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US seeks to boost troops at Romanian Black Sea base

 
 
 
 
 
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Romania says the United States wants to boost its military presence in the eastern European country amid tensions in neighboring Ukraine.

Romanian President Traian Basescu said on Tuesday that Washington has asked to increase the number of its troops and aircraft at a Black Sea airbase in eastern Romania.

“The US Embassy in Bucharest has asked for support from Romanian authorities to expand current operations at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base,” Basescu said in a letter to the speaker of Romania’s lower house of parliament.

Political analysts believe the move is part of NATO’s efforts to increase its military presence in Eastern Europe.

Basescu also said the US has decided to add up to 600 troops to the 1,000 forces currently positioned in the country.

The Pentagon also wants to station military aircraft used for specific missions at the airbase, which is a major hub for US forces and equipment leaving Afghanistan and northern Iraq.

The US has used the air base, just a few hundred kilometers away from Russia’s Crimea region, since 1999.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers of NATO member states held a meeting in Brussels to discuss steps to reinforce the security of member states in Eastern Europe following Crimea’s reunion with Russia.

Tensions between the Western powers and Moscow heightened after Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16, in which nearly 97 percent of voters in Crimea chose to rejoin Russia.

On March 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law documents that officially made the Black Sea peninsula part of the Russian territory despite condemnation from the West and the new Ukrainian government.

The move sparked angry reactions from the US and the European Union, both imposing punitive measures against a number of Russian officials and authorities in Crimea.

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