As “infrastructure week” draws to a close, President Donald Trump is preparing to meet with his Romanian counterpart, President Klaus Iohannis, in the Oval Office on Friday before the two hold a joint press conference in the Rose Garden to talk security, defense spending and other economic concerns.
The press conference is set to begin at 2:45 ET.
Romania, which joined NATO in 2004, increased its defense budget to equal 2% of its GDP this year – one of only 5 NATO members to hit that target. Trump, who has waffled back and forth on whether he considers the alliance “obsolete,” said last month during a meeting of NATO leaders at the defense alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels that its members owe the US a lot of money for paying for their defense.
The visit by Iohannis is meant to underscore the defense and military ties between the two countries. Romania is host to an $800 million ballistic missile shield built by the US that was “switched on” last month. US officials say the shield is meant to counter the threat from Iran, however, the missiles are aimed at Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow views the missile shield in eastern Europe as a “great danger” and Moscow will be forced to respond by enhancing its own missile strike capability, according to Reuters.
The Romanian military recently agreed to buy Patriot missiles from US defense contractor Raytheon, a deal worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.
The missiles would be part of an integrated air defense system comprising six newly acquired F-16 fighter jets as Romania brings its forces up to NATO standards and retires outdated communist-era MiGs, Reuters reported.
Iohannis has said that he hopes to make a good impression on Trump, and that their meeting is an important milestone in the relationship between the two countries.
“I truly wish for us to have a very good first contact with President Trump. I want to convince him that together we can make the partnership stronger, deeper,” Iohannis said, according to Romania Insider.
The Romanian President is currently on a visit to the US, a visit that started on June 4 and will end Friday after the meeting.
As Romania Insider reports, Iohannis is the first leader from Eastern Europe to meet with Trump. The two leaders already met once at the NATO summit in Brussels last month.
Iohannis will meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson following his meeting with Trump.