Although U.S. officials stressed that the Aegis Ashore system is defensive and aimed at protecting mainly against threats from Iran, its deployment in Europe prompted strong criticism from Russia.
On May 12, 2016, the NATO's "Aegis Ashore" ballistic missile defense system became operational at a U.S. naval support facility in Deveselu, Romania. The day after, on May 13, the construction of another ballistic-missile defense site officially started in Redzikowo, Poland. Aegis Ashore was first announced by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009, as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) aimed at defending Europe against ballistic missile threats originating from outside the "Euro-Atlantic Area." Obama's EPAA canceled a Bush administration plan to deploy Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. An article published by the Romanian National Institute for Aerospace Research explained that "unlike the Bush administration, which focused on ICBMs which Iran did not possess, Obama's plan is more oriented towards the actual offensive capabilities of Iran and North Korea: short and medium-range missiles that can reach southern Europe; in addition, the Obama plan would distribute defenses under NATO, in step-by-step phases covering all of Europe." The U.S. Missile Defense Agency reports that Aegis Ashore is a land-based capability of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System. Its deckhouse and launchers are equipped with the Aegis BMD Weapon System and Standard Missile-3 (SM-3). Each Aegis BMD upgrade provides increased capability for countering ballistic missile threats.
Aegis Ashore site in Romania. (Source: US. Missile Defense Agency)
In a meeting in Bucharest with Romanian officials, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Policy and Verification Operations Frank A.Rose said that "combined with the missile-defense-capable ships in the Mediterranean, the site provides a significant enhancement to the coverage of NATO from short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area." Rose added that "NATO and the United States have explained this to Russia many times over the years." At the inauguration of the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense site in Romania, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work cited threats from Iran as a reason why NATO needs the protection. "As long as Iran continues to develop and deploy ballistic missiles, the United States will work with our allies and partners to defend NATO and its allies against this threat," Work said. Although U.S. officials stressed that the Aegis Ashore system is defensive and aimed at protecting mainly against threats from Iran, its deployment in Europe prompted strong criticism from Russia.
Putin: The Missile Defense Systems Are Built [In Europe], We Will Be Forced To Consider Ways To Prevent Any Threat To Russia
On May 13, 2016, in a meeting on defense industry development, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that there is no nuclear threat coming from Iran, since the U.S. initiated an agreement with Iran. with Tehran. According to Putin, the U.S. is trying to deceive the media, arguing that the Aegis Ashore site is to defend NATO members from Iran and stressing that it is no threat to Russia. However, Putin assessed that "the launchers, to be deployed after the radar stations in Romania and Poland go on stream, can easily be used for the deployment of intermediate and short range missiles. The conversion can actually happen in a very short time, and we will not even know what is happening there. We will not be able to control it. This is an additional threat to us." He then added that the missile defense systems in Europe will force Russia to consider ways to prevent any threat. Putin stressed that the Aegis Ashore site in Romania and the planned site in Poland are steps towards unleashing a new arms race. However, Putin said that Russia will not be dragged into this race. "We will go our own way. We will work very carefully, without exceeding the planned spending on the rearmament of the army and navy, plans we have had for years, but we will adjust them in order to curb the threat to Russia's security," Putin said.
A Polish soldier stands on crates of explosives next tothe ballistic missile defense system. Banner on crates: "Let's save Poland from Russian aggression!" Russian bear: "Hey, panowie [gentlemen in Polish], I knew that Russophobia reduces the level of intelligence, but did not expect to such an extent!"Source:Vk.com/13studiya, May 15.
Zakharova: [Russia Is] Reaching The Appropriate Conclusions… Including In Terms Of A Military-Technical Response
On May 12, 2016, in her weekly Russian foreign policy briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that the "U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense system... has been placed on combat duty." Zakharova added that it was Russia that had suggested the establishment of "a sector-based missile defense system in Europe together with NATO that would be able to effectively shield the region from hypothetical missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic zone and that would not undermine strategic parity." However, Zakharova stressed that the U.S. and "its allies" had refused to move in this direction and did not agree to sign a "legally binding document stating that the new missile defense system is not directed against Russia."
She then moved on, stressing that the U.S. had violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. "Aegis Ashore systems being deployed in Romania and Poland feature launching devices [that are] virtually identical to those being used aboard U.S. Navy warships for launching missile interceptors and Tomahawk medium-range cruise missiles," Zakharova said. Hence, Russia sees the deployment of ground-based launchers as running counter to a key provision of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Since Russia's concerns continue to be "ignored," Zakharova added, Moscow is reaching its appropriate conclusions, "including in terms of a military-technical response."
