Tuesday, April 5

Hugo Chavez, The Coffee Club, and Plan A & B. You will need math and aspirin for this one.

"Pundita, What is Hugo Chavez up to? Is he planning on becoming the next Castro or Bolivar or Napoleon or what?
[Signed] Caesar in San Francisco"

Dear Caesar:
He's just doing a little horse trading, in the effort to convince the Bush administration to back away from pushing Brazil for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. I'm not sure how much you want to know about this situation, unless you have a secret wish to jump back in time and see for yourself what life was like in the Italian Renaissance.

It all started innocently and coherently enough, if one is able to follow Machiavellian logic. Back in the early 1990s, a "wily Sicilian," as he is known around the halls of the United Nations, cobbled together an informal group of nations that was dubbed the Coffee Club or sometimes the Cappuccino Club. This was because Rome wanted to flummox Germany's designs on becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC). Rome was concerned even back then that a unified Germany in the post-Soviet era would control the European Union and soon the world.

As you will soon see why, it's virtually impossible to nail down how many nations belong to the Coffee Club but the number tends to wax and wane around 30-40. The nations are characterized as 'middling' in military and trading power and don't have a permanent seat on the UNSC.

The idea behind the club is that while few middling nations would lose sleep about Germany's designs, they would have their own reasons for opposing a radical change in the UN ecosystem, which an additional permanent member on the UNSC would touch off. Thus, the Coffee Club was founded on a simple strategy: Every time there's discussion about expanding the UNSC, everybody in the club raise such a squawk that the US administration shelves discussion.

This worked for a time due to President Clinton's daily routine. Every morning Clinton would look at the intelligence briefings stacked in his in-box, make a face, and ring up his secretary of state or national security advisor to ask whether the United States was doing okay. They would ring up the America desk at the State Department, which would ring up George Soros, who would ring up Brussels. Then by noon they'd report back to Clinton that the NATO alliance was still holding strong, yet another republic was being peeled away from Russian influence, and so the United States was doing just fine.

Then George W. Bush became President. He not only read every intelligence briefing in his in-box, he also hauled the DCI into his office every weekday morning for an in-person report. The first time this happened, Tenet's chauffeur got lost enroute to the White House because it was only the second time he'd made the trip. Within days of Bush settling into his morning routine, the yelling from the Oval Office could be heard all the way across the Potomac. The gist, with expletives deleted:

How did Brussels manage to pussyfoot around South America without the US government noticing, instigate a trading bloc (Mercosur) and forge an alliance between the EU bloc and Mercosur that worked against NAFTA?

And here we are today. Mercosur is dead and the replacement bloc (SACN) is years away if ever from getting off the ground. By happy coincidence Brazil is now a proud member of the G-4--the group of four nations most likely to be invited to become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, if Plan A is adopted by the UN.

Somewhere along the way, Brazil realized that their Bingo Club meeting schedule conflicted with Coffee Club meetings. But what the Coffee Club loses on one hand, they pick up on the other, for there are virtually infinite combinations and permutations of reasons why middling nations would have reason to oppose Germany, Brazil, India or Japan having permanent membership on the UNSC and the general principle of an expanded permanent membership for the UNSC.

Things started getting really complicated as soon as word got around about the details of the proposed UN reform package that Kofi Annan was overseeing--and overseeing with great zeal, I might add, once the Iraq Oil for Scandal wrecking ball swung his way. The package, which Annan insists is a take-it-or-leave it deal, presents two options for changing the security council--Plan A and Plan B (or 'models' as Kofi likes to say).

Plan A
Six new permanent UNSC seats, with no veto being created, and three new two-year term non-permanent seats, divided among the major regional areas: Africa, Asia & Pacific, Europe, Americas.

Plan B
No new permanent seats but creates a new category of eight four-year renewable-term seats and one new two-year non-permanent (and non-renewable) seat, divided among the same regional areas as above.

Now if you count on your fingers you immediately note that the G-4 does not equal six. That means even if Plan A is adopted and Brazil, Germany, India and Japan get permanent seats, that still leaves two seats up for grabs. The two proposed seats are for Africa.

So the way the Coffee Club is thinking at this moment, subject to change the next moment:

Italy wants to block Germany
Pakistan wants to block India
Mexico and Argentina want to block Brazil
South Korea wants to block Japan
Egypt wants to block Nigeria and South Africa and vice versa
From here on, you need math

On Monday and Tuesday, Israel wants to block India. On Wednesday and Thursday, Israel wants to support India.

On Monday and Wednesday, Egypt wants to block India because they don't want a nation with a Hindu majority having a permanent seat on the UNSC. On Tuesday and Thursday, Egypt is busy lobbying the US for a permanent seat on UNSC and posing no objection to India.

On the second Monday of every month, when the Indonesian Central Bank talks with the Bank for International Settlements, Indonesia wants to support Japan. The rest of the month Indonesia wants to block Japan to stay on China's good side and out of concern that Japan already has too much power in Asia. This is excepting Thursdays, when Indonesia worries that China is throwing too much weight around in Asia.

See above for days of the week that Malaysia wants to support or block Japan and why, then continue down the list of middling countries in the Coffee Club, if we had a list which we don't.

Now we come to the P-5 (five permanent members of the UNSC). China wants to block Japan, except on Wednesdays and Fridays when they become worried that other Asian nations perceive them as a bully. Russia would like to back Japan and India except on....darn, the dog just ate my notes.

Pakistan, which is currently leading the Coffee Club charge against India, has realized that things are slipping toward chaos. So Pakistani thinkers are trying to get the discussion back on track by pointing out that the Coffee Club is supposed to be Little Guys against Goliath. If everybody would just agree that they need to fight for Plan B, they might win the day. Don't you agree, Brazil? Hello? Hello? What do you mean this phone number isn't working anymore?

For a summary of the UN reform policy report and the UN view about the reform plan click here . To retrieve the entire UN reform follow-up report (PDF format) click here. Type "Box 5" into the Find field to bring up Model A and B for the UNSC or scroll to page 43.


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