The United States switched on the $800 million missile shield at a Soviet-era base in Romania on Thursday saying it was a defense against missiles from Iran and so-called rogue states, Reuters reports.
Although the U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the shield would not be used against any future Russian missile threat, the Russian President said the system was aimed at blunting Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
“This is not a defense system. This is part of U.S. nuclear strategic potential brought onto a periphery. In this case, Eastern Europe is such periphery,” Putin said.
“Until now, those taking such decisions have lived in calm, fairly well-off and in safety. Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize emerging threats to the Russian Federation,” he said.
Coupled with deployment in the Mediterranean of U.S. ships carrying Aegis missiles and other missile shield elements in Poland, the site in Romania was “yet another step to rock international security and start a new arms race”, he said.
Russia would not be drawn into this race. But it would continue re-arming its army and navy and spend the approved funds in a way that would “uphold the current strategic balance of forces”, he said.
Frank Rose, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, warned at the time that Iran’s ballistic missiles could hit parts of Europe, including Romania.
Putin said the prospect of a nuclear threat from Iran should no longer be taken seriously and was being used by Washington as an excuse to develop its missile shield in Europe.