Romania hosts US missile shield, discloses details
Romanian President Traian Basescu announced today (3 May) the precise location of missile interceptors forming part of a planned US missile shield over Europe. He also announced that an airbase and the country's main sea port would be at the disposal of US troops.
Speaking at a press conference in Bucharest, Basescu said that the Romanian part of the missile shield would be located at Deveselu, an airbase near the Romanian city of Caracal, situated around 70km away from the Bulgarian nuclear power station of Kozloduy.
Basescu added that the Deveselu airbase would remain under Romanian command, but between 200 and 500 US personnel would be stationed there.
He also said that the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase, at the international airport in the major port city of Constanta, as well as Constanta harbour, would be at the disposal of US troops as a rear base for their action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By deciding to host a key element of the US missile shield, Romania has achieved "the highest degree of security in its history," Basescu said, quoted by the Romanian press. He added that this security guarantee was now "long term".
Kogalniceanu airbase and Constanta harbour will now become strategic infrastructure for the US as well, Basescu said. Four US tanker planes and four C-17 transport planes will be stationed at Kogalniceanu, he said.
Basescu insisted that the decision to host part of the US missile shield was not directed against Russia.
In an interview with the agency AP, US Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher said the interceptors would be operational as planned by 2015.
"We continue to do what we said we were going to do when it comes to missile defence," Tauscher said.
The US diplomat was apparently responding to critics who claimed that the Obama administration had lost valuable time in changing initial plans to locate the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
"We are right on track, right on time," she said.
The Romanian missile shield site appears to be a second choice, after the Obama administration shelved the Bush administration's plans to use long-range interceptors based in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic to counter threats from 'rogue states', such as Iran and North Korea. That plan was opposed by Russia.
Plans to relocate part of the US missile shield to Romania were not opposed by Moscow. Obama's domestic critics claimed that the new plan proved he had caved in to Russian demands, and expressed doubt as to whether the administration could build an effective shield according to the promised timetable.