US' eagle pointing at NATO bases in Europe: "My bases!" Russian bear next to Iskander missile system: "My targets." (Source: Vk.com/13studiya, VitalyPodvitsky. May 13)
Appendix I: Putin's Speech At Meeting On Defense Industry Development
The following are excerpts of Putin's speech at the May 13, 2016 meeting with Defense Ministry leadership and defense industry representatives.
Meeting on defense industry development (Source: Kremlin.ru, May 13, 2016)
"...We are making timely adjustments in our plans to rebuild the Armed Forces. I think you will agree with me that the latest events show that the situation is not improving. Unfortunately, it is even deteriorating – I am referring to the deployment in Romania of a radar station as an element of the future U.S. missile defense system.
"We have repeatedly expressed our concerns, offered cooperation, proposed working with our American partners – but everything has, in fact, been rejected. What they are suggesting is not joint work, but talks on a given topic. No specific proposals; everything is done unilaterally, without taking into account our concerns. This is unfortunate, as well as the pretext under which it has been done.
"Just a few years ago, our opponents unanimously said that the missile defense system was necessary for our Western partners – both in Europe and the United States – to prevent nuclear and other missile threats posed by Iran. However, where are these nuclear threats now? There aren't any. The United States initiated the signing of an agreement with Iran. They did the right thing in fact, and we supported the US Administration in this regard. However, there is no longer any threat, while the creation of the missile defense system is still underway.
"Using their capabilities in the world media, they can disorient some by arguing that there is no threat to Russia that this is only a defense system, but they cannot confuse anyone present here today. It is not possible. These are not defense systems. This is part of the US nuclear strategic potential built in distant locations.
In this case, the distant location is Eastern Europe. And the people taking such decisions should know that they used to live in peace, comfort and safety.
"Now, after the missile defense systems are built there, we will be forced to consider ways to prevent any threat to the Russian Federation. This is my first point. Second, this is a flagrant violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because the launchers, to be deployed after the radar stations in Romania and Poland go on stream, can easily be used for the deployment of intermediate and short range missiles. The conversion can actually happen in a very short time, and we will not even know what is happening there. We will not be able to control it. This is an additional threat to us."
Putin: The Radar Stations In Romania And The Planned Site In Poland Are Steps Towards Unleashing A New Arms Race
"After the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty, which was clearly the first step in the series of attempts to break the global strategic balance of forces, this is going to be the second blow to the international security system, creating conditions for the violation of the INF Treaty next. This causes additional concern, and not only on our part. I do not think any sane person or objective observer can fail to see this and draw the appropriate conclusions. Along with the offshore deployment – in the Mediterranean in this case – the Aegis system, the radar stations in Romania, and then the planned site in Poland – all these are additional steps towards throwing the international security system off balance and unleashing a new arms race.
"As we have discussed already, we are not going to be drawn into this race. We will go our own way. We will work very carefully, without exceeding the planned spending on the rearmament of the army and navy, plans we have had for years, but we will adjust them in order to curb the threat to Russia's security. We have repeatedly spoken and warned about this, but nobody wants to listen to us, nobody properly and professionally responds to our requests for cooperation in this area. So, let us proceed from the realities taking shape in terms of global security. Of course, we will do our best to ensure and maintain this strategic balance of forces, which is the most reliable guarantee against large-scale military conflicts, which cannot be compared to well-known conflicts in hot spots in terms of their consequences. We cannot and will not tolerate this.
"Let us now consider the main topic on the agenda – increasing mobilization readiness. We will also work according to plan in this area. As you know, we have carried out a comprehensive assessment of the general readiness of defense plants and the economic sector to fulfill state defense orders. We have calculated how quickly plants would be able to increase military production, if necessary, and so on. Based on this data, we should understand how to improve the defense industry. What points would I like to draw attention to? First, our urgent task is improving the regulatory, legal and methodological support of the readiness of the defense industry to increase the range and volume of production. Second, all approaches to improving the mobilization readiness of Russian defense industry companies and the economy as a whole must meet modern requirements and be comprehensive. And finally, all mobilization issues must be resolved through establishing a system of cooperation and coordination under the leadership of the Military-Industrial Commission Board..."
 Navy.mil, May 12, 2016.
 Ruxandra-Laura Bosilca,"The Evolution of Missile Defense Plan from Bush to Obama. Implications for the National Security of Romania," Incas.ro.
 Mda.mil, undated.
 Defense.gov, May 11, 2016.
 Defense.gov, May 12, 2016.
 Kremlin.ru, May 13, 2016.
 Mid.ru, May 12, 2016.
 Kremlin.ru, May 13, 2016.
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