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Tensions Simmer as Moscow Calls New US Missile Site in Romania a 'Direct Threat'

Russia's Putin sees US 'steps towards destabilizing the international security system and the start of a new arms race'

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking to the UN General Assembly in 2015.  (Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr/cc)

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Tensions between the United States and Russia continued this week with Moscow calling the U.S.'s newly activated missile defense site in Romania a "direct threat" to security and part of "the start of a new arms race."

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said Thursday its inauguration that the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense site, located at a former air base in southern Romania, was aimed at countering threats from Iran and not Russia, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said they were not directed at Russia, and called it an "important day for NATO and for trans-Atlantic security." In addition, Reuters reports

On Friday, the United States will break ground on a final site in Poland due to be ready by late 2018, completing the defense line first proposed almost a decade ago.

The full shield also includes ships and radars across Europe. It will be handed over to NATO in July, with command and control run from a U.S. air base in Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, said in televised remarks, "Now that these anti-missile elements have been installed, we will be forced to consider putting an end to the threats emerging in relation to Russia's security." Agence France-Presse adds:

Referring also to the placing of the Aegis missile defense system on warships in the Mediterranean, Putin said: "All of these are additional steps towards destabilizing the international security system and the start of a new arms race."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added, "We still view the destructive actions of the United States and its allies in the area of missile defense as a direct threat to global and regional security."

Also countering U.S. claims was Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma's defense committee, who said, "This is not about Iran, but about Russia with its nuclear capabilities."

"This is a direct threat to us," he added. "This is not just 100 — it's 200, 300, 1,000 percent aimed against us."

Zakharova further accused the Us. of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in 1987, with the Romanian site.

“We have to announce this openly, without any additional diplomatic formulations,” she said.

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