US, Romania sign defense cooperation deal
The U.S. and Romania have signed a 10-year road map for defense cooperation that puts increased focus on security around the Black Sea, a region in Europe where the Pentagon is looking for ways to strengthen its position.
The deal “captures our common strategic goals and interests, such as defense modernization and Black Sea security,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday while joined by Romanian Defense Minister Nicolae Ciuca at the Pentagon.
The road map could help pave the way for a larger U.S. mission in the country. Esper has said he wants to increase the U.S. troop presence in Romania, an emerging hub for NATO on its southern flank.
Romania is prepared to add to pre-positioned weapons stockpiles, hosting exercises and boost modernization efforts, Ciuca said.
The former communist bloc country is one of a handful of NATO members to have met the spending benchmark that calls for allies to dedicate 2% of GDP to defense. Two weeks ago, Romania took delivery of the Patriot surface-to-air missile system.
Romania also is investing in the modernization of Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, “to become a pivotal hub in the Black Sea,” Ciuca said.
“Acquiring modern and relevant capabilities is standing evidence of how seriously Romania understands its security and defense role in the region,” Ciuca said.
NATO’s interest in strengthening its southern flank and the area around the Black Sea comes as Russia has added firepower in the region, including troops and sophisticated air defense systems in Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The U.S. military has invested heavily in Romania in recent years to support expanded troop rotations in places such as Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base and Campia Turzii Air Base.
“We see putting more rotational forces into the Black Sea region, Romania in particular,” Esper said in August.