I saw the most extraordinary drama unfold over the past few days here in Romania and I knew I would have to comment on it.
It all started with the American government deciding to implement certain aspects of its foreign policy. Exactly why this happened and what prompted it is a little too much inside baseball for me to get into at the moment (Kerry establishing himself vs. H Clinton, Obama not wanting to be a “lame duck”, etc”) but it all started with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew going on a tour of several European countries, including Germany and Portugal. I saw his press conference in Lisbon live on RTP and it prompted zero controversy or fallout, even though the subject was quite delicate (Portugal’s shaky economy and their issuance of new government bonds).
Completely separately, the State Department (equivalent to most country’s Foreign Ministry) announced on January 7 that Victoria Nuland would be traveling to Holland, Germany, Lithuania, France and Romania:
In Bucharest, Romania, from January 10-11, Assistant Secretary Nuland will meet with senior Romanian government officials and members of civil society to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including efforts to strengthen the rule of law.
I have no idea when these dates were decided but the press release went out on January 7, the same day Nuland was arriving in Holland, so clearly the whole trip had to have been organized a bit before that. Since Nuland is the assistant secretary (effectively the #2 person in the State Department) and visiting these countries on official business, it’s inconceivable that the respective countries were not consulted with about this well ahead of time.
Nuland’s trip was uneventful in Holland, Germany and Lithuania but before she ever got to this country, Victor Ponta and his allies began having a mental breakdown.
The first thing that happened was Ponta left the country (apparently on January 9) without alerting the press and no one knew where he was. He arrived back in Romania late Sunday night (January 12) and stated that Basescu and the SRI (domestic intelligence service) knew where he had been the whole time.
The second thing that happened even before Nuland arrived was that Gyorgy Frunda, a former UDMR (Hungarian party) politician but now employed as one of Ponta’s “counselors”, sent Ziare.com an angry letter in which he complained that America treats Romania “like a colony”.
The link has the original Romglish text but my translation of the key parts is below:
“I think they [the Americans] conduct themselves with an air of superiority, like a teacher talking to students. I think that’s understandable as we live in a globalized world and we [in Romania] are part of the strategic defense system [i.e. NATO] but what would happen if we went to America to check on the situation of prisoners on death row? Capital punishment contravenes all of the international conventions. Or what would happen if we went to America to check on the parliament’s [sic] decision in Colorado to legalize marijuana?”
Frunda also added that “Romania is not a colony” and that he refuses to believe that Nuland is coming [to Romania] to conduct an inspection.
“This visit is not as impetuous as it was framed by the press in this country. These kinds of visits are planned ahead of time. There are discussions between the respective Foreign Ministries to work out the dates and the schedule, to set the topics to be discussed. Romania is not a colony and refuses to accept this concept, that they’re coming to inspect Romania’s level or state of human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
There have been some discussion about how America has had some “worries”, but this is incorrectly phrased by the papers, as it’s more about some “concerns” or “questions” about some of the decisions we’ve made.
Again, Frunda confirms that this visit was scheduled ahead of time.
Of course, Romania actually is a colony, which isn’t news (if you want about 10 examples proving Romania’s colonial status, click here). What makes this remarkable is only that Frunda is speaking for Ponta in saying this.
B1TV has some video about Frunda’s statement along with the ludicrous statement that American members of Congress are not “government employees”, yet another stupid way to try to wriggle out of the fact that Ponta’s parliament just voted themselves immune from oversight from anti-corruption prosecutorial bodies. I wrote about this at length, about how Ponta’s government once again is rewriting the laws to protect themselves and their cronies from having to go to jail.
Addressing Frunda’s statement, the United States has no direct equivalent of the ANI or DNA but members of Congress and Senators (equivalent to Romanian members of parliament) and even the president of the United States have all been tried and convicted of corruption and/or abuse of office and removed from office (via a process called “impeachment” in English). Frunda clearly knows this (or maybe he doesn’t as he’s rather stupid) so it’s clearly just more bullshit out of the Ponta regime to try and confuse people.
Nuland finally arrived, meeting with the CSM (the organizing body for Romania’s judges) as well as President Basescu on Friday night (January 10).
A number of key people, both from the judiciary as well as politicians, made their way down to the American embassy to consult with Nuland. And on Saturday morning (January 11), Nuland gave a brief “presser”, speaking in front of the microphones (all of which belonged to Romanian media agencies, I noted, and no foreign or int’l ones) and gave a little speech in English.
