Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Audience With Solana

About once a month, Esade offers a course on Geopolitics and Global Governance with Javier Solana, the noted Spanish physicist and, more importantly, former secretary general of the EU.

Last night's session focused on nuclear proliferation. First, Solana the physicist reviewed how uranium is enriched to produce an atomic bomb. Then, Solana the diplomat offered a series of stark predictions. Iran would continue its slow but steady progress, he said, until it eventually has the capacity to build and deliver a nuclear weapon. After Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia would likely feel pressured to join the club, and would have no problem buying the knowledge from Pakistan.

Solana didn't seem too bothered by the prospect of another rogue state with nuclear weapons. The detente argument still holds water since every country knows that one missile fired would launch a world war. Even the most hopeful disarmament treaties would leave weapon-holding countries with an arsenal sufficient to end the planet.

There is also a practical side to the argument. Developing countries are using much more energy since the 1990 and almost all of the increase has come from gas and coal. With the Stern Review recently estimating that carbon emissions must fall 80% to reach sustainable levels, nuclear energy is a cost effective (albeit dangerous) solution.

It was a pleasure to share time and space with the quick-witted Solana. As Spanish politicians continue to look inward and struggle to communicate in English, he is part of a historic generation of international Spanish diplomats.

Javier Solana - former secretary general of the EU
Rodrigo Rato - former managing director of the IMF
Juan Antonio Samaranch - former president of the International Olympic Committee
Federico Mayor Zaragoza - former director general of UNESCO

In a future post I'll dissect why Spain has a low incidence of English speaking.

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