Politics & Policy

Welcome, President Basescu!

Keeping Romania in mind.

President Bush’s doctrine of freedom is changing the world. Eight million Iraqis voted on January 30 in defiance of the terrorists. Post-Arafat, the Palestinians seem to be in a new stage in their history, hopefully moving forward on a roadmap to eventual coexistence with Israel. Egypt announced its first multiparty elections. The Orange Revolution set free Ukrainians. And Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government just collapsed amid mass protests demanding national liberation. Freedom is on the march everywhere, as never before.

This week, the newly elected president of my native Romania, Traian Basescu, will stride into Washington as the head of a country that–for the first time in 60 years–has a government without any Communists in it. There, he intends to announce a significant Romanian first: the creation of a Bucharest-London-Washington axis.

President Basescu is not a professional politician, and until now he has never been the president of anything. But he is a sea captain, used to sailing through international waters, and he knows how to pilot his ship safely from port to port even in rough waters. He has been on a crusade against the crypto-Communists who have ransacked and impoverished Romania, and now he can use all the help he can get.

First of all, he needs support for eradicating the widespread corruption that is discrediting the very meaning of the word capitalism in the eyes of many Romanians. An ill-conceived privatization enabled a small clique of predatory insiders, most of whom are my former subordinates in the Communist espionage service, to plunder Romania’s most valuable assets. This government-sponsored robbery generated a mafia-style economic system that has penetrated every corner of the country and threatens the country’s stability.

Most of the stolen money is known to have been stashed away here in the United States, and the U.S. government is in a position to help the new Romanian president document the theft and oust the thieves from political life. The last two U.S. ambassadors to Romania, Michael Guest and Jack Dyer Crouch II, promised such help. It is now time for the U.S. to deliver it.

During the past 15 years, Romania has been greatly transformed. Nevertheless, President Basescu still has to demolish quite a few barriers that the Communists built up between his country and the rest of the world. Romania’s two-faced policy toward the United States is one of them. The Communists hated America and became experts at deceiving it. While publicly pretending to support Washington’s war on terrorism, Ceausescu paid $1 million to the infamous Carlos the Jackal to blow up Radio Free Europe’s headquarters in Munich (1981) and to assassinate Romanian émigrés on American soil.

This Communist duplicity continued through 2004. While Ion Ilich Iliescu (a former Politburo member who was the first, second, and fourth president of post-Communist Romania) was loudly proclaiming loyalty toward NATO, he signed a secret treaty with Moscow (April 5, 1991) stating that in the future Romania would not belong to any military alliance “detrimental to the Soviet Union.” In 1999, Iliescu published a strongly pro-American article in the Washington Post, but at the same time he promoted as governmental adviser for foreign policy one of my former subordinates in Ceausescu’s espionage service and a ferocious anti-American, who until 1989 had been deputy head of that service’s department charged with carrying out terrorist operations against Radio Free Europe.

Romania is also the only former Soviet bloc country whose government still labels as “traitors” the former Communist officers who helped the U.S. to dismantle the Soviet empire. My former subordinate Ion Stana, who is now an American citizen, in February 2004 asked the Romanian justice system to cancel his Communist-era sentence issued for his having aided the American government. Two months later, he received a written reply stating that the sentence was “correct and legal,” and that he was still considered “guilty” of betraying his country.

In other words, the Communist concept that the U.S. is the “main enemy” still forms the basis of that country’s legal system, even though Romania is now seated at NATO’s table.

Last week, a newspaper in Bucharest, Jurnalu National, published a list of 25 Western citizens of Romanian origin who are still sentenced to death in Romania for cooperating with the U.S. during the Cold War. Adrian Nastase, a post-Communism prime minister of Romania, once explained his government’s rationale to the co-editor of an émigré magazine in New York: “Six thousand Securitate officers [Communist Romania’s political police] suffered because of these traitors.”

All other former Soviet satellites in Europe have rehabilitated such people long ago. Former Polish colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, who during the Cold War years provided the U. S. government over 30,000 top-secret documents on the military forces of the Soviet bloc, was decorated by the post-Communism Polish government and declared an honorary citizen of his native town–Krakow. Even Boris Yeltsin saw the light. He became Russia’s president on Christmas Day of 1991, and the next day he started rehabilitating the “prisoners of conscience,” as he called the Soviet citizens sentenced by the Communists for cooperating with the United States and other NATO countries. On February 11, 1992, Yeltsin rehabilitated his last “prisoner of conscience,” Boris Yutsin, a former KGB officer sent to the United States under journalist cover.

Madeleine Albright used to say that only people with cojones could change history. It seems that President Traian Basescu is one of them. Let’s help him bring Romania over to our side in deeds, not only in words. My native country badly needs a breath of fresh air.

Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former two-star general, is the highest-ranking intelligence officer to have defected from the Soviet bloc. His book Red Horizons has been republished in 27 countries. His two death sentences were canceled only a few months ago.


The Latest