Former World Bank President Invokes History on ‘Talking Foreign Affairs’

Adil Cader of ‘Talking Foreign Affairs’ (right) with former World Bank President, Robert Zoellick.

‘Talking Foreign Affairs’ with Adil Cader, which seeks to educate young people on key international issues, has concluded an interview with former World Bank President, Ambassador Robert Zoellick.

The two discuss his latest book- “America in the World: A History of US Diplomacy and Foreign Policy.” On focus around traditional international relations theories, Ambassador Zoellick reflects that “they are interesting to study and debate, but I find them of limited use while dealing with issues such as German unification, trade strategies or China policy.” On the other hand, in his book, he wanted to focus on both reality and his reading of history with its efforts to solve problems in practical ways, centered around American diplomacy.

Ambassador Zoellick further reflects upon some of the highlights of his career, having been at the decision table during some of history’s most pivotal moments. As an executive, he adds, you have to learn that nation states, while joining hands for a common mission, come with different experiences. He recounts, “there is a mindset that I have alluded to before, which is to treat developing countries as clients as opposed to imposing ideas from the developed world. Rather than bringing textbook solutions, we have to customise for their needs.” Drawing from his experience as the President of the World Bank, he opens up about the global financial institutions and their role in the contemporary scenario. “The World Bank’s total capital is 60-70 billion dollars, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the international capital markets.”  

He offers his perspective towards the bank as being a catalyst, a key node in a network to help countries bring about reforms or transfer knowledge and experience. Ambassador Zoellick also touches upon international issues, contemporary and from the past. In the post-soviet negotiations that improved US-Russia ties, he recalls, “we tried to avoid what we call the Versailles victory- an accord or agreement that plants the seeds of its own destruction.”

“In the post-soviet negotiations, we tried to avoid what we call the Versailles victory- an accord or agreement that plants the seeds of its own destruction.”

Robert Zoellick

Robert Zoellick was the President of the World Bank Group from 2007-12. Prior to that, he served as U.S. Trade Representative, Deputy Secretary of State & White House Deputy Chief of Staff. He is currently Senior Counsellor for the Brunswick Group.

‘Talking Foreign Affairs’ seeks to educate young people on key international issues and analyse key themes of foreign policy and current global affairs. Their offerings include hosting panels, addressing conferences, carrying out research and publishing. 

Adil Cader specialises in Australian Foreign Policy and Global Diplomacy. He is a Pacific Forum Young Leader, a Board Member of the Australia-Pacific Youth Dialogue, and is actively involved with diplomacy education.