Having become operational last December, the missile shield in Romania will be inaugurated on Thursday, at a ceremony set to take place at Naval Support Facility Deveselu and to mark the operational certification of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defence System (AAMDS) – Romania. Romanian officials, PM Dacian Ciolos and Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc among them, and representatives of the U.S. Departments of Defence and State, the U.S. Navy’s European Headquarters and NATO, will participate in the event.
Declaring the Deveselu missile shield operational marks a historic day for Romania (which thus becomes a strategic point on the European map) and for NATO alike, since, as shown by the joint Romanian-U.S. statement on the technical capability of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defence Site at Deveselu military base, “delivery of this capability signals a significant increase in ballistic missile defence capability and defensive coverage for southern and central NATO Europe against short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats emanating from outside the Euro-Atlantic Area.”
On this occasion, President Klaus Iohannis will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Presidential Palace, after on Wednesday the Head of State met U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work.
President Iohannis discusses with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense on Deveselu missile shield
President Klaus Iohannis received U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work (photo) on Wednesday at the Cotroceni Palace, seat of the Presidential Administration; they discussed the Aegis Ashore Missile Defence System of Deveselu, Romania.
According to a press release of the Presidential Administration, during the talks, President Iohannis underscored that the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the U.S., especially in terms of defence and security, is a priority of foreign policy and security for Romania. The head of the Romanian state described as excellent the relationship between the two states, stressing that there are favorable premises to strengthen and deepen the Strategic Partnership.
“Romania’s President and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense have particularly appreciated the implementation of the Aegis Ashore System in Deveselu, a significant contribution to the missile defence system of NATO and expression of the Romanian-American Strategic Partnership’s solidity, and also the firm commitment of the U.S. in European and Euro-Atlantic security,” reads the press release.
In context, President Iohannis reiterated the defensive nature of the anti-missile component in Romania, which contributes to the fulfillment NATO’s main task – ensuring the collective defence of its allies.
The release also mentions that the two dignitaries highlighted the fact that the Aegis Ashore System in Romania is aimed at threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic space, an aspect communicated publicly and repeatedly at high level.
Also, both sides voiced openness and transparency during the development of the project, including on the inauguration ceremony, which will take place on Thursday in Deveselu.
In the perspective of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, President Iohannis signaled defence and security issues of interest to Romania, with a focus on ensuring security in the Black Sea region.
Moreover, the situation in Moldova and Ukraine was assessed in the current security context. During the talks, the importance of strengthening the allied presence in a balanced manner, across the eastern flank of NATO, and the relevance of implementing the U.S. European Re-assurance Initiative were underscored.
In turn, the American official reaffirmed the U.S. commitment both on Romanian-American bilateral level, as well as in the allied context in order to strengthen security and defence in the Euro-Atlantic space.
He also welcomed the active involvement of Romania in NATO’s stabilization and post-conflict efforts and the significant contributions of the Romanian armed forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Western Balkans.
Robert Work sent his sympathies for the death of the two Romanian servicemen in Afghanistan.
Likewise, Iohannis met U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday. On that occasion, the American official reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the appropriate strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank and expressed his appreciation for the active role played by Romania within the Alliance.
Frank Rose: The system is not designed nor capable to work against Russia’s advance systems
Russian remarks regarding Naval Support Facility Deveselu, set to become operational on Thursday, were of course the hot topic at the press conference in which Frank Rose, Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Douglas Lute, Permanent U.S. Representative to NATO, and Daniel Ionita, State Secretary for Strategic Affairs within the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry, took part on Wednesday in Bucharest.
Frank Rose emphasised that this system “is not designed nor capable to work against Russia’s advance systems,” and is only meant to counteract Iran’s short- and medium-range systems that “can reach Europe, including Romania,” and that “continue to develop.”
Daniel Ionita pointed out that the whole system at Deveselu, which “is designed for threats outside Europe,” is transparent, and insisted on this from the start.
Douglas Lute added that the reason for this transparency is the fact that the nuclear threat has been kept, through diplomatic means, at a positive level so far and no attempt is being made to destabilise this situation.
Likewise, Frank Rose expressed his appreciation for the collaboration with the Romanian state on this project, pointing out that everything was done “on time and on budget” and that “we have no better partner than Romania.”
The second missile shield site, in Poland
The United States will also start construction on a second site in Poland on Friday that is due to be ready in 2018, giving NATO a permanent, round-the-clock shield in addition to radars and ships already in the Mediterranean.
“We now have the capability to protect NATO in Europe,” said Robert Bell, a NATO-based envoy of U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, according to Reuters. “The Iranians are increasing their capabilities and we have to be ahead of that. The system is not aimed against Russia,” he told reporters, adding that the system will soon be handed over to NATO command.
The site in Romania includes a powerful radar, missile interceptors and communications equipment, which will be joined by warships deployed in the Mediterranean. When the latest-generation radars located in Turkey and United Kingdom identify a missile fired by the enemy, the shield’s defensive interceptors will be launched to destroy the target. According to the authorities, 44 interceptors will be deployed at Deveselu. The U.S. Missile Defence Agency has allocated USD 550 M for the procurement of these interceptors. The interceptors have a range of 500 kilometres, can reach an altitude of 160 kilometres and a speed of 1,900 kilometres per hour.
The base, built in 1952
The Deveselu Airbase was built in 1952. The first MiG-15 fighter jets landed there in March 1952 and were later replaced with MiG-19s. The first MiG-21F-13 squadron was deployed at the base in February 1962.
Also in a first, the Deveselu airbase registered the first supersonic flight with a MiG-19 in the 1960s.
In the 1980s, the Deveselu airbase was used by four squadrons for both night-time and daytime flights, served by a total of 100 pilots. Up until the 1990s, the base was used solely for air defence, having a single squadron for night-time service. The airbase was decommissioned after 2002.
Its conversion into a NATO base started in 2013, the civil construction works being carried out by Israel’s Dany Cebus and the high-security construction works by Kellogg Brown & Root Services.
Russia, worried by missile shield in Romania
The missile shield in Deveselu became operational on 18 December 2015. The U.S. considers that this defensive base will protect Europe against possible attack from Iran. Nevertheless, Russia repeatedly expressed its concern with the construction of this missile defence base in Romania, announcing that it allegedly violates the Intermediary Nuclear Forces Treaty and that the missile shield is allegedly meant to counter Russia’s actions, as Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated in the past.
Just two days before the inauguration of the missile defence base in Deveselu, the commander of Russia’s strategic missile forces stated for Itar-tass that Russia will develop intercontinental missiles capable of penetrating the U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe, including its elements in Romania. General Sergei Karakayev claims that these measures “are conditioned by the fact that the U.S. continues to improve its missile defence system, including through new deployments of assets in Europe. That is why special attention is given to the development of new missile systems capable of countering the missile shield.”
The Intermediary Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by the U.S. and USSR in 1987 and which came into force on 1 June 1988, forces both sides to destroy all their ballistic and cruise missiles with operational ranges that range from 500 to 5,500 kilometres.