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News 02 Jun 17

Romania’s Iohannis First Balkan Leader to Visit Trump

US President Donald Trump will receive Klaus Iohannis at the White House on June 9, when the Romanian leader will remind him of Romania's staunch loyalty to the West.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the NATO Summit in Brussels in May. Photo: presidency.ro 

Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis, is to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on June 9 for a working visit amid continued concerns among European states over the US President’s inconsistent stances on NATO and the European Union.

Iohannis will travel to the US on Sunday first to attend the American Jewish Committee Global Forum as a guest of honour and receive the “Light Unto the Nations” award, the highest distinction in the hands of the 110-year-old organization for heads of state or government for their international work on peace and democracy.

According to the Romanian presidency, Iohannis and Trump will discuss the 20-year-old strategic partnership between Romania and the US, while Iohannis will stress that his country remains America's most predictable and trustworthy ally in the region.

Romanian diplomats in Washington have been pushing for the visit for months, reminding the new Trump administration that the country is the only one in the Balkans and the Black Sea region to have upscaled its defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP, as the NATO treaty requires.

In an interview in February, Romania’s Ambassador in Washington, George Maior, said Iohannis’s meeting with Trump was a top priority.

He also said that Trump’s former security advisor, Michael Flynn, who has visited Romania several times, had promised to convince the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to visit the Balkan country.  

On his first trip overseas, at the May NATO summit in Brussels, Trump lectured allies on not spending enough for their collective defence, repeating former complaints that too much of the heavy loading is being left to America.

He also declined to plainly endorse Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty, which states that an attack on any member is an attack on all.

Romania has staunchly supported NATO's moves to boost its deployment on the alliance's eastern flank.

It and neighbouring Bulgaria, as well as the Baltic States and Poland, are hosting soldiers from across NATO’s 28 member states, with more than 7,000 troops deployed in countries bordering Russia.

Besides hosting tanks and heavy armoured vehicles, plus Bradley fighting vehicles and Paladin howitzers, British Typhoon jets from RAF Coningsby have also been deployed to Romania for the summer to contribute to NATO’s Southern Air Policing mission.

A hundred Romanian soldiers are also participating in the 4,000-strong US-led NATO presence in Poland.

Until recently, Romania also backed plans for a NATO fleet in the Black Sea. That initiative, however, was rejected by Bulgaria.

Iohannis was also the first leader of a NATO and EU state to stand by the US, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “Europe must take its fate into its own hands", referring both to Brexit and Donald Trump's presidency.

Iohannis on Monday downplayed Merkel's obvious concerns about the US's current direction. “Chancellor Merkel’s statement was made due to unfulfilled expectations at the NATO summit and at the G7 Summit. I don’t think we need to worry about these relations,” Iohannis said.

Trump's eldest son by his former wife, Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr., who heads the Trump Foundation, was recently spotted hunting in Romania in May.

Asked if he had met up with Trump Jr, Iohannis merely said at the time that he preferred to see animals alive. 

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