Biden in Romania to reassure it of US support

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on European allies to stand firm in punishing Russia for its role in the unrest in neighboring Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.

Embarking on a visit to reassure Eastern European nations of America's support for the region, Biden said they all "must remain resolute in imposing greater costs on Russia and imposing those costs together."

"Europe's borders should never again be changed at the point of a gun, which is why we continue to condemn — condemn — Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea," Biden said as he met American and Romanian forces involved in joint military exercises.

The U.S. and the European Union have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on President Vladimir Putin's inner circle over Russia's annexation of the Crimea Peninsula and threatened to target entire sectors of the Russian economy with sanctions if Russia tries to grab more land or attempts to derail Ukraine's presidential election.

"But our strategy is about more than just imposing costs. It's fundamentally about investing in a revitalized NATO that emerges from this crisis and works toward a successful summit in Wales stronger and more united," Biden said.

Since Crimea was annexed, NATO has put AWACS surveillance planes in the skies over Poland and Romania, dispatched warships to the Baltic and Black seas and sent U.S. Army troops to Poland, Romania and the Baltic states.

Romania, a staunch U.S. ally, joined NATO in 2004 and the U.S. has a base in the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta.

Biden will meet President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Wednesday, when he is expected to discuss the situation in neighboring Moldova, where 1,500 Russian troops are stationed in a separatist region.

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