CONSTANTA, Romania (AP) - America's top Army general in Europe said Wednesday that U.S. use of a base in Romania posed no threat to Russia «or anybody else.
Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army, was visiting the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, one of three military bases in Romania that will be used by U.S. troops _ and the first to be set up by the U.S. in a former Warsaw Pact country.
U.S. use of the bases is the result of a 10-year agreement signed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Romanian Foreign Minister Razvan Ungureanu in Dec. 2005.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the deployment of U.S. troops to Romania. Romania has cool relations with Russia.
«It is not an American base; it is a Romanian base where Romanian and American soldiers train together,» McKiernan said of the base, which is near the Black Sea. The presence of U.S troops «should not frighten anyone because they are here for training and not combat action. ... Neither the Russians nor anybody else should be worried.
Other installations covered by the agreement include Babadag in the Black Sea inland region, Cincu in the mountains of central Romania and Smardan in eastern Romania, which will be used for all types of weapons training.
There are currently 660 U.S. troops at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base.
McKiernan said the U.S. would invest US$68 million (¤49.9 million) to modernize facilities at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base in the next two years.
Romania offered the U.S. the use of the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base for the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, with officials saying parts of the base were off-limits to Romanians.
It was identified by Human Rights Watch in 2005 as one of the possible locations where the CIA hosted secret prisons. Romania has denied the allegation.