Nato members need to increase their military spending, even though the global financial crisis is set to cut government budgets, the Secretary-General of the alliance was quoted as saying today, Reuters reported.

"We need to do more, not only by increasing military spending, but also by developing the efficiency of forces," Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told the Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag ahead of a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in Budapest.

"The global financial crisis will certainly put a pressure on the national budgets, but we must defend our joint values and prepare for facing challenges...," he said.

He said Nato must be present in Afghanistan for several more years and that the alliance needed to normalise its relations with Russia after the conflict in Georgia.

“A cold war is not our desire," he said. "We have to cooperate, but the August events did not make that easier."

Mr Scheffer said Georgia and Ukraine were not yet ready for Nato membership. "The Bucharest summit already said that they can get invitation (to join) some time in the future. I don`t know when," he said.

Reuters via Irish Times