So Blinken doesn't come as a Pope to absolve the sins of the Rama-McGonigal affair

So Blinken doesn't come as a Pope to absolve the sins of the Rama-McGonigal affair

By Andi Bejtja - 14/02/2024

The prominent photo of Secretary Blinken at the University of Tirana, reminiscent of the Pope's visit to Albania, is undoubtedly cherished by Edi Rama and his administration. Rama and his cohorts view the Secretary of State as akin to the Pope, not merely to acknowledge the sins Blinken readily identifies in the latest State Department report—where corruption, illicit funds, media manipulation, and vote-buying are glaringly exposed—but also to absolve these sins described in the report. They seek Blinken's intervention to cleanse the stain of corrupting senior FBI official McGonigal, a scandal that tarnished America more than Albania, contributing to the strengthening of the oligarchy and entrenching autocracy.

I'm not naive enough to believe that, for the first time, a high-ranking American official, when dealing with a small country like Albania amidst the tumultuous times not only for our region but for the entire world, would prioritize DEMOCRACY over STABILITY. Nonetheless, certain actions and contrarian "Made in USA" advice could make a Secretary of State's visit less akin to a lobbied Pope's visit, aimed at absolving the sins of corrupt autocrats.

For instance, it would please me greatly if, on the plane bound for Albania, one of his subordinates would take just 30 seconds to read a portion of another Secretary of State's speech, delivered serendipitously a decade ago in February. Here's what John Kerry had to say in that historic, not merely diplomatic, speech delivered at the onset of the Ukraine crisis: "Recurring aspirations are transforming from corruption, from the interests of oligarchs, into the ability to employ money to suffocate political decisions, to purchase politics and media, and to weaken the independence of the judiciary and civil society."

Unfortunately, after a decade, such phenomena have only intensified in the region and Albania. For quite some time, American policy in this region has involved bribing the government in exchange for certain mujahedins or Afghans, leading to corruption scandals like Tirana's incinerator that have brought us perilously close to where Americans fear most: uncovering traces of Russian and Iranian funds.

I would be doubly happy if, even for just a few seconds while dozing off on the plane, Secretary Blinken were to recall President Biden's Doctrine of "Democracy versus Autocracy," a doctrine formalized during the two Democracy Summits held in 2021 and 2022 in Washington.

"I would be thrice happy if, even for just 15 seconds, one of the subordinates, also on the plane—perhaps after the flight attendant handed the damp paper to Secretary Blinken following the meal—were to reiterate another statement from another high American official, made a few years ago, for Secretary Blinken to especially consider when meeting either Rama or Dumani. Here's what Jonathan More explicitly stated: 'Fighting corruption does not mean that those in power today should merely complain about those who held power before. It shouldn't devolve into simply blaming the ancestors.'

"I would be four times happy, very happy, if someone would remind Secretary Blinken before he landed on Albanian soil of what I also discussed with President Bush during my interview with him at the White House in 2007, where he conveyed two significant pieces of news: Independent Kosovo and Albania's NATO accession. 'Finding a pro-American government in this region is easy, but finding pro-American peoples is not so straightforward,' he said. Keep calm, Secretary Blinken, because this opposition is just as servile and vassal to you, ensuring not only the removal of mujahedins and Afghans but also the mitigation of danger, including chemical weapons should they be proposed again. Exercise caution, show kindness to the Albanians, respect democratic principles, maintain balance, because it wouldn't be surprising if even Albanians were to lose their blind love for America, ending up with the same mixed feelings toward you as the Greeks, Macedonians, or even worse, the Serbs."

And finally, dear Secretary Blinken, to be honest, I am five times happy that, unlike all other cases of Non-grata in the world and the region, where the motive for Non-grata status is explicitly stated, you declared former Prime Minister Berisha Non-grata without any evidence or facts, thereby bestowing great honor upon Albanian democracy. Without this action, today we would have almost no bastion of democracy and opposition resistance. We would have far fewer denunciations of this kleptocratic regime, and we might even witness a coalition government spanning from left to right, benefiting only a handful of politicians and oligarchs, as warned by former Secretary of State John Kerry a decade ago in February.







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