in control. Thailand will lobby for greater economic aid and assistance from the United States. Even though Thailand continues to hedge against America’s declining influence in East Asia by cozying up to Beijing, look for the Thai delegation to seek to reassure the United States that Abhisit’s administration is still in control and won’t be going the way of Kyrgyzstan.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
What they want: To set the record straight. The Turkish government is furious about a pending House of Representatives resolution that labels the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, and wants the Obama administration to lobby against its passage. Turkey will also discuss its apparent reluctance to endorse sanctions against Iran with the United States.
Who’s coming: Foreign Minister David Miliband
What they want: To make the relationship special again. The British and the Americans will focus on two major issues: the future ISAF drive into Kandahar, and how to deal with an increasingly defiant Iran. With a close general election just a month away, Prime Minister Gordon Brown chose to stay at home to begin campaigning.
Who’s coming: President Viktor Yanukovich
What they want: To make an introduction. Look for the Ukrainians and Americans to spend some time feeling each other out, as this is the first time Yanukovich — considered more pro-Russian than his predecessor — will be visiting the United States as president of Ukraine. The two countries are sure to discuss the chaos in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the usual range of American-Eastern European issues, including NATO, the Eurasian gas market, and Russia’s influence among former Soviet satellites.
Who’s coming: President Nguyen Tan Dung
What they want: Energy help. The Vietnamese and American delegations are likely to focus on any major agreements reached during the 2010 ASEAN Summit, which has just drawn to a close in Hanoi. The Vietnamese will also push for the United States to begin providing civilian nuclear assistance following the recently signed bilateral nuclear energy pact.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
What they want: Trade talks. During the summit, U.S. and Singaporean officials will probably discuss bilateral economic relations. Expect for Singapore to push for increased trade between the two countries and explain its plan to revalue its currency. Also look for the two countries to discuss the economic and financial implications of an appreciation in the Chinese yuan.
Who’s coming: President Doris Leuthard
What they want: To talk about anything but banking. Swiss and American officials are likely to discuss general U.S.-EU relations, as well as the global economic recovery, the Greek debt crisis, and international financial reform. Don’t look for the Swiss to give much on banking transparency.
Who’s coming: President Jacob Zuma
What they want: To demonstrate stability. In their bilateral meeting, Obama will be anxious to hear how Zuma plans to help resolve the ongoing power-sharing dispute in Zimbabwe between President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC party. Also, look for Zuma to assure Obama that he will be able to ease the tension that has gripped South African society in the wake of the murder of white-supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche.
Who’s coming: Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
What they want: Respect for Europe. The United States will thank Spain for its contributions to ISAF in Afghanistan, and the two countries will discuss future NATO strategy in Kandahar. Zapatero, however, was reportedly angry about Obama’s decision to skip the annual U.S.-EU summit that Spain, will be hosting in Madrid this May. He will likely seek assurances that Obama takes U.S.-EU relations seriously.
Who’s coming: John Fredrik Reinfeldt
What they want: Focus on Climate. Sweden will focus its attention on international climate-change policy. Potential topics include a discussion of what was (and was not) achieved during last year’s Copenhagen Summit, as well as the newly launched Swedish-American Green Alliance.
United Arab Emirates
Who’s coming: Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed
What they want: With the passage last December of a U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear energy deal, the UAE will be sure push for the U.S. to begin ramping up bilateral nuclear commerce. With questions about Israeli policy sure to come up, the UAE may also have an opportunity to vent about the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January.