- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Hopes for NATO
Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra remembers when his country joined NATO two years ago that skeptics were questioning the need to expand the alliance when there was no longer a threat in Central Europe.
Mr. Vondra, however, long ago learned not to ignore the past when preparing for the future.
"Now the Czech Republic is surrounded by friends. Poland, Hungary and Germany are our allies," Mr. Vondra wrote in the latest edition of the Czech Embassy newsletter.
"But over the past two generations, we repeatedly fought with our neighbors. Between these conflicts, we heard talk of the 'war to end all wars and 'peace in our time. And yet that peace was followed by the deadliest war in history," Mr. Vondra said.
"It was this cruel lesson that finally led the Western democracies to form an organization of mutual defense," he said, referring to NATO.
Mr. Vondra noted that U.S. leadership in NATO helped "prevail over yet another deadly opponent in the Cold War."
"As our recent experience shows, trans-Atlantic ties were crucial for this success," he said. "From support given to our emancipation from the Hapsburg monarchy to the collapse of the Soviet empire, our fate depended on U.S. engagement in Europe.
"Certainly our world is different from that of our parents. Yet our past is the best source of guidance for the future. The conclusions are clear: To secure its freedom, the Czech Republic must perform to the best of its ability in alliance with other European nations, the United States and Canada."
He called for NATO to invite "all nations ready to contribute to a common defense" into the alliance at the planned NATO summit next year in the Czech capital, Prague.
Czech President Vaclav Havel has appointed Mr. Vondra as a special envoy to coordinate planning for the summit.

Morale at State

On his first day as secretary of state, Colin Powell promised a cheering audience of hundreds of State Department employees that he would change their lives for the better.
It was not just an empty boast. In the administrations first 100 days, Mr. Powell has boosted the morale at the State Department from the dismal depths of the Clinton administration, a career diplomat told Embassy Row.
The diplomat, speaking privately, said Mr. Powell has surprised lower-ranking diplomats by seeking their expertise. He sometimes asks them to conduct policy briefings. He visits desk officers who specialize in the different countries of the world.
Mr. Powell is working on budget increases and infusing the massive State Department bureaucracy with a management style that concentrates on getting the right resources for the tasks at hand, the diplomat said.
Mr. Powells right-hand man, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, is also popular because he is concentrating on improving the management of the department.
The diplomat contrasted Mr. Powells style with former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former deputy Strobe Talbott.
"They were policy types who surrounded themselves with a tight circle of advisers," he said. "They were not so interested in management."
Morale had fallen so low before the November election that some diplomats literally cried out for help. On Election Day, notices were posted around the department, denouncing the management as "dysfunctional," calling the staff "overextended" and warning that U.S. foreign missions are "crumbling."

Embassy in good hands
The U.S. Embassy in China is in good hands with a top diplomat in charge in the absence of an ambassador, a State Department spokesman said yesterday.
Asked if he expects any "disruption" in U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations, spokesman Philip Reeker replied, "I dont think theres any reason that there should be."
Michael Marine, the deputy chief of mission, will serve as charge daffaires until the Senate confirms Clark Randt, President Bushs choice to succeed Ambassador Joseph Prueher, who left Beijing yesterday.
Mr. Reeker praised Mr. Prueher, who helped negotiate the release of the crew of a U.S. surveillance plane held by China earlier this month, for "an absolutely outstanding job" as ambassador.

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