Transcript: The World: A Primer
[Aiesha Zafar appears in a video chat panel.]
Aiesha Zafar: Hi everyone. I'm Aiesha Zafar, a faculty member with the Canada School of Public Service. And welcome to what is sure to be a fascinating and important conversation about the world. Over the last little while, the Canada School of Public Service has placed an increased focus on bringing you information, knowledge, key learnings about Geopolitics, climate change, national security, and other broad issues that impact our work as public servants. We often get so focused on our file or portfolio or department that we might not realize events happening in different sectors in different parts of the world impact our own files, the policies we create, the changes we recommend, and ultimately the Canadians that we serve. I am pleased and honoured to speak today to Dr. Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States. Dr. Haass, who is a veteran diplomat, has significant experience and expertise in U.S. foreign policy and international relations. Having served under various U.S. administrations, Dr. Haass is also the author editor of 15 books and for the last 19 years has been the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, non-partisan organization and think tank dedicated to helping people to better understand the world and the foreign policy choices that we make. Dr. Haass, welcome and thank you for being here.
[Dr. Richard Haass in a separate video chat panel.]
Richard Haass: Thank you, Aiesha. Good to be with you all. I look forward to discussing just about anything under the sun except softwood lumber. When I worked in the Bureau of European Affairs, which then changed the name to the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, one of the results of that seemed to be that our softwood lumber would come up almost daily at our staff meeting, and I managed not to understand it then when I was supposed to understand it. So I hope you don't expect me to expand on it now.
Aiesha Zafar: Well, just give me a moment to strike through all my notes then.
Richard Haass: I'm sure it was going to be front and centre. Yes.
Aiesha Zafar: Yeah, absolutely. So many things that we can talk about and maybe just start us off. For many of us in the public service, we often think of, you know, our world today in this post-Cold War era where the U.S. emerged as the world's superpower. Democracy has been accepted in many parts of the world. There's relative peace, predictability, some expected tension in certain parts of the world. But ultimately, we're pretty good. But the reality is that, you know, recently the world has been changing quite rapidly. Continues to do so. So can you talk to us a little bit about where we actually are right now and how we got here?
Richard Haass: Sure. Happy to. Yeah. I think had we had this meeting 25 or 30 years ago, what you said would have applied pretty well. And there was a sense that we could all put our feet up a little bit and relax after the Cold War ended. You had books like and articles like The End of History and so forth. There was real optimism about technology, what it would what it would do, real hopes for multilateralism.
People forget but, you know, the great international crisis after the end of the Cold War was when Iraq invaded Kuwait. And you had extraordinary international collaboration. The U.N. Security Council worked as many ways as never before. So there was tremendous optimism. And 30 years later, not so much. It's a long conversation as to how we got to where we are, but let me just focus maybe on where we are, because I think there's three things that are going on that are important for you all. And the bottom line is you don't have the luxury of just focusing, I think, on what you call your file or on your inbox. But you've got to take a step back and think about the larger world in which your inbox exists.
One thing is the return of geopolitics, if you will, the classic stuff with history. We're seeing it most powerfully now with Russia and what it's doing in Europe. And obviously if you're living in Europe, you see the direct results. But even here in North America, we see the results in terms of our fuel costs adding to inflationary pressures. We see it potentially with refugee flows, we see it with supply chain issues.
We've had to live with the threat potentially of even nuclear war. I grew up at a time when the Cuban Missile Crisis was the great international event in the early sixties. I actually think this in some ways is a little bit more frightening because under the Soviets back then, Nikita Khrushchev, the general secretary of the Communist Party, he had to labour under a degree of collective leadership. Vladimir Putin essentially does not. He has deinstitutionalized his country.
So, my point is simply that we have concerns, you know, very if in many ways very traditional concerns, again, about great powers in this case acting badly. And then you've also got the rise of China and all the challenges that that that puts up to us all.
Happy to talk about it. And also, we're living in an age in which medium powers can make a big difference in North Korea and Iran. These are countries that have, in the case of North Korea, nuclear weapons, missiles, large conventional military forces. In the case of Iran, it has a lot of the prerequisites of nuclear weapons, but it also supports terrorist groups, various non-state actors like Hezbollah, and can be a force far beyond its borders. It also has access, obviously, to cyber-related tools.
So, one thing that's going on is that none of us can operate in a kind of a luxury, apart from the direct consequences of geopolitics or one of the things we all study is how security is the is the prerequisite of all else. And if you're looking at, say, the developing world or countries, say, in Africa or the Middle East, what we've learned the hard way is that absent security and stability, nothing else can really happen.
You can't have good governance. You tend not to have economic growth or anything else. So that's one thing. And for countries like Canada, again, they've got to take this into account.
