Gérard Araud

Former French Ambassador the U.S.

Diplomacy in the Age of Strongmen

About the Topic

France has the world’s third-largest diplomatic service, according to the Lowy Institute’s 2019 survey of global diplomacy. Among France’s leading diplomats, Gérard Araud observes that the challenge of diplomacy is to capture trust by being truthful, be it with an official or a journalist. The diplomatic lie, he warns, is only “a last resort.” For nearly 40 years, Araud applied his principles to issues ranging from Middle East peace to disarmament and climate change. Today, much of that work has eroded as strongmen and populists challenge a liberal, multilateral world. Has the role of diplomats changed? How to assess the Trump Administration's approach to diplomacy? Going forward, how might diplomats adapt to a world of strongmen and great-power competition?

About the Speaker

Gérard Araud served 37 years as a French diplomat. Beginning in the age of Mitterand and Reagan, he navigated into the age of Macron and Trump. Araud was Ambassador to Israel, the U.N. and, most recently, the U.S. (2014 to 2019). Other assignments included Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO in Brussels and Director General for Politics and Security at the Foreign Ministry and lead French negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks. Araud is the author of Passeport Diplomatique, a memoir published in France by Grasset (2019). Known for candor, Araud described himself as “...a bit of a ‘big mouth’ in an environment where one prefers the whisper and, as a bonus, I did not always share the ideas of the majority... and I said so.” Retired, he has joined the board of the International Crisis Group.