NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen pleaded with member countries today to stop cutting their defence budgets in response to tough economic times.
He claimed that continued reductions would compromise the safety of all of the cold-war military alliance's 28 members.
"It is of course a matter of concern that we have seen and continue to see declining defence budgets all over the alliance," Mr Rasmussen said on his way into a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers.
"My appeal to governments is, firstly, hold the line, stop the cuts," he said.
"Secondly, make more efficient use of the resources we do have, through more multinational co-operation.
"And thirdly, once the economies recover, start to increase defence capacities again."
The ministers are expected to discuss the role Nato troops will play in Afghanistan once they withdraw from combat and supposedly focus on assisting Afghan forces.
Pentagon officials said that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta is delivering a message to Nato allies that Washington's fiscal troubles will have repercussions abroad, as impending budget cuts force the military to scale back its presence overseas.
Many of his meetings with other defence ministers are likely to centre on plans to wind down the war in Afghanistan.
But shadowing every conversation will be how the cutbacks will ripple across Europe.
And it's unlikely that the US will want to play Lady Bountiful in regard to weapons spending.
A senior Nato official pointed out this week that the US still spends 4.3 per cent of its gross domestic product, while most European countries are dropping below 1.5 per cent.
And Pentagon press secretary George Little said the across-the-board budget cuts which take effect next week will reduce US military readiness and, as a result, diminish Nato ability to respond to crises.
Mr Little said the budget cuts will force reductions in training that could affect Nato and the navy has already announced that it will delay the deployment of the aircraft carrier Harry S Truman to the Persian Gulf because of fiscal restraints.
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