The Romanian army received its first shipment of US Raytheon Patriot surface-to-air missiles on Thursday to boost its defenses.
“Romania has just become a safer nation by hosting these Patriot missiles on its territory. Romanian citizens are now better protected,” Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said at the receiving ceremony at a firing range on the Black Sea shore.
The missiles will form part of an integrated air defense system comprising newly acquired F-16 fighter jets as Romania brings its obsolete military equipment up to NATO standards and phases out outdated communist-era MiGs.
Worth about $4 billion, the system is an important element of the European Union and NATO member’s overhaul program as it seeks to deter any threat from Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly said Moscow views US missiles in eastern Europe as a great danger, and Moscow would be forced to respond by enhancing its own missile strike capability.
The US has demanded that NATO members gradually boost their defense budgets to 2% of GDP and Romania, a close US ally, was among first in Europe to do so, Reuters reported.
Romania also hosts a US ballistic missile defense station and has contributed combat troops to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.