The [2009 Copenhagen climate change] summit had developed into another grudge match between the developed and developing worlds. China, India, and Brazil were refusing to sign an agreement that would commit them to even incremental steps to curb emissions. Diplomats from 193 countries wandered the bright hallways of the Bella Center in a state of fretful energy.
With failure looming, [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton telephoned [President] Obama and urged him to fly to Copenhagen to try to break the deadlock. His political advisers were opposed, not wanting to pull the boss away from a crowded domestic agenda for a diplomatic caper that looked as if it was going to end badly. Obama, though, had promised, like Clinton, to get serious about climate change. He trusted her diagnosis: that only the American President could broker a compromise. So on the evening of December 3, 2009, he ordered Air Force One fueled up for a flight to Denmark.
Twenty-four hours later, he was being briefed by an exasperated Clinton inside a small coffee bar in a shopping mall adjacent to the conference center that had been closed for the meeting. When it became clear that the Chinese delegation was trying to water down any agreement, holing up in a conference room with windows taped over to conceal their dealings from the Americans, Obama and Clinton decided to take matters into their own hands. They set off to confront the Chinese in person, fast-walking down a hallway and up a flight of stairs, panicked aides in chase, before they ran into a Chinese official in the doorway, waving his arms and shouting, “Not ready yet.”
Confusion swirled as Clinton and Obama tried to find out who was in the room with the Chinese. An advance person told them it was the Indians, the Brazilians, and the South Africans. Now Clinton was mad: The Indians had told American officials they had already left for the airport. A major developing country was lying to avoid dealing with the United States on climate change? She and Obama looked at each other in disbelief. “C’mon, let’s just do this,” he said to Clinton. She moved first, ducking under the outstretched arm of a Chinese security guard and barging into the room, which drew a collective gasp from the leaders huddled around a conference table. Obama was right behind her. “Hi, everybody!” he bellowed, like a dad coming home early to find his teenage kids throwing a keg party in the backyard. “Mr. Prime Minister, are you ready to see me now?” he said, turning to face the nonplussed Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, who was anything but.
This story about President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton teaming up like they were in a buddy-cop movie and crashing a meeting at the Copenhagen climate change summit is one of my favorite anecdotes from the Obama Administration.
For the Chinese premiere of
the film in Shanghai, Emma Watson pulled out her most arresting look yet
. In a beaded and jeweled champagne Elie Saab Couture gown
with a lengthy cape that trailed behind her, Watson looked like she’d
stepped out of a fairy tale.
The dramatic dress made for an appealing photo op and provided a nice
contrast to costar Dan Stevens’s periwinkle blue suit, but as always,
Watson’s interest in luxury is informed by her concern for the
environment. Created from surplus fabric—layers of tulle and crepe
georgette silk—from a previous collection, the gown is an upcycled
variation on couture. Watson and her stylist, Rebecca Corbin-Murray,
have been smart about incorporating eco-fashion into the actress’s
wardrobe, and with this latest look they offer another take on glamour.
The speech by Premier Zhou Enlai was focused primarily on the situation in Czechoslovakia. He said that the Soviet Union committed ‘a violent crime against the Czechoslovak people,’ that this type of behavior is 'the most shameless, typical example of behavior by a fascist power,’ and that the Chinese government and Chinese people 'condemn this crime of aggression’ and are behind the Czechoslovak people. Comparing what was happening in Czechoslovakia with what Hitler did in that country, and what the US did in Vietnam, Premier Zhou Enlai stressed that 'Soviet revisionism degenerated into Social[ist]- Imperialism and Social[ist]-Fascism,’ and that the US and the Soviet Union are trying to divide the world [among themselves].
Excerpt from A series of three telegrams reporting on a reception held at the Romanian Embassy in Beijing on August 23, 1968. Premier Zhou Enlai attended the event and gave a speech condemning the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Text available via the Wilson Center Archives.
I got a request to cover some of the “Cold War” era as it happened in Asia (outside the U.S.) Americans are often taught the Cold War through a rather binary lens, in a strictly East-West/Soviet-U.S./Communist-Capitalist divide.
Of course, things are more nuanced than that. This is a snippet of a telegram report from 1968 which sheds light on the ups and downs of international diplomacy.
Here, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai criticizes the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia which had happened three days earlier on August 20, 1968. The Soviet Union had led Warsaw Pact troops into Prague, with the intent to crack down on reformist trends. These troops had been gathered from the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, East Germany, and Bulgaria under the guise of Warsaw Pact military exercises. Instead of exercises, however, the Warsaw Pact troops overtook Prague.
Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia was quick, and Soviet leaders justified the action under the “Brezhnev Doctrine” - claiming the Moscow could invoke the right to intervene wherever a country’s Communist government had been threatened. These actions furthered what is known at the Sino-Soviet split, a conflict developed over diverging USSR and PRC (China) interests and interpretations of communism.
The introduction of the Brezhnev doctrine in this way sparked concerns in Beijing that with time, the USSR would use it as a way to justify either interfering in Chinese communist affairs or invading China.
