Romanian President Traian Basescu signed an agreement in Washington yesterday (13 September) to host elements of a US anti-missile shield on Romanian territory. Russia immediately reacted, saying the agreement was ill-timed and asking guarantees that it is not aimed at her own strategic arsenal.
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.
On 3 May, Romanian President Traian Basescu announced 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.
The agreement was signed on the sidelines of a visit by Romanian President Traian Basescu to Washington, where he was received for 25 minutes by US President Barack Obama.
According to the text of the agreement, signed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi, the US will place a land-based SM-3 ballistic missile defence system in southern Romania, in the village of Deveselu, Olt county.
According to details published by EurActiv Romania, the US will have exclusive command and control of the anti-missile system. A total of 500 US military personnel could be stationed there.
Russia deplored the timing of the agreement's signature.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the signing took place against the backdrop of a lack of progress between Russia and the US, as well as between Russia and NATO, on the sensitive topic of the anti-missile shield.
"The agreement with Romania on the deployment at the former Air Force base Deveselu of the land-based SM-3 ballistic missile defence system, as well as the recent announcement of the forthcoming deployment in Turkey of the US AN/TPY-2 radar, shows that US anti-missile plans are being implemented swiftly and according to schedule," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, quoted by RIA Novosti.
In an article entitled 'A sign of Things to Come', the Voice of Russia writes that Moscow wanted to build a joint system which would use NATO and Russian capabilities to defend against a potential attack, but would not be out of Moscow's control.
"However, the revised AMD plans failed to address Russia's concerns, with Moscow continuing to view the current plan for the European anti-missile system with suspicion," the website further wrote.
Anecdote from talks
According to a report by EurActiv Romania, Basescu asked Obama during their White House meeting what Romania could do for the United States. Reportedly, Obama replied: "Make sure that law is abided by, that your judiciary starts working."
The EU and the US share the same concerns about deficiencies of law enforcement in Romania and Bulgaria.
The EU's 27 Europe ministers were meeting in Brussels yesterday and decided to maintain their surveillance of Romania and Bulgaria's judiciaries until "concrete and lasting results" have been achieved (see meeting conclusions).