The United States plans by 2015 to field ballistic missile interceptors in Romania, Interfax reported last week (see GSN, Feb. 4).
The U.S. State Department confirmed the statement by Romanian President Traian Basescu that his nation would become part of the European missile shield.
"The choice of Romania extends the missile defense into southern Europe, and we expected, in this phase, this will be online by 2015," said agency spokesman P.J. Crowley last Thursday.
Crowley said discussions with other nations on joint missile defense efforts are ongoing.
"For example, Poland agreed last October, in principle, to host the northern land-based SM-3 missile site. That development is still under consideration and discussion with Poland," he said (Interfax I/Kiev Post, Feb. 5).
The Obama administration intends to deploy land- and sea-based versions of the Standard Missile 3 system around Europe to counter short- and medium-range missiles, primarily those developed by Iran. The plan replaced a Bush administration initiative to field 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic.
Russia -- a loud objector to the old plan -- did not appear pleased Friday by the announcement of Romania's participation in its successor, the New York Times reported.
Moscow's senior envoy to NATO said the new interceptors could impact the Kremlin's stance on negotiations for a replacement pact for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (see GSN, Feb. 5).
Dmitry Rogozin said Washington had not followed through with its pledge to advise Moscow regarding updates to its plans for the European missile defense. He indicated that the Standard Missile 3 system could present a challenge to Russia's national security interests, though he did say that U.S. and Romanian officials had taken pains to convince Russia that this was not the case.
"They have some thoughts that the system could be targeted against Russia, otherwise why would they dissuade us about something we never asked about"" Rogozin said.
While the START talks are not likely to become undone, the missile-defense deployment could affect negotiations on further reductions to the nuclear arsenals of the former Cold War rivals, said Sergei Rogov, head of the Moscow-based Institute for the U.S. and Canada Studies.
"Additional issues are overloading the [U.S.-Russian] 'reset,' which is not moving very far or very fast," he said. "So I am concerned by it."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking during the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, said Washington and Moscow had agreed that the "threats and risks of missile proliferation will be assessed jointly as a first step" and that "we expect our American partners to provide exhaustive explanations on those issues," Interfax reported.
Russia's new military doctrine, finalized last week, states that the U.S. missile defense program "undermines global stability and violates the current balance of nuclear forces" (see related GSN story, today).
While the defenses intended for Romania are not thought to pose a challenge to Russia's long-range nuclear missiles, future interceptors expected to go online in 2018 could create a threat as Washington is not required to provide Moscow with information about their workings, Rogov said (Ellen Barry, New York Times , Feb. 5).
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it planned to discuss its concerns with U.S. and European officials, Interfax reported. "This is a serious issue, which we will analyze carefully," the ministry stated.
"In order to maintain peace and stability in Europe, there is a need to take carefully planned collective steps based on principles of equal and indivisible security for all states without exception. Other approaches could inflict damage on interests of strengthening European and global security," the ministry said (Interfax II, Feb. 5).