(Reuters) - Romania's President Traian Basescu on Monday accused the European Union of being weak and too slow in imposing sanctions on Russia to deter it from encroaching further into Europe after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.
An ex-communist state on the Black Sea, Romania joined the EU in 2007 and has been among the most vehement advocates of Western sanctions against Moscow after neighboring Ukrainelost control of its peninsula and some of its eastern territories.
"We're now facing a reality because we didn't discourage Putin, because in Eastern Europe there's a conflict fueled by the Russian Federation, with military equipment, politically, with personnel, so that 192 Dutch citizens died on Monday," Basescu told a news briefing.
He was refering to the downing of a Malaysian airliner with nearly 300 people on board in separatist-held territory in Ukraine last week. One of the victims was a Romanian.
Basescu said it was a mistake to handle sanctions against Russia "with kid gloves".
The more delay in implementing them the higher the price will be paid to stop Putin's plans to rebuild the former Soviet Union's empire, he said.
Romania has said NATO must reposition its resources in the wake of Moscow's manoeuvres and plans a gradual increase in its defense budget over the next two years.
It is especially concerned that Moldova, a small state bordering Romania with a Russian-speaking minority - could be next in Moscow's sights given the risk of separatist unrest there.
Basescu attributed the EU's stance towards Russia to various economic interests by member states: "There's always an argument: one country has a big investment, other has to deliver sophisticated equipment, another is natural gas dependant."
"Today is Ukraine, then the Baltics borders are reached, then Poland and then Romania. Aren't we at risk by making economic considerations weigh more than solidarity with states in the EU's eastern flank ?"
(Reporting by Radu Marinas, Editing by Angus MacSwan)