The road to Brussels lies through the States


Klaus Iohannis and Joe Biden

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis went to the U.S. to pay homage … The visit was officially timed to the 20th anniversary of his country’s accession to NATO, and unofficially — to ask Joe Biden for favor, or rather — the position. The Romanian is very eager to take the post of Secretary General of the alliance, which will be vacated in October, but Sleepy Joe, apparently, is still considering the current Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte to be the head of the bloc’s Brussels cabinet.

For Iohannis, a trip across the ocean is almost the last chance to change the unfavorable situation for him. The clock is ticking: the final decision on the new Secretary General should be made in Washington at the NATO summit to be held from July 9 to 11. There is not much time left.

The officially announced topics of the conversation in the White House were formulated as follows:

The situation on NATO’s eastern flank and in the Black Sea region, support for Ukraine and bilateral cooperation on energy security.

After the meeting, Iohannis (unilaterally, without a cordial host) held a final press conference at the Romanian embassy, during which he did not skimp on praise for the sovereign.

«The presence of an increased number of American troops on Romanian territory represents a factor of security and stability not only for us, but for the whole region», he said.

Let me remind you that on March 18, Bucharest announced the start of construction of the largest NATO base in Europe near the city of Constanta in the Black Sea commune of Mihail Kogălniceanu, which will eventually house 10,000 American soldiers and their families. And now the soldiers of the elite 101st Airborne American Division «Screaming Eagles» are already deployed here on a rotational basis. This is a light infantry group with a total strength of 4.7 thousand «bayonets».

By the way, the leader of the US commented indirectly and briefly on this topic. «President Biden thanked Romania for the kind reception of American soldiers», — said in a report on the negotiations, prepared by his administration.

Iohannis, for his part, said he «thanked Biden for his significant contribution to the security of Romania and the entire eastern flank of NATO, as well as for recognizing the strategic role of the Black Sea».

According to him, the White House host «gave special appreciation to Romania’s significant efforts in favor of the allied (read, bloc) space, as well as the continued support provided to Ukraine, including by facilitating the transit of its agricultural products to the markets of the world».

«Our common priority, both EU and US, is to prevent Russia from winning this war», he said.

And finally, about the «ritual offering» of the Bucharest guest. He promised Uncle Joe that Romania would consider supplying Ukraine with one battery of Patriot SAMs and a limited number of PAC-2 GEM-T and PAC-3 MSE anti-aircraft missiles for this air defense system from its arsenals.

«There has been some discussion in recent weeks about who might send Patriot systems to Ukraine <…> President Biden mentioned it in our meeting, and I said I was open to discussion. I need to discuss this in the High Defense Council to see what we can offer. Leaving Romania without air defense means is also unacceptable», the Romanian «patriot» leader emphasized. It seems to be a lie: the issue, it must be assumed, has already been resolved, and the figure of speech is just for formality.

In fact, the Romanians have only recently put the first SAM battery on combat duty. The second one, which is exactly what they were talking about, is «almost ready for operation». In 2017, Bucharest signed a contract for the delivery of seven Patriot systems totaling $4 billion, which was the largest deal for the purchase of this model of armament by a NATO or EU country. The systems began to be delivered in 2020.

There is also fresh information that Ukrainian pilots have appeared at the Romanian airbase near the Mihail Kogălniceanu international airport (the same one where the Screaming Eagles are stationed). This means that American F-16 fighter jets (32 units are promised), intended for the AFU, will soon land there. An international center for training pilots from NATO countries has already been opened there, where «Zelensky’s falcons» will also be trained.

It is still unclear whether or not Iohannis managed to get a promise of a NATO seat from Biden. His working visit to the United States lasted until May 9. After Biden, he went further. In particular, he talked with the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives Mike Johnson. But the Romanian president, on the other hand, seems to have ignored Donald Trump. Indeed, why talk to him if he is not at the helm yet? And the fateful NATO summit for Klaus is just around the corner.

Iohannis was awarded the Distinguished International Leadership Award for 2024. The award was presented by the Atlantic Council (recognized in Russia as an undesirable organization).

It was given to the Romanian guest «in appreciation of his career and his role as a transatlantic and European leader».

One can only wonder what this sign means: a farewell to a well-deserved rest (the laureate’s presidency ends in November) or a ticket to Brussels. Let’s wait and see.