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US, NATO Activate Missile Defense Site in Romania

  • VOA News

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (C) reviews an honor guard during an inauguration ceremony of the U.S. anti-missile station Aegis Ashore Romania (in the background) at the military base in Deveselu, Romania, May 12, 2016.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (C) reviews an honor guard during an inauguration ceremony of the U.S. anti-missile station Aegis Ashore Romania (in the background) at the military base in Deveselu, Romania, May 12, 2016.

The U.S. has switched on an $800 million (700 million euro) missile defense site in southern Romania Thursday, a move that has infuriated Moscow.

"Both the U.S. and NATO have made it clear the system is not designed for or capable of undermining Russia's strategic deterrence capability," U.S. assistant secretary of state Frank Rose told a news conference in Bucharest Wednesday.

"Russia has repeatedly raised concerns that the U.S. and NATO defense are directed against Russia and represent a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

Rose instead cited Iran as the targeted threat.

"Iran continues to develop, test and deploy a full range of ballistic missile capabilities and those capabilities are increasing in range and accuracy," he said.

Watch video report from VOA's Zlatica Hoke:

Russia's reaction

Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma's defense committee, called the missile defense site a threat to Russia.

"This is a direct threat to us,'' Komoyedov, the former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, told the Interfax news agency. "They are moving to the firing line. This is not just 100; it's 200, 300, 1,000 percent aimed against us. This is not about Iran, but about Russia with its nuclear capabilities,'' he said.

Work on the Deveselu site began in October 2013, after an initial decision by NATO in 2010 to create a missile shield based on U.S. technology. The project, which includes building sites in Poland as well as Romania, is expected to be completed in 2020.

NATO insists the role of the planned shield is a "purely defensive" response to external threats.

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