A strong partnership
Defined today as one of the fundamental pillars of Romania’s foreign policy, the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the United States remains a key milestone on Romania’s Euro-Atlantic pathway for the past 25 years. Launched in Bucharest in 1997, in the presence of U.S. President Bill Clinton, the Strategic Partnership emerged as a defining element in the process of reform in the military, economic, political and administrative spheres, contributing decisively to Romania’s evolution in all its dimensions.
In concrete terms, this high-level cooperation at the level of strategic partnership has translated into a consolidation of Romania’s profile on multiple levels: security and defense, trade and investment, education and culture, as well as in the fight against corruption and Romania’s democratic evolution.
In the evolution of the Strategic Partnership, the adoption of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century Between the United States of America and Romania (September 13, 2011) played a particularly important role in establishing the pillars of the Romania-U.S. relationship: political dialogue, security, economy, people, science and technology, research, education, culture.
In 2019, the importance of the partnership between Romania and the United States was reconfirmed by the Joint Declaration adopted by the President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, and the President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump. The statement set out the medium-term vision for the development of the relationship and introduced, in addition to the traditional areas of cooperation (defense, energy security, trade and investment, good governance and the fight against corruption) two new elements: the security of 5G networks and the civil nuclear sector.
The pillars of cooperation
The security dimension, with an emphasis on the military component, remains a representative example of the solidity and depth of the cooperation between Romania and the U.S.. This chapter of excellence of the U.S.-Romania Strategic Partnership is translated into:
- The set-up on Romanian territory (at the military base in Deveselu) of certain components of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe, Aegis Ashore, subsequently transferred, in 2016, under the command and control of NATO. (Photo: Initializing by the heads of the two negotiation delegations, Ellen Tauscher and Bogdan Aurescu, on June 6, 2011, at Washington, of the text of the Agreement between Romania and the United States of America on the location of the ballistic missile defense system of the USA in Romania)
- The commitment to strengthen U.S. military posture at the Black Sea, reconfirmed by the inclusion, in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, of a provision regarding $130.5 million for construction and procurement activities at Câmpia Turzii Air Base, as well as by the presence, on a permanent rotational basis, of U.S. military in Romania, at the Mihail Kogălniceanu base. The recent announcement of U.S. President Joe Biden, at the NATO Summit in Madrid (June 29, 2022) on increasing the U.S. presence in Romania, by deploying an additional rotational brigade combat team, strongly reaffirmed the relevance and profound commitment of the US towards Romania and towards the region. In the same vein, Romania has launched procedures to modernize the Mihail Kogălniceanu base, meant to support its expansion and to accommodate an additional number of NATO and U.S. forces.
The prosperity agenda
The prosperity agenda is gaining more and more prominence in the bilateral relationship and is developing on two important dimensions: the economic dimension and energy security.
From an economic perspective, the U.S. is an important foreign investor in our country, with an estimate of over 20 billion U.S. dollars invested in Romania by American companies after 1990, and over 8,000 U.S. companies present in Romania.
At the same time, civil nuclear is a reference point for the development of the Strategic Partnership. In October 2020, the U.S. Secretary of Energy and the Romanian Minister of Economy, Energy and Business Environment initialed a draft intergovernmental agreement to cooperate on expanding and modernizing Romania’s nuclear energy program, an agreement signed in December 2020. In addition, in November 2021, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis and the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry announced Romania’s intent to build a first-of-a-kind U.S. small modular reactor (SMR) plant. Cooperation in this sector will have a significant impact on combating climate change and improving European and transatlantic energy security.
Cooperation in the field of education is also strong, through the Fulbright Scholarship Program. In over six decades since its establishment (1960), the Fulbright program has played a key role in Romania’s process of evolution and democratization and has had a significant positive influence on the lives and careers of more than 3,400 Romanian and American citizens who were part of these bilateral academic exchanges. (Photo: Professor Keith Hitchins, first U.S. Fulbright Grantee (1960))
The way forward
The results achieved since the launch of the U.S. – Romania Strategic Partnership 25 years ago indicate the paramount role of this cooperation format in ensuring the security and prosperity of both states. The inclusion of this partnership in the strategic conceptual triad of Romania’s foreign policy reflects its cardinal importance for the political and economic course of our country.
The path forward needs to prioritize deepening the cooperation in already well-established areas such as security and defense while also capitalizing on the development potential of other dimensions: economy, research, innovation, digitalization, technology. Romania’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program remains a top priority and its fulfillment would enshrine Romania’s status as a privileged transatlantic partner and intensify bilateral cooperation in multiple fields.
An evolving partnership
Launched on July 11, 1997, during President Bill Clinton’s visit to Bucharest, the U.S. – Romania Strategic Partnership is an essential pillar of Romania’s foreign policy, along with our NATO and EU membership.
President Clinton’s visit was followed by an exchange of letters between the U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adrian Severin.
Three months later, on October 4, 1997, Marc Grossman, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, pay a visit to Romania, during which the areas of interest of the Strategic Partnership were established. Marc Grossman has meetings with President Emil Constantinescu, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea and Foreign Minister Adrian Severin.
