Titus Corlăţean, ministrul afacerilor externe
Sesiunea “Safeguarding NATO’s Borders” din cadrul conferinţei “Returning Home? NATO and European Security”
Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Londra


Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Thank you, Mr. Niblett, for your introduction!

Let me first share with you my satisfaction to speak before such a distinguished audience in this renowned location, where events impacting our security and defence are thoroughly debated. I am glad to speak again at the Royal United Services Institute, which, in my opinion, makes a difference with its thought-provoking conferences and unbiased analyses. And I am equally honoured that, for the current session, we have the Chatham House on board: the engagement of these two leading think-tanks on security matters underlines the importance of the topic under consideration.

I am grateful for organizing this conference, which I regard as a preview to the Allied Summit that will keep us busy over the next two days and, certainly, beyond.

Returning home is not only about ending the Allied longest overseas mission, but also about strengthening our collective defence and reinforcing our security, as well as about focusing on challenges that we thought long passed.

In this regard, our discussion should focus on what we need to do in order to protect us not only for today, but also for the future: to ensure an Alliance that is robust and capable to carry on its three core tasks, whereas collective defence needs definitely a stronger emphasis.

Let me underline, from the very beginning, the importance Romania attaches to the bilateral strategic partnership with the United Kingdom, which we will continue to promote in order to fully develop its potential. Our political and parliamentary dialogue is very good, and so is our security cooperation; our economic cooperation has increased and we launched a bilateral substantial cooperation on energy. And we will continue to enhance our ties and welcome you to Romania.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me briefly point out a few aspects that I believe are important in respect to our assessments on the developments at the Eastern border of NATO and the EU, as well as in terms of Romania’s expectations from the NATO Summit in Wales.


(1) Security developments in NATO Eastern Neighbourhood are of serious concern for Romania. We witnessed the resurgence of an international conduct that we long thought gone. These security developments, that are unfolding in an accelerated manner in the very proximity of our borders, have been marked by the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation - which, by the way, is about 300 km away from Romania’s Black Sea coast -, as well as by the significant military activities in Eastern Ukraine seeking to destabilize this country, with constant involvement and support of the Russian Federation, in blatant violation of the international law.

We are witnessing a continuous build-up by Russia of the narrative and the pretext for a direct presence in Eastern Ukraine, under the guise of a humanitarian operation and, more recently, overt military actions. Let us not exclude, though, the possibility for the Russian military to install itself formally in Eastern Ukraine and present the world with a fait accompli.

As a matter of fact, I would like to draw your attention to the extended Black Sea Region, where we have witnessed important security developments in the past two decades. This border region of NATO and of the European Union has been one of the targets of Russia’s geopolitical ambitions. Let me mention not only the recent Russian aggression against Ukraine, but also the Russian military actions in Georgia in 2008. As such, I believe that it is high time we put to use the lessons we learned with regard to Georgia, Transnistria, Ukraine, and, as a consequence, NATO and the European Union should definitely pay more attention to this border region, if we want to prevent and defuse further crises.

We have now long considered our borders as a binding element, as a bridge, rather than a fence or as some may say curtain.

It is 25 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain and, all this time we, as an Alliance, have repeatedly reached out in a sincere desire of partnership.

But where we offered cooperation, Russia replied with unfriendliness, to say the least.

It is our shared vision of a Europe whole and free and at peace that we promoted through cooperation. This vision of peace is being challenged.

Time and again we engaged in good faith, just to see an ever more assertive Russia. The crisis caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is the most important challenge to the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area in the post Cold-War time. It demonstrates that, contrary to what we wished to believe, Russia has kept portraying NATO as an adversary, assumed an aggressive stance, and pursued regaining its so called spheres of influence, within the framework of a zero sum game. I am afraid that we need to face this reality for the years to come.

Time and again NATO worked towards giving meaning to the strategic relation with Russia.

Even now, some are keen to highlight the significance of the NATO – Russia Founding Act of 1997, which NATO upheld, while Russia ignored and even breached its provisions. As you know, this is not the only document that Russia breached, though, while Allies kept the hope of cooperation alive. Let me be clear: we acted in a consistent manner to promote all international commitments, including the one already mentioned. But this Act cannot be interpreted in a way that would limit our ability to collectively defend ourselves.

Trust has been shattered, and we should not, in any way, be shy from making efforts for ensuring our protection, just out of concern that we might irritate Russia. If Russia chooses, it can invent its own provocations.

This leads to my next points, regarding our approach at the NATO Summit.


(2) This NATO Summit should be about collective defence, our collective defence, as well as about increasing the Alliance’s readiness to respond to security challenges.

By the end of this year, the Alliance would have ended its longest mission abroad, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. While we are set to continue the engagement in Afghanistan with the Resolute Support Mission, which Romania will support and where we will also commit significant troops, it is clear that the Alliance should focus on its core tasks, highlighted recently by the ongoing security developments in its neighbourhood.

Over the next two days and beyond, we will advocate for a robust and strong Alliance, ready and capable to defend its members. In connection with the security developments in Ukraine, the Alliance has demonstrated unity and solidarity and acted resolutely to reassure its Eastern Allies.

Romania has benefited of these reassurance measures and I would like to mention in that regards periodic visits of US Navy ships, as well as of French ships, to the Black Sea, and the conduct of joint naval exercises. We also welcomed NATO AWACS flights, deployments of US F-16s for air exercises and of Canadian F-18s for training and air policing, as well as the intensification of military exercises.

