President Museveni's visit to Russia provoked comments that impugn he has resorted to the 1960-70s Cold War Era practice by Third World Leaders playing West against East to maximise national benefits; usually arms and development aid, from both.
International Relations is about pursuing the national interest and maximising benefits for one's country. If the President's visit was prompted by that consideration, it is in order.
The problem is that the interests of the former Cold War major powers have, in some significant ways, actually converged around trade, peace and security; the ideological trick may no longer be relevant in today's global multilateralist environment!
International Relations students who are familiar with evolutionary patterns will agree that besides convergence theory, the evolutionary paradigm presents a new perspective in which, unlike previous eras, the contemporary international system contains no major contests over territory or ideology, communist or otherwise, among the major powers.
Absence of fundamental conflict between the major powers undermines cold war sentiments that the President's conversation with his host seemed to be levitating towards and hence President Putin's apparent facial expression of possible disapproval, analysts say, seemed to suggest.
The United States 2002 National Security Strategy defined two foreign policy priorities; 'pursuing American interests within cooperative relationships.... [And] preventing the re-emergence of the great power rivalries that divided the world in previous eras'. But the President may inadvertently be winning a creeping diplomatic coup!
Diplomacy is usually defined as the practice of carrying out a nation's foreign policy by negotiations with other States and is itself shaped not only by the international dynamics of individual or group decision makers but also by the state within which decision makers operate, isn't?
Actually, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministerial Policy Statement by Henry Okello Oryem dated June 30, 2012 promoting Middle East and Emerging Powers (BRICS) and Regional Integration feature in the planned activities for the Financial Year 2012/13. As Head of State and Chief Diplomat, the President was simply providing leadership for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The rise of new global powers, usually referred to as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), has created a dynamic strategic geopolitical landscape. With the demise of meddling Gaddhafi, Museveni, the undisputed Great Lakes power Broker, analysts have likened to Napoleon Bonaparte, and acknowledged by Gen. Vyacheslav F. Shiryaev, the Vice President of the League of Military and Law Enforcement Veterans, who decorated the President with the highest award of the Order of Valour, Honour and Glory of the Eminent Military and Political leaders of Africa in recognition of his leadership and military prowess in the region, could be the new influential leader now positioning himself close to the epicenter of present and future diplomatic activity. Surely, this is a good diplomatic manoeuvre even though employed at an inopportune time.
What Demosthenes said about diplomacy, which in his days was synonymous with foreign policy, in ancient Athens probably still applies to our age too: "Ambassadors have no battle ships at their disposal, or heavy infantry, or fortresses; their weapons are words and opportunities.
In important transactions opportunities are fleeting; once they are missed they cannot be recovered....Thus an ambassador who, in a constitution such as ours, acts in a dilatory manner and causes us to miss our opportunities, is not missing opportunities only, but robbing us of the control of events...". Would you say the President's steadfastness in seizing the opportunity to influence things absolves him?
The writer is a former diplomat and currently Director of the School of Diplomacy, Governance and International Studies, Uganda Martyrs University-Nkozi.