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A black ribbon adorns the portrait of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at U.N. headquarters, New York, Aug. 18, 2018 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Kofi Annan, the Peacemaker Who Knew How to Play Big-Power Politics

Monday, Aug. 20, 2018

Kofi Annan’s career was inextricably entangled with power politics. The former United Nations secretary-general, who died on Saturday, spent decades grappling with tensions between the organization’s members over crises from the Balkans to Syria. At times, he managed the turbulence masterfully. At others, he had little or no control over events. Win or lose, Annan occupied a very rare place in the international political firmament as a mediator able to parlay with the biggest powers.

There have already been many tributes to Annan, emphasizing his commitment to a better world and his personal charisma. He will almost certainly rank as one of the best secretaries-general the U.N. has had. But he was always a politician rather than a saint, and acutely aware of geopolitical realities. ...

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