By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: US Ambassador to Kuwait Alina L Romanowski will soon head to Baghdad after she was nominated as ambassador to Iraq by US President Joe Biden. “Kuwait is a very important strategic ally to us, but Iraq is not too far away. I was nominated by the president because I can bring a lot of experience from this region, with 40 years of experience in various government agencies at different capacities,” she said.
“I bring with me a lot of experience in defense and security and in the world of foreign policy. I am clear and consistent in promoting American interests and building and expanding broader relationships in this region,” she said. “It’s an exciting opportunity and an honor, and I am looking forward to the new assignment,” she said.
Romanowski assumed her post as US ambassador to Kuwait on Feb 11, 2020. A career member of the senior executive service, Romanowski was sworn in as the US Ambassador to Kuwait on Jan 6, 2020. Prior to her appointment, she served as the US Department of State’s principal deputy coordinator for counterterrorism (2016-20). During almost 40 years of service across various US government agencies, Romanowski has become an expert on Middle East affairs. She began her US government career as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (1980-90).
In a roundtable discussion with the local press at the US Embassy on Thursday, Romanowski reminisced on bilateral relations with Kuwait. “It’s remarkable when you look back over the last 31 years, when we are celebrating liberation and 60 years of diplomatic relations. We see how wide, broad and deep our ties really are. Our relationship started with healthcare, when our doctors came to Kuwait in the late 1700s. Kuwait has become a very important strategic partner to us,” she said.
Romanowski mentioned the fifth strategic dialogue which culminated on Jan 26, 2022 with a meeting between Foreign Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. “We talk with Kuwait not just on bilateral issues. We talk and work together on the UN, GCC, Arab League, OIC and other global issues, healthcare and security situations across the world. We may not agree on all issues, but that is not the point. We talk about every issue, from human rights and women’s rights to democracy issues and healthcare,” she said.
“I just met with the new minister of health and we talked about how we can deepen our relationship. We also discussed a recent MoU that we signed. We also touched on the issue of Ukraine,” Romanowski said. The envoy underlined how proud her country is to host around 10,000 Kuwaiti students, who are now honing their skills, expertise and talents in almost all areas of discipline. Now that restrictions are easing, Romanowski expects more people-to-people connections, especially in business, trade, opportunities for Kuwaitis to visit the US for investments, and likewise for Americans to come to Kuwait.
As a female ambassador from the US, Romanowski expects at least 50 percent of women in the world can participate in nation-building in various capacities. “Kuwaiti women have won in parliament and some were appointed in cabinets. Kuwaiti women have evolved; women got elected; they are being elected; but there are more women’s rights empowerment issues being tackled and Kuwaiti women are very active in handling these issues,” she said.
On the issue of Ukraine, Romanowski said the US has worked very hard since it started to recognize the Russian movements of troops on the border with Belarus. “We made it very clear that we do not want to see Russia invade Ukraine. President Biden has mobilized the EU and others, and engaged Russia to try to find a diplomatic solution and deescalate the situation. Finding a diplomatic solution is still our number one priority. The president is much more in favor of peace, but it’s a very delicate situation now,” she admitted.
Romanowski said one of the prime objectives in the US is for Iran to not acquire any nuclear weapons. “With the Biden administration, there have been discussions going on now in Vienna whether or not the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will be a possibility. We are in a very delicate time now in this negotiation at the moment. I am not in a position to say a lot about it, but a very detailed conversation has been going on in this regard. Iran in our view is promoting very destabilizing activities in the region, which doesn’t help the security of the region; the support they are giving to non-state actors is a real problem in terms of stability,” Romanowski said.
“We are consulting our partners and allies in the region, and also with the EU. We see that time is running out in terms of finding a solution and our ways to go back to the JCPOA. We have the Iranians as partners too, but at the end of the day, our objective is for us not to see Iran acquiring the capability to further destabilize the region,” she pointed out.
With regards to Houthi attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the US envoy said her country has been trying to find a solution to the problem. “President Biden has appointed a special envoy for Yemen to try to work on a possible solution. The humanitarian situation in Yemen is getting worse. Our efforts are focused on assisting people in Yemen on humanitarian grounds, but at the same time in the UAE we are giving support on the defense side,” she noted.