Secondly, even more are global issues. One of the things that I think really differentiates this era of history from others is the important prevalence of global issues. One, obviously, we're still dealing with the effects of a pandemic and what however it began in Wuhan, it didn't stay there and it spread around the world. And the one thing it's not simply that we're still dealing with variants of COVID-19, but the day will come when we're dealing with COVID, what, 24, 26 or 33 and or it's not COVID, it will be some other virus. What we've seen is the globalization and of health challenges or climate change.
Climate change is a little bit different. It's a slow-motion crisis. And in a funny sort of way or a not so funny sort of way, it makes it more difficult to deal with. It doesn't quite seem to have the urgency. Doesn't just appear, but because of that, it's actually more corrosive. And our ability or to galvanize a national or international response is much less than it should be or need to be.
Problem is, by the time we wake up to it and it seems immediate, it'll be too late that most of the decent options will have evaporated. So, you've got that before this century is over. It's quite possible that these global issues I've just mentioned two health and climate, a third would be proliferation, fourth could be terrorism, fifth could be the use of cyberspace and so forth. These could be more important in determining the quality of our lives than anything to do with geopolitics. Though, geopolitics could complicate our ability around the world to cooperate on these issues.
If the United States and Russia NATO and Russia or the West and China are at odds over Ukraine or over Taiwan, it's going to be that much more difficult to deal with one of these global challenges, even though it would be in our interest to deal with these global challenges. But history is all about countries not necessarily doing what's in their interests. And this is true for Canada no more than any other country will be able to insulate itself. I think what we've learned is that borders are permeable, whether it's the computer viruses or physical viruses or people with good intentions or ill intentions.
Now a lot of globalization's potentially good, tourism, trade and trade in goods, trade in services, movement of ideas. And the challenge is, how do we regulate globalization so we can take advantage of the good and push back against the bad? And the problem is, in virtually every single aspect of international relations, there is a gap between the machinery and the challenge. And in many cases the gap is large and getting larger.
And as if all this was not enough and by the way, you've asked someone to speak today who is not you know, I basically don't spend my life spreading good cheer and I apologize in advance. Domestically, we're all feeling all sorts of challenges. My own country, you see it from where you are. We've got the inflation, the gun violence, opioid deaths, crime in our cities, border issues, polarization, which gets in the way of our political system working.
So, the domestic challenges in the United States are extraordinary. You have your own set of domestic challenges. You don't need me to rattle them off. But I'd simply say that things like social media and the rest make it more difficult to govern in many ways. And you've got your own questions of political divisions, you've got challenges coming from refugees and others who are coming together, but you've also got inflationary pressures, you've got environmental issues and so forth and for many of our democracies, these are difficult times. If you were going to look at the world as a whole, the degree to which democracy has taken hold over the last, it looks pretty good if you look at the last 75 years, it doesn't look good at all, if you look at the last 15 or 20 years, there's been something of a democratic recession backsliding in the number of democracies as well as in the quality of democracy. And if you add all this stuff in, what's going on inside countries like Canada and the United States often makes it more difficult to respond to the geopolitical and global challenges that we need to respond to.
And I think that's what makes this for this moment in history so tough is what's coming at us is pretty considerable and our ability to generate national or international responses to it is not what it needs to be. And that's what makes for a fairly rough moment in history, which I'm afraid is where we are.
Now, the good news is nothing's inevitable. Nothing is baked or little is baked into the cake. There's still lots of opportunity to respond and get it right. The bad news is that just because there's opportunity doesn't mean we're going to avail ourselves of it and that domestic or international problems will get in the way of fashioning and carrying out the kinds of responses we need.
So, you know, I think this is a difficult time and I think all of us as countries are going to be going through it and you all in the area of public administration are those in government dealing with public policy issues. You're going to have the normal challenges of the issues. That's nothing new, but the context may grow more difficult, the ability to deal with them in a focused way where you have the resources you want and the risk is unlikely to be there. So, I think it's going to be a tough time.
Aiesha Zafar: So, a lot there to think about and a lot to unpack. But how did we kind of- how did the all of that happen? Were we asleep at the wheel? Did we did we being, you know, sort of the Western powers missed something that really changed the last 15 or 20 years in terms of international relations. You mentioned, you know, great powers are acting badly. China is growing and becoming more assertive. We've talked about Russia a little bit. What happened? How did what did we miss?
