NATO has begun construction on its second ballistic missile defence (BMD) site in Europe, although the alliance's messages on the system are at times contradictory.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held by NATO at its second BMD site in Redzikowo, Poland, following on from the activation of the first land-based Aegis missile defence site in Deveselu, Romania, on 12 May.
Speaking consecutively at both ceremonies, Robert Work, US deputy secretary of defence, said the sites' inauguration represent "a strategic inflection point" for NATO's defence. "We believe it is an extremely effective system."
The Polish site will be the first to be equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile, which is faster and has a longer range than the SM-3 Block IB missiles currently installed in Romania.
Speaking at Deveselu's activation ceremony, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the site is proof that NATO is investing in the capabilities it needs. "We will never compromise on our commitment to protect our citizens. We can and will respond to any threat from any direction," said Stoltenberg, although he and other officials were careful to state that the BMD system was not aimed at Russia.
Moscow, meanwhile, has complained that the system is in breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty of 1987: a complaint that is not without merit, although Russia is also accused of being in breach of the INF treaty.
A formal technical verification report is due from NATO's senior military commander (SACEUR) on 24 May. Following this the 28 allies are expected to officially declare their BMD system has reached initial operating capability during the NATO summit in Warsaw in July.
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