News / Europe

NATO Chief: Missile Defense Needed Against Irrational Players

Peter Fedynsky

NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen says NATO must work toward nuclear disarmament, but must also have missile defense against irrational countries and players with nuclear weapons.  NATO foreign ministers meeting is being held in Tallinn, Estonia.

Secretary General Anders Rasmussen says the allies must discuss the issue of whether tactical nuclear weapons can serve as a credible deterrent against terrorists who may obtain a nuclear device.  Turkey and former Soviet satellite countries want to keep such weapons.  Several older members want them removed.   He said in his personal opinion, U.S. tactical arms in Europe do serve as a deterrent.  

Rasmussen says NATO members must also review their overall nuclear posture.  He gives credit to President Obama for putting "new wind in the sails of reducing nuclear weapons and risk."  He says the alliance must do what it can to support arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation.  

At the same time, Secretary General Rasmussen says NATO's reason for existence is to protect the 900-million people among its members.

"Missile defense is no replacement for an effective deterrent, but can compliment it, because there are states or other actors who might not be rational enough to be deterred by our nuclear weapons," said Anders Rasmussen.

Rasmussen adds that NATO must engage Russia on the issue of missile defense for the benefit of security and political unity in Europe.

Speaking after a bilateral meeting with Estonian hosts of the NATO meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton did not confirm reports that Iran may be transferring SCUD missile technology to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon via Syria.  But she says the Obama administration is considering the costs and benefits of sending a U.S. ambassador to Damascus after a five-year absence.

"Where we are as of today is that we believe it is important to continue the process to return an ambassador; this is not some kind of reward for the Syrians and the actions they take that are deeply disturbing," said Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said the United States called the Syrian ambassador to Washington to discuss concerns about the possible transfer of missiles from Iran.  She said the presence of a U.S. ambassador would give Washington a better insight into what is happening in Damascus.

The two-day NATO foreign-minister meeting in Estonia aims to find a new strategy for the organization in the 21st Century.  Among the new challenges facing the alliance are energy and cyber security.  Ministers will continue discussions Friday.   

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