Romania’s acting Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca received a top military award from the U.S. Ambassador on Tuesday for his contribution to European and NATO security.
The retired general served as defense minister and Chief of the Armed forces before he was appointed caretaker prime minister after Dec. 6 elections.
The Legion of Merit is the highest award the United States Armed Forces can give to a non-U.S. citizen and is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service and achievement, a statement from the U.S. embassy said.
“Under Minister Ciuca’s leadership, Romania achieved the ability to credibly defend itself and other members of the NATO Alliance against threats to its territorial integrity and citizens,” Ambassador Zuckerman said.
“ Minister Ciuca also understood the necessity of a strong economy to a strong defense posture and has helped advance Romania’s economic prowess by expanding research and development capabilities through the defense sector.”
The former defense minister “steadily solidified the bilateral relationship between our countries by encouraging collaboration, loyalty, and consistency,” the Ambassador said.
He said that in order to “maintain and preserve freedom and democracy in the face of Russian, Chinese, and other malign influences, it is crucially important to maintain vibrant economies as well as effective militaries.”
“The best ally the United States can have is a democratic nation that is strong militarily and economically,” he said.
Next year, Romania will receive and deploy the state of the art high mobility artillery rocket system, HIMARS.
“By incorporating the HIMARS system into its defense strategy, Romania solidifies its place as a guarantor of European and Black Sea security.”
Romania’s defense modernization program includes F-16s, Blackhawk helicopters, Piranha armored vehicles, the Naval Strike Missile, Maritime Domain Awareness, Anti-Submarine warfare equipment and the Patriot missile system.
Romania has also consistently remained committed to deploying troops and resources to operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Mali in the fight against terrorism,” he said calling Romania “a true ally.”
In September, the Romanian army received its first shipment of U.S. Raytheon Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
The missiles will form part of an integrated air defense system comprising newly acquired F-16 fighter jets as Romania brings its obsolete military equipment up to NATO standards and phases out outdated communist-era MiGs.
The system which is worth about $4 billion is an important element of the EU and NATO member’s overhaul programme as it seeks to deter any threat from Russia.
Other medal recipients are President Dwight D. Eisenhower, General George S. Patton and King Michael I of Romania.