Romania calls for more NATO warships in Black Sea
Romania has called on the United States and NATO to boost their military presence in the Balkan country to promote stability in the Black Sea region following Russia's annexation of Crimea.
The foreign ministry, in a statement issued on Thursday, said Foreign Minister Titus Corlățean stressed the importance of an enhanced, long-term US presence in the Black Sea region "to deter any other destabilising initiatives."
Corlățean was in Washington this week to discuss the situation in Ukraine, which neighbours Romania, with US officials.
The ministry said visits by US warships to Romanian Black Sea ports and joint naval, aerial and terrestrial military exercises aimed at "consolidating a collective defence dimension," should increase.
Romania, a former communist state which joined the European Union in 2007, is among the staunchest advocates of Western sanctions against Moscow after Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
Romanian President Traian Băsescu has called for NATO to reposition its resources in the wake of Russia's military manoeuvres in recent months.
Bucharest is especially wary that its neighbour Moldova, a tiny state with a Russian-speaking minority, could be next in Moscow's sights.
Romania and its southern neighbour Bulgaria joined NATO ten years ago and has deployed troops as part of Washington's military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the standoff between Russia and the West began over Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria have taken part in navy drills in the Black Sea and hosted military exercises with US troops.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Monday that Bucharest will raise its defence budget for this year by 700 million lei (€157 million), or 0.2% of national output.
The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia. That triggered bloody protests, which eventually drove him from power.
Moscow annexed Crimea in March following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula.
Pro-Russian militants control buildings in more than ten towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April. The crisis is the biggester East-West crisis since the Cold War.