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US missile shield in Romania goes live to Russian fury
By Mihaela RODINA
Deveselu, Romania (AFP) May 12, 2016

Russia calls latest BMD system a security threat
Moscow (UPI) May 12, 2016 - Russian officials sounded off against a newly activated U.S. missile defense site in Romania, calling it a threat to Russia and European stability in general.

As the Aegis Ashore missile defense site was formally activated during a ceremony featuring U.S., NATO and Romanian officials at a Cold War-era base, Admiral Vladimir Komyedov, head of the State Duma's defense committee, told the Interfax news agency "they are moving to the firing line."

"This is not just 100," he said. "It's 200, 300, 1,000 percent aimed against us."

The former commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet brushed aside U.S. claims that the missile defense site was intended to deter Iranian threats.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state news agency Tass Thursday that Moscow was considering military and technical response measures.

Actions like these violate treaties regarding the elimination of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, she said.

"We keep considering destructive activity of the United States and its allies in the sphere of missile defense as a direct threat to international and regional security and stability," Zakharova told Tass. "The strategic situation in Europe is becoming more complicated because of that."

On Tuesday, Commander Sergey Karakayev of Russia's Strategic Missile Force said Russia is developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles in response to continued improvement and deployment of U.S. missile defenses.

"That is why, special attention in the development of new missile complexes is paid to the issue of overcoming the [U.S.] missile shield," Karakayev said.

A 2015 article in NATO Review magazine, which is published by the alliance, counters that Moscow's missile defense opposition is politically motivated.

"When Russia is entering a full-fledged economic crisis that could affect the political allegiances of the Russian population, the Kremlin needs to revive the issue of BMD -- a welcome enemy that contributes to the justification for government survival," according to the article.

The NATO article also argues that Moscow has various types of warheads, missiles and bombers that could technically mitigate such security concerns.

"Given Russia's offensive capabilities, Russia's argument that missile defence (sic) in Europe poses a security threat to Moscow appears exaggerated," the NATO article states.

A US anti-missile defence system in Romania aimed at protecting NATO members from threats by "rogue" nations became operational Thursday, triggering Russian fury despite US insistence it does not target Moscow.

Located in Deveselu in southern Romania, the missile interceptor station will help defend NATO members against the threat of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, particularly from the Middle East, officials said.

"Today the United States and Romania make history in delivering this system to the NATO alliance," said US commander in Europe and Africa Mark Ferguson at an inauguration ceremony with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

But Russia sees the missile system as a security threat right on its doorstep, despite the US and NATO insisting it is not aimed at undermining Moscow's defences.

"According to our experts' opinion, we are convinced that the deployment of the missile defence system is truly a threat to Russia's security," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

Relations between NATO and Moscow have sharply deteriorated since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, sparking fears among other eastern European countries that they too could be the targets of Russian aggression.

Stoltenberg said the missile installation "represents a significant increase in the capability to defend European allies against proliferation of ballistic missiles" as it becomes part of a broader NATO missile shield with an installation in Poland as well.

But he stressed that the system was not aimed at Russia and in fact was not capable of intercepting Russian missiles.

"The site in Romania as well as the one in Poland are not directed against Russia. The interceptors are too few and located too far south or too close to Russia to be able to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles," he said.

- 'Purely defensive' -

The Deveselu site will host a battery of SM-2 missile interceptors and will officially be integrated into the NATO missile shield at the bloc's summit in Warsaw in July.

Work on the site began in October 2013 and is thought to have cost $800 million (700 million euros).

The Western military alliance insists the role of the missile shield is a "purely defensive" response to external threats, notably from so-called "rogue states", having referred in the past to Iran and North Korea .

The US ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute, has described the activation of the missile system as a gesture of his country's commitment to Article Five by which all 28 NATO members pledge a one-for-all, all-for-one response to any military threat if a member invokes the treaty clause in the face of an attack.

But Russia meanwhile is bolstering its forces to counter what defence officials said was the NATO build-up close to its borders.

"It is a step towards the military and political containment of Russia," senior foreign ministry official Andrei Kelin said of the deployment, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

Kelin warned it would "only worsen" the already-tense relations between Russia and NATO.

And Russia's ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, said he was not "convinced by NATO declarations that the American anti-missile system is not aimed at Russia".

Cited by Interfax, he also condemned "anti-missile defence systems deployed in the region, always ready for combat," and "military infrastructures moving closer to Russia's borders".

Launched in 2010, NATO's anti-missile shield system -- based essentially on US technology -- involves the progressive deployment of missile interceptors and powerful radar in eastern Europe and Turkey.

The Deveselu site is part of the second phase of the project, after the deployment of radar in Turkey and four Aegis warships with anti-missile defence capacity in the Spanish port of Rota.

The third phase involves Poland.

Work on a site in Redzikowo in the north of the country is to be completed at the end of 2018. Situated some 250 kilometres (150 miles) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, it will host 24 land-based SM-3 missiles as well as anti-aircraft systems.


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Previous Report
US heralds Romania missile defence system as step forward
Bucharest (AFP) May 11, 2016
A US missile defence system in Romania will become operational Thursday in a move welcomed by US officials as an "important step" but also one likely to infuriate Moscow. The missile interceptor station in Deveselu, southern Romania, will help defend NATO members against the threat of short and medium-range ballistic missiles - particularly from the Middle East, US assistant secretary of st ... read more

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