The United States Navy is planning creating a task force based in Naples, Italy, that will have responsibility and command over ballistic missiles and other missile and defense assets in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. The task force, known as Task Force 64, will consolidate the anti-missile and shore sites in the U.S. Navy under the U.S. 6th fleet.
The United States is the largest contributor to the European missile defense shield, which was implemented in 2009 by President Barack Obama to combat against future missile threats from Iran. The program, known officially as the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) was strongly opposed by Russia, and in 2013, a phase of EPAA that would deploy missiles in Poland and Romania was canceled amid concerns from Russia.
The missile program drew concern from Russia that American missile defense systems in Europe would undercut Russian nuclear deterrent claims. Even though American officials promised that that was not the case or intention, the president ultimately decided to cancel the fourth phase. Russia, meanwhile, had repeatedly said that the ultimate goal of the program, to provide a defense against missile launches from Iran, was not necessary. Iran, Russia reasoned, is incapable of launching a large-scale missile attack on Europe that would require all of the EPAA phases.
Russia has been seen as an increasingly hostile and worrisome country for American national security. Within the last month, two high-ranking U.S. military officials said that Russia, not Iran, was the biggest threat to U.S. security. The U.S. is pushing an increase in military defense spending by NATO countries to prepare for potential aggression from Russia; however, very few have actually signed on to do so.
Russia is also said to be ramping up their defenses in response to the increased military presence by NATO and the U.S. in Eastern Europe.