NATO chief fears Europe trailing US on defence technology

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Thursday called for greater cooperation within the alliance to bridge the gulf between the US and other NATO members on defence technology.

Rasmussen said he shared US concerns over the disparity in military spending between the US and Europe, but said the solution was "multinational cooperation" not bigger budgets.

"Technology is changing rapidly. And NATO's capabilities need to keep pace," he said in a speech to Spain's Senate entitled "NATO and the Mediterranean: the changes ahead."

"In our operation in Libya we have had to rely on some of the highly advanced military assets of the United States. Capabilities such as drones, intelligence and surveillance equipment, and precision weapons. Simply because no other ally has them available.

"I am not saying that each ally should have those high-end capabilities. But I would like to see more of them across our alliance. And that is why I am concerned about the low level of defence spending, especially in Europe."

Outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday admonished NATO allies, saying shrinking military budgets put both the Libya mission and the alliance's future at risk.

Rasmussen warned of "a real risk that European allies will fall even further behind the pace of technological progress.

"This is why we need to change the way we spend our defence money. And this is why I am encouraging the idea of 'Smart Defence'.

"The 'Smart Defence' approach means doing together what we cannot do alone. It allows us to deliver better security for all. Not by spending more money. But by spending more time and effort on multinational cooperation and coordination.

"Many nations are unable to provide some of the high-tech equipment we need. If we encourage them to adopt multinational solutions, then they will be able to field capabilities together that they can't afford alone."

© 2011 AFP

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