Nine countries from Central and Eastern Europe are to use a NATO pre-summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, to deliver a common message on the need to strengthen the eastern border of the Alliance.
The summit, which starts on November 4, will be co-chaired by NATO’s Deputy Secretary General, Alexander Vershbow, Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis, and Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda.
The presidents of Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania will also attend the summit, while the Czech Republic is to be represented by the speaker of parliament. There are two plans under discussion to increase NATO’s presence in Russia’s vicinity, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
One would place battalions in Poland and the three Baltic states, while another would have a single NATO battalion in the area, according to the US newspaper, which cited military and diplomatic sources.
Worried by the conflict in eastern Ukraine and by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Romania, Poland and the Baltic States have repeatedly asked NATO to station forces permanently in their territories. However, Germany and other western members of NATO, concerned not cause a sharp Russian response, have rebuffed these appeals and have opted to intensify joint exercises and rotate alliance troops through the region.
Moscow, whose relations with the West have deteriorated to a new post-Cold War low over its role in the Ukraine conflict, has said it would see any significant deployment of NATO forces close to its borders as an aggressive act.
NATO members decided in February to open six command and control units in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, which would help the Alliance deploy troops more easily in the region if need be. Romania will also host a new deployable Multinational Division Headquarters for the southeast. Poland will have a similar centre for the northeast.
NATO-member Romania is one of the Alliance’s strongest supporters among the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe.
In October 2013, the installation of US missile interceptors began at the Deveselu military base in southern Romania.
Scheduled to become operational by the end of this year, the base will be staffed by 200 to 500 US military, civilian and contract employees. The work at Deveselu involves an estimated investment of $400 million in the base, which ironically was originally built by the Soviet Union in 1952.
Moreover, Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu airport, near the Black Sea shore, became a major US military base in 2007, and around 1,600 troops are currently deployed there.