Farmers in idyllic rural Romania got a rather unwelcome surprise when they were suddenly swarmed by US soldiers, while armored combat support vehicles ran roughshod through their fields, destroying hectares of crops.
Apparently channeling former British PM Theresa May, US troops ran a tank, a Humvee and a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle through defenseless fields of wheat, sunflower and corn in Stelnica, a village on the Danube southeast of Bucharest. Thursday’s agricultural onslaught seriously startled the locals, some of whom managed to capture the incident on camera.
The landowners told a local website on agricultural affairs that they had been taken totally by surprise: when they first saw smoke rising up over the fields, they thought there was a fire. The sight of the military vehicles only made matters more confusing, as the farmers were totally unaware the vehicles were a part of scheduled NATO exercises.
We entered the area between the tanks, but they did not notice us. They defied us, they went from the sunflower fields to the corn, then on to the wheat.
When the Romanian police eventually arrived, they shed some light on the situation. Apparently, the Americans mixed up their coordinates, ending up in the farmers’ fields on their way to Bordusani, some 10 kilometers north – and the designated exercise site for week-long NATO maneuvers code-named Saber Guardian 2019.
The US Army said its unit crossed into the private farmland as a result of “adverse weather conditions,” according to local media.
While there is no estimate yet of the total damage caused, a statement by the Romanian defense industry indicated that the wayward soldiers had destroyed hectares of crops. Local authorities have already begun a process to pursue compensation.
The wrong turn at Stelnica made the US forces late for the war-games exercise, which this year also involves Romanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Albanian, Bosnian and Turkish troops. The exercises aim to foster multinational military integration between NATO allies in Eastern Europe, and are among the half-a-dozen drills scheduled to take place over the summer near the Russian border.