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3 Oct, 2019 17:39

Victoria no secrets! Australia wants 'full disclosure' of Trump call. Will diplomacy survive?

Victoria no secrets! Australia wants 'full disclosure' of Trump call. Will diplomacy survive?

Following Washington's lead, the Aussie opposition is pressuring Canberra to release details of a call it had with Donald Trump. Are private talks between world leaders threatened with extinction?

It appears that not even the distant land down under is safe from the shocking disregard for back-door diplomacy pioneered by Washington, DC. This week, borrowing a page from the US Democrat's playbook, Australia's opposition party demanded that the transcript of a recent phone call between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Donald Trump be made public. It seems the opposition is worried that Morrison agreed to assist Trump with an investigation into the origins of 'Russiagate' – the debunked conspiracy theory that says the US president colluded with the Kremlin to win the White House. Judging by recent reports, that investigation appears to be heating up.

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No, dear reader, you are not experiencing a bad case of déjà vu. A similar set of circumstances really did just rock Washington as the US Democrats accused Trump of "abusing his powers" after he committed the 'radical act' of telephoning the Ukrainian president. In response to the alleged undercover work of a CIA whistleblower, who was said to have acted upon second-hand information with regards to details about the call, Trump was pushed to release a transcript of the conversation.

What these two events strongly indicate is that the world of international relations has entered dangerous, uncharted waters, something like the Bermuda Triangle. After all, even in the darkest hours of the Cold War, the hotline between Washington and Moscow remained not only open but absolutely secure. There was never any conceivable threat that some sensitive conversation between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, for example, would suddenly be used by either the Democrats or the Republicans to score cheap political points.

While it stands to reason that the unwanted disclosure of classified material is always at risk of exposure – consider Wikileaks and its release of thousands of US diplomatic cables in 2010 – to imagine that such sensitive information could be deliberately used for political gain is, well, unimaginable.

After all, does anyone really doubt the need for some level of secrecy in international affairs? Although the Democrats argue these days that private closed-door discussions pose a risk to national security, the very opposite is true. At a time when the planet is threatened by acts of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and an assortment of other unthinkable dangers, the demise of back-door diplomacy to negotiate the unpredictable terrain of modern society is a terrible thing to contemplate. Yet if foreign leaders suspect that their words may be used against them in another country's political show trials, they may be far less inclined to answer the phone, especially when Washington calls.

Vladimir Putin addressed such concerns this week when he told reporters he had no objections to his phone calls with Trump being published since he appreciates the fact that his words could potentially be broadcast whenever he speaks. The Russian leader speaks from experience.

On two separate occasions, the Democrats pushed to have the interpreter who was present during meetings between Putin and Trump subpoenaed to appear before Congress. That is a level of paranoia rarely seen in the world of international relations. According to the American Translators Association's code of ethics, translators and interpreters must "hold in confidence" any privileged information they become privy to during the course of their work. It's unfortunate that some politicians today need reminding of such an obvious rule.

The US Democrats, however, in a deep state of concern as to what Trump and his Attorney General Bill Barr may uncover in their global excavations into Russiagate, are determined to portray every conversation Trump has with a foreign leader as a criminal act. Thus, some people may be tempted to forgive the demand to release private discussions because they are connected to the villainous 'Orange man'. Indeed, Trump, thanks to a liberal media that is hell-bent on his destruction, is regularly portrayed as the sum of all evil and not to be trusted. But once again it needs to be emphasized that such assertions are forwarded by Trump's domestic enemies, of which there is no shortage.

Another important thing to consider is that Donald Trump stands a very high chance of being reelected for a second term. Can global leaders and diplomats wait another four years before they feel safe speaking in confidence with the White House again? After all, in the event that private discussions between Washington and the rest of the world dry up, it won't just be the United States that suffers.

In the world of global relations, there is a place for transparency and a place for secrecy. That has been true throughout the history of politics. Although many people may not like the idea of private discussions between leaders, the need for them is beyond dispute. Instead of setting down a dangerous new precedent that risks undermining relations between countries, world leaders should appreciate that much of the world's diplomacy occurs behind the scenes, and to cast aspersions on the ancient practice would spell disaster for the overall state of global relations. With or without Donald Trump in the White House.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.