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The move is unlikely to invoke the same level of ire from Russia as former President Bush’s plan to place a larger defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, which Mr. Obama shelved in September.
Reuters reports that Romanian President Traian Basescu said the Supreme Defense Council on Thursday approved the US offer, brought to Romania by Ellen Tauscher, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. The plan will put at least two short-to-medium-range missile interceptors in Romania that will be operational by 2015.
The facilities in Romania will be part of Obama’s plan to develop a land- and sea-based missile shield in Europe focused on protecting against threats from Iranian medium-range missiles. In September he scrapped a Bush administration plan to develop an expensive and untested missile shield in Europe with components in Poland and the Czech Republic. That plan had raised tensions with Russia, which considered US missile facilities near its border a threat, and the decision to shelve it was welcomed in Europe, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.
Romanian newspapers Nine O’Clock and Financiarul both reported positive reaction among Romanian politicians to the decision, with the senate speaker calling it “one of the most important matters of national security Romania has ever faced.” A supporter of US military efforts, the European Union and NATO member has previously sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Romanian president made clear that the decision to host the US system should not be seen as a statement against Russia. "The new system is not against Russia. I want to categorically stress this, Romania (will) not host a system against Russia, but against other threats," he said, according to Reuters.
“This weaponry, without a doubt, could significantly reduce Russia's deterrent capability," said Col. (Ret.) Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine.
He said SM-3 missiles would be able to intercept Russian ballistic missiles shortly after launch and on their initial flight trajectory.
"Russia must warn Romania that if the elements of the U.S. missile shield are placed in the country they will become a target of Russia's preventive missile strikes," Korotchenko said.
Dmitri V. Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the Romanian announcement would not come as a complete surprise to Russian leaders, since it “was one of the options people had in mind.” He said the Romanian site was farther from the Russian border, and – unlike the proposed Polish site – would not allow the interceptor missiles to stop a Russian missile headed to the United States over the Arctic Ocean, a possibility that had aroused anxiety in Moscow.
“Of course, people who would be interested in portraying any kind of missile system as potentially a threat will be able to use this, but I don’t think the government has much interest in playing this up,” Mr. Trenin said.
Al Jazeera offers this video broadcast of the plan:
Christian Science Monitor