Last week, the US Department of Defense announced that it would be sending an additional one hundred and seventy-five Marines to Romania. The US Marine Corps already maintains a rotational task force with some three hundred personnel in that country at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, as part of existing regional security cooperation efforts.
What is particularly interesting about this deployment is that the Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina will be assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR) rather than Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Black Sea Rotational Force (SPMAGTF-BSRF). This is likely because the decision had recently been made to increase the overall size of SPMAGTF-CR, headquartered at Moron Air Base in Spain, and the only approval required was to forward deploy the personnel to Romania. The personnel will be collocated with SPMAGTF-BSRF, but will remain under the control of SPMAGTF-CR, which is assigned to US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
SPMAGTF-CR is part of a DoD-wide response to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. DoD established a number of crisis response task forces around the world as a result. The Marines in Spain are assigned to AFRICOM, but according to DoD they can be tasked to respond to any crisis. The deployment of the Marines to Romania shows off their capabilities and officials say that it is specifically to allow the task force “greater flexibility.”
Officially, the deployment is not related to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where a popular protest movement ousted the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year. Russia responded to this change by supporting a secessionist referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region and subsequently voting to annex the province. Crimea had been made part of the Ukrainian Soviet Social Republic in 1954, at which time the country was a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The province has a sizeable ethnic Russian population, in addition to ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, and others. Ukraine and Russia have now traded veiled threats and the US and other NATO members have reinforced allies on Ukraine’s borders to ease fears of further Russian interventions. The US has also recognized the new interim Ukrainian government and said that the Crimea referendum and annexation are illegal.