Last week I attended a workshop in Rio de Janeiro on the Responsibility While Protecting (RWP), a Brazilian concept introduced in late 2011 to curb what it perceives as the excesses of the Responsibility to Protect. Over the course of the workshop, I had the opportunity to hear and interact with senior foreign policy officials and experts from Brazil, South Africa, India, the United States, Canada, and Australia. Here are some observations on the RWP concept (a subsequent post will discuss Brazilian foreign policy more generally).
The IBSA countries—India, Brazil, and South Africa—feel betrayed by the Western interpretation of the mandate it received under UNSC resolution 1973 to intervene in Libya. They realized it meant an initial series of strikes against Libyan air defenses but wanted the West to consider a settlement with Gaddafi after the initial strikes. They claimed to be shocked by the extension of the campaign into one of regime change. The West views Libya as a success of sorts, but IBSA sees it as a dramatic failure and warning.
IBSA officials complained, in particular, that their diplomats were treated dismissively throughout the operation and were left uninformed. This sense of personal humiliation at the hands of the P3 (the US, France, and the UK) appears to be the most significant proximate cause of RWP (although the official reason is the path of the intervention in Libya). The IBSA countries made it clear that they would be extremely reluctant to support any new R2P action in light of the Libyan experience.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.