US activates Romanian missile defense site, angering Russia
DEVESELU, Romania – ReutersThe United States switched on an $800 million missile shield in Romania on May 12 that it sees as vital to defend itself and Europe from so-called rogue states but the Kremlin says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear arsenal.
Senior U.S. and NATO officials declared operational the ballistic missile defense site, which is capable of shooting down rockets from countries such as Iran that Washington says could one day reach major European cities.
“As long as Iran continues to develop and deploy ballistic missiles, the United States will work with its allies to defend NATO,” said U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Robert Work, alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Despite Washington’s plans to continue to develop the capabilities of its system, Work said the shield would not be used against any future Russian missile threat. “There are no plans at all to do that,” he told a news conference.
On the other side, the Kremlin on May 12 insisted the deployment of the US missile defense system to Romania was a “threat” to Russia’s security.
“From the very beginning of this whole story, we have said that according to our experts’ opinion, we are convinced that the deployment of the missile defense system is truly a threat to Russia’s security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Before the ceremony, Frank Rose, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, warned that Iran’s ballistic missiles can hit parts of Europe, including Romania.
When complete, the defensive umbrella will stretch from Greenland to the Azores. On May 13, the United States will break ground on a final site in Poland due to be ready by late 2018, completing the defense line first proposed almost a decade ago.
The full shield also includes ships and radars across Europe. It will be handed over to NATO in July, with command and control run from a U.S. air base in Germany.