Richard Haass: It's a great question, and I don't think it was inevitable. If you think about the optimism that heralded the end of the Cold War three decades ago, and, shall we say, lack of optimism that reflects what I just said. Well, how did we get here? I think it's a really good question. I think when historians write about this period, they're going to be extraordinary, extraordinarily critical of my own country, the United States, the word I constantly come back to and I don't like it is squander. I really do feel we squandered a certain opportunity. Again, if nothing is inevitable, going forward, it also wasn't inevitable that we'd get to where we are. So relations with Russia, why did they turn out as poorly as they have? Relations with China? Why did they turn out this poorly as they have over it? We can talk about why. I think one looks at things like technology. The social media type things have made governing more difficult. I can't- I don't know about Canada, my country, we don't do things like civics in our schools very well. So, I think understanding of democracy, respect for democracy has gone down. Technology again, has proliferated. So, you have you're going from an era of broadcasting to narrowcasting with cable, with social media, radio and so forth. So, it's made more difficult to build national consensus in many countries.
You have this new set of issues like climate change and the rest, but we don't have the institutions to deal with them. The institutions that came out of the Cold War in many cases came out of World War Two. So, these institutions are rather long in the tooth and many of them are not fit for purpose, or at least not for these purposes. United States at times I use the word squandered, you know we overreached in parts of the world like Iraq and Afghanistan. We may have under reached in other parts of the world at other times. So, I think we've gotten it we've gotten it wrong in many cases. Again, it's a rich question as to how we got here. But we are where we are, where we are. However we got here we can't change that. So, I think the real you know, I almost leave that question that you raised to historians and I've played around with it myself at times. I think the real question going forward is how do we change the momentum industry? How do we strengthen global machinery? How do we improve the governance of democracies? How do we try to reduce some of the friction in major power relationships? I think those are the challenges now that that that await us.
Aiesha Zafar: And something you said that nothing is inevitable. So, I think when you when you hear the news and you look at what's been happening over the past 10 to 20 years, sometimes it's a little bit disheartening, right? The world has changed and in a way that we're not really comfortable with. The U.S. was the world superpower. Relative power has declined. And as Canada, we have always been, you know, very close ally and friend of the U.S. and also relied on the U.S. for a lot of things. So, when we look at the actions or decisions or even what the United States says and how it impacts different parts of the world, it really impacts us. And so, I guess my question now is that for Canada, in this new kind of era and having to reshape the world, we're not a superpower. But is there- do we have to take all of those same kinds of considerations that the U.S. is taking right now? Do we have to play a different role than we did in the past in kind of reshaping or going back to a way that we feel is more democratic and more peaceful and stable?
Richard Haass: Canada is somewhere between a small and medium sized country and power. And as a result, it faces certain realities that stem from it and also, we're living in a global world. So even if Canada were a great power, it wouldn't matter. It still can't resolve certain things on its own. The United States can. Unilateralism is rarely a viable strategy. So, I think for Canada, I think there's probably two things that stem from it. One is you want to continue to associate closely with the United States given geography, given history and so forth. But you can't put all of your eggs in our basket. One is we're less certain than we used to be. And also in other cases, kind of in the United States are going to disagree. So, I would think that Canada will want to do everything it can to maintain a constructive, close relationship with the United States at the same time, and also have other it has other partners. The partners could be in Europe, the EU. They could be countries, say, like Australia, around the world, other medium powers that have some of the same motivations, but on their own they can't do things. But they're democratic. They're are worried about the rise of China. They're worried about Russian aggression. They're concerned about climate change. Global, you know, global infection. So, Canada could seek out other like minded countries that are in a similar predicament that, again, don't have either the option of acting unilaterally or ignoring the world and try to join forces with them.
It could change from issue to issue. It doesn't have- we're not talking about alliances. We're not even necessarily talking about institutions. We could simply be talking about arrangements. And so, if I were if I were a Canadian, that would be what I would be thinking about. I'd want to again do everything where I could with the U.S. but I'd also want to have a foreign policy that found partners where I thought it would either as a hedge to the U.S. or as a complement as a supplement to find other like minded countries and the most- I can imagine some countries in Latin America, I can imagine, you know, countries from every part of world, certainly Europe and Asia and again, it would differ in terms of, you know, from issue, from issue to issue. But I think Canada needs that kind of a dynamic, creative foreign policy.
Aiesha Zafar: So, does that mean the traditional alliances that we saw after the Cold War or even during the Cold War are no longer effective or necessary or relevant? I know that in in your recent book, The World: A Brief Introduction, you talked about, for instance, the U.N. and how the makeup of the U.N. might be different now if it was all you know, relative powers that we talk about NATO and how NATO existed for a specific purpose and now we're seeing Finland and Sweden wanting to join Naito. So, what are the current alliances in the world? Are they still relevant and effective? Do we need to change that in some way?
Richard Haass: For the alliances are enjoying something of a renaissance. Russia has reminded people why NATO's essential and its aggression against Georgia and Ukraine, which are not members of NATO's, has made a lot of countries and NATO understands just why the alliance is valuable. You don't hear the same debates being raised that you heard 30 years ago after the end of the Cold War.
