Romanian army personnel stand next to the US and Romanian
flags during the inauguration ceremony of the location for installing US
anti-missile shields at Deveselu air unit, some 240 km southwest of Bucharest on
May 3, 2011. (AFP Photo)
The US and NATO have begun revamping a military base in Romania which will be
a crucial part of the American-led anti-missile shield in Europe. The NATO
missile defense system remains a bone of contention in US-Russian relations.
Romanian President Traian Basesku and US Under-Secretary of Defense for
Policy James Miller attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Aegis Ashore
missile defense system at Deveselu military base in southern Romania on Monday.
"Construction of the base in Deveselu, as noted by [US] Minister of Defense
Chuck Hagel, has begun despite a lack of mutual understanding on the issue with
Russia," Romania's Minister of Defense Mircea Dusa said.
Dusa said Romanian construction workers were first tasked with converting the
former Air Force base, and then the US campaign to install the missile defense
systems would begin.
Earlier this month, Pentagon spokesman George Little said the “system represents
an important component of the larger European Phased Adaptive Approach and is
expected to be operational in 2015."
The issue of the US missile shield in Europe has been a longstanding bone of
contention in Russia-US relations. Moscow has demanded legal guarantees from
Washington that missile defense systems deployed in Europe would not target
Russia's strategic nuclear deterrence capabilities. Washington has refused to
grant Russia such assurances, citing a need to protect Europe from ‘rogue
states' like Iran and North Korea.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov "missile defense remains a
burning issue," adding that Russia’s position is well-known.
"We are ready for a constructive dialogue with the US and NATO and are open
to finding a compromise, but let's not pretend that the incessant talks that
there is nothing within the scheme of the American-led ABM that needs to be
changed, nor that it’s not against Russia, that all this talk can somehow
settle things,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov said Russia is interested in strengthening all aspects of strategic
stability, regional stability the neutralization of threats through political
and diplomatic means.
Earlier this month, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said there is yet to
be mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and NATO on the issue of the
missile defense program, as not all the security concerns of Russia are being
taken into account by its partners.
A bilateral agreement to deploy missile interceptors inside Romania was signed
at the Pentagon one day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The
planned interceptors include the land-based SM-3 ballistic missile defense
Romania’s participation in the NATO missile defense system will constitute the
second phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), which initially
consisted of four stages.
On September 17, 2009, however, US President Barack Obama announced that the
planned deployment of long-range missile defense interceptors and equipment in
Poland and the Czech Republic had been scrapped, and that defense against short-
and medium-range missiles using AEGIS warships would be deployed instead.
The first part of this revised system – an early warning radar station in
Malatya, Turkey – went operational in January 2012. Apart from Romania, other
elements of the system will be built in Portugal, Poland, and Spain.