The first of four US destroyers forming part of NATO's new anti-missile shield for Europe has arrived at a southern Spanish naval base used by the US Navy.
A statement on NATO's website said the USS Donald Cook, a multi-mission Missile Defense-capable Aegis Destroyer, arrived Tuesday at Rota base, where it will be permanently based.
The USS Donald Cook took up station in the southern port of Rota from where it will operate as an anti-missile platform and take part in other tasks such as maritime security and NATO deployments, a statement said.
"For the first time, a ship of the United States Navy equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile-defence system is permanently based in Europe" NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
"The arrival of the USS Donald Cook marks a step forward for NATO, for European security, and for transatlantic cooperation," Rasmussen said.
NATO said three similar ships will be sent to Rota over the next two years. The ships have advanced sensor capabilities and interceptor missiles that can detect and shoot down ballistic missiles.
The shield system was designed to counter an Iranian missile threat. It also has elements in Romania, Poland and Turkey and an operational headquarters in Germany.
The system is designed to "protect all NATO European populations and territory," the statement said.
Supporters cited a major concern as being the threat to Europe from Iranian missiles, especially if Tehran were to acquire nuclear weapons.
Russia says the system directly threatens its security and the issue has become a major bone of contention with Washington which in turn insists that Moscow's fears are groundless.
The Aegis ships will operate in tandem with land- and other air- and space-based systems to monitor for possible hostile missile launches and then direct missiles to destroy them.
It's worth noting that the issue of the US anti-missile shield in Europe has caused one of the deepest rifts between Moscow and Washington.
In end October, the US-led NATO began the construction of an anti-missile military base in the Romanian territory as part of its European project.
A month later, just as the six international mediators were about to strike a historic nuclear deal with Iran in Geneva, Russian politicians said the agreement would remove the need for NATO to build its defense shield in Europe because the Iranian threat pretext wouldn’t work.
A source in the alliance denied this suggestion, saying there was no reason for NATO to scrap its missile shield plans.http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_02_12/US-destroyer-arrives-in-Spain-for-NATO-shield-7662/