Mr. Putin, if nothing else has reminded the world about why NATO's is important, even essential. And we're also seeing greater alliance like groupings emerging against China, things like the Quad, like AUKUS, and so forth. And I think for Canada, again, that's a question about what Canada decides to join and that Canada's a Pacific country. And it's going to want to think about, I would think, being involved in these types of groupings one way or another. So, I think there's still a place for alliances. I'm not a great fan in what I would call universal multilateral institutions, things like the U. N. General Assembly, its too big to be useful. The Security Council is really hamstrung by the veto, so it's so useless and under the current situation, things like the World Trade Organization have lost their centrality.
So increasingly what we're seeing or other forms of multilateralism could be regionally based, could be functionally based. It might simply be the like minded that if the World Health Organization's not going to work or, you know, COP27 isn't going to work in Egypt this December, I'm profoundly skeptical. We might end up with more selective groupings again are countries that are relevant and like-minded so-called coalitions of the willing, that come together, might not be 100% of the world, but better to have 75% of the world do something than 100% of the world sit on its hands. So, I think we're going to have to increasingly, again, not think about unilateralism. We are going to have to think about multilateralism, about collective action.
But I don't think the model can be universal. I think we are going to have to find more- lesser packages or coalitions. And again, it'll probably vary from subject to subject. And maybe in some points we can either introduce these new groupings in existing institutions, maybe we can institutionalize. But initially, I would think the most important thing is to generate the cooperation that we need.
Aiesha Zafar: So, in terms of needing that cooperation and maybe different alliances, like you said, on specific issues versus all or nothing, and how unilateralism really won't work in this new era. I'm thinking back to the last few years in terms of nationalism being on the rise in many parts of the world. We've seen it in the U.S. in 2016, Spain, Turkey, India, Germany. There are all sorts of countries out there where it almost seems like it's more nationalist and really talking more about the sovereignty of a state or the state itself. Some authoritarianism is on the rise and that kind of threatens democracy. Is that real? Is that actually happening? And what impact does that have then on those future relations that we really need because of globalization?
Richard Haass: Well, we're seeing it everywhere. We're seeing nationalism stronger in both democracies and non democracies. Public opinion is quite powerful there. I think also a lot of citizens around the world feel somewhat threatened by aspects of globalization. In Europe, we saw, for example, the very strong reactions to large scale immigration from the Middle East. We see it in this country, in the United States on various issues, again, social media, I think reinforces it becomes something of a echo chamber, and I think it begins to feed off one another around the world.
Nationalism in China, nationalism here. Mr. Putin clearly very much plays into Russian nationalism, the idea of Russia as a victim to quote unquote, justify what he is, what he's doing.
It's one of the reasons that both maintaining a democracy is difficult because nationalism can become illiberal, intolerant, internal, and we're seeing that in various countries. And it also makes multilateral international collaboration that much more difficult. It makes a willingness to compromise harder to come by.
Now, in some cases, you might say the nationalism was warranted because of supply chains or whatever. We want to have a little bit more of a capability to insulate ourselves against certain disruptions and so forth. And I think that's one of the things we all learned the hard way during COVID, during the pandemic. And there's various options we can look at domestic production, we can look at stockpiling. Or in the case of North America, I would think one of the things we've got to be looking at our North American arrangements that the United States, Mexico and Canada don't each have to be 100% self-sufficient in everything. We might want to have share pooling arrangements where we have certain North American understandings for certain minerals or certain items that are important in the world of health care or what have you and that that to me would be a useful agenda for what we call the USMCA. I can now remember the order of the initials. Everybody has its own.
Aiesha Zafar: It's a different order depending on the country. Yeah.
Richard Haass: Yeah. Which, which is probably not a great sign. Just as a first order approximation, if all three participants have their own ordering of the countries, it shows you something about nationalism.
Aiesha Zafar: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So let's talk about Russia for a moment, because you have mentioned Russia a couple of times. So, the threat right now from Russia different than it was during the Cold War. I mean, while they're still a nuclear power, that nuclear threat remains. There's other types of warfare. Now, you know, they're going back to say that human variety of espionage, there's cyber attacks.
You know, is it really still the spread of communism? That's the worry. You mentioned earlier that Vladimir Putin has kind of deinstitutionalized his government. So, what's the ultimate goal here and what do we now need to know absolutely when it comes to Russia and how that's going to impact not only foreign relations, but our position in the world.
Richard Haass: I think there are some important differences. There is no longer a Russia that is trying to promote a universal concept which Communism was meant to be by those who believed in it. So, Mr. Putin is not standing up trying to promote Putinism around the world.
