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Polityka, Poland

John Kerry: Obama’s Missionary

By Tomasz Zalewski

Translated By Michał Bolek

1 January 2013

Edited by Natalie Clager

Poland - Polityka - Original Article (Polish)

The new U.S. Secretary of State, replacing Hillary Clinton, will be John Kerry. He is a Democratic senator and a former presidential candidate. Does this nomination herald changes in the American foreign policy? Minimal ones at the most.

Nobody's questioning Kerry's brilliant qualifications for the new role. As an ambassador's son, he's become familiar with the mysteries of diplomacy from his childhood. He's sat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for years and been its chairman since 2009. He's had several recent missions to South Asia on Hillary Clinton's request. He succeeded in convincing Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, to repeat the rigged election. He also eased the anger of the government in Islamabad after the American troops killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory.

Similar to Secretary Clinton, Kerry wouldn’t rather be a designer but just an executor of the foreign policy that is created in the White House during Obama's presidency. He doesn't belong to the internal circle of the president's advisors, but his loyalty isn't doubted. Kerry was one of the first Democratic politicians who staked on Obama: He supported him in the primary election against Hillary Clinton in 2008. Obama in turn was a main speaker at the Democratic convention in 2004, during which Kerry officially became the Democrats' candidate for the president.

Obama and Kerry have a common vision of the world and the role which America should play in it. They both believe in multilateralism, cooperation with the UN, international treaties, soft power and the dialogue with the enemies of America. They think that the usage of hard power makes sense only as a last resort. They are also pragmatic — they don't yield to the ideology of the American "mission" in defense of human rights and they don't want to organize other countries either. This is where they differ from the neoconservatives.

Taking into consideration his activity in the Senate, Kerry won't make any rapid movements toward Iran. He, for example, didn't support declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and said he believes in the ayatollahs' rationality in the argument about the atom bomb. On the other hand he is regarded in Congress as one of Israel's biggest friends — he defended Tel Aviv in 2010 after a controversial attack by Israeli commandos on a flotilla with aid for the Palestinians. The way he has voted in the Senate so far can suggest that he, more than his predecessors in the Department of State, will care about the international agreement on the climate.

The announcement about Kerry's nomination evoked a distinct satisfaction in Moscow. Borys Mieżujew, a Russian expert on international affairs, is expecting that Secretary Kerry will be more flexible, especially on the matter of a reset in American-Russian relations. Does it confirm the anxiety of the Polish diplomacy that Hillary Clinton's successor will be less sensitive to our interests than she was? As a presidential candidate in 2004, Kerry didn't show any special interest in Poland and Central-Eastern Europe at all. But again — Obama himself doesn't show such an interest and the new secretary of state will simply realize his politics.



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