Sunday, May 17, 2009

Business travel...

Tbilisi, Georgia
President Saakashvilli
Standing on Stalin's doorstep...
Baku, Azerbaijan

I had the great honor of spending the week guiding a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations through Stuttgart, Baku (Azerbaijan), Tbilisi (Georgia), and Kiev (Ukraine).  Here's a snapshot of the week:
1.  Met with 2 Presidents (Aliyev and Saakashvilli).
2.  Ate dinner at three different Ambassador's residences.
3.  Met with key leadership in 3 countries (Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Economic Development, Opposition Party members, and many others).
4.  Visited Gori and Stalin's childhood home... It's pretty amazing to think we were fighting the Soviets in the Cold War 20 years ago.
5.  Enjoyed 1 morning of culture in Kiev (this was a seriously intense work week).
I thought I'd provide a few thoughts:
1.  The members (minus one real jerk) were an impressive group who have accomplished a lot in their professional careers.
2.  Having police escorts while traveling is really convenient (NO STOPPING IN TRAFFIC:-).
3.  The Caucasus will continue to face significant challenges.  It would be great if the U.S. was a little more aware of these critical countries.
4.  We need to find a way to ensure our Ambassadorial posts are manned soon (many are about to be unfilled as current Ambassadors complete tours or retire).
5.  Russia understands strategy and it will take adept diplomacy by the U.S. to ensure the needs of these countries and our own can be met.

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