Historic moment in Romania on Thursday. Premier Dacian Ciolos, U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Robert O. Work, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg inaugurated the missile shield system located in Deveselu, 180 kilometres from Bucharest. The system is officially operational, after all components were installed and tested last year.
Also attending the ceremony at Deveselu were Romania’s Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc, Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu, U.S. ambassador to Bucharest Hans Klemm, other Romanian and American defence and diplomatic officials, Allied and U.S. Navy Europe representatives, diplomats accredited in Bucharest, local officials and Romanian and foreign journalists. President Klaus Iohannis’s schedule did not include his presence at the event. The President is also head of the country’s Supreme Defence Council (CSAT). The President however met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Presidential Palace, before the official left for Deveselu base.
Senate Speaker Calin Popescu-Tariceanu decided not to attend the commissioning of the Deveselu missile defence facility on Thursday because ‘the organization and programme set up by the Government and the U.S. Embassy blatantly disregard the Senate’s position in Romania’s constitutional order and the role of the Parliament in drafting and legislating the foreign and defence policy, I have regretfully decided to cancel my participation in today’s festivities,” as Popescu-Tariceanu asserted in a media release.
NATO’s Stoltenberg: ‘Our missile defence programme represents a long-term investment against a long-term threat’
The ballistic missile defence (BMD) system at Deveselu, Romania is “trans-Atlantic teamwork in action,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.
“This represents a significant increase in the capability to defend European Allies against ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic area,” Stoltenberg told an Aegis Ashore operationalisation ceremony at Deveselu according to Agerpres.
He thanked the US Government and Armed Forces for “dedication and professionalism” to keep nations safe. “I also want to thank Romania for the contribution you are making to our collective defence in hosting this site,” said Stoltenberg.
He added that Poland will break ground on another Aegis Ashore site on Friday.
“NATO’s core mission is to protect our citizens and territory. (…) Today, as we face the biggest security challenges in a generation, our Alliance is as important as ever,” he said.
“The threat to NATO Allies from ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic area is real (…). Our missile defence programme represents a long-term investment against a long-term threat.”
Stoltenberg reiterated that this site in Romania – as well as the one in Poland – is not directed against Russia. “We have made this clear to the Russian authorities. Many times, and at the highest level. (…) From the start, NATO offered transparency, dialogue and cooperation to Russia on missile defence. Russia did not respond positively to our offers. In fact, Moscow terminated this cooperative dialogue unilaterally in 2013. This remains an issue of concern,” said Stoltenberg.
He added that NATO will continue to engage in dialogue with Russia when and where we can.
He said NATO will be taking further decisions on its ballistic missile defence at its upcoming summit in Warsaw.
“This site shows that NATO is adapting to an uncertain world. Strengthening our collective defence. (…) Your endeavours make an unpredictable world a safer place to live,” Stoltenberg concluded.
U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Robert Work: Romania is a reliable ally
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work said that the Aegis Ashore Missile Defence System (AAMDS) in Deveselu is fully compliant with the current weapon control regime and strengthens NATO’s defence capability, just like a similar unit in Poland.
According to him, the site of Deveselu contributes to Allied missile defence in terms of both quantity and quality.
Work also said that the system is an important achievement in the relationship between the United States and Romania, a reliable ally.
He added that since 2013, when works began in Deveselu, many things have changed in the region and around the world, and that Europe and NATO are facing a significantly more complex security context, for which a more capable alliance is needed.
Robert Work asserted that Romania has proved a reliable ally; he appreciated Romanian authorities’ commitment to increase the defence budget to two percent of gross domestic product by 2017 and added that Romania is among the countries with the greatest contributions to the Afghanistan mission, with approximately 650 troops deployed. He also mentioned Romania’s participation in peacekeeping missions all over the world and regionally, and its position as key-leader in the Black Sea region.
The American official expressed his deepest condolence for the loss last Saturday of two Romanian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Robert Work also mentioned in his speech the hospitality shown by Romanians to U.S. troops.
PM Ciolos: Deveselu facility, not targeted against anyone, exclusively for legitimate defence
At Deveselu on Thursday, Romania’s Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said that the ballistic missile defence shield there observes the provisions of the UN Charter and is exclusively for legitimate defence against ballistic missile threats, without targeting anyone in particular.
“The facility at Deveselu fully observes the provisions of the UN Charter, and it isn’t targeted against anyone in particular; it is a means exclusively for legitimate defence against ballistic missile threats, at the same time strengthening NATO’s ballistic missile defence capability and expanding the cover and protection area for the southern and central allied states in Europe, significantly reducing the risk of some possible ballistic attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic space,” Ciolos said at the inauguration of the Aegis Ashore missile defence system at Deveselu.
Ciolos said this event is a very important moment, “both for Romania and the United States of America, as well as the North Atlantic Alliance and European security overall,” because the security environment continues to be at risk.
“The security environment continues to face challenges, threats and risks in the European and Euro-Atlantic space. In the eastern neighbourhood, we see both the perpetration of frozen conflicts and the emergence of new conflicts, which confirms (…) the strategic importance of the Black Sea region in the equation of Euro-Atlantic security and stability. In the southern proximity, on the grounds of instability from the Middle East and Northern Africa, we are witnessing unprecedented widening of uncontrolled migration doubled by terrorist threats and the spread to Europe of security risks related to ISIL-Daesh,” said Ciolos.
