Mister President, do you think that the challenges NATO is facing today are more difficult than those, let’s say two years ago, during the Riga Summit?
Interesting question... I think the best way to answer that is: certainly are challenges, but I believe that this is going to be a very succesfull summit. And there are four main areas: one is dealing with missile defence, cyber terrorism and counter terrorism; and I believe we will find consensus there. A second course is the commitment to NATO forces in Afghanistan and today President Sarkozy made a very strong statement about additional French commitments and I made similar statements about aditional US commitments. So, I think that aspect of NATO recognizing the challenges in Afghanistan, the challenges there will be met. Thirdly: NATO expantion - will be historic for Bucharest to host a Summit with NATO enlargement with three new countries and we will see how that goes. I am reminding everybody how I have my opinions about it, but the decisions will be there in Romania. Fourthly, of course, is about the aspirations - aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO. This is going to be a historic Summit. I don’t know if difficult is the right word, I would say historic. And there is no better place to have it than Bucharest.
Afghanistan seems to be the word of the day for this Summit. Like you said before, you ask the Alliance to step up it’s efforts in Afghanistan. What are your expectations from the NATO partners in this respect?
First of all, I think it is commitment to a security strategy. That basicaly says success isnt’ instantenous, is going to take a while. And secondly of course commitment to advance power. And I believe we will be succesfull on both fronts.
You mentioned the enlargement, which is historic after Prague and Madrid and now is going into an area that was troubled in the past and is more troubled now after Kosovo declared independence. How do you think will affect the Western Balkans this enlargement towards Albania, Croatia and Macedonia?
I think it will help, I really do. You know, NATO is a positive force, is not negative. And it is a force that encourages reforms and modernization, and it brings a sense of security. I will never forget the faces of people in Bucharest when I was there, right after Romania has been accepted into NATO, and they were wondering what it meant, what the President was saying. I remember after I said “God is smiling on Bucharest”, and I remember saying “an attack on one is an attack on all, and the United States will honour that” and I knew that security brings confidence and confidence brings hopefull societies. I think will be a very positive influence in what has been a troubled part of the world.
Since you mentioned the attack and you mentioned Georgia and Ukraine earlier, which make me think about to Russia. It’s not conffirmed yet, but Vladimir Putin’s attendance is expected there. One of the issues in US-Russia relations is the missile defence systems. Could Bucharest be the place for a breakthrough deal or talks about it?
It is an interesting question. We are announcing today that President’s inviting me to Sochi and I’m gonna go. We may have some time in Bucharest to talk about it, I’m not sure, but definitely, if we work out the details of the trip to Sochi, then I’ll spend a lot of time talking to him about the missile defense because it is important that he undestands that this system is not aimed at Russia. I mean, Russia can overwhelm the vision that we’ve articulated, that it’s aimed at a potential common threat which can be a missile lauch of the Middle East. Hopefully there will a breakthrough. The reason why I’m somewhat optimistic is because Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates had a very good visit to see the President recently and his team. And I’m not exactly sure how much time he and I have to visit when in Bucharest.
About the defense system, there’s a NATO in this respect for a defense system against short-range missiles that will cover Romania, Greece and Turkey. It seems that it will somewhat complete both geographically and strategically the US missile shield. So does the US-NATO projects meet at some point?
Again, NATO is an alliance of all and the missile defence that we have been talking about initially is for longer range missiles and, of course, there need to be some shorter range missile protection as well and that is where the US and NATO can work colaboratively to make sure that the missile defense system reaches all our partners and our friends.
Apart from Bucharest and the NATO Summit, I know that you’ll go to the city Constanta, on the Black Sea, to meet President Traian Basescu. One of the topics will be the strategic partnership between the US and Romania which is now in its 11th year. How do you appreciate Romania’s part and contribution during this time and how do you see a way forward in this partnership?
The first thing that people think about is, of course, Romania’s contributions in this war against extremism, which have been very great and there have been sacrifices bore by the Romanian citizens and by particularly the families that lost their loved ones. I offer my deepest condolences and prayers. But our relationship is more than dealing with these threats that we face. Our relationship is commercial and educational and, you know, there’s a lot of interest here in America about investments. I think there’s a bigger trip to deepen the relationship, to make sure that people on both sides, in both countries understand that it’s more than dealing in Afghanistan and Iraq. (...) I do want to say that one of my favorite memories of the time as President was the day when I was honored to give the speech in the town square and I got up to speak and I was overwhelmed by the sight of a rainbow... I will never forget looking back at my wife, who happened to be sitting near Nadia Comaneci, and I pointed up to the sky and I still have the vivid memory of a couple of thousand heads looking up to see what I a was pointing at... It was drizzling as well... It was a magic moment for me and I want to thank the people of Romania for their warm hospitality then and I am looking forward to coming back to the country.