Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:29AM
This image shows a US M1 Abrams tank firing its main gun while taking part in Justice Eagle 17 joint military exercises with Romanian forces, at ther Smardan shooting range, in Galati County, Romania, April 20, 2017. (By Reuters)
This image shows a US M1 Abrams tank firing its main gun while taking part in Justice Eagle 17 joint military exercises with Romanian forces, at ther Smardan shooting range, in Galati County, Romania, April 20, 2017. (By Reuters)
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American and Romanian military forces have taken part in a joint military exercise within the framework of the NATO.

The live-fire exercise, which involved US M1 Abrams tanks, was held at a combat training center in Smardan, Romania, about 260 kilometers from the capital, Bucharest, on Thursday.

The drill was part of the Justice Eagle 17 joint defense training exercises, being held until May 5.

The southeastern European country with 20 million people has been a NATO member since 2004 and has contributed troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Romanian service men cross a muddy field after taking part in joint a US and Romanian military exercise, known as Justice Eagle 17, at the Smardan shooting range, in Galati County, Romania, April 20, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

It is currently Washington’s regional ally and hosts a US ballistic missile system.

The US missile system, called “Aegis Ashore,” was set up in 2015 in a declared mission against missile threats.

Romania now plans to buy Patriot missiles from the US.

“Romania has announced their intent to enhance their defensive capability by procuring Patriot,” media sources quoted a senior Romanian Defense Ministry official as saying on Thursday.

The Patriot missile system would be part of an integrated air defense system that involves six F-16 fighter jets Romania recently purchased.

The procurements could put Romania in compliance with the NATO defense spending standard of two percent of gross domestic product. Romania did not reach that standard in 2016.

Russia, however, has said that it viewed Romania as a NATO outpost and a threat due to its hosting of the US missile system.

NATO has expanded its military presence across Europe to unprecedented levels in decades since the Crimean Peninsula’s separation from Ukraine and adhesion to Russia in March 2014.