Kirk Kerkorian was the man of the hour at the premiere of the “The Promise.”
The late businessman, who died in 2015, invested $100 million to bring the Armenian Genocide epic to the big screen after other productions weren’t able to escape what’s been dubbed the “denialist lobby.”
Director Terry George, who also dealt with the topic of genocide in the Oscar-nominated “Hotel Rwanda,” said the cast and crew were cautious about staying under the radar during filming.
“I knew when it was explained to me who was funding this and what the background was, I knew we were on firm ground with Kirk Kerkorian’s foundation and that this was a serious attempt to tell the story,” he said. “Far from reservations; I was invigorated by that. We had the resources and the drive to do it.”
The premiere, held on Wednesday night at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre, also brought out stars Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Sarafyan, James Cromwell, and Marwan Kenzari. Oscar Isaac wasn’t in attendance as he was getting ready to welcome his first child with girlfriend Elvira Lind.
Cromwell said Hollywood has been hesitant to tackle the politically fraught subject for more than 100 years. Turkey continues to deny that 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated in 1915 at the order of the Ottoman empire.
“There was an extraordinary man, Kirk Kerkorian, who knew this industry and who knew that a film about the Armenian Genocide would never be made,” he said. “Finally at the end of his life, he said, ‘I will pony up $100 million, we will make this film.’ And even with Terry as director, $100 million, and a script, they still could not sell this picture to Hollywood. Mike Medavoy stepped up, but for the rest of Hollywood, ‘no,’ because they didn’t want to be associated with something they thought was going to go in the toilet or cause a lot of ire with any other project they had that might go Turkey, might be denied the Turkish market.”
The veteran actor also noted that the United States’ refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide reflects a systematic problem.
“For whatever reason, this community flinched. This country flinches in its responsibility for the devastation of Syria and Yemen and Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia and the Sudan and everywhere,” he added. “If we do not acknowledge our responsibility for events like this, our history, then we are doomed to repeat them, which is what we’re doing.”
President Barack Obama reneged on his 2008 campaign pledge that said, “As President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, “The Promise’s” executive music consultant, who has long advocated for genocide recognition, said Obama’s broken promise was “extremely disappointing.”
“It was very disappointing that he would cow to political capital like that having to do with Turkey’s pressure being a NATO ally,” he said. “As we can see, [Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is a madman and Turkey needs the U.S. more than the U.S. needs Turkey.”
Cromwell said there’s a higher chance of recognition under President Donald Trump “because he’s insane.”
“We have elected an insane man as president of the United States and he has appointed people who are, in my mind, spiritually dead to run the country, so now the American people can look at their government and say it does not work,” he said. “We must take it back. It’s called we the people, it’s not called we the 1%. It’s not we industrialists. It’s we the people.”
According to Cromwell, Americans will be moved to take to the streets to demand justice and picket the Turkish embassy until the genocide is recognized and restitutions are paid.
“The Promise” has already been forced to surmount several obstacles. When the film world-premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last September, its IMDb page received a flood of negative ratings.
“When we were at the Toronto International Film Festival at its original premiere, this is the L.A. premiere, but that was the first time it was seen and only a theater full of people saw it,” Tankian said. “We had tens of thousands of 0 votes stemming from Anatolia on IMDb so there was a campaign to try to discredit the film. I thought ‘that’s really ridiculous.’ This is a film — it’s media, it’s cultural. To use it as a political weapon in that sense is unfair. But that’s good, that means the denialists are afraid and we want them to be afraid.”
Eric Esrailian, one of the film’s producers, who set up Survival Pictures with Kerkorian to finance the film, said before the movie’s screening that “storytelling allows us to heal in many ways. After 102 years of denial and lies, the healing begins tonight.”
According to reps, all of the profits from the film will be donated to charity, including George Clooney and John Prendergast’s non-profit The Sentry.
“The Promise” centers on a love triangle between an Armenian medical student (Isaac), a renowned American journalist (Bale), and an Armenian woman (Charlotte Le Bon).
Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, who wrote a song for the film, said being swept away by the drama will help audiences grasp the powerful message.
“I went to school in the U.S. and I wasn’t taught about the Armenian or Greek genocide in history class,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s due in part to the denial of it or what it is. It’s one of those things where it’s a story that needs to be told. And I think it needs to be told and retold. … We need to at some point as human beings preempt this from happening. Genocide is occurring right now on this planet. It’s not something of the past, it’s something unfortunately of now, and unfortunately probably will be of the future.”
Other notable guests included Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Don Cheadle, Kim Kardashian West, Kourtney Kardashian, and Dean Cain, who are part of the #KeepThePromise social impact campaign. Netflix COO Ted Sarandos also attended the event, along with new Paramount Chairman/CEO Jim Gianopulos, who was spotted chatting with Orlando Bloom at the after-party at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Bloom was later joined by Nina Dobrev. Guests dined on fish and chips, avocado toast, chicken sliders, and other hors d’oeuvres at the event.
Open Road’s “The Promise” hits theaters on April 21.
Looks like Oscar and Elvira are ready to have that baby. Good luck to them!