A deal signed yesterday to open new US military bases in Romania seals Bucharest’s position as one of Washington’s best allies in eastern Europe.
It is part of a much wider plan to develop smaller bases closer to strategic hot spots.
Romania’s position on the Black Sea gives it particular importance on the energy supply market.
President Trian Basescu said: “From the moment this treaty is signed and it’s validated in parliament, Romania will become a pillar of stability in the region.”
The bases will be the first American military facilities in a former Soviet bloc country.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained: “It is a remarkable thing to think that some 16 years after the collapse of communism here in Romania, an eventful period in which Romania has become a strong ally within NATO, that we would be signing an agreement that would allow America to have forces here on Romanian soil.”
Washington is going to deploy up to 1,500 troops across four bases, including the Mihail Kogalniceanu facility which the US used when it launched the war in Iraq.
Bucharest had offered access when Turkey refused to allow US troops to travel through its territory.
The new bases just announced will not be large scale. Instead, the aim is to make them low cost and flexible, with staff rotated at regular intervals.
Such themes of mobility and cooperation with allies are central to the Pentagon’s vision of a 21st century military.
It is a vision of an army that can travel light and move quickly.
Across Europe the number of American personnel is going to be cut from the current 112,000 to just over 67,000.
Many of those who remain will be redeployed to countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.
The new policy has no timescale, but fresh deals are expected to be signed with Sophia and Warsaw next year.
The focus away from major hubs, for example Rammstein in Germany, also bears political significance. Analysts believe it is a deliberate move away from countries that did not support the war to topple Saddam.