May 12, 2016 - 13:31 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The United States switches on an $800 million missile shield in Romania on Thursday, May 12, a step it sees as vital to defend itself and Europe from so-called rogue states but the Kremlin says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear arsenal, Reuters reports.
At the remote Deveselu air base in Romania, senior U.S. and NATO officials will declare operational the ballistic missile defense site, which is capable of shooting down rockets from countries such as Iran that Washington says could one day reach major European cities.
"Iran continues to develop, test and deploy a full range of ballistic missile capabilities and those capabilities are increasing in range and accuracy," said Frank Rose, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control.
"Iran's systems can reach into parts of Europe, including Romania," Rose said, before heading to the site to join U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Robert Work and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 0900 GMT, Reuters says.
When complete, the defensive umbrella will stretch from Greenland to the Azores. On Friday, the United States will break ground on a final site in Poland that should be ready by the end of 2018, completing the shield first proposed almost a decade ago and that also includes ships and radars across Europe.
It will be handed over to NATO control in July.
Russia is incensed at such of show of force by its Cold War rival in formerly communist-ruled eastern Europe. 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.
"These decisions by NATO can only exacerbate an already difficult situation," he added, saying the move would hinder efforts to repair ties between Russia and the alliance.