Romania takes its NATO missile defense commitments seriously due to a missile proliferation threat from outside the Europe-Atlantic region, the country’s ambassador said May 10.
NATO allies live in an increasingly uncertain world where security and defense cannot be taken for granted amid Russian provocations in the Black Sea region and the risk of wide scale ballistic missile proliferation, Romanian Ambassador George Christian Maior, said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.
The event focused on discussing the Aegis Ashore system. The system’s first site was made operational one year ago in Deveselu, Romania. Poland is also preparing to host the second site for this system. It is one part of the larger former Obama Administration’s ballistic missile plan, called the European Phased Adaptive Approach.
Maior referenced both Iran and North Korea’s ballistic missile programs with continued testing as potential threats to NATO. The alliance only needs to look back a few weeks to the “North Korean adventure to understand this sober reality,” he said.
While Maior noted the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Iran nuclear agreement as an important achievement for security and stability, he said it does not address the ballistic missile program which is a longer term threat.
The ambassador also said this threat goes beyond Iran or North Korea to include the possible eventual acquisition of ballistic missiles by terrorist or non-state actors. When thinking about missile proliferation, NATO should think about this as a long term threat which can have an unpredictable evolution leading to non-state actors, he added.
Maior highlighted the Aegis Ashore site enjoys widespread support among Romanians. He said the Romanian Parliament voted almost unanimously for the agreement to host the system and that support for this kind of partnership with the U.S. consistently polls above 80 percent among Romanians.
Frank Rose, former assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, added Romanian cooperation on the Aegis Ashore system has been excellent and “the United States has no better friend than Romania.” Rose led the working group on getting a legal agreement for the Aegis Ashore site and the entire process occurred from 2010-2011.
The ambassador also noted this kind of cooperation is important in light of Russian aggression on NATO’s eastern flank, although he reiterated Aegis Ashore is not directed towards Russia. Maior said the system is entirely defensive in nature, is not trying to, and is incapable of changing the Russia strategic nuclear weapons calculus.
However, Maior favors increasing NATO cooperation in Eastern Europe, including by the Black Sea given Russian actions in Georgia in 2008, ongoing eastern Ukraine hostilities, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He also noted Romania and Poland have a very strong partnership within NATO as the two largest NATO allies in Eastern Europe. They have very good military intelligence cooperation with similar evaluations about their security environments, Maior said.