Brussels: NATO defence and foreign ministers meet Thursday to reshape the alliance into a modern force against cyber and missile threats, at a time of tough fighting in Afghanistan and budget cuts at home.
The diplomatic and defence chiefs hold a rare joint meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels to deliberate on a draft of the "strategic concept" that will lay out the alliance`s vision for the next decade.
The mission statement will then be endorsed by NATO leaders meeting in Lisbon next month, replacing a document written in 1999, two years before the September 11 attacks on the United States sparked the war in Afghanistan.
"My firm intent is that the Lisbon summit will put in place an alliance that is more modern, more efficient and better able to work with our partners around the globe," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this week.
The 11-page blueprint, drafted by Rasmussen, has not been made public but it is expected to touch on 21st century threats including cyber attacks, missiles from "rogue" states, global terrorism and piracy off the Somali coast.
The ministers will also discuss proposals to reform NATO`s command structure and cut the number of agencies, an idea pushed by Rasmussen to make the 28-nation alliance "leaner and more efficient."
At the same time, Rasmussen and US officials have urged allies to resist cutting too deeply into their own national defence budgets despite austerity drives across debt-laden Europe.
"My worry is that the more our allies cut their capabilities, the more people will look to the United States to cover whatever gaps that are created, at a time when we`re facing" fiscal pressures, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters travelling with him to Brussels late Wednesday.
Rasmussen has emphasised that despite tough economic times, allies should invest in a missile shield amid concerns about the intentions of Iran and North Korea.
The NATO chief also wants allies to invite Russia to cooperate in the anti-missile shield in order to ease Russian concerns about the aims of the system.
Gates said there was "broad agreement" on missile defence plans and that the cost of linking NATO members into a common network was "relatively modest."