According to him, the project implements the vision proposed under Romania’s National Defence Strategy and “proves once more that Romania is a predictable player and a trustworthy ally.”
Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos also stated on Thursday that Romania insisted on increasing the NATO presence in the Black Sea and that advanced talks with Bulgaria and Turkey on this matter are in progress.
“It was Romania’s initiative and Romania has been very active in building this possibility of a presence [of NATO] in the Black Sea. We are aware that in order for this structure to exist, the implication of other partners in the Black Sea is needed. We are in quite advanced talks with our Bulgarian neighbours and our Turkish friends to build together this NATO presence. Once it is built, we hope to have participation from other allies in these exercises. Our intention is to present this project at the Warsaw NATO Summit, a topic I’ve already talked with the President and with the Secretary General,” Ciolos said.
DefMin Motoc: NATO Multinational Division Southeast Headquarters in Bucharest, key piece for deterrence, defence
The NATO Multinational Division Southeast Headquarters in Bucharest is a key piece for NATO’s deterrence and defence measures for a forward presence on its eastern flank, Romania’s Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc said Thursday.
“The summit in Warsaw is less than two months away, and we expect important decisions there regarding a robust NATO deterrence and defence posture as far as its forward presence on the eastern flank is concerned. Given the context, our headquarters is a key piece in all that. It is designed to secure the deployment of NATO troops in the region, to connect NATO forces with national forces,” said Motoc.
Motoc on Thursday joined NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Romania’s Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu at the headquarters, where a Dacian Lynx 2016 exercise was underway.
Comanescu said the presence of NATO’s secretary general at the NATO Multinational Division Southeast Headquarters highlights the fact that the decisions of a NATO summit meeting in Wales two years ago are being implemented.
“Mr Secretary General’s presence is also related to another highly significant event: the inauguration of a ballistic missile defence facility at Deveselu, itself an important component of the efforts to consolidate NATO’s capabilities to meet the increasingly more complex security risks. As well as becoming persistent, the risks are becoming increasingly more complex, particularly so on NATO’s eastern flank. The Deveselu base is a component that I am sure will contribute toward strengthening such capabilities,” added Comanescu.
Integration with NATO’s ballistic missile defence capability, due by the time of the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July
AAMDS is a key element of Phase II of the European component of the American missile defence system European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).
The full shield also includes ships and radars across Europe.
When completed, the defensive shield will stretch from Greenland to the Azores.
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 ballistic missile fired by the enemy, the shield’s defensive interceptors will be launched to destroy the target.
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.”
The military base of Deveselu is among the most modern of Romania’s Ministry of National Defence. The construction of the missile defence facility began in 2013, and its components became operational in December 2015. Its integration with NATO’s ballistic missile defence capability is proceeding as scheduled, and the deadline is related to the July NATO Summit in Warsaw, the Government mentioned in a media release.
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.
Russia reacts again
While the official ceremony inaugurating the switching on of the system was taking place at Deveselu, Dmitri Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, stated that the base located in Romania represents a threat to the national security of Russia.
“We have been saying right from the time this story started that our experts are convinced that the deployment of the ABM system poses a certain threat to the Russian Federation,” Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
“Measures are being taken to ensure the necessary level of security for Russia. The president himself (Vladimir Putin), let me remind you, has repeatedly asked who the system will work against?”, Peskov said.
“The situation with Iran has changed dramatically,” Putin’s spokesman added.
Also, Moscow says the U.S.-led alliance is trying to encircle it close to the strategically important Black Sea, home to a Russian naval fleet and where NATO is also considering increasing patrols.
“It is part of the military and political containment of Russia,” Andrey Kelin, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official, said on Thursday, the Interfax news agency reported.
Ambassador Lute: Deveselu defence system shows NATO is doing what it was designed to do
Inaugurating the ballistic missile defence station at Deveselu in Romania, which goes live on Thursday, shows that NATO is doing what is was designed to do, protect its members, Ambassador of the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Douglas Lute said Wednesday.
Joining Lute at the event were Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Frank Rose and State Secretary with Romania’s Foreign Ministry Daniel Ionita.
Ionita pointed out that the ballistic missile defence system deployed at the Deveselu site “is not directed against Russia.” “Neither geography, nor the laws of physics allow the system, to be actively against Russia,” he said, adding that an operational certification of the Aegis Ashore system is expected on Thursday.
“The system at Deveselu is symbolic to the entire region (…). It will be transferred under NATO authority as a means to protect NATO’s European members,” said Ionita.
In his turn, Rose said the United States could not ask for a better partner than Romania when negotiating the BMD agreement and its implementation.
He mentioned Daniel Ionita and Bogdan Aurescu by name for having turned the Deveselu site from a concept to an operational system while not exceeding the deadline and the budget for doing so.
The US officials said the BDM system at Deveselu was not designed as a threat against Russia.
Ambassador Lute said the BMD is a system of systems and the Deveselu site is one node working in concert with other Allied contributions, adding that “missile defence is one element of a spectrum of modern capabilities, as we have to deal with an arc of instability.”
The US officials said the initiative to create the BMD system was also the result of Iran continuing its ballistic missile testing.
Rose said Iran continues to carry out tests, including on medium-range missile that can reach Europe, Romania included.