Trump gets it right in Bulgaria

President Trump is criticized for many things, but his choice of a U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria should not be among them.  He got that right, and he deserves credit for it.

The new ambassador to Bulgaria, Herro Mustafa, speaks nine languages, and that is massively impressive.  She is currently learning Bulgarian, which will be her tenth language.  How many U.S. officials like that do you know?

Mustafa grew up in North Dakota with an intellectual role model in her father, an investigative reporter, so in Bulgaria, she wishes to champion media freedom, and for a reason.  For that, she has met local Bulgarian support and is already making friends.

The ambassador's background and experience in Middle Eastern politics — acquired while she served in the Office of the Vice President, the Afghanistan Office, and the Office of the Under-Secretary for Political Affairs and at the National Security Council, in addition to her diplomatic postings to Iraq, Greece, and Lebanon — prepare her for her role in Bulgaria, which is somewhat special when it comes to Middle Eastern politics.

Bulgaria is not actively diplomatically involved in conflict resolution but nevertheless is strategically positioned as the E.U. external border country that is closest to the Middle East.  The return of some ISIS fighters with E.U. passports from Middle East terrorism hotbeds will necessarily pass through Bulgaria as a gateway to the E.U.  President Trump has been adamant that European nations with ISIS fighters need to take responsibility for them.  What happens to ISIS fighters when they enter the E.U. for the first time — possibly in Bulgaria — is a key question.  In this sense, Bulgaria's function and the role of the U.S. ambassador will be key.

This was my first thought when I saw Ambassador Mustafa's experience.  It seems that President Trump appreciated Bulgaria's strategic role when appointing Mustafa.

Of course, apart from hot-button issues, there is a lot to be said about energy security and cooperation between the U.S. and Bulgaria.  Judging from her first meetings here, energy security will be a priority area for the ambassador.

The U.S. Embassy in Sofia has been traditionally involved in the area of cultural and educational exchange.  That is something appreciated by many local Bulgarians, who have benefited from language and related programs.

It remains to be seen what Ambassador Mustafa's long-term contribution will be to U.S.-Bulgarian relations.  She and her family with two young children are still settling in.

From first impressions, though, it seems that Donald Trump made the right decision.

Iveta Cherneva is an author in the fields of security and human rights who previously served for five U.N. agencies and in the U.S. Congress.  Her recent commentaries have appeared in Euronews, the New York Times, the Guardian, the London School of Economics, the Fletcher Forum, Euractiv, the EU Reporter, and others.  Iveta is also an alumna of the University of California.

President Trump is criticized for many things, but his choice of a U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria should not be among them.  He got that right, and he deserves credit for it.

The new ambassador to Bulgaria, Herro Mustafa, speaks nine languages, and that is massively impressive.  She is currently learning Bulgarian, which will be her tenth language.  How many U.S. officials like that do you know?

Mustafa grew up in North Dakota with an intellectual role model in her father, an investigative reporter, so in Bulgaria, she wishes to champion media freedom, and for a reason.  For that, she has met local Bulgarian support and is already making friends.

The ambassador's background and experience in Middle Eastern politics — acquired while she served in the Office of the Vice President, the Afghanistan Office, and the Office of the Under-Secretary for Political Affairs and at the National Security Council, in addition to her diplomatic postings to Iraq, Greece, and Lebanon — prepare her for her role in Bulgaria, which is somewhat special when it comes to Middle Eastern politics.

Bulgaria is not actively diplomatically involved in conflict resolution but nevertheless is strategically positioned as the E.U. external border country that is closest to the Middle East.  The return of some ISIS fighters with E.U. passports from Middle East terrorism hotbeds will necessarily pass through Bulgaria as a gateway to the E.U.  President Trump has been adamant that European nations with ISIS fighters need to take responsibility for them.  What happens to ISIS fighters when they enter the E.U. for the first time — possibly in Bulgaria — is a key question.  In this sense, Bulgaria's function and the role of the U.S. ambassador will be key.

This was my first thought when I saw Ambassador Mustafa's experience.  It seems that President Trump appreciated Bulgaria's strategic role when appointing Mustafa.

Of course, apart from hot-button issues, there is a lot to be said about energy security and cooperation between the U.S. and Bulgaria.  Judging from her first meetings here, energy security will be a priority area for the ambassador.

The U.S. Embassy in Sofia has been traditionally involved in the area of cultural and educational exchange.  That is something appreciated by many local Bulgarians, who have benefited from language and related programs.

It remains to be seen what Ambassador Mustafa's long-term contribution will be to U.S.-Bulgarian relations.  She and her family with two young children are still settling in.

From first impressions, though, it seems that Donald Trump made the right decision.

Iveta Cherneva is an author in the fields of security and human rights who previously served for five U.N. agencies and in the U.S. Congress.  Her recent commentaries have appeared in Euronews, the New York Times, the Guardian, the London School of Economics, the Fletcher Forum, Euractiv, the EU Reporter, and others.  Iveta is also an alumna of the University of California.