*Disclaimer: all comments made to us at NATO were made off the record, and are not official statements*
After a long lunch and a trip to the gift shop, we continued our visit to NATO with a briefing from Geta Medeleanu, a member of the Romanian Delegation to NATO. Mrs. Medeleanu has only been a part of the Romanian Delegation for one year, as a counselor in the political section of the delegation, but spent 18 previous years in the Romanian Diplomatic Service.
The primary focus of our briefing was the impressive strength and duration of the relationship between Romania and the U.S (145 years!). Mrs. Medeleanu reiterated a fact made to us earlier by Dr. Markley, that Romanians have a very positive view of the U.S., even if they aren’t the biggest fans of Donald Trump. She also elaborated on the extent to which the Romania-U.S. relationship goes by describing the “Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century Between the United States of America and Romania”. This partnership includes measures for ballistic missile defense where the U.S. assists in protecting Romania’s eastern border, promotion of economic cooperation through trade and investment between Romanian and American companies, and even educational connections through scholarships and student exchanges.
As for Romania’s role on NATO, Mrs. Medeleanu described Romania as punching above its size, meaning Romania contributes significantly more to NATO than people would expect. Romania is a contributor to several ongoing NATO missions including Afghanistan (of which Romania also contributes additional support to the U.S. effort in Afghanistan outside of NATO), preserving stability in Kosovo, improving cybersecurity in Ukraine, and supporting one of their neighbor countries, Moldova. Romania is also an advocate for Georgia’s membership to NATO, and has an expert on the team helping to support this goal in Georgia, as well as being one of pilot states for the #WeareNATO campaign. In terms of the controversy of President Trump’s statements on the burden sharing of NATO members and the 2% defense spending threshold, Mrs. Medeleanu assured us that Romania was one of the few countries who met the 2% threshold. This, I later discovered could be false, given Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said in his press conference with President Trump in Washington D.C. that he was committing Romania to increasing their defense spending from 1.4% to 2% by the end of the year.
As we came to the end of our time with Mrs. Medeleanu, she described to us the fun tradition of the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest’s 4th of July parties, of which the theme this year was baseball. I think I can speak for my fellow students in saying that this celebration of U.S. Independence Day by Romanian citizens was an interesting and authentic view of the deep relationship between the two nations.
Our next and last speaker of the day was Commander Don Dasher, a Georgia Tech alum (go jackets!). Commander Dasher started in the Navy using his prestigious civil engineering degree from Tech before coming to NATO and becoming involved in the more international affairs related side of the military.
Our briefing started in a different style from the ones previous with more of a quiz on our NATO knowledge, instead of having it lectured to us for the millionth time. We hopefully impressed him by knowing when and why NATO started (1949, to combat Soviet expansionism), how many members there are (12 in 1949, 29 now – 2 North American and the rest European), the article from which the NATO members derive the right to create the organization (Article 51 of the UN Charter), and the most well-known article of the two-and-a-half-page NATO treaty (Article 5, collective defense).
The next phase of our discussion was more question and answers based, about topics we didn’t know as much about. One of the topics I found most interesting, was about the functioning of NATO meetings in several different languages. NATO has two official languages, English and French, but people can still use their native languages to speak, which requires dozens of interpreters and translators. The translation process can sometimes make the negotiation process difficult because the same words or phrases can’t always be translated into different languages. Commander Dasher gave us the example of the U.S. saying at English that they want to walk, but perhaps there isn’t a word for “walk” in another language, so the French, for instance, hear “run” and start reacting because that’s way too fast. So then, the U.S. has to communicate to the French that they want to do as clearly as they can, so both sides understand the process, method, or whatever is being discussed. Commander Dasher said himself that this wasn’t the best analogy, but I think we all understood the underlying concept.
After this briefing, our long day at NATO (and separation from our cell phones) was over. Overall, our briefings today gave us interesting insights into the role and functioning or NATO through several different personal perspectives. I believe that we all left with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, even though they took our phones.