By Alina L Romanowski
US Ambassador to Kuwait
Ramadan Kareem! Just about 100 days ago, I arrived in Kuwait as the US ambassador, eager to begin our next chapter in the long partnership between our countries. My most memorable moment from those first days was when I presented my credentials to His Highness the Amir. While we discussed many issues, our conversation focused on the strength of the enduring relationship between the United States and Kuwait and how we will work together to build a better future.
Only four weeks later, COVID-19 was changing everything. We have all felt its profound impact on our daily lives. With many airports and government offices closed, it affects diplomatic engagements, official visits and large gatherings.
It pushes us to employ technology in innovative ways: Virtual roundtables and webinars have become the norm. While we continue to engage frequently and work closely together, I think we all yearn to return to the time when we could meet in person and socialize with our friends and family. For me, the crisis means that I have not been able to experience fully Kuwait’s renowned tradition of diwaniyas or see my husband and sons other than virtually since February.
While the safety of American citizens is always my top priority, COVID-19 changed the face of our security. Americans and Kuwaitis are working together to protect each other from both the mental and physical challenges of this invisible enemy. We worked to provide the 12,000 Kuwaiti students in the United States with information they needed about visa issues. We worked with Kuwait to organize repatriation flights to allow over 500 Americans in Kuwait to return home safely to their families. We also helped support Kuwait’s largest repatriation effort in history.
COVID-19 has highlighted the significance of global health security and how important open, transparent information sharing is to our global community. It is important to me to be sure that the US Embassy is a credible source for facts about the virus and we continue to work to counter misinformation when we see it.
We are all grateful for the daily announcements from Kuwait’s most senior government officials, which have kept all of us well informed of the government’s actions to combat the virus. Access to accurate and timely information, a free press, and free speech is even more important to the safety and well-being of people in times of crisis.
The United States and Kuwait have both contributed significantly in humanitarian and health assistance, with the United States giving more than $775 million around the world to combat COVID-19. Just like Kuwaitis, Americans are also helping people around the world through the generosity of private individuals and businesses, nonprofit groups, and charitable and faith-based organizations. They have given more than $3 billion in donations and assistance, in addition to what the US Government has provided.
Since my arrival, my respect and appreciation for Kuwait has only grown. I’m humbled by the dedication and selflessness of healthcare professionals and security officials working tirelessly; by Kuwaiti businesses that have stepped up to ensure access to food, goods, and services; and by the Kuwait government’s humanitarian contribution of $100 million to fight the global spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 will define this time in our lives and will leave an enduring mark on our history. However, it is up to us to define the next stage. At a safe time, soon we all hope, we will move forward with the fourth US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, an essential framework for our countries to build even stronger foundations for a better future.
This pandemic has opened new opportunities for cooperation in education, healthcare, community preparedness, e-learning and doing business virtually. Our shared security interests will always be a priority, as well. Working with Kuwait’s airport authority, US and Kuwaiti officials are raising airport security to the highest standards. We will continue to collaborate on customs and immigration procedures to improve the security of Kuwait’s borders from terrorist financing and attacks.
We will continue to deepen and broaden our cooperation on regional and bilateral issues, particularly with regards to Iran’s malign influence and its proxies. We will help to end regional conflicts and preserve the security of the Gulf. Together, the United States and Kuwait will continue to encourage positive steps between all parties in the GCC.
The state of our economies is a primary concern as we consider reopening our businesses and getting back to work. The United States and Kuwait have a trade volume of nearly $5 billion, and I am working closely with the American Chamber in Kuwait to ensure the American business community remains active here.
One need only look at the active diplomatic activity between the United States and Kuwait that helped OPEC reach an historic energy agreement to keep global energy markets stable and diminish the economic impact of COVID-19.
My first 100 days has proven that diplomacy never stops. As I now turn to the next 100 days and we begin to return to our new normal, I am confident that together we will build a better, stronger future. I am proud to represent the United States and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible. Most importantly, I look forward to getting back to visiting diwaniyas and the in-person diplomacy that brings our countries and our peoples closer together.