BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — NATO will briefly move an allied joint force command headquarter to Romania as the alliance continues to hone its ability to react to Russia's moves in Ukraine and other security challenges, a top commander said Tuesday.
The Allied Joint Force Command based in Naples, Italy, will relocate to Cincu, in mountainous central Romania, for 12 days in June to support a NATO exercise involving 1,000 troops from 21 NATO states, said its commander, U.S Navy Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III.
"This deployment will be the first time a NATO Joint Force Command headquarters has deployed to Romania," Ferguson said in Bucharest during a two-day visit.
Some 350 staff members will test their ability to command and control a multinational exercise from a forward position, said Lt. Col. Thorsten E. Smoll, public affairs officer at JFC Naples. The facility in southern Italy will remain in charge of the other missions that are currently its responsibility, such as the KFOR force in Kosovo.
"This exercise will test the full operational capability of my staff by shifting command and control between ... Naples and the forward deployed elements in Cincu," Ferguson said.
He said the deployment to Romania had been planned for one year as NATO transforms itself into an alliance facing security challenges from the south and east.
"We are concerned with the deployment of advanced missile systems into Crimea by the Russians and the deployment of advanced fighter aircraft and the increase of forces there, which we think threaten the security of the Black Sea," he told reporters.
Cincu is Romania's largest military shooting range, some 180 kilometers (112 miles) northwest of Bucharest.
Ferguson said the exercises were "defensive in nature."
He added that the U.S.-led missile defense shield in southern Romania, which has been criticized by Russia, is intended to defend NATO from attacks from the south.
At the same time that the allied joint force command moves to Romania, NATO and the U.S. will conduct exercises in Poland, the Baltic states, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea.
John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed to this report.