Moscow: The Kremlin on Thursday insisted the deployment of a US missile defence system to Romania was a "threat" to Russia's security, despite Washington saying it was not aimed at undermining Moscow's defences.
"From the very beginning of this whole story, we have said that according to our experts' opinion, we are convinced that the deployment of the missile defence system is truly a threat to Russia's security," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
A US missile defence interception station in Deveselu, southern Romania, became operational Thursday and will become part of a broader NATO missile shield to defend members against short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Relations between NATO and Russia have severely deteriorated since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, sparking concern among other eastern European countries that they too could be the targets of Russian aggression.
Moscow has consistently accused NATO of trying to contain it since the collapse of the Soviet Union opened up the former Eastern Bloc.
US assistant secretary of state Frank Rose said Wednesday that the system was intended to counter threats from the Middle East above all and was not "designed for or capable of undermining Russia's strategic deterrence capability."
Vladimir Komoyedov, the head of Russia's parliamentary committee on defence, told Interfax news agency that the system's deployment was a "direct threat" to the country and that it would reinforce its military capacities.
Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier this month that Moscow was bolstering its forces to counter the "build-up of NATO forces in close proximity to Russia's borders."
"It is a step towards the military and political containment of Russia," senior foreign ministry official Andrei Kelin said of the deployment, Interfax reported. Kelin warned that it would "only worsen" the already tense relations between Russia and NATO.
The $800 million Deveselu site -- where work began in October 2013 -- will host a battery of SM-2 missile interceptors and will officially be integrated into the NATO missile shield at the bloc's summit meeting to be held in Warsaw in July....