Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 6th ed.  –  Online updating pages

Chapter 12: Summits

p. 200, line 12 up, International Criminal Court: now rightly top of the ICC’s ‘wanted list’ is Russian president Vladimir Putin, who for that reason did not attend the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in August 2023. Had he done so, the South African government, which is a signatory of the ICC’s founding treaty, would have been obliged to arrest him. Although keen to have Putin in town because the ANC government remains wedded to the mistaken view that Soviet Russia played a key role in the overthrow of apartheid, President Ramaphosa reluctantly asked the wanted man to make only a virtual appearance at the summit.
It is important to add that while at the time of writing (December 2023) there are 123 states parties to the founding (Rome) statute of the ICC, the exclusions are notable. Among them are the United States, Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Turkey. More likely to impede summitry than worry about arrest under an ICC warrant, therefore, is fear that the leader’s plane will be intercepted or shot down en route. It is for this reason that Putin’s flights to and from the UAE and Saudi Arabia in early December 2023 required an indirect flight path, an escort of four Russian fighter jets, and the negotiation of a number of overflight agreements with countries on the route (see Phillips and Euractiv pieces in Further reading below). When US President Joe Biden visited Kyiv in February 2023 he was flown secretly to Poland and then travelled by train from the Polish border (see Stokols in Further reading below); only at the last moment was the journey officially signalled to the Kremlin ‘for deconfliction purposes’. This presidential trip into a war zone was reportedly opposed by the Pentagon and the Secret Service.

p. 201 (line 3 up), the risk of ‘making unwise concessions in order to achieve a “success”‘: Did President Macron make this mistake in his summit encounter with President Putin in Moscow on 7 February 2022? Only (a short) time will tell. But what an encounter! Could the French possibly have known that their president would have to face Putin at the end of such a long table (see photo in Politico article in Further reading below)? Was it really a good idea to have this discussion, which lasted for five hours, in public? It is a relief to know that they probably had a private discussion afterwards.

p. 204, serial summits: the ‘Africa+1’ summits (plus China, France, or Russia etc.) have become an important feature of recent years. As for ‘the relatively small BRICS group’, which meets at the summit annually, in August 2023 it was agreed at the Johannesburg summit that from the start of 2024 Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina, the UAE and Ethiopia will be added to the existing membership.
Another serial summit worth watching is that of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), which also meets annually.

p. 205, first full para. (immediately below bullet points), ‘gathering information, including that on personalities’: In Beyond Britannia (see in Further reading below), Simon McDonald, permanent under-secretary (top civil servant) at the British foreign ministry from 2015 until 2020 and much earlier foreign policy adviser to prime minister Gordon Brown, is empathic on this point, although he begins by exaggerating a little: ‘Successful diplomacy is impossible if people do not know each other personally. And summits are the best way for leaders to get to know other leaders’ (p. 121). Interestingly, he describes serial summits as ‘clubs’ and notes the great increase in ‘regional clubs’ (a mistake, he rightly says, that the UK has withdrawn from its own, the EU). He adds that they achieve significant agreements at their initial meetings (hence their survival) but thereafter can struggle for an agenda and gain attention only when a meeting coincides with a crisis on which they can make a mark, e.g. when ‘President Biden and President Xi met in the margins of the G20 summit in Bali in November 2022 and agreed to work to deter Russia from using nuclear weapons in Ukraine’ (p. 120).

p. 206, ad hoc summits: an extremely important example is provided by the US-Japan-South Korea summit held at the presidential retreat of Camp David in August 2023 because it was ‘the first trilateral meeting between the three countries that wasn’t held on the sidelines of an international gathering’ and sent a strong signal to China and North Korea; see Haberkorn and Lemire in Further reading. It also seems to have been agreed to make this an annual event; in other words, a serial summit.

Further reading

Borger, Julian, ‘Brics to more than double with admission of six new countries’, The Guardian, 24 August 2023

Brunnstrom, David and Michael Martina, ‘APEC 2023: What you need to know about San Francisco summit’, Reuters, 15 November, 2023

Euractiv, ‘Putin jets into Middle East to meet Saudi Crown Prince, 6 December 2023

Haberkorn, J. and J. Lemire, ‘At Camp David, Biden hails “new era of partnership” between U.S., South Korea and Japan’, Politico, 18 August 2023

Herszenhorn, David M. and Giorgio Leali, ‘Defiant Putin mauls Macron in Moscow’, Politico, 7 February 2022

McDonald, Simon, Beyond Britannia: Reshaping UK foreign policy (Haus, 2023)

Martin, Guy, ‘Continuity and Change in Franco-African Relations’, The Journal of Modem African Studies, vol. 33(1), 1995

Nwokedi, Emeka, ‘Franco-African Summits: A new instrument for France’s African strategy?’ The World Today, vol. 38(12), December 1982

Phillips, Aleks, ‘Putin Skirts Russia’s War Zones for Middle East Trip, Flight Path Shows’, Newsweek, 6 December 2023

Sauer, Pjotr, ‘Putin defends invasion of Ukraine in Brics summit address’, The Guardian, 23 August 2023

Soulé, Folashadé, ‘Africa+1’ summit diplomacy and the ‘new scramble’ narrative: Recentering African agency’, African Affairs, vol. 119(477), October 2020

Stokols, Eli and Alexander Ward, ‘Months of secret planning and the president’s persistence: How Biden finally got to Kyiv’, Politico, 20 February 2023

U.S. Department of States, ‘U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit’ [Washington, 2022]

Wolff, Stefan, ‘Russia-Africa summit: Putin offers unconvincing giveaways in a desperate bid to make up for killing the Ukraine grain deal’, The Conversation, 28 July, 2023

Wong, Tessa, ‘Vladimir Putin feted at Xi Jinping’s global Belt and Road summit’, BBC News, 18 October 2023 [‘By your friends shall ye be known.’]