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Boise State policy expert discusses coronavirus impact on US foreign relations and diplomacy

In an interview for this week's Viewpoint, Steven Feldstein said there has been a "continued diminishment" in US influence on the global stage.

BOISE, Idaho — The coronavirus pandemic is affecting how governments around the globe do business and interact with each other and citizens.

The lack of face-to-face contact has resulted in a direct impact on many things we take for granted.

Steven Feldstein, a foreign policy expert with the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University, sat down for an interview for this week's Viewpoint.

When asked how much of an impact the coronavirus has had on U.S. foreign relations, Feldstein said there has been a "continued diminishment" in American influence on the global stage.

Editor's note: The following interview has been edited for clarity and length:

Steven Feldstein: With the coronavirus what we've sort of seen is the U.S. abdicating leadership on a global stage even more. There's been an inward turn. So what that means is as we sort of go it alone and work less and less with allies and partners, they look to other countries or they have to look to themselves in order to go forward. So what that means in terms of U.S. influence is a continued diminishment. And I think that's concerning for a lot of people because there is a world and a lot of geopolitics beyond just the coronavirus and by only focusing on our own internal needs and not thinking about the global stage, I think that hurts our leadership standing.

Doug Petcash:  You are a former deputy assistant secretary of state, a diplomat. How difficult is it to do foreign policy, foreign relations at a time like this when people can't even meet face to face?

Feldstein: It's hard. It's hard. I mean diplomacy is about personal relationships. It's about getting on a plane, meeting with counterparts and trying to work through solutions. So right now we're all grounded. What we're doing here in terms of Zoom meetings is how diplomacy is essentially being done. So it makes it challenging in a normal, in any kind of situation like this. And with the tensions that we're seeing rising up, there's a really good possibility of miscommunication, misunderstanding at a pretty fraught moment."

Feldstein also discussed how some foreign leaders are taking advantage of the pandemic to seize more power and enact measures that could lead to the long-term oppression of their people. 

You can watch the full Viewpoint interview with Feldstein on Sunday at 6:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 4 p.m., and 11 p.m.

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