U.S. looks to realign ties with Romania

The Khaleej Times

Notwithstanding budget constraints, Washington is busy building a new air base near the Black Sea. The United States plans to take over a Romanian airfield and station as many as 1,500 American troops there.

The multipurpose facility has raised many eyebrows, and it is feared that apart from training and logistics purposes, the base might also be used as a detention center in the heart of Europe. Last but not least, the new base in Romania will house the controversial U.S. ballistic missile defense system. It will also be home to interceptor missiles and radar equipment.

Although the U.S. has said that the base will not be used for aggressive purposes, there is no dearth of skeptics who believe that it is meant to counter Iran’s ambitious missile and nuclear program. The Russians also have aired their grievances, saying the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe is an attempt to weaken and counter Moscow’s strategic missile capability. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already threatened to deploy more powerful warheads on Russia’s ballistic missiles. To put Russian reservations to rest, the U.S. State Department says the shield. called the “Aegis Ashore System.” is a response by the NATO military alliance to the “increasing threats by the proliferation of ballistic missiles from the Middle East.” But that explanation is hardly credible with the region likely to witness more armament policies in an era when disarmament should have been the cornerstone of both the U.S. and Russian policies.

The air base deal was signed recently as part of an exigency measure as the U.S. would be vacating its operational air base in Central Asia. With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan due to begin and to be completed by the end of next year, the Deveselu base will serve as a link between Southwest Asia and Europe. Human Rights Watch, however, sees the Romanian base as the possible location of a clandestine CIA jail and probably an espionage barracks, to further the controversial war on terrorism. With America’s allies in a suspicious mood since the National Security Agency’s sleuths have gone over the top, it is feared that this strategic realignment in Europe will also be seen with mistrust. It remains to be seen how Bucharest aligns with Washington to write a new security doctrine in the region.