On Tuesday the State Department approved the sale of $3.9 billion in patriot missile systems to NATO-member Romania after prior Russia warnings that such actions could be met with severe reprisals.
The announcement, issued through the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is sure to be a huge shot across the bow following on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin's earlier unambiguous words (issued in May) regarding further NATO build-up in the large Balkan country:
If yesterday in those areas of Romania people simply did not know what it means to be in the cross-hairs, then today we will be forced to carry out certain measures to ensure our security. We won't take any action until we see rockets in areas that neighbor us. We've been repeating like a mantra that we will be forced to respond... Nobody wants to hear us. Nobody wants to conduct negotiations with us.
Romania's US-built $800 million ballistic missile defense shield came online for the first time in May, just prior to Trump's meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis early the following month, where the two discussed defense spending and other economic concerns. Romania has been a NATO member only since 2004, but has steadily attracted the attention of Western defense companies – it has increased its defense budget to equal 2% of its GDP this year (approximately 4 billion US dollars) – one of only 5 NATO members to hit that target.
The Pentagon agency's press release cast Romania as the potential victim of aggression in the region:
Romania will use the Patriot missile system to strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats. The proposed sale will increase the defensive capabilities of the Romanian military to guard against aggression and shield the NATO allies who often train and operate within Romania’s borders.
NATO build up encroaching Russian defenses. Photo source: The Risk Advisory Group.
The proposal now moves forward for Congressional as well as Romanian parliamentary approval, and will be delivered by Raytheon Corporation and Lockheed-Martin. Other US defense contractors are increasingly in talks with Romania to modernize its army, including General Dynamics, Bell Helicopter, and The Boeing Company. News of the Patriot missile deal was released the same day a massive Patriot missile deployment drill kicked off in Lithuania involving troops from the US, UK, Latvia, and Poland.