- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

Romanian ally

The Romanian ambassador is working feverishly on the final details of a visit tomorrow by the new Romanian president, who plans to demonstrate his country’s strong alliance with the United States and portray it as a leader in southern Europe.

Ambassador Sorin Ducaru thinks the visit will show that Romania is a “gateway” to the Black Sea area, where new democracies such as Georgia and Ukraine are struggling to consolidate the gains made by massive protests that brought reformers to power in free elections.

Traian Basescu is making his first Washington visit since he was elected in December and will be the first Romanian president to visit here since Romania joined NATO last year, Mr. Ducaru said yesterday.

“This is also the first time Romania is not asking for something but offering its contribution as a full partner in the Western alliance,” he said. “President Basescu will be reaffirming Romania’s role as a key U.S. ally in southern Europe.”

Romania is supporting the U.S.-led war against terrorism with more than 800 troops in Iraq and more than 700 in Afghanistan. It is helping provide stability in the Balkans with 550 troops in Kosovo and Bosnia, the ambassador said.

Mr. Ducaru said Romania can assist the democratic governments in Georgia and Ukraine in much the same way that Poland inspired democratic reforms in Eastern Europe.

“We are trying to bring the focus of the [Bush] administration to view the region as a link between the trans-Atlantic world, the former Soviet Union and the broader Middle East,” he said.

“We are in a very real way the gateway to the Black Sea. What the West represented to us, we now represent for Georgia, Ukraine and the Black Sea region.”

Mr. Basescu will meet with President Bush tomorrow and hold a joint press conference at the White House. He will meet later with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.

On Thursday, Mr. Basescu addresses the Council on Foreign Relations on the future of the Black Sea region.

Defending Canada

The U.S. ambassador to Canada said Washington was “perplexed” and “surprised” when Prime Minister Paul Martin decided Canada would not participate in the U.S. missile defense program.

Ambassador Paul Cellucci said the Bush administration was led to believe that Canada would join the system designed to shoot down incoming missiles over North America.

“We were given that impression in a very direct way for a long time,” Mr. Cellucci said in a television interview over the weekend in the Canadian capital, Ottawa. “We’ve been pretty much assured for a long time that Canada wanted to participate, that this was in Canada’s sovereign interest to participate.”

He said the Canadian decision created a “strain” in relations with the United States.

Mr. Martin discussed the controversy Saturday in a telephone call with President Bush.

“The president … said the decision has been taken and it is now time to move on to other things. And that is precisely what we’re going to do,” Mr. Martin said at a convention of his Liberal Party later that day.

The controversy burst into a political crisis for Mr. Martin in January when the new Canadian ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna, told reporters that Canada is already a partner in the missile defense program.

He said that Canada effectively joined the system when it amended the U.S.-Canadian treaty that established NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The amendment allowed the advanced-warning radar system to be integrated into the system.

Mr. Martin favored Canadian participation in the program before last year’s election, but public opinion turned strongly against missile defense.

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

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