Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 14:02 UK

Nato must retain nuclear capability, says Rasmussen

Nato's new Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Mr Rasmussen says the alliance needs a credible nuclear deterrent

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the alliance must retain a nuclear capability as long as rogue regimes or terrorist groups pose a threat.

He called for a major review of Nato's strategy and funding to enable it to meet modern security threats.

Mr Rasmussen made his comments ahead of a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

Nuclear policy, as well as missile defence, and relations with Russia and Afghanistan will be on the agenda.

Nick Childs
Nick Childs, BBC defence and security correspondent, Tallinn

Nato's nuclear policy is on the agenda in a way it hasn't been for years, in the light of the recent US-Russian nuclear arms treaty, and other arms control efforts.

A number of Nato allies have been pressing for the alliance to look again at its nuclear posture. Specifically at issue is the continued presence of an estimated 200 US short-range nuclear weapons stationed in Europe for Nato.

The secretary general takes a robust view of the need to retain a credible nuclear capability for now. Ministers here are looking at nuclear policy, missile defence, the alliance's broader search for a new focus and strategic concept, and relations with Russia - which itself still has an estimated 3,000 short-range nuclear weapons.

It's a complicated set of interlinked and potentially fraught issues.

At a news briefing in Tallinn, Nato's secretary general said that while he shared the grand vision of a world without nuclear weapons, the alliance needed a credible nuclear deterrent.

"We must retain a nuclear capability as long as there are rogue regimes or terrorist groupings that may pose a nuclear threat to us.

"And for this reason we also need a credible missile defence system providing coverage for all the allies," said Mr Rasmussen.

He also renewed calls for Nato to rethink how it is funded. Whereas members usually pay for any deployment of their own military forces or equipment, Mr Rasmussen said most operations should be financed by a centralised fund.

"It strikes me that common funding of our activities represents less than a half a percent of total defence budget for all 28 allies. I do believe that there is scope for... a more collective solution," he said.

Mr Rasmussen acknowledged that the issue of common funding had been a divisive one for the alliance, with some members fearing they would end up paying both their individual costs and the collective ones, but said he remained convinced it was the best way forward.

Mr Rasmussen said he hoped there would be progress on these issues before the next Nato summit in November.

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