Romania's Govt Approves Stationing of US/NATO Missile Defense Interceptors
Romania's government has approved a draft law allowing the stationing of elements of the US and NATO missile defense system in Europe at a Romanian air base.
The legislation in question permits the building of an anti-ballistic interceptor site at the Deveselu Air Base located in Southwestern Romania, less than 50 km from Bulgaria's northern border.
In September 2011, Romania and the USA signed a ballistic missile defense agreement in Washington, allowing for the deployment of SM-3 interceptors (also referred to as the "Aegis Ashore System") in the Balkan country by 2015.
The law approved by the Romanian government on Wednesday has to be voted by Parliament by the end of 2011.
The Romanian site is part two of a four-part plan for a US missile defense system in Europe that the Obama administration outlined in 2009, and that was later adopted by NATO.
The plan, opposed by Russia, is designed to counter the threat of short-to-medium-range missiles. The Obama administration said its plan would be more effective and able to counter a threat from Iran earlier than the Bush-era proposal to use long-range interceptors based in Poland.
The interceptor missiles of the future NATO/US missile shield in Europe will be stationed at the Deveselu Air Base near Romania's Caracal.
Deveselu is about 50 km away from the Romanian-Bulgarian border. The closest Bulgarian location is the village of Zagrazhden between the towns of Oryahovo and Nikopol.
The accord between Romania and the USA was signed in September by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Romanian counrterpart Teodor Baconschi at the US State Department.
The original missile defense in Europe plan of George W. Bush administration provided for stationing interceptors in Poland and the radar station in the Czech Republic. The modification of the plan by the Obama Administration switched it to sea-borne missiles and, later on, locations in southeastern Europe. Initially, there were reports and expectations that Romania and Bulgaria will replace Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively.
It was recently revealed that Turkey will host the US/NATO missile shield radar instead of Bulgaria.
In May 2011, the US State Department and Romanian President Traian Basescu announced that the interceptor missiles of the future NATO/US missile shield in Europe will be stationed at the Deveselu Air Base near Caracal, Romania.
The System employs the SM-3 interceptor (also referred to as the "Aegis Ashore System") while the deployment to Romania is anticipated to occur in the 2015 timeframe as part of the second phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) – the US national contribution to a NATO missile defense architecture.
The US Ballistic Missile Defense site is approximately 430 acres (175 hectares) and is located within the existing Romanian Air Base at Deveselu.
As recently as June 2011, senior officials from the Bulgarian government indicated that Bulgaria would be ready to host it if Turkey refused to do so.
At the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, Turkey formally backed NATO plans to build a missile defense system, saying it would also contribute to national defense against the growing threat of ballistic missile proliferation.
On September 2, 2011, Bulgaria's Foreign and Defense Ministries declared Bulgaria is satisfied with the agreement reached between the USA and Turkey to deploy in the latter the radar of the US/NATO missile defense system in Europe.
Turkey's decision to agree to host elements of the missile shield in spite of its earlier misgivings was announced by a Turkish official earlier the same day.
"This step is part of the process that is regulated by the NATO Strategic Concept, adopted in Lisbon, the joint statement of Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov and Defense Minister Anyu Angelov said.
"As I have said repeatedly, our priority is that the whole of Bulgaria should be protected from possible missile attack. We are satisfied that the decision to install a radar facility in Turkey is addressing this issue in practice," Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov declared.
He said that construction of a missile defense system is a strategic project to collectively meet one of the most serious security risks in the 21st century.
According to Bulgaria's Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, the deployment of the missile defense system in Turkey will increase the defense capabilities of NATO and will have a direct impact on safeguarding the national security of Bulgaria.
"The system is and will be one of the main missions of NATO. It will provide adequate protection of the territories and people of the Alliance's member states from ballistic missiles, in accordance with fundamental principles of equal and indivisible security and solidarity of the Alliance," he said.
The joint statement of the two officials did not contain any references to the fact that Bulgaria had expressed readiness to host elements of the US/NATO missile shield in Europe if Turkey had refused to do so.
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