Romania says Russian demand for NATO troop removal ‘unacceptable’

Romania on Friday labelled as “unacceptable” a Russian demand that NATO forces stationed on the alliance’s eastern flank be withdrawn as part of security guarantees to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.

“Such a demand is unacceptable and cannot be part of a negotiation,” Romania’s foreign ministry said in a press release.

On Friday, ahead of crucial Russia-US talks in Geneva, Moscow called for the “withdrawal of foreign forces, hardware and arms” from countries that were not NATO members before 1997.

“These include Bulgaria and Romania,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement,singling out the two former Warsaw Pact allies who joined NATO in 2004.

Romania said that NATO’s presence in allied countries was “a purely defensive reaction to Russia’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in the eastern vicinity… currently intensifying despite NATO’s attempts to engage in constructive dialogue.”

Romania, which already hosts around 1,000 US troops on its territory, said on Thursday that it is ready to welcome additional ones, as well as French troops, following an announcement from France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov also told parliament on Friday that “Bulgaria is a sovereign country and we have long made our choice by becoming a member of NATO.”

“As such, we decide alone how to organise the defence of our country in coordination with our partners,” he said.

He added that the NATO Treaty did not provide for “second-category member states for whom collective defence is to be applied selectively or within a limited scope.”

“We call on the Russian Federation to remain engaged in constructive dialogue to de-escalate tension.”

Under several bilateral agreements with the US, Bulgaria routinely hosts up to 2,500 US troops for exercises at a training area in the east of the country, with troop deployments allowed to reach up to 5,000 during rotatio