The most often quoted part of her presser came in response to a question about Nastase being the “next Tymoshenko”, one of the most ludicrous things I’ve ever heard. Nuland deflected the question and added:
…Just as free media is an essential element of a strong, vibrant democracy that delivers for its citizens, an independent judiciary is essential to a strong, predictable democracy and the checks and balances within government are essential to a strong democracy. So it is concerning when there are attacks on the independence of the judiciary.
It is concerning when politicians of any party decide to challenge the independent underpinnings of the judiciary. So it’s something that we watch in countries around the world. The citizens of Romania have fought hard for the right to have an independent judiciary. You’ve made great strides particularly over the last five years or so in this direction, so I would urge all Romanians, no matter what political party you support, no matter where you live in the country, to fight hard to protect and defend the independence of your judiciary and to keep it out of politics.
Nuland was also asked about Ponta and she deflected the question by saying only that it was “only an accident” that she arrived on a day when he had “other obligations”.
I can tell you that Nuland’s rise to power was way after my time and so I know nothing about her than what’s available as public information. But my understanding is that starting in 2014 she was given the “portfolio” of Europe and Eurasia and her little trip this month was not much more than getting on a plane and meeting the various people she’s going to be working with.
Romania is barely a blip on America’s radar, which is why there isn’t even an ambassador assigned to this country, and Romania is a supremely obedient and loyal ally, so stopping in Bucharest was barely more than a formality for Nuland, giving her an “easy” visit before she’s got to move onto the harder half of her job title, namely Eurasia, translated as Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan and other countries with delicate geopolitical angles.
Nuland didn’t even mention the issue of an independent judiciary or the legal hijinks of parliamentarians writing the law to escape anti-corruption oversight. She only spoke on those topics when asked about them by journalists.
All the fuss and schizophrenic mental meltdown was coming entirely from the Romanian side, including hilariously from Titus Corlatean, the Foreign Minister. Here’s a screenshot from Antena 3 taken on January 12 at 7:30 pm:
He’s on a friendly news channel discussing how he wants to “discourage” people from going to the American embassy to discuss things, referring to how several prominent judges (the leadership of the CSM) and politicians went down to the embassy to discuss privately with Nuland while she was in town.
You should know by now that anything coming out of a Romanian politician’s mouth is pure bullshit as there is hard proof that Titus Corlatean himself has been one of those snitches who run to the American embassy. Thanks to WIkileaks, we have a cable from December 29, 2006 that discusses the PSD (Corlatean’s and Ponta’s party) reaction to Basescu’s denouncement of the Communist dictatorship era of Romania.
Several political parties with lineages linked to the communist regime–including the PRM, PSD, and Conservative Party (led by ex-Securitate agent Dan Voiculescu), denounced the report as a “political” document expressing the point of view of the President and not the views of the Romanian parliament.
During the hour-long presidential address, PRM members orchestrated from the Parliament’s floor by Tudor booed, blew whistles, and shouted catcalls in an attempt to drown out the President’s speech. The PRM’s disruptive tactics appeared to have the tacit support of Senate Speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu (PSD), who declined to call parliament to order or eject the troublemakers.
(note: in a conversation with PolCouns, PSD Secretary General Corlatean reiterated his party’s opposition to the report….
Got it? That’s little Titus himself speaking privately to “PolCouns” or the Counselor for Political Affairs of the American Embassy in 2006, describing how the PSD is vehemently against a report condemning the Communist dictatorship of Ceausescu.
And now Titus has the balls to go on Antena 3 (owned by Voiculescu) in 2014 and criticize anyone who wants to run down to the embassy and have private consultations with the Americans.
But where was Ponta during this whole visit? The rumors started to fly that he was in Austria on holiday with his family. But why was it such a mystery? After all, Basescu went on a nice vacation snowmobiling in the mountains around Brasov just a couple of weeks ago and the press (and public) knew all about it.
I nearly fell out of my seat when I heard Ponta explain on Antena 3 on Sunday night where he had been for the past five days. My translation:
I didn’t meet with Victoria Nuland because I was on a scheduled trip to Italy along with my wife where I met with my counterpart in Rome, Matteo Renzi, because next month will be the meeting of the Party of European Socialists and at this meeting they will nominate and elect a candidate for president of the European Commission.