In that sense, he's very much not a Soviet style leader. He's really much more of a Russian leader. And if you go back to what he says, you go back to what he wrote over about last summer in terms of his views of the Slavic nation and so forth, this is very much almost a pre-Soviet leader. So I see that ideologically is not the kind of or even globally the challenger that the Soviet Union was. The danger, though, is he's also more willing to use military force and more willing to use cyber, more willing to use energy tools. In that sense, he's a more assertive, aggressive leader. And again, he's unconstrained by collective leadership in the ways that even the Soviet leaders were.
So, there was a certain when you look back at the Cold War, those four decades, there was a certain choreography to relations between the West and the East between, if you will, the Soviet camp and the U. S. or Western camp. There were formal and more important informal rules of the road, but most of those have gone out the window now. And so, I actually think Russia is it doesn't represent an economic alternative, unlike communism. It doesn't represent an ideological one. What it represents is particularly nearby in its own, what used to we used to call its near abroad. It shows a real willingness to act aggressively and they weren't terribly successful when they took on Ukraine just over three months ago. But they are at the moment, I would say, holding their own, particularly in the south and the east, and again, with a willingness to act in ways contrary to norms.
And that's what's so worrisome is not that the rest of the world is going to want or is going to wake up and say, I want to be like them, but a lot of the neighbouring countries have to worry about them and a lot of the rest of the world will not want to offend them or alienate them. And I think that's Mr. Putin's. So, it's a different kind of challenge than we face from the Soviet Union. But it's still a very it's a very real one in some areas, I actually think it's more dangerous, again, because of a greater willingness to use force and to violate international norms. The Soviet Union was more careful. I never thought I'd say that, but I actually think the Soviet leadership was more careful than the current Russian leadership.
Aiesha Zafar: Yeah, so that is a pretty grim picture you mentioned. You don't come bringing good news all the time, but that is, you know, I think for the average person who is kind of watching what's happening in the world today, I don't think it's abundantly clear how worrisome this threat is, because as you mentioned there, Putin's not really bound by any type of rules. It's more of, you know, an unconstrained course of action. And that really has to impact and influence the way that the rest of us respond to the policies that we put in place, even probably the things that we say internationally. What would your kind of views be on how that response has to play out? I mean, we want to get to a place where the threat has been mitigated somewhat, but at the same time, we can't do what we've done in the past.
Richard Haass: It's a couple of things. It's just what we're all dealing with now. One is the importance, something we talked about a few minutes ago of partners and allies. So, it's, if anyone was doubting the importance of things like NATO, a good time to put those doubts aside that there is a real strength and collective action. There is, so I'd say that to start, I think also the way we've gone about this crisis is quite interesting.
We've treaded carefully by not putting NATO's soldiers on the ground in Ukraine. We've not established a no-fly zone, which would have required not just an air cap over Ukraine, but over hundreds of miles of Russian territory. So, there's been an avoidance of direct involvement. And what we've done is indirectly done certain things to help Ukraine, training, intelligence, the provision of arms and ammunition and the like. So, there's been a sense of pushing, but maybe with certain limits. And I think there's an understanding that when you deal with countries like Russia, Ukraine, there's limits to what you can accomplish in terms of trying to change their internal nature.
I don't think regime change is a particularly useful foreign policy goal. It's beyond our power to do and we can't, even if we were to succeed, we can't guarantee we necessarily get something better. There has to be a bit of an understanding of or appreciation of limits when it comes to for power. So, it's a combination of strength and pushing back, but also accepting certain limits. And, you know, obviously, the devil is in the details, though. What makes it particularly difficult with Putin's Russia, it's a very different challenge than China is that they're not really that integrated with much of the world economy, energy, accepting and we're not sure that they will be how we put it accept those certain limits on themselves. And so, there's just a risk of a country that won't act carefully. And then I think we have made it more difficult- I just mentioned energy, by allowing ourselves to grow dependent selectively on Russia. And that's given Mr. Putin enormous leverage, as well as an enormous access or access to the really large high levels of resources. And so, I think it's just become a very complicated relationship as a result.
Aiesha Zafar: So now kind of contrasting that to China when we're talking about the economic integration and China becoming more assertive in its position in the world, it's now the second largest country by GDP. How is the threat different there and what are the new challenges that we really need to look at when we're creating policies around our relationships with China?
Richard Haass: Very different kind of relationship than the Russia. I think China is much more economically integrated in the world. It's, as you say, it's the world's second largest economy, has nine times the population of Russia. So, it's a very different kind of country. It doesn't have the same history recently of using military force. I think what China has done is it's integrated itself into the world economy. We opened the doors and then it's selectively cherry picked those aspects of integration that they thought would help their development economically and militarily. China in that in recent years has become more repressive at home. It's become much more assertive abroad. And I think we're beginning to organize some push back. And again, I mentioned before some of the regional political military groupings that have grown up in the Indo-Pacific region. So there has to be a bit of pushback. But China's much more of an economic participant in the world. And it's also, you know, critical to dealing with certain issues like North Korea, to climate change, to global health.
