BRUSSELS The head of NATO urged member countries Thursday to stop cutting their defense budgets in response to tough economic times, saying continued reductions will compromise the safety of all of the military alliance’s 28 members.
“It is of course a matter of concern that we have seen and continue to see declining defense budgets all over the alliance,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on his way into a two-day meeting of NATO country defense ministers.
“My appeal to governments is, firstly, hold the line, stop the cuts,” Fogh Rasmussen said. “Secondly, make more efficient use of the resources we do have, through more multinational cooperation. And thirdly, once the economies recover, start to increase defense capacities again.”
The defense secretaries will consider ways for their countries to cooperate more effectively on defense procurement in order to get the most value for the money being spent. Fogh Rasumussen said that, in this time of austerity, it is essential for nations to get the best value for taxpayers’ money — and working together is the best way to do that.
In addition, the ministers are expected to discuss the role NATO troops will play in Afghanistan once they withdraw from combat and focus instead on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces. But few firm decisions are expected at the meeting, which NATO officials have describes as mostly devoted to taking stock of developments.
Pentagon officials said that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who arrived at the meeting Thursday, will warn NATO allies that Washington’s fiscal impasse will have repercussions abroad, as impending budget cuts force the military to scale back its training and presence overseas.