A US anti-missile defence system in Romania aimed at protecting NATO members from threats by “rogue” nations became operational on 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 said 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.