STUTTGART, GERMANY, DEC. 4 -- The NATO commander, Gen. John Galvin, is proposing that the Atlantic alliance adopt a new "fire brigade" strategy in the wake of the Cold War, preparing a force for rapid deployment to trouble-spots outside Europe like the current crisis in the Persian Gulf.

The four-star U.S. general said in an interview Monday that he would begin discussions of the plan this week with defense ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at meetings in Brussels. Already, he said, "there is pretty good military agreement" among alliance officers that this is the way to go in the 1990s and beyond.

But it was unclear whether European governments, which in the past have resisted using NATO troops in conflicts outside Europe, will find it politically tenable to extend military operations to foreign regions.

The current deployment of thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of tanks from Europe to the gulf to augment Operation Desert Shield represents what Galvin said could become a model for future NATO actions. He said he envisions a force based in Europe that would be ready to conduct a multitude of missions, ranging from light infantry attacks to heavy armored thrusts, in hot-spots around the world.

He also said his blueprint calls for many of the troops and much of the weaponry for the force to be supplied by Germany. "We would be second in terms of combat power forward," the commander said of the U.S. contribution.

But for Germany to participate at all would require an amendment to its constitution, which prohibits military action outside Europe. In the current gulf crisis, the German government has cited this constitutional provision to explain why it has not dispatched troops to join the multinational force assembled against Iraq.

Over the years, U.S. officials have expressed frustration at the reluctance of European governments to engage NATO forces in what are termed "out-of-area" operations. But the end of the Cold War has eliminated NATO's original mission to guard against a potential Soviet invasion of Europe, and NATO leaders have been searching for a new purpose for the alliance.

NATO military commanders acknowledged that many questions about the proposed fire brigade concept still need to be addressed. Among them: how big should the multinational force be; what kind of forces should it include; how many ships and planes would it require; and should NATO countries continue to improve the airfields, pipelines and ports in Europe that were designed for larger military forces arrayed against the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact?

Galvin said the new concept would allow the United States to reduce substantially the 326,000 U.S. military personnel currently stationed in Europe -- including 200,000 Army, 100,000 Air Force and 26,000 Navy personnel. Although Galvin declined to specify how big a fire brigade force he has in mind for the new NATO, he said the allied troop presence in Europe could decline to about the size of a large corps. A corps usually numbers up to 80,000 soldiers.

By putting new emphasis on the mobility of NATO forces, Galvin maintained, "the strategic influence of the alliance will be greater."

The strategy under which NATO forces have operated in Europe during the past 45 years "is actually a historic aberration," the commander said. "We have had a very precise threat for which we had a very precise response.

"If you go back in history," he continued, "that's not what military forces did. What we'll be doing {with the fire brigade} is getting back to what military forces have always done -- provide security" on their home ground "and be prepared for contingencies."

By basing a highly-mobile NATO fire brigade in Europe, Galvin added, "you can do two things at once: you can provide for your commitment to NATO, but you can also provide for contingencies by having the force here." Other U.S. military leaders have been pressing for a new base in the Persian Gulf region, but have so far been unsuccessful in establishing one.

Galvin said the current deployment of U.S. forces from Europe to the gulf is "the big test" of the fire brigade concept. An entire corps of European-based forces, including two armored divisions with M-1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, is en route to the gulf as part of President Bush's decision to increase the size of the U.S. force there from 240,000 to more than 400,000.

"What we're going to do is take out a heavy corps in the space of just a few weeks and move it a long distance," Galvin said. "It shows the kind of strategy we want to move to" in the future.

The general said he did not expect NATO to dispatch "a threatening force" every time alliance leaders see smoke in some distant trouble-spot, adding that the size and nature of the deployment would have to take into account the kind of emergency.

He said the alliance could decide, for instance, to deploy simply such unprovocative units as the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) or a command and control network. Such defensive forces, the general explained, would at least "show your determination to reinforce" a friendly country's own forces when threatened.