- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

NATO trifecta — If good things come in threes, the NATO summit in Romania should be blessed with luck.

“This summit is developing under the number three,” Romanian Ambassador Adrian Vierita said yesterday. “It is three days, three new members are to be invited in, and it is the third summit since the expansion of the alliance began.”

The summit in Bucharest is April 2-4. NATO is considering admitting Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. The latest NATO membership expansion began at the 2002 Prague summit in the Czech Republic when Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia were invited to join. They were accepted in time for the 2004 Istanbul summit in Turkey.

However, at the Romanian summit, NATO leaders will need the luck of the Irish (who are not NATO members) because of the ongoing dispute between Greece, a major alliance member, and Macedonia.

Greece could veto Macedonia’s membership unless its northern neighbor adopts a new name that is acceptable to Athens. Greece claims Macedonia has no right to use the name because of the historical and cultural connection to a northern Greek province, also called Macedonia.

The dispute has waged for 15 years (which is evenly divisible by three), and negotiators have only 12 more days (also divisible by three) to find a solution before the summit. In this case, the number three might be more like the witches in “Macbeth” than the Holy Trinity.

Mr. Vierita, speaking at the National Press Club, explained that the summit is “the biggest event ever organized by Romania.” He is expecting 3,000 delegates to the summit from the 26 NATO member nations, as well as nations associated with NATO through various programs. More than 3,500 reporters plan to converge on Bucharest.

“We are expecting 24 heads of state, 26 heads of government [prime ministers] and 87 officials with the rank of minister,” the ambassador said. “There is also a huge mobilization of security forces.”

“This will be the largest summit in NATO history,” added Kurt Volker, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs who also spoke at the press conference.

Mr. Vierita added that Romania is “attaching great importance to the visit” of President Bush, who will attend the summit and meet with Romanian President Traian Basescu.

Outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin also is expected to go to Bucharest, where he could be expected to object to NATO efforts to begin membership talks with the Republic of Georgia and Ukraine. Russia’s protest over the inclusion of the two former Soviet republics already has created divisions among NATO leaders.

Mr. Volker, nominated to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to NATO, insisted that the alliance will not crumble under Russian pressure.

“On Georgia and Ukraine, this is a decision for NATO, itself, to make,” he said.

Italian passion

Italy yesterday bestowed its highest decoration on Bruce Cole, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities who has a passionate devotion to Italian culture.

Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta presented the award to Mr. Cole.

Mr. Cole’s life “was always characterized by constancy and passion in the study of Italian art and culture of which he has been not only a commentator but also a promoter from the very beginning of his career of researcher and professor,” the Italian Embassy said in announcing the award.

Mr. Cole’s 15 books include several on Italian Renaissance art. He is a former chairman of the art history department at Indiana University.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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