by Rick Rozoff
May 21, 2010
In the post-Cold War era and especially since 2001 the Pentagon has been
steadily shifting emphasis, and moving troops and equipment, from bases in
Germany and Italy to Eastern Europe in its drive to the east and the south.
That process was preceded and augmented by the absorption of former Eastern
Bloc nations into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization beginning in 1999.
In one of the first nations in that category,
Poland, the initial contingent of what will be over 100 U.S. troops arrived
in the town of Morag this week, as near as 35 miles from Russian territory,
as part of a Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and the host
country ratified this February.
Also in February, the governments of the Black Sea nations of Romania and
Bulgaria confirmed plans for the U.S. to deploy a land-based version of
Standard Missile-3 anti-ballistic interceptors on their territory.
The U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Italy,
has deployed warships to the Black Sea with an increased frequency over the
past few years, visiting and conducting joint drills with the navies of
Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia.
Last autumn it was revealed that the Pentagon planned to spend $110 million
dollars to upgrade and modernize a base in Bulgaria and another in Romania,
two of seven such newly-acquired installations in the two nations.
The air, naval and infantry bases in Bulgaria and Romania have been employed
for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, although not publicly
acknowledged, doubtlessly for arming Georgia before, during and since its
five-day war with Russia in August of 2008.
The Pentagon’s Joint Task Force-East has all but officially been
assigned to the Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield in Romania and also
makes regular use of the Romanian Army’s Babadag Training Area and the Novo
Selo Training Range in Bulgaria, the latter near the strategic Bezmer Air
Base and the Black Sea port city of Burgas (Bourgas).
Joint Task Force-East conducted a series of
military trainings with Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts from August 7 to
The immediate purpose of the combat drills was
for “downrange” operations in Afghanistan, but the lengthy and extensive
nature of the maneuvers demonstrated the longer-term and longer-range
intents of the U.S. and its NATO allies. The latter also have free use of
the Bulgarian and Romanian military bases.
Two squadrons from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment were among
the 2,000 American troops who participated in last year’s war games in the
American Admiral James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command
and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, visited Romania on April 27 and
28, meeting with the country’s president and defense minister. The main
topics of discussion were NATO’s new Strategic Concept and its war in
Afghanistan, but the issue of stationing U.S. interceptor missiles was
surely touched upon as well.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Romania on May 6
and 7 to meet with the president, defense minister, foreign minister and top
military commander. The U.S.-NATO missile shield project and the war in
Afghanistan were major subjects on the agenda.
Five days after Rasmussen left the capital the Romanian Foreign Ministry
“A round of technical US-Romanian talks on
Romania’s inclusion in the Phased Adaptive Approach of the European
missile defense system took place in Bucharest” a day earlier, May 11.
The NATO chief arrived in neighboring Bulgaria
on May 20 for similar discussions.
The local press announced in advance that,
“The construction of a common missile
defense system and Bulgaria’s accession into it, along with reforms in
the Bulgarian army and NATO’s new strategic concept – these will be some
of the issues that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is going
to discuss with his Bulgarian partners during his two-day visit to Sofia
beginning on Thursday, May 20.” 
In fact, while in the Bulgarian capital
Rasmussen met with the nation’s prime minister, president and defense
minister and, according to a Bulgarian news source, the top issue discussed
“the planned installation of an anti-missile
defense system in the region, as Brussels plans to deploy anti-missile
units in Bulgaria and negotiations are set to be launched following the
Portugal NATO summit” in November. 
Rasmussen reiterated the demand that all Balkans
nations be incorporated into NATO, which would dictate the inclusion of
Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo. (As NATO recognizes the
last-named as an independent state.)
The host nation’s foreign minister, Nikolay Mladenov, spoke after the
meeting with NATO’s secretary general and linked the North Atlantic bloc’s
collective military assistance article with U.S.-led missile deployments and
anti-Russian energy transit projects.
He specifically highlighted,
“setting up the anti-missile defense shield
as a part of Article 5 against new threats” and “the inclusion of energy
security to key security issues.” 
On May 14 Chairman of the NATO Military
Committee Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola was in Romania to meet with
Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea, and the “current stage of NATO-led
military actions in Afghanistan and Romania’s participation in Alliance
missions were the main subjects” of deliberation.
