What to Know:
Romania has accused Russia of “irresponsible escalation” and summoned its ambassador after it found evidence that a Russian drone landed and exploded in Romanian territory during attacks against Ukrainian port infrastructure near the border. The impact site was in an uninhabited area and no injuries were reported.
On Wednesday night, Russian forces carried out Shahed-136 drone attacks against Ukrainian port infrastructure along the Danube River, which sits directly on the border with Romania. During this time, Romania’s Ministry of Defense reported that military radar surveillance systems detected “a possible unauthorized penetration into the national airspace, with a signal detected at low altitude on a route to the Grindu area, in Tulcea county.”
The remains of a Russian Shahed-136/Geran-2 loitering munition were found on the territory of Romania following last night's Russian attack on Ukrainian port infrastructure on the Danube river.
As a result of the impact, a 1.5 meters-deep crater was created. Romanian services… pic.twitter.com/YqdnmM4Jmu
— Status-6 (Military & Conflict News) (@Archer83Able) December 14, 2023
“Based on information from the field regarding a possible impact on the territory of Romania, mixed MApN/MAI teams traveled to the area during the night and reported, this morning, that a 1.5 m deep crater was identified as a result of the uncontrolled crash of a drone used in the attack on the Ukrainian port infrastructure, in an uninhabited area about 4 km upstream from the town of Grindu,” the Ministry added.
Following the impact, Romanian Air Force F-16s from the 86th Air Base in Fete?ti and German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons from the 57th Air Base “Mihail Kog?lniceanu” were scrambled to perform surveillance missions over Romanian airspace.
Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement, saying that it “protests firmly against the violation of its airspace, after another RU drone crashed on the [Romanian] territory. We strongly condemn these continuous Russian airstrikes against Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure which are war crimes and must stop immediately.”
The Ministry also summoned Russia’s ambassador.
The Ministry of Defense also stated that it “strongly condemns the attacks carried out by the Russian Federation against some objectives and elements of civil infrastructure in the Ukrainian ports on the Danube. These attacks are unjustified and in serious contradiction with the rules of international humanitarian law.”
This is not the first time that Russian drones have entered Romanian territory while carrying out attacks along the Danube River. Back on September 5, a Russian Shahed-136 detonated in Romanian territory while carrying out attacks against the Ukrainian port of Ismail.
Similarly, on September 9, Romania reported that debris from Russian explosive drones were recovered near the border, stating that it “strongly condemns the attacks carried out by the Russian Federation against some objectives and elements of civil infrastructure in the Ukrainian ports on the Danube.”
Likewise, the Ministry of Defense stated that “At no time did Russia’s means of attack generate direct military threats on Romanian national territory or waters.”
GeoConfirmed UKR – Investigation.
In the early morning of 04 SEP a Russian Shahed crashed and exploded inside Romania (NATO member).
Russia was attacking Izmail Port (next to the Romanian border).
Our volunteers looked into this. ?
— GeoConfirmed (@GeoConfirmed) September 5, 2023
Why it Matters:
Strikes, intentional or unintentional, against a NATO member state could trigger a series of articles with political and military consequences. In NATO doctrine, the triggering of Article IV will convene NATO members to address threats against national security. Likewise, Article V is an “attack against one is an attack against all” doctrine that could see direct military retaliation.
Poland, for example, has had two incidents where both Russian and Ukrainian missiles fell into its territory, with the latter resulting in the deaths of two civilian farmers. In both instances no NATO articles were invoked, as neither incidents were deemed intentional.
As stated above, Romania’s Defense Ministry said that the September drone strikes did not “generate direct military threats” against the country and the viewpoint likely remains the same now. Like the previous two incidents, it is likely that neither Article IV or V will be invoked for now, however, Romania could invoke Article IV if this issue continues to worsen. The Ukrainian ports of Reni, which has also been subject to drone attacks, and Izmail sits directly on the border, so continued Russian strikes will result in further incidents of drones or drone debris crossing into Romania, albeit unintentional.