NATO’s New Frontier

BRUSSELS – Last week, an American ship sailed into a Spanish naval base, making history. The arrival of the USS Donald Cook from Norfolk, Virginia, to its new home port in Rota, on Spain’s Atlantic coast, marks the first time that a US Navy ship equipped with the high-tech Aegis ballistic missile-defense system will be permanently based in Europe.

The USS Donald Cook is the first of four US Navy destroyers that, with around 1,200 sailors and personnel, will play a central role in NATO’s missile-defense capability. But the ships will carry out many other tasks as well, such as maritime security operations, bilateral and multilateral training exercises, and participation in NATO operations and deployments, including the Standing NATO Maritime Groups.

The arrival of the USS Donald Cook marks a step forward for NATO, for European security, and for transatlantic cooperation. It clearly demonstrates the strength of the bond between America and Europe in dealing with the complex and unpredictable security challenges of our age.

Steady progress has been made since November 2010, when, at its Lisbon summit, NATO decided to develop a missile-defense capability to protect all NATO European populations, territory, and forces. In April 2012, at its summit in Chicago, NATO announced an interim capability as an operationally significant first step. Full capability is expected to be attained in the years ahead.