Skip to comments.A Small Invasion - Romania opens four bases to U.S. troops
Posted on 12/12/2005 7:28:13 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
BUCHAREST, Romania | It took them more than 60 years but better late than never! This is how 82-year-old Dimitrie Balus greeted the news that the United States would soon station troops permanently in Romania.
The Transylvanian villager is one of the many Romanians who after World War II hoped for American troops to come and liberate their country from Russian occupation.
Sixteen years after the collapse of the Soviet bloc and three years after former Warsaw Pact member Romania joined NATO, its official: the Americans are coming.
NO MORE COLD WAR
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu signed an agreement on 6 December in Bucharest that grants U.S. troops access to some of Romanias military facilities.
This marks the first time that the U.S. is permanently stationing troops in a former Warsaw Pact country.
Rice greeted the agreement as historical and said Romania was "a strong friend with whom we share common values." Rice said Washington had chosen the country to host American troops because of the very close military ties between the two countries as well as Romania's strategic geographical position.
President Traian Basescu said the agreement gives Romania political credibility, confirms the fact that the Romanian army has arrived at a level that gives it the status of a partner to the U.S. armed force, and will transform our country into a regional pillar of stability.
The agreement will most probably become effective in 2007, when the first U.S. soldiers will arrive. The expected number of U.S. personnel has not been revealed, but experts said there would be at least 500 troops permanently stationed in Romania.
If some Romanians were expecting that the arrival of U.S. troops would mean a big boost for the economy, as in Germany where huge U.S. bases employ thousands of locals, they received a cold shower when U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the bases were forward operating sites rather than the large bases like those Washington built in Western Europe during the Cold War.
A statement by the Romanian Defense Ministry also stated that the agreement simply gives U.S. personnel access to bases operated by Romanian troops under Romanian command.
The ministry said the bases will also be used for joint military exercises of NATO and Partnership for Peace members.
Some sources inside the ministry said this formula might be just semantics in order to avoid the negative attitude some countries in the region might have towards the Americans moving east.
WAKING THE SLEEPING GIANT
If that was the intention, it didnt work at least not with Russia, the likely addressee of this semantic tinkering.
If Moscow noticed that some signatories to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty were ignoring its provisions, "we will draw certain conclusions," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in response to the agreement.
He stressed that Russia had been informed by Washington about the plans, but didn't know how many U.S. troops would be stationed in Romania or how many bases would host them. He said Moscow would probably make a statement when those aspects were clarified, according to news reports.
In Bucharest, this reaction was seen as typical. Dan Stanca wrote in his column in the daily Romania libera, Whoever imagined that Russia had lost its reflexes from the time when it was suffocating the desire for freedom of the countries under its thumb was wrong.
And Traian Ungureanu, a senior editor of the daily Cotidianul, wrote: Russia has noticed a serious failure. Its strategic arrangements in the region are falling to pieces. The network of economic, political, and moral pressures supported by its military presence on Europes eastern border is crumbling.
Military analyst Radu Tudor, quoted by Hotnews.ro, thinks that Moscow is trying to find reasons not to comply with the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement and keep troops in areas of frozen conflicts such as Transdniester, Abkhazia, or South Ossetia.
But the new U.S. ambassador in Bucharest, Nicholas Taubman, was more conciliatory in his comments. Russia should not be worried about Romania opening its military facilities to U.S. troops, as Moscow is Washingtons ally in the war against terrorism, he told journalists.
From a geopolitical viewpoint, however, the Russians have good reason for concern. Three of the four facilities U.S. troops will have access to are situated very close to the Black Sea or the former border of the Soviet Union.
The Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase is located just a few kilometers from Constanta, Romanias second city and the most important port on the western shore of the Black Sea. The facility has recently been in the spotlight following accusations that the CIA was holding secret detainees there, a charge the Romanian authorities reject.
Two of the facilities, the Babadag and Smardan training grounds, lie near the country's borders with Ukraine and Moldova and only 150 to 200 air kilometers to the self-proclaimed Transdniester Republic, where several thousand Russian troops are still stationed.
Only the largest of the training fields selected by Washington, Cincu, is more comfortably located from Moscows point of view - across the Carpathians in southern Transylvania.
RISKS AND BENEFITS
It wasnt just the Russian reaction that made many Romanians uncomfortable, despite widespread pro-American feelings. We must not forget that this move makes us more visible on the map of potential terrorist targets, political analyst Ion Cristoiu said on a television talk show.
President Basescu contradicted this assessment: The agreement doesnt imply a bigger risk, but a bigger involvement in the global security system. The risk potential was unlocked when Romania became an ally in the fight against terrorism a few years ago.
A more tangible fear concerns Romanias chances of entering the European Union in January 2007. A safeguard clause in the accession treaty allows the EU to delay entry by one year if Romania doesnt meet certain requirements, and some Romanians fear that France and Germany might take a tougher stance on those requirements in retaliation for Romanias offer to host U.S. troops.
A senior Romanian officer told TOL that the Germans might also be angered by the closure of U.S. bases there. Most of the troops to be stationed in Romania will come from U.S. facilities in Germany, which sustain the economy of entire towns.
Others see the issue in brighter colors. Political analyst Stelian Tanase told TOL, There is indeed a low risk of terrorist attacks, but the Americans would be those targeted. On the other hand, the agreement is proof that Romania is a safer country that can attract foreign investments because it has such powerful allies.
