The United States switches on an $800 million missile shield in Romania, saying it is aimed to protect against threats from Iran, not Russia. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: The United States switched on an $800 million missile shield in Romania on Thursday (May 12) that it sees as vital to defend itself and Europe from so-called rogue states but the Kremlin says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear arsenal. To the music of military bands at the remote Deveselu air base, senior U.S. and NATO officials declared operational the ballistic missile defence site, which is capable of shooting down rockets from countries such as Iran that Washington says could one day reach major European cities. "As long as Iran continues to develop and deploy ballistic missiles, the United States will work with its allies to defend NATO," U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Robert Work said, standing in front of the shield's massive grey concrete housing that was adorned with a U.S. flag. When complete, the defensive umbrella will stretch from Greenland to the Azores. On Friday (May 13), the U.S. will break ground on a final site in Poland due to be ready by late 2018, completing the defence line first proposed almost a decade ago. Russia is incensed at such of show of force by its Cold War rival in formerly communist-ruled eastern Europe. Moscow says the U.S.-led alliance is trying to encircle it close to the strategically important Black Sea, home to a Russian naval fleet and where NATO is also considering increasing patrols. Russian President Vladimir Putin's office said Moscow also doubted NATO's stated aim of protecting the alliance against Iranian rockets following the historic nuclear deal with Tehran and world powers last year that Russia helped to negotiate. The Kremlin says the shield's aim is to neutralise Moscow's nuclear arsenal long enough for the United States to strike Russia in the event of war. Washington and NATO deny that. "Missile defence is for defence. It is defensive. It does not undermine or weaken Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the Deveselu base. At a cost of billions of dollars, the missile defence umbrella relies on radars to detect a ballistic missile launch into space. Sensors then measure the rocket's trajectory and destroy it in space before it re-enters the earth's atmosphere. The interceptors can be fired from ships or ground sites. While U.S. and NATO officials are adamant that the shield is designed to counter threats from the Middle East and not Russia, they remained vague on whether the radars and interceptors could be reconfigured to defend against Russia in a conflict. Despite Washington's plans to continue to develop the capabilities of its system, Work said the shield would not be used against any future Russian missile threat. "There are no plans at all to do that," he told a news conference.