After a videoconference of NATO officials, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenbers called for strengthening defenses against Russia on Wednesday, but said no new nuclear weapons would be placed in Europe. Photo courtesy of NATO
June 17 (UPI) -- NATO agreed to strengthen defenses to counter the potential of Russian missiles on Wednesday, but stopped short of deploying new nuclear missiles in Europe.
Ministers of the 30-member military bloc met in a two-day videoconference, after Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Sunday of Russia's cutting-edge weaponry, prominently mentioning its development of hypersonic weapons and defenses against similar weapons of enemies.
"Russia's behavior is destabilizing and dangerous,"NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the conclusion of the conference. "At our meeting today, ministers discussed these challenges and agreed a balanced package of political and military elements."
"This includes strengthening our integrated air and missile defense," Stoltenberg said. "A number of Allies have announced they are acquiring new air and missile defense systems, including Patriot and SAMP/T [missile defense] batteries."
"We will maintain our deterrence and defense but we will not mirror Russia," he added, a reference to recent Russian troop deployments and conventional missile production. "We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe."
He also encouraged member nations' purchase of F-35 fighter planes from the United States.
Stoltenberg recently said U.S. plans to reduce its troop strength in Germany but increase it in Poland could "best serve the defense of all of Europe."
Prior to the meeting, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain suggested, in a joint letter, the establishment of a non-NATO unified European armed force under the direction of the European Union.
"We [the EU] should keep reinforcing military [operations]," such as the naval mission dealing with Libya, the letter said.
"We need a greater common strategic understanding of what we want to be able to do as Europeans in security and defense," officials said in the letter. "With a view to our single set of forces, we need to plan and develop our defense capabilities strategically to be able to act with real operational output."