luni, 7 mai 2018

AMERICA’S POLICY IN EASTERN EUROPE: U.S. ROMANIAN COMMON INTERESTS

By Nicholas Dima

American-Romanian cooperation is viewed as favorable by most people, but with some reservation. This reservation is directed chiefly at the political leaders of the country, who have neglected the interests of the population. From now on, improving further the Romanian-American relations will depend, to a large degree, on improving the economic conditions of the average Romanian. And this is something the Bucharest government should do.

The United States has vital economic and security interests in Eastern Europe, an area that stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and further to the Caucasus region. This is the fault line where NATO and the West meet Russia and the East. With Russia displaying an increasingly aggressive, yet, sometimes subtle, attitude towards Europe, Washington must take a stand. It is obvious that Moscow is not giving up control of Ukraine, and it is also obvious that the three Baltic Republics cannot withstand Moscow’s pressure by themselves, especially with Kaliningrad to their immediate south. Therefore, NATO’s and America’s defense line in the East rests mostly upon Poland and Romania. And the importance of Romania in south-east Europe has grown recently after Turkey began to focus on its own geo-political goals that are different from those pursued by the United States. Consequently, Washington’s relations with Bucharest have intensified.

American-Romanian relations are geo-political, economic, and military in nature. Geo-politically, Romania does not trust Russia and is wary of Moscow’s intentions. It is this danger that opened Romania to military cooperation with the United States. At the same time, the Trump administration stressed the U.S. commitment to expand its missile defenses and to cover Eastern Europe. And this is where American-Romanian military cooperation began. As a result, the American military has already been welcomed at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base by the Black Sea and at the Deveselu base in southern Romania. Subsequently, Romanian and American armed forces have organized joint exercises near the Black Sea. According to Ziare.com of February 14, 2017, some 500 American soldiers accompanied by a tank unit arrived in Romania on that date. In addition, American navy warships began to visit the Romanian Black Sea Port of Constanta.
The most important American military installation in Romania is located near the town of Deveselu, where the site hosts the Lockheed Martin-built Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defense System. It became operational in May 2016 and it is the first of two such East European interceptor sites. The second one will be completed this year in Poland. Both systems display technology used on U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers to protect against ballistic missile threats. In this regard, on December 7, 2017, the Hudson Institute held a special meeting hosting George Maior, the Romanian Ambassador to Washington, who emphasized the common interests of the U.S. and Romania. On the American side, Rebeccah Heinrichs, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, discussed the goals and progress of U.S.-Romanian missile defense cooperation.
During the post-communist years, Romanian media have shown real interest in cooperation with the United States. Most articles offer objective data and are generally favorable to increased bilateral relations and military cooperation. For example, Hotnews.ro of June 25, 2015, mentioned that in 2014 there were 620 American military personnel stationed in Romania and that their number was expected to grow. Russia, however, considers this military presence as a direct threat to its territory. Accordingly, on May 15, 2016, Evenimentul Zilei (evz.ro) published a picture of an angered Vladimir Putin accompanied by a Russian general threatening Romania. The article’s title speaks for itself (translated): “Romania could become the victim of a nuclear war. The message comes from Russia. Moscow is boiling after the American military activated the Deveselu Base.” According to another newspaper, Cotidianul.ro of December 15, 2017, Moscow warned Romania that Russia’s newly built ballistic rockets could devastate the Deveselu base. On the other hand, Flux 24 of October 6, 2017 cautioned its readers that the U.S. Senate may undercut the budget allocated for the Deveselu. This news is questionable, but the Russian disinformation services are hard at work against American interests. To counteract it, on October 8, 2017, the Romanian Foreign Ministry debunked the news as fake.
Romania has become a hub for NATO and American defense activities. Bucharest has also decided to acquire American Patriot missiles and armored military vehicles vowing to increase its military spending to 2% of the national budget. NATO asked Romania to accept the construction in Bucharest of a headquarters for counter-intelligence activities. HotNews.ro of April 10, 2017 announced that the Romanian Parliament had begun to discuss the proposal.
American-Romanian military cooperation is deepening, but some political analysts are skeptical. They claim that by building the anti-missile system on its soil the country is exposing itself to more Russian threats and potential retaliations. In this regard, RealitateaNet of February 13th published an article authored by a well-known analyst, titled: “Romania will be sure victim of Russia; America will help only if asked.” The article asks: what is Romania gaining in return? And the analyst blames the Romanian politicians for being too humble and too subservient toward Washington.
American-Romanian cooperation is viewed as favorable by most people, but with some reservation. This reservation is directed chiefly at the political leaders of the country, who have neglected the interests of the population. From now on, improving further the Romanian-American relations will depend, to a large degree, on improving the economic conditions of the average Romanian. And this is something the Bucharest government should do.
By Nicholas Dima
Sourse:

SELOUS FOUNDATION FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH

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