NATO chief urges Europe to beef up defenses | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.03.2010
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NATO chief urges Europe to beef up defenses

The head of the NATO alliance has urged European governments to invest more resources into defense and make a commitment to an international missile shield system, or risk the consequences.

A rocket designed for a missile-defense system is launched

The proposed missile shield could defend NATO and Russia

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Saturday, March 27, that Europe risks being seen as a "paper tiger," unable to exercise military might against would-be aggressors, unless governments set aside more of their budgets for military spending.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, waving

Rasmussen urged EU members to boost their military spending levels

Speaking to delegates at the annual Brussels Forum conference on security, Rasmussen stressed that the continent should not take its alliance with the United States for granted.

"We have a strong responsibility to demonstrate a clear commitment politically as well as through investment in necessary capabilities," he said, referring to a gradual decline in European defense spending.

"We Europeans should not take this strong trans-Atlantic relationship for granted," he said.

Sign of commitment

US President Barak Obama with an Iranian flag in the background

Obama wants a missile defense system against perceived threats including Iran

One way for Europe to show its commitment to the alliance, the secretary general said, would be to back a NATO-wide missile defense system advocated by US President Barack Obama.

NATO has identified the trend of a "real and growing" threat from weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, said Rasmussen. Iran, which Western governments suspect of trying to develop a nuclear arsenal, has said it has weapons that place NATO members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria within range.

According to Rasmussen, some 30 nations already have advanced missile systems.

"In many cases, these missiles could eventually threaten our populations and territories," he said.

Military ties with Russia

The secretary general said NATO should work closely with Russia, which could also be vulnerable to missile attacks.

Research suggests that a "security roof," stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok could cost more than 15 billion euros ($20 billion).

The Danish secretary general’s remarks appear to have been largely aimed at the likes of EU countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain, which spend less than NATO’s goal of two percent of GDP on their military.

rc/Reuters/AP/AFP

Editor: Toma Tasovac

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