NATO allies are in talks to “activate” its nuclear arsenal by deploying more missiles in light of an increasingly threatening posture by Russia and China, the head of the Western military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with British media outlet The Telegraph.

The General Secretary of NATO stressed that the allied countries were in consultation to determine the optimal use of the alliance’s nuclear arsenal as a deterrent.

While declining to go into the operational details of the talks regarding the nuclear warheads and their deployment, Stoltenberg warned that as long as there were countries like Russia, China, and North Korea that possessed similar weapons NATO would have to examine its options. “NATO’s goal is a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will remain a nuclear alliance.”

It is important that NATO “communicate the direct message that we, of course, are a nuclear alliance” by taking more of its warheads out of storage, Jens Stoltenberg said in the interview published on Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned the West that Moscow could use nuclear weapons if it deemed its national interests were threatened. Putin has often accused the US and its European allies of pushing the world to the brink of nuclear conflict by providing Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons, some of which are used to strike inside Russian territory.

The statements by the head of NATO appear to signify a shift in the stance of the Western military alliance on nuclear weapons vis-a-vis Russia, as NATO officials have rarely made reference to nuclear weapons. The US has deployed a number of nuclear weapons in facilities across Europe.