BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — NATO Deputy-General Secretary Mircea Geoana said on Monday there is “no risk” that Alliance member Romania will be dragged into a war following the recent discovery of drone fragments on its territory near the border with war-torn Ukraine.
“The most important thing is to re-confirm the fact that there is no indication of a deliberate action (by Russia) to strike Romanian territory and therefore NATO territory,” Geoana told journalists during a visit to a school near Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
The NATO deputy chief’s comments come days after Romanian authorities have twice confirmed the discovery of drone fragments on the country's soil amid sustained attacks by Russian forces on Ukraine’s Danube River ports across the river from NATO member Romania.
But the proximity of Russia’s attacks on the other side of the Danube has left Romanian citizens living nearby fearing that the war could spill into their country.
“When you hear the sounds of war a few hundred meters from your home, from the place you work, it will generate emotion and anxiety,” said Geoana, a former Romanian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. “But there is no risk for Romania to be engaged in this conflict.”
After the second discovery of drone fragments on Saturday, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis responded by saying they were “similar to those used by the Russian army” and that the incident indicates there has been “an absolutely unacceptable violation of the sovereign airspace of Romania, a NATO ally, with real risks to the security of Romanian citizens in the area.”
“I want to reassure the Romanian public and especially those on the Danube border with Ukraine that there are no reasons to worry,” Geoana said, adding that he intends to visit those Danube areas. "Perhaps my presence will be a message of confidence and calm.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the allies had seen “other incidents, in Poland and elsewhere,” but did not elaborate. Under NATO’s Article 5 collective security guarantee, the 31 member nations pledge to all come to the aid of any member should it come under attack. At the same time, NATO is wary of being dragged into a wider war with Russia by any minor incident or mistake.
Referring to a NATO summit held in July in Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius, Geoana said NATO leaders have designed a new generation of defense plans “for exactly this type of situation, or even worse, for cases of deliberate attacks" which he said are tailored for the region.
Geoana also said he welcomes plans by the United States to supplement the Alliance’s air policing of the Black Sea region as well as adding more NATO troops to the 5,000 already based in Romania. “This should reassure us and give us a lot of confidence and calm,” he said.
After Russia launched its full-scale invasion against Ukraine in February last year, NATO bolstered its presence on Europe’s eastern flank, including by sending additional battlegroups to Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.
“Imagine what would have happened if we were not a NATO member state," Geoana added. "We belong to the strongest alliance in the history of humanity.”
McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania. AP journalist Lorne Cook contributed from Brussels.