Romania’s defense minister said,
“Romania’s prompt response to the proposal
to install missile shield elements on its soil is a confirmation of the
responsibility whereby Romania approaches national, South-East European
and Alliance security issues.” 
The nation, which lost another soldier to
fighting in Afghanistan this week, has recently confirmed plans to deploy
600 more troops for the South Asian war, bringing the aggregate number to
On May 17 the U.S.’s
Black Sea Rotational Force 2010 three-month
series of military exercises was launched at Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu
Several days before,
“more than 100 Marines from across the
United States put boots on the ground in Romania and stepped into
history as the first Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force
in the Black Sea region."
“The Marines were deployed to build
partnerships with nations in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus
The Black Sea Rotational Force 2010
drills are being conducted in eastern Romania in Constanta on the Black Sea
and Tulcea, also on the Black Sea and close to the border with Moldova, and
include over 300 troops from the U.S., the host country, Ukraine and
The U.S. Marine Corps deployment is,
“the first of its kind for United States
Marines to the Black Sea region.” 
The commander of the Black Sea Rotational
Force Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF),
Lieutenant Colonel Tom Gordon, spoke at the opening ceremony at the
Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield.
His comments included the following:
“Our mission over the next three months will
be to conduct multilateral security cooperation activities with partner
nations in the Black Sea, Balkan, and Caucasus regions in order to
enhance our collective professional military capacity, promote regional
stability, and build enduring relationships with our partner nations. As
a MAGTF we will simultaneously engage with Romanian Land, Naval, Air,
and Special Forces throughout our deployment.”
A Romanian officer present said,
“This is a great opportunity for us to know
the Marines. I expect my men to show they are prepared to fight with
America in Afghanistan.” 
In advance of the maneuvers, the U.S. Marine
Corps moved military vehicles from a base in Norway, part of Marine Corps
Prepositioning Program Norway.
“The Marine Corps and Norway have developed
a unique relationship for the storage and care of prepositioned
equipment and supplies. The method of storage to support the
prepositioned assets for a MAGTF is a series of six caves in the
Trondheim region of central Norway.”
To illustrate both the range of military
networks stretching from old to new NATO states and where their ultimate
downrange destinations are located, a Marine website supplied additional
“Norway relies on the Marine’s
prepositioning program as a major cornerstone of the nation’s internal
defense plan. With deep-water ports in close proximity to the storage
caves, equipment can quickly be loaded aboard available shipping for
operations in threatened parts of Europe, Africa or the Middle East.
This capability was demonstrated by the supplying of equipment and
ammunition in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.” 
U.S. Marines will be occupied “working in the
Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions” to “build enduring partnerships and
build the capacity of partner nation’s military forces” until the end of
July, by which time NATO’s largest military offensive of the nearly
nine-year-old Afghan war – the assault on Kandahar province – will be
Shortly before the above-described war games began, U.S. Air Force personnel
were deployed from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Romania for Operation
Carpathian Summer 2010, an air force medical evacuation exercise.
“Held at Otopeni Airfield, near Bucharest,
Operation Carpathian Summer 2010 was designed to strengthen the
partnership between the U.S. and Romanian air forces, while elevating
their capability to work together."
“Though this is not the first time American airmen have worked with the
Romanian air force, the 86th AES [Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron] has
never before joined in the training with their Romanian colleagues.”
At the same time Romanian troops joined
colleagues from the U.S., Britain, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany,
Hungary, Norway, Poland and Slovakia at the Joint Multinational Readiness
Center in Hohenfels, Germany to engage in joint military training with
soldiers from the Afghan National Army.
On May 19 the Stars and Stripes armed forces publication reported that,
“Rapid expansion of the Army’s unmanned
aircraft fleet has prompted the service to begin offering initial
training in Europe, instead of sending troops to the U.S. to learn…”
Among the drones that will be used for the
training are the Extended-Range Multi-Purpose
MQ-1C Warrior, “which can fly for more
than 20 hours and launch air-to-ground missiles,” and the
RQ-11 Raven small class unmanned aerial
vehicle used by the U.S. and NATO allies.
The news source added that,
“a course next month at Grafenwohr Training
Area, will, for the first time, offer initial operator training on the
Raven UAS [Unmanned Aircraft System] in Europe.
