May 31, 2007

World Bank: George Bush suggests Robert Zoellick

20:11 | 30/ 05/ 2007



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov) - Washington has found a way of ending the row over Paul Wolfowitz's retirement.

George W. Bush has suggested Robert Zoellick as his nominee for the presidency of the World Bank today. The 53-year-old Zoellick is a seasoned government official without any dark spots that have smeared his predecessor's image.

I don't mean the romantic story with his partner who, as luck would have it, happened to be his subordinate. After all, Wolfowitz won the acknowledgement from the bank's board of directors that he had acted "ethically and in good faith." In a recent interview with the BBC, Wolfowitz said that "an overheated" atmosphere at the bank and in the media forced him to resign. This is only part of the truth. He did not mention the reasons for an international wave of hatred that swept him into resignation.

This hatred is rooted in Wolfowitz's political views. A bellicose conservative, he embodies some of the worst American qualities - selfishness and arrogance. Many of the bank's influential European sponsors were indignant that an institution that is supposed to help the world overcome poverty was headed by one of the most ardent enthusiasts of the war in Iraq, which has turned that poverty-stricken country into smoldering ruins.

Having headed the bank for three years, Wolfowitz made decisions that clearly reflected U.S. foreign policy interests. Friendly countries received lavish credits, objectionable ones were advised to stamp out corruption first. Wolfowitz favored American corporations like Halliburton, which received profitable contracts without any tenders in Iraq and other developing nations.

Washington came to the conclusion that the overzealous and inflexible Wolfowitz was counterproductive. The love story proved to be a great excuse to demote him from the position where he irritated too many.

Today's decision to nominate Robert Zoellick means that the United States is not going to give up the long-standing tradition of assigning Americans to head the bank.

The appeals of the bank's member-states to consider nominees from other regions went unheeded. In the past few days, the media has been debating the chances for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who retires on June 27, to take up the post. But Washington is not going to lose control of this important financial institution.

The White House believes that Zoellick is uniquely qualified for the job and capable of dispelling the cloud of international mistrust over the bank. He has never backed the Iraqi war and is loyal to the Bush dynasty - he headed the administration of George Bush Sr. and did well during his son's two election campaigns.

For six and a half years - from 2001 to June 2006 - Zoellick was a U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State. He amazed his colleagues by his ability to work for 13 hours straight and a skill to rapidly expand a range of useful contacts.

Zoellick is capable of overcoming any obstacles like a good SUV. Unlike his predecessor, he can manage this without a head-on collision with the prevailing attitudes of key international players and the bank's routine traditions.

Unlike Wolfowitz, Zoellick is a European favorite. Berlin is extremely grateful for his vigorous support for Germany's reunification under U.S. State Secretary James Baker. As assistant to Condoleezza Rice, he did much in 2005 to bridge the gap with France and Germany over the Iraqi war.

If confirmed by the bank board, Robert Zoellick will continue upholding America's national interests. He will be a more talented and flexible leader than many of his predecessors. American humorists predict that he may even go to Cuba for a cordial conversation with Fidel Castro.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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