Iohannis' candidacy for the headship of NATO failed in Washington

George Marinescu
English Section / 9 mai

President Klaus Iohannis (left) had, on Tuesday evening, a meeting at the White House with American leader Joe Biden.

President Klaus Iohannis (left) had, on Tuesday evening, a meeting at the White House with American leader Joe Biden.

Versiunea în limba română

Klaus Iohannis was woken up to reality by American President Joe Biden, who did not give him any sign of US support for the candidacy for the position of NATO Secretary General, rather he would have asked him to think about supporting Ukraine by ceding one of the Patriot systems that our country acquired from the American side and which are in the process of operationalization. Requirement that Klaus Iohannis stated in the press statements after the meeting with his American counterpart that he will think about and that he will discuss it in a future meeting of the Supreme Council of Defense of the Country (CSAT), without letting it be understood that he is the partisan of a favorable decision.

Iohannis' frustration after the meeting with Biden emerges from the following statement regarding the transfer of a Patriot system to Ukraine: "There is obviously a need for air defense systems in Ukraine, advanced systems, and in this way, in recent weeks it is quite a discussion intense debate over who can provide Patriot systems to Ukraine. Romania has such systems and then, of course, we were also asked. And President Biden brought this up, and I told him that I'm open to discussing these issues, meaning that I'll have to discuss it at home, in the CSAT, to see how we can raise the issue, what we can offer, and, obviously, what can we get in return, because it is, in my opinion, unacceptable for Romania to remain without anti-aircraft defense".

However, Klaus Iohannis made it clear that he believes a solution will be found as long as the transfer of a single Patriot system to Ukraine is discussed.

"I know many more details, but yes, it is a functional one, which will remain in Romania, the others, which are in advanced phases of operationalization, and we were talking about one of these", said the President of Romania.

The fact that President Iohannis is dissatisfied with the lack of support from the US for his candidacy for the position of Secretary General of NATO is also evident from the following statement made after Tuesday evening's meeting with President Joe Biden: "These discussions (ed. - regarding to the candidacy for the position of Secretary General of NATO) are not made public and I will not begin to say what President Biden said. I tell you what I said there. But the discussion was not a long one, it was a relatively short one, and if you asked me if there is a risk of not having consensus, yes, there is a risk. And that is precisely why I think it is very good to have two candidacies, to have two candidates who, in general, are both considered acceptable, because a strong organization also needs strong competitions. And in the end, one of the two candidates will probably be chosen as the next Secretary General. The important thing is not to mix things up. There were some who said that if there are two candidates, the unity of the Alliance is broken. Not by a long shot! The alliance is strong, we move forward. But it is good to have two candidates, because then there is the possibility to open new debate topics and there is obviously a chance to make things go better".

Basically, Iohannis does not say that he is the best candidate for this position, and he even renounced the rhetoric from the statement made in March on the occasion of the announcement of the candidacy when he claimed that the NATO Secretary General must be a leader from the Eastern Flank of the Alliance, because he knows better the current situation in Ukraine and can give faster answers on certain issues.

After the refusal received, behind closed doors to the press, from Joe Biden, Iohannis considers himself an acceptable candidate, like his opponent Mark Rutte, and states that his approach is not aimed at his appointment as NATO Secretary General, but a debate to make the politico-military alliance work better.

Failure after failure in the accounting of Klaus Iohannis

The frustrations expressed by Klaus Iohannis in the press statements above clearly show that the President of Romania has accounted for a stinging failure these days in Washington. It is the second time in the political career of Klaus Iohannis that he has registered a failure, but the magnitude of the current one far exceeds that of mid-October 2009 when the president Traian Băsescu refused to nominate the man as prime minister the group from Grivco, controlled by Dan Voiculescu and the people around him. Practically, due to the failure registered in Washington, it seems that the doors are closed to Iohannis for possible candidacies at the European level, except perhaps for a candidacy for the position of High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a position currently held by Josep Borrell.

Moreover, Klaus Iohannis failed to get anything concrete from the meeting with Joe Biden, not even lifting the visa regime for Romanian citizens. Regarding this issue, President Iohannis said: "There are a lot of technical discussions here. You know that the Visa Waiver is not a political decision, it is a decision that is based on statistical data. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy here took things very seriously. There are awareness campaigns, to improve the acceptance rate and, in this sense, we can have the legitimate hope that in the near future this matter will be resolved".

The near future that has been talked about for several years now, but which does not materialize, or better said, is not seen.

The only area in which the two counterparts seem to have agreed was on discussions regarding the endowment of the Army and the defense industry. At least this is what emerges from the statements of President Klaus Iohannis, but also from the press release issued by the American Presidential Administration after the meeting of the two heads of state.

Klaus Iohannis stated: "Romania is doing extremely well with the decision of 2.5% of GDP for Defense. There are many allies who are very far from even 2%, and certainly, as tensions rise, the discussion will resume and it will be necessary, and this is what I also said in the discussion with President Biden: we have to be very clear and let us see that our defense industries must increase production, otherwise we will not face this situation. (...) There are important national objectives: the strengthening of the Eastern Flank, and this is what I discussed today. We have those battlegroups, we have troops, but in my opinion, it is not enough. There needs to be a much stronger commitment to the Eastern Flank, and to defense, but also to deterrence, but deterrence does not mean bringing more troops to the Eastern Flank. Deterrence means being equipped like the world, it means having a defense industry production that is sufficient. You know very well that the aid to Ukraine is gasping for air in a sensitive area, the artillery shells, and something like that cannot remain as it is now. So, defense - that's clear. Deterrence is about making us stronger, and for that, yes, we need to allocate more money to the defense industry, to those who deal with the procurement of systems. But things go much further. If we want to have a functional system on the Eastern Flank, it must have adequate logistical coverage. For example, for fuel, it is essential. Any army stops if it runs out of fuel, and we must have a supply system throughout the Eastern Flank. These matters are vital. On the other hand, the Black Sea strategy - the war is in the Black Sea, it is in the Black Sea region, not in another region. We need to focus more, be more concrete, develop specific objectives, develop strategies to prevent the expansion of the conflict and, of course, in the end, reach a peace that also satisfies the goals of Ukraine."

Regarding these aspects, the press release issued by the American Presidential Administration states: "President Biden thanked Romania for hosting the American military and for its commitment to security on NATO's eastern flank, including the Black Sea region. President Biden welcomed Romania's investments in defense, a state that has consistently exceeded its NATO commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. The leaders reaffirmed their firm support for Ukraine as it defends itself against illegal aggression by the Russian Federation, and President Biden expressed his appreciation for Romania's support for Ukrainian refugees and efforts to transit Ukrainian grain to the international market. Both leaders agreed that bilateral cooperation in the field of energy security is essential and noted that this is one of the many areas of the growing economic and trade relationship between the two states."

From the above, it can be said that the meeting between the two presidents had only one goal: to reaffirm American support for our country in the face of the challenges coming from the Russian Federation. Otherwise, nothing that Klaus Iohannis would have wanted a few months before the end of his second presidential term, has materialized. Personal failure on the line for Klaus Iohannis, consoled with the award received last night, around 2 a.m. - Romanian time - from the Atlantic Council.