12:37 GMT28 October 2020
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    US President Barack Obama will visit a military base in the city of Rota that hosts four US warships outfitted with the Aegis Combat System while on his first official trip to Spain. The ships are part of the European missile defense system, built by the US and operated by NATO.

    The plan, formally known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach or EPAA, has been in place since 2009. The system features four ballistic missile defense-capable ships deployed to the Mediterranean, 18 AN/TPY-2 radars based in Turkey and two Aegis Ashore bases in Romania and Poland. The site in Romania came online earlier this year, sparking major concern in Moscow.

    US and NATO officials claim that the European missile defense is meant to protect Washington and its European allies against ballistic missile threats from rogue states. Apparently, the White House still classifies Iran as such. But Russia views the EPAA in the context of NATO's increased assertiveness in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region.

    "European missile defense system undermines strategic stability in its traditional sense. This is why Russia has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the initiative," Dmitry Suslov, program director at the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, told Gazeta.ru. "We need to establish international legal framework in order to prevent relations between Russia and the United States from being ruined."

    It is not the Obama administration that worries the analyst, but the one that will follow after the presidential election in November. The next US president could chose to use the European missile defense system as a military instrument, not a political one, he added. If true, this will likely be detrimental to European security.

    Deputy Director of the Moscow-based Institute for US and Canadian Studies Pavel Zolotarev told Gazeta.ru that the European missile defense system in Spain would not pose a threat to Russia. These ships, according to the political analyst, lack technical capabilities to hit targets in Russia. Moscow should not be concerned with Obama's visit to Spain.

    Obama is expected to arrive to the Mediterranean nation on Saturday, following NATO's landmark summit in the Polish capital of Warsaw. The US president is scheduled to meet with the Spanish King Felipe VI, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and leaders of the country's three major parties.

    Activists are reported to be getting ready to hold protest rallies, chanting slogans "Obama, go home" and "No to NATO, No to Bases, No to War."

    Protesters will ostensibly voice their opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, as well as US troops' deployment at Spanish bases. A rally will take place in front of the US Embassy in Madrid on Sunday.


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