U.S. And NATO Accelerate Military Build-Up In Black Sea Region
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).
Last year Joint Task Force-East conducted a series of military trainings with Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts from August 7 to October 24. 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 two nations.
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 announced that "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 was "the planned installation of an anti-missile defence 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.)
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