I cannot even tell you how many lies are packed into this one single sentence, starting with the fact that I coincidentally happened to have taken a screenshot of Rai 24 (Italian gov’t news channel) on January 10, as seen above. The text says that Letta is going to work with Renzi on “building” something (a political consensus).
Italy has its own political crises going on (as it usually does) and Matteo Renzi is one busy man. He’s so busy, in fact, that the poor guy had to work on his own birthday (January 11), spending several hours in meetings as he worked to keep the fragile ruling coalition together.
Without this devolving into a lengthy analysis of Italian politics, Letta is Enrico Letta, the current prime minister of Italy, head of a very shaky coalition, of which Renzi is a key part. Matteo Renzi meanwhile is the mayor of Firenze (Florence) and the head of the PD party, and therefore in no way Ponta’s “counterpart”.
Renzi was in Rome this past week because there’s a huge issue about a new jobs bill and electoral reform and Letta has been complaining about Renzi and so there’s all kinds of consternation and meetings and negotiations.
Renzi doesn’t give a shit about the upcoming Party of European Socialists (PES) meeting precisely because his party isn’t even a member of the damn organization. The Romanian PSD (Ponta’s party) is but not Renzi’s PD party. In fact, after intense debate (and a lot of reluctance), Renzi’s PD party is now affiliated with the S&D party in the European parliament. These two groups (S&D and PES) in the European parliament are similar, but not identical, so click on the links for exhaustive details. Even if Ponta was “innocently” confusing the two, Renzi has little influence over the S&D and indeed the men to talk to would be Martin Schulz of Germany and Hannes Swoboda of Austria (one of Ponta’s only allies outside of Romania).
I’m also quite sure Renzi was in Rome (and not at home in Firenze) due to all the frenetic negotiations going on with the jobs bill and electoral reform bill and not because he wanted to meet with Victor Ponta. And I can’t find a single mention of Renzi being friends with Ponta and therefore perhaps disposed to hang out with him on his (Renzi’s) birthday. It also doesn’t make much sense for Ponta to be traveling with his wife for five days solely to (supposedly) have a quick discussion with Renzi about a party congress that’s more than a month in the future when Renzi is working his ass off to keep his fragile political coalition from falling apart.
And this visit to Italy was “top secret” according to Ponta himself, and of such importance that it could not be altered even when he had plenty of advance warning that Victoria Nuland was coming on an official visit.
Nonetheless Ponta had time to send his official condolences to Israel and express his feelings about what a goshdarn wonderful guy Ariel Sharon was.
Nuland decided to kick off 2014 with an easy trip to visit allies in Europe. Ponta ran for the hills and began spouting a mountain of bullshit about why he was absent. His dog Frunda went off the reservation, openly complaining about Romania’s status as America’s colony. And the idiotic Titus Corlatean wasted his time criticizing others for what he regularly did himself, i.e. running to their American masters at the embassy.
Meanwhile the Romanian press had a field day, the anti-USL media trumpeting Nuland’s visit as proof that America really cares about Romania and is deeply worried about corrupt politicians writing laws to give themselves immunity and the pro-USL channels (in the case of Voiculescu’s media empire) desperately trying to spin the visit as a “positive” sign of just how much America loves her little colony in eastern Europe.
Victoria Nuland then went to France and then returned home where absolutely nobody in Washington gave a shit about what happened in Romania and life continued on as usual.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!
3 thoughts on “Victor Hides While Victoria Gently Chides”
One small correction: the caption under the photo of Ms. Nuland & băsescu should read “I hope the idiots in MY country don’t fuck up our relationship”, because it was băsescu who said “Sper că micile neînţelegeri nu vor afecta relaţiile noastre”
Nice article, Sam! I especially loved the part describing the new lies poured live on the TV by Victor Ponta in an effort to explain why he couldn’t (wouldn’t) meet Victoria Nuland.
Here’s a homework for you, Victoraş: you must write “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” 1,000 times. And don’t use the Ctrl-C & Ctrl-V method you love so much… :D
Wow, this is better than Downton Abby…Years ago…just before the 2000 Summer Olympics there this genius of a comedy, “The Games.” and Australian TV series. I don’t know if it is streaming on the internet, but if it is…every time you write about the Romanian government I am reminded of this comedy