So, the challenge for China is how to it's a harder country to isolate than is Russia. And the question will be how do we build a relationship with them where we can disagree, where we have to, yet it doesn't preclude cooperation where we want to. And that's to articulate it, to actually implement that an awful lot tougher. And I think it'll put a real premium on our foreign policy skills on the outside in the West about whether we can we can manage that. It's much easier in the foreign policy world to have what I would call single personality or single dimension relationships, where we're allies or we're adversaries.
I think with a country like China, we're going to have to figure out how to not to be an ally, but we're going to have to figure out how to be competitive, even where we have to confront, but at the same time, we still need to cooperate. It's still in our interest to do so, whether it is dealing with a North Korea or climate or global health or what have you, and figuring that out, pulling that off domestically, it's going to be hard. It's a complicated relationship to explain. We have to also hope or work so that China comes to understand the definition of success in a similar way. I don't think they're there at all yet. This is going to be a real test, and it'll be a test with real ramifications if we succeed at this. I think it opens up some possibilities, if we fail at this, it becomes a much darker 21st Century. If you don't have a country that of China's scale working with you to deal with, to try to meet regional and global challenges. It's a much darker century and we're not even close to being where we where we want to be yet.
Aiesha Zafar: So, would you define then China as more of a competitor than a threat or is it both? Like, what is it that's different about China and do we want the same things? Our you know, it's nice to hear that there's still room for cooperation with China, but what are we trying to cooperate on?
Richard Haass: Well, I don't think they want some of the same things. I think China's there, particularly the current leadership is very wants to have the Communist Party stay in control, is not particularly interested in individual political or economic freedoms. They have a preoccupation with Taiwan and have not ruled out using military force to unify it with the mainland.
So, there's a lot of areas we disagree. At the same time, China does have an interest in regional, you know, not having wars get in the way of trade and investment and commerce. More, more, more broadly, it has certain concerns about the spread of nuclear weapons and so forth. So, the answer is there's potential areas of agreement as well as very real areas of disagreement. And so, I come back to the question is whether we can navigate that, whether we can limit the disagreements where they exist and still find out where avenues for what you might call limited cooperation or selective cooperation. It sounds optimistic, but I'd also say if I sure hope we succeed, because if we don't enlist China's help on dealing with certain issues like climate or North Korea or global health, we're going to pay a price for it, but China will also pay a price for it. And the reason I haven't given up in some ways is because I'm hoping that China understands that certain things it may want to do differently because it's also in its own self-interest. I'm hoping that Chinese foreign policy does not define success as simply setbacks for the United States and the West, that China will also come to see success in terms of building regional and global responses in ways that will serve China's interests.
I think China also has to understand that in recent years it has galvanized a reaction against it. These groupings that have grown up or to me a sign that China has galvanized or whatever the word is stimulated political military responses. Look at the change in Japanese foreign policy and national security behaviour or Australia, India to some extent, Vietnam, South Korea. So, China, you know, Chinese at times complain about encirclement and my reaction is, yeah, but you have yourselves to blame. You have stimulated a response by what you said and what you've done. And I think China- I think the Chinese [inaudible] be for consideration about how it will come to use its growing power, how it will come to define success for itself in terms of its national security policy. I think that's still to be determined.
Aiesha Zafar: So, shifting gears a little bit towards climate change and although China is still a major player when it comes to that, we've started doing a lot more here in the in the Canadian Public Service, the Federal Public Service, to educate our executives as well as our public servants on why climate change is important to everybody. But there's still, I think, a long way to go in terms of that understanding for the average person. So why should we care about climate change? If I'm working in Transport Canada or our revenue agency, why does climate change affect me or my portfolio or policies that I'm going to be making in the future?
Richard Haass: Good question. I think there's a couple of things you can point to. One is we're already seeing the effects. We tend to think, many of us, about climate change as a tomorrow problem. And the answer is it's a tomorrow problem, but it's also a today problem. We're seeing with rising temperatures. We're seeing it with forest fires. We're seeing it with the frequency and severity of our weather. We're seeing it with flooding. I'm not an expert on Canada, but I know what's going on in my own country. But significant parts of this country are going to become uninhabitable either because of heat, fires, water shortages or too much water.