President Emil Constantinescu’s address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on July 15, 1998 became a landmark event in the history of our Strategic Partnership (the first one delivered by a Romanian leader).
The U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, pay a visit to Romania on June 22, 1999, during which she meets the President of Romania, Emil Constantinescu.
Between October 29 and November 3, 2001, the Prime Minister of Romania, Adrian Năstase, pay an official visit to the USA, during which he has meetings with the U.S. President, George W. Bush, the Attorney General of the USA, John Ashcroft, the Secretary of State Colin Powell and Pentagon officials.
NATO accession was a key milestone in our country’s Euro-Atlantic path. Romania was invited to open the accession negotiations for NATO membership at the Prague Summit that took place on November 21 – 22, 2002. The very next day, President George W. Bush visited Bucharest to mark this moment of critical importance for Romania’s development.
As a sign of deepening U.S.-Romanian relations, President Ion Iliescu paid an official visit to Washington, D.C., on October 26 – 29, 2003. He had meetings with President George W. Bush and several members of his Cabinet, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of the Treasury John Snow, as well as President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn, members of the US Congress, American business representatives and members of the Romanian community in the United States.
On March 29, 2004, Romania officially joined NATO by submitting its instruments of ratification at the Department of State of the United States, the depositary nation for the North Atlantic Treaty. This event was celebrated with a special ceremony hosted by the U.S. President George W. Bush on the White House lawn and attended by the Prime Ministers of the seven new allies, on the occasion of NATO accession of Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia and Slovakia
It was followed, on April 2, 2004, by the ceremony of the official hoisting of the Romanian flag at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.
A few months later, on July 18 – 21, 2004, Prime Minister Adrian Năstase returned to the United States in the context of Romania’s presidency of the UN Security Council at the time. After his visit to New York, he had bilateral meetings in Washington, D.C. with President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, and members of the US Senate.
President Traian Băsescu’s visit to the United States, on March 8 – 10, 2005, further substantiated the Romanian-U.S. high-level dialogue. His agenda included meetings with President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, IMF Managing Director Rodrigo Rato, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, along with members of the U.S. Congress.
The political-military cooperation is undoubtedly the stellar dimension of the U.S. – Romania Strategic Partnership, and it was framed by the signing of the Agreement regarding the activities of the United States forces located on the territory of Romania (“Defense Cooperation Agreement”) on December 6, 2005, by the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and her Romanian counterpart, Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu. According to the document, American military facilities were to be located at the Mihail Kogălniceanu air base, the Babadag training base, the Cincu and Smârdan training areas.
Our Strategic Partnership has subsequently been substantiated by a strong cooperation agenda and an extensive calendar of bilateral visits. The Romanian President returned to Washington, D.C., on July 26 – 28, 2006, when he had meetings with President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, and members of the House Romania Caucus, co-chaired by Curt Weldon (R-Pennsylvania) and Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas).
Two years later, on April 2 – 4, 2008, President George W. Bush paid an official visit to Constanța and Bucharest. His agenda included bilateral meetings with the President and Prime Minister of Romania, as well as participation in the NATO Summit hosted by our country.
A year away from that moment, Romania welcomed another U.S. official, proof of the durability, sustainability and solidity of the Romanian – U.S. Strategic Partnership. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden paid an official visit to Romania on October 21- 22, 2009.
On June 17, 2010, the Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs, Bogdan Aurescu, announced the official start, in Bucharest, of the Romanian-American negotiations regarding Romania’s participation in the gradual-adaptive missile defense system of the United States in Europe. The American delegation is headed by Ellen Tauscher, the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
2011 remains in the history of the Strategic Partnership as one of the most important political-diplomatic landmarks through the adoption on September 13, 2011 of the Joint Declaration on the Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century between Romania and the United States and the signing of the Agreement between Romania and the United States of America on the Deployment of the United States Ballistic Missile Defense System in Romania by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Baconschi. The documents have been signed during the visit of President of Romania Traian Băsescu to Washington.
In this context, in the same day, September 13, 2011, took place, at the White House, the meeting between President Traian Băsescu and the American counterpart Barack Obama and the Vice President Joe Biden.
On October 28, 2013, construction works start for the deployment of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System at the Romanian military base Deveselu, Olt County. The president of Romania Traian Băsescu participated in the ceremony, and the U.S. Delegation was led by James Miller, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
The consistent calendar of visits included, on May 20 – 21, 2014, another high-level landmark: the official visit of the Vice President of the U.S.
Joe Biden came to Romania to assure about the U.S. obligation to honor Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty, and to convey key messages regarding the U.S. support for fighting corruption and defense of the rule of law.
Between February 10-16, 2015, the Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Ponta, paid a visit to the USA, focused on the economic dimension of the Strategic Partnership. The program included meetings with: Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the CIA Director John Brennan, as well as a round table on economic matters, with the participation of some important American companies.
On September 28, 2015, the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis met the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Washington D.C., at the White House.
