November 13, 2023
86th Air Base Borcea/Fetești
Defense Minister Tîlvăr,
Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren,
Ambassadors Van Haaften and Balslev,
Lockheed Martin Vice President Sanchez,
It is an honor to be here to support the inauguration of this F-16 regional training center. This center is a culmination of months of careful planning and showcases the unity and strength of NATO. It will not only provide Romania with skilled pilots, but all the necessary personnel to operate a complicated weapon system like the F-16 and assist Romania in achieving their goal of three operational F-16 squadrons. This is a critical step to Romania’s transition to F-35, which will modernize their air force to be in line with NATO partners and make Romania and the Black Sea region safer.
This center will also serve as a model for training regional partners as their F-16 programs come on board, including Ukraine. I want to congratulate Romania, once again, for its leadership in providing assistance to Ukraine. Our continued support for Ukraine is paramount to its success in fighting against Russian aggression and ensuring our own security from this threat. As Secretary Blinken has noted, “Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has made clear that an attack on the international order anywhere can negatively affect peace and stability everywhere.”
I also want to congratulate the Netherlands for its support of the center by providing not just the much-needed F-16 jets but also technical know-how and support.
Finally, I want to underscore the importance of Lockheed Martin’s role in this initiative. Its close collaboration with the Romanian and Dutch governments on this project is an example of how the public and private sector can cooperate to further our defense priorities. I hope we will see much more of this cooperation in the future.
I come here with one simple message: the United States government is here to support in any way we can. We already partner with NATO and Romania in bolstering our defense and deterrence in the Black Sea region and will continue to do so to ensure our collective security. We have more than 3,000 U.S. troops in Romania and recently sent additional F-16 jets to support our NATO air policing mission in country. We consulted regularly with Lockheed Martin and our Romanian and Dutch partners on standing up and stand ready to continue to support the effort.
I want to conclude by connecting this initiative to the larger NATO mission. The 2022 NATO Strategic Concept agreed upon in Madrid states: “While NATO is a defensive Alliance, no one should doubt our strength and resolve to defend every inch of Allied territory, preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Allies and prevail against any aggressor.” This training center is just one more step in meeting that objective. It demonstrates in a very tangible and concrete way how we are stronger together by leveraging our resources to advance our common defense and deterrence. Vă mulțumesc!