Three tenors of foreign policy -- former Sen. Sam Nunn, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates – sang from the same hymnal about America’s dealings with Russia at the pre-Alfalfa luncheon Saturday: those sanctions aren’t working well and this nation should get busy restoring its status around the world.
"The 3 Tenors of Foreign Policy” luncheon at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ headquarters drew 350 from the centers of power in D.C. and elsewhere from across the nation. It was a prelude to the Alfalfa Club Dinner that night.
Perhaps the collective foreign policy sentiment could be summed up in one marvelous German word:
Rough translation: Hurry up, get in, before the doors close.
Most of the remarks centered on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“…he is kind of a bully who will keep moving ‘til somebody stops him,” said Gates. “Over the last few years,” Gates went on to say, “we have put ourselves on the backburner” in the Middle East compared to the actions of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Make no mistake, he said, “The Russians are here for the long term.”
On sanctions, Gates said: “the problems with sanctions is they don’t work very well….as far as sanctions to try to get Russia out of the Crimea…forget it…we like sanctions in this city because they are easy.”
Nunn described what is happening between the USA and Russia as “a dangerous situation….” and, to begin with in this new presidential era, “I would start with military communications.” Nunn, former Democratic senator from Georgia and CSIS chairman emeritus, testified at Senate hearings on behalf of Trump nominee Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State and for Gen. Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
Nunn also said the U.S. should be working economically to assist Ukraine.
Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a guest in the audience, was invited to address the gathering. He called Tillerson “uniquely qualified” to be Secretary of State because of his relationships worldwide and for his “insights.”
As far as the Crimea is concerned, Corker said, “That is over.”
Outta the woods and into the mainstream. Here come the Hungarians.
A post-inaugural reception the day after President Donald J. Trump took the oath of office drew transition team representatives and members of Congress to the future home of the Hungarian embassy.
It was a high-regard tip of the hat to the new Trump Administration. Even, a Hungarian dog showed love. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska, said he got a “juicy, warm kiss” from the big Komondor dog named Chauncy at the entrance.
It was far more than symbolism. Speaker after speaker, including the Hungarian ambassador, Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, spoke of their beliefs – not unwarranted -- that economic and cultural ties between the two countries will get stronger under the Trump Administration.
To be expected, since the Trump family has roots in Eastern and Central Europe. First Lady Melania Trump is Slovenia-born. The President’s paternal side is German stock. His three oldest children have Czech heritage.
Hungary’s embassy is moving its official digs out of a hard-to-find wooded place near Rock Creek Park. Its new location is a huge mansion on Rhode Island NW between 15th and 16th streets near Scott Circle.
The mansion is still a work in progress, with the name of the old tenant, American Coatings Association, yet remaining outside. The clues to the days ahead are evident: The Hungarian flag flies overhead. A statue of a Freedom Fighter with the engraving “Budapest 1956” is at the front.
The subtle, beautifully decorated reception rooms speak of elegant Old World class. Appropriately so, a string band played soft music at the reception. YES! guests could hear one another. The cuisine was the center of attention, with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs cooked perfectly; hearty bacon strips, breads, quiche, desserts, and more.
To raise its diplomatic profile in the Trump Administration, in Congress, and around town, the embassy is planning concerts, seminars, and other get-togethers at its new location.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said that after Hungary came out from under the yoke of communism, many consider Hungary “the gold standard of Europe….President Trump opens the door for all of us. We look forward to working with his administration.”
Former New York Gov. George Pataki, of Hungarian descent, praised the fresh start. “Hungary has always been a great friend of the United States…But “sadly,” he said, the U.S. has not always been a great friend to Hungary. “But that will change,” predicted Pataki, a Republican. Adding: “This new administration, just as Hungary has, will control its borders.”
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., also said he, too, foresees deeper cooperation between the two countries. Travelling specifically to D.C. for the reception was Deputy Assistant Secretary Kristof Altusz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.
Others attending included Piodtr Wilczek of Poland, Amb. Petr Kmec of Slovakia, DCM Zdenek Beranek of the Czech Republic, European Union Ambassador to the USA David O'Sullivan, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and former Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D. Both Blackburn and Nunes are on the Trump transition team, as were other attendees from the president's presidential campaign.
Others among the 400 guests were American Heritage VP and head of personnel transition in State Department James Carafano former FBI Director William Webster and event planner Lynda Webster; and PEN/Faulker Foundation executive VP Willee Lewis and journalist Findley Lewis.
Rep. French Hill, R-Ark) a member of the Hungarian-American Caucus, spoke at an evening concert at the embassy.
Ever sipped wines or vodka from Melania Trump’s homeland? Likely not. In fact, most Americans probably can’t find Slovenia on a map.
To put an emphasis on the Eastern European nation, 450 guests gathered at the Sister Cities International’s gala Tuesday night as Slovenian Ambassador Dr. Božo Cerar kicked off one of the first black-tie inaugural balls of the week in honor of President-elect Donald J. Trump. More than 40 foreign diplomats attended.
Quick-stepping violin music set the mood.
How did the liquor sit with the palates of the distinguished guests?
“Very nice, outstanding,” pronounced one guest sipping a darkish red Slovenian Premium Wine. Another described Slovenia Vodka as a bit “more powerful” but smoother (because of the main ingredient, buckwheat) than its Russian counterpart.
Melania’s new status as the future first lady is a source of national pride. Although she wasn’t at the party, her glamorous presence was still felt ... from the remarks onstage to the conversations over clinking glasses.
Through and through, it was Slovenia’s night at the Organization of American States. A buffet of international cuisine included various Slovenian dumplings (meat and vegetarian) and other Eastern European dishes.
Sister Cities International President and CEO Mary D. Kane commented, “We are delighted to celebrate this tradition of presidential support as well as showcase the important role of people-to-people citizen diplomacy in furthering peace and prosperity on a global scale at our Inaugural Gala.”
Spotted were Trump transition team staffers and an executive from the new MGM National Harbor Resort & Casino.
Event co-sponsors with the Embassy of Slovenia included the International Economic Alliance. Partnering organizations were American Women for International Understanding, Anciens Association of the NATO Defense College, and the Washington, DC Chamber of Commerce. The honorary host committee was comprised of more than 30 ambassadors, including Dr. Hamdullah Mohib of Afghanistan, Ambassador Wolfgang Waldner of Austria, Ambassador Tiena Coulibaly of Mali, and Ambassador Carlos Manuel Sada Solana of Mexico.
P.S. Slovenia is northeast from Italy.