NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has announced the first steps towards a European missle defence system, at the 25th Nato summit in Chicago, US.

Rasmussen said the system will provide the alliance with a limited but operationally meaningful and immediately available capability against ballistic-missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.

"It is the first step towards our long-term goal of providing full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory and forces," said Rasmussen

The secretary general said: "Our system will link together missile defense assets from different allies – satellites, ships, radars and interceptors – under Nato command and control."

According to Nato, the interim capability features a basic command and control capability which has been tested and installed at Headquarters Alliance Air Command in Ramstein, Germany.

Phase one also involves deployment of the Aegis ballistic missile-defence system equipped US ships in the Mediterranean region, while phase two, scheduled to complete by 2015, will foresee the deployment of an Aegis system in Romania, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

Nato expects to complete phase three by 2018, which involves the establishment of a missile-interceptor base in Poland, with upgraded missiles and an improved command-and-control system.

The final phase involves the deployment of advanced interceptor missiles to counter both intermediate-range missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) threats, and is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Nato has however failed to reach a compromise on the system with Russia, with the nation fearing that the system would destroy its nuclear deterrent despite Nato’s assurances that it is aimed at North Korean and Iranian threats.

Russia sought legally-binding guarantees that the AMD will not denude its arsenal, but NATO has refused to enter into such an agreement, following which Moscow threatened to deploy new missiles in Europe as a last resort to counter the controversial shield.