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News 18 Dec 15

NATO Set to Activate Missile Shield in Romania

The new military base at Deveselu - set to form part of NATO's missile defence shield – is due to become active on Friday, despite continuing opposition from Russia.

Marian Chiriac
BIRN
Bucharest
The new military base at Deveselu, southern Romania | Photo: NSF Deveselu.

The US Navy will formally inaugurate its new missile defence base in southern Romania on Friday once construction of the base is complete.

There are still some tests to be run before the system is fully operational, most likely by April next year, according to Romanian officials.

The base at Deveselu is one of two European land-based interceptor sites for a NATO missile shield, a scheme which is viewed with deep suspicion by Russia.

It will be the first to feature the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile system, a land-based version of the radar tracking system installed on US warships since 2004.

The base is to be staffed by 200 to 500 US military, civilian and contract employees. A second site in Poland is scheduled to become operational by 2018.

The work at Deveselu involves an estimated investment of $400 million in the base, which ironically was originally built by the Soviet Union in 1952.

Romanian officials on Thursday again rejected Russian objections to the NATO missiles. "The anti-missile system is a defence system and is not designed as an instrument against Russia,” Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu said.

Comanescu added that the system does not violate the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, as Russia has claimed.

His comments came after a Russian military official warned that Russian missiles can destroy any antiballistic elements installed by the US in Europe.

“Specialists’ evaluations show that the US anti-missile defence systems that are currently being installed will not be able to withstand an intense attack carried out by Russian strategic units,” General Sergei Karakaev, the commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Troops, said on Wednesday.

Russia previously warned Romania about the anti-missile system the US was installing on its territory. In October, Russia urged Romania and the US to abandon the anti-missile defence system at Deveselu before “it’s not too late.”

Relations between Romania and Russia are already rocky. NATO member Romania has been among the strongest regional backers of the package of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with the crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Moscow meanwhile objects to any NATO build-up or expansion, seeing it as a threat to Russian security.

Romania is one of Washington’s staunchest supporters among the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe. Mihail Kogalniceanu airport, near the Black Sea, became a major US military base in 2007.

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