Biden in Romania; assures former Soviet Republics

(Washington Times/Romania) Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a major foreign policy speech to university students here Thursday reaffirming the Obama administration’s commitment to a durable NATO alliance and rejecting the notion of a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

The speech was in part intended to counter concerns here over recent overtures President Obama has made to Russia, an outreach effort that has been viewed with some suspicion in countries that bore the brunt of Soviet rule.

Aides said Mr. Biden picked Romania for the speech in part because the country suffered so severely under its Communist dictatorship, and yet has seen democracy flourish during the two decades that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain. In fact, the visit coincided with a recent vote of no confidence of the government in Romania’s parliament, forcing Mr. Biden to squeeze in meetings both with the caretaker government and with opposition leaders during his brief visit.

The vice president made reference to the flurry of campaign activity during after a visit with the Romanian President Traian Basescu. Noting the plans for a Romanian election to be held next month, the vice president said he wished American campaigns could be concluded so quickly.

The four-day swing through Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic comes during what administration officials see as a period of transition for NATO. Mr. Biden described the Eastern European members as countries that once needed to lean on the U.S. for both military and economic support, but have matured into “full partners.”