Three Romanian IAR 330 Socat military attack helicopters fly over the Monument to the Unknown Soldier during celebrations of Romanian Army Day in Bucharest, Romania, 25 October 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT
Amid ongoing fears of a Russian attack on Ukraine, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said Wednesday after a meeting of the Supreme National Defense Council that Russia’s calls to change the current security architecture in Eastern Europe were unacceptable.
“Romania shares a 600-kilometer border with Ukraine, so we have to be prepared for every possible scenario. The crisis is not only about Ukraine, Black Sea security or European security, but about the security of the Euro-Atlantic area,” Iohannis said.
The Romanian leader convened the Supreme Council after Moscow last Friday called for NATO to move troops and equipment out of Romania and Bulgaria to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis.
Both Romania and Bulgaria have been NATO members since 2004 and are important countries on NATO’s south-east flank and the Black Sea.
Iohannis confirmed Romania’s support for Ukraine’s integrity but said an attack was to be expected.
“We must be prepared for an attack scenario. Therefore, strengthening the eastern flank is very important for NATO. The Alliance must maintain a high level of military deterrence to help it maintain its purely defensive objectives, for which NATO was created,” he said.
Iohannis last week welcomed US and French offers to send more troops and military equipment to Romania to bolster its security. The US and France are both strategic partners of Romania.
France has indicated its readiness to deploy troops under NATO command to Romania, while the Netherlands will send two F-35 fighter jets to Bulgaria from April to support NATO air policing activities in the region.
“We will continue concrete steps for US and NATO presence on Romanian territory as a measure to strengthen the country’s security. Bills on national security-related projects 2022-2024 will be accelerated,” Iohannis added.
Defense Minister Vasile Dincu reminded on Wednesday that Romania cannot send soldiers or equipment to Ukraine because it is not a member of the alliance.
“If you look at NATO rules, NATO can’t either, because deploying troops can only happen when a NATO member country is threatened, and this doesn’t apply to Ukraine,” Dincu said.
NATO said on Monday it is readying forces and will send additional ships and warplanes to Eastern Europe to bolster allied defenses while Russia continues its military buildup in and around Ukraine.
At the same time, the new Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Wednesday that Bulgaria was seeking more dialogue to defuse the tense situation in Ukraine.
The cabinet “decided to give priority to all means of the Bulgarian side to de-escalate tensions between NATO and Russia,” Petkov said.
He stressed the need for Bulgaria to modernize its military, which has poor training and working conditions. “Unfortunately, over the years, our army has been underfunded and now we have deficits that are clearly manifesting themselves,” he said.
Bulgarian Defense Minister Stefan Yanev said Bulgaria will offer training conditions for a battalion of 1,000 soldiers, including international troops, under Bulgarian command. “We do not plan to invest this battalion in the defense of Bulgarian territory or transfer it abroad,” he said.
Russia has deployed over 100,000 troops and heavy military equipment near Ukraine’s borders. However, the Kremlin denies any intention of invading the country.