The first of four US missile destroyers has arrived in Europe, an apparent move by Washington to challenge Russia that voiced concerns over the deployment.
The USS Donald Cook arrived in the Spanish port of Rota on Tuesday.
“For the first time, a ship of the United States Navy equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile-defense 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,” he added.
Three more American destroyers will also be joined the USS Donald Cook at the base in Rota over the coming two years. Other US destroyers are the USS Ross, the USS Porter, and the USS Carney.
The deployment of the four destroyers is part of Washington’s military policy in Europe that includes land-based Aegis interceptor batteries in Romania and Poland, radar in Turkey and a command center at the US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany.
The Obama administration’s plans for increasing military presence in Europe have caused a major rift with Russia.
Moscow says the system is major threat to its own security and has threatened to beef up its own nuclear arsenal in response.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already ordered the deployment of short-range missiles to the country’s western Kaliningrad enclave, which is situated between Poland and Lithuania.
In a speech to the country’s Federal Assembly in December, the Russian president said that his country will not allow any nation to dominate it in military terms.
“We realize clearly that the AMD system is only called defensive, while in fact it is a significant part of the strategic offensive potential,” Putin said.