In a hall of the Romanian Diplomatic Institute, more than half of it full with political science students, Mark Taplin, a self-styled “author, blogger and independent scholar” but also “a private citizen,” offered on Monday a beautiful presentation on former American ambassadors to Romania, on the occasion of the 135th year of bilateral diplomatic relations.
Taplin mentioned Eugene Schuyler, the first US diplomatic envoy to Romania, Charles Vopicka, named by President Wilson as US minister, and William Crawford, the first US Ambassador to Romania, who presented his credentials to Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej in an official ceremony at Palatul Victoria on December 24, 1964, an event Taplin talks about with great pride because his father took part in it.
The former US charge d’Affaires to Bucharest between 2005 and 2008 stated that these personalities that marked our common history continue to play “a very powerful role” in the United States on behalf of Bucharest because they have formed a special affinity for Romania, something that he pointed out one does not see very often. “You have several American ambassadors that continue to play a powerful role on behalf of Romania. They are interested in Romania, have that affinity for Romania. Nick Taubman, my former boss, is still very active. I know he was here on several occasions and he is an active advocate in what concerns economic relations, among other things. (…) You have a lot of friends on the American side, including former diplomats that have been here, and that is not always the case for other states, there is something special in this relation,” Mark Taplin stated.
“Romanians living in America have a voice”
Likewise, he pointed out that Romania had and continues to have a series of “very effective” ambassadors in Washington. “You have had a series of very effective ambassadors. There are still a lot of people in Washington and this is not a political comment, but if I mention Mircea Geoana, there is no doubt Mircea was very effective as ambassador. There were also other ambassadors that came after him and others that were there before, who likewise played a significant role. You don’t have a natural advantage like Poland and Czech Republic, of having a large and vocal diaspora, but Romanians living in America have a voice. In certain areas, Ohio for example, they are still vocal and politically active,” Taplin said at the conference in Bucharest.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before the issue that concerns many Romanians was tackled: the long period without an American ambassador in Bucharest after Mark Gitenstein ended his mission on 14 December 2012. Referring to this issue, Mark Taplin admitted that it is indeed “an exceptional period” that nevertheless has nothing to do with the quality of bilateral diplomatic relations, but with what he called a “gridlock” previously unseen in the recent history of the US, a gridlock caused by the fight between the Republicans, who are now in control of Congress, and Democratic Party President Barack Obama.
“We’ve been through a rather exceptional period where a lot of nominees, for the posts of ambassadors, federal judges as well, had been kept on hold much longer than we have ever seen. We never actually had an experience like this, historically speaking,” the American diplomat underscored. “The situation in Romania is not exceptional, it doesn’t have anything to do with our relationship. In fact, it stands in contrast to this close relationship with Romania. It’s an anomaly,” said “private citizen” Taplin.
The cause of this anomaly, Taplin emphasized, is to be found in Washington, not in Bucharest. “Yeah, I understand there is no longer an ambassador here for well over two years, which is unusual but it’s the reflection of a domestic political – some sort of a food fight, a blockage in the United States. I ended up being charge d’Affaires in Paris for nine or ten months for the very same reasons. Will this go on indefinitely? No. Do I think that we’re getting closer to a point where someone will be nominated? I hope so. I think that things are going in the right direction.”
Likewise, the American official emphasized that “there always had been a combination on and on, back and forth, between political ambassadors and career ambassadors. We will not violate the pattern in our diplomatic relations to have a career ambassador rather than a political nominee,” Taplin pointed out, adding that irrespective of the situation the nominee will do “an outstanding job.” He added that most ambassadors to Romania remained in office for at least three years, and he once again mentioned Vopicka who stayed in office seven years.
To the things Mark Taplin stated on this issue, Debra Hevia, political advisor of the US Embassy in Bucharest, diplomatically added that “the White House is working intensely in order to find a suitable candidate that would be a great successor to the other ambassadors.”
Mark Taplin has over three decades of experience as US Foreign Service officer in executive, policy and public diplomacy positions both in Washington and overseas. He was Charge d’Affairs in Paris, between November 2013 and July 2014 after being deputy Chief of Mission in France, Deputy Chief of Mission in Bucharest between December 2005 and August 2008 and Charge d’Affairs in our country between July 2005 and December 2005. Taplin was also Director for Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus and Deputy Director, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy at the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs within the US Department of State. Between 1999 and 2001 he was Counsellor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine.