Officials in Bucharest said that NATO missile interceptors planned to be installed at a military base in Romania do not contravene an international weapons treaty, as Russia has claimed.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Wednesday that the anti-missile system which is to be installed at the Deveselu military base in southern Romania does not violate the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, as Russia has claimed.
Ponta argued that there was no violation of the treaty “because the anti-missile system is a defence system”.
He added that Romania was “not scared” by Russia’s attitude and “is still standing beside NATO”.
His comments came after a Russian foreign ministry official warned Washington and Bucharest to drop the plan or face unspecified consequences.
“We are calling on the United States and Romania to understand their full responsibility for the development of these events, and abandon these plans while it’s not too late,” Mikhail Ulyanov, the director of the ministry’s Department of Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and Arms Control was quoted as saying by Sputnik news agency.
But the Romanian foreign ministry also insisted on Wednesday that the anti-missile system will not violate the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.
“The treaty does not apply to the development and testing of interceptors engaging air targets, which will be located at Deveselu,” the ministry said in a public statement.
Russia strongly opposes the missile defence system, which involves planned bases in the southern Romanian village of Deveselu and Poland.
The base in Deveselu will be the first to feature the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile system, a land-based version of the radar tracking system installed on US warships since 2004.
Scheduled to become operational by the end of this year, the base will be staffed by 200 to 500 US military, civilian and contract employees. The work at Deveselu involves an estimated investment of $400 million in the base, which ironically was originally built by the Soviet Union in 1952.
Relations between Romania and Russia are already rocky. NATO member Romania has been among the strongest regional backers of the package of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with the crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Moscow meanwhile objects to any NATO build-up or expansion, seeing it as a threat to Russian security.
Romania is one of Washington’s strongest supporters among the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe. Mihail Kogalniceanu airport, near the Black Sea, became a major US military base in 2007.