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Remarks at the Aegis Ashore Facility in Romania


      Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, Secretary General, Ministers, members of the Romanian government, generals and ambassadors in NATO and ambassadors to NATO and distinguished guests, it's a really pleasure for me to be here on my first visit to Romania.


            I only wish I could stay longer to see more of the beautiful country.  I spent some time in Bucharest last night and I was flying over the country side.  And it truly is a wonderful place.  I'd like to thank you all for being here as we mark the operational certification of the first AEGIS Ashore missile defense site.


            Now, since we broke ground at this site in 2013, much has changed in the region and around the world as the Secretary General said.  We are at a strategic inflection point in the security landscape.  As part of this landscape, Europe, and by extension NATO, which makes this is significantly more challenging and more complex security situation than the one we faced in 2013.


            Addressing this new security environment will require a more capable and united alliance, one that continues to evolve and adapt to threats, both old and new, in order to ensure Europe's peace and security.  As we approach the upcoming Warsaw Summit, it is critical that the alliance continues to show unity and solidarity as we address the multiple challenges we all face today.


            As we work to address these challenges, we do so with the confidence that Romania is as steadfast an ally as one could hope for.  As its government and its military has demonstrated by deed and action time and time again.


            Romania understands the importance of modernizing its military and continues to use signification resources for that goal.  So I wanted to publicly commend the Romanian government on its pledge to increase defense spending to two percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2017.


            Romania also understands that the price of freedom is high.  And enemies of freedom must be confronted for the greater good, wherever they may be.  This understanding is reflected by the fact that Romania is one of the highest contributors to the NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, where 650 Romanian soldiers currently serve.


            It is also reflected by the government’s recent decision to contribute soldiers to the counter-ISIL Coalition.  In addition to all of these things, Romania contributes to other global and regional peacekeeping missions, such as KFOR in Kosovo, and EUFOR in Bosnia, Herzegovina.


            In fact, they are a key leader in the Black Sea region.  I would also like to say something about the Romanian soldier.  Romanian troops have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our own troops, in hard fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Even as Romanian soldiers have broke bread together in remote outposts, in both of these countries, they patrol together on desert and high mountains and fight together on unforgiving battlefields.


            I'd like to tell you, this  comes from our Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General Joe Dunford.  He's known as "Fighting Joe."  He knows about the spirit of finding men and women.  The dedication, commitment and camaraderie of the Romanian soldiers has not been unnoticed by the United States military.  Their bravery, professionalism and warrior spirit that has left an unforgettable impression on all American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have had the good fortune to serve alongside them.


            They knew they could count on their Romanian brothers in arms when things went bad.  And when things bad, Romanian warriors also left an unforgettable impression on their enemies who had the bad fortune of meeting them on the battlefield.  As an old Marine might say, there's no better friend and no worse enemy than the Romanian armed forces.


            From that sentiment, on behalf of Secretary of Defense Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, myself, all of the men and women who serve in the United States military and Department of Defense and all American citizens, I want to express my deepest condolences for the loss of the two Romanian soldiers in Afghanistan last Saturday.


            Over the 24th and 25th soldiers that Romania has lost in these wars, along with 132 men [injured] – who were all sons or husbands or fathers.  The United States will never forget their bravery and sacrifice.


            Romanian solders will fight in the great spirit of the Romanian people, who have welcomed and shown such incredible hospitality to our United States service personnel at this site and throughout your country.


            It has hosted hundreds of U.S. troops whose deployment was made possible by the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).  M.K. Air Base, as you all know, serves as a hub for operation Atlantic Resolve, and previously it was a critical checkpoint for U.S. troops coming into and out of Afghanistan.


            Once again, we are just so very grateful Mr. Prime Minister, to Romania's steadfast commitment to our bilateral partnership and to all its NATO allies.


            But as people have already said and as you know, we are here to celebrate another important endeavor in U.S.-Romanian relationship – this AEGIS Ashore missile site.  As long as Iran continues to develop and deploy ballistic missiles, the United States will work with our allies and partners to defend NATO and its allies against this threat.


            As Secretary General Stoltenberg said, neither this site or the site in Poland, has any capability, none whatsoever, to undermine Russia's strategic deterrent.  It is a defensive system.  It is fully compliant with existing arms control regimes.


            NATO, ballistic missile defense serves as a capability to protect the alliance in any ballistic missile threat from outside the Euro-Atlantic area. 


            And today, after having conducted exercises, experiments, demonstrations and tests, this event marks the operational certification of the AEGIS Ashore missile defense site, the first of two planned sites, and the completion of phase two of the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach, or EPAA.


            The EPAA is the U.S. voluntary national contribution to NATO's ballistic missile defense.  But it would not have been possible without the commitment of the Romanian government and the support of its people, who understand the security that this site brings to all of us and all of Europe.


            As represented by the Secretary General, this is a NATO site, a NATO context.  And I would like to reiterate the allies that are making contributions to all of our defense.  Poland is going to host the second site in Redzikowo.  Construction work begins tomorrow.


            Spain provides a base, as the secretary general said, for four ballistic missile defense capable destroyers in Rota, Spain.  Turkey is hosting an early warning radar, the AN/TPY-2.  Germany is providing a missile defense command center.  The United Kingdom is addressing its needs by putting together a new [ground-based] radar.  And Denmark and the Netherlands are upgrading their frigates.  All of these complimentary efforts will provide both a quantitative and qualitative increase in NATO's BMD capability and its capacity to strengthen NATO's defensive capability.


            So with that, once again, I’d like to thank the Romanian government for their support of this site.  I'd like to especially recognize Bogden Aurescu.  I'm not sure where he is. 


He was the lead Romanian negotiator for the basing agreement.  He's well-known in the United States Department of Defense, as someone who is a hard nose negotiator but a very good friend.  We'd like to thank him for all of the work.


            We'd also like to thank Adm. Jim Syring and the entire MDA, missile defense agency team, the United States European Command and the State Department for working so hard today to make this day possible.


            And an especial congratulation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Navy Europe, the 6th Fleet and the AEGIS Ashore Romania team for your hard work in making this beautiful site a reality.


            And again, the governments of Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Turkey and the Netherlands, also for their direct support for ballistic missile defense.  I want to commend NATO for demonstrating once again, the strength of this alliance, as it has for nearly seven decades.  NATO remains the guarantor of prosperity and stability on the continent of Europe.


            And as we go forward, we will continue to work together to ensure the countries of Europe can make their own security and own economic choices, free from coercion or intimidation from any other country or actors.  Thank you very much.