Deployment to a NATO country near the Ukraine conflict zone is seen in Washington as a model of deterrence for US military forces that have recently abandoned direct combat, the author notes. For the first time since World War II, the 101st Airborne Division has deployed to Europe, and its soldiers stationed in Romania are now closer to the conflict in Ukraine than any other branch of the US Army.
Just weeks after the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, the elite division was ordered to deploy some 4,000 soldiers and senior commanders. In the summer, they arrived at an air base located near the Romanian coastal city of Constanta. The base had previously served as a conventional training post for NATO troops, including several hundred US soldiers, and was best known within the military as a way station with a small canteen for US troops moving in and out of Afghanistan. The unit prides itself on being the closest to the conflict zone, but it’s not the largest: authorities have said some 12,000 soldiers attached to the army’s 1st Infantry Division are based mainly in western Poland. and the Baltic states. As part of a military exercise with US and British forces, Romanian forces are testing HIMARS missile delivery systems against simulated targets in the Black Sea. Romania bought three missile systems years ago and officials have said they are still in the delivery process.
The Pentagon will soon decide whether to keep a certain number of US military personnel and top brass in Romania as some lawmakers in Congress fear Washington will find it costly to meet Ukraine’s continued demands for support. In October, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, suggested that his party might not want to give Ukraine carte blanche for a huge aid package.
The deployment to Romania is intended as a warning to Moscow and as part of President Biden’s pledge to protect “every inch” of NATO territory. Additionally, holding joint exercises is a way to ensure that US allies in Southeast Europe are ready to hold the line, the post’s author concludes.