by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Aegis Ashore operationalisation ceremony
Prime Minister, Ministers, Generals, Admirals, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s really a great honour to be here today, because today represents an important moment for NATO and for transatlantic security.
The United States’ AEGIS Ashore system is declared certified for operations.
And this represents a significant increase in the capability to defend European Allies against ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
And I would like to start by thanking the United States for their strong commitment to Euro-Atlantic security.
And for their vital role in contributing to NATO missile defence.
That includes the skilled sailors and soldiers stationed here at this base.
Your dedication and professionalism are helping to defend our Alliance and keep our nations safe.
I also want to thank Romania for the contribution you are making to our collective defence in hosting this site.
This is transatlantic teamwork in action.
And many Allies are making important contributions.
Poland will break ground on another Aegis Ashore site tomorrow.
Spain hosts the four US missile defence ships.
Turkey hosts an important early-warning radar.
Germany hosts the command centre.
Denmark and the Netherlands are upgrading their frigates with radar capabilities.
And the UK has committed to investing in ground-based radars. So this is really many different NATO Allies contributing to the same system.
NATO’s core mission is to protect our citizens and territory.
Our Alliance has remained united for six decades, committed to our solemn pledge to defend each other.
Today, as we face the biggest security challenges in a generation, our Alliance is as important as ever.
And as threats continue to change, we continue to adjust our responses.
The threat to NATO Allies from ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic area is real.
Many countries – including several in NATO’s neighbourhood – are seeking to develop or acquire ballistic missiles.
So missile defence is essential to our common security.
We decided to develop NATO’s missile defence capability at the Lisbon Summit in 2010.
We have been building the system in a transparent way ever since then.
We are doing what we said we would do.
And we continue to be clear and open about the system’s focus and capabilities.
Our missile defence programme represents a long-term investment against a long-term threat.
We have been building the system for the last six years, because we need to be prepared.
And we are making steady progress.
Missile defence is for defence. It is defensive.
It does not undermine or weaken Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
This site in Romania – as well as the one in Poland – is not directed against Russia.
The interceptors are too few, and located too far south or too close to Russia, to be able to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles.
They are designed instead to tackle the potential threat posed by short and medium- range attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
We have made this clear to the Russian authorities.
Many times, and at the highest level.
From the start, NATO offered transparency, dialogue and cooperation to Russia on missile defence.
Russia did not respond positively to our offers.
In fact, Moscow terminated this cooperative dialogue unilaterally in 2013.
This remains an issue of concern.
However, the Alliance will continue to engage in dialogue with Russia when and where we can.
In times of tensions keeping channels of communication open is even more important.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This site shows that NATO is adapting to an uncertain world. Strengthening our collective defence. And investing over the long-term in the capabilities we need.
We will be taking further decisions on our ballistic missile defence at our upcoming summit in Warsaw.
Because we will never compromise on our commitment to protect our citizens.
We can and we will respond to any threat from any direction.
So thank you to everyone for your hard work in making today possible.
Your endeavours make an unpredictable world a safer place to live.