- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Romania’s defense minister says his country will be strengthening its defenses after being faced with Russia’s growing military presence in the Black Sea.

Mihnea Motoc told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the NATO member will start spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense by 2017, something the military alliance wants all members to do.

The Social Democrats, who won a parliamentary election this weekend, say they will respect Romania’s international agreements.

Motoc, a member of Romania’s outgoing technocratic government, said Russia’s military capabilities in the Black Sea “have strengthened considerably in recent years. … I don’t believe you can remain indifferent to this.”

He said NATO did not intend to reach parity with “Russia’s military development.”

“Our idea is not to enter an arms race with them,” he said.

Motoc described relations with Russia as “minimal” since Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. He added that he hoped the situation would improve.

“But we have to be realistic … in the short term, realities won’t change in a decisive way,” he said.

Amid deteriorating relations between Russia and the West over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the alliance opened a NATO Force Integration Unit in Bucharest in 2015 and activated a multinational division headquarters in Bucharest that will coordinate NATO activity in Romania and Bulgaria.

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