A new Serbia — committed to strong ties with the U.S.

In October 2000, I stood among a massive crowd of my countrymen who had taken to the streets to peacefully overthrow the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. After democracy was restored to my homeland, I traveled to the United States to study, and have lived here for over a decade.

Last month I proudly assumed the role of Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia to the United States. During my years in America before joining the Serbian Foreign Service I became closely familiar with the values Americans hold dear. I quickly realized that they are the same values that 10 years ago inspired a generation of Serbian democrats to take their country back from the clutches of tyranny.

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Today, I represent a new Serbia. A consolidated democracy, committed to the rule of law and free markets, focused on economic prosperity and reclaiming its place as a regional anchor of peace and stability. My president and the government in Belgrade were elected on a platform that concentrated on diplomatic engagement, respect for international law, and working to rapidly accede to the European Union — our central strategic priority.

As our country moves forward, there remain diplomatic differences that must be resolved — specifically, the Feb. 17, 2008 unilateral declaration of independence of our southern province of Kosovo. Like any sovereign state, Serbia cannot allow a group of separatists to attempt to tear our country apart. Still, we have consistently stated that we will not allow our disagreement with Kosovo’s secessionists to be transformed into armed conflict.

Last October, in an unprecedented move, Serbia took its case to the International Court of Justice. We await its ruling, expected sometime in 2010. This is the first time in history that such a complex dispute will be decided in a courtroom, not a battlefield.

Though Serbia and the U.S. may disagree on the specific question of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, as we have seen through the strong support my country enjoys in Congress by means of the bi-partisan Serbian Caucus, our two nations have a great deal in common that should not be overshadowed by the Kosovo issue.

In his 2004 address to the Democratic National Convention, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said that America should not divide itself along political lines, red states and blue states. Similarly we in Serbia believe that countries must act together within the framework of a worldwide community of nations, not define ourselves as Eastern states or Western states.

Every day of my tenure in Washington will be spent building upon the values that have come to define America and Serbia. I look forward to working with the American people and their representatives in Washington to bring our two countries closer together.

Washington, D.C.


Don’t waste $1 trillion on Joint Strike Fighter


From Stephen Spitz, Progressive
Democrats of Virginia


(Regarding article “Fighter’s path could get bumpy as foreign partners face pressures,” June 5.) If foreign governments are abandoning the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program then America should quickly follow suit. With our economy still in turmoil and 50 million Americans without health insurance this is no time to spend $1 trillion on a fighter jet that simply doesn’t work.

Plagued by delays, cost overruns, engine problems, electrical failures and design errors, the JSF’s projected lifecycle cost has more than doubled to $1 trillion — all for a plane we do not need. With our budget still strained by the multiple failures of the last administration, we can hardly afford to buy 28 new F-35s before the plane is even done.

The F-35 is now estimated to cost just about as much as plans for providing every American with quality healthcare. In a time when Americans are one serious illness away from bankruptcy does it make sense to spend more than a trillion on a fighter plane that doesn’t work and isn’t relevant to today’s national security threats?

Cut the F-35. Provide quality healthcare for every American.

Falls Church, Va.