Advocacy for subnational diplomacy

Letter from the editor


Welcome to this packed double edition of The Foreign Service Journal to start the new year. In addition to our regular programming, this issue features an exclusive interview with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as a first-person account from Moscow Signal, the predecessor of Havana Syndrome.

The January-February focus on subnational diplomacy, also known as city and state diplomacy, offers a lot of food for thought. It highlights a major policy proposition currently under discussion within the state, among foreign policy professionals and before Congress.

Local officials and entities have, of course, been engaged in international relations for decades, mostly independent of channels of the federal government. Is it time to establish a State Department of Subnational Diplomacy office to take advantage of this work? The City and State Diplomacy Act, if passed, would make the establishment of such an office mandatory.

Following a special note from FSJ Editorial Board To start the discussion, our contributors advocate for subnational diplomacy. FSO Maryum Saifee writes from a national security perspective. Many thanks to her for bringing this topic forward and for connecting me to Luis Renta of the United States Conference of Mayors. His recommendations to local officials as writers were invaluable.

William Peduto, mayor of Pittsburgh until recently, explains how his city has leveraged relationships with cities around the world to move towards a sustainable future. Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie shows how working locally in America strengthens global climate leadership.

Former FSO Emerita Torres, now a member of the Bronx Democratic State Committee, discusses how local-federal partnerships can build popular confidence in U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Nina Hachigian, former ambassador and first deputy mayor of Los Angeles for international affairs, says breaking the silos between foreign and domestic policy will help make international affairs more relevant to middle-class Americans.

Subnational diplomacy is ideally suited to the Biden administration’s emphasis on implementing a “foreign policy for the middle class,” as it can link US relations on a global scale with what matters to them. Americans locally.

Related, and coincidentally, Secretary Blinken delivered a speech to the ISF on October 27, outlining his proposals for state reform. One of his priorities, he said, is to “focus our diplomacy more here at home to ensure that our policies reflect the needs, aspirations, values ​​of the American people.”

We were delighted to have the opportunity to dig deeper, to ask questions of the Secretary regarding the details of his plan and how it will affect members of the Foreign Service. You can see his responses in the written interview, “On Moves to Modernize,” our cover story.

In the midst of it all, we remain perplexed and vexed by the abnormal health incidents, or Havana Syndrome, which have plagued some 200 U.S. officials and their families in several countries. The cause and source still unknown, a strong theory is that of targeted microwaves.

This theory brings to mind memories of the Cold War in Moscow, when the Soviets broadcast microwaves to the US Embassy for decades. Studies have been done, but the health impacts are still unclear. In “Before Havana Syndrome there was a signal from Moscow,” Soviet FSO (retired) Jim Schumaker tells us the story, the known and the known unknown, including how the Moscow signal can or not be linked to Havana. syndrome. It’s a must read.

This touches me, because I worked in the political section of the Moscow embassy in 1987-1988. I sat in a small shared office on a “secure” (fire trap) floor of the old chancellery with a window facing the ring road. It was a window that was supposed, probably, to be perhaps radiated with microwaves by the Soviets.

It was just a curiosity for me. I was only 22, still invincible. But what did we know then? What do we know now? To all of you who served during the Cold War in Moscow or in the region, we would love to hear what you remember.

There’s more to this edition, including AFSA’s long-awaited annual tax guide, Marc Grossman’s appreciation of Colin Powell, and Lindsay Henderson’s work on rediscovering the state’s lost history.

Please write to [email protected], join us on LinkedIn and sign up for FSJ emails. Best wishes for a healthy and peaceful year ahead.

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.

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