“The Army is looking at flying the Raven in Romania and possibly
Bulgaria, and attempting to open a range in Italy for the 173rd Airborne
Brigade’s unmanned aircraft.” 
From April 12-16 a U.S. Air Force team at the
Aviano Air Base in Italy, “in an effort to improve an already established
military relationship,” provided aircraft maintenance training to the
Bulgarian and Romanian air forces. 
On May 18 200 U.S. airmen and ten F-15 multi-role strike fighters
spearheaded the launching of Operation Sentry Gold at the Graf
Ignatievo Air Base in Bulgaria.
“The exercise is designed to provide the
U.S. Air Force and Bulgarian air force the opportunity to learn from
each other and increase their respective NATO interoperability.”
The American commander involved in the maneuvers
emphasized that the Bulgarian air force still uses Russian MiG-21s and
“We simulate fighting MiGs all the time.
Being here allows us to really see them in action.”
A Bulgarian officer said of the drills,
“Sentry Gold increases the realism of our
combat training. We get to see how a unit with a tested and proven
combat history does things,” and added, “Training together with [U.S.
Air Forces in Europe] and the U.S. pilots moves us closer to NATO
As noted earlier, NATO chief Rasmussen arrived
in the Bulgarian capital on May 20.
Five days earlier the nation’s defense minister,
Anyu Angelov, affirmed that,
“We will file a request to join the common
European missile shield during NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh
Rasmussen’s visit to Sofia…” 
The Bulgarian defense chief also said that his
ministry will allot funds to upgrade the nation’s air defense system and
“Brussels has promised to co-finance the
initiative, while NATO will allocate US $7.5 million to complete the
construction of the Graf Ignatievo airbase.” 
On the eastern shore of the Black Sea, senior
Georgian military officials met with the permanent representatives of all 28
NATO member states at a sitting of the NATO-Georgia Commission (created the
month after Georgia’s war with Russia in 2008) on May 5.
A week later NATO’s South Caucasus liaison
officer Zbigniew Ribatski announced that the military bloc will open
a representative’s office in Georgia this summer.
On May 14 the Georgian press reported the launching of a U.S.-funded
military training simulation facility in the country:
“The Simulation Training Center has been
formed through the framework of US-Georgia cooperation. The United
States, under the ongoing collaboration, donated the Center with the
cutting-edge technical equipment and developed special training programs
for it.” 
The inauguration was attended by new U.S.
ambassador John Bass and NATO nations’ military attaches.
Even Ukraine under its new president Viktor Yanukovich remains within
NATO’s Black Sea plans. The prohibition against the presence of foreign
military forces for exercises in the nation, effected by the former
opposition against Yanukovich’s pro-U.S. predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, has
been reversed, and U.S. and fellow NATO states’ troops may resume Sea Breeze
exercises on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.
The establishment of U.S. and NATO naval, air and infantry bases and
interceptor missile installations in Black Sea nations is the prototype for
expansive and permanent military build-ups in Eastern Europe and into former
Soviet space, which is being replicated in the Baltic Sea region.
An imaginary Iranian threat is the
subterfuge employed to justify the presence of U.S. and NATO warplanes,
warships, troops, mechanized and airborne units, missile batteries, training
centers and radar facilities in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions.
Iran does not border either of the two seas and has neither the ability nor
any reason to threaten nations that do.
Recent news reports from both sides of the Atlantic speak of a warming of
relations between Russia and the United States, between Russia and NATO. If
so, Russian political leaders won’t have to extend their hands far to clasp
those of their alleged Western friends and allies.
They need merely reach across their southwestern
and northwestern borders on the Black and Baltic Seas.
1) HotNews.ro, May 12, 2010
2) Standart News, May 16, 2010
3) Sofia Echo, May 20, 2010
4) Focus News Agency, May 20, 2010
5) The Financiarul, May 14, 2010
6) Xinhua News Agency, May 13, 2010
7) United States European Command, May 17, 2010
9) Marines.mil, May 12, 2010
10) U.S. European Command, May 14, 2010
11) Stars and Stripes, May 19, 2010
12) U.S. Air Forces in Europe, April 20, 2010
13) U.S. Air Forces in Europe, May 18, 2010
14) Standart News, May 15, 2010
16) Georgia Ministry of Defence, May 14, 2010