Romanian, Polish presidents call for stronger Nato presence on the eastern flank

Romanian, Polish presidents call for stronger Nato presence on the eastern flank
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest May 11, 2021

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda declared on May 10 that there is a need for a “stronger allied military presence”, including US participation, in the southern part of the alliance's eastern flank, amid the worrying security situation in the Black Sea. 

Iohannis and Duda hosted a virtual summit of the Bucharest Nine (B9) format, an initiative launched by the two presidents, on May 10, just weeks after Russian military exercises along Ukraine’s border stoked fears of an imminent invasion. While the troops were withdrawn at the end of April, and the exercise appeared to be merely a bit of geopolitical theatre, they still ratcheted up tensions in the Black Sea area. 

All all NATO members of the eastern flank participate in the B9 format, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, but Iohannis and Duda also approached the common projects the two countries have in a bilateral format.

The B9 summit was attended by video conference by US President Joe Biden, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, and other heads of state from Eastern Flank countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary). 

Iohannis stressed that “Russia's destabilising actions in the region” are worrying and contribute to maintaining a heightened climate of insecurity.

"The worrying security situation in the Black Sea — which we discussed at length — has shown us that we need to remain vigilant. Therefore, Nato must continue to strengthen its position of deterrence and defence, especially on the eastern flank, in a unified and coherent manner, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. That is why I pleaded — including in the discussion with President Biden — for an increase of the allied military presence, including that of the US, in Romania and in the south of the eastern flank," said Iohannis.

The two presidents also discussed the Rail2Sea railway project, which will link the ports of Constanta and Gdansk and the road Via Carpathia.

"We also addressed the issue of regional cooperation within the Three Seas Initiative, with an emphasis on the implementation of strategic regional interconnection projects. From this perspective, we agreed to continue to promote with priority the Rail2Sea railway project, which will connect the ports of Constanta and Gdansk and, respectively, of the Via Carpathia road project," said Iohannis.

The president of Poland considers that "political and economic cooperation must be intensified after the pandemic" and thanked Klaus Iohannis for organising the B9 summit, before the Nato summit in Brussels.

The virtual event also took place shortly after Nato launched its Defender Europe 21 exercises with 28,000 troops in Central Europe.