China and the MTCR

In his book The Hundred Year Marathon, Michael Pillsbury spends several pages discussing China’s role in and attitude toward the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).  I was one of the first people to work on what became the MTCR, because President Jimmy Carter had several people who wanted to create something like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to limit the proliferation of missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.  I was a junior officer working in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research INR), State’s small intelligence operation that works with the other intelligence organizations, such as the CIA and NSA.  I became the main person in INR working on the issue.  When Carter was defeated by Reagan, the Carter people who had been working on the issue left, and when the Reagan people arrived, I was one of the few people who knew anything about the issue.  It took about ten years, but eventually the MTCR came into being as an international agreement.  It is not a treaty that limits missiles, but an export control regime that limits trade in things that problem nations like North Korea and Iran could use to develop their own missiles.

Pillsbury says that when the US offered to increase space cooperation with China in 1998, China refused the offer.  China was more interested in exporting missiles to rogue states that in cooperating with US.  China has agreed to abide by the MTCR standards, but it is not a member.  When the MTCR first offered China membership, China declined to formally join.  Later China offered to join, but the MTCR demurred because it was not sure that China would abide by its rules.



1995 Government Shutdown

November 14, 1995, was the day the Federal Government shut down.  I was at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, and was supposed to leave on that day to drive to Rome to take up my new assignment at the American Embassy there.  Everything had been moved out of our house in Poland and shipped to Rome, except for what was packed in the car, which included our two dogs.  Just about half an hour before I was to leave Warsaw, I got a call from Rome, saying, “Don’t leave.”  I had no place to go except to live in the car or check into a hotel, with most of my belongings, including most of my clothes, en route to Rome.

I was furious and called Rome to get them to rescind the order, but they wouldn’t.  Then I found out that the number two officer in Rome, the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), was a friend I had served with in Brasilia, Brazil.  I called him, and he agreed to unfurlough me and allow me to travel to Rome.  When I arrived in Rome, I didn’t know anything about my job, such as who my Italian contacts were, but I was the only one in the office who was not furloughed.  I had to carry out the duties of the office while the shutdown continued.

I was doubly angry because it had not been my idea to move from Warsaw to Rome.  The State Department in Washington had asked me to go because the Science Counselor in Rome had reached the end of his temporary assignment to the State Department and had to leave.  Just as he was leaving, Italy was assuming the rotating Presidency of the European Union, which meant an increase in work for the embassy because the Embassy and the Italian Government would have to deal with all EU issues as well as the normal bilateral issues between the US and Italy.

I’m still not sure what happened, but I think that Ambassador Reginald Bartholomew and the State Department had a running feud because the State Department would not approve permanent status for the Ambassador’s friend who had been serving as Science Counselor.  Thus, I arrived apparently imposed on the Ambassador by the State Department in Washington, and he did not want me.  As a result, my wife and I had to stay in temporary housing for months because the embassy could not find a place for us to live permanently.

I think that because the Foreign Service had refused to accept the Ambassador’s friend into its permanent ranks, the Ambassador wanted to prevent the Foreign Service (me) from filling the job.  Thus he identified a civil service employee in Washington whom he wanted to fill the job.  Ironically this man worked in the office that was supposed to support Foreign Service science officers in the field.  He ended up displacing a Foreign Service officer (me) whom he should have been supporting.

In any case, the episode led to my retiring from the Foreign Service, which I felt had stabbed me in the back.  The whole business, the government shutdown and the antagonism from the embassy staff left a bad taste in my mouth, although I had enjoyed most of my career in the Foreign Service.  It was a disappointing way to leave, and the government shutdown played a memorable, nasty role in my retirement.

President G.H.W. Bush and the Biodiversity Convention

While George H.W. Bush was President, the UN held a big environmental meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, called the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in June 1992.  Two of the issues UNCED would consider were global warming and the conservation of ecosystems, species, and genes. The main climate change document under consideration was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The main document dealing with conservation was the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  

I was deputy director of the State Department office with primary responsibility for the CBD.  The office next door was responsible for the UNFCCC. The director of my office spent most of the year leading up to the Rio conference in Nairobi, Kenya, negotiating the CBD text that was to be presented in Rio.  

In preparing to go to Rio, President Bush basically said he could not support two environmental agreements.  His Republican base would not stand for it. He came down on supporting the climate change convention, but refusing to sign the biodiversity convention.  The job of opposing the biodiversity convention appeared to fall on Vice President Dan Quayle’s office. His chief of staff was William Kristol, who still writes and appears on TV regularly as a Republican pundit.  Quayle, Kristol, and their staffers made sure the US would not sign the CBD. My boss, Assistant Secretary Buff Bohlen, was disappointed at this result, because he had been president of the World Wildlife Fund, but he recognized that climate was a more urgent international  issue than biodiversity if President Bush could only sign one.
The UNFCCC continues to exist and holds conferences of the parties to the convention annually.  It provided a forum for negotiating the Kyoto Protocol on climate.  The Biodiversity Convention was signed by many nations in Rio, but not by the US.  It has 196 parties which meet every two years, most recently in 2016 in Mexico.