As Albania prepares for the visit of President Bush, the same kind of speculations are in the air. So far I have come across three. (These have been reported to me second-hand, so I can't be sure how accurately they have been reported to me, nor how many people believe any of them.)
Theory 1 - Kosovo. According to this one the US government is about to reach a deal with the Russians over the status of Kosovo that will fall some way short of independence. President Bush is in town, the theory goes, to sweet talk the Albanian leadership into going along with the deal.Theory 2 - Guantanamo. The US wants to close Guantanamo but won't send many of the remaining prisoners back to their home countries. Since Albania has already taken some Guantanamo inmates, the President is here to offer the Albanian government incentives to take many more.Theory 3 - Missile Shield. The US wants to build a defensive missile shield to protect against the
threat from 'rogue' states. The President is coming to Albania to persuade the government to allow the US to build part of this system in Albanian territory.This kind of speculation is great fun, but sometimes - as Freud probably didn't say - a cigar is just a cigar.Why is President Bush visiting? Well, Albania has contributed military personnel on a regular basis to Afghanistan, and it is no secret that Albania has accepted prisoners from Guantanamo when no other country would. So it makes sense for the President, since he is in Europe anyway, to call by and express his appreciation. It's called diplomacy.It is also no secret that the US is an enthusiastic supporter of Albanian (and Macedonian and Croatian) membership of NATO. The President only recently signed the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act affirming that support and enabling financial assistance to the countries identified as they prepare for membership. A personal visit from the President gives an opportunity to offer the US government's support and encouragement at the highest level.Not as entertaining, granted, but it might just be that simple.
If Tony Blair turn up at some point, though, I will be more than prepared to entertain the most outlandish conspiracy theories any of you can come up with regarding my esteemed (soon to be ex-) Prime Minister.