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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper and Romania Minister of Defense Nicolae Ciucă

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DR. MARK T. ESPER: Well, Minister Ciucă, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the Pentagon today as we continue to strengthen the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and Romania, so welcome, once again. I fondly recall my visit to Romania, I think, last year as secretary of the Army, and you were chief of defense, so it's a real privilege, as well, for me to -- to return the courtesy here today.

As you know, the United States is proud to stand with Romania as a steadfast ally, and in recent years the bonds between our two countries have only grown stronger. I want to thank Romania for hosting regular training exercises that improve the interoperability of our forces and strengthen deterrence against Russia along NATO's eastern flank.

We also are grateful for your strong commitment to the defense of our alliance, particularly by hosting the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Facility, a key element of NATO's missile-defense capabilities, and of course, we had the chance to talk in great detail about that when I visited last year.

Moreover, Romania's increased defense spending in recent years exceeds the 2% of GDP commitment and the Wales Pledge and serves as a powerful example for other allied nations, so thank you for that. Our collective security and prosperity depend on all partner nations making the necessary investments for a more ready and capable alliance. The United States' commitment to NATO and Article 5 is ironclad, and we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Romania as we advance peace, democracy, freedom and our other shared values.

So today, I look forward to signing a ten-year roadmap for defense cooperation that captures our common strategic goals and interests, such as defense modernization and Black Sea security.

So Mr. Minister, thank you once again for your visit. I look forward to continuing our work together today. Thank you.

ROMANIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE NICOLAE CIUCĂ: Secretary Esper, thank you very much for taking time to host us. I am particularly happy to be back in Washington despite this challenging time of pandemic. Before coming here I met our president, and he asked me to send his best wishes and a speedy recovery to President Trump, and to all affected by coronavirus around your -- your -- around the United States.

So I would like to mention that our countries and nations enjoy an enduring and exceptional strategic partnership. The United States is our strongest ally. Romania's recent national defense strategy, 2020-2024, highlights both the importance and the priority of working together in securing U.S. strategic flexibility in the Black Sea region and around.

To this timely extent, Romania will keep and further increase this (inaudible) as a predictable, stable and credible security pillar and beacon of democracy in the region. Romania and U.S. are unlocking the potential of the Black Sea. For such an emerging partnership for present, and especially for our future, a common roadmap of cooperation becomes both needed and effective. This is why we together designed a clear set of lines of effort based on strategic priorities in our bilateral defense cooperation. We are ready to further expand our cooperation and adding more substance in domains such as plans and pre-positioning, military modernization, cyber, land, air, and military operation, training and exercises.

Living at the edge of A2/AD [anti-access/area denial] in the Black Sea region, Romania's 2% of GDP for defense budget is not a number, but a statement of responsible ally. Acquiring modern and relevant capabilities is a standing evidence of how seriously Romania understands its security and defense role in the region. Just few weeks ago, we marked the delivery of the first Patriot system to Romania. We are now the first ally on the eastern flank to field such a modern U.S. ground-based air and missile defense system.

Speaking of strategic flexibility, we are also investing a lot in modernizing Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base to become -- to become a pivotal hub in the Black Sea.

So thank you very much for the invitation, sir, and I'm looking forward to continue to extend and to strengthen our strategic partnership.

SEC. ESPER: Very good. Thank you very much.

MIN. CIUCĂ: Thank you, sir.