The first batch of US troops reinforcing NATO allies on the eastern flank following a Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s border has arrived in Romania, Defence Minister Vasile Dincu said.
The United States is sending nearly 3,000 extra soldiers to Poland and Romania to shield Eastern Europe from potential spillover from the Ukraine crisis.
The Pentagon said it will relocate a Stryker squadron of about 1,000 US service members from Vilseck, Germany to Romania. In Poland, troops began arriving on Saturday.
Dincu told reporters the first 100 US soldiers were in Romania handling logistics.
“The Americans have arrived,” he said on Tuesday. “Over 100 specialist US soldiers together with our logistics specialists are preparing, which means it will not be long before the rest of the troops arrive.”
The Pentagon has said the Stryker Squadron to be relocated to Romania was coming from Vilseck, Germany.
The US currently has about 900 soldiers in the country, a NATO member since 2004 and host to a ballistic missile defence system, some as part of the NATO forces and some under separate bilateral arrangements. Romania also hosts some 140 Italian and 250 Polish soldiers.
The Russian military has been amassing troops near the country’s border with Ukraine, sparking a diplomatic crisis and heightening US and European fears that Moscow may be preparing for an imminent invasion of its neighbour.
Russia has denied it is planning to invade, but has vehemently opposed Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO. Moscow also wants security guarantees that the US-led alliance will stop its expansion into former Soviet republics, but Washington and NATO have rejected the demand as a “non-starter”.
Meanwhile, France said it also plans to send troops to Romania and has offered to be the lead nation of a future NATO mission, which could see about 1,000 soldiers from various countries.
A decision could be made at the next NATO defence ministers’ meeting in mid-February.
French experts preparing the deployment have already arrived in Romania, France’s Defence Minister Florence Parly said last week in the capital, Bucharest.
NATO is considering a longer-term military posture in Eastern Europe to strengthen its defences, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday. The alliance currently has troops rotating in and out of Eastern Europe.