So, there's that we can point to that. We could also point, you know, we can see certain patterns, certain impact on the economic costs of all this. And then but also this opportunity. I think that we could also explain how investment in alternative sources of energy can be a boon for the economy. So, I don't think it's all spinach. I think we have to talk about climate. Yes, it's a real problem, not just tomorrow's problem that's arriving, it's already arrived. It will only get worse. This is not something that's going to attenuate with- it only gets worse over time and the choices only get narrower and worse.
But also, it's not just I think we've got to win the argument that it's not somehow economic growth versus climate stewardship, that we've got to be able to say it's both that good climate policy. It turns out to be pretty good economic policy, whether you're talking about a new generation of nuclear plants, fuel shifting, renewables and so forth. I think there's a powerful argument there. I think we've also, by the way, in the context of the current conversation, it's not exactly what you asked. I apologize. We've got to reframe some of the debates about energy security and climate. I think we've learned that. That we can't think about we are in a post-fossil fuel world, we're not and we won't be, if ever, but certainly not for decades to come.
But I think I think there's enough bad that's going on with climate change that I think we can begin to win the public debate. I think the science is overwhelming, but I think we have to show also a path and that has got to be positive as well. That we, in terms of jobs and economic growth, are probably also we've got to add some investment to that. I think we've got to say we've got to invest potentially in some new technologies, things like carbon capture, solar reflection and so forth. Because I'll be honest with you, I am not at all optimistic that nationally, internationally, we're going to do what we need to do on climate. And I think it is going to keep getting worse. And then I think we're going to have to be prepared, spend a ton of money on adapting, you know, urban life and so forth to climate, but also taking a more dramatic approach.
But I think we've got to have an honest public conversation about it and explain here's where we are. Here's where we're going to be in one year or three or five years, ten years, 20 years. But here's if we do this now, here's what's going to come of it. And if we don't do this, here's what's going to come. But I think we have to level with our population. That won't be look, it's not going to be easy. I look what happened in my own country when it came to vaccines and masks, leveling with people on science ain't easy. And there's still a big chunk of people who deny climate and so forth. So, but there's no alternative. This is one that, again, it's only going to get worse if left to it. It's so invasive. You know, the trend is not a friend here. And time is not a friend here.
Aiesha Zafar: Yeah. And we're definitely seeing those unusual and more severe weather patterns here in Canada. I think a lot more people are now talking about it, seeing the effects of it. And the question was going to be, is it too late? I mean, you know, what we do now is not going to necessarily reverse any of that. Will it slow it down enough or are we better advised to start working on policies of adaptation, as you mentioned, so that we can adapt to the changes that are inevitable?
Richard Haass: I tend to think of it, you know, there's three baskets or buckets. There's mitigation, adaptation and reversal. So, my view is mitigation. We should continue working on it. And that's things like renewables, better batteries or fuel shifting to gas and so forth. I think I think that's all great. Nuclear. I'm just not wildly optimistic. And I look at what China is doing with, India's doing and the rest I'm you know, I'm just not wildly optimistic that the world is going to get ahead of this. And it's largely national responses. The international response is quite thin. It's essentially voluntary national levels of effort. That's the only way you can get countries to sign up to it. The good news is they signed up to it. The bad news is nothing's ambitious and nothing is binding. So, I'm not wildly optimistic. And we just had COP26. We're going to have COP27. COP26 was a fiasco. Sorry. If anything, COP27 will be worse because we're losing ground this year because of what's going on with Russia and all that and the energy area. So, I'm not wildly optimistic on the mitigation area, with one exception, which could be technology, whether there could at some point be certain technological breakthroughs that could make a real, real difference.
So, you know, with hydrogen, with batteries, with whatever, with renewables and the technology is getting better all the time. So, one thing I would certainly do is heavy investment. Yeah, but I don't think we can count on mitigation to work. Adaptation is important. It could be simple stuff like putting the machinery for elevators on the roof rather than the basement. It can deal with zoning about where you encourage people to live. Insurance companies may have a big role. If insurance companies and reinsurance companies say, hey, you can live there, but you're on your own, buddy, people are going to have to think twice about it. And then governments are going to have to think twice about whether they bail people out who do it all the same. So, we're all going to have to think about how we adapt and how we to use a word that popular in American political science, how we nudge certain behaviors through tax incentives, regulatory incentives, what have you, but that we certainly can and should be doing. In the reversal areas, very interesting things like carbon capture and then solar reflection, the idea of putting particles in the atmosphere that could reflect sunlight to cool the earth. There's two dimensions to that and they both need work. One, is the scientific dimension. How do you do it and how do you have confidence it'll make things better and it won't have unintended consequences? Then there's the governance dimension. How do we set up a framework for global governance so countries collaborate, don't do irresponsible things? That's actually you asked me before about what a medium sized country like Canada could do.
