Catherine Ashton, "And Then What?: Stories from Twenty-First-Century Diplomacy" (Elliott & Thompson, 2023)


When she was chosen as the EU's first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) in 2009, Catherine Ashton admits she "felt no exhilaration", fearing she had "few obvious credentials and lukewarm support".

On leaving office five years later - 19 months before the Brexit referendum - this former British minister had confounded her inner doubter. A new European External Action Service had been built from scratch and the HR/VP had become a pivotal global player - brokering what had seemed an impossible settlement between Serbia and Kosovo and performing the role of closer in the multi-party Iranian nuclear negotiations.

Ashton's memoirs of those five years - And Then What?: Inside Stories of 21st-Century Diplomacy (Elliott & Thompson, 2023) - go behind the scenes during critical moments in recent diplomatic history including Egypt's excruciating transition from dictatorship to uneasy democracy, the Iranian nuclear deal, the fragile Serb-Kosovan talks, and the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and its aftermath.

She writes: "Success is rarely the effect of one moment but of thousands of interlocking actions over a sustained period; and tiny details, especially in difficult negotiations, can make the difference between success and failure even if they seem arbitrary or inconsequential".

*Her book recommendations are Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis by Graham Allison (Longman, 1971) and Never by Ken Follett (Macmillan, 2021)

Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Advisors, who also writes the Twenty-Four Two newsletter on Substack and hosts the In The Room podcast series.

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Tim Jones

Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Advisors .

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