As a former international trader who conducted more than $1 billion in business in Romania during the 1990s, I found Robert Kaiser's Oct. 21 news article on that country's candidacy for NATO membership to be unbalanced and negative.

Romania just experienced its third year of economic growth. Further, this past summer, Standard & Poor's upgraded Romania's ratings for the second time in less than a year. Romania's core GDP contributors -- steel, automotive, chemical, textile, furniture and other manufacturing industries, tourism facilities, as well as a significant part of the banking and telecom sector -- have been privatized, and oil, gas, electricity and general pubic utility sectors are to be privatized in the next few years. The private sector accounts for 65 percent of the country's GDP.

Mr. Kaiser offered accounts of dishonest business practices -- an unfortunate but seemingly common problem in most of the former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe -- but authorities in Romania are addressing this issue.

Romania understands that NATO is not a "one-stop cure" for its economic and political troubles. In fact, during Romania's previous bid for NATO membership, I questioned the country's democratic stability. Romania's democracy, however, has grown strong roots since 1989 as evidenced by three uncontested and successfully executed free elections. Romania's large free press will continue to serve as insurance for further democratic growth. Moreover, strong young leaders such as Mircea Geoana, the current foreign minister and former ambassador to the United States, ensure that Romania will remain committed to democracy.

I am pleased that the United States, the president and our NATO allies are giving strong consideration to expanding the alliance to Romania.

DOUGLAS COMBS

Special Assistant

Office of the Secretary of the Navy

Washington