I would think this is the sort of area that Canada ought to be one of the countries in the lead. Why couldn't Canada be looking at things for global governance when it comes to either carbon capture or solar selection, that kind of stuff. I would think that that's the natural for a country like yours.
Aiesha Zafar: So definitely an area we're working, you know, not just in the government space, but with our regulatory bodies, with industry, everybody really needs to get in on it, the average citizen as well to actually make an impact and a difference.
Richard Haass: I think the good news, just to interrupt for a second, is that I don't know about in Canada, again I apologize. I don't- ever since COVID I haven't been- I used to travel to your country quite frequently. Now I don't. I look forward to it again. I used to in the old days, two and a half years ago, when I used to frequent college campuses, climate was probably the biggest issue, and I take that as a good sign that for younger people, like someone who's in his or her twenties or thirties, their life is going to parallel the century, 21st Century, and they can read if things continue on their current course, not good. So, they have self-interest to do something about it. So, my hunch is there is some receptivity there. I think among younger generations in particular, I think there's an understanding that this is going to be a big, big factor in the quality of their lives. So, I think there I see considerable hope there.
Aiesha Zafar: So, I know we're close to the end, but one of my favourite topics is national security. I spent many years working in that industry and I think, you know, right after 9/11 or as most of us often think about national security and remember it, we think terrorism. And now sometimes we think about, you know, cybersecurity, but it's still often something that seem, you know, best left to the intelligence or defence agencies. Now, I would argue that it's inextricably linked to economic security and the integrity of our democratic institutions and the national security really needs to be integrated into everything that we do in the public service. What are your thoughts on that and how can we actually make national security less confusing or complex and let everybody know that they do have a role to play in it? If you would agree with that?
Richard Haass: I don't disagree with you in principle. Obviously, the devil is in the details, but I also think of national security as a two-sided coin. It's the one side, which is the traditional stuff of foreign and defence policy intelligence. The stuff that we want to think about is traditional national security. Then there's the other side of the coin, which is really domestic stuff. It's the functioning of a society, not just against threats, but it's how well it works. Infrastructure, education, you know, I live in a country that was founded on an idea, it wasn't founded on an ethnic group or anything like that. But we've got to make sure that the idea is real and that opportunity is real. And if we don't have domestic acceptance of it and domestic cohesion, we're not going to be able to deal with traditional national security threats. And here I am. I'm and when you introduced me, you said I'm in my 19th year as President of the Council on Foreign Relations. So, I deal a lot with both sides of the coin.
When I go out and speak, people always say, what's the biggest threat facing the United States? They go through all the things you've mentioned climate change, terrorism, cyber, China, Russia, what have you. And I go, Yeah, those are all pretty big threats. I get it. The biggest threat, though, right now to our national security is ourselves. It's our lack of national unity. Whether I can imagine violence on a significant scale in this country and even if that doesn't materialize, I can imagine an inability to come together to deal with domestic or international challenges.
So, the functioning of our politics, the functioning of our society is now intimately connected to our national security. So, I think it's useful to think in those terms. So, yes, national security is for experts and people in uniform and all that. I get it. But also, there's a day-to-day quality and I think that's the sort of thing that leaders have to talk about. I think curricula have to reflect that and elementary and high schools and colleges and universities. I don't think we do ourselves a service. I can't speak about Canada. I'll speak about my own country when we don't require these courses are taught and that students are required to take that as a condition of getting a degree at the high school or college level. Both sides of the coin, both the international dimension and what we would, I guess I'd call the civics dimension. And I think societies need both. And I don't know what Canada's doing. I know that we are not meeting that challenge.
Aiesha Zafar: Well, Dr. Haass has been such an honour and a fascinating hour with you. I could I could sit here and talk to you for days. I'm sure you have so much to share and so much experience.
Richard Haass: Only if you are a glutton for being depressed, so it's probably just as well we limit it to an hour.
Aiesha Zafar: We limit it to an hour. You know, we know that your time is very valuable. We were so excited to hear that you could join us. And on behalf of the over 300,000 public servants in Canada, this has been sobering and enlightening, and it's definitely given us a lot to think about as we continue to take actions to create policies and programs that impact Canadians. I'm really confident that after this conversation you've piqued the interest of so many of our employees to pay closer attention to what's happening outside of their portfolios, outside of their borders. If we are to ensure not only the stability of our own institutions and countries, but of the world. So, thank you so much for your time. It's been a pleasure now.
Richard Haass: Thank you Aiesha. Thank you all for what you do. I'm a former public servant. Plus, I used to teach it at the Kennedy School, so I'm a great believer in it. So, thank you all for your career choice. And if this in any way helped, then you've made my day.
Aiesha Zafar: Thank you.
Richard Haass: Take care.