The NATO Secretary General has put out his clearest statement yet that he wants defence cuts to stop before they put populations at risk. Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s words at the Defence Ministers Meeting in Belgium come as David Cameron revealed some of Britain’s aid budget could be used for defence.

The Secretary General said: “If defence cuts continue it will have a negative impact on our ability to provide effective defence and protection on our populations. So, my appeal to government is, firstly hold the line, stop the cuts. Secondly, make more efficient use of the resources you do have through more multinational co-operation. And thirdly, once the economies recover start to increase defence investments again.”

Day one of the two-day meeting in Brussels saw defence ministers thrashing out details of the Connected Forces Initiative to increase the sharing of defence resources between countries in the wake of defence cuts and more joint operations and training.

While the Secretary General was concerned about dwindling defence budgets, British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond came to Brussels armed with the news that his own coffers may be boosted from the government’s aid budget. David Cameron said this morning he is considering spending some of the £10 billion International Development Budget on Peacekeeping and Stabilisation.

Before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars peacekeeping was staple fare for British Forces overseas in the aftermath of conflicts in places such as Bosnia and Kosovo. They still do it in Cyprus – clocking up almost fifty years there. But charities and NGOs fear the Prime Minister may meet his pledge by reducing the funds available for aid activities – which they say would be “outrageous”.

Tomorrow the agenda will be topped by Afghanistan and the transition towards full ANSF control, when the new Commander of ISAF takes the stage.