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Romania Accepts US Ballistic Missile Defence Basing Plans

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Romanian President Traian Basescu announced last week that his country would accept an US offer to base medium-range interceptor missiles (the proposed land-based version of the SM3 system) as part of the revamped missile defence plans formulated by the Obama Administration in 2009.

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"Romania has been officially invited by US President Barack Obama to be part of the [new] missile defence system," Basescu said after a meeting of the country's Supreme Defence Council. He stated that talks between Washington and Bucharest on the issue should start in the near future and any agreement will be submitted to Romanian parliament for ratification.

In September 2009 President Obama scrapped earlier plans for Poland and the Czech Republic to host missile shield elements allegedly intended to counter possible strikes from Iran. Under the new plan, the United States would rather place ship-based SM-3s in the North and Mediterranean seas in 2011, and mobile land-based SM-3s in Central Europe by 2015. In October 2009 US Vice-President Joseph Biden visited Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic to promote the new plan. Warsaw and Prague have already expressed their support, but Romania is the first country to take what appears to be a formal commitment. The Romanian Supreme Defense Council’s decision thus marks a “first step” in implementing the Obama administration’s revised missile defence plan to protect against short- and medium-range missiles that could be launched from Iran.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said that Romania’s decision extends the area of missile defence coverage into southern Europe. “It is “a reflection of our strategy to make sure that, as this architecture develops and grows, it will protect all of Europe,” he said. We call it the phased adaptive approach to protect US forward-deployed troops and our NATO allies against […] ballistic missile threats from Iran,” Crowley said. “We’re going to protect our interests and those of our allies,” he added. “We see this emerging threat […] coming to the region from Iran”. The United States will have further discussions with other European countries “as the architecture evolves,” Crowley concluded.

Needless to say, both Romanian and US sources stressed that the new system would not be directed against Russia but would "protect the whole of Romania's territory" in case of a potential ballistic missile attack. "Romania will not host a system directed against Russia, but against other threats," President Basescu he said. But also needless to say, Moscow - which was ferociously opposed to the Bush Administration’s plans for GBI (Ground Based Interceptor) missiles being stationed in Poland and a ballistic missile defence (BMD) radar station in the Czech Republic - sees things under a different light.

While no official reactions were announced by the time these lines are being posted, RIA Novosti has quoted a senior Russian military analyst to the effect that US plans to place elements of its global missile shield in Romania pose a real threat to Russia's national security. “This weaponry, without a doubt, could significantly reduce Russia's deterrent capability," said Col. (Ret.) Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of “National Defence” magazine.

He said SM-3 missiles would be able to intercept Russian ballistic missiles shortly after launch and on their initial flight trajectory.

"Russia must warn Romania that if the elements of the US missile shield are placed in the country they will become a target of Russia's preventive missile strikes," Korotchenko said. With ship-based SM-3s in the North, Black and Mediterranean seas and mobile land-based SM-3s in Central Europe the western borders of Russia would be surrounded by US missile interceptors.

By Luca Bonsignore, Publisher

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