the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden to Joint United States and Romanian Participants in Carpathian Spring Military Exercise

Otopeni Military Airbase
Bucharest, Romania

3:31 P.M. (Local)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Let me begin by saying, Mr. Minister, thank you, and it’s very hot in here.  I was supposed to -- I was told it was going to be cooler here, but thank you for the great weather.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honor to have a chance to see our militaries work together in this Carpathian Spring Joint Military Exercise.  The last time I saw you working together was in Afghanistan.  And it is -- it’s a great benefit to both of us that we are side by side.  It’s my pleasure to take a moment to recognize all that you do to keep the people safe and strong in our alliance. 

Over the past 25 years I’ve come to know and appreciate this beautiful country.  I’ve been here many, many times.  I’ve met I think with just about every one of your leaders.  I’ve watched you make the journey from tyranny to freedom.  I even advocated for Romania’s early entry into NATO when I was a United States senator. 

Even so I’m not sure I understood the full extent of the moral and physical courage of the Romanian people when we began this effort until I heard about you from American troops on the front lines.  They told me that Romanian soldiers were warriors.  They were capable, and they were brave.  I think our fellow men and women here in American uniforms would agree that we are very proud -- very proud -- to serve with Romanian forces. 

So above all I’m here to say thank you to the Romanian men and women who serve to keep us safe, to the families who wait for them at home.  My wife, Jill, and I understand what it’s like to wait.  Our son spent a year in Iraq.  And so your families, we owe you as well. 

And I especially want to pay tribute to the 26 Romanians who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 143 who were wounded.  We owe them and their loved ones a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay.

In Romania, American forces have found a devoted NATO ally.  I never doubted that for a moment as the effort to admit Romania into NATO was underway, serious and steadfast partner that you’ve been from day one.  About a thousand Romanians remain in Afghanistan -- four serving without caveats, fully in the fight, alongside our women and men.  And I’m pleased that you will continue to support the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

Romania today is hosting U.S. Marines at the M-K Airbase, which also supports logistical operations for Afghanistan.  You’re building a fleet of F-16s.  Romania is working to bring its defense budget up to 2 percent of GDP, as all NATO allies should and must.

To the Americans here today, let me say that I believe you are the greatest generation of warriors the world has ever produced.  And that is not hyperbole.  You represent a generation of Americans equal to any that has ever gone before you.  I’ve seen you in Bosnia and Kosovo, Baghdad and Basra, Fallujah and Ramadi, Kabul and Kandahar.  I’ve even seen you in those FOBs up in the Kunar Valley.  You’re an incredible group of warriors. 

You and your family are part of an unbroken chain of patriots who’ve stood guard since World War II over freedom’s frontier, right here in Europe.  I could not be more proud of all of you.

We too care deeply about the alliance, Mr. Minister.  America’s commitment to collective defense under Article 5 of NATO is a sacred obligation in our view -- a sacred obligation not just for now, but for all time.  So I’m here to say on behalf of the President what I hope you already know:  You can count on us.  Period.  We do what we say, and we mean what we say.

Today aggression in Crimea, less than 250 miles from Romanian territory, from NATO’s borders reminds us why we need NATO and why Romania belongs to NATO.  What Russia has done violates not just Ukraine’s sovereignty, but a fundamental principle we fought for in the 20th century and thought we had clearly established.  Europe’s borders should never again be changed at the point of a gun, which is why we continue to condemn -- condemn -- Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. 

So long as Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine continues we must remain resolute in imposing greater costs on Russia, imposing those costs together.  But our strategy is about more than just imposing cost.  It’s fundamentally about investing in a revitalized NATO that emerges from this crisis and works toward a successful summit in Wales, stronger and more united.  America and our NATO allies have urgently stepped up our military presence in the air, land and on the sea of NATO’s eastern flank.  In just the past weeks we’ve had ships visit.  The USS Truxton, Cook, Taylor, as well as the Dacian Viper F-16 exercise.  And in the coming days, new ships -- the Vella Gulf will enter the Black Sea to conduct port visits and maritime training.  Period. 

Since mid March the U.S. has been flying refueling missions over Poland and Romania in support of NATO’s AWACs.  And we are on track to open up a missile defense site at Deveselu, next year.  We support the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe’s intention to finalize contingency plans for the Black Sea allies by the Wales summit.  And we have -- we have assigned extra strategic planners to help NATO meet that goal.  As President Obama said, “NATO nations never stand alone.”  NATO nations never stand alone. 

I want to thank our Romanian colleagues for standing with us, alongside us, emboldening us, making us stronger.  And I thank each and every one of the American troops for their continued patriotic service.  Each and every one of you is doing your countries a great service.

May God bless Romania, may God bless America, and may God protect our troops.  Thank you for your service.  (Applause.)