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US to launch Romania missile defense shield

May 12, 2016

A US missile defense system in Romania has become operational amid increased tensions between Russia and the West. The White House defended the decision by saying the station would protect NATO members.

Diggers and Romanian military helicopters stand on the runway prior to the official groundbreaking ceremony at the former Deveselu military airbase in Deveselu village, southern Romania, on October 28, 2013 © Getty Images/AFP/D. Mihailescu
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Mihailescu

Speaking in Bucharest, Assistant Secretary of State Frank Rose told a news conference before the system was made operationathat turning on the defense shield did not represent a security threat to Moscow, despite the Kremlin's concerns. The site is set to go live on Thursday.

"Both the US and NATO have made it clear the system is not designed for or capable of undermining Russia's strategic deterrence capability," Rose told reporters.

"Russia has repeatedly raised concerns that the US and NATO defense are directed against Russia and represents a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Work on the Deveselu station, in the south of Romania, began in October 2013 and is estimated to have cost some $800 million (700 million euros).

Vice Admiral James D. Syring (L), Director of US Missile Defense Agency, Dr. James N. Miller (R), US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa (2-nd R) and Romanian President Traian Basescu (2-nd L) use shovels during the official groundbreaking ceremony held at Aegis Ashore Facility, a military anti- ballistic missile defence facility at Deveselu EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT
Work began on the facility in October 2013Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The station will be equipped with a battery of SM-2 missile interceptors and will be officially inaugurated into the NATO missile defense shield at the organization's summit in Warsaw in July.

Kremlin concerns

Douglas Lute, the US ambassador to Romania, said the new station was an important part of Article Five of a NATO pact in which all 28 members are bound to come to each other's defense in the case of a military threat.

"Tomorrow is a demonstration that the US, Romania and the other allies contributing to the defense system mean what Article Five says," he said.

In spite of repeated assurances, the Kremlin maintains that the real purpose of the defense shield is to provide the US with enough military might to neutralize Russia's nuclear arsenal in order to make a first strike, in the event a war breaks out.

es/cmk (AFP, Reuters)