Eastern Europe In Political And Military Optics (II)
As early as 2023, Poland is has contracted to buy 50 Javelin LWCLU launchers, as well as about 500 FGM-148F Javelin missiles, as well as an additional training and logistics package.
Other U.S. partners are also receiving weapons. Poland also bought K2 tanks and K9A1 howitzers from South Korea. According to the contract signed in July 2022, a total of 1,000 K2 and K2PL tanks and 672 K9A1/K9PL howitzers will be delivered to Poland. Some of the equipment has already begun to be delivered.
For a European country, of whose neighbors only Ukraine is not a member of the EU and NATO, such military greed is surprising. One gets the impression that Poland is going to war with someone. And given the geostrategic situation, we see that only Russia can be a possible opponent.
I’d like to be wrong on this point and prefer the theoretical conjecture of George Friedman, who in his book “The Next 100 Years” describes some kind of conflict for domination in Europe between Turkey and Poland. But so far there is every indication that this military fist is being deliberately organized against Russia.
As for Romania, Aegis Offshore missile defense systems are deployed on the territory of the military airfield “Deveselu”. Romania is important for the U.S. as a point to project force to the entire Black Sea region and indirectly to the Middle East. Previously, Romanian military airfields were used by NATO to deliver supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now the U.S. has modernized the Mihail Cogalniceanu base on the Black Sea coast of Romania and plans to turn the Cimpia-Turzi airbase in central Romania into a new major center for NATO aircraft in the Black Sea region. On the whole, Bucharest sees Russia as a source of threats and advocates a stronger NATO presence in the region. Romania sees itself as a bastion of Euro-Atlantic peace.
At the same time, Romania’s areas of strategic interest are: South Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina (Ukraine), Moldova and Transnistria. In the future, the experts suggest the following scenarios: soft – the use of a referendum or controlled rebellion; hard – the introduction of a military contingent under the pretext of “defending their own” (alone or together with Poland).
By the way, Romania is also actively trying to modernize its armed forces. Although it lags behind Poland and has fewer capabilities, there is still certain eagerness on the part of Bucharest, which is buying up second hand fighters from other NATO countries. For example, Norway and Romania signed an agreement on November 4, 2022, to sell F-16AM/BM fighters. The deal is for 32 aircraft, which could triple the capacity of the Romanian combat aviation. And the price was attractive to Bucharest.
The contract, that Romania has negotiated since 2021 (when the Norwegians decided to decommission their F-16s), has a value of $385 million. The jets would be delivered in 2023 and 2024, with a majority of deliveries scheduled to happen in 2024. The delay stems from the fact that the agreement, apart from the airframes, also includes spares, ground support equipment, maintenance services, and training for the Romanian ground crews.
The Norwegian F-16s were commissioned in 1980s, however, despite their age, they are considered to have been well maintained. The Norwegians also expressed their satisfaction that the jets would reinforce the allied air force.
Even earlier, in July 2013, Portugal, the United States and Romania signed a trilateral contract worth 186 million euros, of which $78 million was used to cover the cost of purchasing nine Portuguese F-16AM/BMs and three F-16A/Bs from AMARC Davis-Montana Air Base, with the rest of the funds used to cover overhauls and upgrades of those aircraft.
Some funds were also used to modernize three Romanian air bases, Feteşti, Campa Turzii and Buzuau. At the time, the infrastructure was adapted to accommodate the target number of several aircraft. Nine aircraft from Portugal were handed over to the customer in the fall of 2016, and in September 2017 they were joined by aircraft from Arizona, which underwent a complex upgrade. In 2020, the Romanians also managed to buy five more Portuguese F-16s, which, with similar upgrades that cost $130 million. The last of these aircraft arrived in Romania in 2021, adding to the total number of jets to 17.
The current purchase will expand the fleet to 49 aircraft, which is equal in quantity to Poland’s stockpile of F-16s. Norway has 60 F-16AM/BM fighters in service, which have been replaced by 42 F-35A Lightning IIs. They do not rule out the possibility of acquiring more F-35s.
In addition to the F-16s, the Romanians are still operating 16 obsolete MiG-21 fighters. They are to be decommissioned in the spring of 2023. Most likely they will be transferred to Ukraine, because Kiev constantly asks for more aircraft from NATO countries, and the Soviet equipment, in general, is of value to the AFU because the remnants of the Ukrainian Air Force personnel have the skills to use it.
It should be noted that the U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe began much earlier. The initiative of George W. Bush to deploy elements of the missile defense system was announced more than twenty years ago.
Then the negotiations with the possible executors began, which resulted in the signing of agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic. As a result Poland agreed to host the new American base, and another one was established in Romania.
Undoubtedly, the foreign military presence in these countries opened the door to further U.S. influence, legitimizing further militarization of the region. And it is clear that the deployment of missiles and radar stations was not for tracking missiles from Iran, as the White House administration initially claimed. It was one element of the deployment of infrastructure directly against Russia, which found new justification after 2014.
Because of its geopolitical importance, the U.S. is expected to increase its influence over the countries of the Eastern European region. So far, they are acting according to the narrative of “Russian aggression” and through proxy political elites. However, this does not mean that this region is lost forever for Moscow. What is needed is a comprehensive strategy for future cooperation that is harmonious and convincing for each country individually and the region as a whole. Not all political forces in these countries are Russophobic. And, of course, many citizens understand that their countries are merely using the West in the new Great Game.
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