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Can Russia Swallow an ABM System in Rumania?

Russia objected to a US ABM system in Poland and the Czech Republic and the US backed down. Now a system is slated for Romania.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 5/4/2011, 6:46 PM / Last Update: 5/5/2011, 12:39 AM

 

One of the payments that the Obama Administration appeared to be making for its reset in relations with Russia was to scrap the idea of basing an antimissile system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Bush administration viewed this as an important accoutrement to US defense in light of the potential for an "axis of evil states" to acquire nuclear capability and a delivery system.

All administration attempts to persuade the Russians that the system would not target them and that the size of the Russian arsenal would neutralize any malevolent intentions, cut no ice in Moscow.

Russia also viewed this as a prestige issue. America was rubbing in the fact that countries that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact with Russia were now being employed as forward projections of American power.

As aforementioned, the Obama administration scrapped the idea and since then negotiations have been pursued with the Russians about linking NATO's and Russia's antimissile systems.

It therefore comes as a surprise that the United States is currently prepared to install a system in Southern Romania. Romanian President Traian Basescu announced Tuesday that his country and the U.S. have agreed to deploy missile interceptors at Deveselu as part of a missile defense shield.

Deveselu is an unused military base that was built in the Ceasescu era by the Soviet Union.

Romanian and U.S. officials also had an official ceremony to mark the agreement, with the State Secretary of Romania's Foreign Ministry Bogdan Aurescu and the visiting U.S. Under-Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher attending. Romania has been building up its NATO presence and military profile in genera,l including defense relations with Israel. A US base is also an economic and employment boon to the Romanian economy that has been welcoming  foreign investment.

It is, however, unclear what reaction the Obama administration was expecting from Russia. Would the deployment in Southern Romania make it look as if this was a Balkan system rather than the East European one and thus offend the Russians less?. Perhaps the administration tired of endless negotiations with the Russians.

The Russians were quick to claim that the system would create an imbalance and pose a threat to their strategic deterrent. Russia's Ambassador to NATO called the system 'Trajan's Horse', a play on the first name of the Rumanian president.

The Russians demanded US legal guarantees that the missiles would not be aimed against Russia. Russia also signaled its eagerness for an agreement on European missile defense that would take into account regional and global security.