Haaretz: Romania could be the first European NATO state that

The Minister of Defense, Vasile Dîncu, visiting a factory of Israel Aerospace Industries, September 16, 2022. Photo source: Twitter / Radu Ioanid, Romania’s ambassador to Israel.

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According to some sources from the Ministry of Defense in Israel, quoted by the Haaretz newspaper, Romania was very keen to acquire the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, developed by Israel. The news comes a few days after last week’s visit of the Romanian Minister of Defense, Vasile Dîncu, to Israel. If an agreement is reached in this regard, Romania will become the first European NATO member country to purchase the Iron Dome system.

Since entering Israel’s defensive arsenal in 2011, the Iron Dome system has proven its effectiveness in combat conditions against militants in the Gaza Strip, the cited publication states.

Each battery costs around $150 million, and each interceptor missile costs $50,000.

Israel was not able to enter the profile market as strongly as it would have liked: only two Iron Dome systems were sold to the US military for $373 million. Haaretz notes that the Americans don’t even seem interested in purchasing more than that.

According to available information, Azerbaijan is another country that has acquired Iron Dome. Several other countries – Singapore, Canada, South Korea, India, Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – bought only its radar component.

Although the Iron Dome is the creation of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and its defense industry contractors, it has essentially become a joint project with the United States. Israel has invested 800 million shekels (about $232 million) in its development, while the Americans, through appropriations by Congress, have invested four times as much.

And the production of the missiles was a joint project between Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the American company Raytheon. Development costs totaled approximately $4 billion.

As a result, any sale of the system requires Washington’s approval. The sources quoted by Haaretz claim that the chances of advancing an agreement with Romania are very good.

Iron Dome and Russia’s war in Ukraine – topics avoided in Dîncu’s discussions with the Israeli press

In an interview with Haaretz daily, Dîncu declined to discuss Iron Dome, but said his country was eager to sign improved security cooperation agreements with Israel.

“We want to improve our military and security cooperation with Israel in many areas. We want to learn from Israel how to improve military medicine, as opposed to civilian medicine, on the front line. Because of its experience, Israel has the best expertise on this subject. We want to bring Israeli knowledge and technological innovation to Romania. Our military industry is outdated and we discovered that Israel, unlike other states, is a country that not only wants to sell military equipment, but also wants to get a license to produce it in Romania, and that is very important for us . This will allow us to export weapon systems to NATO,” Dîncu told the quoted publication.

In the last quarter of a century, Israel’s arms sales to Romania exceeded 1 billion dollars, according to Haaretz data.

Even before 1989, Romania had special security and intelligence relations with Israel, relations that have become closer in recent decades.

“We now have eight purchase agreements with Israeli companies, including Elbit and Rafael,” said Dîncu.

These agreements resulted in the construction of four factories in Romania, with 800 employees, producing parts for drones, towers and electronic equipment. The ties between the two countries were also manifested through Romania’s acceptance of the Israeli Air Force training in Romania’s airspace in exercises simulating an attack on Iran. Such exercises have taken place in Turkey, but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently opposed their continuation.

Dîncu also stated that Romania intends to sign security cooperation agreements that would allow the Israeli and Romanian armies to carry out joint maneuvers.

In past years, the Israeli company Elbit upgraded Russian-made MiG-29 aircraft models, but now Romania is interested in Western counterparts, Dincu said, and the MiGs will be phased out within about a year.

With the approval of the United States, Romania bought 17 F-16 aircraft from Portugal and 32 from Norway. Haaretz notes that Israel has also shown willingness to sell some to Romania, but Dîncu says that this will not happen, as Romania aims to acquire the next generation of American fighter jets, the F-35.

Asked which entities represent a potential threat to Romania, Dîncu’s answer came unequivocally: Russia, adding:

“Although this is not a direct threat. We are part of NATO’s collective defense and operate within this framework. We have to defend ourselves.”

Also, at the beginning of the interview given to the daily Haaretz, Dîncu stated that President Klaus Iohannis did not mandate him to speak about Russia’s war against Ukraine. Even so, the public information that has reached the media indicates that Romania – along with Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states – is an important player in the transit of weapons to Ukraine, the Israeli publication also notes.