Allow me to also welcome in advance UK forces coming and training with our forces this fall. 

However, we need to ensure that the Alliance will deliver a long term and coherent response. These challenges will not go away soon, but rather become more subtle, ambiguous, though equally if not even more dangerous. We speak now of hybrid warfare, where military and non military, subversive actions, overt and covert, marked by manipulation, propaganda and denial, are employed to challenge us. Although recent Russian military actions in Ukraine were quite overt and visible, the Russian leadership continued to refuse to acknowledge them.

That is why we support a consistent, enduring NATO presence along its Eastern flank, for as long as required, covering in a balanced manner its Northern and Southern dimensions. That is why we supported the efforts of our Polish and Baltic friends for a NATO presence in the North that is why we offered our full support for a NATO presence in Romania.

Such presence needs to be reinforced by very high readiness forces, able to respond fast to any challenges, no matter if they are in the East or South of the Alliance.

I know I focused on the developments of the Eastern flank, but we are facing dramatic evolutions on the Southern flank as well. The situation in Syria, Iraq, and Libya is worrisome. A terrorist state in the Middle East - the objective followed by the Islamic State - generates huge risks for the region and has implications to the Euro-Atlantic security.

As such, we fully understand and support the inclusion in NATO’s documents of the challenges that the Alliance faces in the South, those coming from North Africa or from Middle East. Reinforcing our collective defense and increasing our readiness is also valid for addressing challenges arising from those areas as well.


(3) Investing in collective defence is my third point. In this regard I look at a range of interconnected aspects:

We need to maintain the interoperability of our forces as ISAF comes to an end. As such, intensification of joint exercises, focused on collective defence scenarios, is needed and should be stepped up, especially along the Eastern flank.

We need to increase our defence spending and to make it more efficient. Romanian Government fully supports this objective and supplemented its defence budget during this year, so that we would reach, by 2017, a defence budget of 2% of the GDP.

We will advocate the necessity of this objective with other Allies as well, and suggest, as a minimum first step, stopping of reductions of the defence budgets.


(4) Reinforce the Transatlantic link is my fourth call. North America and Europe are bound together in our Alliance, for the defence of our security and our shared values. Without the transatlantic link, we would have had a different Europe today, not whole, not free, not at peace. We consider the transatlantic link the bedrock of our collective defence, which in turn paves the way for prosperity and development.

Within NATO, we will pursue a fair and balanced burden sharing of costs and responsibilities, and the increase of the defence budget will have a positive impact in this regard, leading to an important enhancement of our security.


(5) Support the “open doors” policy and enhance our partnerships is my fifth point. Enlargement has been one of the most successful policies of this Alliance and the best way to promote security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, beyond the borders of the Alliance. Romania has always been a true supporter of the “open doors” policy: we have experienced ourselves the stability and security that this policy provided for, as well as the transformational power subsumed. It advanced democracy, rule of law, stimulated reform, and generated development.

We will ensure that NATO and its member states do their best to support, both in political and practical terms, the aspirants, Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in fulfilling the common goal of joining the Alliance.

Furthermore, we are grateful for the contributions of the aspirant countries in fulfilling the Alliance’s strategic objective, particularly in operations, as well as for enhancing regional security and stability. Sharing the same values and respecting the same principles are essential to our common future.

Increasing NATO’s political dialogue with partners, especially those in regions of strategic importance, and I am specifically referring to the Black Sea region, as well as supporting partners to consolidate their national defence would be a significant contribution to our common security.

We consider, for instance, that enhancing NATO’s assistance to the Republic of Moldova is a significant effort in preventing possible spillover from the current developments in the region. We believe it is important that NATO stays with its partners that are most exposed to the security risks, while pursuing an enhanced cooperation with the Alliance.

In a wider perspective on partnership and cooperation, I would like also to underline the importance of NATO – EU strategic partnership. Romania is an active and constant supporter of complementary action by NATO and the EU, which is more relevant given the extended membership of European countries in both organisations. We are hoping that, in line with the European Council Conclusions of December 2013, the EU will be able to achieve concrete progress in developing its capabilities, be they civilian or military. By doing so, NATO itself will be stronger.


Aside from those five points, let me also underline the importance my country attaches to the Strategic Partnership with the United States, which is one of the central elements of our security. The US presence in Romania, the bilateral reassurance measures, and the development of bilateral security strategic projects will enhance our security, as well as the Allied security.

One of those strategic projects in Romania is the development of phase 2 of the US European Phased Adaptive Approach on Missile Defence. Making the Aegis Ashore missile defence facility at the Deveselu Military Base operational in the 2015 timeframe would show the strong commitment of both Romania and the United States to continue to contribute to the legitimate collective defense of Allied states, within the broader purpose of preserving international peace and security.

Let me conclude by underscoring the importance of adequately communicating the decisions adopted in Wales: showing leadership and making our commitment to security clear are strong messages, which in turn will increase the Allied deterrence and defence.

Rallying our peoples behind our decisions and bringing the Alliance closer to our citizens is equally important: we need to highlight the intrinsic link between security and prosperity, to increase its legitimacy which, in turn, will boost the trust of our people that the Alliance is strong and can defend them.

Thank you! I look forward to your comments and questions.


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