NATO needs "credible" nuclear deterrent: Rasmussen

09:37, April 23, 2010      

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NATO needs a "credible, effective and safely managed" nuclear deterrent in a world where nuclear weapons actually exist, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

"NATO must do what it can to support arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. But NATO's core business is to protect our territory and our populations. And in a world where nuclear weapons actually exist, NATO needs a credible, effective, and safely managed deterrent," he told a news conference after the first day meeting of NATO foreign ministers' informal meeting.

In February, five European NATO member nations, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway, sent a letter to Fogh Rasmussen, calling for the debate over the alliance's stance on nuclear weapons. The move is seen as an attempt to press for the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. The United States still has about 200 nuclear warheads in Europe, deployed in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

The NATO chief also elaborated on the alliance's stance on missile defense, seeing it as no replacement for a deterrent but a complement.

"Because there are states, or other actors, who might not be rational enough to be deterred by our nuclear weapons. But they might be deterred by the realisation that their few missiles might not get through our defences," he said.

During Thursday's session, NATO foreign ministers also discussed the so-called new strategic concept, which will outline the future of NATO for the next decade and is expected to be endorsed in NATO's Lisbon summit in November.

Fogh Rasmussen said that the new document must reaffirm "NATO's essential and enduring foundations: the political bond between Europe and North America, and the commitment to defend each other against attack," while needs to be brought up to date to meet new challenges.

"This document will show that the Alliance is indispensable in a time of uncertainty, that the challenges that are facing us are many and that the strong solidarity amongst nations with shared values is still the right answer," he said.



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