“Without doubt, the deployment of the PRO system really is a threat to the security of the Russian Federation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday of the US missile system in Deveselu in southern Romania:
He added: “Measures are being taken to ensure the necessary level of security for Russia. The president himself (Vladimir Putin), let me remind you, has repeatedly asked who the system will work against?”
The remarks came as the United States switched on an $800 million missile system in Romania earlier in the day.
The US commander in Europe and Africa, Mark Ferguson, at an inauguration ceremony alongside NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, said that the missile system will help defend NATO members against the threat of short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Russia has strongly criticized the US installation of a missile system in Romania, describing the decision as a mistake. The Russian Foreign Ministry says the measure flouts the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed between Moscow and Washington in 1987.
Mikhail Ulyanov, the director of the Russian foreign Ministry’s department for non-proliferation and arms control, said on Wednesday that the deployment of US missile systems at military bases in Romania and Poland would undermine strategic stability in Europe.
However senior US officials are describing it as an important step that will help defend NATO states.
The United States insists it is not aimed against Russia, but Moscow views it as a security threat on its doorstep.
Robert Bell, a NATO-based envoy of US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter earlier claimed that the system is supposed to protect Europe from an Iranian missile threat, a claim Moscow has repeatedly rejected, saying the missiles are aimed at Russia instead.
“The Iranians are increasing their capabilities and we have to be ahead of that. The system is not aimed against Russia,” Bell told reporters on Wednesday.
Russia says Iran’s missile program does not pose a threat to Europe at all, dismissing allegations of perceived threats as unfounded
Despite American assurances, Moscow accuses Washington of trying to neutralize its nuclear arsenal and buy enough time to make a first strike on Russia in the event of war.
Russia does not look favorably upon the North Atlantic Organization Treaty (NATO)’s growing deployment of missiles and nuclear weapons near its borders. Last June Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his country would respond to any potential threat by NATO.
Russia, infuriated by NATO’s eastward expansion, has boosted its defense capabilities along its western border.
In recent months, NATO has accelerated its biggest military build-up in eastern Europe since the Cold War.
Relations between Russia and NATO specially soured after Crimea rejoined the Russian Federation following a referendum in March 2014.
The United States and its European allies accuse Moscow of destabilizing Ukraine and have imposed sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow, however, rejects having a hand in the Ukrainian crisis.
Russia will not leave US missile systems in Europe unanswered
Viktor Ozerov, the head of the Russian Federation Council defense and security committee, on Thursday said that Russia will not leave the deployment of US missile systems in Romania and Poland unanswered.
“We have said repeatedly that this will not improve relations between Russia and the US and between Russia and NATO. Unfortunately, they haven’t listened to us. Russia will have to take military-technical countermeasures.”
“This all is very unpleasant to us. Specialists believe that not only can these systems [US missile sites in Romania and Poland] enhance protection but can be very quickly transformed into systems carrying nuclear weapons,” Ozerov added, noting, “We believe this is a set of measures aimed at deterring our strategic nuclear forces.”
Experts say Russia could deploy Iskander-M missile systems capable of intercepting targets within a 500-kilometer range in the Kaliningrad region.
In an interview with Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper in April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said that Russia would also take appropriate military-technical measures at its northern borders if Sweden decides to join NATO.