US holds joint war games in Romania amidst missile shield rift with Russia (VIDEO)
Around 350 troops from six countries took part in the military exercises at the Smardan shooting range near Galati in the east of the country near the border with Romania. The exercises conclude on May 16.
The drill, entitled ‘Platinum Eagle 16.1’, saw soldiers from Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, the UK and US take part. They were using light attack aircraft and SOCAT helicopters amongst other things, while one of the commanders said the exercise was being carried out to bring “stability” to the region.
"The 1st Battalion Marines is spread out over Eastern Europe, and the fact that we are to come here, in Romania, and train with five other nations, that really promotes regional stability. Training together in peace time, those who train together will fight well together,” Lieutenant-Colonel Justin Ansel of the US Marine Corps told RT’s Ruptly video agency.
In late April, two American F-22 Raptor 5G stealth fighter jets were deployed to an airfield in Romania, as NATO showed support to its Eastern European allies in the face of what it perceives to be “Russian aggression.”
However, the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base lies less than 400 kilometers from the Russian military stronghold of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula.
In 2014, US President Barack Obama promised to bolster the military capabilities of NATO's eastern members. The bloc has been conducting a large number of military training exercises near Russia’s western borders over the last two years, though without permanently stationing large forces on the territory of the alliance’s new member states.
These military exercises could not come at a more sensitive time for relations between Russia and the US.
On May 12, Washington switched on an $800-million missile shield in Romania, which it says is vital in order to defend itself and Europe from a potential missile attack from a so-called rouge nation. Moscow is unhappy and says the missile shield is aimed at diminishing the threat of its own nuclear deterrent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is a clear violation of Russian-American arms treaties and does nothing to reduce tensions between the two countries. Putin also hinted that Russia may be forced to take measures to neutralize threats to its national security.
"We're not going to be dragged into this race. We’ll go our own way. We’ll work very accurately without exceeding the plans to finance the re-equipment of our Army and Navy, which have already been laid out for the next several years,” Putin said on Friday
"Recent developments indicate that the situation isn’t getting better. Unfortunately, it’s deteriorating. I’m talking about the launch of the radar station in Romania as one of the elements of the up-and-coming US anti-missile defense program,” the Russian president added.
Iran had been the principle perceived threat to Europe and the US and Tehran’s actions had given Washington justification in its eyes for going ahead with the missile shield. However, following the nuclear deal signed in the summer of 2015, Iran renounced its nuclear ambitions in return for the West dropping sanctions.
With Iran out of the picture, Lode Vanoost, a former deputy speaker in the Belgian parliament, told RT that it is “totally ludicrous” to claim that the shield has nothing to do with Russia.
“This is part of a long-standing policy of NATO and the US to isolate Russia ever since the end of the Cold War, the end of the first Cold War, I might now say. These weapon systems are developed, designed and conceptualized easily twenty years before they are even installed,” he said.