- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Thanking America

The president of Latvia told a joint session of Congress yesterday that the people of the Baltic nations will always appreciate the United States for opposing the Soviet domination of the three countries and for representing freedom to captive nations.

“The United States has been a beacon of liberty ever since its foundation,” said Vaira Vike-Freiberga. “The United States has become a world power by giving free men rein to the creativity, the initiative and the energy of its people by fostering the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Mrs. Vike-Freiberga noted that many Latvians immigrated to the United States during the 50-year Soviet occupation.

“Latvia remains grateful to the United States for opening its doors to a good many of these exiles, who gained the right to live here in peace, justice and liberty, while many of their relatives back home suffered oppression and brutal repression,” she said.

“Latvia remains grateful to the United States for the firm refusal to recognize the illegal occupation of the three Baltic countries.”

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia declared their independence in 1990 and 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing.

“Along with the other formerly captive nations of Central and Eastern Europe, we thank America for its steadfast and courageous stand on freedom and democracy,” Mrs. Vike-Freiberga said.

Black Sea boost

Romanian officials say they are gratified by the results of a summit Monday in Bucharest of leaders from nine countries in the Black Sea region to discuss common security, energy and economic concerns. The gathering was Romania’s most ambitious diplomatic effort since its successful drive to join NATO in 2004.

Seeking joint action on the Black Sea region’s problems has been a top priority of Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu. Representing the United States in Bucharest was Deputy National Security Adviser Jack D. Crouch II.

“This is the first time such a high-level forum with such a comprehensive agenda has ever taken place,” Romanian Ambassador Sorin Ducaru told reporter David R. Sands. “We see that as a huge achievement for the region.”

The summit even generated some unscripted news, as President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan held several lengthy private talks on territorial disputes.

Romanian President Traian Basescu hosted the gathering, which also was attended by the heads of state of Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine. The summit joint declaration announced the creation of the Black Sea Forum for Dialogue and Partnership to boost democracy and sustainable economic development in the region.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States announced in Bucharest the creation of the Black Sea Trust to finance grants to boost democracy and civil society groups across the region. Based on talks with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Romanian government and other donors, fund officials say they hope to open the trust this fall with more than $20 million in seed money, aiming in time to double that.

Mr. Crouch, a former ambassador to Romania, announced in Bucharest that the Bush administration planned to make a “significant financial contribution” to the trust, and strongly endorsed the effort to boost political and economic links across the troubled region.

“For centuries, these lands have been a cultural crossroads, connecting Europe to the Middle East and Central Asia,” said Mr. Crouch, adding that many of those links had been weakened or cut during the Cold War.

“But today your nations have a new opportunity to build stronger links with each other — and thereby reclaim your historic position as a region of connections between East and West.”

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

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