Yet others are pinning their hopes on tangible benefits for the local economy. Iordache Carp, a senior municipal official in Smardan, told TOL, Even if we are only few kilometers from a city of 300,000 [Galati], the streets are in a bad state and we have no water system. Maybe now we will receive some money for such projects.
Romania has had a complex relationship with the United States since World War II.
During the war, Romania fought alongside Nazi Germany until it switched sides in August 1944.
During that time, Bucharest and several other cities were heavily bombed by U.S. warplanes, as were the oil fields in the Prahova region.
Despite its switch to the Allied side, Romania was occupied by the Red Army and forced into the Communist bloc, though in later decades it managed to steer a more independent course than other Warsaw Pact countries.
Soon after the collapse of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, Romania decided it was time to turn its back on the past and to seek NATO membership. After a failed attempt in 1997, the dream came true in 2002.
As a sign of gratitude, Bucharest sent troops to Afghanistan and later to Iraq. In the winter and spring of 2003, the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase was used by U.S. troops as a springboard for the conflict zones of the Middle East.
Another sign of gratitude was the 2002 signing of a so-called Article 98 agreement with the U.S., which grants U.S. personnel in specific countries immunity from prosecution by the newly-established International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Together with Israel and East Timor, Romania was among the first countries to sign such an agreement, provoking the fury of Brussels.
The agreement appears in a different light following recent accusations, among others by Human Rights Watch, that the Kogalniceanu airbase was used by the CIA to detain or transfer prisoners without any oversight.
President Basescu rejected the allegations. There are no such prisons and it wouldnt be possible for torture to be used in Romania. He invited foreign media to search for such secret prisons anywhere they chose.
Reporters from The New York Times and other international media roamed the Kogalniceanu facility and turned up empty-handed.
A parliamentary commission was set up to look into the allegations, and the issue was also discussed by Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu with EU officials in Brussels. The accusations could yet prove another obstacle for the countrys EU aspirations because the scandal is probably not yet over.
If recent history is anything to go by, though, Romanias steadfast support to Washington will continue to be a powerful irritant for Brussels, Paris, and Berlin once the prisoner affair is over.
Hmmm... How about the rendition of terrorists to Count Dracula?
Good move. Glad to see it.
Jimmy Carter is the gift that keeps on giving.
Thank God that Ronald Reagan is as well.
One more thing to be remembering Ronald Reagan for...
The Romanians?, OH YEAH, I remember now, they held the German Flanks at Stalingrad along with the Italians. I guess its now our turn to have them?
Nobody recognizes repression like former Soviet 'republics'. Never again means never again.
Communism, EU socialism, Muslim fanaticism, it's all the same to them. Welcome aboard, let's kick some ass.
I knew a girl who went on a mission trip to Romania. The one thing which impressed her was how hard working they were.
Relax, Russia. You aren't the Bad Guys any more. It's quite true........we share a common enemy now in radical Islam.
They should welcome our presence and our joint efforts to eradicate this Muslim threat from the face of the earth.
This is huge news of long term geopolitical consequence, which will probably be buried in all the mainstream papers if mentioned at all. Just like they buried the major US victory of India realigning with the USA, against Iran.
It is a fantastic victory for the USA to have a base in this location on many levels. Really pissing off the reflexive anti-americans in the EU is a big bonus we should revel in for a moment.
First off you look at a map and you realize how much closer these bases are to the action than Germany. Then you think how wonderful it is to be giving pro american anti-communists in Romania our money, instead of socialist anti-americans in Germany. Another bonus is that many things are quite cheap in Romania, compared to the high cost of things in Germany.
Then you think about our huge bases in Turkey, a country which stabs us in the back everytime we actually really need these bases. What good is all the millions we spend in turkey when we cannot use the bases when most needed? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
These bases are even more important, since the USA is steadily getting kicked out of more of the nation "stans" in central asia every year.
Isn't the Romanian army armed with torches and pitchforks? Joke.
The Romanian Army should name one of their divisions "Vlad the Impailer Division" That would help send a nice message to the Islamic terrorists in the Mideast.
Russian leaders should pull their chairs up to the Caspian sea, and soon, watch the pretty light show on the other side (Iran).
Great news for my cousins in Roumania.
60 years under the boot of communism, and they're ready to replace it with a different boot.
Too bad New Europe doesn't have an alternative than to join into union with the Old.
Burgas, Bulgaria (also on the Black Sea coast) should be next for an U.S. airbase. It's even closer to the Bosporous (about 125 miles), which is the chokepoint allowing access to the Black Sea from the Sea of Marmara.
Just to clarify, Sevastopol is now part of Ukraine, not Russia, but the Russians still have their Black Sea Fleet naval base there. It's a very prickly situation.
I hope to hell we move our bases out of Germany and into places like Romania, Hungary- where we'll be appreciated.
The problem with Romania is it is impossible to get into or out of there without going thru the strategic chokepoint of the Bosporus or crossing the land/airspace of other countries. That greatly limits our flexibility and should we have permission denied, could bring ops to a near halt. A much better location would directly on the Med/Adriatic in places such as Slovenia, Croatia or Albania where we would have unhampered access to international waters.
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