U.S. Launches New European Missile Defense System

By James Charles
Romanian Aegis Ashore ribbon-cutting ceremony, photo by Navy.mil
 Aegis Ashore

Romanian Aegis Ashore ribbon-cutting ceremony, photo by Navy.mil

New U.S. Missile Site Placed in Romania

The United States has just launched a new anti-ballistic missile defense system in Romania. On May 12th, 2016, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the site to celebrate that it is now “Operationally Certified”, according to Navy.mil. The report went on to say that the system “represents a significant increase in the capability to defend NATO European territory from attacks originating outside the Euro-Atlantic area” and that it is a “key milestone in the development of NATO ballistic missile defense.”

The new site, which is called the Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defense System, was originally stationed on a seaborne launchpad, but was transferred to the Deveselu air base in Romania. According to The Navy Times, the 430-acre air base will be “equipped with an Aegis SPY-1 radar system and a vertical-launch missile system armed with long-range anti-air missiles.” U.S. officials have said that the new system is a means of defending the area against “rogue states” – primarily Iran. The Russian Federation, however, would beg to differ, and interprets the placement of Aegis Ashore as a direct threat to them.

Russia Threatens Retaliation over Missile Site

Russian officials have said on record that they feel the placement of Aegis Ashore is a threat to their national security, and have even gone as far as to threaten the U.S. with the possibility of a nuclear exchange and have implied that they would reduce Romania, the system’s host, to “smoking ruins.” Even though the missile defense site is meant to defend against Iran and other rogue states, Russia’s displeasure with the move is not without warrant. The New York Times reported the following:

“In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Russian defense experts consider the site a threat. ‘We still view the destructive actions of the United States and its allies in the area of missile defense as a direct threat to global and regional security,’ Ms. Zakharova said. She said that the Aegis Ashore launchpad was ‘practically identical’ to a system used aboard Aegis warships that is capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles.

While the United States says it has no Tomahawk missiles at the site in Romania, Russian officials say the launchpad violates a 1987 treaty intended to take the superpowers off their hair-trigger nuclear alert, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), by banning land-based cruise and medium-range missiles with a range from 300 to 3,400 miles. The short flight time of these missiles diminished to mere minutes the window Soviet leaders would have had after a warning to decide whether to launch a second strike, raising the risk of mishaps.”

So what, in truth, is the precedent for this decision? Russian President Vladimir Putin made known his distaste for this move long before it actually took place. Why, then, would our leaders instigate Russia in this manner? Make no mistake about it, the United States, by placing Aegis Ashore in Deveselu, Romania is in fact in violation of the INF Treaty signed into action by President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev; any missile deployment from this site could prompt Russia to back out of the treaty as well, which would “roll the clock back to this nerve-racking 1980s status quo.” Perhaps the administration wants to make an alliance with Russia even more difficult for its successor.