On May 12, 2016, a ceremony took place for the certification of the operational capacity of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) of the Deveselu Military Base.
On May 22-25, 2016, the Prime-Minister of the Romanian Government, Dacian Cioloș, paid a working visit to the U.S.
Subsequently, at the NATO Warsaw Summit (July 8 – 9, 2016), the initial operational capability of the NATO Ballistic Missile Defense System was declared. The decision was facilitated by the previous activation of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System and the transfer of command and control to NATO, thus ensuring a significant increase of the coverage and protection of allied territory against potential ballistic missile attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
On June 9, 2017, the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis became the first EU and NATO leader from Central and Eastern Europe to be welcomed at the White House by the President of the United States Donald Trump, in an important milestone for the future of the transatlantic relation as the U.S. leader stated, for the first time, his commitment to the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty and to NATO collective defense.
On October 18-20, 2017 took place, in Bucharest, Romanian-American Business Forum Trade Winds , the largest annual U.S. government organized trade mission designed to match U.S. and foreign businesses to create business partnerships between our countries.
Meeting of the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, on September 18, 2018, with the Secretary of Energy of the United States of America, Rick Perry, during the participation of the U.S. official at the Summit of the Three Seas Initiative, which took place in Bucharest.
A new visit of the President of Romania to the White House took place on August 20, 2019. On this occasion, the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis and the President of the United States signed a Joint Statement that added input to the bilateral Strategic Partnership with regard to the 5G and joint energy security cooperation, including through civil nuclear energy cooperation.
A team of 15 specialists from the Ministry of National Defence made up of five military doctors, five military nurses and five chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear (CRBN) specialized officers went to the United States, on May 26, 2020 to offer support to the State of Alabama, as part of the combat against the pandemics generated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The cooperation between Romania and Alabama State takes place under the auspices of the State Partnership Program launched in 1993 and coordinated by the United States European Command (USEUCOM).
The fall of 2020 saw an increase of the Romanian official visits to Washington D.C. On October 8, 2020, the Minister of National Defense Nicolae Ciucă and the U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed the Roadmap for the bilateral defense cooperation for the timeframe 2020-2030.
A day later, on October 9, 2020, the U.S. Secretary of Energy and the Romanian Minister of Economy, Energy and Business Environment initialed a draft intergovernmental agreement to cooperate on the expansion and modernization of the nuclear civil energy program of Romania.
The series of important governmental visits from October ended with the meeting, on October 20, 2020, of Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Main topics of the discussion included: the strengthening of the deterrence and defense posture on the Eastern Flank of NATO with a focus on the Black Sea region, consolidation of U.S. investments in Eastern Europe, U.S. engagement in Black Sea gas exploitation, inclusion of Romania in the Visa Waiver Program and Romania’s joining the OECD.
A year later, on October 20, 2021, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Romania and had discussions with the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis and with the Romanian Minister of National Defense Nicolae Ciucă in the context of an increase of tensions and Russian Federation security threats in the region.
In the same year, on November 8, 2021, Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had political consultations in Washington.
The next day, on November 9, 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bogdan Aurescu had a meeting with Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in which the two sides committed to collaborate with the aim of making progress to meet the requirements for Romania to accede in the Visa Waiver program.
In the same month, November 2021, a new round of the Strategic Dialogue was hosted by the U.S. Department of State. Romania and U.S. committed to work further to advance cooperation on concrete projects in the areas of security and defense, economic and trade relations, energy, human rights, and cultural relations.
On March 11, 2022, the Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris visited Romania and met the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă. The U.S. Vice President reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend every inch of the NATO territory.
The Republican and Democrat co-chairpersons of the Romanian Caucus of the U.S. Congress, Rep. Mike Turner and Rep. Debbie Dingell, introduced a Resolution to officially honor the 25-year milestone of the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the United States.
The Embassy of Romania to the United States organized, on July 12, 2022, an event in the U.S.Capitol to mark the introduction of the Resolution, with the participation of several leading members of the U.S. Congress and some members of the Romanian Parliament, members of the Romanian Community and the Romanian-American business environment.
The Resolution can be accessed on the Congress website, HERE.
The Minister of Energy, Virgil Popescu, paid a visit to Washington, during which, on July 27, 2022, he had a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, to discuss the next steps to be taken for the construction of reactors 3 and 4 at Cernavodă and the project for the location of small modular reactors (SMR), in Doicești, in Dâmbovița County, SMR being the latest civilian nuclear technology.
The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was in Romania on the occasion of the visit he made on the margins of his participation in the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of NATO member states and in the context of the 25th anniversary, in 2022, of the launch of the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the USA.
On this occasion, on November 29, 2022, Antony Blinken had a meeting with the President Klaus Iohannis, political consultations with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bogdan Aurescu, and participated, together with Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă, at the opening of the exhibition “We, the People: 25 years of Strategic Partnership”, photographic essay that extensively captures the interactions between the Romanian and American people, since the beginning of the Strategic Partnership in 1997.