The new U.S. missile defense system in Romania has sent Russia into quite a tizzy. So much so that the Kremlin mentioned nuclear war.
Andrey Kelin, a senior official in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said the actions “by NATO can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”
Tensions have risen between the West and Russia since the latter invaded east Ukraine and annexed Crimean in March 2014.
Dimitri Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, described a much darker future for the West to reporters on a conference call:
“We have been saying right from when this story started that our experts are convinced that the deployment of the ABM system poses a certain threat to the Russian Federation,” the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters in a conference call.
“Measures are being taken to ensure the necessary level of security for Russia,” he said. “The president himself, let me remind you, has repeatedly asked who the system will work against.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the government views “the destructive actions of the United States and its allies in the area of missile defense as a direct threat to global and regional security.”
Yet, after the Ukraine invasion and Crimea annexation, Russian officials issued veiled threats to former Soviet republics, which prompted the countries to ask NATO for more protection.
NATO officials said the $800 million missile shield will protect Romania and surrounding countries from Iranian missiles. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told the news conference that if “Iran continues to develop and deploy ballistic missiles, the United States will work with its allies to defend NATO.”
The system is to be turned over to NATO command and will be housed at a U.S. naval support facility in Deveselu, Romania, the site of a Romanian military base. Construction will begin on an additional anti-missile platform in Poland on Friday.
The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System unveiled Thursday is capable of firing SM-3 defensive missiles that can “defeat incoming short and medium range enemy missiles,” according to Lt. Shawn Eklund, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy.
Eklund told CNN that the facility will be manned by approximately 130 U.S. sailors. The inaugural ceremony for the new system will be attended by top U.S. and NATO military officials.
Work also assured Russia that the missile system will not shoot down any Russian ballistic missiles. American envoy to NATO Douglas Lute said the organization will use the system “to deter any aggressor.”
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