MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia views Romania as a NATO outpost and as a threat due to it hosting elements of a U.S. anti-missile shield, the Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, citing a Russian foreign ministry official.
The U.S. military, which says the shield is needed to protect from Iran, not threaten Russia, switched on the $800 million Romanian part of the shield in May last year. Another part of the shield is due to be built in Poland.
"Romania's stance and the stance of its leadership, who have turned the country into an outpost, is a clear threat for us," Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, a senior Russian foreign ministry official, told Interfax in an interview.
"All these decisions ... are in the first instance aimed against Russia," he said, accusing Romanian authorities of reveling in anti-Russian rhetoric.
Moscow's comments come as NATO deploys thousands of soldiers and heavy weaponry to Poland, the Baltic states and southeastern Europe, in its biggest buildup since the Cold War.
U.S. and NATO officials say the move is needed to provide extra security and reassurance to European countries after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, but Russia says it is part of an aggressive strategy on its borders.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Alexander Winning)