An agreement inked on Tuesday in Washington formally authorizes deployment of U.S. ballistic missile interceptors to Romania in accordance with NATO efforts to establish a European missile shield (see GSN, May 5).
Washington and Bucharest in May agreed the Standard Missile 3 interceptors would be fielded at the Daveselu air base near Romania's border with Bulgaria. The interceptors are to be deployed around 2015, according to a State Department release.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Romanian counterpart, Teodor Baconschi signed the deal at department headquarters.
As part of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense increasingly advanced SM-3 interceptors are to be deployed over the next decade in Poland and Romania and on warships. A long-range radar base planned for Turkey would provide early warning on missile threats. The U.S. plan is part of a broader NATO effort to link and enhance individual nations' antimissile capabilities with the aim of deterring possible ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East.
"In addition to deepening the bilateral strategic relationship between our two countries, cooperation in this area will make a substantial contribution to NATO’s collective security and will be an integral part of a NATO missile defense capability," the release states.
Once Romanian lawmakers approve the deal, construction on the interceptor facility can begin. Washington is financing the building of the installation, its continued operations and maintenance and other associated costs.
The antimissile site will include multiple SM-3 launch batteries and an Aegis radar deckhouse related command and control center spread over 430 acres. Approximately 150 to 200 troops, civilian personnel and contractors are expected to operate the site. Both nations' militaries will collaborate in ensuring the physical defenses of the interceptors. The interceptors are only to be fired in the event of a real missile strike (U.S. State Department release, Sept. 13).
Russia has long been concerned the missile shield could secretly target its strategic nuclear forces. The Kremlin has demanded a legal guarantee the NATO missile interceptors would never be aimed against Russia and threatened to pursue a new nuclear weapons buildup if it does not receive such a pledge.
Recent statements by French and NATO officials suggest the Western military bloc is growing more amenable to meeting Russia's demands for a binding guarantee (see GSN, Sept. 12).
Differences between Washington and Moscow could be bridged if Russia would accept a U.S. proposal to build two separate antimissile systems in Europe, a senior U.S. defense official told the newspaper Kommersant. The two sides could also collaborate in the operation of joint operations centers for data collection and missile defense operations, according to Assistant Defense Aecretary Alexander Vershbow (Interfax, Sept. 12).