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Mattis Praises Romania for Defense Partnership

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday praised fellow NATO member nation Romania as a valued ally in alliance efforts to deter Russian aggressive actions in Eastern Europe and in the campaign to defeat terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

During a ceremony welcoming Romanian Minister of National Defense Mihai-Viorel Fifor and his delegation to the Pentagon for bilateral meetings, Mattis saluted Romania as “a staunch NATO ally.”

Mattis said he and Fifor would “discuss, obviously, our shared priorities, as is appropriate between two allies. You have been a reliable partner … I also want to thank you for honoring the Wales Commitment the way your country has.”

Romania has committed two percent of its annual gross domestic product for defense needs, as part of an agreement made at the NATO Wales Summit meeting in September 2014, whereby member nations would aim to move towards the existing NATO guideline of spending two percent of gross domestic product on defense and with a view to meeting NATO capability priorities.

“I would just tell you that, by the end of this year, you'll be at the two percent, I believe. And you've increased spending nearly 50 percent over the last year. That is a phenomenal sacrifice and commitment by your country and your people, and we recognize it for what it is,” Mattis told the Romanian delegation.

Saber Guardian Exercise

Mattis said this summer's Saber Guardian exercise demonstrated NATO unity and firm resolve in the face of Russia's aggressive behavior.

Romania, one of the co-hosts of Saber Guardian -- which was also conducted in Hungary and Bulgaria -- “was integral to the success of that exercise. And your commitment to unity and stability shows, I would call it leadership by example, there in NATO,” Mattis said.

Mattis saluted Romania for its participation in NATO’s Resolute Support campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan.

“I must also thank you for Romania's commitment to the Resolute Support mission today in Afghanistan,” the secretary said to the Romanian delegation. “But you were also one of the first nations to engage with us, stand with us after we were attacked [on 9/11]. And you deployed even before joining NATO, making it very clear where you stood when it came to terrorism.”

The secretary also offered his condolences for the loss of Romanian troops, “including dozens of your troops who have been killed in action standing with us in some of the most difficult parts of the battles.”

Mattis added, “And just last Friday, we lost a Romanian soldier, a comrade in arms in Kandahar province, one of the fiercest provinces there in Afghanistan. But the service and sacrifices of your troops are tangible demonstrations that NATO military alliance stands united in the face of terror or other threats from the East.”

Fifor thanked Mattis, noting the strategic partnership with the United States is one of the fundamental pillars of Romania's security and defense.

Bilateral Defense Relationship

“One of the priorities of my mandate is to further consolidate it, especially on the defense dimension,” Fifor said of the U.S.-Romanian defense partnership. “We have a solid bilateral relationship, and I praise your constant and relevant support on defense matters you provide us.”

Russia's influence in the Balkan region has been significantly increased, Fifor said. NATO is seen as the main foreign military threat to Russia's security, he said, and subsequently, the states hosting components of the allied ballistic missile defense, including Romania, are also considered by Russia as potential threats.

There is a need for a comprehensive approach in the political, operational and major acquisition fields, Fifor said, to ensure a strategic balance of power in Black Sea region. And in this regard, he said, the U.S. is already playing an essential part in a resolute way.

Deterrence

The U.S. efforts in the Black Sea region demonstrate a strengthened, credible and effective deterrence and defense posture on NATO’s eastern flank, Fifor said.

And, U.S.-Romanian bilateral cooperation “is an important booster for the modernization of the Romanian armed forces, he said.

“We already took important steps, as you say, towards this, based on the [Romanian] government's strong commitment to properly budget the defense sector at two percent of the GDP,” Fifor said.” And, almost 40 percent is allotted for the acquisition of new equipment and the modernization.”

He added, “We firmly believe that the new opportunities for cooperation with Romanian defense companies will arise and [we] welcome further extending the American investments in the Romanian defense sector.”

And, Romania remains “fully committed to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, where our soldiers are engaged shoulder to shoulder with U.S. troops in the fight against terrorism,” including the campaign to defeat ISIS, Fifor said.
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